The Power is Now

Top 10 things to know about New Bern’s real estate market, people want small town USA – New Bern Sun Journal

In New Bern's real estate market, sellers have the power, and demand for luxury homes is back.

Sellers have the power in New Bern’s booming real estate market, as Covid-19 attracted people to the its small-town charms.  The median listing price in New Bern is $215,000, up 14.2 percent since May 2020 and the average days a home spends on the market is 79, compared to 206 in May 2020, according to Rocket Homes New Bern Housing Market Report.

Donna Harmatuk, operating principal for Keller Williams Realty New Bern and Morehead, shares her insight into New Bern's real estate market.

Donna Harmatuk, operating principal for Keller Williams Realty New Bern and Morehead, uses her twenty plus years of experience to break down New Bern’s real estate market and explain the most important things people should know right now.

1. Sellers have the power

For the first time in 15 years, the New Bern real estate market is a sellers market.

“The current housing market in Craven County is unbelievable. I’ve done this for 22 years and never seen a market like this, meaning the lack of inventory and the demand of buyers,” Harmatuk said.

The new normal is for sellers to get eight to ten offers on their property, a statistic unheard of a few years ago. Some listings are going for as much as $50,000 over the listing price, as housing stock in New Bern decreased by 13.4 percent in May to 252.

2. Demand for luxury homes is back

“The biggest tick up is in luxury homes…right now we have a shortage of luxury properties which has never been the case,” Harmatuk said.

New Bern has not seen luxury buyers since 2005 and 2006–right before the market crash in ’08. Now, the demand for luxury properties, which used to sit on the market for years, is on fire. 

People are selling their homes in more expensive areas, taking the proceeds and coming down to New Bern where they can get more for their money.

3. Up-tick in investor demand

“The investors are back.  We have a lot of people right now with extra cash and they’re able to buy investment properties,” Harmatuk said.

People are wanting a passive income and are buying investment properties–perfect for houses that may need a little more work.  Harmatuk said the rental market is like nothing she’s ever seen and there is a lack of rentals in the market.

4. Even with higher prices, it’s still a good market for first-time home buyers

“It’s a really good time to enter as a first-time home buyer, even though the prices are higher,” Harmatuk said. “Affordability is the best we’ve seen in a long time, meaning they’re making more money.”

Interest rates remain low and there are loan products available that address down payments–usually the biggest obstacle for first-time buyers.  The way of life brought on by the pandemic allowed people to save even more money to put towards down payments as well.

5. Covid-19 attracted people to New Bern’s lifestyle

“We have more buyers than we have listings and I think it was a combination of things,” Harmatuk said. “It was a mentality of small town U.S.A. and I think the cost of living is a factor.”

Covid-19 cause many people to leave larger cities and metro areas because they were drawn to the lifestyle of a smaller town and concerned to stay in the event that something similar happened again. New Bern is still surrounded by water, while not plagued by the costs of beachfront living.  

“People choose to live here because it’s pretty special,” Harmatuk said.

6. Older retirees are selling

“I think we saw a lot of people reflecting back to what it would look like to be closer to family,” Harmatuk said.

New Bern has a large retirement community and many people who came down 20 years ago to live the dream–sailing, golfing and enjoying the community–were driven to reflect during the pandemic.  Many realized the importance of living closer to family, especially when unable to travel, and decided to move home.

7. ‘Move-Up’ buyers drive demand for mid-level houses

“The $300-500 thousand range is on fire right now,” Harmatuk said. “They are not first-time home buyers, but move-up buyers.”

The move-up buyers are people who are on their second house and need more square footage, usually placing them in the $300-500 thousand price range. Homes in the neighborhoods of Greenbrier and Taberna largely fall into this range and are in high demand.

8. People want a more livable house

“I think there were some gifts that came out of this. It was horrible for many of us…people had time to think about what they wanted, and what they want is a more livable house,” Harmatuk said, referring to the pandemic.

Spending more time at home caused people to reevaluate what they really want in a home.  Realizing that if quarantine can happen once, it can happen again, people starting wanting things like pools, backyards, fences, at home offices, screened porches, etc.  

9. Lack of inventory is market’s biggest challenge

“Lack of inventory is the market’s biggest challenge, meaning that the sellers want to sell, but they can’t find anywhere to go,” Harmatuk said.

Even though this market allows people to sell their home at a profit, people are hesitant to put their home on the market because they fear not finding a new one.  The seller’s search for a new dream home could make them miss out getting the optimal deal for selling their current home.

10. This market is good for New Bern, but won’t last forever

“This is a good market and it’s good for New Bern.  It is good for our stores and good for our economy because everything centers around real estate,” Harmatuk said.  “It is really important for us to highlight real estate as the center of a lot of other jobs.”

Harmatuk said that real estate markets are cyclical and what goes up must come down.  Prices and demand will level out eventually and it is important for people to stay informed about the market.  Fortunately, New Bern’s real estate market is at the tail end of the overall country’s market change, meaning the town will know a shift is coming before it arrives.



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