Finding house for less than $100,000 becoming more of a challenge

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 3, 2004

Sean and Neysa Dispenza closed the deal Friday on their first home, on Mercer Street.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

This is the second in a two-part series on housing and housing construction in Warren County.

[5/3/04]Buying a home for less than $100,000 in Vicksburg and Warren County is becoming more and more difficult, despite new developments across the county.

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Molly Robinson knows firsthand the demand for homes in the lower price range. The first offer to buy her home for sale on Mercer off Halls Ferry Road came only two days after it was listed, and she signed a contract for $88,000 with buyers after three weeks.

Although she has sold homes before, Robinson said she was still surprised by the demand.

“We had no idea that it would go that quickly,” Robinson said.

Mary Andress of Breithaupt Real Estate negotiated the deal to sell Robinson’s home, but said finding a home in good condition in that price range is becoming more difficult. She said the increase in property values since casinos came to Vicksburg 10 years ago and higher costs for construction materials have been big factors.

“The values have stayed good and sellers understandably want all that they can get for the homes,” Andress said.

The average cost of a newly built house is about $190,000, leaving older homes as the main option for more affordable housing. For first-time home buyers, such as Sean and Neysa Dispenza, who bought Robinson’s house last week, that can make finding a place difficult.

“We looked at a lot of them, but when you got inside, it wasn’t laid out like we wanted or the condition of the house was just so bad,” Sean Dispenza said.

Thad Pratt of Live Oaks Development, the group developing Tucker Crossings off Oak Ridge Road, said the biggest need in Warren County right now is housing in the $120,000 to $160,000 price range.

“Young couples just can’t afford more,” Pratt said.

But few developers are building in that price range, and Pratt said the reason is simple economics. Homes from more than $200,000 are selling as quickly as more affordable housing and there’s more profit for the builders.

Pat Daughtery, developer of the Brittany Woods subdivision off Oak Ridge Road, said another problem is State Health Department rules that require lots be at least one acre or homes must be connected to a sewer system.

Since most new homes are being constructed outside the city, where there are no public sewer systems, they must be built on larger lots if there is no sewage utility serving an area. Larger lots increase the selling price, even when homes are not as big, Daughtery said.

In the meantime, first-time home buyers like the Dispenzas, who both work in retail, are left with fewer choices.

“We still need homes that school teachers, police officers and servicemen can afford,” said Pam Beard with BrokerSouth GMAC Real Estate.