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High Country Real Estate: Statistically Speaking – The Pandemic and High Country Real Estate Part 1

By Bill Aceto

The North Carolina High Country is made up of seven counties: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey.  From Boone to Burnsville, Blowing Rock to Banner Elk, Wilkesboro to West Jefferson, the High Country is filled with the beauty of nature, the small town spirit with big-hearted hospitality, and more points of interest than can ever be seen.

In early 2020, when the CoVid-19 pandemic began, the world changed. Not just with the universal use of masks, social distancing, the rush to create a vaccine or the incredibly sad loss of life around the world, but in ways that could never be predicted. One of those changes was a shift in the real estate market, most markedly in the North Carolina High Country.

While the pandemic created a lot of professional and social restrictions, the “work from home” wave (really, work from anywhere) created a lot of unforeseen freedom and opportunity. People in heavily populated urban areas began to move to less congested areas. Families who had previously felt tied to their locale because of their job situation began to purchase second homes. Couples who had always talked about retiring to the mountains seized the day and made the move.

With statistics provided by the High Country Association of REALTORS®, the numbers track the trend of the move to the High Country. 

From 2018 to 2019, there was a 10% increase in units sold in the seven counties, a healthy increase to be sure, but on par with a growing region. From 2019 to 2020, there was a 33% increase in the number of units sold which is quite robust. There was a further increase from 2020 to 2021 of an additional 11%, marking a total increase from 2018 to 2021 at 62%, which is mind boggling.

In the first quarter of 2020, before the reality of the pandemic hit, there were 644 units sold, as opposed to 571 for the first quarter of 2019. In the second quarter of 2020, there is a significant dip in the number of units sold to 621, compared to 748 in 2019. The spring is usually a time of growth in sales, so this downturn was a marker of the onset of the pandemic. However, in 3rd quarter 2020 there was a significant jump from 3rd quarter 2019 of 63%; 935 units in 2019 and 1492 units in 2020. The final quarter of 2020 showed an increase of 1427 units from 890 in 2019, for a 62% increase.

The increasing sale of homes continued throughout 2021 as well; 2020 topped out at 4184 sales, while 2021 ended with 4655 sales. 2022 saw 4200 sales in the High Country, a significant decrease from 2021 but an appreciable increase from 2020.The chart below shows the trends from 2018 to 2022. While this type of growth was brought about under unusual circumstances, it has, at least partially, resulted in an inventory shortage, which, in turn, is creating an increase in home values. While the sold units for 2022 did not track quite as high as 2021, values increased due to supply/demand issues.