While the national outlook on real estate seems to rise and fall with the stock market and mortgage company settlements, Liberty County sales figures during the past four months have held steady above last year’s rates.
The numbers are even up over reports from recent months, and Hinesville Area Board of Realtors President Jeanne Evans said the figures are a good indication of the local economy.
"The economic outlook for our area is great," she said. "Homes are being built, and new businesses are coming to our area. Things are definitely moving in a positive direction."
In August, 46 homes sold in Liberty County compared with 32 in 2010; in September, 52 homes sold compared with 29 in 2010; and in October, sales rose from 28 in 2010 to 35.
But the next month, sales jumped from 35 to 68. November’s 68 sales were an increase of 11 percent from 61 last year.
In December, the gains continued; 90 homes were sold in 2011 versus 74 in 2010.
Evans said 3rd Infantry Division Troops returning from their deployments boosted the market last summer, and the impact has continued ever since.
"Most of our troops came home, and the normal rotation of (permanent change of station) moves started," she said. "We hadn’t had a normal rotation of troops in a long time."
At the beginning of 2012, it appeared the sales had leveled.
In January, the numbers went down to 53, but still managed a gain over the same time last year, when 49 homes were sold.
In February, the gain was much more modest; 56 homes sold this year, compared with 55 in 2011.
As for why the gains were smaller in January and February, Evans said the military had a hand in that, too.
"The military likes to accommodate families by having PCS moves during school breaks when at all possible," she said. "A lot of PCS moves happen during the months of May through September."
According to the report, homes were on the market for longer this year than last, but there also was an increase in new residential listings during the same time periods, a possible indicator of the military’s soldier shifting.
A recent National Realtors Association report said that housing affordability conditions have reached their highest since record-keeping began in 1970, according to www.realtor.org.
The Housing Affordability Index rose to 201.1 in January, based on the relationship between the median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rate.
In the online release, NAR President Moe Veissi said this latest data underscores buyer opportunities in today’s market.
"This is the first time the housing affordability index has broken the 200-mark, meaning the typical family has roughly double the income needed to purchase a median-priced home," he said. "For buyers who can qualify for a mortgage, now is a very good time to become a homeowner."
Locally, Evans resounded the news. She said the average price of a home in Hinesville is between $150,000 and $160,000.
"The basic housing allowance for Fort Stewart for a (private) through (specialist) is $1,083 a month. With the interest rates being around 3.5 percent, $1,083 is enough to purchase a home around $170,000," she said. "With unprecedented low interest rates and the large inventory of homes, it is definitely a great time to buy."