Lafayette home sales reach record high for March

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Electrician Keegan Magee installs the wiring for a series of smoke detectors in a house being built by CA Homes, LLC, in the Southfield neighborhood of Broussard Wednesday. Housing sales are booming in Lafayette, according to figures compiled by local real estate firms. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Electrician Keegan Magee installs the wiring for a series of smoke detectors in a house being built by CA Homes, LLC, in the Southfield neighborhood of Broussard Wednesday. Housing sales are booming in Lafayette, according to figures compiled by local real estate firms.

March home sales in Lafayette Parish reached a record high for that month, and sales for the first quarter of this year are 31 percent over the same period in 2012, according a report based on figures from local real estate firms.

Home prices are also on the rise, with the median sales price climbing from $164,600 to $173,950, or 5.7 percent, when comparing the first three months of 2013 with 2012, according to a market analysis by Van Eaton & Romero Chief Executive Officer Bill Bacqué.

“I’ve just got this big smile on my face,” Bacqué said Wednesday as he detailed the highlights the report, which is based on figures from area real estate agents.

He said it appears likely the strong upward trend will continue at least for the next one or two months, based on the number of pending home sales in the pipeline.

Lafayette Parish Realtors reported 374 pending sales in March, a 50 percent increase over February and a 39 percent increase over March 2012, according to Bacqué’s report.

Bacqué said the 262 reported home sales in Lafayette Parish for this March are the highest for that month since he began tracking sales in 1990.

The figures for this year harken back to the last record housing market that Lafayette saw in 2007, just before the national housing market crashed.

The local housing market never bottomed out, but sales and home prices lagged for a few years before picking up steam again last year.

Bacqué said he believes Lafayette’s current housing market is fueled in part by historically low mortgage interest rates and in part by home buyers who are confident in the health of Acadiana’s economy.

“Their jobs are stable. Their paychecks are good,” he said.

Bacqué said the sales figures for the first quarter of 2013 indicate that buyers are showing a strong interest in new homes.

“They are blowing and going in new construction,” he said.

Of the 676 homes sold from January through March of this year, 217 were new homes, a 53 percent increase over the same period last year, according to Bacqué’s figures.

New construction also accounts for 146 of the 374 pending homes sales for March 2013, a 72 percent increase over new construction numbers for March 2012, according to the figures.

“Builders are very positive and confident that the market is doing well, and so are the buyers,” said Acadian Home Builders Association President Pam Weaver. “... For a while, they were just holding back.”

Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Jay Castille, who owns a residential construction company, said business has gradually picked up over the past few months.

“I starting seeing some movement this past fall, and it’s taken off since then,” he said. “It’s rebounding pretty good, and I think it’s going to get better.”

The majority of Lafayette Parish home sales in the first three months of this year were in the $150,000 to $300,000 range — 401 out of 676 total sales.

But Bacqué said the high end market is starting to show signs of life again, with sales of 67 homes priced at more than $300,000 in the first quarter of this year. That’s 31 percent over the same period last year for that price range, according to the Realtor figures.

“We’ve had a really significant increase in sales in what I consider the upper range,” Bacqué said.