SIKESTON -- Despite a slow start, the real estate industry in the Sikeston area is leaving 2003 with a bang as existing homes sales jumped nearly 22 percent this year.
"We had a slow beginning this year," admitted broker Faye Walborg, owner of Century 21 Premiere Realty in Sikeston and National Association of Realtors member. "At mid-year figures, we were down, but the last half of the year has come on tremendously."
Walborg said Century 21 has met 2002's figures this year, and judging by other calculations, it seems to be the same for most of the real estate companies in town, she said, adding that sales may not have been as high these last couple months for some area brokers.
According to the Semo Multi-List Service Organization, which covers the Sikeston area, as of Tuesday, 223 properties were closed in the Sikeston area this year for a total of approximately $20.1 million. In 2002, there were 249 properties closed for a total of $17.1 million.
"Even though we sold more properties in 2002, the dollar-volume was higher in 2003," Walborg noted. "Actually what you're seeing is people being able to buy higher priced properties."
The average price of an existing home in Sikeston is $85,000 -- up from $55,000 a few years ago. However, Walborg said many homes have been selling well over the average in Sikeston.
"This year I saw more property sell over $150,000 than I've ever seen -- and I've been in this business for over 20 years," Walborg said, adding that she thinks consumer confidence is up.
Sikeston's growing with a lot of new developments, Walborg commented. Real estate brokers in the area have seen a trend upward, probably moving forward over the past 2-1/2 to three years, she said.
"We've got builders now that are reaching out and building speck homes and we're seeing some growth that has been complementary to real estate," Walborg said.
Sue Rogers, broker/partner of First Realty in Sikeston, also said there's been an improvement of existing home sales in the area this year.
"A lot of it has to do with the low interest rates because they've given people a chance to move up and take advantage of the opportunity," Rogers said.
On the national level, sales of previously owned homes declined by 4.6 percent in November. But sales nevertheless registered their fifth best month on record, a sign that the housing market remains in good shape.
The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that the decline from October to November still left total sales at a brisk seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.06 million homes. Sales of existing homes are on track to set a new record for all of 2003, economists said.
Sales peaked in September at a red-hot pace of 6.68 million homes, the best month ever.
The housing market has hummed along this year as super low interest rates beckoned buyers. Economists have predicted sales would slow down a bit toward the end of the year, and in fact they did in October and November. Even so, the level of sales remain solid, economists said.
Some analysts had forecast smaller decline in sales for last month, however.
By region, sales of previously owned homes declined last month by 2.4 percent in the West to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.64 million. In the Northeast, sales slipped by 4.1 percent to a pace of 700,000. In the South, sales declined by 5.1 percent to a rate of 2.44 million and in the Midwest, they fell by 6.6 percent to a rate of 1.27 million.
"All in all, we had a very prosperous year. We saw a lot of people get new homes and be able to move up from a 2 to 3 bedroom home and a 3 to 4-bedroom home, and it's worked very well," Walborg said.
Walborg expects 2004 to be as good or better as 2003, she said.
"Our interest rates -- especially with this being an election year -- should hold steady," Walborg predicted. "I don't foresee them going down a lot. We have really good rates, and if they hold steady and consumer confidence stays good, we should have a pretty good year."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.