Over the last fifteen years, I have seen a wide variety of real estate market conditions in the Highlands-Cashiers area. There have been pre- and post-9/11 markets, booming markets, turning markets, a crashed market, and a recovering market. And now as we enter the second month of 2015, I believe we are entering yet another market phase that is comprised of compelling characteristics every Buyer and Seller will want to fully understand.
So let’s jump in!
The changing of season parameters. Over the last several years, it has been fascinating to watch how the classic “season” has shifted from hard starts and stops, to a much more nebulous time frame. For example, when I was growing up, the season in Highlands began in mid-May and ended on Halloween. Period. Only a handful of people would be here during the holiday months, and certainly only full-time residents were in Highlands over the winter. In fact, town was so deserted, that we would sled down Main Street!
Over the years, the season has lengthened to the point where we are now: while there are slower times of the year, certainly, the “shoulder season” months have become “season.” Now, “off season” months (like January and February) look more like classic “shoulder season” months used to look. That is, we can have as many visitors and activity in town on Thursdays – Mondays in the winter, as we do in September!
How does this impact the real estate market? Classic “rules” about when to launch a listing, temporarily take it off market, and strategies around market positioning and advertising have changed. While I would still advocate that launching in spring is ideal for capturing the best art and energy of the upswing of the market, I no longer believe winter is not a great time to launch. I have launched several listings over the last several weeks and am seeing strong agent and investor activity at each. This would not have been the case a couple of years ago.
Hot market segments will see inventory shortages (even before summer). What? Isn’t the market too inventory heavy? Yes and no. While, yes, we have no shortage of properties on the market, we actually have a dearth of properties that I would categorize as being in the hot zone: true walk-to-town properties (at any price point and condition), fully renovated/new homes (especially those in the $650,000 price point and under), well-priced luxury properties ($1M+) in choice neighborhoods/areas, and a combination of the above property types that would also serve exceedingly well as a rental property.
Sellers, if you have a property fitting these criteria, and you are interested in selling now, congratulations! If your property does not fit this set of criteria, don’t despair – there are ways to improve greatly how to garner more attention for your property. Seek guidance from your real estate agent as to how to accomplish this.
Rental demand will continue to be strong and will increase. I will admit I have thought on a number of times that we were edging toward market saturation with regard to vacation rentals. As is the case in many areas of business and life, where energy flows, the pie expands, rather than shrinks. That is, as Highlands becomes even more popular and known throughout the southeast and beyond, we are attracting visitors in record numbers.
Visitors are enjoying our first-class inns, hotels, B & Bs, and vacation rentals in droves. We will continue to see an upswing in this trend, especially with 3-night stays and weekly rentals. Investors take note: if you are looking for a great property to enjoy yourself that will also work for you financially, select a property in the “hot zone” that will be an attractive and sought-after rental.
Increased activity in luxury price points. This trend began in 2013 and continued through 2014; I predict this segment will enjoy significant activity and sales this year. I have repeat investors who are eyeing this market, specifically for the purpose of adding to their portfolios. They are reporting to me that they see now as the perfect window to invest again (via 1031 tax-deferred exchanges and cash transactions) and diversify their real estate holdings. One caveat for luxury property Sellers: this does not mean that investors will ignore out-of-line pricing. Please remember the level of sophistication of our Buyers; they know our market inside and out and will simply opt to ignore over-priced listings. Ask your agent for an updated CMA to ensure you are positioned correctly.
Now is such a great time to be in real estate in the Highlands-Cashiers market. There is always something new on the horizon (whether it be new tools, technology, leveraging possibilities, and/or ways to reach desired audiences), and the market itself is ever changing. It is a dynamic, living, breathing entity that continues to fascinate. Whether you are a Buyer or Seller, taking the time to fully understand the trends and characteristics of this market will prove to be thoroughly enjoyable as well as profitable.