Augusta is the most baby boomer-saturated mid-sized housing market in America, according to a construction research firm.
If you own a home in Augusta, there is a 50-50 chance – 52.2% to be precise – that your next-door neighbor is 56 or older.
That’s a fairly high percentage. In fact, it’s the highest percentage of baby boomer homeowners to be found in any midsized American city, according to a research firm.
A report from Santa Monica, Calif.-based Construction Coverage said Augusta tops the list of midsized markets with the most baby boomer-owned homes. Nationally, the construction and insurance industry analyst firm said those born between 1946 and 1964 own 53.8% of homes, up from 44.3% during 2009’s Great Recession.
So what does that mean, exactly?
Well, it means that older Americans – especially those in Augusta – are choosing to “age in place” rather than downsize to an apartment or senior-living facility. You might recall a 2018 AARP survey that found that 76% of Americans over 50 would prefer to remain in their current home.
But it also means there are fewer homes on the market for younger buyers; baby boomers make up roughly 21% of Augusta’s population, yet occupy more than half its homes.
“Homeownership has long been considered part of the American dream,” Construction Coverage said in its report. “But first-time home buyers, especially millennials and Gen Xers, are facing an uphill battle when it comes to house hunting.”
Augusta’s housing market, like many across America, is currently tight on inventory. Home sales are still robust, but the selection of homes, condos and townhomes from which prospective buyers can choose has drastically decreased in recent months.
The latest report by the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors bears that out: In September 2019, there were 3,304 active listings; this past September, there were only 2,008 – a 39.2% decrease.
According to Construction Coverage’s report, which is based on demographic data from the Census Bureau, Augusta’s 52.2% puts it No. 1 on the list of medium-sized cities list, ahead of No. 2 Akron, Ohio (50.8%); Huntington Beach, Calif. (50.4%); Jackson, Miss. (48.4%); and Baton Rouge, La. (47.9%).
Before we dive deeper into this, there is an important caveat to note: It appears the folks at Construction Coverage did not analyze the entire Augusta-Aiken metro area.
The firm’s midsize category is for cities with populations between “150,000 to 349,999” people. The seven-county Augusta-Aiken metropolitan statistical area currently stands at over 600,000, so it’s likely the report focused solely on Augusta-Richmond County, which is around the 200,000 mark.
Assuming that’s the case, the firm’s data wouldn’t reflect home-ownership data in the metro area’s next most-populous counties, Aiken and Columbia, both of which outpace Richmond County in new home construction and population growth.
According to year-to-date data through Oct. 11 from Charleston, S.C.-based Construction Week, new home construction permits in Aiken County totaled 867, compared with 863 in Columbia County and 217 in Richmond County.
In other words, there are nearly four times as many new homes scheduled for construction in Aiken and Columbia counties than in Augusta proper. Would that skew Augusta’s percentage? Probably.
But let’s assume, for a moment, that the metro Augusta area’s boomer-homeowner percentage remained at 52.2% even with the rest of the market taken into account. It would still rank No. 1 on the big city list, ahead of Memphis, Tenn.’s 46.4%, New Orleans’ 45.6% and Cleveland’s 45.3%.
Of course, it would be difficult to pinpoint the exact impact a holistic view of the Augusta-Aiken metro area would have on its baby boomer-homeowner percentage. That’s because stark socioeconomic differences exist from county to county, particularly between more-urban Richmond County and the largely suburban Columbia County.
A snapshot of median ages in the three counties is a good illustration: Richmond County’s median age, based on 2018 Census data, is 33.9, compared with Columbia County’s 36.6 and Aiken County’s 41.
Though Aiken and Columbia counties’ populations skew older, that does not necessarily correlate to them having a higher percentage of older homeowners. Actually, one would presume Aiken and Columbia counties would have fairly high percentages of young homeowners based simply on the fact their higher-performing school systems are magnets for upwardly mobile young families. But such presumptions are worthless unless backed up by data.
So, as previously stated, it’s difficult to pinpoint the impact of a broader view.
Does that mean Construction Coverage’s report has no value? Absolutely not. It simply means the demographics of the market’s population epicenter shouldn’t be applied to the entire two-state metro area.
The data does, however, suggest that Augusta proper is definitely in line – at the head of the line – with national homeowner trends. And it also illustrates how the 20th century’s most influential generation (just ask any boomer and he or she will tell you all about it) will continue wielding influence for a little while longer.
STOW IT: After more than a year of planning, zoning and engineering, it appears the self-storage development at 4131 Columbia Road – creatively called Columbia Road Self Storage – is moving forward with construction in Evans.
The 85,600-square-foot development, a project of Martinez-based The Graybill Co., will occupy an L-shaped 6-acre tract fronting Columbia Road and a portion of Dowling Drive, the main entrance to the Heritage Hill subdivision.
Construction permits for the 507-unit facility, sandwiched between the Gateway Professional Center office park and a Regions Bank branch, total nearly $6 million.
Behind the brick-and-stucco storefront that faces the north side of the Springlakes neighborhood will sit four, single-story metal buildings housing storage units ranging from 5-foot by 5-foot to 20-foot by 20-foot. All but 77 of the units are climate-controlled.
NEW IN NORTH AUGUSTA: Downtown North Augusta’s newest business, a franchise of The UPS Store, opened recently at 336 Georgia Ave., Suite 106.
The store will offer the usual domestic and international shipping services as well as a variety of printing, document-finishing and notary services aimed at small businesses.
“We look forward to serving individuals and local business owners within the North Augusta community,” store franchise owner Chelsea Waddell said.
WINGS WIDE OPEN: Aiken’s new Wild Wing Cafe, located in the space formerly occupied by Travinia Italian Kitchen, flies in to full operation Oct. 19.
The restaurant opened for takeout orders starting Oct. 10 and began opening at 4 p.m. for dinner two days later. It’s now open for lunch and dinner.
Wild Wing Cafe CEO Steve Weigel and company chef Maira Isabel were on hand this past weekend for a sneak-peek media preview of the restaurant, which features outdoor seating, a display kitchen, 25 big-screen TVs, a dual bar and live-entertainment stage.
Oh, and course, the chain’s 35 signature wing flavors.
“We are thrilled to return this restaurant to operation, to employ so many Aiken residents, and to have the opportunity to deliver our special brand of Southern hospitality to our new neighbors,” Weigel said.
FROM THE FEDERAL CONTRACT FILES…: With out-of-town companies landing big contracts at Fort Gordon – most recently Washington, D.C.-based Perspecta, which is creating more than 180 jobs by providing cybersecurity and cloud services to Army Cyber Command – it’s nice to see local companies getting their own slices of federal pie.
Augusta-based Zapata Technology, a home-grown defense contractor, was recently awarded a $475,000 contract to provide IT services to the General Services Administration in Philadelphia.
Augusta Data Storage, a unit of Augusta-based moving and storage company Ellefson Transportation Group, won a $189,000 bid to store and shred data for Fort Belvoir, Va., and Fort Gordon’s Eisenhower Army Medical Center.
Harlem’s NACCI Construction Services won a hefty $2.77 million contract to “correct critical fire alarm deficiencies” at Augusta’s Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, and Augusta’s SECO Parts & Equipment added $9,274 to its accounts receivable by selling the engine accessories to the Defense Logistics Agency in Columbus, Ohio.
ONE RINGY DINGY…: As the headquarters for the Army’s communications and electronic warfare operations – in addition to housing America’s largest surveillance and intelligence-gathering facility outside the D.C. metro – one might assume Fort Gordon wouldn’t need assistance reaching out to local first responders in an emergency event.
But the post is joining 71 other Army installations across the U.S. to deploy FirstNet, a high-speed broadband platform purpose-built for America’s first responders. The venture is a public-private partnership between AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority, an independent federal agency created after “some people did something” that caused hijacked planes to crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
AT&T recently announced the Army selected FirstNet to build network infrastructure to support on-post fire, law enforcement and security personnel as well more easily inter-operate with off-site first responders.
More than 1.5 million subscribers at 13,000 federal, state, local, municipal and tribal public safety agencies and organizations use the FirstNet network.
“FirstNet will provide crucial connectivity 24/7, and especially during national emergencies and other significant events – such as the COVID-19 pandemic – in support of public safety’s mission to keep people safe,” AT&T said.
In addition to routine network infrastructure, FirstNet/AT&T has more than 76 portable cell sites – both land- and air-based – nationwide.
I had a chance to see a demo of one these mobile units at last year’s TechNettrade show in Augusta. It was a tethered drone that could hover up to 400 feet to provide cellular and data service across a 240-square-mile area in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster.
It could stay aloft for 16 straight days. The fellas at the AT&T tent called it the “Flying COW” (for “cell on wings”).
Yeah, it was pretty cool.