By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
In the early months of 2006, the housing market across the country was at the highest it would reach for several years to come. During the later portion of 2006 and early 2007, the real estate markets began their descent. As of December 30, 2008, the Case-Shiller home price index reported the largest price drop in history at 18%.
In 2009, a total of nearly four million foreclosures were filed on nearly three million properties with nearly the same in 2010. In 2011, the number of properties receiving foreclosure notices dropped 34% and continued to drop annually through 2015. In 2016, the total number of properties receiving foreclosure notices dropped to 933,045, the lowest since 2006, and continued to drop through 2018.
When the future of Timberline was uncertain, the housing market within Tucker County reflected that concern. However, when word of Chip Perfect, owner of Perfect North Slopes in Indiana, purchased what has now been rebranded as Timberline Mountain, the sales started to increase. Lydia Hambrick, owner and broker of Cranston Real Estate, said, “People felt reassured in the area in my opinion.” She, along with other real estate companies in the county, saw an increase in business up until March of this year when the Coronavirus made its way to West Virginia and caused a statewide shutdown. During this time, offices were closed and many sellers did not want their properties being shown. As soon as business returned, the sales began to take off. “I think there’s an underlying fear of ‘this could happen again’,” proclaimed Hambrick. This has brought a lot of individuals to the county looking for property not only from other states, but from larger cities within West Virginia as well.
Debbie Stevens, owner of Stevens Realty, stated, “It’s been a business boom for me, too even down here (Parsons).” She continued, “I believe it’s not just here, but it’s everywhere.” The normal time on the market for a property used to be approximately nine months within Tucker County, however Stevens noted, “That is not the case now.” Stevens began to see an increase in sales and rental activity when Timberline sold. After shut down, she saw an influx in rentals and those looking to purchase. One thing Stevens has noticed is the homes that are occupied are not selling quite as quickly as those that are vacant. Sellers are reserved about bringing others into their home and buyers are respecting the social distancing guidelines.
Amy Barb with Best of Canaan agreed, stating, “We are seeing an increase in activity in both rentals and sales.” Best of Canaan also saw business improve with the improvements being made to Timberline, but with the pandemic added to the equation, Barb stated she feels people are seeking a “refuge.” Though the shutdown affected them greatly, fortunately Barb stated, “We regained business as quickly as we lost it.”
Gerald Johnston, Sales Manager of Mountain Top Realty, said, “Sales are doing great.” He noted properties that had been on the market for four years sold immediately after Timberline was purchased by Perfect. Rental records are being broken with several of these guests looking for property to purchase while visiting. “I think that COVID and Timberline are catalysts in the market,” said Johnston. “The impression of the area has changed from only a winter destination to all four seasons,” he said.
Owner of Canaan Realty Jenni Ray has been experiencing similar situations as the other companies. She explained that when the shutdown occurred, Canaan Realty canceled all spring and summer reservations. Upon reopening on May 1, she said, “We made back 10 fold what we lost.” All rentals managed by this agency were full for the summer within the month of June, and not with the traditional, annual guests, but a new set of visitors. “They’re looking for a place to social distance, yet still get away,” said Ray. “We didn’t expect it to be as busy as it is,” she added.
Ray explained that when rentals and property sales are doing well, the county as a whole benefits. When a property is rented, six percent in taxes is collected and goes toward the county. When a property is purchased, the county receives $440 per every $100,000 spent by the buyer.
Likewise, Ray contributes the initial increase in sales to Timberline being purchased. In the fall, Canaan Realty had 108 properties on the market. Currently, 38 houses remain with seven already under contract. “We’ve sold everything we had,” proclaimed Ray. Another example she gave was a two bedroom, two bathroom cabin she listed which was sold in only five days. Of the 31 available properties remaining, the cheapest at the time of interview was listed at approximately $225,000 and around 10 priced at $500,000 and higher.
Landis Realty owner Kim Landis agreed with the before mentioned trends with an increase in sales when Timberline sold until everything closed due to COVID-19. Cancelations occurred within already booked reservations when the office doors closed until their reopening on June 1. “We got slammed,” said Landis referring to when they reopened for business. They too have already recouped what they lost as a result of the shutdown. All of their rentals are completely booked at least through July and some even further. “Sales have significantly increased,” Landis added noting that some are return visitors to the area and some are new. “They’re just looking for a pace in the mountains that they can feel safe,” she said. Again, all visitors Landis Realty has been in contact with have been respectful to the safety guidelines in place as they too are seeking a safe haven from the pandemic.
Many of the realtors list properties in counties other than Tucker and have seen the same scenario. Another common theme amongst all companies is their notice and appreciation of the buyers, most coming in from out of town, being respectful and practicing all safety measures. Social distancing, sanitizing, and facial coverings have been practiced by most, if not all, individuals looking to rent or purchase within Tucker County.