Figures from the Alabama Center for Real Estate show 233 homes were sold in the county during the first quarter of the year — the best yearly start the area has had since 301 homes were purchased during the first quarter of 2007. The first quarter sales, the best they have been since before the economic recession hit, show the area housing market is well on the mend due to increased consumer confidence and home loans and low interest rates, housing industry experts and economists say.
Joey Crews of Keller Williams Realty in Anniston said his company has had a great year so far, noting it had its best March sales since 2009.
"We've had consistent improvement over the past several years and marked improvement this year," Crews said. "They sky still has not fallen."
The housing industry across the country boomed between 2001 and 2007, however, that housing bubble burst in late 2007, which led to the economic crash and recession the following year. The recession resulted in mass layoffs and foreclosed homes, all of which depressed the housing market. The housing industry has been trying to recover ever since.
Crews said that for the last several years, many people were reluctant to buy homes because housing prices kept dropping.
"I think there was a lack of consumer confidence," Crews said. "But now people are realizing the pricing bottom has hit and they should buy."
Along with improved home sales, the county also experienced its best first quarter average home sales price at $115,529 since 2009, which had an average sales price of $125,432 during the same period.
Jason Williamson, broker associate with ERA King Real Estate in Anniston, said his company had also experienced noticeable improvement this year. Williamson said record low interest rates and increased consumer confidence have led to the improvement in sales. Interest rates are around 3.25 percent.
"We went through such a tough period for so long, people were scared ... but people are finally coming to grips," Williamson said. "It really makes no sense why someone isn't in the market for a house right now."
Keivan Deravi, economist at Auburn University Montgomery, said the county's improvement is in line with sales growth in housing markets across the country.
Housing markets everywhere are doing good," Deravi said. "All the elements are in place ... good interest rates and banks are more stable ... and people are starting to come out of their shells."
Still, Deravi warned that housing markets may again weaken in the coming months due to the recent shakiness in the stock market and slow job growth.
Butch Kreh, an appraiser with Area-wide Appraisal Service in Anniston, said his company has had increased business in areas across the county, but he is not taking the improvement for granted. Kreh said he has no plans to make any great expenditures in the near future, despite the jump in business.
"I'm a little bit conservative by nature and am still interested in small improvements in the business itself," Kreh said. "We're focusing on purchases of delayed materials and trying to build back up our reserves."
Williamson said he and other area real estate agents have learned since the last housing boom and are unlikely to engage in wanton spending despite the improving housing market.
"Like many good real estate agents that lived through the boom years, where it seemed money was limitless, the next go around, I'll not partake in as many of the fun, fun things and take them for granted," Williamson said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.