Livingston residential market surges after flood

    As Livingston Parish approaches the one-year anniversary of the August flood that wiped out vast swaths of its homes and businesses, there are signs of resurgence in the residential real estate market.

    “After the flood happened I thought ‘Oh my god, we’re dead in the water,’” says Kayla Johnson, an agent with Covington and Associates Real Estate who is compiling numbers on the Livingston Parish market for a conference in September. “Believe it or not, it has been the polar opposite. It has been a rebirth to the parish.”

    Through April—the latest numbers available from the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors—home sales were up 17% year to date, while median sales price was down around 3%.

    That trend is similar to the Baton Rouge market, where sales are up and prices are slightly down. A number of investors who bought flooded homes unrepaired are driving prices down, offsetting renovated homes, which are selling at sometimes dramatically higher prices than before. Some neighborhoods are being entirely transformed by upscale improvements to flooded houses.

    Median sales price for a Livingston Parish home through April was around $161,000—down from $167,500 through the same time last year. Inventory is also low.

    Homes renovations have been delayed by a shortage of contractors and materials, Johnson notes. But people appear to be staying put after the disaster, and the anticipated exodus to areas that didn’t flood last year has not materialized.

    “In my lifetime, I don’t think I will ever see this (flooding) again,” Johnson says. “And that’s how people are looking at this.”

    Bill Cobb, an appraiser who has been tracking the residential market since the flood, says the numbers are looking up for Livingston Parish’s residential market. In Denham Springs, for instance, 78% of renovated home sales have been for higher prices than the median home value of the neighborhood.

    As of mid-June, 82 renovated homes had sold in Denham Springs and 145 “as is”—or currently damaged houses—had sold. Those putting homes without first repairing the flood damage took severe losses, losing an average of $43 per square foot. On average, those homes are selling for around $73,000.

    —Sam Karlin

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