Ellen Pitts NC Realtor
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Is Holly Springs Still Worth it?

two pictures of the same house: holly springs then and now. 350k then 950k now for the same house.

A very few years ago, when people would call me who wanted a Cary type lifestyle but didn’t want to pay Cary prices, I would direct them to Holly Springs. Not any more. Today Holly Springs has the highest median home price in the entire triangle. Higher than Cary. Higher than Chapel Hill. What has changed in that time to make home values increase to that extent? And is it still worth moving to Holly Springs now that prices are so high? 

When I first moved to North Carolina, Timothy and I were in our 20’s. He took his first “real job” as a teacher, I was staying home with our oldest daughter, an infant at the time, and we bought a home, not surprisingly, in Fuquay Varina, just south of Holly Springs. Teaching isn’t the most lucrative career and prices were very affordable in Fuquay. We paid 113 thousand dollars for our home 23 years ago. And Fuquay was an absolutely adorable small town about 30 minutes from Raleigh. It was perfect. But why didn’t we buy in Holly Springs? It was a shorter commute. But two things prevented us from buying in Holly springs at the time. First, it was more expensive and second, there was nothing there! At the time if you lived in Holly springs and wanted to go out to dinner or even do basic shopping, you had to go to Fuquay or Apex. {before and after google shots] And then somehow, when nobody was looking, a crossroads with a few subdivisions turned into a powerhouse of economic development attracting some of the wealthiest people in the country to move there. How on earth did it happen?? Understanding how it happened will help us understand if it’s the beginning of the incredible growth cycle or just a coincidental bubble that will eventually pop. 

In 1990 there were 1300 people living in Holly Springs. In the same year, Fuquay Varina’s population was 3 and a half times as big with 4500 people. In 1999, Holly Springs overtook Fuquay by population size, however, it was still just a bunch of neighborhoods. It took a lot longer before it became an established community. Holly Springs is one of those situations where it looks like nothing is happening and then what seems like all of a sudden, out of nowhere, many years of planning and hard work snowball into reality. 

In the early 2000’s, Holly Springs hired a consulting firm to perform a branding study. The study told them what the town already suspected. Holly springs is a really good location for life sciences companies. And that’s who they started marketing to. I think there were some other town planners in nearby towns who thought Holly Springs was a little too big for their britches. Nobody thought the plan would work, and lucrative companies would relocate to this backwater, but in 2006 Holly Springs landed their first big break. A contract with Novartis led to a 500 thousand square foot flu cell culture facility on 167 acres in Holly Springs that opened in 2009. 

Alongside this speculation by town planners there were several large developers creating planned communities that became the backbone of luxury lifestyle for these future high income earners. And it was important that these communities offered their own lifestyle, because remember, there was nothing but a food lion grocery store in Holly Springs at the time. Sunset Ridge came first, this foundational planned community throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s began building beautiful homes around the Sunset Ridge Swim and Tennis Club and the unaffiliated Devils Ridge golf club. The median home price in Holly Springs at this time was 171 thousand. Sunset ridge homes were selling 60% higher than the median in the 260’s. 12 Oaks followed suit a few years later, developing a resort style community with swim, tennis and a social calendar boasting everything from Mahjong to yoga to social nights.  And throughout this ten year period of neighborhood development, the town came into being. 

During this short window of time, the town developed and expanded on their parks and recreation offerings. In 2012, they purchased Sugg Farm. No buildings could be built on the property because of a conservation easement granted by the former owner. But the land’s location adjacent to Bass Lake made it very valuable as a community resource. Sugg Farm now provides fantastic accommodations for the many festivals and events hosted by the town. Ting park, home to the holly springs salamanders, opened in 2015. But something was still missing. Unlike the surrounding towns of Fuquay and Apex, Holly Springs didn’t have a historic downtown shopping district. So with this new found affluence, in 2018, they built one. This Village District, was the capstone to the Holly Springs Cultural Center and library situated adjacent to the district, which had been completed in 2006. A year after that completion, the HOlly Springs Farmers Market was established and it has grown into a nationally recognized market, drawing people from all over the country to visit. 

The fascinating thing about all this is the time frame in which it happened. It’s almost like an entire town popped up out of nothing in 10 years. I did a video 2 years ago comparing Holly Springs to Cary and it’s so funny to look back because it seems like half of what is built now in Holly Springs didn’t exist then. And of course all this development coincided with the pandemic relocation spree so people just came here and bought houses…. And I think as newcomers to the area visited holly springs, they saw what many locals hadn’t even realized had developed. These newcomers were competing to live in this gorgeous town. And over the last couple years, new home communities like Honeycutt Farm, Lochridge, and Addison Pond have cropped up with higher end homes providing more of that type of inventory similar to what buyers were loving in 12 Oaks and Sunset Ridge. And that’s what drove up the prices. Lots of competition, combined with more higher end builders moving into an area that they knew had demand for this price point where it hadn’t existed before. Holly Springs now has a lot of features that many other small towns don’t have. Even though our downtown isn’t historic, like Wake Forest or Apex, that kind of works in it’s favor because it was designed with lots of easy parking so it’s easy to access everything. We have our own hospital right here in town, and I’ve actually gotten to use the ER since we’ve been here. Ya’ll give a nice get well to the editor in the comments because he’s had kidney stones, but at least we can tell you that the hospital has been phenomenal. The only other hospitals in Wake County are in Raleigh and Cary so having our own hospital is very cool. Driving 20-30 minutes doesn’t seem that long until you’re in pain, and then it’s not a picnic. 

Within 10 years of locating to Holly Springs, Novartis (renamed Sequirus) was providing close to 800 jobs in Holly Springs. The average household income is currently 130,000 compared to 88,000 for the county as a whole. And just for kicks and giggles I looked up the median household income in San Jose, California….it’s lower than Holly Springs, 117,000. And of course the median home price is double what it is in Holly Springs. Once the ball starts to roll, it picks up speed quickly. Recently, announcements about new life sciences companies moving to Holly springs have started to tick up. The 2 billion dollar fujifilm diosynth campus is currently under construction. This will be the largest monoclonal antibodies facility in the world. Biotech company Amgen is expected to open in 2025. And commercial developer Crescent Communities, just finished phase 1 of a 200 acre life sciences development in Oakview Innovation Park. Phase 1 was just sold to a management company who will begin recruiting new life sciences firms to the 210,000 square foot completed space.  

But it gets better. I recently did a video about some small towns that are getting ready to boom. Sanford and Pittsboro are 15 minutes drive on either side of the new Triangle Innovation Point. This is where Vinfast will be establishing their new electric vehicle plant where they plan to begin production as early as 2024 and plan to employ 7500 people by 2027. And Wolfspeed is investing $5 billion dollars into it’s semiconductor facility to employ 1800 people by 2030. Guess what else is very close to this development. Holly Springs is 20 minutes from Triangle Innovation Point. 

Given all this development, given Holly Springs great schools, incredibly low crime rate, high quality of life and burgeoning economy, I think we’ve only just begun to see the growth of this fantastic little town. Why they won’t let me make a left turn anywhere in the town is beyond me. But it’s a great place to live. 

About the Author Ellen Pitts

Ellen is the founder of Harmony Realty, a socially conscious realty company. Ellen believes in empowering her clients through education and open communication. Ellen is a number-cruncher at heart and takes great pleasure in following and analyzing the trends of the housing industry. She loves communicating the big picture to her clients and helping them to understand how the market affects their sale or purchase. Her honest and down-to-earth approach allows her clients to make informed and intelligent decisions to get the most out of their offers and negotiations.

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