• 55°

County real estate sales up 30 percent over this time last year

Pearl River County appears to be in the midst of a recovery of sorts, at least if you go by the increase in homes sales over the past year.

Realtors Martha Ford of Ford Realty and Tammy Valente of Valente Real Estate are almost back to working seven days a week to meet client demand.

Both have a solid set of listings for sale and buyers, which seems in line with other real estate professionals in Pearl River County.

Real estate sales appear to be up by approximately 30 percent over this time last year. This is something that caught the attention of Ford as she made the comparison in first quarter sales for the last two years.

“I saw my brokerage ranking listed as number one this month, and I knew that even though we ended really strong last year, the first part of the year was fairly slow, so I was shocked to see the difference in black and white print,” Ford said. “Last year, I showed land and commercial properties until April. That is when things started picking up for me and hasn’t stopped.”

When asked what seemed to be driving sales for her, she said that many of her clients were relocating from across the lake and were calling for specific common traits in homes.

“They were looking for homes that are not in flood zones and with high elevations. Another thing I realized was that the calls picked up drastically right before hurricane season,” she said.

Valente agrees with Ford.

“I’ve had people come in from the West Bank, more so than the East Bank, of New Orleans,” Valente said. “We are still within commuting range and insurance is less here than anywhere south of us. I also believe quality of life is a factor and they are always impressed with more home value for their money.”

Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero verified the realtor’s assessments.

“Our numbers have gone up in permitting for new construction,” Pinero said. “There is a trend showing increase in new construction building. The inventory of available new houses from Katrina is all but gone, so new construction for speculation houses is picking up. It has been a number of years since we have seen spec houses being built.”

Pinero said that building permits have not yet reached pre-Katrina rates, but are rapidly approaching those numbers.

“At the current growth rate, we will reach pre-Katrina permit numbers by summer 2014,” he said. “If we can achieve pre Katrina permit numbers, we can reach a construction goal that is consistent and for long term, it will strengthen our construction, real estate and banking economy in the county.”

Pinero said that countywide construction contributes to sales tax through increased sales at places such as Home Depot and Quick and Grice as well as concrete sales through Huey Stockstill Incorporated.

Could Pearl River County be benefitting from the frustration and fear generated by the Biggert-Waters Act?

“One of the reasons people are moving here is because of Biggert-Waters and the National Flood Insurance Plan,” Pinero said. “People are concerned and do not want to lose their homes because they cannot afford the insurance.

“No matter what the final results of the act are, we will not see increases in property taxes that residents will see south of Interstate 10, and on and around Lake Pontchartrain. We are the first high and dry county coming out of Louisiana. We have a great quality of life, low crime and excellent education system. We also have less strict regulations, so if someone wants an area with strict deeds and covenants, we can offer them those neighborhoods as an option. But if someone wants to do their own thing and not worry about people telling them how to do it, they can move to some of the more rural areas. We provide many options here, it only makes sense that people would seek us out to make their home.”