On the topic of real estate in 2020, a case could be made for reaping the rewards of living in the shadow of a popular sibling. In this instance, Haywood County’s proximity to the Asheville metropolitan statistical area qualifies it for that assertion.

Recent inclusions of Asheville on websites like topretirements.com, which named the city the No. 1 “Best Place to Retire,” and the June declaration by Resonance Consultancy that named Asheville the fifth “Best Small City” may be reasons for increasing buyer interest in Western North Carolina, but the pandemic and other factors certainly have played a role.

In Haywood County, one of 13 that makes up the Asheville MSA, sales and new listings remained positive year over year for a fifth consecutive month, ending in November, according to a Canopy MLS housing report for the Asheville region.

At the local level, RE/MAX Executive Realtor Lyn Donley, who has sold real estate for 35 years, 20 in Florida and 15 in Haywood County, observed, “People who have traditionally come to Haywood County for vacations have come back during this health crisis and decided to settle here. They see Haywood County as a safe haven from the big cities and other places in the U.S. with racial strife and climate challenges. Also, COVID has given them the time to reassess their lives – and if they were ever going to change their minds about where they were going to live and/or retire in the future – now was the time.”

The Canopy MLS report goes on to cite that buyer demand remained strong in November, with 102 contracts added to the pipeline of sales, an increase of 25.9% over contract activity for the same period last year. New listing activity was also positive and rose 4.6% as sellers entered the market with 91 new listings.

However, data shows that inventory is down 53.9% to just 2.1 months of supply, which will continue to impact prices for the foreseeable future.

“The statistics that stand out in our perspective as Realtors are inventory,” explained Donley. “It’s not a surprise to anyone that inventory, or the number of homes for sale, is low. It is almost exactly half of what it was last year at this time.”

When analyzing inventory, the number of days a home stays on the market, becomes a super critical indicator of how the market is doing.

For the 10th month of the year, that percentage represents a 54% change from 100 days in 2019 to 57 days in 2020.

“In other words, the homes are flying off the shelf,” Donley said “The house is on the market one day, has a contract the next, and is closed in less than two months.”

The median sales price ($263,500) had a slight uptick of 2.1% year over year, while the average sales price ($329,959) increased 8.7%. The average list price in November was $331,717, an increase of 4% over November 2019’s list price.

To Brian Cagle, a Canopy MLS board of directors member and vice president-managing broker with Beverly Hanks Realtors, home sales continue to look strong heading into 2021.

“Despite the economic challenges of this past year, the region’s housing market is stronger and healthier than ever going into the new year. Housing demand continues to increase, and area Realtors are working hard to ensure clients find homes, even with the challenges of rising prices amidst low inventory,” he said.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Donley said she was surprised to see the amount of sales activity during a time when the market traditionally sees a slowdown.

Not so this year, she added, as her team closed four sales and put seven properties under contract, including a commercial retail property on Main Street in downtown Waynesville.

“I was amazed that three days before a significant holiday, families with children were looking at homes. We believe that folks are thinking that it’s now or never. That homes that they have had their eyes on are going to be gone when they want them in the spring. We even sold a home in Asheville sight unseen by a virtual tour to a couple that wants to retire in a year. They have agreed to rent it back to the seller, who will be building their own dream home during that time.”

And with the turn of the calendar’s page, circumstances seem to be gearing up to be even stronger in the coming months of 2021.

“People have re-visited their priorities,” Donley added. “Whether they want to retire early or finally buy their dream home in the mountains — nothing has changed in their thinking. The interest rates are lower than they’ve been in decades and don’t show any signs of going up before June and the vaccine is promising.”

So what does an average day in the life a 2020-21 Realtor look like?

For Donley and the rest of The Real Team, “Some weeks we work 12- to 14-hour days, seven days a week, and other weeks we work more. Folks never realize how hard Realtors work. They imagine that we put on our jackets, jump in our cars and show lovely homes. There is so much to do between contract and closing, and even more between listing and sale.”

As for any advice Donley may have for sellers thinking of listing their homes in the New Year: “Do it now. Do not hesitate. Do not go online to obtain a realistic listing price, hire a Realtor with experience in the marketplace.”

For others who have seen their homes sit on the market for longer than what they expected, “Don’t take it off the market in the winter. There may not be as many buyers looking in the colder months here, but the looking buyers are serious.”

The other counties that make up the Asheville sales region are: Burke, Henderson, Jackson, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania and Yancey.

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