Coastal Empire real estate market providing opportunities ‘Housing is a good buy’ as the local economy performs better than state and national average.
Housing is a good buy right now, said Michael Toma, Ph.D, the Director of the Center for Regional Analysis at Armstrong Atlantic State University.
“I would argue that right now is probably a very, very good time to buy a home in our area,” Toma said. “Housing is a good buy, particularly for a first-time buyer with adequate credit and cash for a down payment. Now is the time to pull the trigger. If you have been sitting on the sidelines watching as the speculators take their lumps, now your time has come to purchase a home.
“In six months to a year as the market begins to stabilize, prices are not going to have the same downward pressure,” Toma predicts. “Waiting isn’t going to help much, if any at all for the typical homebuyer. I’m certainly not suggesting that those who buy now will see double digit rates of appreciation as in the recent past, but that for most of us who buy a home in which to live, the next six to nine months will present a real buying opportunity.”
The Savannah area economy is faring better than many other places, and that’s expected to continue in the near future, Toma said.
“The economy in the Savannah metropolitan area will outperform the state and nation,” Toma said. “Although growth is a little below normal for our region, the risk of recession is tiny as compared to that for the state and U.S. I anticipate that during the next six to nine months the pattern of below normal rates of growth will continue, all the while as the region economically outperforms Georgia and the U.S.
“The strength of our economy is its insulation from factors affecting the rest of the state,” Toma explained. The economic strength rests mostly on a strong military and health care presence that is largely recession-proof, a manufacturing sector substantially outperforming other areas, thanks in large part to Gulfstream, and the continued booming activity at the Georgia Ports Authority, with the resultant growth in the transportation, distribution, and warehousing sectors.
Susan Ason, an Associate Broker with Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty, said she’s seen Savannah stay stronger than other areas, but adds that real estate professionals have to be able to shift with the market.
“I was fortunate to have a better year in 2007 than I did in 2006,” Ason said. “While the market has shifted from a sellers’ to a buyers’ market, I believe my continuing success was due to a more stringent system of staying in touch with previous customers and clients. When clients are selling, it is imperative to help sellers price their properties realistically based upon the current market conditions in their area and to provide candid feedback from showings.”
From what she has seen, Ason said, in the last year properties in the $350,000 to $450,000 range have moved the most quickly in this market.
“We are so fortunate in Savannah, not only do we have a diverse economy; we have a housing market that can meet the needs of any buyers,” Ason said. “We have wonderful islands and beach communities, golf communities in West Chatham, the fabulous Landmark Historic District, the Victorian District and Ardsley Park to name a few. It’s exciting to work with clients who are relocating to our area since I truly believe we have something for everyone. It’s just a matter of identifying the clients’ needs.”
“It’s a great time to buy a home,” Ason said. “Interest rates are extremely low and there are many homes from which to choose.” It’s important for buyers to meet with their mortgage lenders early in the purchase process so they know how much house they can afford and to ensure they can qualify for the best possible interest rate, Ason said. Today’s sellers want buyers to be pre-approved prior to entering into contract negotiations – it makes the offer much stronger.
Charleston, S.C. is doing well also. Daniel Ravenel, owner of Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty in Charleston, said his city has very low unemployment and business activity is doing well.
“Charleston is a very healthy real estate market still,” Ravenel said. “We saw a bit of a drop off with total properties sold from 2005 to 2006. But as many people are in a ‘not forced to sell’ situation, prices are holding. It’s certainly a lot better than what I understand is going on in Florida and other places where fire sales and auctions are the norm.”
“One major difference from two years ago is the reduction in renovating and ‘flipping’ houses,” he said. “Two years ago (and before) we had many young people buying small houses in marginal areas, remodeling and reselling for a profit.” Ravenel said. “Today you don’t see any where near the same number of people buying and restoring homes.”
Known for its tradition of integrity, Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty specializes in residential and commercial properties in Savannah and the Low Country of Georgia and South Carolina. Founded in 1981, Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty is noted for outstanding service to its clients, thorough knowledge of Savannah and the South Carolina Low Country, and excellent staff, in addition to having one of the region’s top property management departments. The owners are natives of Savannah who have more than 60 years’ combined experience in real estate. The offices are located at 9, 13, and 17 West Charlton Street on Madison Square in Savannah and 6 Bruin Street in Bluffton, S.C.
For more information, call Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty at (912) 234-3323 or visit www.celiadunnsir.com. To contact the Bluffton office, call (843) 836-3900.