I am so excited! It’s that time of year when the Smoky Mountains show off that famous “Blue Smoke.”
Many of you are of Cherokee descent like me and it just seems right! The Cherokee called it “Land of the Blue Smoke.” Shaconage was their word for it. You pronounce it “Sha-Kon-O-Hey”! Sounds so good, right?
When thinking about the best real estate investment ever, think about purchasing a cabin with a view of the Blue Smoke. The fact that it changes all day with the weather is superb. Sometimes it disappears and then an hour later, mountains upon mountains appear like from nowhere. It’s part of the joy that visitors have when they come. It is equivalent to buying beachfront property. Of course, you may have to “wait” for the property to come along and sometimes there is a compromise on the fact the drive is a little “crazy”— but weigh it out. The drive can’t be too crazy. Maybe you should load up your grandmother and your two year old and see if any one throws up breakfast. If so, no matter how amazing the view you need to pass. But if you can put it on your list of top wants in a property that would be good.
Just as a side note, where does all that blue smoke come from? Volatile organic compounds, or VOC, is fog from vegetation. The plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. The VOC’s refract light that results in gorgeous bluish tint. They have a high vapor pressure, which means they can form vapors at room temperature. Millions of trees, bushes, and other plants create a concert of VOC’s and we have Shaconage. This is also shared with the Blue Ridge Mountain range. As I was born on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Galax, Virginia, perhaps it is in my blood. Some of you might know that Galax is an awesome mountain bush but also home of the Fiddler Festival known nationwide for great Bluegrass.
But back to great investments. So what is a view worth in dollars and cents? An appraiser will often not give value for a “view,” but in reality a lot without a mountain view might be worth $40,000. The same size lot on the top of that resort will be sold for $90,000. And rental revenue from a cabin with no view will be $70,000 a year on a typical well outfitted 3-bedroom with a view. Add another $15,000 or more of gross revenue a year. It makes me love Shaconage even more!
However, do not despair if you cannot find the mountain top view of Blue Smoke. I have several alternatives for you that will get you very close to if not on the mountain top itself. I can help you find a cabin on a water amenity, such as a creek or waterfall, or perhaps a place on a small mountain with a lake of its own! Find a cabin with a pristine private view where your guests feel like they are Adam in Eve in the garden of Eden before they had kids! When you find the private setting, place a fire pit or a garden to meditate in, or a walking path to go exploring. And last of all stack your cabin with fantastic amenities such as giant screens with a home theater, crazy arcade games, driving games, shooting games, putt- putt courses, sauna’s, and gourmet kitchens to make our local chefs envious.
If you want to learn more about the science behind Blue Smoke, check out this article on the subject here.
Our “Home of the Month” pick for May is this perfect vacation Starr Crest Resort cabin.
You can see more details about this Starr Crest Resort cabin here.
For our March “House of the Month,” we’ve selected this beautiful 2-bedroom cabin in Parkside Village.
Now you can own your own perfect getaway with this cozy two bedroom and two bath cabin smack dab in the center of Wears Valley! It’s located just minutes from town and offers easy access to either Townsend or the National Park. This is a mountain lover’s dream!
Well maintained and newly stained, this 2-bedroom cabin’s open floor plan will offer you the chance to relax with family and friends or enjoy a nice game of pool in the downstairs game room.
You can learn more about this 2-bedroom cabin here.
Turn this into your cash-flow nest egg today! Contact me at 865-765-6157 or call my support line at 865-654-2111 to visit this 2-bedroom cabin.
For our March “Cabin of the Month,” we’ve chosen this 1-bedroom cabin nestled in Parkside Village.
To learn more about this 1-bedroom cabin, click here.
If you would like to schedule a visit to see this 1-bedroom cabin, contact me at 865-765-6157 or call my support line at 865-654-2111.
The most common type of phone call we receive from buyers looking for real estate in our market usually starts out something like, “I’ve never really owned vacation rentals before but I want to buy one with great rental history!”
The conversation then turns to identifying what exactly they are looking for in an investment property and what their budget is for buying real estate. Once we have those parameters figured out, the next point to focus on is understanding what their long term plans are with buying real estate. Always be looking for real estate property with the expectation that you will sell at some point. This is the first, most important step in the process of buying real estate. We have found that it is fairly common for investment cabin owners to relist their cabins within five or so years. Either their investment strategies evolve leading them to buy other cabins or to invest in other ideas, or life happens and their focus on where they want to spend their investment dollars changes. So, always buy with the sale in mind. What does that mean? Well, it means there are several criteria you want to do your best to meet as you search for the best investment.
- It’s got to be in a great location. Location is everything, as I’m sure you know. You’ve got to buy something in a great location. You can change almost anything about a home but you can’t change the location. You can’t move a house if it’s in a bad location. So how do we define “great location?” Well, in the Smokies, a great location is generally something that has a beautiful view of the mountains, is close to attractions, and is relatively peaceful. If your investment property doesn’t meet at least some of those criteria, it had better offer something incredibly unique that renters will find appealing.
- Buy the lowest priced property of the best quality on the block. You definitely don’t want to own the most expensive home or cabin in the resort, and the reason is this: when you get ready to sell, you will have a hard time getting that piece of real estate to appraise for what you want from it. Appraisers look at similar properties in the same area of the property for sale as much as possible, and often times a property that is priced higher than the ones around it sold for has trouble getting approval for the price you are being offered. Without an appraiser’s stamp, a lender won’t be able to authorize the deal unless the buyer is willing to pay the difference up front. Most buyers using a lender usually can’t (or won’t). By going after something that is less expensive, you have enough room to maneuver as it appreciates in value.
- Buy as high quality of property as you can afford. People are always looking for the best deal, and I personally love helping them finding someone else’s mistake that they can turn into a win. But even with that goal it’s important to remember that the cheaper something is, the more you will have to spend to turn it into a gold mine. You want to buy real estate property with good bones that will hold up better without much maintenance. On that subject, don’t buy something with an outdated, obsolete floor plan. You want to buy something that can be changed to keep up with the interior design trends. So buy something with potential to be great without having to completely rebuild from scratch.
Remember, the goal in real estate investing is to make money with the property, both on the front end over the years as you rent it and on the back end when you sell it for a profit. If you’re not striving to reach those two goals, it might be someone else buying your mistake instead!
Next month, I’ll take you through some of the strategies I encourage my buyers to use once they’ve found the “diamond in the rough” so that remodeling the home increases their profits rather than cutting into it.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the local real estate market, my team and I are always here to help and answer questions.
For our “Cabin of the Month” of January, we’ve selected this vacation home in Cedar Falls.
To learn more about this vacation home or to schedule a showing, call us at 865-654-2111.
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.
As always, my staff and I are here to answer any questions you have about the rental cabin market.
Our featured ‘Cabin of the Month’ for December has incredible mountain views of the National Park!
To schedule a visit to see this cabin and its amazing mountain views, call me at 865-765-6157 or my support line at 865-654-2111.
If you’ve ever thought about ways to increase your rental income, this topic about indoor swimming pools is for you.
One of the things we do to help our cabin owners in maximizing the return on their investment is to keep up with the trends and amenities that are the most appealing in our clients’ best rentals. And one of those things that we are finding to be successful more and more are indoor swimming pools at the cabins in our area. Indoor swimming pools are the latest and greatest amenity for investment cabins. At first glance, that sounds absolutely dreadful. However, before you say no to the idea, let’s talk about what makes indoor swimming pools so attractive to renters.
Let’s start with one of the most apparent truths about rental cabins in the Smokies: any cabin can, and does, rent throughout the summer months, our most popular time of the year for obvious reasons. Kids are out of school and people are vacationing. Dollywood is open. The National Park is holding all kinds of workshops. It’s not commonly known, but it’s true: if you have a cabin that you are renting out to vacationers, then you know you can pretty much count on people to stay at your cabin during the summer. Therefore, if you are an investor, you really never have to be too concerned with amenities like outdoor or community pools as being important to offer guests in the summer time.
The game for increasing investment revenues is to fill in the calendar. You need guests to stay at your cabin during the non-peak months in order to reach that revenue gap that really makes your investment profitable. Indoor pools make that possible. In the first few months of the year when it is cold, snowing or raining, and people just don’t want to go out to do anything, an indoor swimming pool provides hours of fun for your guests. Cabins with indoor swimming pools will attract guests who might not have even made the trip otherwise. What a cool thing for people to be able to stay in a cabin with an indoor pool!
So, let’s look at how indoor swimming pools affect your income.
You’re adding bookings in the winter time, bookings in September before the leaves start to change, and bookings during spring break. These are bookings you probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. It gets you past the unpredictability. In addition to the increased number of bookings, you’re also able to charge a little more for the added amenity. Owners of one to four bedroom cabins who have indoor pools are seeing gross rental income amounts of $20,000 to $30,000 more than owners of similar sized cabins without pools are earning.
How much does it cost? Well, if your cabin can be remodeled to include an indoor swimming pool, the cost to install it starts at about $30,000 and go up to $150,000. You will have some additional expenses each year, such as insurance on the pool (you’ll need to shop around for that, as not everyone offers that coverage) and there will be costs for cleaning that you can pass onto your guests. So the best news is that depending on the amount you would spend to put a pool in, it should pay for itself within just a few years. And if you ever decide to sell your cabin, the pool will increase its resale value.
Before you put an indoor swimming pool in, check with your local zoning board to make sure you are following the safety requirements. Some examples of the requirements include a door lock with a coded pad – preferably one that is high enough up the wall that small children can’t reach it, a motion alarm for the water to alert other guests if someone enters the water, and only one door that allows access to the pool room. You’ll also want to make sure you have a way of controlling the chlorine smell. Also, keep a cover that can be placed over the pool in between guests. This is very helpful in reducing moisture levels in your cabin.
One of our specialties is building cabins with indoor swimming pools, and we’ve been helping clients do that for almost five years. Some of our builders have been constructing cabins with indoor pools for even longer, so we are always here to help answer any questions you have about putting a pool in your cabin – or even building a new one to upgrade to!