A recent report from the Hinesville Area Board of Realtors brings good news to those with homes on the market: Sales figures for August, September and October were up from the previous year.
“The worst is behind us,” HABR President Kathy Villafane said. “The numbers are continuing to increase … and this is our new norm.”
Both Liberty and Long counties have seen gains in home sales, according to reports Villafane provided.
Liberty County saw a 43 percent jump in its August home sales, with 46 sales in 2011 and 32 in 2010. Long County also saw massive gains, more than doubling its August sales from eight last year to 25 this year.
In September, Liberty County made even greater gains from the previous year, with a 79 percent increase. Fifty-two homes in the county sold this year compared with 29 last year.
Though they still increased, Long County numbers made smaller gains in September than in August, rising from 10 last year to 15 this year.
In October, Liberty saw a 25 percent increase with 35 sales this year compared with 28 last year, and Long County had an 80 percent increase with 18 sales this year compared with 10 last year.
But a key element to explaining the numbers is explaining that the Hinesville market varies from the national one, Villafane said.
“With the economy the way it is, most people are concerned about their job security,” Villafane said.
“Living in a military community, the soldiers are not concerned about that.”
At the beginning of the month, the National Association of Realtors reported that sales rose in every state throughout the third quarter, with existing-home sales in the South up 15.5 percent above the third quarter of 2010.
From August to October, the number of homes listed also increased from last year — but so did the average number of days on the market. During the three-month period this year, the houses sat an average of two weeks longer than they did during the same period last year.
That’s where educating sellers about the market’s changes comes in, Villafane said.
“The houses are sitting on the market a little longer, so you have to be up front with them,” she said. “You have to tell them what they need to do and what you, as the Realtor, are going to do.”
Now it’s especially crucial for those attempting to sell their homes to take maintenance and cosmetics into account, she added.
“You just can’t put a sign on the yard and hope that it sells,” Villafane said. In the past, buyers were more willing to see beyond temporary flaws and would negotiate for repairs and replacements as part of the contract.
“The buyers are getting younger, and they’re not used to waiting — what they want is what they want, when they want it,” she said.
Also complicating existing home sales is the availability of new construction at competitive prices.
“When you have the existing homes, they’re going to have to be really clean, have fresh paint, and they have to present really well,” Villafane said. Otherwise, buyers will turn toward building as an alternative that will not require renovations.
Current homebuyer Lula Grundy is among those who have turned to new construction.
After living in the area for a year, Grundy decided to look into buying a pre-existing home in May.
During the search, Grundy took notes of the traits she liked and the ones she would change. But doing her homework also opened her eyes to building.
“What we noticed was that the homes that were selling were the same prices — or even higher — than the ones they were building,” she said. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll take a new home over one that’s four or five years old.’”
Building a house allows Grundy to make customizations that tailor the home to her needs, such as ensuring that her kitchen is large enough to foster her cooking hobby.
Grundy advises others who are looking to buy to do their research, from selecting a real estate agent to deciding where to seek a loan from.
“When you’re looking for, say, mortgage lenders versus the banks and who to get your insurance through, definitely shop around — don’t take the first thing you’re offered,” she said. “You save a lot of money, and you learn things that way.”
But whether buyers are looking to build or purchase pre-existing homes, Grundy said, “it’s probably a good time to buy.”