|Nathan and Amy Mizer haven't put their Murfreesboro home up for sale yet, but they have begun exploring their options.
"We have just started looking but are impressed with some of the houses on the market," she said.
The couple feels this spring may be a good time to upgrade to a larger home for their future family as interest rates are still favorably low, and there are plenty of houses to choose from on the market.
This spring local experts are predicting slight growth in the Rutherford County real estate market that is seemingly oblivious to the nationwide housing bubble.
And home sales this year have already begun picking up from the typical winter cool down, said Tad Craig, of Craig and Wheeler Realty & Auction Co. and past-president of the Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors.
Home sales typically begin picking up in April and May, which after 30-to-60-day escrow periods, allows families to move after children are out of school for the summer, he said.
"February sales in Rutherford County have returned to 400 closed sales," Craig said. "Your average home prices are continuing to appreciate by $6,000 to $8,000 over previous years."
Rutherford County home sales reached 435 in February down 2.7 percent from the same month last year, according to data from the Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors.
Industry experts are reluctant to say this season will be a buyers' market, but admit there is an inventory of homes in the $250,000-$300,000 price range.
The Mizers don't expect to have much trouble selling their estimated $120,000 home — a hot price point locally — located off Jefferson Pike. They are hoping to purchase a four-bedroom brick home with a large backyard.
Prices of construction materials have stabilized nationwide and Craig suspects that could help new construction rebound locally.
"The next 90 days into summer will kind of tell us where the market stands, but there is definitely activity in the market," said Barry Allen, financial advisor, manager of construction and development lending for Pinnacle Financial Bank. All economic indicators show that the market will remain strong.
Rutherford County's hot economy and rising cost of developable land for new homes will cause home prices to rise somewhat this season, experts predict. Local real estate is a still a solid investment as interest rates remain low and homebuyers are still moving into Rutherford County at a rapid pace.
"Mortgage rates are still very low," said Lee Moss, chairman and chief executive officer of MidSouth Bank. "They are in the 5.75 to 6 percent rate, which is very appealing to first-time homebuyers and those moving up.
"Rates are predicted to remain stable through 2007 with some anticipation of a modest decline," he continued.
Moss said loan demand within MidSouth Bank is as strong now as it has been over the last three years.
"This would suggest that builders and developers are remaining very confident," he said.
Industry experts said overbuilding has occurred in ome areas of the county primarily along the New Salem Highway corridor and in the $250,000 to $320,000 price range.
New home starts could be down slightly this spring until more of this existing inventory sells.
"Building permits were down over the last couple of months," Allen said. "Builders are starting houses, but they are trying to sell some existing inventory that they have in place."
He said there is an inventory of homes on the market especially in the $250,000 to $300,000 price range, but there also is a demand for these homes that just needs to catch up.
Craig said this trends shows that builders need to pay attention to detail and quality because of all the options available to homebuyers.
Murfreesboro is under built in more affordable houses and townhouses in the $100,000 to $200,000 price range. Many builders are opting to build condominiums or townhouses, which are more cost effective for consumers to purchase and for builders to construct.
Craig said he continues to see people moving into Rutherford County from out of state at a rapid pace due to job growth and quality of life factors. This practice will continue to have a significant impact on the market here and in surrounding counties.
Tennessee is an attractive place to relocate because of its tax structure, low cost of living, low crime rate, good schools and four defined seasons, he said.
"People love Tennessee," Craig said. "The world has discovered our little secret."
Erin Edgemon can be reached at 869-0812 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.