After Hurricane Katrina, residents of South Mississippi moved inland to escape future storms and high wind-insurance rates. Nearly seven years later, without a major hurricane, properties near the beach are selling again, said Amy Wood, broker at Amy Wood Properties in Pass Christian.
"I think the focus seems to be coming back closer (to the water)," she said.
The summer real estate season is traditionally the busiest time of the year. Lots that have stood empty since the hurricane and condos and townhouses near the beach are in demand again, Wood said. Though sales are not as strong as before the storm and prices are lower, she is seeing improvement and the return of vacation-home sales.
"I think it is definitely good news," she said.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Multiple Listing Service reports 10 more homes were sold in April than a year ago. The average sales price was up to $117,292 compared with $115,686. This is the second time this year the average sales price was higher than the same month in 2011. That didn't happen at all in 2011 compared with 2010.
For the first four months of the year, 70 more houses sold through the MLS than last year. The average price was down $919 from a year ago and 209 fewer homes were listed, reducing competition. This week 3,401 single-family homes are listed across South Mississippi.
Challenges in the local market remain. Wood said the number of foreclosed homes on the market is still high and that drives average prices down. Buyers are able to get bank loans, she said, but they come with additional paperwork and tedious appraisals.
For those who do qualify for a loan, "the interest rates are great," she said.
Since 2007, the average sales price hit a high of $181,000 in August 2007 and a low of $103,000 in January.