2 min read April 2022 — Invest: spoke with Lee Allen, president of Canopy Realtor® Association, about the innovative ways the organization has approached an unprecedented market while its members closed nearly 60,000 deals along the way. “Our job as Realtors® is to be the megaphone for the market while helping our communities,” Allen said.
What have been your key takeaways from the past year and how are they shaping your growth priorities?
2021 was a significant milestone because it was our 100th anniversary. We had an opportunity to celebrate our history, but also look at our future state to determine how we stay relevant and why we exist. That spurred us to ask “what is our why,” which led to us revising our vision statement to, Advancing the Profession and Improving our Communities. Our previous vision was Lead, Educate and Equip our members to be successful, but after further discussions, we evolved to the new vision statement because advancing the profession encapsulates what the previous vision stated with the leadership, education/professional development, and support we provide members so they, in turn, can better assist their clients with their housing goals. When people’s housing needs are met then our communities improve. Our communities are also improved through the work of the volunteer Realtor® community and Canopy Housing Foundation, the charitable arm of the Association.
The pandemic also accelerated trends that were already occurring, especially technology use. For example, we have a real estate institute and are now offering online classes. The technology is something we had to embrace, even more, to meet our customers where they are and go from there.
Real estate over the past year has been unbelievable. Realtors® in the Charlotte region closed almost 60,000 homes in 2021. I’ve been in real estate for two different downturns and this market today is just nuts. The supply of homes in the Charlotte area has dropped to its lowest inventory in 17 years, running anywhere from two weeks to a month at any given point. That means that if people stopped listing their properties and we kept selling, in under a month we would be out of homes to sell. People need thick skin in this market if they are looking to buy a home. Despite several digital platforms coming into real estate to automate a lot of the process, we are finding a greater demand for trusted advisers. As a result, relationships have never mattered more than they do now.
How is the massive relocation of people to the area and subsequent demand for workforce housing impacting real estate in Charlotte?
One of the challenges for Charlotte is where we can find more affordable homes. Sadly, there is a negative connotation with the phrase “affordable housing.” We are now calling it “workforce housing” instead. Where do teachers and firefighters who have children live? Diversity is much more than the social and economic factors; it’s all-encompassing and we are a much better community when we’re all together.
We already know affordability will get squeezed a little more because interest rates are predicted to go up three to four more times this year. Rates will likely inch up a quarter percent at a time over 2022. For every 1% increase, it reduces the affordability for someone looking to buy a home by about 18%. It’s an extraordinary phenomenon. We are involved in both the regulatory and legislative sides and work with community partners on the local, state, and national levels to educate those decision-makers. For a $400,000 home, approximately 25% of that cost goes to regulation, permits, and fees and that can be prohibitive for homebuyers and Realtors® alike. The challenge is what we can do to build bridges with stakeholders, developers, city officials, and legislators. We all want the same thing, so we have to work together to get there.
But builder sentiment is stable right now. With single-family homes, their construction is done by smaller builders. Single-family starts have been edging lower and multifamily is growing all over the region. But rental rates are also going up and renters are taking a pause. They’re looking at their massive monthly rents and choosing to go in the direction of mortgages, and they’re moving out of the metro region as a result. They’re trading the commute for affordability.
What opportunities are emerging for local, national, and international investors who are interested in relocating to Charlotte?
North Carolina is a giant magnet for international business. Education is a big draw here and our livability is off the chart. Our prices are very attractive right now. People are moving from the West Coast or Northeast and they can hardly believe how low-tax the area is. But the downside is that out of the 100 counties in North Carolina, 85 have seen migration out, and only 15 have grown since 2008. On almost every metric, 15 counties are seeing 85% of the benefit.
What is your outlook and the top priorities for Canopy Realtor® Association in the near term?
Our job as Realtors® is to be the megaphone for the market and help our communities thrive by having a voice at the table when real estate and housing needs are being discussed. We need to meet unmet housing needs for all. We have to educate our decision-makers to try new initiatives and policies to bolster this opportunity. If we can advance our community and educate Realtors® about these opportunities, we can manage excellent growth for a long time. Our housing market is healthy for three reasons: consistent job creation, consistent population growth, and companies that are either expanding or coming in new to our area.
For Canopy, I believe we are a relationship business for our clients. That’s why education opportunities are critical. We’ve implemented more online and on-demand training as well as virtual Realtor®’s Hot Topics for our members, we are actively more transparent and timelier with our communication and use a multitude of channels to reach members where they are. And that could mean social media, including tips, education, and training on our Youtube channel, podcast conversations, or in our traditional electronic weekly newsletter. We’re even considering using TikTok. But the bottom line is we’re doing everything we can to meet our members and consumers where they are.
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