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Pending home sales, local tourism brighten 2020 outlook

Pending home sales, local tourism brighten 2020 outlook

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If there’s any silver lining to this year, it’s that home sales are booming. The National Association of Realtors recently reported a whopping 16.6% increase in pending home sales for May and June, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. The jump was attributed to the record-low mortgage rates, which are expected to stay at around 3% over the next 18 months.

The pending home sales index is used to forecast sales of existing homes based on contract signings, according to the association.

“It is quite surprising and remarkable that, in the midst of a global pandemic, contract activity for home purchases is higher compared to one year ago,” said Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtor’s chief economist.

Glenn Kelman, chief executive officer of the real estate brokerage Redfin, told NPR’s The Indicator podcast that the economy seems to be split into two different groups with white collar professionals mainly looking to move out of bigger cities and into smaller communities.

“They’re asking the question, ‘Well, why do I have to live close to the office? Why can’t I live near family? Why can’t I live in a place that’s more affordable?’ ” Kelman said.

Home shoppers are also looking for extra bedrooms to use for their parents or as home offices and gyms, Kelman added, in anticipation of spending more time at home.

Another silver lining to this pandemic is that sales of recreational vehicles have increased and more people are choosing to vacation closer to home and in the great outdoors, including at Virginia State Parks.

In a news story in last week’s The Roanoke Times, Joe Childress, manager of Tonie’s RV in Salem, said he’s been working around the clock to get purchased campers prepped and ready for their new owners.

The story also reported that camping nearby at Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston was up 17.4% during the months of June and July.

“We’re the convenient and affordable and safe vacation versus people going to the beach or going down to Disney or things like that,” said Dave Collett, western operations manager of Virginia State Parks.

Based on the number of visitor guides requested online and foot traffic into the Smith Mountain Lake Visitor Center, Christopher Finley, the executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, estimated a 20% to 25% jump in traffic at the lake.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that the market is on a gradual road to recovery,” Finley said in the article. “It’s encouraging by the trends that we’re seeing.”

Given that Smith Mountain Lake has 500 miles of shoreline, many feel safe coming to the area to be with family while also maintaining social distancing.

“I think people feel safe if they’re outside in open spaces, and we’re very fortunate that within the three counties that Smith Mountain Lake borders, we have an abundance of offerings that will attract people to come and visit, whether it be individuals, whether it be couples, whether it be families,” Finley said.

So it’s possible that the old adage, “There’s no place like home,” rings true, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, which perhaps surprisingly has brought a bit of good news amid the gloom to our community’s economy.

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