Mobile, AL housing market strong

Area among national leaders in home price appreciation over past 12 months
Friday, May 23, 2008
Real Estate Editor

Home prices are falling across much of the country, but Mobile saw a 1.63 percent increase in home values in the first quarter of 2008, according to a report issued Thursday.

Over the last year, house prices are up more than 6.7 percent in Mobile County, making the city among the nation's top 10 metropolitan areas in terms of price appreciation, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight in Washington, D.C.

Overall, U.S. home prices fell in the first quarter by 1.7 percent when compared to the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the new data, which monitors the purchase price of houses across the country. The home-price index, which is considered to be the most comprehensive reading of the U.S. market, has fallen by 3.1 percent over the past year, the sharpest decline in the report's 17-year history.

While Mobile's appreciation rate is good, it may not be quite as high as the national figures reflect, according to Jeff Newman, executive director of the Mobile Area Association of Realtors.

"In a normal year it's 6 to 8 percent, but it's not normal anywhere around the country," Newman said. "We are in a correction time in Mobile."

Still, he said, "we have a tendency not to follow the national trends. One reason is our median sales price remains between 65 and 70 percent of the national median. We have a steady, year after year appreciation."

In April, the median price of a single-family home in Mobile County was $170,000 , a 3 percent increase over March, according to the Mobile Realtors group. The median is the point at which half the homes sold for more, half for less.

The average sales price — $162,412 —was up 10.5 percent over March, according to the Realtors group.

Out-of-town investors are reading about Mobile in national news stories and calling local agents, according to Cindy Schuhmann, a broker at Prudential Cooper &Co. Realtors Hillcrest office.

"My agents are covered up right now, thank the Lord," Schuhmann said "Our open house activity has been real brisk."

The summer months are typically more active for homes sales, and local builders saw evidence of that interest during the Home Builders Association of Metro Mobile's annual Spring Tour of Homes two weeks ago, said Susie Cleveland, executive director.

"Every one of the builders I've surveyed has said the traffic was incredible," Cleveland said.

Baldwin County Realtors are getting more phone calls and doing more house showings, but they have yet to see a reversal in prices that have sagged for months after a blistering run during the early years in the decade.

"The market is improving, but it's still a buyer's market in Baldwin County," said Donnie Clark of REMAX By the Bay in Daphne. "We have quite a bit of inventory here and it's affected the decrease in pricing and now the stabilization of pricing."

In April, Baldwin County's median price for a single-family house was $185,000, a 1.7 percent decrease from March. The average sales price was $269,045, a 6.1 percent increase over March.

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