For 34 years, the residential real estate market numbers for Sampson County remained “pretty flat” in Deno McLamb’s experience.
McLamb, broker and owner of Southern Heritage Realty in Clinton, said that changed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This past summer, it spiked just like the rest of the country,” said McLamb, who counts Wilmington- based Cape Fear Realtors among the associations he’s joined. “Currently it’s leveling back off some but we still have buyer demand.”
The rural county’s population as of 2020 was only about 60,000 people.
“When the market crashes, we don’t go down like it does in large cities,” McLamb said. “Whenever it really gains, we don’t get that big gain but this past summer we did pick up a little boost.”
Still, some real estate companies in rural counties are seeing some of the same trends as larger communities.
He said average prices are around $140,000 to $150,000 and are up about 15% for the year.
Evelyne Mills, 84, and her family own Associated Realty of Wallace in Duplin County, which she figures is the oldest office in town.
“As it stands now, our listings in the area are very low because everything that comes in it gets sold,” she said in a recent interview.
Mills said low interest rates are a main factor.
“Basically, I would say that interest rates have been driving it a whole lot,” Mills said. “If I’m going to buy, I better hurry up, people say, because of the good interest rates right now.”
When it comes to land sales, “out in the country, people don’t want to sell their land.” So, when it does come up for sale, Mills said, it sells pretty quickly.
In some cases when land does come on the market, heirs have moved away to find better pay.
“You don’t have the higher-paying jobs here like you would in Wilmington,” Mills said. “There’s some high-paying jobs but not that many in abundance.”
Mills said she doesn’t foresee a huge influx of people coming to Duplin County, but you never know. If that did happen, “I don’t know where they’re going to stay right now. There is a scarcity of houses,” she said. “There’s a terrible scarcity of rentals.”