When it comes to the real estate market, Greenville’s small reputation is one of its greatest assets.
“I know people in Greenville may feel like it’s a big town,” said Josh Craig, CEO of Lima One Capital, a Greenville-based mortgage lender with a focus on investment property. “But relative to all those coastal cities like New York and a bunch of California cities that are seeing population declines, we’re definitely much smaller.”
And that’s a good thing, Craig added, because that flood of declining population needs to go somewhere.
Increasingly, they’re choosing to relocate to Greenville — or at least park their assets here.
Lima One has been around for more than a decade, specializing in financing real estate investors, the folks who flip houses or build properties for rental. Eschewing the owner-occupied model — “If you yourself are going to live there, then we’re not right for you,” Craig said — the company has seen exponential growth in just the past two years, a rarity considering most firms of their ilk are located in California.
“We’re really proud to call Greenville home,” Craig said. “A lot of people would say it’s not the most notable place for a mortgage company to be headquartered. We disagree.”
On the construction front, the running theme in Greenville is not so different from the theme echoing across the United States: an exodus of people from major metro areas looking to move into so-called “tertiary cities” like Greenville.
Even before the pandemic, major cities saw huge population declines, according to Value Penguin, a data firm operating under Lending Tree. In 2019, New York City lost 196,400 people, Los Angeles lost 119,138 people and Chicago lost 70,273 people.
COVID-19 has only amplified that so-called “urban exodus,” and firms like Lima One are now seeing a major surge in infill construction and house-flipping as real estate investors are looking to cash in on the demand.
Craig said with average home prices in Greenville County anywhere from one fourth to one third the cost of homes in major Northern metropolitan areas, coupled with a friendlier tax rate, cities like Greenville, Chattanooga and Knoxville will continue to see population increases in the coming years — a secondary city boom that will keep the demand for real estate investment high.
“Builders can’t built houses fast enough right now,” he said.