By Strategic Passive Investments
Savannah, Georgia, seems to have the best of all worlds when it comes to a place to live, work, or just spend a little time “away from it all.”
This might sound like the beginning of a tourist video, but many real estate investors do not realize that reviewing the foundational information contained in hospitality bureau videos and other related content is generally a great way to figure out whether or not a market is a good fit for a real estate investing strategy. While it is vitally important to remember while reviewing these types of materials that the source of the information is certainly biased, picking out the facts from the promotion can leave an investor with a very clear idea about the state and appeal of a market.
A great example of how this works is the southern city of Savannah, Georgia, which is most famous for its beautiful historic district, which is divided into green squares like small parks, and its River Street district, an entertainment area of development that lies along the edge of the Savannah River. Of course, these days, the Savannah River and its Port of Savannah are getting more than a little share of the spotlight as well thanks to the Georgia Port System’s determination to prevent this port from becoming clogged as other international ports around the country have become. All of this makes Savannah a growing city located in an affordable region of the country and boasting a lot of investment potential for 2022 and beyond. However, there is more to this coastal city than just good data on paper.
In Savannah, there are a number of fascinating elements that inspire residents to put down roots and bring short-term visitors back to their vacation rentals time and again. Here are five of the things that make Savannah, Georgia, fascinating for long-term residents and short-term renters:
1. Savannah was presented as a ‘Christmas gift’ to Abraham Lincoln shortly before his assassination.
Following Union General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea” during the Civil War, the general wrote to President Lincoln with news of his success in taking the city and, ultimately, the South. He wrote:
…I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.
Savannah is full of history and contains many historic sites. Even long-time residents say they love learning about new facets of the city’s place in history. The oldest operating historical society is based in Savannah for good reason, and investors who own short-term rentals definitely benefit from this organization’s promotion of the city and preservation of important sites.
2. Girl Scout Cookies were born in Savannah!
Well, the Girl Scouts of America (GSA) was, anyway. The founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, started the organization in 1912. Today, there are over 2.5 million Girl Scouts and the historic headquarters is still located in Savannah. This headquarters, distinct from GSA headquarters in New York City, generates $5.83 million in economic contributions across the region. The site alone welcomes about 30,000 guests a year and draws many interested troops into the area for vacations and educational visits.
3. Savannah lets you take your daiquiris ‘to-go.’
Savannah is nothing if not accommodating to tourists, who account for $2.5 billion of annual economic impact in Savannah each year. According to a study conducted by Tourism Economics in 2017, residents of Savannah (excluding the government and institutional business entities) received direct benefits from tourism in the sum of $844 million in addition to local income generated in the sum of $866 million. These numbers exclude benefits to city operations, etc.
While taking a drink from the bar on River Street might seem like a relatively inconsequential thing (and don’t worry – this to-go option extends only a few blocks), it demonstrates just how much Savannah values its tourism sector. Nearly 15 million short-term visitors appreciate this and visit the city each year.
4. The Port of Savannah is almost 20 miles upstream from the ocean.
Most people think of ports as being located on the ocean, but the Port of Savannah and other ports in the Georgia Port Authority system are actually located far inland on the Savannah River. The river has been artificially deepened several times over the years to make it easier for extremely large ships to pass through and reach the port system’s nine “deep-water berths” that allow fast and easy unloading and transport to a system of “dry ports” that take goods all over the country.
As a result of this constant innovation with an eye to making the ports’ operation efficient and effective, the Georgia Port Authority employs nearly half a million people directly in addition to creating countless associated jobs. In the wake of COVID-19, the port authority is currently engaged in a $500-million expansion and seeking highly paid professionals to work in the largest single container port in the U.S. This represents a great opportunity for real estate investors and developers interested in single-family residential development since many of these employees will work inland from Savannah and need proximal housing, schools, and other services in their new residential areas.
5. Savannah invests heavily in the great outdoors.
Savannah’s economic development authority is definitely focused on making the city attractive to businesses and visitors, but this also means making the city attractive to long-term residents who want to work and play in Savannah permanently. As a result, the city is highly walkable, offers free public transit, boasts incredible landscaping and green spaces, and hosts many festivals (including the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade and party in the country) each year.
If you also have a hankering for the beach, Savannah is just minutes away from Tybee Island, one of Georgia’s barrier islands that is home to beautiful beaches, sea turtles, dolphins, and the endangered North Atlantic right whale, which calves only in the waters off coastal Georgia and north Florida. There are many wildlife centers located in and around Savannah as well as plenty of beach access for people who love the surf and sand.
Savannah’s ‘Magic’ Combination of Long- and Short-Term Appeal
One of the things that most investors who own properties in Savannah cite as a great “selling point” for them when it came to making an investment in the area is that Savannah is very aware of the importance of its residents and its local businesses.
The local government invests a great deal of time and money in to attracting new businesses and employers to the area and to supporting those already in residence. This means there are lots of opportunities for investors to leverage tax advantages and also to get “ahead of the curve” when it comes to acquiring properties in areas that are likely to benefit in the future from municipal programs bringing in new employers and employees who need places to live.
Furthermore, the city is one of the oldest and most established vacation destinations in the country. City residents began building lavish homes and ornate churches shortly after the American Revolution, and many people would visit simply to gawk at the amazing buildings even before the Civil War. Afterward, Savannah was one of the few major cities left largely architecturally intact, so its allure grew. In the 1950s, the local Historic District began a concerted effort to preserve noteworthy buildings, including the site of Georgia’s first bank and “The Pirate’s House,” mentioned in Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Whether investors prefer short-term rentals, long-term rentals, fix-and-flip projects, or something else altogether, the city has room for everyone.