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       · REAL ESTATE/DEVELOPMENT

Tim Zielenbach/Caller-Times

BUSY BUILDERS: Robert Valdez hammers a nail into an overhang as he builds a house. Residential construction and new home sales remained intense in 2003, thanks to interest rates that dropped as low as 5 percent for a 30-year fixed mortgage.


ENLARGE GRAPHIC »

Local housing sales boom

Interest rates remain low, fueling record home sales and residential building

By Alison Beshur/Caller-Times

Record-low interest rates resulted in record-level existing home sales and new residential construction in 2003, and industry experts anticipate business this year to remain strong.

Housing subdivisions, especially on the south side of the city, sprouted up and expanded.

At least 80 percent of new home construction was concentrated on the south end of Corpus Christi, said Romeo Bazan, chief permit officer for the city.

Some of the new developments include Bordeaux, Vineyards, Dunbarton Oaks, Yorktown Crossing and Mariposa subdivisions. A number of phases were started in the affluent Kings Crossing neighborhood and one-acre lot subdivisions in Flour Bluff.

"Builders are buying land in that area and developing it as fast as they can," Bazan said.

Last year, the city issued 1,250 new residential permits valued at more than $128 million. The year before, 978 permits were issued for nearly $110 million in new housing starts. That represents an increase of more than 20 percent, or 272 homes.

Optimism
Industry experts say record-low interest rates fueled much of the growth. At one point during the year, rates dropped to a low of 5 percent for a 30-year fixed mortgage, according to Trey McCampbell, chief administrative officer of American Bank.

Because interest rates in 2004 are expected to stay low, the housing market should remain strong, said Minor Peeples, owner of the Real Estate Institute in Corpus Christi, who has a doctorate degree in human resource development.

George Mostaghasi, owner and president of Sun George Homes, built about 50 custom homes and others to designer specifications last year — a record for the past seven years.

"This year (2003) is super," said Mostaghasi, who has built homes in this area for about 12 years. "January is going to be good. Hopefully, (2004) is going to be the same."

‘A housing boom'
Housing starts in Corpus Christi were in line with state and national figures, said Jack Harris, research economist for the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M-College Station.

"We're in a housing boom," Harris said, noting Corpus Christi followed nationwide trends. "That really hasn't slowed down."

Aside from housing starts, about 4,200 homes in the multiple listing service changed hands. And for the first time ever, the median housing sale price exceeded $100,000, Harris said.

In 2002, about 3,960 existing homes changed at a median price of $93,000.

Infrastructure projects, such as the dredging of the Packery Channel, and the limit of space has spurred price hikes in property values for residential development in the nearby Mustang Island and Padre Island areas.

Townhomes on Padre Island that sold for $156,000 in 2002 have been recently valued at more than $196,000, said Gene Guernsey, real estate agent for ReMax Metro Properties.

"There's not enough people moving out of the community, therefore existing home prices have gone up considerably," said Guernsey, noting new home prices are lower than listings for existing homes.

Contact Alison Beshur at 886-4316 or beshura@caller.com
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