Welcome to the “Dog Days of August!”  We’ll see how well August 2013 lives up to its moniker and how welcome those days will be.  For the most part, this summer has seemed “cooler” in temperature, but our market has been more active overall than in the past two summers.  We experienced the biggest June in our team’s history…closing a total of 46 sales in the month (26 in the final week alone)!  June was also the second highest month of closed sales ever. Total sales volume is up about 18% market-wide on average, according to the Hattiesburg Association of REALTORS Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  The largest sales volume areas of Oak Grove, Petal, and Southwest Hattiesburg have seen average volume increases between 18% and 28%.  The only sector of Hattiesburg City that is running counter to this trend is Northwest Hattiesburg where volume is down 31% over the same time period last year.  Sumrall and Purvis markets have experienced volume increases of 30% and 35% respectively over 2012.  However, the average sales price according to the MLS has dipped slightly (down 1%) over a year ago from $145,505 to $143,466 as of this writing.  Additionally, the total properties active on the MLS are up by 6% over last year from 2,399 to 2,558.   

What does all of this mean?  I interpret it to mean that buyer activity has definitely increased - having built-up over the last several years as people postponed purchasing decisions due to uncertainty in the market.  Now, with low interest rates, stability in the employment market returning, and the belief that prices are going to trend upward in the coming year, buyers have returned with greater confidence.  Some of them are recognizing the value of owning in economic terms (such as tax deductions, low costs of borrowing, inflation protection, and appreciation potential).  Others recognize that home is more than a monetary decision - it’s a place that can return value to their family in ways that can’t always be calculated in the terms of a dollar.  Value like pride of ownership; personal enjoyment of a place they own; a stage for making memories - raising their families; or adapting their lifestyle to a place absent of children but welcoming to grandchildren.  To many, these are the most important reasons for home ownership that pay the largest return. 

 Even though buyer activity has increased, I believe the data shows us that sellers must still remain realistic about the price and condition they present to the market.  Volume and activity have increased, but so has the standing inventory of active listings (up 6%).  This means that some of the increase in demand is being balanced by an increase in supply.  In some price ranges (see our monthly Market Update), buyers must be prepared to expect less flexibility from sellers as they negotiate a purchase agreement.  Simultaneously, in other price ranges, sellers must recognize that there really are other choices on the market where buyers can negotiate better terms.  As a rule of thumb, 4 to 6 month supplies are considered to be in equilibrium; less than 4 months favors sellers; more than 6 months favors buyers.  

 The bottom line is that as our market is shifting once more, you need to be informed about the specifics of the location and price range activity of the property you own by professionals who have experience and understanding of how those trends impact the sale of a property.  In the near term, we must be mindful of the recent increase in interest rates that has driven purchasing activity, presumably with buyers trying to lock in rates before they could increase further.  It remains to be seen if this will result in a slow down in buyer activity in future months, since some buyers that may have planned to purchase in November are now purchasing in August instead.  A similar pattern resulted following the first-time home buyer tax credit that expired in the spring of 2010.  Eventually, activity returns because the need for housing is ever-present - regardless of what the interest rates might be.  To put it in perspective, even though rates are up about 1% over 8 to 12 weeks ago, they still remain in the 4% range, which pales in comparison to the interest rates of the 90’s, and especially the 80’s.  Overall, the opportunities for buyers in our market remains very strong.

 I hope you’ll take the time to take a look at our August Tour of Homes schedule included in this edition of Star Chat.  Our tour format allows you the opportunity to preview several homes in one afternoon. We strategically open them in 30 minute increments all over our area to allow purchasers to see more homes in one time period.  Our team members will be hosting each home on the tour.  You will find the schedule posted on our website at www.allstarteam.com the week before the tour, as well as on our team’s Facebook page.  So, be sure to like our page on Facebook and “share” the schedule with someone you know who could benefit from the opportunity to tour these homes. 

 It was wonderful to see well over a hundred of you at our annual July 4th Celebration at Canebrake Clubhouse!!!  It seems every year our team walks away saying, “This was the best one yet!”  This year was no different.  We look forward to this event each year and begin planning it in the late winter of each year.  Just know that you and your family are always welcome at this celebration.  So mark it on your calendar for next year!  We hope that those of you who attended were rewarded with a great experience, fantastic food, and the opportunity to catch up with us, catch up with old friends, and even make some new ones!!!  We are thankful for those of you who took special part in the program by speaking, singing, and showing that American spirit as you proudly wore your red, white, and blue.  We’ve shared a few photos in this newsletter, but have more posted on our Facebook page.  Be sure to “Like” us and tag yourself in the photos!  At the event we had attendees guess how many sales we’d closed in the last decade…one of you suggested 55,000!  We’ve got a little over 52,000 to go to make that mark, so keep those referrals coming!  As always, we are honored to serve you and those you care about.