Augusta Economy

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Summer real estate market should show "modest gains"

Agents report increase in real estate activity

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The summer housing market is warming up, and local real estate agents and industry experts predict improvement this year.

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Real estate agent Rose Marie Marshall (left) shows Lourdes Berros-Ramos a home in the Windmill Plantation neighborhood in Evans. Berros-Ramos and her husband, Luis Ramos, came to Augusta from Puerto Rico three years ago and have been renting.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Real estate agent Rose Marie Marshall (left) shows Lourdes Berros-Ramos a home in the Windmill Plantation neighborhood in Evans. Berros-Ramos and her husband, Luis Ramos, came to Augusta from Puerto Rico three years ago and have been renting.

Lourdes Berros-Ramos and her husband, Luis Ramos, have been searching for a new house the past three years. She said they always amp up their search during the summer. They have limited their search to houses within the Greenbrier school zone so they can keep their children in the same schools.

She said summer is the most convenient time to move because of better weather and flexible schedules.

“We know it’s a good time to buy, and I’d like to be settled in before school starts,” she said.

Rose Marie Marshall, of Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate Co., is their agent. Marshall said she has already started to notice an increase in people wanting to buy or sell a house. The Augusta market is full of variety, she said, and buyers have already started their search.

“There’s plenty to choose from in this summer market,” she said. “It’s already picking up, and I’m busier than ever.”

Berros-Ramos and her family moved to Augusta from Puerto Rico three years ago and have rented ever since. Their rent is month to month, so they have had the flexibility to shop around until they find exactly what they want. They also want to sell their house in Puerto Rico. They are renting it out until the market stabilizes.

In a buyer’s market, Berros-Ramos said, she knows that although their house might not sell for the price they want, her family will wind up with more house than they might have been able to get three years ago.

“Everyone’s taking a hit,” she said. “I know the sellers are going to take a hit, but so have we.”

Keller-Williams Realty agent Susan MacEwen said that there’s a surplus of homes on the Augusta market and that, although things are better than they have been in the past few years, there’s room for improvement.

“I’m still seeing that it’s a buyer’s market,” she said.

The Augusta housing market benefits during the summer from not only the usual movement within the area but also people moving to Augusta for Georgia Health Sciences University, Fort Gordon, Savannah River Site and Plant Vogtle.

“There’s a lot of movement coming into Augusta,” she said. “I noticed my Web-site traffic picking up a few months ago.”

Buyers have been looking for typical amenities such as community pools and good school districts, she said, but more and more they are also requesting lot sizes of at least half an acre.

Walter Molony, a senior public affairs specialist for the National Association of Realtors, said the forecast for this summer is steady improvement, but nothing dramatic.

“We just finished the strongest first quarter in five years, and the second quarter is looking to be even stronger,” he said. “We’ve been pretty flat for about four years, but we’re looking for some modest gains this summer.”

The real estate market is predicted to experience growth of from 7 to 10 percent above last year, he said.

One of the most encouraging factors is a sustained downward trend in unsold inventory, from 4 million homes on the market in 2007 to the current figure of 2.37 million homes.

“That’s a significant change, and much more balanced conditions,” Molony said.

SUMMER HOUSING

Units sold locally in June and July:

2011: 943

2010: 983

2009: 871

2008: 935

2007: 1,074

Source: Greater Augusta Association of Realtors


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