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North Alabama housing market ‘one of the most stable’ in Southeast

Rob Hale, president of MarketGraphics Southeast, speaks to Huntsville-area realtors and home builders April 2 at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. (Lucy Berry | lberry@al.com)

Rob Hale, president of MarketGraphics Southeast, speaks to Huntsville-area realtors and home builders April 2 at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. (Lucy Berry | lberry@al.com)

Lucy Berry | lberry@al.comBy Lucy Berry | lberry@al.com
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More residents in the Huntsville area are seeking apartment communities with higher-end amenities as the housing market recovers.

That was one of the talking points Thursday during a 2015 north Alabama housing forecast presentation by MarketGraphics Southeast President Rob Hale at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. The annual breakfast event for area realtors and homebuilders was sponsored by BancorpSouth.

Hale said the recession sparked a shift in the number of north Alabama millennials, retirees and move-down buyers interested in new apartment projects.

“The recession started it because people lost their homes,” he said. “They were able to rent, but not buy, and I think that started a trend of new apartment construction and it built on that.”

Nationwide trend

The movement toward apartments isn’t just affecting Huntsville, Hale said, but the entire U.S. He said the developments are especially attractive to the under-30 crowd that’s not as interested in purchasing a new or existing home as past generations were.

Apartments are also a good option for retirees who need smaller housing, but still want luxury, an audience member pointed out.

“There’s the pool, there’s somebody else mowing the grass, there’s really great amenities with these new developments,” Hale said. “It’s attractive to people who at some point might have been first-time homebuyers.”

The local market, which includes Madison, Limestone, Morgan and Marshall counties, is the picture of stability, Hale told the crowd. The four-county area had 2,470 building permits last year, down slightly from 2,501 the previous year and 2,518 in 2011.

Market vibrancy

While north Alabama led the Southeast for several years in market vibrancy (new home permits divided by total population), Hale said that’s no longer the case today. Markets like Jacksonville, Fla., Nashville and Charleston, S.C., are experiencing more vibrant housing markets right now.

Huntsville hasn’t always followed the national trend, he said, and the market doesn’t encounter the same peaks and valleys as other places sometimes do.

“You did not experience the wave of destruction that took place in a lot of places in the Southeast,” he said. “The coastal Florida market was devastated by the recession. This just illustrates how stable the market is in north Alabama.”

The area had 15,000 vacant developed lots in February 2011. Since then, that figure has declined to roughly 11,500. There are 546 homes under construction in the four-county area, Hale said.

With companies like Polaris and Remington Outdoor promising thousands of jobs in Huntsville over the next several years, Hale hopes the local housing market enters a phase when new jobs have a direct link to the construction of new houses.

Jobs equals housing

Hale said the market needs about 1.25 new jobs for every building permit issued in order to sustain healthy housing activity.

“Of all the markets in the Southeast over the years, the Huntsville market has been one of the most stable, even through the recession,” he said. “Our hope is that as new jobs arrive in Huntsville, it will result in an improvement in the new home housing market.”

Hale praised the area’s public leadership in attracting new companies and diversifying the economy. “That’s certainly not true everywhere,” he added.

Penny Billings, division president for BancorpSouth, said her biggest takeaway from Thursday’s event was “location and where you’re building.”

“We have seen some pretty good vibrancy right now in new home sales,” she said. “Some of our builders are reporting that their sales are a lot higher than they’ve been.”

North Alabama housing market ‘one of the most stable’ in Southeast, even through recession | AL.com.

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Huntsville among top 10 Southern cities for jobs right now

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Lucy Berry | lberry@al.comBy Lucy Berry | lberry@al.com
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Two Alabama metros are among the top cities in the South for job creation and hiring in 2015, according to a new study by ZipRecruiter.

The hiring and job market data company released a report this week of the top 20 Southern cities with the greatest 2015 hiring demand and growth potential. Cities were ranked using ZipRecruiter’s Hiring Demand Index, which is based on relative monthly job growth percentage measured across the U.S.

Huntsville came in at No. 9, while Mobile fell at No. 19. Here is the full list:

  1. Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Fla.
  2. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas
  3. Houston/Sugar Land/Baytown, Texas
  4. Richmond, Va.
  5. Jacksonville, Fla.
  6. Memphis, Tenn.
  7. Roanoke, Va.
  8. Greenville/Mauldin/Easley, S.C.
  9. Huntsville
  10. Orlando/Kissimmee, Fla.
  11. Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Fla.
  12. Durham, N.C.
  13. Greensboro/High Point, N.C.
  14. Winchester, Va.
  15. Spartanburg, S.C.
  16. El Paso, Texas
  17. Danville, Va.
  18. Lubbock, Texas
  19. Mobile
  20. Myrtle Beach/Conway/North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Click here for ZipRecruiter’s report.

ZipRecruiter writer Kylie Anderson, who praised Huntsville’s military and aerospace technology, called the city “the center for NASA rocket-propulsion research.”

“The city also supports commercial technology companies and other engineering research,” she said.

Huntsville’s top five industries and their most in-demand position are:
  • Healthcare: Healthcare Representative
  • Trucking/Transportation: Class A CDL Driver
  • Engineering: Applications Engineer
  • Admin/Secretarial: Customer Service Retail
  • Manufacturing/Operations: Production Manager

Madison County’s February unemployment rate was 5.2 percent, down from 5.6 the previous month. Joblessness was also down in Mobile, from 7.1 percent unemployment to 6.4 in February. To see how your county fared, click here.

[Related: Top 10 Alabama occupations with the most online job postings in February]

Visit AL.com/jobs to search more than 2,000 listings in Alabama.

Huntsville, Mobile among top 20 Southern cities for jobs right now | AL.com.

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Madison mayor outlines road expansions, home and building development, new public facilities in State of the City address

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It was a sold-out speech at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Friday night as Madison Mayor Troy Trulock took center stage for his State of the City address.

Most of the mayor’s speech was spent on accolades, education and points of pride in his city. After that, Trulock gave some insight into what lies ahead for Madison with a taste of the projects that will go into play in 2015.

Some of the major developments involve improving Madison’s roads. For example, a five-lane expansion of County Line Road is being accomplished through a partnership between Madison and the state of Alabama. Trulock estimates construction will begin in the next month or two.

There’s also the continuing six-lane development of U.S. 72 from County Line Road to Providence. This is about a five and a half mile stretch, which Trulock said is “not in good shape right now.” He said the continuing effort to fix it has been acknowledged through a partnership between Madison, Huntsville, Madison County and the state.

“Right now if you drive on Highway 72, sometimes it turns into a parking lot. We’re going to fix that,” he said.

The final major road project planned this year is to open an interchange between Interstate 565 and County Line Road, another city and state partnership. The mayor expressed how the need for this interchange is a shared sentiment for those who drive through.

The discussion then turned from roads to buildings. Trulock said more homes and subdivisions will be coming in this year. As such, there will be development of the Village at Oakland Springs outside Browns Ferry Road. This residential and business district will be about two-thirds the size of the Village of Providence and is expected to be reminiscent of its setup. Trulock said the Village at Oakland Springs will hold offices and retail in close proximity to small, medium and large size homes.

A new library could be on the way too. Trulock said the 35,000 square foot plans should be a large improvement over the 15,000 square foot library on Hughes Road. He said crowding has been a problem with the branch’s limited size.

Plans are also being put together for a new recreation building, which would include an indoor pool and basketball and volleyball courts among other athletic facilities. Construction could begin over the summer.

“I know as a coach and as a parent that we need a lot of extra recreation space,” he said, adding, “Definite need for our community.”

Ground should be broken on this project by summer.

In line with the economic front, the continuing development of Town Madison is expected to bring in 1,600 new jobs on top of 1,000 jobs at Intergraph.

Trulock also promised a surprise on the way in terms of economic development. He teased two projects to be placed near the city’s center but could not reveal what they are yet. He said the first of these projects will likely be announced within the next month or two and the other in the next three or four months.

Madison mayor outlines road expansions, home and building development, new public facilities in State of the City address | AL.com.

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Huntsville/Madison County residential sales up 4% in December

Huntsville/Madison County area residential sales in December improved 4.4 percent from the same period a year earlier. Total sales of 401 units were 9 units or 2.3 percent above our monthly forecast. The Center’s 2014 sales forecast projected 5,219 closed transactions while the actual sales were 4,901 units, a 6.1 percent cumulative variance.

Historical Sales.jpg
View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County residential sales up 4% from last December. Inventory hits new peak in December. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.

Supply: Huntsville housing inventory totaled 3,320 units, an increase of 449 units from last December and 20.7 percent above the 5-year December average of 2,750 units. New home inventory is up 75.5 percent year-over-year while existing single family is up 2.8 percent.

The inventory-to-sales ratio in December was 8.3 months of housing supply (7.1 months for new construction – up 4.3% from Dec’13). The market equilibrium (balance between supply and demand) is considered to be approximately 8-8.5 months during December. Huntsville is historically one of Alabama’s most balanced markets but it appears the market has, at least momentarily, got a little ahead of the recovery as it relates to additional new supply. With that said, the market in December began to mitigate the short-term excess as the inventory in Huntsville/Madison County experienced a 5.8 percent (203 units) decrease when compared to the prior month. This movement is consistent with both seasonal listing trends & historical data that indicate December inventory on average (€™09-€™13) typically decreases by 7.1 percent from the month of November.

Demand: Residential sales in December improved 21.9 percent from the prior month. Historical Huntsville data reflects that December sales, on average (€™09-€™13), decrease from the month of November by .1 percent so this break from the norm is encouraging news. New home sales were up 6.6 percent from December 2013. Existing single family home sales accounted for 72 percent (up from 65% in Dec’13) of total sales, new homes sales accounted for 16 percent (up from 12% in Dec’13) while condos were 2 percent of sales (down from 3% in Dec’13). 2014 sales were 5.7 percent below 2013.

Pricing: The Huntsville median sales price in December was $169,900, a decrease of 7.4 percent from December 2013 and 4.0 percent from the prior month as a result of the short-term supply/demand imbalance. Historical data (09-13) indicates that the December median sales price traditionally increases from the month of November by 5.0 percent. It’s important to note that pricing can fluctuate from month-to-month as the sample size of data (closed transactions) is subject to seasonal buying patterns so a broader lens as to pricing trends is appropriate. ACRE recommends contacting a local real estate professional to discuss pricing at the neighborhood level.

Industry Perspective: “The housing market is likely to continue its gradual climb upward next year after a sub-par 2014,” according to Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “We anticipate a fairly strong increase in housing starts in response to stronger employment and some improvement in related household incomes. As a result, that may help to unfold some of the suppressed household formation numbers and incent builders to meet some of that increased demand. For all of 2015, we expect total housing starts to increase by about 22 percent and total home sales to rise approximately 5 percent, with total mortgage origination ticking up slightly to $1.13 trillion.” For full report, go HERE.

View the current monthly Huntsville Residential Report here.

The Huntsville Residential Monthly Report is work product developed in conjunction with the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS to better serve North Alabama consumers. The ACRE monthly report is provided to illustrate the “general” market direction & trends when comparing prior periods with the most current available data. Real estate is local and statistics will fluctuate between areas within a city including subdivisions. ACRE recommends that you consult a local real estate professional for “specific” advice associated with your market.

About ACRE. ACRE was founded in 1996 by the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of our statewide ACRE Partners.

Alabama real estate resources & news, please visit our website and our ACRE blog. You can also follow ACRE from our facebook page, just “like” http://www.facebook.com/acreua and/or follow on twitter at @uaacre.

Huntsville/Madison County residential sales up 4% in December; 2014 sales slip 6% | AL.com.

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Huntsville/Madison County residential median sales price establishes new peak

Click here to view or print the full quarterly report compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet.

Median Price.jpg
View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County median sales price up 8% from 2nd Quarter 2013. Infograph courtesy of North Al MLS & ACRE. All rights reserved.

Pricing: According to the North Alabama Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the median sales price in the Huntsville/Madison County reached a new peak during the 2nd quarter at $175,633 which is also 8.0 percent from the same quarter in 2013. Historical data indicates that second quarter median price in 2014 increased by 4.9 percent from the most recent 3-year average and 4.0 percent from the 5-year quarterly average (’09-’13).

Supply: The housing inventory average during the second quarter was 3,215 units, an increase of 4.8 percent from the same period in 2013 and .8 percent below the second quarter peak in 2010 (3,240 units). There was 7.1 months of housing supply (6 months considered equilibrium during 2nd quarter) in the second quarter 2014 versus 6.6 months of supply last year, an increase of 7.1 percent. Historical data indicates that the second quarter inventory-to-sales ratio in 2014 decreased 1.4 percent from the 5-year average (7.2 months – best market performance in Alabama during this window) and decreased 2.8 percent from the 3-year average.

Demand: Residential sales during the second quarter by Huntsville standards can only be described as sluggish, a small slip of 2.4 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. The second quarter sales remain 28.7 percent off the peak experienced in 2003 when 1,912 units were sold. Historical data indicates that second quarter sales in 2014 increased by 6.6 percent from the most recent 3-year average (’11-’13) and 5.5 percent from the 5-year quarterly average (’09-’13).

The Huntsville/Madison Residential Quarterly Report is provided compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet.

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The Huntsville/Madison County Residential Quarterly Report is work product developed in conjunction with the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS to better serve North Alabama consumers. The ACRE monthly report is provided to illustrate the “general” market direction & trends when comparing prior periods with the most current available data. Real estate is local and statistics will fluctuate between areas within a city including subdivisions. ACRE recommends that you consult a local real estate professional for “specific” advice associated with your market.

About ACRE. ACRE was founded in 1996 by the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of our statewide ACRE Partners.

Alabama real estate resources & news, please visit our website and our ACRE blog. You can also follow ACRE from our facebook page, just “like” http://www.facebook.com/acreua and/or follow on twitter at @uaacre.

 Huntsville/Madison County Residential Quarterly Report: “2nd quarter median sales price establishes new peak” | AL.com.

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Huntsville/Madison County residential median sales price in June improves 10% from prior year

Click here to view or print the entire June report compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet.

Huntsville/Madison County area residential sales in June slipped 1.7 percent from the same period a year earlier. Year-to-date sales are virtually the same as 2013 (-1.0%) through the month of June. Total sales of 507 units were 15 units or 2.7 percent shy of our monthly forecast.

Historical Sales.jpg
View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County residential sales slip 1.7% from last June. Inventory has decreased 2.2% from the month of June peak in 2010. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.

Supply: Huntsville housing inventory totaled 3,259 units, an increase of 142 units from last June and 5.3 percent above the 5-year June average of 3,095 units. New home inventory is down 9.1 percent year-over-year while existing single family is up 6.9 percent. The inventory-to-sales ratio in June was 6.4 months of housing supply (3.9 months for new construction – down from 4.2 months in May 2013). The market equilibrium (balance between supply and demand) is considered to be approximately 6 months during June. Huntsville remains one of Alabama’s most balanced markets in 2014. June inventory in Huntsville/Madison County experienced a 2.5 percent (79 units) increase when compared to the prior month. This movement contrast with seasonal & historical data trends that indicate June inventory on average (€™09-€™13) remained unchanged from the month of May.

Demand: New home sales improved 5.3 percent from last June after a weak May but a strong sales surge in April. New home sales spur economic growth and job creation so this is encouraging news. Existing single family home sales accounted for 73 percent (down from 74% in June’13) of total sales, new homes sales accounted for 14 percent (up from 12% in June’13) while condos were 3 percent of sales (down from 4% in June’13).

Residential sales in June improved 10.7 percent from the prior month. Real estate sales volume is seasonal and historical Huntsville data reflects that June sales, on average (€™09-€™13), increase from the month of May by 6.1 percent.

Median Price.jpg
View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County residential median sales prices rises 10% from last June. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.

Pricing: The Huntsville median sales price in June was $184,900, an increase of 10.1 percent from June 2013 and 10.7 percent from the prior month. Historical data (09-13) indicates that the June median selling price traditionally increases from the month of May by 3.0 percent. It’s important to note that pricing can fluctuate from month-to-month as the sample size of data (closed transactions) is subject to seasonal buying patterns so a broader lens as to pricing trends is appropriate. ACRE recommends contacting a local real estate professional to discuss pricing at the neighborhood level.

Industry Perspective: According to Fannie Mae’s June National Housing Survey: Americans’ Attitudes Toward the Housing Market Reflect Steady but Slow Recovery, “Normal” Housing Levels Still a Ways Off. Click HERE for report.

View the current monthly Huntsville Residential Report here.

The Huntsville Residential Monthly Report is work product developed in conjunction with the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS to better serve North Alabama consumers. The ACRE monthly report is provided to illustrate the “general” market direction & trends when comparing prior periods with the most current available data. Real estate is local and statistics will fluctuate between areas within a city including subdivisions. ACRE recommends that you consult a local real estate professional for “specific” advice associated with your market.

About ACRE. ACRE was founded in 1996 by the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of our statewide ACRE Partners.

Alabama real estate resources & news, please visit our website and our ACRE blog. You can also follow ACRE from our facebook page, just “like” http://www.facebook.com/acreua and/or follow on twitter at @uaacre.

Huntsville/Madison County residential median sales price in June improves 10% from prior year | AL.com.

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Huntsville newcomers share what brought them to the Rocket City

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He’s a computer systems analyst for one of the world’s largest defense contractors by day. By night, he works over a hot grill serving up fresh tacos for the masses.

Like many Huntsville transplants, Armando Guerrero migrated to the Rocket City from Austin five years ago for a job. Since then, he and wife Priscilla have launched Crave Heat, a Tex Mex food truck that has become a staple at street food gatherings and a sight for sore eyes among Huntsville’s homeless community.

It’s been hard for the couple with three young sons to live more than 800 miles from the only home they’ve ever known, but Armando Guerrero, a Texas native who never imagined he would one day live in Alabama, believes his family unit is stronger because of it.

“We’ve faced many challenges here without family, but it’s been a great place to strengthen our family as a family,” he said. “Our faith has increased a good bit, as we miss family and feel distant at times.”

Using 2010-11 Internal Revenue Service data, AL.com is taking a look at where residents are moving from into the state, and where Alabamians are going when they leave. A year after Guerrero landed a job in Huntsville, 16 people from the Austin area moved into Madison County and brought $523,000 in income with them.

Another high migration area was Fairfax, Va., which lost 209 people and more than $10 million in income to Madison County. During that same time frame, King County, Wash. lost 33 people and $1 million to the Huntsville area, San Diego County 93 people and $1.9 million and El Paso County, Colo. 90 people and $2.9 million.

Unlike other metro counties across the state, Madison County’s per capita income of newcomers is $1,790 higher than the people who are leaving. Mobile, Jefferson, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Shelby counties all have a negative per capita income relationship between comers and goers.

‘A commonality of culture’

Lucia Cape, vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County, wasn’t surprised by the IRS migration data. Cape said the Chamber launched an aggressive recruitment campaign through the Base Realignment and Closure period from late 2006 through 2011.

The Chamber spent a lot of time in the Washington, D.C. and Fairfax area recruiting newcomers during BRAC, a process that brought 4,600 government positions to Huntsville.

Col. John Hamilton, who migrated from Fairfax into Madison County in 2010, didn’t come to Huntsville for BRAC. Instead, he was offered the garrison commander post at Redstone Arsenal.

Hamilton, who admits Huntsville “was kind of an unknown place” before moving here, said the city has grown on him and his family.

“When you get into a town like this, if you’re someone like me who moves around a lot, this is a town you can just step right into and be comfortable in,” he said. “If you go around to cities like these that have a significant military presence, they all tend to have similar characteristics – a comfort level, a commonality of culture.”

Hamilton retired last year after a long military career to assume the role of Huntsville’s city administrator. Hamilton, who is raising two young children in Huntsville’s medical district, said the transition was easy for his family.

As Remington prepares to take over the former Chrysler building near Huntsville International Airport and Verizon brings in 300 new workers to its call center in Thornton Research Park, Hamilton said infrastructure and acceptance will be vital for continued growth in the community.

AL.com reported earlier this year that 45 percent of Madison County’s population is made up of residents who are not natives of the state, while the area is also on a short list of Alabama counties where more than 5 percent of the population was born outside the United States.

With the promise of 2,000 new Remington jobs in Madison County, Cape said that migration pattern is likely to continue in the years ahead.

“That kind of trend is strong,” she said. “It shows you can organically support workforce growth but you also have the characteristics to bring people in from outside, which continues to strengthen us a community.”

Southern perceptions

Curse, a gaming information company that moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Huntsville in 2013, is expanding this year with 20 new jobs at its downtown office. The business grew 60 percent in 2013, which was in part fueled by “the great talent” Curse has found in the Rocket City.

“It’s a pleasant mix of technical minds, and people that really understand our products and are all members of the new digital age,” said Vice President of Marketing Donovan Duncan.

Justin Sacks and David Cho, two young professionals from out west, packed their bags and left sunny southern California to take full-time jobs with Curse.

Sacks, who came directly from San Diego, was operating a small business in the competitive gaming industry when an opportunity to work for Curse came available last spring. Now a sales and business development manager for Curse, Sacks said he has been “pleasantly surprised” by Huntsville at every turn.

“I definitely had a perception on what the South and specifically Alabama would look like,” he said. “Huntsville has blown those away. … San Diego is probably the most amazing place in the world to live, so it would be hard to beat that, but it’s been pretty awesome here. I definitely have no plans to leave anytime soon.”

Cho, who is from Huntington Beach, said Curse offered to fly him out to Huntsville before offering him the job so he could take a look at the city. He declined.

It’s taken some time for the video editor to get acclimated to Alabama, but Cho said the environment and housing market for young people “have been much better than expected.”

“I definitely had some preconceived notions coming in to be perfectly honest, but once you actually come to Huntsville, physically speaking it’s not what you expected – in a good way,” he said. “It really is a thriving city, and it’s just great to be a part of the growth.”

Huntsville newcomers share what brought them to the Rocket City | AL.com.

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