During a normal year, real estate sales slow down during the winter months and steadily increase through the spring and into the summer.
Last year was not a typical one, with the COVID-19 pandemic driving up demand for property in the Golden Isles. Many of the home buyers were fleeing from large metropolitan areas, opting for the slower pace, open spaces, and all the other features that have attracted visitors for years.
Michael Harris, a Realtor with the Michael Harris Team, said real estate has been “on fire” in the Golden Isles since the pandemic.
“Between the mortgage rates being low and people realizing they can work from home, they are starting to move to the Southeast,” he said. “We have seen more buyers from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and the surrounding areas. This started last year and continuing this year compared to years prior.”
Many Fortune 500 companies still have mandatory work-at-home policies, which is helping to drive sales.
“Companies are starting to realize that their employees are more productive working at home, costing the company less money,” Harris said. “People are generally more productive without the commute and office distractions.”
What companies have learned is employees are more productive working from home, and companies are happier since their expenses are minimal.
“With this said, people could now basically live anywhere and continue the same job,” he said.
Another factor helping with sales is people living in some metropolitan areas feel trapped with COVID restrictions.
“My non-Southern friends would joke with me and say, ‘there is no pandemic in The Golden Isles.’ This is coming from people from New York City, Washington, and Michigan, where they just started lifting restrictions. Our restaurants and bars really never closed.”
The inventory of homes on the market is also driven by sellers, especially the elderly, choosing to hold off putting their homes on the market.
“They don’t want people in their houses,” he said. “I have been creative by marketing homes with virtual tours and detailed descriptions and packages where people could make a decision remotely and try not to disturb the seller.”
Now that a growing number of people are getting their COVID-19 vaccinations, there may be more people putting their homes on the market.
“Really nothing has been normal since the COVID with real estate transactions,” Harris said. “Between spring break with people traveling here for vacation, and since a lot of retirees and folks have received the COVID vaccine, they’re starting to come to the Golden Isles for vacation and starting to look at properties.”
Realtor Cynthia Brown, a million dollar producer for Signature Properties Group, said the market was busy before COVID. Then in late January 2020, just as the pandemic starting generating concerns nationwide, people in large metropolitan areas began looking for places to live that weren’t so crowded.
“I do not think we have seen a lull in sales,” she said. “So many buyers who were ready last year had to put homeownership on hold. Now, as fast as homes come on the market they are going under contract.”
There was a slight slowdown during the Christmas holiday season but there continues to be strong interest in homes in the Golden Isles.
“The demand for homes continues to be high, as lots of homeowners pulled their home from the market when COVID hit and decided not to sell, therefore making inventory scarce,” she said. “Inventory was low, thus throwing us into a seller’s market.”
The market has been busy since January and it’s uncertain when real estate sales will return to the normal historic pattern.
“I do not think we are back to normal, as homes are being listed and going under contract within hours, and even more than list price,” Brown said. “We are seeing an unusual number of multiple offers which we were not seeing prior to COVID to the degree we are seeing now.”