In 43 years selling real estate, Rick McGill can’t remember a time quite like this.
Coming off a banner year in area home sales in 2021, properties are moving quickly and at ever-higher prices, said McGill, broker associate and former co-owner of Crye-Lyke Properties Unlimited as well as current president for the Golden Triangle Association of Realtors.
Starting off 2022, McGill said there are fewer than 250 homes for sale in the association’s eight-county territory, which includes a core of Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties. That’s a little more than half the normal inventory.
“Buyers are wanting to buy because interest rates are still very good,” McGill said. “Demand is out there, but supply is so low.”
According to numbers GTAR supplied The Dispatch, Realtors sold 105 more homes and 54 more condos in Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties in 2021 than during 2020. Those figures do not count properties sold directly by the owner.
Lowndes County led the way in home sales, with 693 (up 50 from 2020), while 509 sold in Oktibbeha (up 40 from the prior year) and 110 sold in Clay County. For condominiums, Oktibbeha County — home of Mississippi State University — saw 133 sales in 2021 (up 51 from 2020). Combined, only seven condos sold in Lowndes and Clay counties, but that was still up from the four that sold the prior year.
Hikes in sale prices across the region have met buyers braving a market of dwindling supply. The median home sale price in Lowndes County, excluding condos, reached $180,000 in 2021, up 7.22 percent from the year prior. In Oktibbeha County, the median home price was $254,000 last year, up 7.86 percent from 2020. The median price reached $115,000 in Clay County, up 6.96 percent from the prior year.
Oktibbeha’s median condo sale price jumped more than 38 percent to $190,000 in 2021.
Those numbers are a bit deceiving, McGill said, since they include foreclosures in the median price. In his experience, he’s seeing sale prices jump around 12 percent in the region. Meanwhile Zillow, a website that tracks home listing and sales, is predicting another 14 percent increase in home prices nationwide for 2022 — an indicator of supply shortage across the country.
“We’re seeing a lot of multiple offers on homes, where we may get two or three offers over the listing price,” McGill said. “Now that’s not the norm, even now, but we’ve never really seen that in this area.
“I’m dealing with a couple right now in Starkville that is looking for a four bedroom/three bathroom,” he added. “They’re going to be in the $350,000 to $450,000 range.”
Soaring material costs are making buying existing houses more appealing than building new, McGill said.
“You’re still going to buy more than you can build right now,” he said. “New construction prices are about 20- to 25-percent higher.”
McGill said supply has been dropping slowly over the past three years, but Megan Gibson, with Hometown Realty in Columbus, said the COVID-19 pandemic effectively turned what had been a buyers’ market into a sellers’.
“We had a period of several weeks (during lockdowns) in 2020 when no one was doing anything,” she said. “Buyers and sellers were hesitant because no one really knew what was going to happen with the virus.”
Then the floodgates opened and soon demand outpaced the inventory, she said.
McGill said he has been working the phones trying to see if homeowners are willing to sell and at what price.
“I go back through anyone I’ve sold to in the past five years and contact them about selling,” McGill said. “… One of the reasons a lot of folks are holding on (to their homes) is because when they sell, they might get a pretty good price for it. But then they’ll have to turn around and buy something else.
“But then our phones are ringing off the hook with folks saying, ‘We want to buy. We want to buy,’” he said.
Even with higher prices, McGill and Gibson indicated friendly interest rates for buyers are keeping them coming to the market. Rates range now from 2.8 to 3.5 percent, McGill said, but he expects those to begin creeping higher later this year.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.