County’s housing market improved in 2013
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Feb 11, 2014 | 1923 views |  0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
More Calhoun County homes were sold and at higher prices on average in 2013 than the previous year, according to year-end estimates from market experts, indicating a strengthening housing market.

According to the Alabama Center for Real Estate, county home sales increased about 9.8 percent between 2013 and 2012. Additionally, the average home-sales price increased 5.2 percent during that same time. Some real estate experts say the housing market improved as more residents acquired mortgages, bought more expensive homes and had fewer foreclosures.

"Just in the past month, we've had three contracts on new home construction," said Joey Crews of Keller Williams Realty in Anniston. "When new construction comes back, you know the market is coming back because new homes cost more than old homes."

Like the rest of the country, the county's housing market took a dive after the Great Recession hit in 2007. High foreclosures and unemployment devalued many homes and also led to a glut of inventory. The housing market has been slowly recovering, particularly in the last couple of years.

Alabama Center for Real Estate statistics show 1,085 homes were sold in the area in 2013, more than the 988 homes sold in 2012. The average home sales price for the area in 2013 was $117,043, an increase from the $111,222 average sales price of 2012.

Meanwhile, 2013 was also an improvement over 2011, which saw 947 homes sold at an average price of $112,454.

Crews said the market definitely improved last year, noting Keller Williams sold 100 more homes in 2013 than 2012 and has less inventory on the market currently than in the past three years.

"We've got people buying again ... still a lot of first-time home buyers," Crews said. "But we're also seeing more movement in second- and third-time home buyers."

Second- and third-time buyers tend to be more affluent and therefore buy more expensive homes, which in turn drives up average sales prices.

Crews said lower foreclosure rates last year also helped with home values.

According to the Calhoun County Probate Office, the county had 326 foreclosures in 2013, fewer than the 349 foreclosures in 2012.

Shad Williams, president and CEO of Cheaha Bank in Oxford, said his bank saw an increase in mortgages last year.

"We got a lot of people in new houses," Williams said. "Overall, we did good work."

Keivan Deravi, economist at Auburn University Montgomery, said housing markets across the state improved in general last year.

"It's not a strong recovery in terms of price increase, but demand is growing," Deravi said.

But while the market recovery was not strong last year, it was encouraging, Deravi said.

"We're seeing a stronger recovery beginning to shape up," Deravi said. "Banks are opening up the pipelines more, making mortgages easier to proceed."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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