Larry Miller has worked in the real estate industry for more than four decades, but he’s never seen anything like the current housing market.
It’s “the most unusual market since I started in 1979,” says Miller, real estate broker and owner of Century 21 Larry Miller Realty, Inc. A limited number of houses on the market coupled with strong demand from buyers has caused housing prices to skyrocket. Because of this intense competition, buyers often offer to pay more than the asking price. Miller explains this trend will continue as long as the supply remains low. COVID has also contributed to rising prices. “People have been home for the past 15 months,” he says. That’s led some people to remodel their homes, increasing the value of those homes. For every house that goes on the market, there will often be “dozens of offers,” Miller states.
According to Simon Medcalfe, professor of economics at Augusta University, local home prices have increased significantly. In Richmond County, Medcalfe explains the average price is currently $302,000, which has increased from less than $200,000 before COVID. “In Columbia County, it has increased from $350,000 to $420,000,” he says.
Current interest rates on home loans remain very low, according to Tim Dalton, senior loan officer for First Choice Mortgage. For example, Dalton says the interest rate on a 15-year refinance loan can be as low as 2.25%. Of course, the rates vary based on a borrower’s credit score, but the qualifications have changed. “Credit scores are becoming a little more relaxed,” he states. At one time, a score of 680 was required to qualify for a mortgage, but it has since dropped as low as 620. “COVID changed everything,” he says.
Dixie Shoemaker, co-owner of Trade Masters Painting and More, LLC with her husband, Steven, says work has been steady, thanks to referrals from real estate agents. “We have the work; we just need more painters,” says Shoemaker.