BR-area home sales continue hot streak in August

Home sales in metro Baton Rouge rose 44 percent in August against a hurricane-affected month a year ago to mark the 12th month in a row there has been a year-to-year increase.

According to the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors, there were 888 sales in August in the nine-parish area, compared with 618 the same month a year ago. The August 2012 sales were affected by Hurricane Isaac, which marred business at the end of the month. In August 2011, there were 703 sales.

For the first eight months of the year, 5,973 homes have been sold, an 18.5 percent increase over the 5,041 sales through August 2012.

“This August was one of the best months in my office in the past three years,” said Gary Fontenot, chairman of the Ascension Council of Realtors. “With inventory being lower than it has been in the past, people don’t shop as long, because they know if they wait too late, the house they want is already gone.”

Sales in Ascension Parish were up 87.3 percent in August, coming in at 191. That compwares with the 102 sales that happened a year before.

Fontenot, with Realty Executives South Louisiana in Prairieville, said homes in the $230,000 to $275,000 price range are selling briskly in Ascension after being soft for years after Hurricane Katrina.

“Below $175,000, those homes have always sold,” he said.

Along with families buying starter homes, there has been an increase in the number of investors buying houses in the under $175,000 price bracket, Fontenot said. Those investors are leasing the houses to people who are coming into Ascension for a year or so to help build chemical plants.

“If you put up a for-sale sign on a house and it’s under $175,000, you will get 10 calls from people asking if you would consider renting it,” Fontenot said. “There’s not much rental property in Ascension.”

Livingston Parish also saw a significant jump in home sales during August. There were 158 closed sales in the parish during the month, 54.9 percent more than the 102 sales that happened in August 2012.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, the largest homebuying market, sales increased by 33.5 percent in August, to 462 closings. That compares with the 346 sales that happened the year before.

Through the first eight months of the year, sales are up 19 percent in East Baton Rouge, 21 percent in Ascension and 20.6 percent in Livingston.

In a sign of future activity, pending sales for the metro area were up 46.5 percent in August and new listings were up by 14.2 percent.

The median sale price was up 3.2 percent to $176,085 and homes in the metro area continued to come off the market at a faster pace.

The average number of days a home was on the market in August was 78 days, down from 104 in August 2012. The inventory of homes continued to shrink, thanks to the bustling market. There were 4,112 homes listed in August, down 11 percent from the year before. The supply in months was 5.7, compared with 7.4 in 2012.