New Demands for the New Normal

Insight August 2021 CoverBY MICHAEL COOPER, Shared & Regional Government Affairs Director

Last July, I returned home to work as a Shared and Regional Government Affairs Director for NC REALTORS®. I’m excited to be  back in western North Carolina. I grew up in North Wilkesboro and attended college at Appalachian State University. I missed the  mountains. I missed the Blue Ridge Parkway, the scenery and the quality of life. It turns out that I wasn’t alone.

In 2020, members of the High Country Association of REALTORS® sold 3,253 listings. Those sales totaled over $1.1 billion. Both the sold listings and sales total were record highs for the association. The real estate market has been like that throughout the state of  North Carolina. Much of the increased demand has been because of low interest rates. The interest rates will eventually go back to  normal, but after the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a new “normal.”

More Americans have the option of working from home, which is the reason why they are spreading out. Big cities like Raleigh and  Charlotte will continue to thrive, but so will the rest of North Carolina. In my 10-county, western region, we have Grandfather Mountain, Pilot Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Linville Gorge, Lake James, Chimney Rock and the New River. These regions have hiking, camping, skiing, some of the best golf courses in the country, and some of the best disc golf courses in the world. Who wouldn’t want to live here? Now, more people can.

The demand won’t go away—at least not any time soon. Right now, there are more REALTORS® in the western region than there are homes for sale on the market.  That’s why we need new inventory and why we need to address the barriers to development. We also need to start thinking about the future. Before the COVID-19  pandemic, one of the greatest challenges facing North Carolina was the rural-urban divide—now it’s the digital divide. As a result, broadband will be a major priority  for REALTORS® going forward.

In fact, REALTORS® in this region are utilizing association resources to prepare for the future. In January, the High Country Association of REALTORS® used a  Smart Growth Poll from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to survey 400 residents in Ashe, Watauga, Avery, and Alleghany County. Now, they’re using  the results to advocate for new housing inventory and broadband access while working with local stakeholders to conduct a local Housing Needs Assessment.

In addition, other associations in the western region are focusing on the heightened interest in amenities and sources of community, such as parks, greenways, bike  trails, dog parks and downtown breweries. This focus led these associations to apply for NAR grants to fund a Main Street Development Assessment in their town.  Likewise, there are plenty of ways for REALTORS® to get involved in placemaking. My region is full of places—like Morganton, Marion, Mt. Airy, Sparta, and West  Jefferson—that are reinventing themselves and enjoying their moment.

It’s time for all NC REALTORS® to use the association’s clout to make this growth sustainable. This means utilizing our REALTOR® Political Action Committee Local  Candidate Fund to engage in municipal elections, answering Calls for Action, joining the NC Homeowners Alliance, serving as a State Political Coordinator,  organizing a town hall, volunteering on a local planning commission or running for public office as a REALTOR® champion.

I’m excited to be back in the foothills and excited about the future. I recently bought a house in North Wilkesboro thanks to a fantastic REALTOR® named Yvonne.  House searching took us several months because new people keep coming to this area, but that’s a good problem to have. Now, it’s time to think about what comes  next.

More About Michael | NC REALTORS® Shared and Regional Government Affairs Director

Michael Cooper graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor in Science in Communications. He joined NC REALTORS® in July 2020 as the Shared and Regional Government Affairs Director of several western counties in North Carolina. His coverage area includes the following local boards/associations: High Country Association of REALTORS®, Surry Regional Association of REALTORS®, Yancey-Mitchell Board of REALTORS®, Burke County Board of REALTORS®,  McDowell Board of REALTORS® and Rutherford County Board of REALTORS®. For more information about local and regional government issues in Michael’s  region, please email him at

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