Real estate now hot commodity in St. John

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005

Hurricane Katrina fallout likely to benefit area, residentially and commercially



LAPLACE — The expected rush for real estate in St. John Parish, both residential and commercial, continues to move at a red hot pace.

Top local real estate agents, as well as St. John Director of Economic Development Julia Remondet, confirmed that property is a hot commodity here following the destruction in the New Orleans region from Hurricane Katrina.

“We have leased virtually all commercial building space we have,” Remondet said. “We actually had business owners driving here the day after the storm to try and find what we had so they could relocate.”

On the residential front, veteran real estate broker Delton Arceneaux of Arceneaux Realty said his agency is selling over four times as many homes as normal. In a two week span he wrote 25 contracts for home sales. Normally he sells about five homes a month.

Arceneaux, who has been in real estate for 45 years, said he has never seen anything like this.

“Nothing close to this,” he agreed. “We had 70 calls to our office the first day we got back in business and have been overwhelmed since then.”

However Arceneaux said he is concerned about what he sees with the current market situation.

“I am getting a lot of calls from people who suddenly want to sell their homes and hope for a mark-up of 35 percent over the normal price for their house,” he said. “And I have heard a lot of stories about people making that much more than normal on a sale, even if it is hard to know how many of these stories is true.”

He worries about what happens when the market returns to normal, a time frame that no one is sure of.

“You better think about where you are going to live if you sell now, and if you can afford to buy something else now if you sell what you have,” he said. “Also, some people put a high price on their house, then lose 30 to 40 days waiting to get the deal closed, only to find the house won’t appraise for what they tried to sell it for. I’m concerned about things becoming a problem when this all settles down.”

But Arceneaux said he understands the supply and demand situation, and doesn’t see anything wrong with people taking advantage of a situation to make some extra money.

“Just like us, we are selling many more homes than normal and that’s certainly not a bad situation,” he said.

A recent report he got from an appraiser showed that in the last two weeks most homes are selling for 5 to 15 percent above what they had previously been selling for.

“It’s interesting because we had 110 houses on the market in St. John before the storm, and we’ve sold a lot of them. But now we have 106 on the market, which tells you a lot of people are suddenly trying to sell their homes,” he added.

Remondet said she hasn’t seen numbers to support how much buildings are leasing for, but she does know that they are a hot commodity on the commercial side.

She hopes it will turn into a long term boost for St. John Parish.

“A lot of businesses that contacted us said they had thought about relocating here before, but now want to try it since it is the closest thing to New Orleans that is up and running,” she explained.

“I think some of those businesses will find out they like it here and stay, so I’m hoping this will be a permanent boost in some ways.”

Her biggest concern is for the parish to be able to meet all the needs coming to St. John right now.

“We have a very heavy, immediate need here for many things,” she said.

“We are trying to accommodate that the best we can. I just hope we can keep up with it all, but so far we have.”