Baton Rouge-area home sales plunged by nearly 23% in 2008, falling to their lowest level since 2001. According to figures from the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service, there were 7,341 homes sold last year in the region, compared with 9,508 sales in 2007. GBRAR President Sandy Daly blamed the sales drop on several factors, including the financial meltdown, which made it tougher for potential buyers to get a loan; national coverage of the housing crisis, which caused locals to think things were as bad in Baton Rouge as in hard-hit markets such as Las Vegas or Southern California; and Hurricane Gustav, which knocked out business for much of September.
Daly noted a good sign: Average sale prices rose 2.4%, from $196,211 in 2007 to $201,550 in 2008. East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes held up the best in the down market, with average sale prices modestly increasing. In Ascension Parish and the “other” category, which includes MLS sales in West Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Iberville and Pointe Coupee parishes, average sale prices dropped.
Daly says she’s “guardedly optimistic” that 2009 will be a better year for home sales. Mortgage rates are at 40- and 50-year lows, and there are efforts in Washington to kick-start the housing market with tax credits. “In the last two weeks, there has been tremendous interest, with phones ringing,” she says. “Thinks can’t get much worse than last year.”—Timothy Boone.