We are finally reaching the end of 2017 and wow, what a year it’s been! We started with one of the worst tragedies our region has seen as we watched the Smoky Mountains and parts of Gatlinburg burn just over a year ago. So many vacation and rental cabin owners were devastated by the wildfires and we worked with many of them as they made the tough decision to either build back or buy something else. As the costs of materials and construction climbed over the year due to catastrophes in other parts of the country, even people who planned to rebuild their rental cabins slowly abandoned those plans because the price of doing that was just too much.
The rental cabin market in 2017
Not everyone who owned a cabin was eager to sell, though, so what we ended up with was a market of anxious buyers without enough cabins on the market to meet the demand. And many of them had cash from their insurance checks, so they were willing and able to pay a little more than someone who was new to the idea of buying a cabin, or who was working with a lender. The result was that prices of existing cabins began to steadily climb as well. The price to buy remained lower than the price to build throughout the year, and we still haven’t reached the point where building and buying are equal in price.
The number of residential properties, including rental cabins, didn’t quite reach the number sold in 2016, but the average price of such properties increased roughly $25,000 on average and our total sales for the Great Smoky Mountains region passed $540,000,000. Nearly 1,100 of the properties sold were vacation and rental cabins. With the flurry of buyers, we saw properties on the market sell very quickly, sometimes in less than a week if they were competitively priced or in a fantastic location for the right buyer.
So what does all that mean for 2018? Well, the number of residential homes and rental cabins for sale in our market will continue to be down and the market for buyers will remain a competitive one. This is good news for sellers but not good news for buyers. If you are thinking about buying a cabin, sooner is better than later. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to find a property within the price range you want to be in and the more competition you will have for what’s available. The market price for residential property will continue to climb until it reaches a point where the cost of building is a reasonable option. The most important thing to understand in that statement is that the cost of building isn’t likely to go down in the foreseeable future, either. So as the price of building climbs, it will be that much longer before building and buying are the same price.
Finally, none of this is exact science. In fact, there’s a lot more art to it than science. But what we do know is that the vacation rental cabin market is booming and because of that, cabin owners generally aren’t likely to sell their investment properties as long as they can make more with the rental income than they can from the sale of the cabin. The other factor for owners is the tax depreciation. Until that is used up, they will keep going. (Talk to your tax attorney if you want to understand more about how tax depreciation can be beneficial to you in the vacation cabin market.) And, the increasing number of buyers, especially people who are moving their investments from the coast line to the mountains, is expected to continue. This high number of buyers will drive the market.