Realtors sold 695 houses in the Baton Rouge metro area in August, up 46 percent from 476 that month a year ago, according to figures compiled by the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors.
Dollar volume rose 48 percent to $138.6 million, as a slightly healthier local market continued to shine compared with last year’s numbers, which feature a slump that followed the expiration of a popular federal tax credit program.
Nevertheless, the number of homes sold in August was the highest for that month since 2007. That year and the year before were swelled by the Katrina fallout of people displaced by the storm moving into Baton Rouge.
It’s a sign that despite having an easy hurdle to beat in last year’s numbers, the market is in fact doing a little bit better.
“It looks like we’re stabilizing, and I’m sure that’s the result of interest rates being as low as they’ve been in a long time,” appraiser Tom Cook said.
Cook said that while mortgage rates have been low for some time, he thinks buyers who have been on the fence have grown tired of waiting.
Fixed mortgage rates nationally fell Thursday to the lowest level in six decades for the second straight week.
Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.09 percent this week, down from 4.12 percent. That’s the lowest rate seen since 1951.
The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, fell to 3.30 percent from 3.33 percent. Economists say it is likely the lowest rate on the 15-year ever.
Cook also said major builders, including DSLD Homes and D.R. Horton, have increased activity “and they’re building in the price range that people can afford.”
Cook said the $175,000-$275,000 range shows the most activity.
For the year so far, home sales are still down 3 percent — 4,450 homes sold compared with 4,588 — and volume is down 3 percent to $861.1 million.
It’s possible that by the end of the year, the year-to-date figures could put home sales in the black for 2011, but for now they still lag in East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes.
Taking a closer look at the numbers for August:
• In East Baton Rouge Parish, Realtors sold 386 homes in August, up 29 percent from 299 a year earlier. Dollar volume rose 33 percent to $81.1 million.
For the year, East Baton Rouge is down 3 percent to 2,450 homes sold and down 3 percent to $504.2 million in dollar volume.
• In Ascension, Realtors sold 141 homes in August, up 72 percent from 82, while dollar volume rose 68 percent to $29.4 million.
For the year, Ascension is down 6 percent to 855 homes sold and down 6 percent to $171.9 million in dollar volume.
• In Livingston, Realtors sold 99 homes in August, up 68 from 59, and dollar volume rose 74 percent to $15.9 million.
For the year, Livingston is down 7 percent to 754 homes sold and down 10 percent to $116.4 million in dollar volume.
• The “other” parishes category, made up of West Baton Rouge, Iberville, East and West Feliciana and Pointe Coupee, was up 92 percent — 69 homes sold compared with 36 — in August and volume was up 97 percent to $12.2 million.
For the year, the “other” category is up 16 percent to 391 in homes sold and up 17 percent to $68.6 million in dollar volume.