Larry Miller, owner of the area’s largest Century 21 Real Estate franchise, said that he has increased his staff from 17 to 40 agents in the past year as part of a goal the firm set in the months before the Army announced it will relocate its Cyber Command to Fort Gordon by 2019.
Army leadership revealed in December that consolidation of the Army Cyber Command, creation of a new Cyber Center of Excellence and growth of cyber mission units at Fort Gordon would increase the regional workforce by 4,000 jobs and bring to the area 5,620 families – almost all of which will live off post.
Miller, who is also the CEO of CSRA Home Connections, said the multimedia marketing campaign that enables local businesses to advertise products and services to homeowners, buyers, sellers and builders throughout the region has increased its membership by 60 percent.
“We’re in growth mode,” he said during the home connections program’s monthly networking breakfast and success seminar Wednesday in Evans. “In our business, if you’re standing still, you’re moving backwards.”
More than half of the new agents attended the meeting, including former teacher and Savannah River Site engineer Doug Cramer, who took up real estate as a post-retirement career.
“This area has always fared well in emerging on the other side of the bubble,” Cramer, of Columbia County, said of the appeal of real estate. “Things are really looking up.”
According to the latest data from the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors, 5,345 listings are active across the area and last month, 1,181 properties were either sold or are pending sale for a median price of $139,000. Onaverage, homes are spending about 160 days on the market.
“Right now, there’s very little risk for military,” Cramer said. “Should they be deployed, they can rent their home while they’re away, some in under a month.”
Cramer said the “camaraderie” military families share in Grovetown make its neighborhoods a popular destination for troops, which could make that area ripe for new construction, said Miller.
“People would rather buy a new home than a previously-owned,” he said. “Because of that, not only are we going to have more buyers, but an increase in new construction.”
Jeff Foley, the seminar’s speaker, served more than 32 years on active duty, culminating as the 34th Chief of Signal and Commanding General at Fort Gordon and the Army Signal Center. He said the demographics among most defense workers, military and civilians are older men and women who are married and have children, and that strong school, public safety and traffic systems will drive community growth.
“As the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines downsize, one of the reasons why Fort Gordon is growing is because of Augusta,” he said. “Yes, there is Intel, signal, and the whole IT world, which is a very critical part of growth, but it makes a difference when the community and the installation share a bond like the one here.”
In speaking on the “rules and tools” of leadership, Foley challenged area realtors to build one-on-one relationships with local defense workers, adding that introducing them to the community will strengthen trust and perhaps sales. He cited a similar Army consolidation as an example.
When the Army combined its armor and infantry schools at Fort Benning in 2011 to form the “Maneuver Center of Excellence,” Foley said the real estate industry in Columbus, Ga. exploded, with new homes popping up “all over the place” to accommodate the 7,500 soldiers than transferred from Fort Knox, Ky.
As a result, Census estimates show Columbus is now threatening to overtake Augusta as Georgia’s second largest city.
“It makes a difference when you package it all together,” Foley told realtors of the secrets of benefitting from defense-related growth. “It’s exciting and fascinating to watch.”