It didn’t take long for Adam Constantin and his new wife, Megan, to start looking for a home after they were married in September.

They were hunting for a starter home that would suit them and their two dogs, Scooter and Maymel. They did a lot of searching; even put in an offer on one house before changing their minds.

Then they discovered a house had been posted online only hours earlier. They visited the Alice Drive house on a Saturday and had an offer in and accepted by Sunday.

“It took a lot of looking,” Megan Brown said. “We looked at a few houses twice, but this one just felt like the price was right. Even though it was smaller than we thought we wanted, it doesn’t feel small. We looked at it on Saturday and again on Sunday and put in an offer.”

It was a good thing they acted quickly. The real estate market was so strong in the Acadiana market in 2018 that it set records for number of home sales and dollar volume for homes sold.

According to the region’s year-end market report, 5,268 homes sold in 2018 for $1,005,292,003, surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time. Overall, 2018’s totals eclipsed the previous high mark in 2015 and showed another gain after suffering a dip in 2016.

Sales in Lafayette Parish reported to MLS hit a new high at 3,376, which topped the previous mark of 3,311 in 2015 before the oil and gas industry collapsed.

“This was the best year I’ve personally ever had in real estate,” said Joel Bacque, a real estate agent with Van Eaton and Romero who has been in real estate since 2012.

“Our team finished a little bit over from what we did (in 2017). We were steady all year long up until even December and November, which are slower than most months. It did slow down a little bit, but it was a very steady year.”

Inside the numbers

Couples like the Constantins were a familiar tale in 2018. Bacque said he thinks homebuyers who had been putting off making a purchase saw interest rates creeping up and figured it was a good time to buy.

Agents across the board saw a lot of renters become homebuyers last year, and that may have been a reason why existing home sales in Lafayette Parish totaled 2,579, also a record.

“The cost of rent has gone up so much in the area that it makes sense to buy a house,” he said. “We’ve seen people move on from paying landlords to putting that into equity for themselves. The middle of the market, from the $200,000 to $400,000 range, did really, really well this year. This was also a big year for resales.”

December home sales rose slightly over last year’s total in Lafayette Parish (243 in 2018, 241 in 2017), but the dollar amount jumped 6.34 percent ($55.7 million in 2018, $52.35 million in 2017).

Home construction numbers are down, however. After topping out at 1,117 in 2014 in Lafayette Parish, that total has dipped four straight years to 797 in 2018.

“I personally think that the popularity among all those HGTV shows of people going in and redoing those older houses — that’s gotten very popular,” Bacque said. “People aren’t afraid to tackle a project like that. There’s a lot more access to the possibility of what people can do with a home renovation and the kind of transformation that can occur.

“I think that’s helped with resales. Usually you can get an older home in the center of town at a lower price. By doing those things, you can build equity and put yourselves in a better position when you sell it in the future.”

People still moving south

The Constantins purchased a resale on Lafayette’s Southside, a surprisingly still booming area of the city. Adam Constantin said it was important that their home have access to Lafayette’s thruways but also have as little work as possible needing to be done to it.

“This neighborhood for us gives us good access to thruways in and out of town fairly quickly,” he said. “This house is move-in ready, and it was unique in that aspect. A lot of the houses had a lot to be done, and there wasn’t as much of that here.”

He noted some more popular areas — such as Lafayette’s Saint Streets — may have higher-priced homes, and he advised future homebuyers to really do the research to find the right home for them.

“We offered on that first house and then we went back for a second look,” he said. “The yard felt smaller and we felt like the house shrunk. We re-evaluated our priorities. There are some prime time areas that are really getting snatched up and that honestly deterred us from those areas. We didn’t want to feel any artificial value.”

Bacque said builders haven’t slowed down on the Southside of the parish and he thinks there’s definitely room for more growth.

“There’s still a tremendous amount of property out there,” Bacque said. “The builders haven’t slowed down as far as inventory. If you go out there, there are plenty of homes still popping up left and right. It’s still a popular place. That’s despite the traffic to get out there. As a whole, it’s still thriving. We don’t anticipate that slowing down any time soon.”

The Constantins waited the process out and found a home that needs very little work that could become that equity builder. Megan Constantin said the key is to remain within your budget.

“You have to stick to your budget,” she said. “We got big for our britches and we really liked a house and thought it was amazing. We got swept up and just went for it. After that, we took time off and just reoriented ourselves into what we really wanted and what we could afford.”

With Lafayette’s economy so tied into oil and gas, Bacque said it is encouraging to see the numbers doing so well in the real estate market during a downturn in the industry.

“It’s very reassuring that the Lafayette and the Acadiana market has done as well as it has in the last three or four years,” he said. “I think we’re in a good position and hopefully things will get better. When oil and gas does ultimately rebound, we’ll be in an even better position.”

Acadiana Business Today: Public meeting on proposed Lafayette toll loop set for Feb. 28; Home sales had best year ever in Acadiana in 2018


Follow Adam Daigle on Twitter, @adamdaigleAdv.