Business, Latest News, Preston County

Preston’s housing market surges

People from out of state seek safe reprieve from cities

KINGWOOD —  During the coronavirus lockdown, Realtor Jessica Lipscomb joked that by the time  it ends, a lot of people will either be looking for a new spouse or a new house. 

 “I am in the middle of a very busy summer season,” said Lipscomb, of Houses & More Real Estate in Kingwood. “What’s unusual about that is I didn’t know if I’d be slower or busier this year.  I didn’t know what to expect.”

Vickie Jenkins, Realtor with Real Estate by Vickie Jenkins and Associates, is also seeing a surge of people interested in moving to Preston County and West Virginia.

 “It’s one of the best markets that I’ve been in,” Jenkins said. “Because it’s a sellers’ market, because the inventory is low, ’cause they’re getting a good price out of it, but it’s also a buyers’ market because the interest rates are so good.”

It’s “everybody’s market,” Jenkins said.

  Some of Lipscomb’s  clients already live in the area and are buying a starter home or moving to another home. But she’s also worked this summer with buyers from North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Washington.

 “I think everyone’s just been home and they’ve had to reassess not what they want  for the summer but what they want out of life,” Lipscomb said. “That’s the feeling I get, that people are making these big life changes.”

 Land and location

 Everyone seems to be looking for the same thing, she said:  At least five acres, a three- or four-bedroom house, about 2,500 square feet, two bathrooms, a main level master, two-car garage, a nice location and a price tag of  about $150,000.

“At least once a day I get that phone call, and I think it’s because the perception is that West Virginia is going to be very affordable,” Lipscomb said.

The economy in north-central West Virginia keeps the market strong. The average sales price in Preston County is about $175,000, she said.

Jenkins said, in Preston County, most of her buyers are looking for larger tracts of land.

“It’s like the people from the cities are saying ‘We’re getting a piece of property where we can get out and away from COVID.’ And we’re selling all of our pieces of property that sat on the market several years,” Jenkins said. 

Lipscomb thinks as people  look at Preston County and West Virginia, apart from the beauty of the region and great location, there are all-time low interest rates. And as people worry about the economy, real estate has historically been a comfortable investment. 

She has found large tracts of land popular now, too.

 “And, if you’re living in a city, you’re finding that you’re quarantined at home, so you can’t enjoy the things that you enjoy about city life — things like going out to eat, going out to events. Those are kind of off the calendar for the foreseeable future, and you’re finding yourself trapped in probably pretty small living quarters,” Lipscomb said.

For some people, this means moving back to their hometown. 

“Because when they think of uncertainty in the world, they think of this as a safe haven,” Lipscomb said.  

Other buyers have no local connection. 

 “People are looking for this sort of rural community, but they do want to have a good hospital nearby … and they do seem to be people who travel a whole lot … so they always ask about the distance to airports,” Lipscomb said.

They also always ask what grocery stores are nearby and if they deliver, and what there is to do, Lipscomb said. 

Camp Dawson is an attraction for some, who are retired military. And West Virginia University and proximity to larger cities and  health care are factors, Jenkins said.

Who are the buyers?

Buyers from other states are about equally split between retirees and folks who work from home. Good internet is key for the latter, and Jenkins said she lost two sales because internet speeds  at the properties they were looking at — in Bull Run and off Route 119 — weren’t fast enough for what the buyers needed.

 A North Carolina man, for example, asked  what there is to do in Preston County. Lipscomb asked him what he did now for entertainment during the week, and he said garden, read and avoid traffic. 

“I said ‘Well, that’s what we do here.’ ”  

 “I think that they really feel West Virginia is a safe state and the location,” Jenkins said.  “I think that people just want to be able to get up into the mountains and into the woods and away from the city.”

“People are seeing how beautiful it is here and how special, and how much we have to offer, and all of a sudden we’re like the cool kids on the block,” Lipscomb said.   

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