Quick-take: Downtown gets in the Baton Rouge most expensive home sales game as the high-end market keeps churning along though there’s signs of a slowdown in 2019.
The market for high-end homes in Baton Rouge was strong in 2018, according to both anecdotal and statistical information. The number of homes sold for $1 million or more was essentially unchanged from 2017—38 compared to 39 the year before—yet in a sign of increased activity the average number of days $1 million-plus homes spent on the market fell to 91, from 148.
As in the past, many of the most expensive homes were in the Country Club of Louisiana, Bocage/Jefferson Place and along Highland Road.
Another continuing trend: A growing number of buyers and sellers declining to record the actual sale price of the property in publicly-available conveyance documents, creating headaches for appraisers and real estate agents alike. (See related story).
Still, there were several unusual aspects to the high-end segment of the residential real estate market last year that made 2018 one for the books. Perhaps most significantly, three of the top five most expensive homes sold were actually downtown condominiums in the Main Street Townhomes complex recently developed by John Enquist.
The businessman-turned-real estate-developer developed the sleek, liner building adjacent to 525 Lafayette for himself and his wife. Together, they bought their 7,000-square-foot, four-story unit from his real estate company for $3.7 million, making it the most expensive home sale of the year.
But Engquist also developed two smaller, 4,000-square-foot units in the buildings. Both of those, selling for some $2 million each, also ranked among the most expensive deals of the year.
That downtown would have such a high-end product to offer indicates the market is evolving and becoming more sophisticated than would have been imaginable just a few years ago.
It also shows that downtown has become a desirable residential neighborhood for the market’s most discerning buyers.
“Nothing like this has ever been done before in downtown Baton Rouge,” says Jennifer Waguespack, who does residential real estate for Engquist. “Even though he really did this project for himself, there was plenty of outside interest. If we had had more units to sell, I’m sure we would have.”
Another unusual aspect of the high-end market in 2018 was its unpredictability. Agents say some homes, to their surprise, were snatched up within days of being listed. Others languished for months—even though they had desirable amenities and a seemingly fair price tag.
“Even if you priced something to sell, it wouldn’t necessarily sell,” says Heather Kleinpeter Savoy. “It was really a weird year. It just kind of depended on what the buyer wanted.”
What was the deal?
Savoy cannot say for sure, but the trend continued through the end of the year, when high-end sales slowed to a crawl. As of this writing, activity—though brisk earlier in the year—hadn’t yet recovered from a slowdown that began late last fall.
“Upper end sales are really slow right now,” says Jerry Del Rio. “Between $200,000 and $400,000, things are moving well. Between $400,000 and $700,000, they’re slow. And above $700,000, there’s nothing happening right now.”
Finally, brokers says 2018 was the year that social media became a key tool in for marketing and selling high-end homes. Though online platforms have been used for more than a decade to sell and lease residential properties, brokers say high-end buyers, until recently, were more inclined to rely on the services of a broker to bring them deals. Now they’re finding them on social media and moving quickly.
“Almost every big sale I’ve had over the past three months was due to Facebook,” Savoy says. “It wasn’t because a buyer got an email from realtor.com. They saw it on Facebook and they wanted it.”
Looking ahead to 2019, agents say they expect the trends of 2018 to continue. They’re also reasonably optimistic activity will pick up, especially towards the end of the first quarter, which is typically a busy season.
“We may not be quite as busy as we were a couple of years ago but things are still moving,” says Andrea McKey. “That’s especially true of new homes in tip top condition. That’s what people want.”