Officials say insurance costs hamper home sales, rebuilding

By Doug Walker – bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - The signs of troubling times can be seen everywhere. More homes for sale, and homes sitting on the market for longer periods of time. Real estate experts say the major reason is the skyrocketing cost of insurance. They say people simply can't afford to buy homes, or, in some cases, even keep them.

Kenneth Jones is a realtor for both residential and commercial properties. He sizes up the market this way.

"Obviously it's not good for the commercial real estate or any kind of real estate markets on the Mississippi Gulf Coast," Jones said. "We need everything we can to keep our insurance costs down along with an easing of our financial markets."

And for those people wanting to buy a home, Jones said it's not going to be easy.

"Qualifications for homeowners themselves is going to be much much harder as long as our insurance premiums keep on going higher."

Billy Skellie is the mayor of Long Beach, a city nearly destroyed by Katrina. The scars of the worst national disaster are still visible in many areas of the city. Mayor Skellie said he was dismayed at this week's news that State Farm will increase premiums on the coast by almost 20 percent.

"My first reaction is I'm sorry State Farm felt that necessary for this area," Skellie said. "I feel for the agents that live and work in our city that have State Farm agencies, what they have to struggle through to try and do business."

And the mayor believes there is one ultimate goal of the insurance industry, a goal he said will hamper rebuilding.

"Well, it seems that they are forcing people into the windpool. Try and put the burden on the state, which is wrong."

Most everyone agrees, unless there is some premium relief in the future, for sale signs will be a certainty well into the future.

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