The third consecutive brutal winter in the Northeast has brought a flood of calls and emails to Grand Strand Realtors and developers who are expecting the best spring real estate season in years.
The spring buying and selling season reawakens the area’s real estate activity, which is at its slowest pace of the year during the winter months. It can also be a precursor to sales for the whole year, and so a forecast for a bang-up spring spreads smiles across the faces of real estate professionals.
Almost none, though, are willing to use the “b” word to describe what’s about to happen, but it does get into conversations.
“I do think it’s a boom,” said Cherie Hardy of SC Real Estate Network.
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Hardy’s view of things may be colored by what’s happened at her own agency in the past two years. She said the company had $6 million in sales in 2013, its first full-year of pounding the street.
Last year, sales jumped nearly 400 percent to more than $23 million, and she’s expecting it to climb more than 200 percent this year.
Penny Boling, who has owned Boling & Associates for 30 years, thinks using the “b” word might scare customers away.
“But,’ she said, “we’re at the beginning of something really good.”
Boling said her agency saw its busiest December ever in 2014, and the volume of telephone calls and emails to her agency suggests to her that the good times are likely to roll on.
Brian Cotner, broker in charge for Intracoastal Land Sales at Waterbridge in Carolina Forest, said his company has gotten an “exponentially” larger number of calls pre-spring this year from potential buyers that he expects will translate to more than 150 lot sales this year at the custom home development.
He said there were 17 houses in the 1,200-lot development just a year ago where today there are 95, only four of which are under 3,000 square feet.
His company has already closed out sales at four other Carolina Forest developments — Carolina Waterway Plantation, Waterway Palms Plantation, The Bluffs on the Waterway and the Battery on the Waterway — and is looking for new land that’s ripe for its touch.
He won’t say what areas have drawn his company’s scrutiny, but likewise Jason Faulkner, regional manager for H&H Homes of Fayetteville, N.C., will say just that his company too is searching, both for lots in existing developments and for land it can transform into a subdivision.
H&H created a stir 1 1/2 years ago when it bought more than 300 lots in existing developments for the company’s first push in the Grand Strand.
Hardy’s agency is the broker for H&H’s Grand Strand properties, and Hardy said she expects to sell at least two a month this year in Pelican Bay, one of several subdivisions in which the company invested. Last year, she said, sales averaged one a month in Pelican Bay.
The building and new residents there helped to bring a paved road to the development, which began at least two decades ago, and minor worries to the residents of the 11 homes that were built before activity stopped, said Libby Costner, POA president.
Hidden behind trees as S.C. 31 and Robert Edge Parkway were constructed nearby, Costner said some of the old timers worried about not knowing exactly who was driving the unfamiliar vehicles through the neighborhood.
“We have flown below the radar for so long,” she said, “but now we’re so far above the radar, it’s scary.”
On balance, she said, H&H has worked with existing owners to blend the designs of new homes with the old, and the new buyers are fitting in well.
“It’s nice to have new neighbors,” she said.
Cotner and Boling said about one-third of their annual sales come during the spring push. Things slow down some in the summer and pick up again in the fall. And while the bulk of the people moving in are retirees, Boling said that the spring season gets a boost as well from families who want to get their children into schools before the fall term starts.
Faulkner said he’s anticipating 30 percent growth in sales for H&H’s Grand Strand properties this year, and a lot of the success depends on having buyers lined up in the pipeline when the spring season starts.
Different real estate professionals fill the pipeline differently.
Jerry Pinkas Real Estate Experts recently held a Saturday morning seminar to familiarize the 30 or so potential buyers attending with hot property areas from Little River to Pawleys Island.
Nearly all in the room on the second floor of the agency’s office in Myrtle Beach appeared to be retirees or those planning for retirement.
Andy Waldo, operating principal and broker in charge at Keller Williams Myrtle Beach, said he’s seeing a boost in investor interest in Grand Strand condos.
Condominium sales in the area have not seen the same sales gains as single-family homes since the recession, and the condo movement he’s seeing could be because the single-family market is so hot.
He’s also seeing sales increasing in the Conway area. Where there may have been two to three sales a month last year, there are now one to two a week.
He said his agency hired 12 new agents in just the last month.
Hardy agreed that retirees are a big driver of her business. She said that the Grand Strand market is the opposite of that in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad, where she sold real estate before moving here.
There, she said, most sales were generated by locals either downsizing or upsizing. Here, 80 percent to 90 percent of the customers are relocating from outside the area.
Cotner said he had between 25 and 30 speaking engagements in the Northeast in the past year to market Intracoastal properties. Each attracted 100 to 150 attendees.
He and others repeatedly talked about how much the foul weather north of here has been a boon to the area’s real estate market.
Many of those calling about property are much more motivated to move this year, Faulkner said.
“The weather has done it,” he said.
“They’re just tired of the snow,” Hardy said.
Cotner said he no longer hears a lot of people at his Northeast speaking engagements talking about also looking in Florida, like he used to.
Additionally, very few mention hurricanes anymore as a potential drawback for making a move to the Grand Strand.
Hardy said that she had one caller not too long ago who made his new home buy via telephone and fax machine.
“We’re going to have a big selling season this spring,” Faulkner said.
All the signs point to it.