RED HOT ST. SIMONS REAL ESTATE MARKET
Posted by Bill Russell // April 20, 2017
The red hot St. Simons real estate market is seeing quick sales for the first time in years. Although it has been one of the top resort destinations for decades, St. Simons Island has not seen much appreciation at the middle income level, particularly in condos. Sea Island multi-million dollar home are still selling in the stratosphere, but there seems to be a dawning realization among families and others that they had better buy now if they are ever going to be able to afford a place on the island. For a lot of families and individuals, St. Simons Island is a place of generational memories. People who remember summers on the island with their parents and grandparents want to make sure that their children have access to this very special atmosphere.
We sold a condo that we had as a rental property just last week. I went down to meet with four real estate agents from different companies and heard exactly the same story. They are desperate for family condos to meet demand. One of the agents showed me a study the showed demand for condos on the island exceeded supply at this point by 264%. By the time I got back home three days later, I had three letters from other agents wanting to list my condo.
What are the factors driving the current condo market on St. Simons?
- Location – Well, it is real estate. St. Simons Island offers a wide variety of properties, but for families or individuals looking for an affordable vacation property condominiums offer the most affordable option.
- Low Interest Rates – Mortgage rates are still hovering a little under 4%, but many people suspect the future will see a slow increase. People want to lock in the rates.
- Improving Economy – Americans are more optimistic about the economy at this point. Unemployment is down and salaries are edging up a bit. Companies are much more optimistic and that flows down to their employees.
- Supply – There are only so many medium-priced condos on St. Simons and the supply is not expected to increase. People understand that slow growth forces are active to limit new development. Particularly in the south end of the island, there simply isn’t going to be any new supply.
Red Hot St. Simons Real Estate Market – What should I look for in a condo on St. Simons Island?
- Location – Did I mention location before? It is the first thing to look for. Spend some time exploring your options, but frankly, the best options lie along Mallery Street running to the Village of St. Simons.
- Flood Zones – This is a variation on location, but it is very important consideration. Flood zones are often overlooked by new buyers who are in love with a particular property. There are ocean front condos and they are selling with prices that match their views. Maybe you should pass. They come with hefty insurance premiums. Again, Mallery Street offers a different zoning and substantially better insurance rates than the ocean front properties.
- Rentability – You want to buy into St. Simons before the market puts property out of reach, you can scrape together the down payment and some of the mortgage, but it’s tighter in the budget than you would like. I get it. See what the rental policies are for the condos you would like to buy into. Many of them have restrictions on short term rentals and that could make it harder to rent. Look for those condos that allow short term rentals to supplement your purchase of the property, but realize that there are a lot of issues surrounding rental property. Who is going to manage it? If you plan on doing that, how are you going to market it? Frankly, for those out of state or new to the vacation rental business, using a local management company will make a lot of sense. Factor that cost into your budget. Again, condos that allow seasonal short term rental are in high demand. If you’re going to move on this do it now.
- Walkability – As the island has gotten more traffic, being able to walk to restaurants and fun attractions has become an even more desirable feature in a property. This is most likely found in condos on the South end of the island, particularly around the Village and St. Simons Pier.
- Parking – Parking continues to be an important feature. Look for assigned or permanent parking in addition to extra onsite parking for additional vehicles.
- Reserves and Finances – Too many buyers pay too little attention to this. Ask for the latest condominium budget, the amount of the reserve funds, any outstanding current or potential liabilities, and any likely future expenditures. If you don’t ask specifically, you may get unpleasant surprises down the road.
St. Simons Island is a great place. It has low crime and great people. For those who have been looking for a place on the island, now is the time to buy.
The beach lifestyle never is too crowded.