Amy Hammond likes to say she can navigate the waters of Lake Hartwell with her eyes closed.
“It’s what I know,” she said. “Actually, it’s all I know.”
Having been born and raised on the lake and having lived there ever since, Hammond’s familiarity with the area is useful during her day job as a real estate agent for Joan Herlong & Associates Sotheby’s International Realty.
Lately, though, Hammond’s day job has been more like a day-and-night job.
“It’s double time right now,” Hammond said of the lakefront real estate market. “I’ve got clients from all over calling and asking, ‘Do you have anything new?’ And the answer is usually no, because the second a house is on the market, it’s sold before it’s even listed or gone within 12 hours.”
The recent boom in the lakefront market is not a trend unique to the area. Nationwide, lakefront properties are going at historically unprecedented prices — breaking records in states as disparate as New Hampshire ($10 million), Idaho ($30 million) and Nevada ($38 million), to name just a few. Closer by, a “lavish lakefront castle” recently went on the market in Charlotte, North Carolina, for $8 million, making it the most expensive home for sale in the Charlotte area.
So what’s causing the boom?
A number of factors, according to Hammond and market analysts, but the pandemic is front and center. People now working remotely see the lake as a nice change of view. Out-of-towners are seeking a well-located but not overly crowded area, primely positioned between the major markets of Charlotte and Atlanta. Locals who’d been previously thinking of purchasing a second getaway home are spurred by low interest rates.
Not to mention, the trend in lakefront property’s increased popularity had already been growing before COVID-19, according to Hammond.“Things were already heading in that positive direction beforehand, but the pandemic just sped everything up,” she said. “At first we were a little nervous when they started shutting schools and restaurants down, but now my sales have actually doubled compared to last year.”
A look at the recent numbers from just Lake Hartwell and Lake Keowee show big jumps.
In the last year, 465 homes were sold on Lake Hartwell, according to MLS data, with 266 of those sold in the last six months alone. In the same time between 2018 and 2019, 402 homes were sold on Lake Hartwell.
Prices increased as well as volume. Median home prices on the lake currently hover around $475,000, compared to approximately $340,000 in the same time a year prior — a jump of nearly 40%, according to MLS data.
Lake Keowee has seen a similar spike this year, with 264 units sold in the last year compared to 190 sold in the same time a year earlier. The median price for a lakefront home now sits around $815,000, compared to $761,000 in the same time a year prior.
And although Hammond’s personal experience of seeing homes purchased within a day or so of being listed is hardly universal, the typical number of days on the market for homes listed in the Western Upstate MLS — the area encompassing those two lakes — has decreased significantly. In the last year, homes sat on the market for a median of 52 days, compared to a median of 73 days in the same time frame a year prior.
But for home sellers, Hammond said the most important number to note is the ratio between close price and listing price, which is now 99.5%. In other words, expect to sell your home for just one-half of one percent below listing price, on average.
“And that’s damn good,” Hammond said.