Home buyers face fierce competition in Savannah’s seller’s market

Updated: Apr. 1, 2021 at 6:52 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Buyers who are on the hunt for a house in the Savannah area are faced with a highly competitive market.

It is typical for there to be multiple offers on a home just hours after its listed for sale. Oddly enough, the pandemic has a lot to do with it.

First-time homebuyers Brent and Lydia Schrader recently relocated to Savannah from Philadelphia.

“We were just kind of getting tired of the hustle and bustle of a northeast city. We loved Savannah and we could see ourselves here for the long term with the possibility of raising kids here.”

On a recent Friday, they made plans to tour four homes for sale, but only one was available. The other three had already gone under contract. As they arrived at the only house on their list, their agent delivered the news.

“It already has an offer on it,” said Staci Donegan, associate broker with Seabolt Real Estate.

“As one would expect, as things have been going for us.” Brent said.

Multiple offers are something the Schraders have come to expect these days. They have been looking since January.

“There is a lot of competition. We’ve put offers in on houses that had seven other offers, cash offers, and we’re just kind of wading through and learning. It’s our first house.”

Springtime in Savannah is typically a more active time for the housing market. This spring is an exceptional, Donegan said.

“A couple different factors that we didn’t see a couple years ago. We have low interest rates and the pandemic, of course, which everyone is talking about, she said”

It’s led to an influx of buyers, like the Schraders, who are re-locating from the northeast.

“A lot of them are COVID related,” Donegan said. “And it’s really this push from having to go into an office to being able to work from home, and I think people are re-evaluating what’s important in their lifestyles and how they live. And to be able to live in a temperate climate like Savannah.”

The demand for a southern quality of life has meant homes are selling above list price.

For the first time in years, the median home sales price in Savannah rose above the median list price in January. It is a sign of a strong seller’s market, Donegan said.

The median sales price that month was about $265,000. When compared to January of last year, median home sales prices in Savannah have increased by 12 percent.

“If somebody wants to buy a house that’s highly sought after and it’s priced right - you know it’s very likely it will go above ask,” she said.

So, if it’s a seller’s market, why are more people not listing?

The reason also has to do with the pandemic.

“There is a lot of economic uncertainty about where we are going,” said Bailey Hall, real estate agent Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners. “A lot of people have entered into forbearance for example, so they are just kind of sitting tight.”

She pointed out another reason why more homes are not being listed for sale: Savannah’s large military population is under a stop movement order that has not relaxed to pre-pandemic conditions.

“We didn’t have the military moving around as much so we didn’t have a lot of homes going on the market that would normally be going on the market,” Hall said.

All those factors have put buyers like the Schraders in a highly competitive situation to buy a home.

“We just have to be on top of it and make a decision right away which gives me a lot of anxiety,” Lydia said.

“I don’t know if we’ve been deterred though I mean it’s just kind of do research and see where things are going and hopefully beat interest rates before they start going up again,” Brent added.

The Schraders decided not to make an offer on the house on, and they are still looking.

Here are some suggestions from real estate experts.

For sellers - If you’re ready to sell, put it on the market. The market is in your favor.

WTOC interviewed real estate agents who advised sellers should consider listing a home as is, which is indicative of the market change. Also, the price of construction has gone up during the pandemic, so a renovation project may not be the best option.

There are amenities that are more desirable to buyers that were not before the pandemic, said Staci Donegan, associate broker with Seabolt Real Estate.

“The buyers that are moving here are looking for family compounds. During a pandemic, if they can’t leave the house, they want to be able to have a home office, a gym, a pool, recreational space for their family and enough space for extended family to stay with them.”

For buyers - the best advice is to be prepared. Make sure you have your finances in order. You want to be in the best position possible to make your strongest offer. Expect multiple offers on a home soon after it lists, know what you want and be able to make quick decisions.

“Understand that you’re probably not going to get the first house you place an offer on, and that whatever offer you place needs to be your strongest,” said Bailey Hall, real estate agent Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners “You need to not nitpick, decor related things are not what you should focus on. Instead, think about ways you can make your offer more attractive to the seller.”

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