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It’s no secret – especially during the Masters Tournament – that Augusta is a fantastic home-rental market one week of the year.
But visiting golf fans and residents alike might not realize this metro area makes a pretty good year-round rental market, too.
In fact, a California-based real estate data firm says it’s one of the nation’s best.
The Augusta-Aiken metro area’s most populous county, Richmond County, was named the nation’s 12th best single-family rental market out of the 449 U.S. counties with more than 100,000 people in ATTOM Data Solutions’recently released Q1 Single Family Rental Market report.
The company’s database showed Richmond County’s average annual gross rental yield – which is the rental income divided by the home’s median purchase price – was 16.4 percent, which is almost twice the national average of 8.9 percent. In Georgia, only Macon’s Bibb County (21.8 percent) and metro Atlanta’s Clayton County (20.3 percent) posted higher rental yields.
The Augusta metro area’s second-largest county, Aiken County, ranked a respectable No. 69 on the list, with a gross rental yield of 11.4 percent. The area’s third-largest but fastest growing county, Columbia County, was closer to the bottom half of counties, ranking No. 265 out of 449.
Median home prices obviously play a factor here. Columbia County’s median first-quarter sales price was $170,000, compared to Aiken’s $118,500 and Richmond’s $82,500.
In the purchase price-to-rental income ratio, Aiken County has obviously found the sweet spot: its average $1,130 rent for a three-bedroom home, coupled with its low property tax rates and low investment-property vacancy rates, landed it on ATTOM’s list of the 30 most “low-risk high-return” markets in the country.
Daren Blomquist, ATTOM’s senior vice president, said the biggest gain in single-family home investors during the past year has come from investors owning six to 10 rental properties, accounting for 21 percent of the growth compared to the previous year’s quarter.
“Despite declining returns in many areas, the single-family rental market continues to grow thanks to more activity by smaller and middle-tier investors,” he said in the report.
But ATTOM shows the vast majority of rental property owners – 78.3 percent – are people who own one to two properties.
In other words, most of us aren’t making a full-time living out of renting single-family homes.
Contrary to the old idiom, there are actually three certainties in life: death, taxes and brisk demand for housing during Masters Week.
In addition to near 100 percent occupancy of the metro area’s 7,000 hotel rooms and increased listings on the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Masters Housing Bureau – the only Augusta National Golf Club-sanctioned rental service – online home-sharing service Airbnb said nearly twice as many people have booked homes in Augusta during Masters Week 2018 compared to last year.
The San Francisco-based company said it booked roughly 3,000 guests in the Augusta metro area between April 3-7, a 42 percent increase from 2017′s tournament dates and a 950 percent increase from the previous week (in which, obviously, there wasn’t a major golf tournament).
Airbnb said its hosts will earn roughly $1.2 million during the four-day period, a 48 percent increase from last year’s tournament.
“This golf tournament is a decades-long tradition for the city of Augusta and its residents, and Airbnb is proud to help connect hosts with event attendees for this major sports event,” Will Burns, Airbnb’s director of public policy for Georgia said in a statement. “Our host community has become instrumental in helping cities secure more affordable accommodations for large gatherings, while also extending these extra tourism dollars to local neighborhoods and small businesses.”
There is no good way to gauge the Masters Tournament’s economic impact on the Augusta economy. For that to happen, the Augusta National would need to share information on its ticket, merchandise and food and beverage sales. In other words, don’t hold your breath; the ANGC is private with a capital “P.”
But we can get a glimpse into how much more business local companies are doing thanks to Womply, a software firm that handles transactions for small and mid-sized merchants. The California tech company crunched 2017 Masters Week sales data and found local restaurants see a 28 percent increase in revenue compared to the average weekday, and a 19 percent increase over weekends.
Hotels saw a 30 percent increase in Monday revenues but only 21 percent on Thursday, which suggests the lottery-drawn practice rounds bring in a higher volume of visitors than tournament days, when the bulk of patrons are established tournament badge holders.
Womply said transportation businesses see the biggest impact from the Masters. In fact, Masters Friday was the 7th-best sales day of last year, with revenues 236 percent higher than the average weekend.
Womply spokesman Dan Lalli said the data suggests the revenue spikes are due to an increase in the number of transactions, not necessarily increased prices.
“In short, the excitement from the Masters, like you’d assume, has a positive impact on local businesses in Georgia and the Augusta metro area,” he said.
You may have noticed gas prices jump in recent days. It has nothing to do with all the tourists in town this week.
The average price of unleaded in the Augusta metro area is around $2.50, according to the GasBuddy.com. Expect those prices to go even higher as “demand continues to recover from the winter blues and the transition to summer gasoline kicks into high gear,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.
“Overall, gas prices this spring will come in some 10 to 25 percent higher than a year ago,” he said.
You probably won’t appreciate higher fuel prices, but you’ll probably like the makeover that a few area pumping stations are getting.
Circle K, the metro area’s largest convenience store chain, plans to reopen its fully re-constructed store at 3603 Peach Orchard Road with a grand opening celebration April 19. The company also plans to open two additional area stores next month, one in Augusta at 3947 Harper Franklin Ave. and one in Aiken at 2948 Whiskey Road.
All will include the company’s new design concept that focuses on fresh, gourmet foods prepared on site. The nearly 5,000-square-foot Peach Orchard Road store will sell gasoline, non-ethanol gasoline and diesel fuel as well as the company’s trademark Polar Pop fountain drinks, Simply Great Coffee and F’Real Milkshakes.
If you feel like sittin’ a spell, there’s an onsite Blimpie restaurant with indoor seating.
“We’re confident that customers will love our new-and-improved rebuild in Augusta, as well as our two brand-new builds in the communities of Augusta and Aiken,” Mark Ostoits, vice president of the Southeast Division of Circle K, said in a statement.