The number of houses sold in the Augusta metro area last month was 500, the strongest July in five years, according to data from the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors.
On July 31, Elizabeth and Michael Mendoza closed on a 2,700-square-foot house in the Watervale subdivision off Furys Ferry Road. The Mendozas, who are expecting a second child, upsized from a townhome, which they have sold.
“We wanted to take advantage of the still-great home prices in the area,” Elizabeth Mendoza said.
Area real estate agents say many buyers were hesitant to purchase during the economic downturn but are being lured by historically low interest rates.
“The driving force is the interest rates. People have reached that point where they say ‘OK, I’m going to buy now,’” said Larry Ramsey, an agent with Century 21 Larry Miller Realty.
The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.76 percent and 3.08 for a 15-year fixed-rate, according to an Aug. 8 report from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Ramsey said interest rates combined with low market prices made great investments. Prices dropped significantly on homes that were listed but went unsold for a long time, he said.
Meybohm Realty agent Ann Marie McManus said 15 percent to 20 percent of her July sales were young or first-time home buyers.
The Mendozas spotted an online listing for their new house and moved quickly to make an offer because of the price.
“Home buyers are starting to realize the home prices are low. They’re really, really low,” McManus said.
Dennis Smith, a Blanchard and Calhoun agent, said his July sales were 25 percent better than in July 2011 and his best July in three years.
Many of Smith’s sales were to incoming contractors at the National Security Agency facility at Fort Gordon. That influx began about four years ago, but Smith said he’s gotten more referrals because of earlier sales.
“It’s a large group of people coming in,” he said.
Smith said he also sold a handful of houses to incoming employees of the Bridgestone plant in Graniteville and one to a Plant Vogtle worker in July.
Numbers for July sales in Georgia and across the nation will be released later this month.
Typically, June and July are high selling months as families try to get settled before the new school year. The uptick this July, real estate agents say, could be a sign of more consumer confidence.
“You’re seeing some gradual improvement in the marketplace,” said Bill Boatman, the president of the Georgia Association of Realtors and executive vice president of Meybohm Realtors. “Will we stay at that pace? No, I think the business does still have some seasonality.”
Boatman said the local economy has a stable workforce that contributes a steady flow of home buyers.