COVID sends Charlotteans toward beach, mountain real estate

Noble Horvath

About 20-30% of the Silver Creek Real Estate Group’s sales in the Western North Carolina mountains have been COVID-driven. Courtesy of Silver Creek Real Estate Mask, sanitize, sit at home dreaming of missed beach vacations and mountain getaways, repeat. COVID has really cramped the summer vacation style of many Charlotteans. […]

About 20-30% of the Silver Creek Real Estate Group’s sales in the Western North Carolina mountains have been COVID-driven.

About 20-30% of the Silver Creek Real Estate Group’s sales in the Western North Carolina mountains have been COVID-driven.

Mask, sanitize, sit at home dreaming of missed beach vacations and mountain getaways, repeat. COVID has really cramped the summer vacation style of many Charlotteans.

But what if “home” wasn’t the same four walls you’ve been staring at for the past five months?

Stories of COVID-driven second home purchases have been making headlines, particularly in the northeast, but the North and South Carolina vacation home market is booming as well.

Kiawah Island Club & Real Estate reported a whopping 633% increase in contracts and a 1,400% increase in volume in July 2020 over July 2019. More than $100 million worth of properties sold in The Cliffs mountain and lake communities from May 1- Aug. 1.

And Silver Creek Real Estate Group’s sales in the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau hit $624 million in July — up from $436 million during the same period in 2019.

28 Longwing Drive is one of only 429 homes currently on the market in the Highlands-Cashier Plateau. Photo courtesy of Silver Creek Real Estate Group. .jpg
28 Longwing Drive is one of only 429 homes currently on the market in the Highlands-Cashier Plateau. Photo courtesy of Silver Creek Real Estate Group

These are just some of the staggering numbers being reported from beach, mountain and lake communities in North and South Carolina as residents seek a close-by getaway that doesn’t require travel by plane and allows them to have an alternative space to work and go to school remotely.

A three hour and a half hour drive from Charlotte, Kiawah Island is regularly ranked in “best of” lists like Travel + Leisure’s Top 15 Islands in the Continental U.S. So it is no surprise that about 14% of Kiawah Island Club & Real Estate’s May 1- July 31 sales were from Charlotte area residents.

Home sales on Kiawah Island, SC, were up 700_ in July 2020 compared to July 2019. Photo courtesy of Kiawah Island Club _ Real Estate_.jpg
Home sales on Kiawah Island, SC, were up 700% in July 2020, compared to July 2019. Courtesy of Kiawah Island Club & Real Estate

Ditching renovation plans

Myers Park residents Maggie and Kevin Tapp are among those buyers. The couple and their two children were getting ready to start some home renovations when COVID hit.

“We were literally about to tear down walls, but decided to halt that project and shift focus to a place where we can get away,” Maggie Tapp said. “I fully expect that some, if not all four of us, will work remotely from the beach over the next year. We would much rather invest in memories together at the beach.”

Kiawah Island, SC, is an ideal second home location with the island ranking in Travel + Leisure_s Top 15 Islands in the Continental U.S. Photo courtesy of Kiawah Island Club _ Real Estate_.jpg
Kiawah Island, SC, is an ideal second home location, with the island ranking in Travel + Leisure’s Top 15 Islands in the Continental U.S. Courtesy of Kiawah Island Club & Real Estate

The Tapps are not alone in this thinking. Total inventory in Kiawah as of Aug. 1 was at 341 properties — the lowest ever recorded.

“Q1 and Q2 of 2020 resulted in the best first six months of the year since 2007 for Kiawah Island Real Estate. Kiawah has always seen the benefit of its drivability from all major metro areas on the East Coast, however the onset of COVID-19 increased sales from those markets beyond expectation,” said Dan Whalen, president of Kiawah Island Club & Real Estate. “We are very pleased to see that our sales numbers continue to climb, following what was our strongest first half of the year in more than 13 years.”

COVID accelerated the Gomez family’s purchase of a vacation home in Keowee Springs, SC. Photo courtesy of The Cliffs..jpg
COVID accelerated the Gomez family’s purchase of a vacation home in Keowee Springs, SC Courtesy of The Cliffs

Eastover residents Jorge and Claudia Gomez had been contemplating purchasing a second home that was within driving distance of Charlotte, but COVID accelerated their plan. The couple was in search of a getaway location where they could meet and interact with other residents and their daughters could enjoy lake and water activities. The family ultimately selected a home in Keowee Springs, South Carolina.

Keowee Springs is part of The Cliffs, a collection of seven private luxury residential mountain and lake communities in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North and South Carolina. “A major attraction was that as residents of Keowee Springs, we could utilize all of the facilities at the other Cliffs communities,” the Gomezes said. “From our home in Keowee Springs, it is a quick drive to the mountains, which is another reason we selected the location.” The Cliffs is on track to see a 137.5% year-over-year increase in total sales volume from the same period last year.

Jorge and Claudia Gomez sought a lake home that would provide their daughters with water activities. Photo courtesy of The Cliffs..jpg
Jorge and Claudia Gomez sought out a lake home that would provide their daughters with water activities. Courtesy of The Cliffs

Another community experiencing a serious boom is the Western North Carolina mountain towns of Cashiers, Highlands, Sapphire Valley, Lake Glenville, Lake Toxaway and Bear Lake.

“Right now we are down to about 429 homes on the market, which is less than half of normal inventory levels,” said Jochen Lucke, president and broker at Silver Creek Real Estate Group, which represents these areas.

The Cliffs offers residents access to seven private luxury mountain and lake communities in the Blue Ridge Mountain. Photo courtesy of The Cliffs. .png
The Cliffs offers residents access to seven private luxury mountain and lake communities in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Courtesy of The Cliffs

“Homes are moving so quickly that I had a family coming in from Georgia this week and set up eight showings, and now it’s down to four as the others have gone under contract. Another couple put in an offer on a house that had been on the market for more than two years, an hour later the sellers had another offer and took it. Properties are selling in hours and days. It’s unlike anything I have ever seen.”

Lucke said that 20-30% of his firm’s sales have been driven by COVID — both relocation opportunities and a desire for a second home.

According to a report released just this week from rental management company Vacasa, two North Carolina locations made the national list of 2020 Top 25 Best Places to Buy a Vacation Home — Cape Hatteras (No. 2) and Corolla (No. 6), both in the Outer Banks. A recent article in the Charlotte Ledger noted that in early August, the Outer Banks had 930 homes under contract — more than double its typical number of 425 homes under contract.

Vacasa Vice President of Sales and Marketing Shaun Greer said in a release announcing the list, “Many buyers believe we will be impacted by COVID-19 for the next 12 to 18 months, and are seeking a place close to home where they can get away with their families, work remotely if needed, and generate income when the home is not in use.”

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Laurie Larsh is a freelance writer and travel junkie with an affinity for sunglasses, coffee and all things Tarheels. Relentless curiosity about people and places keep her wondering and wandering near and far and writing stories about it. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram @goexplauring or her website wwww.goexplauring.com.

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