By Mary-Justine Lanyon
“People are fleeing to the rural communities. We’re seeing the numbers skyrocket up.”
That’s what Theresa Grant, president of the Rim O’ the World Association of Realtors, reported at the August 2020 meeting of the Lake Arrowhead Municipal Advisory Council.
At that time, she compared the market in 2019 to 2020.
In June 2019, real estate agents from “peak to peak” – from Lower Waterman Canyon to just below Big Bear – closed 99 transactions. There were 121 properties pending and 629 properties on the market.
Compare that to June 2020: there were 130 closings, 188 pending and 383 properties on the market.
It was when Grant gave the July numbers that folks were surprised. In July 2019, there were 98 closings, 121 under contract and 678 on the market.
Fast forward to July 2020: 193 closed, 258 were under contract and there were only 282 on the market.
“This is the busiest time we have had in 22 months,” Grant said. “2019 was an extremely good year. Look at what’s happening now.”
She added that, with interest rates so low and the effects of COVID-19, “people are fleeing to the rural communities. They are fleeing the suburbs and the city. They are coming to market areas like ours.
“I’ve been a realtor since 1990,” Grant said. “I’ve been through several cycles. I’ve never seen anything quite like this market.” She added that they are getting multiple offers and properties are selling extremely high over the list price.
Grant updated those numbers at the February Lake Arrowhead MAC meeting. At the end of 2020, she said, there were 127 homes for sale with 110 sales pending and 137 homes sold. “We are going into negative inventory,” Grant said.
She anticipates more of the same for 2021. “We will see properties sell quickly if they are priced correctly.” And, Grant added, “we will continue to see negative inventory with multiple offers.”
She cautioned against expecting to see the old real estate pattern. Traditional ideas about the best time to list property for sale may be a thing of the past.
“COVID-19 made everyone look to rural or resort areas,” Grant said. “It’s not just us – it’s everywhere.”
Displaying an inventory graph, Grant noted that the local market went from 7.5 months of inventory to less than a month. The good news, she said, “is we are seeing more properties come on the market. People are realizing we really face new market conditions that will reshape real estate values on the mountain.”
On a recent Thursday tour day, there were 20 properties real estate agents were looking at. “At the end of the day, out of the 20 on tour, four had already dropped into pending status,” Grant said. “One sold in an hour. We expect to see the real estate market rise in a healthy measured way.”
Four local realtors agree with Theresa Grant’s assessment.
Cecilia Ponce de Leon, co-owner of Capre Realty, outlines a number of trends she has observed:
Buyers are exiting big city life for rural areas.
They are looking for a multi-functional home where they can live, work, exercise and “holiday.”
Homes must now be designed or upgraded to have a clear separation between where the work hours occur and when family time begins.
Screening rooms, spa bathrooms, plush “work-from-home” offices are more common.
There appears to be renewed interest in traditional “closed” floor plans that allow privacy.
Buyers are looking for more livable outdoor spaces where they can hike, fish, water ski, snow ski and mountain bike.
Green spaces, views, snow and outdoor activities in nature contribute to a less stressful environment.
“The challenge,” said Ponce de Leon, “is managing the supply and demand for our clients. Last year we held 180 listings; this year, it’s 79. The buyer is in the best position now than ever before. We’re getting hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars more than list price!
“The time to sell is now.”
“Home prices,” said Steve Keefe, owner/broker of Coldwell Banker Sky Ridge Realty, “are a function of supply and demand. The price increases we saw in 2020 were a function of the limited supply coupled with big demand.
“Every indication we have,” Keefe added, “is that we will see continued high demand for our market area. I’m anticipating that those price gains we saw in 2020 will hold with modest appreciation going forward.
“In the next two to three years,” he said, “I think Lake Arrowhead will experience a strong market.”
“There is no inventory,” said Gregg Grant, owner of San Moritz Realty in Crestline. “That’s part of the problem.
“I’ve been active in real estate for 45 years up here and I’ve never seen inventory this low.”
Houses, Gregg Grant said, “are being bought up immediately.” While a house would typically be on the market for 40 to 50 days, now it’s down to 18, he said.
Grant added he is seeing a good combination of full-time and part-time buyers. “We’re seeing more people looking for a second home. They can work out of it wherever it’s located.”
In addition, he said, his office is seeing mostly families. “People are moving up here because they like the environment. There’s no reason to be in the city environment, no reason to be close to an office.”
Grant has a number of people he is trying to connect with a house. “Their expectations are very high but there’s nothing out there. Everyone thinks they can steal something but there’s nothing out there.
“We need more listings – listings are the name of the game.”
Lynne B. Wilson, owner of Lynne B. Wilson and Associates, added her thoughts to what is available on the mountain and why folks move here. “Where else can you drive 1-1/2 hours to get to a quiet, beautiful, safe environment?
“While it is true we do not have a Best Buy or Nordstrom in this beautiful place, that is the way we like it. A 30-minute drive down the mountain takes us to all the shopping we need!”