Housing & Real Estate
A low cost of living and abundant natural amenities in Harrison County contribute to a high quality of life not often found in larger metropolitan areas. In 2014, an estimated 199,058 people called Harrison County home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Gulfport and Biloxi are the county’s seats.
Keesler Air Force Base, in Biloxi, is more than 14,000 people strong, and nearly 13,000 military retirees live in the area.
The counties’ communities give newcomers plenty of choices when selecting a home. Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s home options. The Mississippi Association of Realtors is a central source of local real estate information and services. Visit msrealtors.org to find expertise and professional services for those interested in purchasing a new home.
140 Lameuse St.
Biloxi, MS 39530
This beachfront city — the oldest on the Gulf Coast — is located on the Mississippi Sound and is home to Keesler Air Force Base. Biloxi was founded in 1699 by French explorers and named for the Native Americans who first lived there. After undergoing French, British and Spanish rule, the city joined the Mississippi Territory in 1811. Its location on the Gulf of Mexico has been the foundation for Biloxi’s economy from seafood canneries to fine waterfront hotels and casinos, spurring rapid growth for the city.
According to the Census Bureau, approximately 45,000 people reside in the city. Mean travel time to work is about 18 minutes. Median rent is $837, and the selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,323.
Biloxi’s Department of Parks and Recreation operates and maintains 51 facilities including parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, athletic fields, walking tracks, tennis and basketball courts, the Biloxi Community Center, the Biloxi Natatorium and the Donal Snyder Center.
10383 Auto Mall Parkway
D’Iberville, MS 39540
D’Iberville — the youngest city on the Mississippi Gulf Coast — incorporated as a municipality in 1988. It is on the north shore of the Back Bay of Biloxi.
In 1699, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville explored the area to attempt to secure French footholds throughout the lower Mississippi Valley, but it was the Spanish who influenced the city’s early development.
The city is a bedroom community for workers in Biloxi, Pascagoula and New Orleans. Retail development has exploded to keep up with D’Iberville’s growth. According to the Census Bureau, approximately 10,400 people reside in the city. Mean travel time to work is about 18 minutes. Median rent is $1,015, and the selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,064.
D’Iberville is home to parks, a recreation center and sports leagues. Visit the city’s website for more information on their parks and recreation department.
2309 15th St.
Gulfport, MS 39502
Mississippi’s second-largest city was founded in 1887 by Captains W.H. Hardy and Joseph T. Jones who saw potential for a great seaport with Gulfport’s natural harbor and temperate climate. While the city did grow to indeed become a strategic hub for transportation and business for the Mississippi Gulf Coast as well as the state, it also offers residents plenty of recreational amenities.
According to the Census Bureau, approximately 71,000 people reside in the city. Mean travel time to work is 21 minutes. Median rent is $848, and the selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,174.
Gulfport’s Department of Leisure Services provides residents with 38 ball fields, 31 parks, seven walking tracks, five tennis courts, three gyms, fishing piers and municipal boat ramps and jetties, fitness centers, a senior center and a pool. The city also offers youth athletic leagues and after-school and summer programs.
201 Jeff Davis Ave.
Long Beach, MS 39560
Located between Pass Christian and Gulfport, the small city of Long Beach welcomes newcomers and tourists as the “Friendly City.”
The city — named for its wide, sloping beach — was originally settled in 1788. Today it is a popular residential community that enjoys strong neighborhoods and an impressive school system. Long Beach is attractive not only to those who work in nearby Gulfport and Biloxi but also to senior citizens who have made it a retirement destination as well.
According to the Census Bureau, more than 15,000 people reside in the city. Mean travel time to work is about 20 minutes. Median rent is $1,040, and the selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,337.
Long Beach’s Parks and Recreation Department provides residents with sports leagues throughout the year, as well as other recreational amenities. A senior center is also available.
200 W. Scenic Drive
Pass Christian, MS 39571
This resort community offers residents a quiet escape from city life. Pass Christian — named for a deep-water pass in the Mississippi
Sound — was discovered shortly after the first French colony was established in Biloxi by French-Canadian explorers in 1699.
Today Pass Christian — known as the birthplace of yachting in the South — boasts a harbor with large offshore oyster reefs, art galleries and boutiques.
According to the Census Bureau, approximately 5,100 people reside in the city. Mean travel time to work is about 27 minutes. Median rent is $836, and the selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,501.
Pass Christian is home to a number of parks as well as tennis courts, a baseball field and playgrounds. Sports and recreation programs include football, cheerleading and tennis.
Planning Your Move
Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or across the nation, preparation and organization can make all the difference. First, decide whether to use a professional moving company or make it a do-it-yourself (DIY) operation.
For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs to rent the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your new residence.
Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes as possible from professional movers, as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs for each type of move, factoring in the stress and physical exertion involved. Ask any company you are interested in for references and use them to inquire about reliability and customer service.
Regardless of which method you choose, the first step should be to inventory your personal belongings. The list, with photographs of any valuables, will be important for both insurance purposes and to help keep you organized during transit.
Plan for one full day to pack each room — though the kitchen and garage may take longer. Make a rough estimate of your packing schedule and then add 50 percent more time. It always takes longer than predicted to pack. Toss or donate unused items to lighten your load. Visit Goodwill,The Salvation Armyor www.clothingdonations.org for locations near you or to arrange a pickup.
Pack for success:
- Consider what you’re packing and control box weight. Books should go in small boxes while bedding can easily fill a larger box.
- Wrap fragile items with cardboard dividers, tissue paper or air bubble wrapping.
- Use bright colors when wrapping small items so they don’t get thrown out accidentally.
- Use crumpled paper or newspaper to line the top and bottom of boxes.
- Tape a copy of your inventory list to boxes to identify what’s inside and where it should go.
Buying Versus Renting
The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term emotional and financial commitment with various pluses and minuses attached. Advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits. Disadvantages include upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property value.
Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice.
Before determining your best option, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.
Finding an Apartment
Find local apartments listed in chamber of commerce membership directories, local newspaper classifieds, online or through referrals from family or friends. The Mississippi Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division handles complaints about landlord and tenant relationships. Download a copy of the state’s Landlord-Tenant Act at www.ago.state.ms.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Landlord-Tenant-Act.pdf.
Be prepared when you meet with the leasing agent, property manager or owner. Bring a list of what you are looking for in a rental; it is important to be clear about your needs and to get all of your questions answered. You will also need to provide information and verification about your job, your income and your past rental history. Dress to make a good impression and treat the meeting as though it is a job interview — be polite and arrive on time.
Before you decide to rent, inspect the apartment with the landlord. Look for the following problems:
- Cracks, holes or damage in the floor, walls or ceiling.
- Signs of leaking water, leaky fixtures or water damage.
- Any signs of mold or pests.
- Lack of hot water.
- Inadequate heating or air conditioning.
Use a written checklist with the landlord to document the condition of the rental before you move in, and keep a copy of the completed checklist to use when you move out.
Buying a Home
Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.
Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible homeowner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. Overall, loan rules became more stringent in 2014, but according to www.ginniemae.gov (Government National Mortgage Association) andwww.homebuyinginstitute.com (the Homebuying Institute) loan programs still vary on the percentage of your income that can be used for housing-related expenses. Lenders use a two-part debt-to-income ratio to decide if an applicant will be able to repay a loan. The front-end ratio calculates housing expenses versus income, and the back-end ratio calculates all debt as a percentage of income. Most conventional loans allow 28 percent front-end debt and 36 percent back-end debt, with the Federal Housing Administration at 31/43 and Veterans Affairs at 41 percent combined.
Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fit for your financial situation and discuss your options with a lending professional. Lenders are diverse today, and not all homebuyers obtain their mortgage loans through their banks and credit unions. For example, you may choose to work with an Internet lender, a mortgage broker, a homebuilder or a real estate agency lender. To determine which lender is best for you, get recommendations from friends and family members and check credentials as well as Better Business Bureau ratings.
A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan. For any home loan application, the mortgage company will order a credit report, so it may be good to get a free report in advance to determine your credit status and make sure the report contains no erroneous information.
To order your free annual report from one or all of the national consumer reporting companies, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call toll free 877-322-8228, or download and complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348. For more information, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans.
Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan are invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins.
First, determine your home preferences. Does a single-family house, condo, town house or duplex best fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. How many bedrooms and bathrooms would you like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or in the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.
The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. First, interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your homebuying and neighborhood preferences, and are readily accessible.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Mississippi provides housing programs and incentives to help residents with home ownership. For more information, visit http://portal.hud.gov and select Mississippi from the “State Info” drop-down menu.