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Real estate is mixed bag here

Figures from the Hinesville Area Board of Realtors offer mixed signals for the area’s real estate market during March, April and June.

The reports show sales in all three months are up from January and February, while new listings were down during the same time. But the numbers are mixed in comparison to last year — and Liberty’s average days on the market are up considerably from the state average of 85 days.

“Even though our market is improving, we still have a lot of foreclosures and short sales in the area,” HABR President Jeanne Evans said. “Unfortunately, most of the time the appraisers have to take those sales into consideration when doing their appraisal.”

Evans said the downturn in new listings is not an indication of waning confidence but a byproduct of the military’s movement patterns.

“November and December are normal months for military PSC moves,” she said. 

“Since we are a military community, that would be one of the major reasons the number of sales were up during that time.”

With 63 homes sold, March saw an increase from 56 in the previous month, but a decrease from the same time last year when 68 homes sold. There were 164 new listings, compared to 124 in March 2011 and down from 212 in February.

The median and average sale prices for March 2012 were both up from March 2011, but homes sat longer on the market with 134 days on average compared to 108 last year.

April 2012 saw 67 home sales, 175 new listings and an average of 100 days on the market, compared to April 2011, which had 71 home sales, 120 new listings and 106 average days on the market.

Hinesville was included in the National Association of Home Builders list of first American improving markets that was released in May but was dropped from the list this month.

Sales dropped slightly from 67 in April to 64 May, though they were up slightly from 61 in May 2011. The number of new listings dropped from 175 in April to 142 in May, and the median and average sales prices also fell from the previous month.

The number of days on the market also looks sluggish for May. The average of 138 was up 30 percent, compared to the average of 106 for both April and May 2011.

The area’s transient population may contribute to high numbers of days on the market, Evans said.

“If a home owner has only owned their home for a short time and needs to leave the area, they may have to rent their home for a while before putting their home on the sale market,” she said.

In May, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac reported lenders nationwide initiated foreclosure proceedings against more U.S. homeowners than in previous months and in the same period of 2011.

Still, at $116,950 and $123,070, Liberty’s median and average sales prices for May are far above the average statewide foreclosure sales price of $102,108. The local numbers also are above the state average of $109,900 for May, according to the Georgia Association of Realtors.

RealtyTrac online documented 52 foreclosure proceedings in Liberty County during May, or one in every 514 housing units. In contrast, Long County had only one foreclosure, or one in every 6,039 units, but Bryan County had 47 foreclosures, or one in every 252 housing units.

A report released Wednesday from another tracking firm, CoreLogic, shows that foreclosure rates in the Hinesville-Fort Stewart were slightly lower in December, January and February than from July through November of 2011.

During a June 11 Liberty County budget presentation, finance officer Kim McGlothlin reported that foreclosures are partly to blame for a low 2011 property tax collection rate.

The collection rate is currently 94 percent of $40,504,246.21 billed, according to Liberty County Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones. But, he said, the factors for late collection are too complex to blame it solely on foreclosures.

The delinquent 6 percent is a combination of foreclosures, bankruptcies, troubled commercial developments and FDIC-owned properties, he said.

“Before the recession, we would usually be about 95 [percent] right now … I can tell the recession does play its part …” he said. “Sure, we’re down. We’re not as bad as some communities. Liberty County has been better than some because of Fort Stewart, but probably not as good as it could be.”

Still, the number of tax sales to collect on delinquent properties has increased from about one sale every other year to two or three sales each year, Jones said.

At the beginning of the sale process some 150 to 200 properties are on the list to be sold, but as the date of sale nears, vested parties such as banks step in to prevent the sale, he added. Recent tax sales have had as few as one property and as many as 10.

Business queries up

On the commercial side of real estate, broker Jimmy Shanken said inquiries have quadruped in the last month.

“In all aspects of commercial real estate, we are getting a lot of inquiries in regards to retail space, restaurants — all of the popular ones are in town looking — as well as existing multi-family,” Shaken said.

The Multiple Listing Service for real-estate professionals currently shows five pending sales: one restaurant, one multi-family housing, two retail and one office space, Shaken said.

Shanken, who works for Coldwell Banker Commercial Holtzman, Realtors, said there were 12 commercial closings that involved a realtor within the last 12 months, and that seven were bank-owned and four were multi-family housing.

In addition to a strengthening national economy and banks loosening their belts, Shanken attributed the rise to the area recently receiving designations as the No. 3 fastest-growing metropolitan statistical area for population, No. 4 fastest-growing MSA for job creation and one of the top 10 best places for industry in the Southeast.

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