Crawford Realty Group
Broker Stephen Crawford foresees continued growth on the Mississippi coast, driven by beautiful scenery, affordable living, a relaxed lifestyle and the area's most important asset of all - its people.
- by Ellis Anderson
“The Mississippi coast, and Bay St. Louis in particular, is getting a lot of exposure – locally, regionally and nationally,” Crawford says. “There’s a housing shortage nationally. And every day, over the next 14 years, 10,000 Baby Boomers will be retiring.”
The broker, who holds degrees from Ole Miss in both Marketing and Business Management, has also been watching the number of snowbirds swell each year, as they flock to the coast to avoid harsh winters.
“People tend to gravitate to coastal areas and warmer weather when they retire,” he says. “We [on the Mississippi coast] quite possibly have some of the most affordable waterfront real estate in the country, and our cost of living remains low.”
Crawford’s real estate focus remains on family living and waterfront property, and accordingly, he’s turning his focus to quality retirement housing. As members of the older generation are downsizing and relocating to be closer to family, Crawford believes that housing for elders should be a priority. He says he’s working with developers now to explore smarter cottage concepts that offer “all the things we love about the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
It’s easy for Crawford to name the many attributes of the coast – its historic neighborhoods, the many waterways, the outdoor recreation, the lush landscapes, most of all the people. In towns with easy-going, family-friendly social scenes, he believes this is the primary draw.
“It’s the undercurrent of the goodness of the people in this community that makes this place wonderful. That is our biggest asset,” he says.
“We live in a very fast paced world. Being here gives people a chance to take a deep breath, take time out. It’s a chance to reset your moral compass. Small town wholesomeness like we have here can’t be found – or replicated.”
Crawford also sees a return of urban residents from New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Jackson seeking second homes in the Bay area. The long drive times and escalating property values in Alabama and Florida have weekenders taking a second look at the Mississippi coast. “They can drive an hour or so and be in a place where the residents embrace them with open arms.”
Crawford compares the Mississippi coast to a textbook, with the attractive “covers” of Ocean Springs on one side and Pass Christian/Bay St. Louis/Waveland on the other. Those seeking places to relocate to or to visit are attracted by the lively and approachable arts communities, the historic districts, the natural scenery and the open attitudes of residents.
According to Crawford, the challenge that lies ahead for the city of Bay St. Louis is to handle the inevitable growth and “safeguard what we have.” Balance and thoughtful planning are the keys.
“It’s difficult for any small community to grow and to protect its virtues,” Crawford says. “People care about Bay St. Louis and want the city to experience positive growth in a responsible manner.
“In a time when everything is so vanilla, it’s not about getting a Starbucks on every corner, or a strip mall that looks like every other one in the country. We want to protect what we cherish here. The answer is to embrace what we have so that it keeps its charm and its culture.”
Crawford knows those charms well. He grew up between New Orleans and the coast, creating prized family memories in the process. He and his wife Laura Gleason Crawford decided to raise their own children on the coast, taking advantage of its family-friendly - and environmentally rich - surroundings.
“Residents of the coast don’t take things for granted,” Crawford says. “There are so many ways to celebrate the life we live here.”