The young couple wanted to settle down in White Plains where they grew up, so when a one-story, three-bedroom home went on the market, they were convinced it was time to buy. It did not hurt that the house was extremely af-fordable, either.
“The interest rates were low,” said Jenny Minton, who closed the deal on the home with her husband on April 13. “It’s definitely a buyer’s market.”
The Mintons are just two of many fueling an ongoing trend of improvement in the area housing market that began in March. It is a pattern of growth that has some local experts cautiously optimistic the housing market is on a steady upswing.
According to the Alabama Center for Real Estate, home sales increased 57.1 percent in the Calhoun County housing market area in March compared to the same month last year. The statistics include all Calhoun County real estate agency home sales in Calhoun, Talladega and Cleburne counties.
Statistics show local real estate agents sold 99 homes in March compared with 63 homes sold during the same month last year. The Alabama Center for Real Estate has not yet released April numbers. However, some local ex-perts involved in the area housing market say their April sales were a significant improvement from last year’s sales.
“We’re still trending upwards,” said Joey Crews, of Keller Williams Realty in Anniston. “And this March we did real well.”
Housing markets across the country have been struggling to recover after the economic recession hit in 2008.
Everett King of ERA King Real Estate in Anniston said his firm has also had improved sales.
“We did well … we’re up year over year about 40 percent for our March and April,” he said. “And even our upscale market seems to be doing better.”
Larry Jackson, owner of Jackson’s Mortgage in Anniston, said his business also saw a boost in the last two months. Jackson said his March mortgage sales were up 33 percent from last year, and his April sales were up 30 percent from last year.
“And we’re taking in more mortgage applications at the start of May than we did in the beginning of March or April, so that says to me that this will be a better month than March or April,” Jackson said.
King said the market is showing improvement due in part to record-low interest rates, which have lately been between 3 and 4 percent.
“Also, very few people employed right now are feeling endangered that they will be losing their jobs, so they are starting to buy,” he said.
According to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, the county’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent in March from 8.1 percent in February. Last year’s March unemployment rate for the county was 9.2 percent.
Crews agreed the low interest rates are helping the housing market improve, adding that first-time homebuyers are helping increase sales.
“People are always getting married and having babies,” he said. “There will always be first-time homebuyers.”
Jackson said the summer could show continued improvement in the housing market. However, he is still concerned what impact recently announced layoffs at the Anniston Army Depot will have on the market later this year. The de-pot plans to lay off more than 400 people by the end of September due to budget cuts.
“But if we can keep the economy steady, chances are, things could be better than last year,” Jackson said of the market.
King said he too sees continued improvement in the market for the next few months but is also concerned about the depot.
“I see nothing to slow the sales down as long as the government continues to stay out of it,” he said. “But the depot will definitely affect the housing market … that will possibly hurt the value in the short-term.”
Still, King was confident the housing market would survive depot layoffs.
“The market has always had to deal with that, like before with Fort McClellan,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how they close that all down.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star