But this year, Halloween is more treat than trick for Monaghan and her co-workers at Van Eaton & Romero. It's traditionally the slow time of the year for their trade, yet deals are pending in the office, and the Acadiana market is firmer than ever. "Once Katrina came through, after the first couple of weeks, everything we had that was completed went under contract," Monaghan says. "We moved 10 units in just two weeks. Things were hectic. Demand was high, and inventory was changing very rapidly."
The weeks following Hurricane Katrina were a boon for the local real estate market, an unprecedented period that was bolstered by more than 30,000 people seeking refuge in Lafayette Parish. In September alone, 357 homes were sold in Lafayette Parish, compared to 179 last year ' a 98 percent spike.
The rush has since slowed considerably. But some agents, brokers and homeowners believe a second wave will come soon, bringing the residential and commercial markets to new heights.
Insurance awards and federal aid should become increasingly available in upcoming months and could help financially strapped storm victims buy the homes they've been dreaming of while sitting in shelters, hotel rooms and elsewhere. And businesses might parlay newfound capital from the Small Business Administration or state into new Lafayette addresses. The size and scope of a second real estate boon is the mystery.
"The market response has been unprecedented because the entire situation is unprecedented," says Bill Bacque, CEO of Van Eaton & Romero. "Expectations have risen to a level of expecting this unprecedented event, and that now becomes the norm. But that isn't the case. There could be another swell, but it won't be like this first one, and the market will eventually settle down."
October, at least, should be another stellar month. There were 576 pending residential sales reported in September, compared to only 190 last year, according to tracking statistics compiled by Van Eaton & Romero. New listings continue to come on the market as well ' a few of which, Bacque says, are coming from New Orleans residents that prematurely invested without knowing the situation back home.
Multiple industry sources argue that media reports of a home price sales spike were unfounded, but the Multiple Listing Service ' a guidebook of sorts for all things real estate ' does indicate a significant jolt. The year-to-date average sales price of Lafayette property sold in September was $219,000, compared to $175,000 during the same period last year, says Bacque.
Charles Cornay, a senior commercial associate with Stirling Properties, says the spike in commercial sales following Hurricane Katrina wasn't as permanent as the residential market. "There were a ton of people that came into Lafayette looking for only short-term office space, like law firms and oil field services," he says. "But the phones stopped ringing after the first two weeks."
Â Whether the commercial activity is temporary or long-term, the immediate impact is evident in the numbers. According to Stirling Properties, the average sale price for commercial real estate from Aug. 29 to Oct. 26 was $200,953. For the same period last year, the average sold was only $159,374. Additionally, the sum for the total commercial properties sold during this period is $1.7 million higher than in 2004.
Â The trend could head upwards again as relocated companies come into a bit of cash. The Small Business Administration is now using remote technology, such as satellite imagery and aerial photography, to help fast-track loans, and checks could start arriving in coming months. Additionally, the state unleashed a $10 million Rapid Response Fund a few weeks ago that doles out bridge loans to companies awaiting approval from the SBA.
Â "Once small businesses are able to get their loans and federal relief, those businesses will be expanding," Cornay says. "But the real questions are where and when."
Back on the residential side, a different sort of infusion of federal aid could rejuvenate home sales. Congress is considering a slew of new measures, including one that would allow hurricane victims to classify as first-time homebuyers and reap the related benefits. There are also bills to provide temporary housing vouchers and waive certain buying requirements.
Then there are insurance claims. These payoffs, however, are expected to arrive sporadically, as some south Louisiana homeowners are still waiting for insurance adjusters to inspect their property.
Still, these indicators have given birth to a new optimism, fueling a record number of homes on the market, as well as more than 4,000 residential lots planned for Lafayette Parish, according to data compiled by Coldwell Banker Pelican Real Estate.
Developer Bob Austin says he sold up to 20 homes during the first couple of weeks following Hurricane Katrina. That resulted in the available housing in three developments selling out, including Austin Village South, which has a total of 66 lots on La Neuville Road; Sugar Trace South, which has 117 lots in Broussard; and Northfield, which has 57 lots north of I-10 on University Avenue. But Austin still has other residential lots available and a new development in the city ' Queen's Harbour off Beadle Road with 76 lots ' opening up soon.
While the increase in activity has been exciting, Austin sees no need to develop new property to meet what could be perceived as a growing demand. He says the spike only served to absorb Lafayette's swollen inventory, and it rescued those on the market who had too much.
"I've heard about people going out and buying land to develop, but they need to realize it could take more than a year to get it ready," Austin says. "Who knows what will happen by then. But I do think there will be a second wave of activity. Will it be massive, though? No. I don't think so."
If a resurgence occurs, it could encourage homebuyers and businesses to look further north in the parish, or even in the outlying areas. More than 45 percent of all sales that occurred in September were in the region of Youngsville and Broussard, where most of the parish's growth has resided in recent years. Another 34 percent of the sales were in central Lafayette, south of the Vermilion River from Pinhook Road to Ambassador Caffery.
Yet there is still property available all over the parish and surrounding areas, says Monaghan, and there is always room for growth. A new subdivision is going up over the next six months in Scott, which is still in the planning stages with 38 lots, as well as 300 upscale lots at Chateau Mirage off Johnson Street. Additionally, the Ponderosa is opening in St. Martin Parish with 63 lots, as well as a bevy of ventures in St. Landry: Lonesome Dove with 100 lots, The Ranch with 300 lots, Shawnee Farms with 150-plus lots, and one other unnamed subdivision still in the developmental stages.
The market is in good shape, says Monaghan, and everyone will be ready if a second wave arrives.
"Usually these are the slow months, but we haven't seen a huge lull yet," Monaghan says. "We're not running out of inventory, and prices are staying where they should. All of this is fueling the market, and I think there's still more to come."
Jeremy Alford is a freelance journalist based in Baton Rouge. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Dallas Morning News and other publications. Reach him through his Web site at www.jeremyalford.com.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, April 15, 2014:
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
Chris Williams knows how to pilfer from the public coffers, this time with a back-pay lawsuit filed three years ago against the Lafayette Housing Authority, which netted the former city-parish councilman a cool five figures.
McAllister's office vowed that he intended to stay in office — for now. As for questions about whether he would stand for re-election in November, those were dodged.
The Green Army's Lafayette brigade has announced it will pay a visit Friday morning to Sen. Page Cortez to urge him to vote against Sen. Robert Adley's SB 553, which the group is calling the "Big Oil Bailout Bill of 2014."
For the sixth consecutive year, Andy Nyman, LSU associate professor of wetland wildlife management, and his service-learning students plan to spend spring break differently from those students flooding the beaches of Florida.
When a BP oil well began gushing crude into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, fisherman George Barisich used his boat to help clean up the millions of gallons that spewed in what would become the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.
The legislation — House Bill 503 by state Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport — passed by an 8-5 vote and advances next to the full House.
The Republican Party of Louisiana has had enough with the philandering hypocrite Vance McAllister. David Vitter? Eh...
A top aide to a Louisiana congressman videotaped kissing a married woman who is not his wife was one of the few people with access to the leaked security footage that exposed the dalliance.
Louisiana would repeal an unconstitutional state law prohibiting intercourse between two people of the same sex, if lawmakers agree to a bill that narrowly received the backing of a House committee Wednesday.