Real Estate Market Trends
Market forces emerging and reshaping sales of the diverse real estate in our area
By Ray Linville
The real estate market in the Sandhills seems to be as hot as the summer sun. When you drive down a street or visit a nearby neighborhood, are you surprised any longer to see an “under contract” sign posted, a remodeling crew at work, or new construction underway on a once vacant lot?
So much has been happening that affects current residents and future sellers so to help understand what is trending, Sandhills magazine interviewed leading local real estate professionals to bring you their insights. To provide a broad perspective, we reached out to experts with the latest knowledge about listings and sales of in-town residences, rural estates, equestrian farms, rental homes, and the other properties that comprise the Sandhills.
Because you are likely familiar with these experts, we’ll introduce them briefly with the answers that they gave to our questions about local estate trends. Perhaps the leading question on everyone’s mind is this one:
What recent real estate trends do you see emerging in the Sandhills?
CATHY LAROSE, who with husband Marcus, owns COLDWELL BANKER ADVANTAGE with offices in Southern Pines and Pinehurst is very specific: “It’s definitely a sellers’ market now. I’ve been in real estate since 1996, and I’m continually amazed at our dropping absorption rate (the number of sales in a month divided by the number of homes for sale). It’s the lowest since the economic downturn in 2008. Supply is down, and sellers are increasingly receiving multiple offers.”
MARCUS LAROSE adds: “It’s time to sell. Many properties are on the market only three months. For example, homes around $100,000 are selling in 4.2 months; $200,000 in 2.9 months; and $300,000 in 4.2 months.”
Another major change was described this way by JAMIE MCDEVITT, who as owner-broker of MCDEVITT TOWN & COUNTRY Properties is very familiar with properties ranging from equestrian farms to village residences: “Our ‘feeder’ market has changed. We’ve always had significant buyers from the Northeast and California because our properties are much more affordable.
“However, in the last year 25-30 percent of my buyers have come from Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro. That’s a big change. They want out of the big city. It’s too much growth. We’ve been discovered. They’re not just looking for a second home. They’re retiring. Buyers are coming for both horse farms as well as in-town places.”
Similarly, EMI WEBSTER, a broker with KELLER WILLIAMS REALTY as well as a partner with her husband Colin in ASCOT, a land development and construction company, has particularly noticed the changes brought by the increased missions at Fort Bragg that has affected Whispering Pines and other areas where she specializes.
“The influx of young military families has been huge. They’ve discovered Moore County with our excellent schools and low crime rate. A lot has to do with proximity to Fort Bragg and their commutes. Whispering Pines has grown enormously and the corporate village has practically doubled — houses and people — since 2000,” she says.
How do the different areas of the Sandhills create their own identities in real estate?
When asked that question, PAM JENSEN, a realtor with REALTY WORLD in Southern Pines, began describing how the diversity of local properties attracts a variety of buyers. “We have micro-cultures, gated communities, price points, subdivisions, resort golf communities and equestrian communities,” she says.
Cathy Larose also explains, “The buyers are across the board in the age spectrum: young to senior. All the areas have something special to offer each one. Some buyers ask for specific acreage and want to be in rural settings. We also get a lot of calls specifically for Southern Pines and Whispering Pines. Pinehurst has the most name recognition because of golf and especially course No. 2.
About the diversity of the local market, McDevitt adds, “We have everything from horse farms to regular single-family homes. We can meet the needs of military families, and we have properties for buyers who are looking for a slower pace and small-town living.”
The diversity of our market attracts “second-home buyers, military buyers, retirees,” says Marcus Larose. “We are unique. Most places don’t have all three avenues of buyers.”
What other changes are influencing and shaping the real estate market here?
“Land is selling like crazy with many buyers looking for five to 10 acres,” says McDevitt. “There’s a lack of inventory of equestrian properties available for sale. What’s available has dropped in number by almost half in the last couple of years.”
Another major influence is the internet and media programs. Cathy Larose explains, “So many buyers are enamored by HGTV. They expect properties today to be perfect and conditions to be pristine.
“Buyers today are savvy, especially military wives. They are looking for specific schools and have researched online what has sold. Our low crime rate is important for online ‘lookers.’ It seems to be the first thing that they look at.”
The influence of the internet has also been observed by Webster, who says, “Buyers come prepared. They are internet-savvy and have already looked online. They are super-electronically prescient. They’re online the whole time.”
“A realtor needs a big online presence — otherwise, this market won’t be reached, particularly in Whispering Pines. Before I would select houses to show buyers and take them there. Now they come with a list of properties they want to see.
However, Jensen adds a caution about online shopping: “Online info doesn’t tell buyers enough details. They don’t know our area. We are so diverse. The best of the best horse farm can be surprisingly near a trailer park or a chicken farm.
“One buyer who contacted me clearly didn’t understand our area. She had selected properties to see that ranged from condos in Lawn & Tennis to large homes in CCNC. And she didn’t understand membership and HOA fees.”
The incursion of agents from outside the Sandhills is also significantly shaping the market, even though they don’t have as much familiarity with the local area. McDevitt explains, “Over the last several years, the number of agents has grown tremendously. Already this year, more than $44 million of real estate have been sold by agents from outside our territory. That’s a huge amount. They are bringing their buyers here.”
Another change relates to the rental market. With his knowledge of the local rental market (the Laroses also own Sandhills Rentals), Marcus adds, “This area is really growing fast in short-term vacation rentals. In the last three years, the growth has been phenomenal. Some buyers who plan to retire here in five to 10 years are buying now before prices increase. They’re looking for the right property in the right location and as rentals they are doing extremely well.
“Long-term rentals have also been very stable. Most of the interest is from military families who will be here two to three years and are looking to rent.”
Any final thoughts?
Cathy Larose quips, “Our new motto over the last eight months has been, “And it’s gone.” We’re using that phase so frequently. We’ve never experienced this trend before. If houses are priced correctly and are in good condition, they are flying off the shelf. It’s both surprising and enjoyable.”
The real estate market in our micropolitan is changing as it thrives for buyers, sellers and real estate professionals. Follow future issues of Sandhills magazine as we continue to explore this topic.