GULFPORT -- January 2010 was the last time South Mississippi started the year with an average home sales price at more than $125,000 -- until this year.
The average sales price for January was $126,782, which is $18,000 better than a year ago.
"I think it's an encouraging thing," said Joe Rogers, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Association of Realtors and the local Multiple Listing Service in Gulfport.
The average price in January 2010 was $129,000. That fell to $116,000 in January 2011 and to $103,000 in January 2012 -- the lowest of any month since Hurricane Katrina. January 2013 was slightly better at $108,000.
One reason for the higher sales price is the foreclosure rate in the Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula continues to decline. CoreLogic reports that foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans was 2.06 percent for November 2013, down from 2.76 percent in November 2012, and lower than the national average of 2.18 percent.
The mortgage delinquency rate for mortgages late 90 days or more also decreased to 6.60 percent from 7.90 percent in November 2012.
Rogers said he thinks South Mississippi will see continued decline in foreclosure rates this year and a slow increase in home prices.
The improvement in the local market has boosted the numbers of real estate brokers, agents and associate members in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Association of Realtors to more than 1,000 for the first time in years, he said.
Stephanie Shaw, broker/owner of Latter & Blum Shaw Properties, is the new president of the organization and Jon Ritten, broker/owner at Coldwell Banker Coast Delta Realty, is this year's MLS president. The local Association of Realtors is the second largest in the state after Jackson and Shaw, who followed her mother into the profession, said she will share her vision and leadership style with the members.
South Mississippi is a strong market, she said, which survived two government shutdowns last year and the publicity from flood insurance premium increases, "and recovered from these curve balls in nice fashion. We've seen very consistent sales all last year," she said. The average sales price in 2013 was $8,000 more than 2012.
Shaw said the real estate industry is in transition and, "We now are transaction managers." Realtors must know about insurance issues and become more technologically savvy, she said, since buyers look on the Internet and use social media to shop for a house. "Our association has helped us stay on top of that," she said.