Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Updated Market Statistics

It is so interesting to keep up with the market changes in the Greater Baton Rouge Area. We are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina but in a good way! Our market has shown some fluctuation over the past 4 months but it is easy to spot the trend that is happening. I want to share some numbers with you.

Number of Closed Properties Average Sold Price Average Days on Market %SP/LP

Dec: 808 $162,312 71 98.08%

Jan: 734 $175,366 78 97.69%

Feb: 726 $169,438 77 97.84%

Mar: 922 $178,078 79 97.70%

You can see that our spring market has kicked in. I can personally tell you that homes priced under $200,000 that are NOT overpriced, and in good condition, sell very quickly. Homes that are not in top shape, and over priced (think Katrina pricing!) are still sitting there.

The jump in homes sold I feel is due to our regular buyers, not the people displaced from the hurricane, getting back into our market. Interest rates are creeping up but are still just a little over 6% on a 30 fixed, conventional loan.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Homeowners Insurance Concerns

It has been noted by serveral insurance agents in the Greater Baton Rouge area that our homeowner insurance rates will go up in many instances to 40% more than we are currently paying. Part of this will be a tax to help pay for hurricane Katrina rebuilding and part of it will be rate increases for the individual insurance companies to recover some of the costs from this event. I have also been advised that wind damage may not be covered by our homeowners insurance and that coverage would have to come from the FAIR plan - which is pretty expensive. When questioned about what we can do about these rates, I was told the best thing is to raise your deductibe. I personally told my homeowner insurance agent several years ago to flag my file anytime a rate increase occurs. That way I can see how much I have to raise my deductible to keep my premiums reasonable. I suggest that everyone contact their insurance agents to check this out and to stay on top of this so you are not blind sided with a huge new premium.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Spring Market is Here for Housing!

Yes, we can tell spring is here due to the number of calls we are receiving. People are enjoying the beautiful weather and looking for homes. We have had some great financing news for our area. Since the Greater Baton Rouge Area is in the hurricane disaster area, the Bond Authority is waiving the rule that you must be a first time home buyer to qualify for bond money. That means, if you fit the other criteria of income, credit score, etc., then you may be able to get bond money with a rate between 4.8-5.6%.

A quick update on new construction. We had 183 new homes come on the market in February in the SE Baton Rouge, Ascension, and Livingston areas - bringing to a total of 509 new construction homes on the market. During that same period, 169 new homes went under contract. The average sales price for new construction for the past 4 months was $215,000 for those areas. However, with the cost of materials due to the hurricanes, the new homes are averaging an asking price of $236,000.

A snapshot of the past 4 months home sales, including all ages, all of East Baton Rouge Parish, Livingston, and Ascension shows an average list price of $184,000 with an average sales price of $180,000. We are seeing the average sale price steadily increase, probably due to the number of new construction homes that are finally closing that were sold during Katrina.

We expect the housing market to remain strong with good inventory to choose from.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Market Statistics Shows Market Stable

In researching the continuing concern the public has with the effect hurricane Katrina had on our real estate market I found some interesting numbers. We currently have a 4.26 month supply of homes on the market for Ascension Parish, E Baton Rouge Parish, and Livingston Parish. That is almost the same as March of 2005 as well as July 2005.

I also checked the average sales price, which is $168, 153 for the month of February 2006. That compares with $168,864 for August 2005, prior to Katrina. Now, it is difficult to just look at a one month average, and if you compare that to last January, we are $15,000 ahead. If we do a 6 month snapshot, then the average sales price is $176, 403 with an average days on market of 70. So it appears that our market is holding on to the gains it experienced after hurricane Katrina sales settled down.

Interest rates are still hovering around 6% and with the bond money no longer being tied to first time home buyers, this will be another great year for buying and selling in the Greater Baton Rouge market!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Greater Baton Rouge Real Estate Update January 06

As expected, the Greater Baton Rouge real estate market remains strong. Plenty of homes for sale, good new construction starts, and interest rates remaining low continue to fuel this market.

Here is a comparison of homes for sale in January and how many of those were new construction:

E Baton Rouge Parish 1727 on Market of which 397 were new construction
Ascension Parish 520 on Market of which 177 were new construction
Livingston Parish 434 on Market of which 90 were new construction

Comparing January 2005 to January 2006:
Number of homes put on market in January 2006: 1047 January 2005: 1149
Number of homes closed in January 2006: 716 January 2005: 491

Breakdown of sold properties in January 2006 by area:
E Baton Rouge Parish: 413
Ascension Parish: 149
Livingston Parish: 147
Additional sales were balance of MLS area

Average sales price in EBR, Ascension, and Livingston Parishes combined:
January 2005: $152,718
January 2006: $176,948

Number of homes currently on the market: 2696 in these 3 Parishes

It's time to buy a house!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Raising Credit Score Helps Local Home Buyers

Raising your credit score can greatly affect the interest rate or documentation required to secure a mortgage for you new home. The types of loan available in the Greater Baton Rouge Area are tied into the credit score of the borrower. Buyers with a very high score can get 100% financing at a good interest rate as well as doing loans that require little documentation.

Andy Aucoin of Resource One Mortgage offers these tips to raise your score in 45 days.

Yes, this sounds obvious, but understand that credit scoring software severely penalizes you for having accounts with a past due balance. Making sure all of your accounts are current, and paying the amount that shows as being past due on the credit report can increase your credit score by a significant amount.

Contact all creditors that have reported late payments on your credit and request a good faith adjustment that actually removes the record of late payments reported on your account. Be persistent, if they refuse to remove the late payments at first, remind them that you have been a good customer that would deeply appreciate their help. Call several times if you need to and ask for supervisors. All persistence and politeness pay off in this scenario.

Contrary to popular belief, having low credit limits on a credit card can actually hurt your credit score. Having low available credit limits affects your actual debt to available credit ratio. For example, if you owe a total card debt of $10,000 and your total credit available is $20,000, you are only using 50% of your total credit available. But if you have card debt of $10,000 and your total credit available is $15,000, you change your ratio to 66% of your available credit being used. The lower the percentage of debt to available credit the better, as it shows you are able to handle having credit available without running it up to the max.

15% of your credit score is determined by the age of the credit file. Therefore, even if your old credit cards have horrible interest rates, closing those cards will decrease the average length of time yoy have had credit, as well as increase your debt to available credit ratio as discussed in point 3. Use the old card at least once every six months to avoid the account rating to change to Inactive. Keeping the card active is as simple as pumping gas or purchasing groceries every few months, then paying the balance down. An inactive account is ignored by Fair Isaacs credit scoring software, so you will not get the benefit of the positive payment history and low balance that card may have had in the past.

Call your lender and see if raising your credit score can affect the amount of home you will be able to purchase. Give yourself time to raise the score before you start your house hunting search, then enjoy the benefits every month of that low interest rate!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


A new regulation (mandated by the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and regulated by the DOE [Department of Energy]) will greatly affect the heating and air industry, the home warranty industry and the real estate industry beginning January of 2006. It is often referred to as “13-Seer.”

Increased SEER Rating Standards

Central air conditioners are rated according to their Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER): the higher the SEER, the more efficient the air conditioner. The current national efficiency standard for air conditioning systems took effect in 1992, requiring a minimum SEER of 10. New standards, set to take effect on January 23, 2006, will raise the SEER requirement to 13, an efficiency improvement of 30%. Overall the changes are good for the environment and increase consumer’s piece of mind by improving comfort and indoor air quality. However implementation of the new regulations may be a bit painful for everyone involved.

How These New Standards Affect Consumers

Beginning in January when a condenser or evaporative coil fails and must be replaced, the new unit must be at least 13 SEER and will have to be compatible with all the other components in the system. Here are some of the potential challenges:

ü If a condenser is replaced, the evaporative coil and air handler must be upgraded to 13 SEER.
ü If the Freon lines are too small to handle a 13 SEER system, they must be replaced /upgraded.
ü The 13 SEER evaporative coils can be up to 3-4 inches taller, requiring sheet metal modifications to fit the new system in the old space. Should the space be too small, the cost to rebuild the area or relocated the system could be even more costly.
ü The system as a whole can be large and heavier, which may require additional labor expenses for a second technician to complete the installation.
ü The system requires about 40% more Freon to operate.
ü The system may requires a larger cement pad or larger roof stands which may requires modifications.

Katrina Causes Home Owners to Rethink Coverage

We expect our homeowners insurance policy to help us recover from a catastrophe by providing us with enough cash to replace anything damaged or destroyed in such an event. As we found after hurricane Katrina, all was not as people expect. You need to read your policy very carefully and fully understand what you have paid for. You may not have the protection you think. It is standard for most homeowner policies to cover the structure of the house for replacement-cost value. But what coverage do you have on your contents? Are you covered only for actual cash value or the replacement cost? What's the difference? If you are only covered for actual cash value then the company will deduct for depreciation on those items. That could be significantly less than the cost for you to restore, repair or replace the item. Check your policy to see if you chose the option of replacement cost coverage. You may save money on the front end by having actual cash value coverage but it could cost you dearly in the long run. The longer you own your house or personal property, the more depreciation becomes an issue and replacement cost coverage becomes more critical.

Replacement-cost coverage varies. Different insurers offer varying levels of replacement-cost coverage, so you need to check your policy or with your insurer to see what is covered in your area and what the limits are. Some companies add maximums to replacement-cost coverage policies, to protect themselves from overexposure in the case of loss. For example, some insurers limit the amount payable on replacing a roof, especially when it is over a certain age.
Remember, you are insuring your home and your possessions -- not your land. Think about what it would cost to rebuild your house and replace its contents, not what the market value of the house is.

Next, you need to see if you are adequately insured. We personally buy flood insurance for our home in Baton Rouge, even though we are not in a flood hazard area. That decision was based on a flood that occurred in New Orleans about 10 years ago- homes that were over 40 years old and not in a flood hazard area were flooded. Now I think that it is even more important to consider purchasing flood insurance even for areas that do not require it. Of course, you need to know what you are getting coverage for, since it seems even flood insurance doesn't cover what we expected! Remember, your basic homeowners insurance will not cover you or your contents for flood. And a flood isn't always a river or body of water overflowing. Several years ago a tornado came through Baton Rouge and debris stopped up a drainage ditch, causing a house to flood during the storm. The house was not in an area that required flood insurance, and therefore, the damage was not covered by their insurance company.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Downtown Baton Rouge Continues To Grow

I am continually amazed at the amount of development happening in downtown Baton Rouge. We have seen the downtown area try to come to life over the past 25 years, first with the 1984 Catfish Town development of restaurants and shops - which is now one of our Casinos - and now, with the Shaw Entertainment Center bringing in wonderful entertainment as well as sporting a fabulous restaurant, downtown is coming back to life.

Some of the plans for downtown include the building of a high rise condominum overlooking the Mississippi River. I have looked at the plans for this building and it looks like an amazing project. Several more condominium projects are in the works - some include multi-use developments and others are strictly residential. The new Red Stick Lofts off Nicholson are designed after a development in Houston and are a design we have not seen here before.

Baton Rouge is in a growth phase - as it was pre-Katrina - and hopefully we will see downtown reviatlized with these new projects! It certainly is an exciting time to be involved in real estate!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Baton Rouge Real Estate Post Hurricane Katrina

What REALLY happed to real estate in the Baton Rouge area due to hurricane Katrina? As you have heard, there was an initial buying frenzy as people in affected areas scrambled to find a place to live. Some houses did sell for inflated prices - usually those that included all the furnishings. There were also a lot of what I loosely term 'urban real estate legends' that we all heard about but were not true. Many homes that sold fell through as buyers realized that things weren't as bad as reported and they would be able to return to their homes.

Pre Katrina Homes for sale: 3400 Homes sold during Sept 2005: 1713
Homes available after Sept 3100 Homes sold during Sept 2004: 1112
Homes that fell thru: 580

Average Sales Price Pre Katrina: $159289
Average Sales Price Oct 2005: $188,861
Average Sales Price year ending 2005 $168,519

The market has ended the year with a higher average sales price than pre-Katrina, but not as it was at the height of the aftermath of the storm. It is good to see our area see some appreciation for a change! There are plenty of homes available, interest rates remain low, and the prices of the homes have stabilized.

The information provided above is deemed reliable and is based on information gathered from select areas of the MLS.