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COVID’s Economic Impact

COVID had a drastic economic impact on the American landscape. Rodrigo spoke with Tony Pierfelice, a local businessman and investor who has successfully navigated saving and investing. They examined Asheville real estate, business, and COVID’s effects from a macro level.

As an investment pro, Tony always touts the value of being financially secure. The last year proved his point perfectly–economic crises can come out of nowhere.

A surprising influx of new residents is expanding what the greater Asheville area consists of. This has benefited the local real estate industry with better pricing, at least from a lending perspective. The people Tony lends to are keeping similar strategies as before but are taking more risks because of the high turnover rate. 

Beyond real estate

In Tony’s eyes, one of the most interesting effects of the pandemic is the rise of remote work. Companies were previously reticent to offer it because managing workers at home seemed daunting. Now, companies realize it can be done successfully. This is beginning to disrupt the commercial real estate market immensely. 

On the west coast, tech companies are even changing compensation structures to allow for cost of living changes for employees working from other areas. It’s taken pressure and demand off cities like New York for office valuations, which  are already decreasing. 

Is government support hiding the true effects? We’re just seeing short-term effects so far, but many businesses are filing for bankruptcy. Government mandates have effects that trickle down to real estate owners, like the evictions moratorium. There are not a lot of foreclosures right now, so we’re treading water and waiting. Once things normalize with the vaccine, etc., Tony predicts a rush of results. 

With relaxed standards for loans and other forgiveness, the federal government is being very compassionate with relief programs. Unemployment disruption made it hard for small businesses to hire due to the $600/week increase. There is also a lack of consumer goods, Tony says,  due to people spending stimulus and unemployment money. 

The economic impact in WNC

In the Asheville area, there is a tourism-based economy. After COVID hit, people began taking more road trips instead of flying. With its plethora of outdoor activities and scenery, our area is more an attractive getaway for the COVID-conscious. Because of our mountains and geography, Asheville tourism has not seen as negative an  economic impact as other areas.

Short-term rental policies in Asheville are restrictive, but they have still seen record reservations. Since March 2020, local Airbnb owners say they’ve stayed at over 90% occupancy. Homestays are more of a draw because of the lack of a public lobby, visitors can prepare their own food, and it’s easier to quarantine while on vacation. 

Will there be a crash? 

Tony predicts that the market will stay strong through the first half of the year, with city residents relocating. He foresees a change once newcomers realize they miss where they came from. 

The evictions issue is building and putting pressure on landlords. Foreclosure courts backing up and stalling will come to a head. Banks being very lenient to help people can’t last forever. It all depends on the vaccine to predict when the economic impact will express itself fully. How will people pay so much back rent or mortgages when the rules change back? People are holding onto hope, which may be false. 

Tony isn’t worried about appreciation investments. The last year has shown the importance of making investments to protect yourself from surprises. Although he is in retirement mode, he always suggests investment clients look at the data carefully.  Find the data by chatting with agents, banks, and other experts. You can find federal data online, but it’s more about intentional conversations and noticing patterns. Try to segment the housing market and the rental market, identifying which areas are under the most pressure. The smart, larger players and investors with cash reserves will do fine. Novices may try to stretch too far, resulting in mistakes like missing a mortgage payment. 

He suggests establishing relationships with banks for pre-foreclosure opportunities. Look for small multifamily investment properties. But be careful. Tony warns that a  few nonpayments could slice through razor-thin margins of profit. 


Tony wishes he’d stuck with his original investment plan and looked at needs consistently instead of wants. He has learned that not overextending yourself is the key to avoiding stress. Even when it wasn’t widely accepted, he always worked from home. Tony was able to enjoy the WNC scenery and maintain flexibility while staying professional. Without impacting his client base, he was able to make changes to lifestyle. 

One key was administrative support. What can you offload? Recognize where your talent is and delegate the smaller tasks. Leveraging that will create new deals and allow you to focus on your bread and butter. 

Connect with Tony via email at [email protected]