Real estate in St. Tammany Parish and across the United States received some good news this month – home sales in May, 2013 increased by 2.1% from April, 2013 and 29% from May, this time last year.  The market right now is the “perfect storm” for new home buyers.  Interest rates are LOW, even with the slight increase to close to 4% up from 3.35% last month.  Also, the inventory of new homes for sale is limited due to builders just getting back into production after holding off building any new homes or starting any new projects because of the Recession.  Home prices are HIGH, and seem to be growing at a record pace.  You wouldn’t think that higher home prices would be a measure of success of the housing industry, but higher home prices mean increased equity, which makes it easier (if ever so slightly) for home buyers to qualify for a loan and to get a better interest rate. And, finally, the last part of the perfect storm model which seems to be influencing the real estate market nationwide is the drop in foreclosures.

Foreclosures seem to be finally leaving the market, allowing for depressed home prices to rise and for the market to start to grow.  In other words, we finally may be “bouncing off the bottom.”  With the increase in home values (higher home prices) of 10.3% compared to this time last year, many Americans have started to see their “underwater” mortgages move back into the black.  This means that they have now “freed” themselves to sell their homes and move up or sideways into a new home.  Real estate agents and builders can expect to see many contingency buyers over the next months – people trying to sell their homes to be able to purchase a new one.

The new homes sales pace of 476,000 was the best number of sales since July, 2008, right before the “bottom dropped out” of the market.  And according to Joseph LaVorngna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, “Affordability remains near historic highs, despite the recent rise in rates and home prices.” Even with the rise in home pricing, home prices are still at “record affordability,” still below the pricing which occurred right before the housing bubble burst.  If the housing market is truly bouncing off of the bottom, then there is only one way to go buy up!

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While most people in the Crescent City grumble – both at home and “abroad” – that New Orleans, Louisiana is “just” a tourist attraction with no real business growth or potential, a recent audit by Forbes Magazine begs to differ with our sometimes disgruntled residents.  True, New Orleans is the only place where you can show a little or a lot of skin on one very particular street in the city regardless of what time of year you happen to be visiting.  The dedicated law enforcement officials of the NOPD did not earn their crowd control skills by watching DVD’s and holding weekly or monthly exercises.  We are the top city in the world for handling enormous amounts of, it has to be said, unruly tourists.

However, quietly growing in the background of all of this chaos has been a sector of up and coming professionals who do more than drinkinformation-technology copious amounts of alcohol and spend time on the afore-named street.  This sector of the Greater New Orleans area has earned a reputation for being one of the top growing entrepreneurial sectors in the United States.  Throughout each year, numerous conferences and seminars are held to attract new small business and entrepreneurs both on the northshore and southshore.

This quiet growth is now being recognized by Forbes Magazine.  Recently, the magazine / website did an article declaring that New Orleans, Louisiana has had a 28% job growth in the information technology business which includes companies that create software, handle data processing, video game developing and programming, and film production.  What is phenomenal is that New Orleans placed 3rd behind San Jose, CA (Silicon Valley) and San Francisco, CA.  To understand this momentous recognition, the other players on the list after New Orleans were Boston, Atlanta, and Detroit.  The city is so well-known for its entrepreneurial and information technology spirit that GE (General Electric) is moving its technology center to the Central Business District in New Orleans, bringing with it 3,000 new information technology jobs.

One factor that has greatly contributed to this unprecedented growth for the City of New Orleans is that this part of the country seemed to be one of the last cities to experience the Recession and one of the first cities to bounce back from it.  Business is so good in the Crescent City that real estate that is going on the market in the Garden District and now Uptown are selling within less than 24 hours because the demand for “affordable” and safe housing in the city of New Orleans is up due to new businesses opening up in the city and people relocating to the city for business.

Since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has started to quietly emerge as a contender for economics, real estate, new technology jobs, and film industry production.  With the designation Hollywood of the South, this city is starting to establish itself in the world market.  Perhaps in the future, it will be much more than just a tourist attraction.

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With mixed reviews, a vote by the Mandeville City Council passed 5 – 0 to create a historic district inside a part of Old Mandeville.  As more and more parts of the Greater New Orleans area are “redeveloped,” many residents and homeowners see this as a “win” that will preserve a portion of the northshore of the City of New Orleans which was established in 1830.

The new historic designation means that homeowners or developers looking to build new construction or to make additions or renovations to their homes will have to run their plans by a hired committee which will ensure that all construction going forward will meet the standards of maintaining historic preservation of the area.

The area designated as the new historic district will be bordered on the south and north respectively by Lake Pontchartrain and Hwy. 190.  Theold-mandeville-historic west border will be Galvez St., and the east border will be Jackson St.  All of the area and the homes within this “square” will be the new historic district of Old Mandeville.

Opponents of converting on of Mandeville’s oldest districts were mostly concerned that by putting an “extra hurdle” in the way of new construction, improvements, or renovations, that homeowners and business owners alike would have a harder time getting their plans approved and their projects started.  Another fear was that by the City Council voting to create a new historic district, it was an intrusion of the city government into the lives of the people.

Even though 13 public hearings have been held to discuss the possibility of creating this new historic district, Councillman Clay Madden expressed doubt that many citizens have no idea the ramifications of creating the historic district will mean them personally.  Madden feels there needs to be more education of the public about the district.  For instance, one qualification for a building or home to be considered historic is that it must be 50 years or older.  A survey was done in 2008 by historian Sally Reeves revealing which buildings qualified for the historic district classification.  The public will need to be educated as to the classification of their home before they are able to do any construction on the structure.

Overall, the majority of the people at the meeting in Mandeville were supporters of the historic district.  Since New Orleans is one of the oldest established cities in the United States, it is important to preserve the history and the architecture from an era that is now history and soon to become a mystery to future generations.

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