BR-area home sales rise 15 percent in 2013

Baton Rouge metro area home sales increased by 15 percent during 2013, continuing a steady recovery from the national recession that followed a spike in sales after Hurricane Katrina.

According to figures provided by the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors, there were 8,690 closed sales in 2013, compared with 7,483 in 2012.

Though 2013 doesn’t rival the Hurricane Katrina-aided years from 2005 to 2007, last year fell only 59 houses shy of the 8,749 sold pre-Katrina in 2004 in the Capital Region.

Sales fell from 2008 to 2010 before starting a recovery from the national recession.

“Home sales picked back up really strong,” said Donna Wolff, president-elect of the association’s board of directors said of 2013. “Interest rates are staying low, and that’s really helped the market.”

Locally, it remains a seller’s market because of the limited inventory, said Wolff, an agent with Re/Max Professional in Baton Rouge.

At the end of 2013, there were 3,896 homes for sale, down 2.6 percent from the 3,999 listings at the end of 2012. That dropped the supply of homes from 6.1 months at the end of 2012 to 5.4 months in December 2013.

For all of 2013, the number of days a home remained on the market dropped by 11.3 percent, from 97 to 86.

Annual sales increased by 18.5 percent in Livingston Parish, where there were 1,475 sales in 2013, compared with 1,245 in 2012.

“Not only have sales come up, quantity-wise, but the values of the homes sold have raised,” said Kayla Johnson, an agent with Covington & Associates Real Estate in Denham Springs.

Johnson said homebuyers have been attracted to moving into Livingston Parish because infrastructure improvements such as the widening of Interstate 12 and the Magnolia Bridge have made it easier to get to work at the chemical plants in north Baton Rouge and Ascension Parish.

Ascension Parish had a 17 percent increase in sales, going from 1,425 in 2012 to 1,667.

“Our sales started to pick up in 2013,” said Ricky J. Gautreau, of Realty Executives South Louisiana in Prairieville. “We had a good spring and a good summer and went through quite a bit of inventory.”

Gautreau said sales started to slump at the end of 2013 because of dwindling inventory, a slight increase in interest rates and concern about dramatic hikes in flood insurance rates.

East Baton Rouge Parish, the largest homebuying market, went from 4,124 sales in 2012 to 4,698, a 13.9 percent increase.

Wolff said areas such as the neighborhoods around LSU and Town Center remained popular with homebuyers, along with Central.

“It was harder for first-time homebuyers to get a loan, but if they got qualified, they could buy all day long,” she said.

The median sale price for a home in metro Baton Rouge increased by 4.2 percent during the year, going up from $167,000 to $174,000. That’s a local record for the median sale price of a home, said Saiward Pharr Hromadka, a spokeswoman for the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors.

The median means half the homes sold for more than that amount and half for less.

So far, 2014 is off to a good start, because historically low interest rates are continuing.

“Yesterday, I had four accepted offers for houses,” Johnson said Tuesday afternoon. “Today, I had one offer accepted. That’s a very strong start for the year.”