By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Home sales continue to steadily increase in Northeast Mississippi, approaching levels before the recession and the housing slump that followed.
Northeast Mississippi Board of Realtors data shows this year is on pace for the fourth consecutive year of increases in single-family housing sold since 2009, the year the housing decline hit hardest.
“Nothing in our world is the same as before then,” said Ellen Short, a Tupelo real estate broker and owner of TRI Realtors. “People are still cautious in our part of the country.”
The most current national and regional data from the U.S. Census and the Department of Housing and Urban Development remains delayed because of the limited federal government shutdown in October.
From January to October, the Northeast Mississippi Board of Realtors – comprised of about 300 real estate agents in the seven-county area of Lee, Pontotoc, Itawamba, Prentiss, Union, Chickasaw and Monroe – reported 1,166 homes sold, a 0.7 percent increase from the same time a year ago.
For all of 2012, the area had 1,365 home sales.
So far this year, the median home price is $104,900, an increase from the 2012 median price of $100,000.
In the area tracked by the Northeast Mississippi Board of Realtors, the highest concentration of houses sold continue to hover in the $100,000 to $159,999 price range, accounting for more than a quarter of all homes sold in the area.
Most recent data from the Census and HUD shows new residential sales seasonally adjusted for August increased 7.9 percent from July to 421,000. Compared to a year earlier, August home sales increased 12.6 percent from 374,000.
New residential construction nationally of 918,000 in August was a 3.8 percent increase from July.
Sue Golmon, president of the Northeast Mississippi Board of Realtors, said data the organization collected indicates the area’s real estate market continues to rebound from 2009 lows, when median selling prices of homes was $96,875 from total sales of 1,153.
“Things used to stay on the market longer,” said Golmon, who is a real estate agent with Tommy Morgan Realtors. “But I think the market is coming back. It’s slower than we’d like but still positive.”
In a neighboring region, the North Central Mississippi Board of Realtors, which covers Lafayette, Panola, Yalobusha, Union and Marshall counties, real estate demand seems to have outpaced supply in some areas.
“We have buyers calling us for the first time asking for a specific price range in a particular location and we don’t have it to sell,” said Jan Cauthen, president of that board and an agent for Kessinger Real Estate.
For homebuyers, many reasons exist for purchasing a home, from job changes to family situations. When decidingto buy a house, each buyer has a list of priorities that helps determine the best property for him or her.
Along with price, buying factors usually include safety of the neighborhood, school systems if the prospective buyer has children and the size and age of the home.
With real estate websites available to help narrow home choices by different criteria, many homebuyers search online and then contact real estate agents about specific properties.
For Tupelo resident Valerie Hill, 62, living in an apartment complex for a while after a divorce convinced her she needed to move into a house again. With one income, she went online and found houses priced under $80,000 in the Joyner neighborhood for her and Lucy, her miniature pinscher.
After looking at four houses, Hill found a house with hardwood floors and a fenced-in yard, a property she recently closed. She likes the central location of the neighborhood to her job downtown.
“I like Tupelo and being in the center of things,” she said.
Wes Robbins, 27, a technology support manager living in Tennessee just more than a month ago, has family in Tupelo and accepted a promotion to move here. He didn’t want to rush into buying a house but found a 2,000-square-foot home for $120,500, a deal he couldn’t refuse.
“It’s a great little house,” he said. “I found it a lot faster than I thought it would.”
With a house 55 years old, Robbins said the property required little work beyond repainting a few walls.
“The opportunity came along and I’d have been a fool not to take it,” he said.
With two more months left in the calendar year, Golmon is optimistic this year will continue to show growth in the region’s market.
“I think it’s returning to how things continue toward where it was before the economic downturn,” she said.