We’ve had a few days of rain, at times fairly heavy. Mornings have been foggy and cold, with a porch reading of about 25 this morning. We’ve got about 3/4″ in the rain gauge this morning, frozen solid. (I forgot to take it in, so it’s probably cracked from the ice.)
There isn’t much going on in town at this time of year except for Christmas shopping, and weekenders have been kind of scarce because of the weather. That’s too bad in a way, because these are some of my favorite times in the mountains. I love the shifting rain and mist, and I love sitting by the fireplace in the evening, dog in lap. Maybe more people should try it, or maybe I’m just wired a little differently, but I wouldn’t miss being here at this time of year.
There’s been very little followup news on the fire in the Cohutta Wilderness. I gather that when the fire fighting team stands down, they just close the command center without issuing a final report. But I assume that most or all of the fire activity here and around the region succumbed to the rain. I did see an estimate that only 2% of the trees were actually lost in the Cohutta Wilderness, although the fire burned a more than 2/3 of the total area. The burned area is closed until spring. I believe that the unburned area to the northeast of the Jacks is open, but there may be some damage to the forest service roads, and conditions could be hazardous when they are wet. We plan to try to get over there to have a look, but we haven’t been able to make the time yet.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the smoke hurt our selling season, with there being about three weeks where smoke conditions were challenging, depending on the wind. (A friend of mine in Atlanta told me the other day that the smoke reached downtown Atlanta.) Another factor that affected our selling season was that with the absence of rain, the leaves stayed on the trees longer than I’ve ever seen, or would have believed possible. We don’t have our year-end numbers yet, but since we sell the most land when the leaves are off – you can see the lay of the land and evaluate the view much better – I imagine that lot and land sales were off this fall.
With the weather having shut down after Thanksgiving, real estate activity is likely to slow until spring. In the past, we have occasionally had a big first quarter when the stock market is in the dumps and investors have switched to land, but we haven’t seen that since the 2005 meltdown, and I don’t expect to see it this coming year. Lot and land prices remain very low compared to recent levels – probably lower than at any point in the fifteen years I’ve been doing business here – but demand has also been at a corresponding low. That’s good news for buyers, of course. We have seen a bit of a surge in new construction lately, which we attribute to a scarcity of good inventory in the cabin market, but it has fallen considerably short of a land rush. All in all, there’s no doubt the market has been much more favorable for cabin sales than land sales past few years.