Residential sales showing ‘phenomenal’ growth

The 2014 outlook for the Baton Rouge real estate market is largely positive, thanks to the thousands of new jobs that are projected to come to the area and an improving national economy.

“The residential market is on fire,” said Tom Cook, an appraiser with Cook, Moore & Associates. There were 8,870 home sales in the eight-parish Greater Baton Rouge Multiple Listing Service for the 12-month period ending in February. That’s a 15.3 percent increase over sales for a similar period ending in February 2013. “That’s phenomenal growth,” Cook said Thursday at the annual Trends In Real Estate Seminar.

In East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes, Cook said there’s a 90-day market going on, referring to the average number of days a home is on the market. And it isn’t just inexpensive starter homes that are selling well: the number of new homes sold in the $225,000 to $300,000 range was up 33 percent, while sales in the $300,000 to $400,000 range were up by 37 percent and sales in the $400,000 and above bracket were up by 55 percent.

The biggest problem local homebuilders are facing are delays in getting permits from the city-parish Department of Public Works. “A good friend of mine who is a builder said it takes 45 days to pull a permit and it takes 65 days to build a house,” Cook said. “He estimated it cost him $15 million in sales last year because of delays from DPW.”

The local market for residential real estate should remain favorable in 2014 because of continued demand, low interest rates and a willingness by lenders to take on new loans, Cook said.