Home buyers coming to the mountains in the Cashiers/Highlands Plateau for the first time looking for a vacation home may find prices are much higher than in the past 7 or 8 years. We are all familiar with the drastic decline in home prices due to the Great Recession. Prices plunged and an overabundance of homes came on the market. There were many beautiful homes that sold over the course of those years for prices far below their replacement cost. Because of the difficulty of obtaining a mortgage during these years homes were slow to sell, even at reduced prices.
Those days of distressed home prices are now past. However, in the Cashiers/Highlands area there are still roughly a 5-year supply of these older homes and prices are moving upwards. Even if a buyer finds an older home at a good price it is likely there will be considerable renovation or remodeling required and labor and materials, at today’s prices, could run into thousands.
There is currently only about a 3-month supply of NEW spec homes available in the Cashiers/Highlands area. 95% of new homes now under construction are being built for specific homeowners on their own lots. If a potential buyer finds a new spec home today that is completed and move-in-ready the price is likely to be considerable higher than homes sold in the recent past number of years.
Here are some of the reasons why prices have risen:
1. Homes are costlier to build today because the prices of raw materials have risen dramatically since the recession. Wood, roofing, electrical, plumbing, appliances, tile and paint have all gone up in price making a home cost more to build.
2. Many of the skilled workers that were building homes 8 years ago have either retired, moved away or are working in other jobs. Today it is much more difficult to find qualified workers and the few that are in demand are asking higher wages than 8 years ago. Younger men and women were not being trained to fill construction jobs during the recession because homes were not being built and there were so few jobs available. Cashiers and Highlands are relatively small villages and few workers live in the area so those who do are in much demand. Many of the contractors, plumbers, electricians, stone masons and tile setters building homes here today must drive an hour or more to work on projects in Cashiers. Their fees reflect this commute and add to the cost of a home.
3. Home building costs are also higher in the mountains because the transport of materials costs more as well. Concrete trucks that can haul full loads on flat roads must carry only half loads in the mountains because of the steep inclines and difficult terrain so two trips must be made instead of one. Pre-constructed rafters are sometimes not practical because they cannot be transported to the job site so homes must be built entirely by hand on the site. All other building materials must be trucked in from long distances and delivery is costly.
4. Home sites in the mountains often require extensive preparation before construction can begin. Sloping lots need to be leveled, massive foundations are sometimes required, and solid granite boulders need to be blasted out of the way. It is an expensive proposition just to prepare the site.
5. Labor is one of the largest expenses incurred in any home construction project. A new North Carolina sales tax has recently been enacted that requires many sub-contractors to charge sales tax on labor adding another large cost to the construction of a home.
These things are good to know before shopping for a home in the Cashiers/Highlands Plateau today. Many make the mistake of thinking, because a home sold for low price a year or two ago, a similar home can be had for that price today. Especially if one is looking for a new home. Remember a new home comes with a new everything; roof, siding, paint, energy star appliances and windows, cost saving electric, superior insulation, efficient zoned heating & cooling and up to date media electronics all under warranty.
So, if you are looking for a vacation home in the mountains, shop around, compare all of the options but remember that times have changed and prices are likely to be higher than you expect. Be prepared for some mountain vacation home sticker shock.