Right now, anyone who pays attention knows that Smith Mountain Lake real estate is booming. “Everyone has to be somewhere,” the saying goes, but more and more people decide the place they want to be looks a lot more like Smith Mountain Lake than the concrete cityscape they called home. when COVID-19 swept through and forever changed how everyone lives, works and relaxes.

The first signs of impact were evident on the lake in May 2020 as pontoons and runabouts by the hundreds began to ply the SML waters, bathed in the crisp spring air and laden with smiles, greeting extended families escaping the their locking blues. Initial fears of a lost summer season due to travel bans were allayed by a sudden demand for time on the water from owners and renters who realized that traveling and being in SML was possible and reasonable.

But the pandemic has had more than just an impact on property values. “I see more and more clients looking for move-in ready homes so they can quickly start enjoying life here, without a lengthy in-home rehabilitation,” said Barry Bridges of Weichert Realtors, Bridges & Co and a 20 year veteran of lake sales. property. “Some are retirees who will be here full time; others are on weekends or in the middle of summer. The average age is probably down by 10 years.

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Bridges said a common first question was, “What about high speed internet access?” This is largely necessary for working from home. “Fortunately, this situation has improved considerably here over the past two years,” he said.

Keller Williams’ Bedford Group real estate agent Julie Bays has had similar thoughts over the past 21 months. “At first we panicked,” she says, asking if any buyers would come. But people quickly understood: “If I was in SML, I could isolate myself with a dock and a boat; it’s easy to socially distance yourself on the water! ‘ Short-term rentals have also exploded, so buyers feel assured of rental income to help pay for a property they can retire in five to ten years.

Bays noted that National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun believes the market will remain strong. “With low, fixed interest rates,” he explained, “people are putting in more money. This tends to protect against a collapse in property values ​​like the one experienced in ’07 / ’08.

Buyers feel the urgency

Alex and Karen Grunsfeld of Charlottesville closed their doors on a property in Goodview last January. “We had been visiting friends here for years,” Alex recounted, “and toyed with the idea of ​​owning a property. We casually shopped, happy to wait for the“ perfect place ”to vacation and rental. But suddenly we realized that waiting any longer might shut us out of the market. It was time to buy. Result: The Grunsfelds had a glorious summer of swimming (“No sand and salt!” Karen said delirious.), exploring the lake by boat and visiting restaurants on the water. “The relaxation and general beauty here leaves us rejuvenated. And this is the perfect place to create family memories,” he said. he declares.

Kathy and Jeff Simmons, formerly of Rochester, New York, move to a full-time lakefront residence in Hardy. “My sister’s in-laws built in Huddleston years ago,” said Kathy, “and their visit there convinced us that we should eventually retreat to a lake. Jeff is a water guy and wanted access to boating, kayaking and swimming. When COVID hit, we were just getting serious about it. “

But the buying process influenced by the pandemic still rocks her. “We never saw the house in person until we pulled up with some personal effects in a U-Haul truck. Our real estate agent, Jada Turner (from Berkshire-Hathaway, SML Real Estate) had shown us around FaceTime and also showed the house to our loved ones. We had to forgo an inspection for our offer to be accepted. And the transaction – all the paperwork – was totally remote. If you had told me that we would buy a house without seeing it firsthand, I would have said, “You are crazy. “But here we are… and it was like Christmas when we walked through the door,” she said.

While Simmons and Grunsfeld’s home choices reflect the move-in-ready trend, the pandemic has also inspired major transformations. Mike Bryant, co-owner of Construction Marketing, LLC with Ronnie Booth, has been doing home renovations in SML and surrounding communities for 11 years. “There is an increase in demand for major renovations to indoor and outdoor living spaces for vacation property owners who sell homes in the north and make the lake their full-time home,” said Bryant. “Think ‘large intestine and rebuild’ of part of the house: kitchen, master bathroom, multipurpose room to include a home workspace. The outdoor living spaces too. “We have the money from a door-to-door sale; do as we want! ‘ is what we hear. And we are often talking about more than one room. These “renos” operate at $ 300,000 and more. “

Features Bryant noticed are now popular: rooms with screens, covered patios, fireplaces, extended decks with wire railings (for better views), lots of glass, and modern decor. “Anyone who thinks about it with an estimate from a few years ago in mind is at risk of sticker shock,” he said. “Some materials have jumped 300%, and although they are now decreasing a bit, this is minor compared to the increases caused by the pandemic.”

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