The economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic might have stalled Hall County’s real estate market for about two weeks — and right at the beginning of the shutdown last spring.
But then the market took off, and the brakes haven’t been applied yet.
“Typically, in January, you feel a little bit of a slowdown. We just got through the holidays,” said Beverly Filson, a Realtor with The Norton Agency in Gainesville.
But not this year.
“With the luxury market, we’ve gone from a 15-month supply (of homes) to a 4-month to what now feels like nonexistent,” she said of the housing inventory. “And there’s no inventory under $300,000.”
Suffice to say, it’s a seller’s market.
Numbers from the First Multiple Listing Service show 3,191 closed sales in January 2021, compared to 2,457 in January 2019. The lowest point in recent history was 1,000 in May 2009 during the middle of the Great Recession.
Some in the industry have pointed to the shutdown as part of the reason for the spike in sales, as people stuck in their homes have looked around and realized they need more room — or a change of scenery altogether.
“People are just wanting to make a move,” Filson said.
Another motivator is historically low interest rates. Future lending was a main concern coming out of the Great Recession, which torpedoed the housing market, driving prices down and putting people underwater on mortgages.
However, in this housing market, “we haven’t had many issues, from a lending standpoint,” Filson said.
In an interview last year, Judy Presley, associate broker with Keller Williams Realty, spoke about the pandemic’s initial impacts.
“We have sellers who don’t want us in their house and have taken (homes) temporarily off the market,” she said at the time.
The pandemic had jolted the housing market, leaving real estate agents scrambling to find ways to show houses, hold closings and just generally go through the selling/buying process.
For agents working through these tough times, Presley had this advice: “It’s a good time to call your past clients, check on them. They probably will appreciate the phone call and will want to talk to somebody.”
Competition for homes has ramped up significantly since those darker days, with multiple offers on homes for sale.
“The problem is we’ve got a buyer for $225,000 — they’re approved for that amount — and we can’t find anything,” Presley said. “The minute something comes up around that price and they make an offer, it goes above list price and they can’t do it.”
According to the Abernathy Cochran Real Estate Group at The Norton Agency, the average single-family home sale price in Gainesville-Hall County in 2020 was $338,047, up 16% from 2019, notes a recent economic development report from the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
Developers also are noticing the hot housing trend.
Subdivisions are springing up throughout the area, particularly in Flowery Branch, where houses are being built at a furious pace.
The chamber report cites several developments that have been approved or are being built, including a 375-home subdivision on 220 acres between Gillsville Highway and Gaines Mill Road, and 30 cottages as part of a 16.6-acre rental community, Liberty Lakeview, in the New Holland community.
The seller’s market doesn’t appear to be cooling anytime soon, as agents continue to struggle with high demand and low supply.
“With the rates where they are, people can buy more house and they’re not vacationing, so they’ve got more to put down on a house,” Presley said.
“Right now is when you look to your friends and your family and … people in the grocery store and say, ‘Do you want to sell?’” Filson said.