The national economic downturn didn’t slow high-end home sales in Baton Rouge for much of last year. Sales of homes costing more than $1.25 million stayed strong until late fall, according to real estate agents who note the end of the year is slow even in the best of times.
According to figures from the Greater Baton Rouge Multiple Listing Service, there were 10 homes that sold for at least $1.2 million last year in East Baton Rouge Parish, including two that fetched $2 million or more. That’s not quite as many as in 2007, when four homes sold for at least $2 million.
But agents who traffic in premium homes say the first three quarters were good for them. Only the last one was slow.
“The upper rim was moving very, very well for much of last year,” says Jerry del Rio, who handled three of the top 10 sales.
Del Rio says sales were particularly brisk in the summer months, which is about the time the stock market started its slide. The sales she handled were all cash, supporting her assertion that wealthy investors took their money out of the market and moved it into real estate.
“When the stock market started falling, people who had been thinking about buying a new house moved into the market,” she says.
Homes in that price range also turned over at a relatively good pace, according to anecdotal information, though it’s impossible to know for sure. Statistics on the MLS relative to the number of days a home spends on the market are meaningless because agents pull properties off the market and then relist them if they’ve been sitting too long.
What data does accurately reflect is that Bocage Lake subdivision, on Corporate Boulevard just west of the Towne Center at Cedar Lodge, had more high-end home sales—three—than any other neighborhood, surpassing even Country Club of Louisiana, which had two on the top 10 list. Highland Road—and subdivisions just off of it—also remains extremely desirable.
Highland Road also was the location of one of the largest residential real estate transactions in 2008—one that did not appear on the MLS. In April, developer Jim Tanner repurchased the estate of former LSU football coach Nick Saban for $2.8 million. By August, however, the house was back on the market with a $2.995 million price tag. As of Jan. 13, the house remained on the market for $2.85 million; Quita Cutrer of Burns and Co. is the listing agent.
Tanner originally bought the house in the summer 2005, a few months after Saban left to become head coach of the Miami Dolphins, and paid $2.75 million for the home. In December 2007, Tanner exchanged the house with attorney Jerry Dodson as part of a bulk land deal.
HOW DID WE GET THIS INFORMATION?
Business Report consulted with local real estate agents regarding the most expensive home sales in 2008. We verified the sale date, price, seller and buyer with the records in the East Baton Rouge Parish clerk of court and tax assessor offices. The recorded sale of these homes is public record.
The art of the million-dollar deal
It takes savvy real estate agents to work high-end deals ranging in the millions of dollars because the buyers and sellers are just as knowledgeable.
“They know exactly what they want. They’ve gone on the Internet and know what they want,” says Jerry del Rio, owner of Jerry del Rio Real Estate, who closed three of the top 10 sales of 2008 according to the Greater Baton Rouge Multiple Listing Service.
Del Rio was the selling agent on a $2 million home in Country Club of Louisiana, the listing agent on a $1.9 million home on Highland Road just east of Live Oak Estates and the selling and listing agent on a $1.46 million home in Country Club of Louisiana.
“They just need us to make sure it’s the right area they should be moving in. Less patience is required [with the six-figure sales]. In fact, some days I feel like I’m not even working because they’re so much more knowledgeable.”
But Quita Cutrer, an agent with Burns & Co., says high-end transactions require a lot of experience and patience—as well as knowledge of the clients and the market.
Cutrer, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the business, learned that understanding the needs of both parties and bringing them together in a way that pleases everyone truly is an art form.
She was the listing agent on three of the top 10 deals in 2008 according to the MLS: a $1.36 million home on Highland Crossing, a $1.35 million home on Chandler Drive and a $1.28 million home in Bocage Lake.
Today’s slower market is more challenging, however, but Cutrer says high-end buyers and sellers usually allow more give and take on deals so they’re smoother. Most sellers use
the MLS for the added exposure while others have avoided it to keep their business private.
Del Rio agrees they’re more knowledgeable about real estate so they’re more patient and willing
to wait for their asking price.
“A couple of them have dropped it, but most of them haven’t,” del Rio says. “A seller even raised their price. It just depends on the seller. They all have different personalities, so you can’t generalize about that.”—Stephanie Riegel and Anna Thibodeaux