Baton Rouge area home sales increased by 3.2 percent in 2014, thanks to more activity in Livingston and Ascension parishes.
There were 8,903 homes sold in the nine-parish area during 2014, compared with 8,625 in 2013, according to figures released Tuesday by the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service.
“It was another healthy year,” said Donna Wolff, president of the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors. “All the numbers were up.”
Wolff, an agent with Re/Max Professional in Baton Rouge, said home sales in Livingston and Ascension are “killing it.” Sales activity in Livingston is being driven by the good public schools in the parish, while Ascension is benefiting from all the jobs being added in local chemical plants.
Livingston had the biggest sales gain during the year, increasing by nearly 11 percent over 2013 figures. There were 1,639 sales in the parish during 2014, compared with 1,479 a year earlier.
Ascension had a 3.2 percent sales gain, going from 1,667 in 2013 to 1,720 in 2014.
East Baton Rouge still accounted for the largest percentage of home sales in the region. There were 4,700 MLS sales during the year. That was virtually unchanged from 2013, when there were 4,708 MLS sales.
East Baton Rouge home sales have been hampered because of the lack of available land, when compared with Livingston and Ascension, Wolff said. “There are no places to build,” she said. “But Baton Rouge is not hurting because of all the new jobs.”
Along with the increased sales figures, other measurements showed the strength of the local housing market. The median sales price of a home in the metro area increased by 2 percent during 2014, going up to $177,500. At the same time, the number of days homes were on the market slid from an average of 85 in 2013 to 84.
The number of new listings fell by 2 percent for the year, going from 13,155 in 2013 to 12,893. That further restricted the number of houses for sale. In December 2013, there were 4,193 homes for sale, compared with 3,658 in December 2014. The supply of homes dropped from 5.9 months at the end of 2013 to 4.7.
Wolff said that it remains a sellers market because of the dwindling inventory and low interest rates.
“Across the board, if a house is in a good location, in good condition and it’s priced well, it is going to sell,” she said.
The outlook for 2015 is similarly bright. The Federal Reserve isn’t expected to begin to raise interest rates until the middle of the year because inflation remains low. At the same time, metro Baton Rouge is expected to continue to add jobs because of the easy access to a steady supply of cheap natural gas.
Wolff said first-time homebuyers have had to sit on the sidelines because of difficulties in getting a loan. But now banks are creating new products, such as loans with low prime mortgage insurance, aimed at bringing in first-time buyers. “The recovery is over, and we’re in a healthy market now,” she said.
One good sign for the 2015 housing market is the strong performance in December, which is usually a slow time for sales. There were 601 pending home sales that happened in December, 23 percent more than in December 2013. Pending home sales usually translate into closed sales a month or two down the line.
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.