The People of America

AMY WOOD

Pass Christian, MS-

Despite what some consider to be serious obstacles, Amy Wood is still selling houses in Pass Christian, Mississippi and elsewhere along the gulf coast.

Since Hurricane Katrina ripped through the area in 2005 FEMA has made it difficult to build houses. The first floor of all buildings must be 19 feet or more above sea level. While some property along the Gulf Coast naturally meet that standard, others  who buy land must build their homes on stilts.

That has long been the practice in such places as Nags Head, North Carolina, which is built on Atlantic Ocean dunes. But it wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina slammed into this small town and ripped it apart that the rules began being enforced here. Building on posts or pilings drive up the cost of a house or commercial enterprise.

Add to that the fact the insurance companies took a beating in 2005 and therefore jacked up their rates. That makes some people who would love to live on the Gulf Coast have second thoughts. In parts of Mississippi one can buy insurance on your homes for $1,500 or less, depending on it value. Here one can pay $3,000 to $7,000 for a similar property, Wood says.

“We have had customers with their financing in place , but then the couldn’t buy because of the insurance costs.”

It has been suggested the most valuable (or most costly) homes in Mississippi can be found in Pass Christian.

Just west of town a large condo was destroyed. A contractor started to rebuild it, but now it remains an eyesore, a rusting steel skeleton. It isn’t clear if the individual owners of the condos took a financial beating. But that is possible.

Because of Pass Christian’s part of a 21 mile long beautiful beach, and the bath-water temperatures of the Gulf in the summer, plus the delightful breezes, some people just can’t stay away. There are those who buy or build here because they want a second home near the water. Some of those folks come from New Orleans. Some from other parts of Mississippi.

The day I visited Amy Wood’s office her husband was on the way to the bank with two escrow checks. And while I waited to take her picture for this blog I heard her talking about the city to a caller. Amy is more than a salesperson. She is a true believer. Her husband now works with her.

Wood’s current listing range in price from $85,000 to more than $2 million, she says, depending on the location. The typical middle class three or four bedroom, two bath home, within walking distance of the beach, but without the Gulf view may sell for $200,000 to $250,000. If the property had water damage during the big storm it has been renovated and upgraded.

Some people commute to work in Gulf Port (population 71,000) or Biloxi (population 45,000) from Pass Christian.
Wood has lived along the coast for 35 years, the last 20 in her husband’s home town of Pass Christian. (You need to be a native to pronounce the city’s name the way the locals do).

Her husband and their older son remained at home when the storm hit. She and her younger son left for higher ground a day ahead of time. The family was confident their house could withstand the threat and it did. But much of the rest of the community, including the schools, city hall and other seemingly solid buildings were wiped out and had to be replaced or rebuilt.

She makes Pass Christian sound as if it were the ideal home town for anyone and everyone.

2 Comments

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