NEW ORLEANS - An abandoned Uptown school is being transformed into luxury condos, set to open next month. Developers say all 12 units of the old LaSalle Elementary quickly sold, even before they were listed.
Tyler Thompson snagged the last one.
“We went through every house in the block,” said Thompson. “It took us two years to find the right thing.”
Thompson, a movie producer, moved to New Orleans two years ago and opted to move Uptown because he feels safe there.
Real estate experts note that the growing movie industry in New Orleans is giving the housing industry a boost. They say one of the hottest housing markets is the Uptown area, and they say homes move fast.
“There's a new phenomenon where places are being snapped up before they get on the market,” said Christopher Calott, director of Tulane University’s Sustainable Real Estate Program.
“This is almost insanity what we're seeing now,” said David Bordelon, a real estate agent with Latter & Blum.
Indeed, homes in New Orleans sold for 11.8 percent more in February of 2013 than the year before on average, according to the Metropolitan Association of Realtors. There was a 9 percent jump in the number of homes sold city-wide.
Home sales brought in more than $1 billion in 2013. Sales were just under $1 billion in 2012.
Experts say many neighborhoods throughout the city are experiencing an increase in home sales and renovations.
“I don't think the Marigny is a surprise to anyone at this point. That place has been smoking and roaring out for some time, and then you have fallout where the Bywater is next and so are the St. Roch and St. Claude areas,” said Calott, noting that home buyers priced out of neighborhoods with rising home prices naturally gravitate toward the edges of other, more affordable neighborhoods.
Homeowners like Jesse St. Croix said the Bywater is transforming before their eyes.
“All over the neighborhood you see dumpsters where people are bringing out blighted houses, they're redoing the houses, people are moving in the whole neighborhood has made a huge difference in the five years since we've been here,” said St. Croix.
According to Calott, “urban pioneer buyers” are coming into areas that haven’t seen much growth in years.
“You have a lot of younger couples, moving from other cities, they want something they can afford,” said Calott.
“Traditionally the areas that were not hot and in demand, now you're seeing investors buying up properties, renovating them, and buyers looking in those areas,” said Bordelon.
According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2012, 8 percent of the city's population moved to New Orleans within the last year.
“The great worry is this term gentrification, local residents feeling our property taxes are going to go up and it's going to price us out,” said Calott. “And some of that does happen, but you know, when neighborhoods are kind of reinvested in, all boats do rise with the tide, their home values go up as well.”
Of course, some neighborhoods are coming back more slowly post-Katrina. But experts say, the city overall seeing a healthier movement in home values and sales than it has in years.