Finding people in Franklin County who want to move isn’t difficult.
Finding them a place to move into is.
With inventory and interest rates low, real estate is a hot topic in town and one of several sectors that hasn’t been affected negatively by COVID-19.
“What we’re seeing is if it’s priced well and in good condition, updated and ready to go, it may be on the market for two days,” said Brent Simpson, with Century 21 Simpson & Associates.
“If it’s not updated, not in great shape and not priced right, it’ll go further.”
Simpson said low interest rates have some people looking to downsize while others are looking to get more house for the same amount of money.
The problem is finding the house.
“Most agents have multiple buyers, but they can’t find anything that’s ready to buy,” Simpson said. “They can’t find anything for the lack of inventory.”
Lori Adkinson, who owns Coldwell Banker Preferred Realty with her husband, Gary, said inventory is as low as she’s ever seen it in Franklin County. Because of that, people are receiving multiple offers on their properties and those properties are selling above the asking price.
“I’ll get a listing and it’ll sell before I get an ad in the newspaper,” she said.
Why is inventory so low?
“I think a lot of it is because of the pandemic,” Adkinson said. “People aren’t going to move right now. They’re staying where they’re at. They don’t want to show their house, having people walk through it. With jobs, they may have a job now, but they wonder how long it will go on.”
It’s a big change from where the market was 12 years ago.
“Around the time of 2008 in Franklin County, the market was totally different,” Simpson said. “Prices were too high. People were getting underwater, owing more than they were worth. We lost a lot of developers.
“It’s tough on both ends. We don’t have building, so we don’t have listings. People are staying in their homes longer, and we don’t have listings.”
And while it’s a seller’s market, Adkinson said sellers need to be prepared.
“If you want to sell, you better know where you’re going because it’s going to sell fast,” she said. “If you don’t have something lined up, you might have trouble finding something to buy.”
Simpson sees that being the case for the foreseeable future.
“Even though prices are high, that’s offset by the low interest rates that allow people to come in and buy,” he said. “I think the inventory shortage will continue.”
George Whitehouse, owner of Whitehouse Concrete Construction, saw his business fall off early in the year when the pandemic first started.
Residential work has allowed him to bring back all of the staff he laid off during that time.
“It’s picked up some here lately,” he said. “A lot of people got their stimulus money and are having work done on their patio, their driveways, their stairs, things like that.
“We’re not doing a lot of commercial work, but our residential work has picked up the last couple of months.”
Whitehouse said business usually slows down during the winter months, and he’s anxious to see how the pandemic plays out.
“I think after the election, especially when we get a vaccine, I think things will start picking back up,” he said. “Right now we have to mask and stay away from each other.
“Whenever we get a vaccine, I’ll feel more sure.”
Bill Day of Day’s Boat Sales has seen a big jump in business this year.
He estimates his sales this year have increased 40%-50%.
Day said the boating industry was expecting a big year prior to the pandemic.
“Interest rates were low, gas prices were low, people were very confident in a good economy,” he said.
“We thought it was going to be a good year before COVID. I went to the Miami boat show in January, and everyone was really geared up. Then we got hit with the pandemic. We had to close our doors for a little bit, then we were able to open up some, and people went wild.
“They didn’t get to go on vacation, they didn’t get to go to Disney World, so they were buying boats, ATVs.”
The only problem now is finding boats.
“There’s not enough inventory,” he said, “and sales are down.”
Two other local businesses that haven’t been affected by COVID are Kitchen Creations and Select Auto.
“We never slowed down,” said Gary Hubbard with Kitchen Creations. “I haven’t seen it affect us. People seem to have plenty of money. They’re getting houses, remodeling.
“Early in the year we had people who were scared. They didn’t want strange people in their house. This week we’ve sold about eight kitchens. It hasn’t picked up. It’s been about the same.”
Select Auto sells late model pre-owned vehicles, and that’s probably helped keep business steady.
A recent report in The New York Times said franchised car dealers sold 1.2 million used cars and trucks, according to Edmunds.com, an increase of 22% from the previous year.
“The pandemic hasn’t affected car sales,” said Dan Bevington, owner of Select Auto. “It’s been business as usual. It’s been relatively uneventful from pre-COVID to now. I think people still need cars.
“We were a little bit scared when it hit in March, and April was a nervous time. But we had an average April, and every month since April has been average or above average.
“It’s a matter of having loyal, repeat customers for us.”