The secret is out — the benefits of living in Asheville and Western North Carolina are known far and wide. The WNC climate, with its four beautiful seasons, mountain vistas, pristine forests and small-town feel with big city amenities, all draw people to buy real estate in the mountains.
While real estate is hot nationwide, it’s booming in the luxury real estate market in Asheville, Buncombe County and Western North Carolina.
From the Realtor’s Perspective
Luxury housing has been a strong segment of the WNC real estate market for a long time. Most area Realtors define it as traditionally $750,000+ homes, but these days it’s million-dollar homes and above.
The 2021 State of Luxury Real Estate outlook from Luxury Portfolio International indicates, “The residential luxury market is poised to have a banner year as demand fuels growth at the top.”
“This is the strongest first quarter I’ve seen in my career,” said Neal Hanks, president and principal owner of WNC’s No. 1 real estate firm, Beverly-Hanks & Associates. “And 2020 was the best year for luxury real estate.”
The positive report is echoed by Mark Taylor, broker in charge and community consultant at The Ramble in Biltmore Forest.
“This year is even better than last year, when our sales broke a record for the 10 years I’ve been here,” Taylor said. “Sales to date this year have already equaled all of last year’s total.”
Walnut Cove Realty, which represents sales at the luxury development the Cliffs at Walnut Cove, posted 2020 sales of $82.8 million, and has already achieved $40 million in sales through first quarter 2021.
“It is the best first quarter ever, especially in the luxury market,” said Josh Smith, president of Walnut Cove Realty. “There is more demand than inventory.”
“Right now, we have 50,000 active prospects from 46 states in our database,” said Harry Readfern, founder and president of Private Mountain Communities in Asheville. “We’ve never been busier.”
Driving the Increase
The well-known benefits of mountain living are at the forefront, including the area’s good weather, stunning views, and the ‘vibe’ of Asheville, with its recognized culinary, arts, music and brewing scenes.
Real estate pros believe that the Covid pandemic accelerated people’s desires to move to the mountains.
“It’s not just retirees moving here — it’s baby boomers and older millennials, who have the technology capability to work from anywhere,” said Tracy Veteto, owner/broker in charge at Panashe real estate in Asheville. “The emotional effects of the COVID pandemic have led people to want to ‘nest,’ putting emphasis on their homes.”
There are many factors driving the desire of people to move here, from the urban area feeling of Asheville, to privacy in a mountain hideaway.
“The luxury homebuyer works hard, and plays hard,” said Ann Skoglund, luxury sales expert with Beverly-Hanks. “With the pandemic, high end buyers have not been able to travel or enjoy the arts and fine dining like they used to do. So, they’ve focused on their homes and cars. COVID has accelerated the luxury home market — they’ve wanted to escape to a more pristine environment. Notable is a big increase in people looking for homes, including five acres or more.”
“COVID has changed buying behavior, and people want smaller town with green space,” Harry Readfern said. “Asheville is a perfect small town, but lives like a much larger city, with its food and arts scenes.”
AVL — the Homebuyer’s Perspective
Area luxury Realtors say they no longer have to “sell” Asheville.
“The word is out on Asheville,” said Mark Taylor. “Many people have been vacationing here for years. Due to COVID, people who can work from home are moving here for lower density, proximity of things to do and a wooded environment.”
Walnut Cove resident Roseann Cioce and her husband started vacationing here 20 years ago. A native Floridian, she said she was “amazed by the natural beauty” of the mountains.
“I started dreaming about the mountains,” Cioce said. “My husband is an avid motorcyclist and finds the Blue Ridge Parkway a motorcycle paradise.”
They chose to build at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove, the private, gated golf and wellness community just south of Asheville.
“We love the topography of the Walnut Cove community — being enveloped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and being in thousands of acres of private land.”
David and Shannon Hitchcock came here with a different perspective on housing. They owned a condo in Tampa and a home in Hendersonville, but decided to consolidate into one home.
“We fell in love with condo living in Tampa,” David Hitchcock said. “So, we wanted an urban setting to be able walk to amenities in town.”
Once they decided on Asheville, a friend referred them to Veteto at Panashe, who listened to their desire for a walkable environment and presented options, including the new condo they purchased on Asheville’s South Slope.
“It’s absolutely wonderful to be able to walk to a place if you want a beer or something to eat,” David Hitchcock said.
“It used to be that golf was the number one amenity luxury homebuyers wanted, but now it’s green space, private parks, walking trails and a place for the multi-generational family to gather in a safe environment,” said Harry Readfern.
A Snapshot of Realtors and Developments
There are many options for realtors in WNC. Here is information on those mentioned in this recap of the luxury market.
Beverly-Hanks and Walnut Cove Realty
Beverly-Hanks announced a partnership with Walnut Cove Realty to increase reach to luxury home buyers. Beverly-Hanks, which has a large internet presence, also works in relationship with Luxury Portfolio International and Leading RE.
“The Cliffs at Walnut Cove offers championship golf, fitness facilities, a wellness center, proximity to the Pisgah National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway, plus attractive dining options within the community,” said Neal Hanks.
“We work hard to provide the right options for luxury buyers,” Josh Smith said. “We recently sold a Walnut Cove house to a couple from California who were looking for two specific things in one development — amenitized golf plus a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group. We were able to deliver that combination with a home in Walnut Cove’s Creekside Farm, a unique ‘agrihood’ within the development.”
Panashe Real Estate
Asheville’s Panashe Real Estate is an independent boutique real estate firm, which describes itself as “fiercely local.”
“We specialize in high service, high touch,” said Veteto. “People pick us for high service, being discreet, and our philanthropic initiative. Instead of giving a franchise fee back to a corporate entity, we donate five percent of revenue to a local non-profit of the seller’s choice.”
Panashe offers a wide variety of property choices, from 200-acre estates, to downtown condos, across the neighborhoods and developments in the area.
The Ramble in Biltmore Forest is a 1,000-acre unique master-planned community; all homes are custom designed and built. The community is described as “peaceful and serene,” yet only 15 minutes away from downtown Asheville.
The development has a full range of amenities, including a Living Well Center, tennis, pickleball and bocce courts, a playground and six miles of walking trails, with more to come.
“Preserving and appreciating natural beauty” is a cornerstone of The Ramble.
Private Mountain Communities
Private Mountain Communities, an independent brokerage, offers a showroom in the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville, with in-person information on more than 200 mountain communities in WNC.
With the showroom, PMC’s real estate brokers help guide prospective buyers in finding properties that complement their personal taste and preferred amenities. Prospective buyers complete PMC’s Lifestyle Survey so that staff understands amenities important to each buyer.