By Allen Norwood: Special to the Charlotte Observer 11/15/14
Realtor Don Stephens of Lake Wylie Realty admits that the boom in Lake Wylie home sales last month caught him a bit by surprise. Sales up more than 64 percent? In October, when the summer lake season should be winding down?
He has been selling homes on the lake for more than three decades, and has never seen anything quite like it.
“I don’t think it through too much, though. I just try to stay by the phone.”
Lake Norman and Lake Wylie saw strong sales in October, according to this week’s report from Carolina Multiple Listing Services. Sales, or closings, at Norman were up more than 50 percent from the same month last year. Impressive, but Wylie did better, with sales up 64.3 percent, tops in the entire regional report.
To add a bit of perspective, sales in Charlotte rose by 9.8 percent and sales for the full MLS were up 13.3 percent.
Why Lake Wylie, and why now?
Stephens, who’s with Lake Wylie Realty, points to several factors: Interest rates, especially on large loans, remain a bargain. New roads and shopping centers provide access to the airport and to upscale stores and restaurants.
Wealthy retirees, for instance, can choose the lakefront lifestyle without giving up other things that are important to them. “We’re not way out in the country like we used to be,” Stephens said.
They can choose the lakefront lifestyle and still be just minutes away from their grandchildren in Charlotte. “Probably 50 percent of the business I do has a grandkid component,” he said.
Most of those retirees are relocating from other parts of the country, he said, and most find him online.
It has been years since Wylie was “the river” flanked by the simple “cabins” that longtime Charlotteans remember so fondly. Large homes have gone up, just as they have on Norman.
“Lake Norman has dominated the market for $1-million-plus homes for a long time,” he said. “We see that starting to change here pretty quickly. Nobody builds anything little anymore.”
As waterfront lot prices go up, homes get bigger. Lots of buyers – and some lenders – follow a rule of thumb that the lot price ought to account for about a quarter of the total value, Stephens said. So if the lot sells for $250,000, the new house ought to cost $750,000 – and there’s another $1 million place on the lake.
Low interest rates on jumbo loans make that even more attainable.
Add one more crucial factor – “There’s a new sense of optimism in the market that was absent,” Stephens said – and you see sales climb 64.3 percent.