“Markets change, tastes change, so the companies and the individuals who choose to compete in those markets must change.” ~ An Wang
In my last column, I invited readers to reach out to me and “ask me anything about the Highlands, NC real estate market.” I received dozens of excellent questions! The volume of questions, as well as the thoughtful and sophisticated nature of each impressed me. After a bit of rumination, I opted to dive into this one: “Susie, can you point to the single biggest factor that impacted our real estate market recovery in Highlands?”
In order to answer this, I got out my trusty legal pad and pen and began a Mind Map. In the center, I drew a bubble on the page with the question “What Influences the Highlands-Cashiers Market?” I then began drawing bubbles around the question and filled same with things like national/international events/politics, stock markets, demographic appeal/trends, Town of Highlands Renaissance, hot(ter) summers, Highlands as a healing sanctuary, the quest for quiet and outdoor activity, cultural activities/dining/shopping, country club living/golf, world-renowned accommodations, unique/rare flora and fauna, and the pressures/congestion/traffic of elsewhere.
Quite a list, right? And how would I select the one that impacted the market recovery the most?
It then occurred to me that my Mind Map was incomplete. I had forgotten the singularly most impactful influence of all: investor psychology.
As it turns out, all of those items in the bubbles on my Mind Map are certainly important elements when deciphering our real estate market and Highlands’ exceptional appeal. But when you boil it all down and reduce everything to the underlying essence of what truly influences our real estate market, it is, in fact, all about how our investors think, feel, believe, and, therefore, act.
I remember when I learned this powerful lesson of market influence in January of 2012. It was snowy and cold, and only a handful of investors were out and about actively shopping for real estate. We would welcome folks into our office and sit down with them to determine exactly what was most important to them, and how we could be of service. One after another in that wintry month, I heard stories from investors who were not only interested in buying real estate, but were borderline rabid about doing so.
What was going on? We were in what was classically considered “off season,” and our real estate market was still stinging from the Great Recession. Why were there so many people eager to invest now?
During one conversation, I heard from a gorgeous, articulate woman what I would later refer to as the anthem of our investors: “Life is too short. There are a million reasons why we want to have a home here, but the biggest of all is that we want to enjoy our lives – NOW. We aren’t waiting any longer for conditions to be perfect. We aren’t willing to put our lives on hold ever again.”
I knew immediately to what she was referring.
When the bottom fell out of the world in the fall of 2008, investors sat on the sidelines, stunned. Deals that were under contract were cancelled. Those with appointments to buy changed their minds. Activity in the market came to a screeching halt. For 3 years, the majority of investors looked around for indications that it was a good time to buy real estate again. Some nominal signs were there (short sales and foreclosures were decreasing, and inventory was moving a bit again, for example), but there were no indications along the lines of a grand, “we are now officially out of the woods” sort.
Those people who walked into my office that winter simply had made a decision as to how they were going to live their lives. And in doing so, helped to create one of the most dramatic market recoveries I have ever witnessed. By choosing to live their best lives – now – they not only reaped the rewards of a higher quality life, but they scooped up tremendous deals and properties. They began renovating, reinvigorating the market in ever-increasing numbers.
While that first group was on the leading edge 4 years ago, their mindset and actions prove that any number of things can impact our real estate market, but nothing is more powerful than the moment of human decision and conviction. Desirous of choosing and creating lives they love, our investors shaped and continue to shape and impact how our market evolves.