In the 1960s, the anti-war slogan Suppose they gave a war, and nobody came, was possibly first made by James Newman. The original inspiration, however, came from a line of a poem by Carl Sandburg. ‘Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.’ The analogy of war and a pandemic is so far off base…but is it? Another saying, written by Bob Dylan and said in a song lyric, the times, they are a changin’ is maybe that is a little easier to mesh with the year 2020, even though he wrote them in 1964. And what does all of this have to do with real estate, not only on this plateau but similar hamlets all over the world?
Highlands has seen changes over the years, and most of the changes have been brought by development. Kelsey and Hutchinson had a dream of making Highlands a destination spot for tourists way back in 1875. I wonder if they thought it would ‘take off’ like small shore towns in the northeast, or a thriving destination like St. Augustine or Charleston? Whatever their original ideas were, a seed was planted, and Highlands is thriving today, not unlike some other towns in America, but most people think Highlands has something other towns don’t have. What is the ‘it’ factor that draws so many people here? Maybe it’s not the ‘it’, but the ‘what all’ there is here that draws people. It is obvious that everyone that owns property here likes something about being here. For some, it is ‘in their blood’ they say. They love the natural beauty and they love being on the same land their family has owned for generations. For newcomers over the last fifteen-to-thirty years, it may be the natural beauty, but also the quaintness of the town itself, the unhurried, laid-back atmosphere. The latest newcomers of the last five-to-fifteen years may have fallen in love with all the above, but some of them seem eager to change or upgrade the way of life on the plateau. What’s wrong with an upgrade? Nothing, as long as the original Highlands doesn’t get so caught up in its new ‘do’ that she loses her charm.
I’m a relative newcomer to real estate in Highlands. I’ve only had my license since 1992, but in just those twenty-eight years, I’ve seen several ‘gold rush’ periods, and of course, a couple of ‘depression’ times too. It’s all cyclical. The stock market, real estate, life, all of it. The period of mid-1990s to mid-2000s were very good years in Highlands real estate, then the bottom fell, and now it’s back, but this time, it’s different. The difference is the pandemic. The usual suspects: the stock market is good, the economy is still relatively good, the interest rates are better than ever, things that normally drive our real estate market are in place. Move over normal, the pandemic has ‘opened up a whole ‘nother can of worms’. This is my first pandemic that I can remember (although we’ve had other ones that didn’t hit the best-seller chart like Covid19). What I’ve noticed in 2020 is a rush to buy in Highlands with a different undertone. Highlands has always been a haven and refuge, but those words have taken on a new meaning in 2020. I’ve said this many times in the last two months, so forgive me for the repetition, but suppose all the second homeowners decided to move to Highlands full-time? Would it be like July 4th all year long? Could our town support such an event? Would our water supply last? Would our stores start staying open until eight-nine-ten o’clock? Would we see more Dollar Generals, getting closer and closer to Main Street? How about our schools? Our hospital? Our roads? I’m not one for doomsday, as I generally stay positive no matter what, but how can we be so two-faced to say, ‘Yes, please come, buy this property, you’ll love it!’ then say out of the other side of our mouths, ‘But, you’ll be closing down your house for the winter, right? I mean, you’re just coming up on weekends, or a month or two in the summer? Yeah, sure, you can rent it, but not too much.’ No, we need to look at each home built and sold as a potential year-round household. That’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?
Highlands is growing, and just like life, the only way to stop growth is if death occurs. Let’s continue to love and nurture Highlands and other ‘getaways’ destinations. Let’s not kill the goose. Take care of yourself, and those you love.