Still reeling from the pandemic, home sales in the Baton Rouge area are continuing to slow, with the residential market posting a 30% drop in closed sales last month compared to May 2019.
There were 822 closed sales last month in East Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension parishes, representing a 5% decrease from April and a 30% decrease from the year prior, according to new data released by the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors.
Despite the drop in closed deals, optimism in the market appears to be picking up as there were nearly 250 more new listings last month than in April. Further, despite a drop in pending sales in April, pending sales spiked in May compared to the year prior.
With a 47% increase from last year, Ascension Parish saw the largest increase in pending sales with 229. Livingston Parish saw a 42% increase and East Baton Rouge Parish saw 7% growth.
With the recent drops, year-to-date sales are down 12.4% across the residential market and closed sales are down more than 7%. Sales could catch up to levels comparable to last year over the next few months though, as pending sales are currently higher than what they were this time last year.
The drops also have seemingly not impacted local housing prices yet. The area posted a $210,000 median sales price for May—no change year over year. Year-to-date, the median sales price is up some 2.8% to $208,155.
Months supply of available housing also plummeted, continuing its decline, dipping to 4.1 months and suggesting the market is turning toward a seller’s market from a neutral one. Days on market increased 6.8% to 79 days.
Julie Clark, with Latter & Blum, says that while the high-end residential market has been slow since the pandemic emerged, she has seen business increase over the last few weeks.
“I’m looking for the market to get back to normal,” Clark says. “The last two weeks have really blown up.”
Because of the amount of high-end development occurring in the parish—like Rouzan, The Settlement at Willow Grove and Valhalla—the market has become very selective, especially for resold homes. She notes that when renovations to the Country Club of Louisiana clubhouse and the new pool are completed, she expects interest in resold homes priced at more than $500,000 to pick up.
“People are going for new construction, and if not, the resales have to be updated to fit the look of a newly constructed home,” she says, adding that buyers are shifting away from traditional wooden interiors to white and gray interiors, especially for millennial buyers. “People have a hard time with a decision if the house hasn’t been updated to a more sleek, more modern look.”
Pools have become a recent demand, she says. While previously pools were a luxury, Clark is now seeing them desired at all levels through middle and higher-end listings.
In May, The Settlement at Willow Grove had five homes go under contract, according to developer Richard Carmouche.
“That’s pretty impressive in this environment,” Carmouche told Daily Report last month. “I guess people are starting to stir around a bit, or maybe they’re realizing they don’t like the house they’re in. You’ll see more custom work out here.”
Furthermore, roughly one-third of the 21 lots up for sale in the TND’s most recent filing—submitted about one month before the pandemic caused a government shutdown—have already been sold. Construction on those homes should begin this summer, says Carmouche, though he doesn’t see the same happening for spec homes.
Staff writer Caitie Burkes contributed to this report.