BR metro area home sales drop in March

Home sales in metro Baton Rouge dropped 14.6 percent in March, with harsh winter weather playing a role in breaking a streak of 18 consecutive months of year-to-year increases.

There were 647 home sales that closed in March in the nine-parish area, according to figures released Monday by the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors.

That compares with 758 closed sales in March 2013.

Sales in East Baton Rouge Parish, the biggest market, dropped by 19.4 percent in March, falling from 417 to 336 over the year.

Ascension Parish had a 12.3 percent sales drop, from 138 sales in 2013 to 121. Livingston Parish had a similar decrease in activity, falling 12.1 percent, from 140 to 123.

Carol Poche, of Keller Williams Realty in Baton Rouge, blamed the sales decrease on the severe winter storm that happened in January and shut down business activity for several days. That delayed the number of times homes were shown to potential buyers.

“We work about three months out,” said Poche, a member of the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors’ Board of Directors. “So we lost a good window of when we first make contact with a buyer.”

Poche said the Baton Rouge real estate market remains strong, thanks to the job growth going on across the region and interest rates that historically are still near “lifetime record-breaking lows.”

Pending sales in the metro area were up 10.3 percent from 878 to 968 in March.

The sales drop wiped out virtually all of the sales gains that were experienced in the first two months of 2014.

Through the first quarter, there were 1,775 home sales in the metro area, compared with 1,772 in the first quarter of 2013. For the first quarter, East Baton Rouge is down 5.5 percent in sales from 2013, falling from 968 to 915.

Ascension has seen a 4.9 percent gain in sales during the first quarter, going up from 345 to 362. Livingston is also ahead for the quarter, going from 306 sales to 310 closed deals, a 1.3 percent gain.

Inventory is one of the factors driving local performances. “Certain price points are moving rapidly and quickly,” Poche said. “The biggest key is proper pricing: Do the conditions of the house realistically match the price?”

Several areas in East Baton Rouge are doing well for new home sales, Poche said, including the Magnolia Lakes development on Burbank Drive, between Staring Lane and Lee Drive; the Preserve at Harveston, off Bluebonnet Boulevard, between Burbank and Nicholson Drive, and the Settlement at Willow Grove, off Perkins Road, between Bluebonnet and Siegen Lane. Magnolia Lakes is aimed at the starter home market, while homes in Harveston are priced between $200,000 and $400,000 and Willow Grove offers custom homes.

The median sales price was up 5.9 percent from $168,048 to $178,005 last month.

The average number of days a home was on the market went from 93 in 2013 to 94 last month.

But the number of homes for sale fell 9.8 percent to 3,795. The supply in months was 5.2, compared with 6.3 in 2013.

The number of new listings on the market was down 8.8 percent from 1,213 in 2013 to 1,106.

April home sales are “shaping up real well” at Keller Williams, Poche said. Buyer activity and new listings have increased in advance of the busy homebuying season, which usually runs from May through July.