Saturday, April 08, 2006

No Boom, But No Bust

Local housing providers say market remains steady.

The Texarkana housing market seems to have slowed during the winter months, though local business people involved in the housing market say it’s steady even with that downturn.

An overall assessment seems to differ depending on who is talking, but Eddie Thornton, president of the Texarkana Board of Realtors and a Realtor with Coldwell Banker, said home sales between January and early March are down from 188 sales in 2005 to 155 this year.

“From what I’ve witnessed, we still have a lot of new homes being constructed but it’s somewhat less than what it’s been the last two prior years,” Thornton said.

She said new sales have probably slowed somewhat but she sees a bright future for Texarkana, noting a slight slowdown is inevitable with “interest rate scares.”

“The bottom hasn’t fallen out of our housing market here,” Thornton said, remarking on national indicators of a new housing slowdown and a housing bubble.

“We hope we don’t. We are very positive ... we seem to be doing fine,” she said.

Moody Miller, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Preferred, said sales are still holding pretty well and he hasn’t seen a large decline.

“I think a lot of the market with the first-time buyers is still pretty strong,” Miller said.

He said he senses there’s not as much inventory of new houses right now with some slowness in the market through the winter.

He said he senses there’s not as much inventory of new houses right now with some slowness in the market through the winter.

“It was slower through the wintertime than it had been for several years,” Miller said, adding that interest rates are still reasonable and “have not skyrocketed by any means.”

“There are some nice selections in more expensive homes,” he added. “I would say we’ve got as many choices as we’ve ever had.”

Bennie Estelle, Realtor with ERA Raffaelli Realtors, said they haven’t seen much of a slowdown in the market with new homes.

“There’s a lot of building going on, a lot of retail and commercial, which means people are coming to town and they need homes,” Estelle said, noting she thinks the winter slowdown was typical.

Builder Matt Barber said recent months have been real strong after the beginning of the winter. He said he has new contracts, including some spec homes he’s built.

He said he’s been selling new homes in the $250,000 range.

“As far as the housing market goes, it’s been really strong the last couple months,” Barber said about new homes, adding he doesn’t think interest rates will curb home sales a great deal.

Jeff Castle, another builder, said he’s been seeing success with more moderately priced homes in the $140,000 to $150,000 range, which he’s done with a new addition at Meadowridge on the Arkansas side of Texarkana.

But he said home builders are seeing increased construction costs.

“We’ve had so many increases just due to raw materials,” Castle said, attributing that to the hurricanes and industrial growth in China.

He said he’s heard the home market has slowed down otherwise but it’s picked up in the last three weeks. He points out that this winter’s weather also was comparatively mild.

Debra Moore, senior vice president at Century Bank, said November through January are typically slow for mortgages and construction loans but “we got a little spoiled” in Texarkana for about five to six years when that downturn wasn’t as apparent.

Moore said in the last two years they have seen that drop off during those months, though.

But she added that she’s seeing quite a bit of interest in new homes from customers coming in to Century Bank.

“I’m actually seeing things pick up,” Moore said about the last 30 days.

Positive thoughts were shared by Sharon Pace, senior vice president at Red River Federal Credit Union, who said the slowdown is seen from December to February.

“I really can’t say that we’ve seen a decline,” she said.

But she said RRFCU is also working to make buying more attractive, particularly with first-time buyers.

“It may be because we’re more aggressively pursuing real estate loans than we have in the past,” Pace said, adding Red River that has created a number of products to attract those customers.

“We are really striving to help them,” she said, adding she thinks it will be easier to judge the new housing situation farther into the season.


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