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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Charlotte Home Buyers Face Limited Supply And High Prices

One real estate association says there is just an 18-day supply of homes in Charlotte.
Chris Miller
One real estate association says there is just an 18-day supply of homes in Charlotte.

If you're looking to buy a house in Charlotte, you've got your work cut out for you. Would-be buyers face a historically tight supply of homes and rising prices. And there are other challenges, too. For more, we turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Marshall Terry: First, Tony, just how hot is the market right now?

Tony Mecia: I'd say it's sizzling hot, Marshall. Anybody that you talk to in the real estate industry, whether they're a realtor, whether it's someone who's buying a house, selling a house, they will tell you there is a lot going on with the buying and selling of homes right now. The Canopy Realtor Association, which is the association of local real estate agents, says that the supply now is only about 18 days — and typically it's four to six months. So it's really very busy.

Terry: As I mentioned, buyers are facing other challenges besides just supply and demand. Like what?

Mecia: Well, because the housing market is so tight, it's really putting a lot of advantages onto the sellers, the people selling the houses or building the houses. They're able to command not only higher prices, but higher fees that they can get from people who have a house under contract. It's really causing people to make some snap decisions on buying houses because there's just such stiff competition. They'll go look at a house and right as they leave, the next people looking at the house come in and you have to have an offer in that same day. So it's really putting a lot of pressure on those decisions.

People selling houses, it used to be, oh, maybe they would throw in appliances kind of as a freebie or window blinds. They don't have to do that anymore because demand is so intense. And we found in our reporting, Marshall, that last month that there was a group of people that camped out in Steele Creek to be the first ones to put a deposit in on a new subdivision down in Steele Creek. So it's really altering a lot of that balance.

Terry: What's driving all of this?

Mecia: Well, you know, it's supply and demand. You have slowly increasing supply. I mean, you look around and there are still new apartments being built, subdivisions being built. But really, the demand has just really soared. People have continued to move to Charlotte from other places, even during the pandemic. There's just a lot of demand for housing right now and the supply is just not keeping up

Terry: Last week, we found out Charlotte's new medical school will be located close to Midtown. And now Atrium Health has filed a rezoning petition for the project. Did that give more details about the plans?

Mecia: It gave a few more details. They did file a rezoning petition in which they identified the parcels. And this is, the area that we're talking about, is right off of 277 at McDowell Street, right by Morehead. And the rezoning petition it did in the site plan listed a few details. It said that they could have as many as 1,000 apartments, 600 hotel rooms and 1.3 million square feet of commercial space in a tall building.

Now, that doesn't mean they're going to build that there, necessarily. But that just gave them the right to do that. Atrium really hasn't given a whole lot of specifics about exactly what's going there other than the office building and the medical school. But it certainly outlined some of the things that could be built there.

Terry: Tony, you looked into which Charlotte companies got money as part of the second round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. What did you find?

Mecia: Well, it was actually kind of interesting, Marshall. The first round of the PPP in the spring, you had all kinds of companies in Charlotte, from all kinds of industries. I think there were more than 15,000 small businesses in Charlotte that applied for and were approved for these COVID relief payments.

This time around, the federal government tightened some of the requirements. So this round that started in January, the companies receiving it actually had to prove that their revenue had dropped by 25% in the in the previous year, from quarter to quarter of the previous year. And so the range of industries was a lot more narrow. You had, it was only about 700 or so companies that received payments of more than $150,000. And it was a lot of restaurants, breweries, assorted other industries in there. But it wasn't quite the wide swath like you had before.

One other interesting thing that we found, Marshall, in looking at it was The Charlotte Observer parent company, McClatchy, was approved for a $10 million PPP payment, even as its reporters are continuing to report on that program. (McClatchy) hasn't announced that or disclosed that, but that's in the data.

Kai Hickey, 18, landed a 4-year esports scholarship to Columbia College in Missouri. The Indian Trail high school senior is known as “CosmicFlippy” to those who play the popular game Rocket League.
Charlotte Ledger
Kai Hickey, 18, landed a 4-year esports scholarship to Columbia College in Missouri. The Indian Trail high school senior is known as “CosmicFlippy” to those who play the popular game Rocket League.

Terry: Finally, The Ledger recently got an inside look at the world of Charlotte's professional video game world. I didn't realize that was a thing in Charlotte.

Mecia: Well, Marshall, it is a thing. A lot of people think of it as just playing video games, but it's actually becoming a big industry that's becoming known as esports in which people train, and they say it's not unlike training for basketball or any other sport. There are college scholarships that are available to youngsters who are playing. There are sponsorship deals for professional teams. There's a professional team in Charlotte. And so it's really becoming a big industry.

And there are definitely pro video game players in Charlotte. Our reporter David Griffith went out in South End to one of the office complexes there where this training goes on. He hung out with a video game player who's a senior at a high school in Union County who goes by the screen name CosmicFlippy and hung out with him as he trained.

Terry: Now is Charlotte on its way to becoming a center of professional video gaming, like we are for banking?

Mecia: Yeah, there was a new report out a couple of weeks ago that says that professional video gaming is going to overtake the banking industry in Charlotte as the No. 1 industry.

Actually, that's not true. April Fool's, Marshall.

Terry: Ha! You almost had me there for a second. We'll leave it there this week. Thank you, Tony.

Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.