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Buying in Moore County Grows More Challenging

There’s a knock at the door. A stranger asks if you’re interested in selling your house and makes a substantial offer on the spot. This scenario is actually playing out in some corners of Moore County.

Last Friday, there were 148 houses available in the local real estate market. The area typically averages 228 home sales per month.

“We’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said Martha Gentry of Re/Max Prime Properties in Pinehurst.

She recently worked with a seller who took steps to prepare and stage her older home in Whispering Pines. Gentry said they fielded nine offers in two days after the home was listed, and went under contract $26,000 above the asking price. Another home her team listed in Carthage attracted six offers the first day it was on the market.

“That just gives you an idea, it is just crazy. If you are in the $200,000 to $400,000 range and have a good property, the minute it comes on the market there is interest,” Gentry said, noting homes in higher price brackets are also selling briskly.

Since 2012, Moore County’s real estate market, including the number of home sales and the average median price, has been growing at a steady — some might say relentless — pace. Military-connected families assigned to Fort Bragg have shifted the demographics, and the housing market has proliferated in the $250,000 and $400,000 range, which aligns closely with military buyers’ price point; however, the area’s traditional retiree and near-retirement age market has held strong.

Last March when COVID-19 hit, the home sales market dropped off dramatically. There were fewer real estate closings posted in April, May and June 2020. Then the pendulum started swinging quickly the other way.

“All of the sudden in July, we went through the roof,” Gentry said. “This hot market is literally hitting everywhere.”

Sandra Barnhardt, CEO of Mid Carolina Regional Association of Realtors (MCRAR) said the housing inventory shortage is the result of fewer sellers willing to market their homes during the pandemic while people have continued to move into the area.

Sandy Stewart of Sandhill Realty has been selling real estate locally since 1994, and is a Moore County native. Her husband, Mark, is a custom home builder and together they collaborate and work with a lot of new construction clients, as well as first-time home buyers, military families and retirees.

“As far as real estate trends, the pandemic has definitely been a driving force in creating the seller’s market,” said Stewart, who also serves as MCRAR board president. “We are seeing a continued trend of higher home prices and lowers days on the market.”

New homes under construction at Laurel Ridge, a new subdivisions off McCaskill Road near U.S. 15-501 in Carthage. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

In 2013, the average sold price was $247,554. So far for 2021, the average sold price is $363,771 and houses are listed on the market 118 days, on average.

New construction homes are also moving quickly, with buyers reviewing architectural renderings or walking through cleared lots or inspecting half-built projects before making an offer.

To ensure fairness at the bargaining table, some local real estate agents are posting a “Coming Soon” sale on properties about to be listed. Others have taken to announcing a specific day and time the seller will consider offers to give buyers who find themselves in a bidding war the opportunity to present their best offer. Some agents, including Gentry’s team, are even accepting backup offers, in case the primary offer withdraws.

“We are in a situation like we have never had before. Even when the market was really strong from 2000 to 2009, we still had 500 to 600 homes available on the market,” Gentry said. “We have never had an inventory this low. My advice, if you are even thinking about selling your home, this is a great time.”

Kay Beran, senior managing broker for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Pinehurst Realty Group, works primarily with clientele in the upper age ranges.

“The market was already moving in this direction before the pandemic. But what we are struggling with, part of this frenzy, is the lack of inventory,” Beran said.

(Graph courtesy of Re/Max Prime)

She noted she’s seen lines of people waiting to get into an open house: something this market has rarely, if ever, witnessed. In a year-to-date comparison, she said the number of sold listings is almost flat. The difference is the same number of new listings is down almost 30 percent.

“We are just not feeding the marketplace enough. What we are looking at is a raise in the median sales price and a raise in the median list price, but as inventory gets depleted we will have a dip in the market because we just can’t feed it enough,” Beran said.

She joked that she needs to dig a new lake in the area to meet demand, but expressed appreciation to those who had invested in the area and its amenities over the years.

“Our growth is a direct result of that forestight,” Beran said. “People are looking for the same things they have been for the last 25 years: a nice house, some kind of view with a golf course or water, and a congenial neighborhood with a community atmosphere,” Beran said. “People are looking for a lifestyle that makes them feel at home.”

Article courtesy of The Pilot Newspaper

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