It’s not exactly a top secret locale, but the Seven Lakes community is fast becoming one of the hardest places in Moore County to find a home.
“I have never seen so many buyers interested in this area. I’ve never seen the inventory so low and demand so high,” said Shannon Stites with The Stites Team at Keller Williams.
Developed in the early 1970s as a golfing, equestrian and lake-living community, the greater Seven Lakes area shares the West End zip code. The broad footprint encompasses the gated residential communities of Seven Lakes North and South, Seven Lakes West and McLendon Hills, with approximately 5,000 people who call this area home.
“Literally there is not a single house available on Lake Auman,” Stites said, referring to the 1000-acre lake in Seven Lakes West. “There are a ton of buyers who want anything waterfront, but even in non-waterfront we are seeing a lot of demand: it’s just not as extreme.”
Stites attributes the strong interest to low interest rates and the fact that more people are spending time at home due to the pandemic.
“People are not as busy and they want a home that they can enjoy more. We are seeing a lot of people from outside the area looking. Our best kept secret is no longer a secret,” she said. “I think there will be a feeding frenzy when a waterfront home comes on the market. We are building up more and more inventory of buyers looking for those homes. But overall, the market will be good for sellers for awhile.”
Across Moore County, houses listed under $400,000 are selling swiftly while the luxury home market has not rebounded as quickly from the 2007-2008 recession.
Despite that slowdown, Cristy Hunt of McLendon Hills Realty said they have seen more custom construction in the past 12 months than any previous year.
“This has been the busiest we’ve been, ever,” she said.
Developed as an equestrian community with eight miles of bridle trails, McLendon Hills also features a smaller lake.
“We are kind of a different buyer. There is a certain price point in Seven Lakes and Pinehurst where homes will not stay on the market. We are higher than that price point,” Hunt said. “What we are seeing is people from the Northeast, which has always been a hot spot for us, are quicker in making decisions right now. Maybe they had a five-year plan to get out and they are ready to go now.”
Moore County’s new housing market has proliferated in the $250,000 and $400,000 range, which aligns closely with military buyers’ price point; however, Seven Lakes has generally been considered less attractive because of the longer commute to Fort Bragg.
“It was interesting that, at the beginning of COVID, it seemed like every buyer was getting a VA loan,” Stites said, noting the program is used by both active duty and retired military members. “Lately we are seeing now more of a mix of VA loans, conventional loans and cash buyers.”
Diane Wilson, with Towering Pines Real Estate, said Seven Lakes North remains popular with families because of its many amenities, while the Seven Lakes South market is bit quieter and more golf-focused.
In a year-to-date comparison, 41 homes in Seven Lakes North have sold since January versus 20 homes during the same period in 2019. In Seven Lakes West, 20 new-construction homes have sold in the last 180 days.
“This market is hot. Even in Moore County, this is more of a seller’s market,” Williams said. “The absorption rate in Seven Lakes North and South is about two months of inventory. If you look at all of Moore County, it is about three months of inventory.”
“If anybody is willing to put their house in the market, now is the time,” she added. “The whole county is growing. What I tell my clients is what we have may not always be the same, but enjoy it while it is. I think living in Seven Lakes is like being on a vacation all the time.”
Martha Gentry, of ReMax Prime Properties, said the whole market is doing well; Seven Lakes is just moving even faster.
In 2019, 86 single-family homes sold in Seven Lakes. That is just below the busiest year recorded (88 sold in 2017). Through the second quarter of 2020, 78 homes had already sold.
“I expect we will blow out last year’s numbers,” Gentry said. “I would be very surprised if we do not hit 100 houses sold this year. This is mirroring what is happening across the whole market.”
In June, the ReMax Prime team put $17.2 million in real estate under contract, followed by another $10 million in sales in July.
“Our previous record was $12 million back in 2005. I think we are seeing some built-up demand with military buyers because they had been held back,” Gentry said. “What’s happening now is we are running out of inventory everywhere.”
“It’s amazing. If we get a certain type of home in the $300-$400,000 range on the market, it is gone just as quick as we can get it out there.”
Her advice to buyers and sellers is to try to take advantage of the market. For buyers, there are low interest rates and sellers can maximize the investment in their homes.