Last updated: June 10. 2014 1:41PM - 1059 Views
By Lucie R. Willsie lwillsie@civitasmedia.com

Bobbie and John Collins have been Realtors in the Mount Airy area at Homestead Realty for more than 30 years.
Bobbie and John Collins have been Realtors in the Mount Airy area at Homestead Realty for more than 30 years.
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The future of real estate in the Mount Airy area is promising.

So say Bobbie Collins and John Collins, both Realtors with both Homestead Realty.

“It’s a wow moment in real estate,” concurred Alison Johnson, Realtor from Rogers Realty. “… The market has definitely picked up. It’s a decent market right now.”

Bobbie Collins founded her Homestead Realty firm 35 years ago, and has been working with her husband, John, at the real estate firm part-time since 1981 and full-time after his retirement as a vice president at Surry Community College in 2003.

“It’s been busy just about every month,” Bobbie Collins said, especially referring to the months since 2010. After the stock market crash and recession hit a couple of years ago, there was a slow down for a while in 2008, but there has been roughly a 10-percent increase in sales every year since. “It’s been steady in Mount Airy.”

Yes, Johnson agreed, there has been a decline around 2008, but there has been a plateau in the market for about a year or so, and now there has been a definite uptick.

Houses in the area are still good, say the Collins. Prices range from as low as $13,000 to $390,000, with the average range roughly averaging between $80,000 to $150,000. And prices for the seller are remaining steady as well, and even increasing somewhat in the past year. Even businesses seem to be growing and/or establishing themselves in Mount Airy “slowly but surely” over the past few years.

“But the main unique thing about Mount Airy (however) is the viability of its downtown,” John Collins said. “In many other towns you see a lot of empty buildings and they have a rundown look.”

For example, the couple recently has sold two historic houses, one on North Main and the other on West Pine, which are at a premium in Mount Airy.

One of these families is planning on opening a bed and breakfast within walking distance of downtown.

But it will be a while — next year at least — before this opens, or so the Collins understand.

The house the Collins couple sold on North Main Street, with 4,110 total square feet, was sold in 2002 by Johnson for $359,000, reduced from the initial price of $425,000, Johnson said. Just this month, the Collins sold this same property for $152,000 after initially being listed for $169,000. The tax value for this property, however, is listed as $374,570, Johnson added.

“It’s a fabulous location,” Johnson confirmed.

The house on West Pine, with a square-footage of 5,473, was recently sold by Homestead Realty for $83,000 after being listed for $150,000. Its tax valuation is $183,250. This building used to be the old library.

“It’s phenomenal,” Johnson said. “They’re both being restored.”

A third home sold by Homestead on West Pine, just down the street from the old library location, was listed at $44,900, and was recently sold for $45,150. It has 2,360 square feet. Its tax value is listed as $128,540.

Two out of three of these homes were foreclosures, Johnson explained.

“It’s very sad to see,” Johnson said, “but how wonderful people are buying them to restore them. This helps everybody.”

And prices are starting to turn upward.

“There’s a lot of interest in older historic houses,” he said. “There aren’t many houses like these around.”

It’s the Mayberry theme

“Because people still want to live in Mayberry,” Bobbie Collins said.

A few current homeowners have moved to Mount Airy for just that reason.

“We’ve had folks just pack up and move here first, and then look for a house,” he said.

There seems to be a synergistic effect happening in the region. The more viable the downtown area is, such as in Mount Airy, the more folks want to live here. And, the more folks want to move here and live here, the more viable the downtown, the entire area.

“The exciting thing is seeing some of the upper-priced houses sell,” Johnson said. “We’re busy.”

In the past six months, 24 homes that cost more than $200,000 were sold, Johnson revealed. In the six month previous to that, Johnson added, 31 homes priced at more than $200,000 were sold and five homes priced at more than $400,000 were sold in the Mount Airy/Surry County area. In the past six months, 181 homes were sold in the town and the county, and that doesn’t even include the homes sold by owner. The average cost for homes in this area over the past year is roughly between $109,000 to $122,000.

One recent trend worth mentioning seems to be developing in the area.

“People are scaling down into smaller houses that are more economically feasible,” Johnson said. “That’s the movement across the board.”

In addition to the economy, other methods of improving real estate sales have evolved greatly over the years since Bobbie Collins started 35 years ago, Bobbie Collins said.

And since that time, another significant change, as well as a boon, for the real estate market in general, has been the use of computers and iPads and smart phones and other electronic methods of searching for a new home. Years ago, Multiple Listing Service books contained the most up-to-date sales information. Actually, before the MLS, real estate companies just showed their own listings rather than all the listings from all Realtors. Now, potential homeowners have access to all listings available in the area.

Another reason for the upturn in real estate sales is the general improvement in the economy, said John Collins.

“Interest rates are still low at 4 percent to about 4.5 percent for a 30-year mortgage,” Bobbie Collins said. And, folks who qualify can even possibly get a 3.3-percent fixed, as well as a variable, loan for 15 years.

All three Realtors agree its a great time to buy right now.

“There are phenomenal buys out there right now,” Johnson confirmed.

In fact, another trend being seen in this area is that younger people are moving back, Johnson added.

“I think you are going to see great things coming,” she predicted.

Lucie R. Willsie can be reached at 336-719-1930 or on Twitter at LucieRWillsie.

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