The flood-stricken real estate market in Baton Rouge held its own in 2017, with the number of sales rising 3.7 percent and median prices gaining 1.4 percent despite an early sell-off of damaged properties, which, in many cases, came back on the market renovated and with much higher price tags.
There were 11,102 homes sold in the nine-parish area compared with 10,710 in 2016, according to figures released Monday by the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors' Multiple Listing Service.
“We ended up having a pretty good year,” said Ginger Maulden, the past president of the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors. She noted that the 2017 sales figures were close to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina-aided numbers, when 11,291 houses were sold because of the tens of thousands of New Orleans-area residents who were displaced to the capital area.
The median sales price of a home in the metro area increased 1.4 percent during 2017 to $190,000. One of the factors that weighed on home sales were all of the flood-damaged properties that changed hands during the year. In 2017, 653 of the homes that were sold were listed as "currently damaged." The association set up the category after the August 2016 flood for people who wanted to sell water-damaged homes that hadn't been gutted or repaired. Realtors were not required to put flooded homes in the category, so there were probably more damaged properties that sold, said Saiward Hromadka, a spokeswoman for the association.
Those "currently damaged" homes had a median sale price of $70,000.
The flood-damaged houses that changed hands have been renovated and returned to the market with a higher asking price. Maulden said there’s one house in Sherwood Forest that sold for $238,000 before the flood, then was picked up by a speculator in April for $137,000. It’s now back on the market with an asking price of $329,000.
“Houses are coming back better than they were before,” said Donna Villar, the current president of the association. “They’re taking the carpets out, putting in wood floors, granite and new windows. It’s an old shell with a new house on the inside.”
Livingston Parish accounted for the largest share of the sales growth gains. There were 2,061 homes sold in the parish during 2017, a 5.4 percent increase over the 1,955 sales in 2016. Livingston was hardest hit by the flood.
“Activity in Livingston did not stop,” said Kristen Goodwin, an agent with Covington & Associates Real Estate in Denham Springs. “Sales were really great. People were looking for places to go.”
Goodwin, a member of the association's board of directors, said she expects sales activity will remain strong in the parish during 2018 because of the hundreds of jobs being added at Livingston businesses, such as EPIC Piping and the Pepsi distribution center.
“The price per square foot has not dropped, if anything it’s gone up,” she said. “People want to be out here and nobody wants to leave.”
Ascension Parish had a 3.4 percent sales gain in 2017 to 1,968 MLS sales from 1,903 sales in 2016.
East Baton Rouge Parish, which accounts for the largest share of home sales in the region, saw a 2 percent gain to 6,008 MLS sales from 5,889 in 2016.
The number of days homes were on the market slid from an average of 67 in 2016 to 56, reflecting the demand in the market.
The number of new listings was up by 4.5 percent for the year to 14,856 from 14,216. In December, there were 3,393 homes for sale, compared with 3,109 in December 2016.
The helped lift the supply of homes to 3.7 months from 3.4 months at the end of 2016. Still inventory is tight: six months is considered to be a balanced supply.
Even though interest rates are projected to rise during 2018, Maulden said she expects the local housing market to remain strong.
“Interest rates are so low, people are not worried about an increase,” she said, noting that at one of her recent closings, the buyer was paying a 4 percent interest rate. “The inventory may go up a little bit because of the new construction, but that’s good. The inventory was so low for 2017, the higher the better,” she said.