Local real estate market weathering storm, experts say

How the housing market in Demopolis is faring depends on who is talking.
“It’s awesome,” said Barbara Myers, who works with Butler and Company. “The market is strong, very strong.”
“There’s a lot of inventory and not many buyers,” countered Bill Mackey of Mackey Realtors. “There’s more supply than demand.”
Barry Brackin of Brackin Real Estate said things are looking up. “Market prices about the same, but considerably more activity” than in the last few years.
And Jerry Jackson with Webb Realty agreed. “Business is picking up; we’re listing more, selling some.”
“We really didn’t have a recession here,” Myers said. “Demopolis kind of marches to its own drummer.”
She added that the city has had more foreclosures that usual, which can drag the market down, but those homes didn’t affect the market as much in Demopolis as in other locations.
About a year ago there was a change downward in prices, she continued, but now market overall has restabilized, and prices are strong.
Brackin agreed. Homes in the area lost value up to 20 or 25 percent, he said, but have regained their value.
“Demopolis wasn’t too bad at first” when the recession started, said Jackson, but then it hit the city.
While the number of foreclosures in the city was up, many of those have been sold to new homeowner looking for a good deal.
“It’s a great time to buy” a house, said Mackey. “More people are feeling their way back into the residential market.”
While prices are somewhat cheaper than four years ago, and interest rates are way down, Mackey said buyers must have a good credit rating.
Myers agreed. Credit scores have to be higher than they used to, at least 680 or above, to qualify for most loans, but there are still programs out there that offer help to qualified buyers.
Brackin said he has worked with some buyers who have obtained USDA rural housing loans for 100 percent financing. Most loans require a 5 to 10 percent down payment, however, he added.
“When they want to buy a house, they need to go to the bank first to get pre-qualified,” stressed Jackson. That way buyers won’t set their sights on a house they cannot afford.
The Realtors see a mixture of clients – some first-time buyers, several who are moving up, and newcomers getting established in Demopolis.
How long homes are on the market depends on a list of variables, including location, condition of the home and, of course, price. Most of the Realtors said the usual time is about six months.
Myers said the market is slower for homes prices $250,000 or above, and Mackey added the best-selling ones are in the $100,000 to $175,000 range.
Brackin, however, has sold several homes in the $225,000 to $260,000, range, while Jackson said the houses that move the best are those in the lower price ranges.
“There could be a thousand things wrong with this house, but we can fix it all with the price,” said Mackey.
None of the Realtors has a crystal ball to see into the future.
“The only major effect on the market in the future will be tied to jobs,” said Myers.
“Demopolis hasn’t grown in my lifetime,” Mackey stated. The only growth will come from major employers moving into the area, which hasn’t happened in the past 50 years. Unless jobs come to the area, “there’s nothing out there that’s going to change that in the next 50 years.”
As for why people choose to move to Demopolis, Brackin said, “School is a big determinant as to where people buy a house.”
“Education and health care continue to be a positive influence for Demopolis in housing,” Myers agreed.
One of the bright spots in the real estate market, Mackey said, is agricultural properties, including ranch, farm and timber land. He has had buyers from Kansas, Illinois and Iowa looking into large acreage in the area.
“It’s a good time to be a seller.”
Brackin agreed. Agricultural prices have maintained their level throughout the recession, he said. The focus for buyers, however, has shifted from recreational to agricultural use since commodity prices look bright.