Realtors confident in Oklahoma City economy

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Gas prices may be dropping, oil companies may be shedding jobs, but business is booming for realtor Joy Baresel and the Verbode Group.

"There's such a revival in downtown Oklahoma City now with the Thunder, you have the Olympic river training center that's developing there, we have a nationally-recognized food scene," said Baresel. "We are more diverse now as a state, more than we have ever been before."

The result, Baresel says, is high demand for housing, from people who aren't just moving to Oklahoma City for the oil industry anymore.

"A lot of people I talk to are really excited to be in the urban core," she said, standing in a home in the Mesta Park neighborhood that sold within hours of its listing.

An open house drew more than 100 people, she said, excited at the prospect of getting trendy, modern features for less.

"Compared to other cities it's much more affordable," she said. "They're just astonished at what you can get."

Oil is still a significant part of Oklahoma City's well-being, said economist Russell Evans, but it's not as critical as it is to the rest of the state.

Evans told a special meeting of the Oklahoma City Council this week that the state's capital did better than other cities in 2015, in part because of its diversity.

"Oklahoma City is not a pure oil and gas city," he said. "The real pain from the oil and gas industry was felt out in the oil fields, where a lack of rigs and lack of oil activity meant a lack of dining and hotel rooms and really spilled over into the rural economy."

That's not to say things couldn't change in Oklahoma City, Evans said. He estimates the next 6-9 months will be a real test for OKC.

"There's a lot of anxiety heading into 2016," he said. "If everything stayed the same, Oklahoma City would eke out a slightly positive year but it wouldn't take much to throw that forecast off and bring in much more acute economic pain than we've felt so far."

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