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Aug. 6, 2020
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Enjoying the lake in the time of COVID-19

By Pamela A. Keene 
 
The COVID-19 lockdown this spring hasn’t deterred people from enjoying Lake Lanier. Even with social distancing still in place, many of the lake’s parks, restaurants, marinas, boat rentals and other groups are seeing a significant increase in visitation over last year. 
 
“We’ve seen more traffic since early March than normal,” said Janice Wagner, manager of Sunrise Cove Marina. “People are just being out and enjoying their boats, stay-cationing with their families.” From boat rentals and fuel sales to people purchasing new and used boats, activity is brisk around the lake. 
 
“Since people can’t travel, they’re coming to the lake, they’re using their own boats or renting, buying more fuel and even purchasing new and used boats,” said Philip Burton with Gainesville Marina. “Our biggest challenge is keeping inventory because manufacturers closed during the early stages of the pandemic, and now it’s tough for them to keep the pipeline filled.” 
 
He said manufacturers’ vendors who supply various components and parts are also back ordered. “People are getting great prices for their used boats, and some are trading in their boats when they purchase new.” 
 
In the beginnings of social distancing back in late March, the warm spring drew boaters to the lake, people who would have normally been at work during the week. 
 
“Visitation for June in our parks has been 30 percent higher than the same time last year,” said Tim Rainey, operations project manager with the Corps of Engineers at Lake Lanier. “Although we kept the parks closed a bit longer than we anticipated, on Memorial Day weekend visitation in our day-use parks was significantly higher.”
 
He attributes the increased visitation to students being out of school and the restrictions for extended travel. “The beaches along the coast were closed, so people did the next best thing: they came to the lake instead. 
 
“While we continue experiencing higher than normal visitation, we ask for your cooperation by not entering parks that are full, and to park only in designated spaces. Non-emergency calls may also experience delays in response,” he said.
 
Rainey said that the Corps is also working with a reduced staff, on the recreation side and in shoreline management.
 
“Three of our rangers out of seven left here for already planned transfers on the recreation side,” he said. “And while we continue to do site visits in shoreline management, the office is still closed, so we’re having to work solely by phone and email. People are working at home, and we’re doing to the best we can to accommodate requests. Due to the volume of calls we receive, responses to voicemail may be delayed. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience.
 
“Additionally, two of our administrative staff, who support shoreline management are out. One has been deployed in the national Guard and another went on active duty,” he said.

Effects of COVID-19 on Lanier real estate market
By Bev Knight

Based on the robust summer sales, it is reasonable to conclude that COVID-19 is having little impact on the lake real estate market. The pandemic and other recent news from the crowded cities are having a profound effect on both the demand and supply of lake homes. Here are some of the impacts you may see.
 
• Many potential buyers who have been on the fence about buying a lake home have finally pulled the trigger. After months of quarantine and minimal human contact, it became clear to them that life on the water is better than life in a crowded city.
 
• If you’ve been to the Atlanta airport lately, you know that it looks like a ghost town. People are afraid to fly, so they choose a staycation rather than a vacation. Where would you rather be, in the congested city, or surrounded by a beautiful lake? In addition to their own recreational uses, savvy investors are offering short term, VRBO-type rentals of their lake homes to offset the cost. Again, if you’re not able to fly to the Caribbean this year, why not drive 45 minutes to a gorgeous VRBO home on Lake Lanier? 
 
• New construction is expected to slow down considerably as housing elements made in China are no longer available. There is already a huge shortage of pressure-treated wood, appliances, and other necessities for new homes. This may also affect renovators and home flippers.
 
• For years, homebuyers have insisted on an open concept floor plan. After spending months cooped up with their families in one big room, they realize that walls plus doors equal privacy. Homes with walled-off rooms may be coming back into style.
 
• By the same token, demand for smaller houses has been the trend in recent years. With so much time spent in the residence, homeowners may begin to ask for a little more elbow room in future purchases. 
 
• On the supply side, fewer sellers are opting to put their lake homes on the market. This has caused an extreme shortage in Lanier homes for sale and has driven up prices; but, since the interest rates are so low, buyers can afford the higher prices and are still in buying mode.
 
• People in the most hard-hit pandemic areas are looking for places to escape the virus. Contacts in New York tell us that there has been a “mad dash” to get out of the city, and many are headed South. Our area offers easy access to an international airport, a short drive to a big city, and a peaceful escape from the masses. It has become a favorite destination, and that trend is likely to continue.

We are poised for a record-setting summer of Lake Lanier home sales. This is a great place to live and play, so don’t miss your chance to be part of the lake community.
 
Bev Knight is lead agent for The Good Life Group, Lake Lanier specialists. For more articles and information on Lake Lanier sales, visit www.HousesOnLanier.net or call 770-536-4416.
 

Posted online 7.30.20
 
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