Realtors, Builders Reflect on South Mississippi's Housing Market

Housing continues to be one of the biggest challenges of Katrina recovery. For those looking to buy, area realtors say prices are stabilizing and there are thousands of homes for sale right now.

For sale signs are popping in up all types of neighborhoods, but some realtors say the higher the home price, the longer the signs are staying in the yards.

"It's supply and demand related. When more people who can't afford to buy here, or choose not to come here, the more homes that stay on the market," said Jim Atchison of REMAX Realty.

And that's something not isolated to South Mississippi. Nationally, home sales dropped 8.4 percent from February to March, the largest drop in almost 20 years.

Atchison says the South Mississippi market is unique for many reasons.

"You see now the signs of a lot of investors who had brought property that was either damaged or needed renovations after the storm. Those properties are coming back on the market. They've been renovated. You put that, those properties on the market along with the average home sellers' properties, and you're seeing more stuff available," Atchison said.

Gary Dickinson, CEO of DiMa Homes, says the demand is up for affordable new homes built on a home buyer's property.

"I think it's doing really well. For the first quarter of this year, we sold 42 houses... Last year was 30 or 35, so it's better this year than last year," Dickinson said.

No matter what the price, Atchison says insurance costs and availability are still slowing sales for many.

"Interest rates have been very, very low, and they've also come down a bit, but a 3/4 percent reduction of an interest rate has about the same impact on a buyer as a $1,440 [rise] on insurance," Atchison said.

The average price of a home here in South Mississippi is $184,000.