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Real estate picking up
Building may see slight increase in 2012
BIZ FORUM Web
Construction is continuing at The Forum apartment complex on Highway 301 South. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/Herald File

      Although market conditions remained difficult for realtors and sellers of single family homes this past year in Bulloch County, real estate activity increased slightly over the year before.
       Local realtor Shannon Grindler estimated that 370 homes would be sold in 2011, representing an 18-percent increase over 2010. Whereas the increase in the number of home sales is certainly a positive, Grindler pointed out that not all of the news is good news.
      "When the recession hit, there were over 800 homes on the market, and that number has declined to 442," she said. "However, the average sales price for a home has also declined tremendously. In 2007, the average sales price was $166,700. This past year it appears that the average sales price will be finalized at approximately $135,611. Obviously, that is a huge difference, representing a decline of almost 19 percent. I expect that we will continue to see a decrease in prices of homes that are sold, at least for the immediate future."
      Pat Hirsch also believes the market will continue to erode next year, before a gradual rebound sets in. Hirsch has been a realtor in Statesboro for 20 years, and was recently recognized by ERA as one of the "50 Realtors to Follow" in the company.
      "People that purchased homes before 2007 are probably OK in that the value of their home is commensurate with the debt on the home," she said. "However, those who bought in 2007 and 2008, and took out a mortgage are most likely upside down. In other words, they owe more on their home than it is worth, and that is why we are continuing to see so many foreclosures in our marketplace."
      Hirsch also pointed out that builders are constructing homes that are less expensive than those that were built just a few years ago.
      "The average ‘starter' home five years ago was in the $150,000 to $190,000 range," she said. "Now, it is in the $100,000 to $140,000 range. That makes it really difficult for those that are trying to sell a starter home that they bought when the prices were in the range of $150,000 to $190,000. A new home can be purchased for less than a slightly older one that is on the market."
      While the local housing market mirrored the troubled real estate market nationwide, the steady growth in the student population of Georgia Southern University sparked the continued development of multi-family (student housing) real estate in the county.
       Under construction and slated to open next August, The Forum on Highway 301 South will add 780 beds to Statesboro's student housing inventory. Also scheduled to open in 2012 is the Monarch Douglas apartment complex (450 beds) which will also be located on Highway 301 South, near the intersection of Highway 301 and Old Register Road.
      Mitch Fender is the community manager of The Forum, and is in charge of leasing for the development. Fender said they are slightly ahead of projections at this time.
      "We are on track to be 40 percent leased by the end of this year," Fender said. "If things continue at this rate, we may be completely leased by next March."
      Fender attributes the demand for his apartments on the amenities that will be provided.
      "The Forum will be true, luxury living for students," he said. "It will be the best product that Statesboro has to offer. From tennis and basketball courts, to a car care center, and a resort style pool area, it will be an incredible place to live."
      Other apartment complexes in the planning stages are Aspen Heights (800 beds) and the Varsity Lodge (500 beds). Based on planning documents submitted by developers of the complexes, both should be constructed in 2013.