The first six months of the year has been a disaster for many small businesses, but the real estate industry in the Golden Isles is not among them, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Golden Isles Association of Realtors from the period of Jan. 1-June 24, 2019, 841 residential units were sold for an average sale price of $367,074. During the same period this year, 747 residential units sold for an average sale price of $410,968.
This year’s numbers would have been higher if it wasn’t for an inventory shortage, making it difficult for some buyers to find the home they are looking for, said Allison Van der Veer, brokerage manager and sales associate with Roland Daniel Properties.
Low mortgage rates that have been falling steadily since late 2018 have also contributed to the strong real estate market in the Golden Isles.
The local market includes first-time home buyers, up-sizers, down-sizers, retirees, second-homeowners and investors, she said.
“One thing we noticed in the last several years has been the prevalence of inter-Glynn County moves,” she said. “Folks are moving from the islands to the mainland and vice-versa or they’re upsizing or downsizing as their needs change. There really wasn’t one buying group that stood out over others in our brokerage sales.”
The Golden Isles remains an attractive market, including a growing interest from buyers looking to move from big cities for breathing room, and those working from home who need more space.
“I think others who decide to work at home will come to the conclusion I have: it feels like I’ve been on ‘semi vacation’ all these years working on St. Simons Island,” said Roland Daniel. “That’s a real plus for our area.”
There are many other selling points that make living in the Golden Isles desirable for many people.
“Our beautiful setting creates a nice lifestyle, but we have to tackle other quality of life issues like traffic, walkable communities, healthcare, education, transportation and services for older people, to name a few,” Van der Veer said.
There are things that can be done to make the region even more attractive to potential home buyers.
“Keep in mind that we are in competition with other smaller communities along the Eastern seaboard and we should make an effort to positively differentiate ourselves from the pack,” she said. “This would be a great time for the local government and planning officials to get cracking on expanding our infrastructure and encouraging smart growth and re-development.”
While the market has fared relatively well under the circumstances, there’s still uncertainty about the future of home sales locally.
“The market has been very busy since the beginning of May and we’re hoping that the six-week pause that we took in March and April just extends the typical buying and selling season throughAugust and beyond,”
Van der Veer said.
Micki Carter, an associate broker with DeLoach Sotheby’s International Realty, said sales during the first six months of 2019 and 2020 are comparable.
“We were even with last year until April, then we saw a dramatic drop in May, but we have seen three times the sales in June,” she said.
She said it’s become a seller’s market in the Golden Isles because of the limited inventory, low interest rates and the desire by many to move from the big city to a slower pace of life.
“The biggest influx is people in a city situation,” she said.
Some of the buyers were visiting the Golden Isles when the pandemic erupted and they never went home. They are now Glynn County homeowners.
One of the hottest areas has been Sea Island. Last year at this time, 14 homes were sold on Sea Island. During the same period this year, Carter said 27 homes have sold and there are more in the process of closing.
Another new market is people working from home because of the pandemic. They are buying larger homes because they need office space. She believes that may be the new market in the Golden Isles.
“It’s hard to look into a crystal ball, but if projections are correct we’ll see a second wave (of COVID-19),” Carter said. “I think we’ll have a lot more people who want more room.”
Realtor Missy Neu, vice president of business development for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hodnett Cooper Real Estate, said her company, along with the entire local marketplace, is experiencing a high volume of sales in June.
“June is certainly making up for the slowdown in closings in April and May,” she said. “The residential marketplace is extremely strong right now in the Golden Isles.”
The Golden Isles Multiple Listing Service already shows that closed volume for residential sales has exceeded last year, though the number of transactions is down by 50 compared to last year at this time, a more than 4% decrease.
“We expect our June 2020 sales figures to exceed June 2019, which was a very strong month last year,” Neu said. “Year-to-date, as of today, our company’s sales volume is almost identical to last year, but expect that 2020 will surge ahead by the end of June.”
The big issue, Neu said, is the limited inventory and the right inventory.
“In the Golden Isles MLS is showing residential property inventory is down 14% compared to last year,” she said. “We are seeing desirable properties that are appropriately priced sell quickly and we are experiencing multiple offer situations on a more regular basis.”