Great real estate values in the Great Smoky Mountains
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Deborah Korlin

Deborah Korlin is the owner and principal broker of Century 21 MVP in Sevierville, Tennessee, covering real estate in the Great Smoky Mountains area.
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vacation cabinWith the shortage of cabins on the market and the high demand to replace them by people who lost their cabin in the wildfires almost a year ago, those of you who dream of having a vacation home in the Smokies are facing some tough competition from buyers with insurance checks in hand. But you can still live your dream if you are willing to make some concessions.

First, you need to know going into the cabin buying process that you may have to offer a little more than what the properties were going for a year ago. Our area is a sellers’ market right now, and property market values are reflecting that in the offers we are seeing. This means you may be competing with investors who are looking for a place that will generate a decent income on the rental income market. To make sure you come out on top, you are going to have to offer your highest and best price.

With that in mind, a higher offer using lending means getting the property appraised for the amount you are offering might be a challenge. As market values have rapidly risen, the appraisal values – the determined worth of the home to help lenders decide if they will approve the requested amount on a mortgage – have not really kept up. But there are things you can do to help it appraise for more. For example, appraisers can consider the gross rental income in the value of the cabin. So, I and my staff will help you find a great rental company able to bring in an amount that will make the cabin worth more in an appraisal.

How you can rent your cabin and still enjoy it

But you may say, “I don’t want to rent my cabin because I don’t want to share it!” That’s okay. We can help you figure that out, too. We know rental companies who will take great care of your property and your belongings. You can use it as much as you want, but when you’re not there you’re going to want to generate income on it to help with the mortgage. And you can do things to make sure it is being rented by guests who will care as much about taking care of the cabin as you do. 

  1. Outfit it with the very top end furniture, appliances, and amenities. With the better quality items in the cabin, you can charge a higher price per night to help pay for those items. Give more, and ask more.
  2. Appeal to a smaller group of people. Limit the number of people allowed to rent your cabin. If you try to pack in more people, you will attract groups that are looking to spread the cost around and the more people in the cabin at one time, the more likely things will get broken.
  3. Prohibit pets. The last thing you want when you come to your “home away from home” is to discover pets have destroyed your favorite lamp, or scratched up the flooring. You can bring your pets, of course, but there’s nothing requiring you to let other people bring theirs!
  4. Pick something in a private area. Even something private can still be part of a resort, such as Brothers Cove, or Shagbark – which is protected by a guard gate around the clock. Maybe you would like a cabin in a residential type setting such as Sky Harbor (as long as crazy, winding roads are your thing).
  5. Look for something you will have to remodel. I often tell clients our number one goal in helping them buy something is to find someone else’s mistake that they can correct affordably. It’ll be cheaper to buy, and the money you put into remodeling will pay for itself with the additional rental income it generates. When furnishing or remodeling, make sure to choose materials that are more durable – ceramic tile, granite, distressed woods, stone, slate, etc. Avoid things like soft pine that scratch easily, or carpet that will stain and tear over time. Also, sheetrock is generally something you should replace with wood walls, tongue and groove, or something that gives it more of a traditional cabin feel.
  6. Have the cabin deep cleaned once a year. If you do this right before you come for your big vacation trip of the year, the positive impression it will leave for you as you walk in on the first day will help set the tone for the whole trip!

In conclusion, if having a cabin here that you can use for vacationing any time you want is a dream of yours, don’t let the current market situation discourage you. Lenders’ rates are low and most lenders only require 10 percent down payment. If you can swing it, you should put down 20 percent so that you aren’t charged what’s called PMI. It’s a form of insurance required by the bank when you owe more than 80 percent of the loan value. And, don’t wait. As the economy improves, the more buyers there will be. While we are in the process of building back what was lost, and building new cabins in new areas, the shortage of available properties here will continue. So the longer you wait, the more the cabin is going to cost.

If you want to learn more, or need help finding a vacation cabin that’s right for you, I and my staff are always here to help!

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