DOUGLAS — With interest rates at historic lows, homes are taking on new meaning. As a result, Douglas has seen its share of housing sales and rentals increase as well as building permits for new homes.

“The housing market in Douglas over the past year has definitely been a seller's market,” said Michael Gutierrez, head real estate agent for the Douglas Realty Group located on 10th Street. “There are very few homes on the market compared to past years. We were used to seeing 80 to 100 homes on the market at any given time. Today we are in the 30-to-40 range of residential properties on the market. In addition, the average days on the market in the past was around four to five months. This past year we saw that number drop to just over two months.”

Angelica Garcia of Long Realty on G Avenue added the record-low interest rates make owning a home possible and affordable, adding “homes in good condition, properly priced, are selling quickly.”

Gutierrez, Garcia, and another Douglas agent, Ray Novoa of Novoa Realty, say their home sales are up this year compared to previous years.

The three agents have a combined 65 years of realtor experience. Garcia has been in real estate for 30 years, Gutierrez 20, and Novoa 15.

“When comparing 2020 to 2019, sales volume is significantly higher,” Gutierrez stated. “In 2020 there were 129 residential properties sold through the multiple listing service as compared to 90 in 2019.”

According to the agents the average cost of a home in the area is about $120,000-$130,000, compared to $87,000 in 2019. One of the homes currently on the market was completely remodeled and is listed at $299,999.

“This year we had numerous sales over $200,000,” Garcia exclaimed. “Single family homes are the ones most purchased.”

“This past year has been one of the best in my 20 years as a realtor,” Gutierrez added. “I think there has been a definite shift in the interest of our community and we are seeing an influx of new residents moving to Douglas from many different parts of the country.”

Novoa stated he has been “non-stop and constantly busy. It has been a wide range of cash buyers to people financing homes.”

According to Garcia, this year has been an opportunity to adapt to changing times.

“Everyone had to embrace technology in many ways,” she said. “Shifting from physical to virtual was a need, not an option. We didn’t have any open houses or gatherings. Showings were brief and occupied homes were entered with masks and gloves.”

All three add that rentals are up this year due mainly to the work crews building the wall along the U.S./Mexico border. Those who have been unable to find places for rent have occupied RV spaces at the Cochise County Fairgrounds, the Douglas Golf Course as well as several other RV lots around town.

Novoa estimated the monthly rent for a two- to three-bedroom home runs between $1,200-$1,500 per month.

Gutierrez, on the other hand, stated, “There are many factors that go into the price of a rental other than the bedroom count, but a typical two- to three-bedroom home can rent for around $700 to $1,000 a month.”

He added the highlight of 2020 for him has been seeing the number of people discovering Douglas for the first time grow from not only individual residents but investors as well.

“I feel like the community as a whole has turned a corner and I expect more positive developments going forward, especially as we recover from the pandemic and hopefully see life returning to some normalcy,” he said.

“I’m grateful to say that because we ‘provide shelter,’ Garcia stated. “Realtors have been categorized as ‘essential’ during this pandemic. We adjusted to be able to continue to work throughout, taking numerous precautions, and we’ve made it work. One special highlight was that we were able to help a special veteran and his family find a new home. The seller was very kind and wanted to let him know in every way that he was proud of him representing us overseas and thankful for his service. Everyone involved in this transaction made it special.”

Home construction numbers also up

Officials with the city of Douglas reported that 10 new-home construction permits were taken out in 2020, up four from the year before and seven from 2015 and 2016.

One new commercial building permit was taken out last year and that was for American Southwest Credit Union located at 11th and San Antonio.

According to Luis Pedroza, Douglas’ interim city manager and city treasurer, Douglas’ economic situation is currently “stable.”

“We have received numbers through November 2020 and we have had a surprising outcome through the pandemic,” he said. “Before the start of the pandemic, our sales tax revenue for the first quarter (January.-March 2020) was up 14% over last year; the pandemic hit around mid-March and for the second quarter, which is April-June, our sales tax fell but was still up 3% over last year. The third quarter (July–Sept) our sales tax was up again by 15%. For the period of October through November our sales tax is up 23% compared to last year.”