NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Housing. It's more than about a roof over one's head.
In terms of the economy, the local real estate market has a lot of eyes on it, and on Friday hundreds gathered at the University of New Orleans an economic outlook and real estate forecast seminar.
"Very positive," said Richard Haase, president of Latter and Blum, talking about the overall housing outlook.
But the hit Louisiana's oil industry has taken could be a drag on momentum.
"If the oil industry continues to have their woes in the Greater New Orleans market, it will eventually affect us," Haase said.
It's a mixed bag in terms of a buyer's versus seller's market.
"It's really the tale of two cities. In some markets it's very much a seller's market with a shortage of inventory," said Haase.
A number of areas fall into that category here.
"You have Garden District, Uptown, West St. Tammany, Lakefront, Mid City - all under-supplied in terms of housing. In some of the other markets - East New Orleans, Chalmette, Central City - still having some challenges there," Haase said. "The River Parishes, the outlying areas, are still in a more balanced-to-a-buyer's market."
Jefferson, he said, remains strong.
The highest property values have taken up residence in the city of New Orleans, and a slice of suburbia.
"Those bellweather markets are the Garden District, Uptown, Lakefront, Mid City and West St. Tammany," said Haase.
We asked Haase what prospective home buyers should expect to pay.
"The median price in all of Greater New Orleans is $175,000, but in the Garden and Uptown markets, we're having a hard time finding properties under a half a million dollars," he said.
And turning to rent, the most expensive apartment market in the area is what realtors call the historic center.
"Which would be the downtown properties, Warehouse District. Those are very dense structures. The land is very expensive, so as a result, you have to build up, need elevators and what not, so that is the most expensive rents in the metro market," said Larry Schedler of Larry G. Schedler & Associates.
He also said rent varies in the suburbs.
"Most expensive suburban market is going to be the North Shore, West St. Tammany, East St. Tammany - there again, newer properties," Schedler stated.
He said average rent is $1,185 a month, but downtown it could be as high as $1,500 a month.
However, in suburbia, a one-bedroom apartment could fall in the $700 to $800 range, depending on the age of the unit. But in terms of buying versus renting, renting seems to be winning.
"I think more so than any, not just in metro New Orleans, but across the country, home ownership is at its absolute lowest than it's ever been. More and more people are opting to rent," said Schedler.
Some experts believe the total number of rental units in New Orleans could be 250,000 to 300,000 in the New Orleans area.