By Keith Knepp
There’s no denying that 2020 has been one of the strangest, most difficult years in anyone’s memory. For several weeks, commerce came to a near standstill across the country. However, by several accounts, the real estate market around the Kosciusko County lakes is booming. So too is the construction and remodeling business, according to local builders and contractors.
“There’s definitely a housing shortage now,” said Sam Beachy, president of the Builders Association of Kosciusko and Fulton Counties. “The problem around the lake is that there aren’t any empty lots, so to speak.”
Beachy, who also is the co-owner of Reliance, a building and remodeling company that has several projects currently in progress around the local lakes, added that property owners who want to improve their lakeside living quarters are having to decide whether it is more cost effective to tear down an existing structure and start over than to renovate.
“The construction business hasn’t slowed down, rather it’s really picked up,” added Beachy. “People aren’t vacationing this year because of the pandemic. Rather, they are staying closer to home and putting that money into construction and real estate.”
Brad Jackson, CEO of T.L. Jackson Construction Inc. in Syracuse agrees. “It’s pretty amazing. Interest in real estate and construction is sky high right now. This is at a level that I’ve never seen before and we’ve been in business for a long time. I believe that it’s linked to the strong economy that has been related. Despite COVID, the real estate and construction market has been able to take a hit and still rise back up.”
Jackson, who also serves as a Kosciusko County commissioner, added that he has a friend in the RV industry who said his sales also have seen dramatic increases in recent months. He acknowledged that the economy does remain difficult for those in other business sectors, including restaurants, which is difficult to see.
“The demand for building before the pandemic was strong and has remained so throughout,” he added, noting that the construction industry was considered an essential business, which helped keep things flowing.
“We’ve received a lot of inquiries, most of which are for demolition and rebuilds,” Jackson said. “We need to turn them into signed contracts, which is happening slowly.”
From the perspective of a real estate agent, business around the lakes is booming. “It has been a very active market since late spring,” said Kay Young, an broker with Todd Realty in Syracuse. “There are many properties that are finding multiple offers within 24 to 48 hours, some of which are selling over list price.”
Young concurred that many families have decided to not travel as much as they usually do for the foreseeable future. “I think people have decided that they would rather stay closer to home and have their families with them,” she said. “They are looking to buy a lake retreat where they can feel safer. Plus, interest rates are very favorable for buyers right now. We’re obviously in a market that we haven’t seen for a long time with a lack of listings available.”
As an example, she pointed out that in 2008-2009 there were fewer listings but also fewer buyers. This time around, there are limited listings but a lot of interested buyers looking for a home on the lake.