New Orleans Residents Turn to Baton Rouge Real Estate

New Orleans residents able to afford new homes are turning Baton Rouge into a real estate boomtown. Realtor Ruthie Golden says nearly all the sales have been full cash offers. NPR's Renee Montagne reports.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Those fleeing Hurricane Katrina have swelled the population of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and New Orleans residents able to afford homes have turned Baton Rouge into a real estate boom town over the last 96 hours. Realtor Ruthie Golden has seen nothing like this in the 10 years she's been selling homes.

Ms. RUTHIE GOLDEN (Realtor): Since Thursday, we've sold approximately 42 homes.

MONTAGNE: Before Katrina, 42 homes would have been Golden's average sale for the year. Virtually all of the sales have been full cash offers, also not the norm in Golden's work.

Ms. GOLDEN: We've been getting market value. We've not had any significant rises in prices. When we do get something that's over the market, it's because two or three buyers are fighting for the same house, not that the seller was asking some extravagant price.

MONTAGNE: And where houses would normally stay on the market 30 and 90 days, these houses are lasting...

Ms. GOLDEN: ...30 to 90 minutes. My inventory is dwindling by the hour. I represent the sellers, and so I'm not sure if the buyers are having that opportunity to visually inspect these, but I know for sure that several have not. They're trusting their realtors to do this for them because they are in desperate need.

MONTAGNE: Realtors use what they call a hot sheet, a listing of homes that have been put on the market in the last 24 hours. Ruthie Golden has had a hard time keeping up with the hot market.

Ms. GOLDEN: I can't even go back 48, 72 hours. I can't go back because I have a feeling most of that is sold. Every time I make a phone call, it's pending. Every time. So we've quit calling. We quit going to the computer, except for that day's hot sheet.

MONTAGNE: When there's a boom, money is made. Ruthie Golden doesn't deny that, but she says this is more than just about sales.

Ms. GOLDEN: You cry for a little while and you put your happy realtor face on and you get back out there and try to house a few more people and try to get some more families together, and it's not been easy. You know, I don't think money--none of us have counted how much we've made. Hopefully, every single one of us will give back through Red Cross or some type of donation. We need to give back. That's the bottom line, but we're not sitting around here counting. We're too busy trying to get people from crying in our offices, and it's a new day here. It's different. It's very different.

MONTAGNE: Ruthie Golden is a residential realtor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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