Design your own cabin at Cobbly Nob

This month’s cabin of the month is a pre-construction build in Cobbly Nob. In this 3 bedroom, 3.5 bath you can pick your finishes and colors. The cabin design included more than 2800 square feet in the desirable Cobbly Nob community. Located on a beautiful, private wooded lot, the cabin design also includes two master suites each with private baths, and one large bedroom downstairs. The cabin’s open floor plan offers high quality, brand new materials! The kitchen opens to the great room, with the dining room located in between. Other amenities include a half bath on the main level and the downstairs has a super large recreation/media room.

This cabin is perfect for a second home or as an investment overnight rental property. Pics are of like construction by this builder. To learn more about this cabin construction, click or tap here.

If you’d like to visit the property or talk with us about this build, please call me and my team at 865-654-2111 or 865-765-6157.

What’s next for investment cabins?

As we near the end of 2019, we are in a very interesting place in the market. Inventory – the number of properties for sale – continues to run low. Why is that? The reason inventory is low is multifaceted. As many of you remember, we had a massive wildfire in November 2016. Many cabins and chalets, and some residences, were destroyed by the fires. The devastation resulted in the removal of literally hundreds of cabins from the rental market. Some rental companies lost 100 cabins overnight. While a few of the owners of those affected properties have built them back (or still are actually in the process of building back), many of those properties will never be built back the way they were. The codes for cabin construction have changed and tightened up from a decade ago. So because of the infrastructure such as septic fields, narrow winding roads, or inclines where a fire truck cannot gain access, the county or the permitting authorities – Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge or Sevier County – might not approve a building permit.

Replacement construction was affected by other factors, too. For example, just the sheer number of those structures in need of rebuilding made obtaining the necessary materials for construction difficult and expensive. Also, the availability of contractors has been a challenge. Where so many of the projects are funded with insurance money – meaning the cash is immediately available – those will tend to take precedence over ones that are being financed through a lender where the project involves a bit more approval, oversight, and paperwork to keep the money flowing during the construction process. So if you want to build something new you’re going to be competing with that group.

What makes building the most appealing in spite of the challenges, however, is the shortage of properties for sale on the market these days. At the time of the economic downturn just over a decade ago, the resulting housing crash held the property values low, making it unattractive for sellers to sell. But with the improvement of the overall economy, prices have risen and sellers have been able to meet their goals. Now once where they were okay with delaying the decision to sell, most of them have already moved ahead and sold in that group of properties that changed hands with the first flurry of buyers after the wildfires. So, that group of properties is gone and there are fewer cabins available to sell. This whole situation causes values to climb.

Of course, real estate prices tend to cycle, and we are back where we were before the economic downfall of the overall country with values for many cabins. In other words, we are reaching the top of the market.

Will values continue to climb? That’s a difficult question because the construction industry is not at the level it was previously, it has room to grow. There is much more demand for new construction then cabins or homes being built, which would indicate we can continue to see appreciation in market prices. Interest rates might remain low and visitation to the area is at an all time high. We are a top choice among retirees looking to relocate and those who just prefer a slower pace. 

On the flip side, what would cause the high market prices to end or slow down? One very dominant reason why it would slow would be the competition of more new construction projects. As the construction industry makes a come back and its infrastructure is filled, supply will begin to meet the demand once more. We’re reaching a point where new construction is the preferred purchase, as the price of building something new and the price of buying move closer in line with each other.

In addition to price comparison, the other biggest reason that building will become more appealing is because new construction takes into account the new desires and amenities of that renters look for, such as theater rooms, large game rooms, large luxurious bathrooms, indoor pools, etc.  Also new construction will have less maintenance cost appliances. HVAC systems, water heaters, etc. will last longer then something that has some age on it so it will tend to compress the price of older cabins. Generally speaking, they will not be able to rise any further in price than new construction prices.  

So if you are thinking about selling, this is the time. I hope you will choose wisely. And remember – there’s always a win in real estate. We’re always here to help you understand and sort out what that win is for you based on your personal goals.

Large acreage site could be perfect development opportunity!

This incredible large tract of property located adjacent to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park could be the perfect development opportunity, if you’re looking for a unique investment. The tract is very close to the Greenbrier entrance of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg, the Rocky Top Sports Center and other major attractions in our region. This nearly 38 acre tract with incredible Mountain views, contains approximately eight acres of pasture, a mountain stream, and some basic road ways already cut in. This tract is ideal for private development, potential cabin development , campground site, equestrian activities. Contact us by phone or text at 865-765-6157, 865-680-5850, or 865-654-2111 to request to see conceptual plans for other developmental ideas. These engineered conceptual drawings offer insight for possible development.

To learn more about this property, tap or click here.

New construction: picking the right lender

Last month, we talked a bit about the re-emergence of building in the Great Smoky Mountains. With the market on the upswing due to so few cabins on the market and a huge demand among buyers, the prices on existing property have steadily climbed to a point not seen since before the downturn. As those prices began to reach the cost of building, new construction is beginning to appeal to buyers.

If you are excited about the possibility of owning your own vacation or rental cabin but can’t find exactly what you are looking for on the market and have the patience to wait out the building process, you may be at a place where building your own cabin is your best option!

As you work out in writing exactly what you are looking for in a cabin and picked the perfect builder to construct your dream cabin on the perfect lot for where you want the cabin to be located,  you’ll also need to be interviewing lenders about their different types of loans. One of the most important things you will need to know is how the project is going to be financed.

If you are very fortunate, you may come across a development project with the design you’re looking for where the builder is being financed by the lender directly. So then you would just buy the property as you would any existing home or cabin once it’s finished. The floor plans are pre-designed and while you may have some say in changes, most of the time it will be built according to the approved specifications.

Another great way to manage the financing of the project is to find the lot that meets all the goals of your floor plans and purchase it ahead of starting the project. If you have the cash to purchase the lot or if you can afford to wait until the lot is paid off, it’s possible the lot can be used as the down payment for the construction project. You just need the design to appraise for enough that the lot will cover the down payment. This is where the expertise of a real estate agent can be invaluable.

Different lenders offer different types of loans, so it’s important to know what your options are with the lender you pick to fund your project. Some will offer construction loans so you may have two closings – one for the construction project and a second for the conversion of the loan into a traditional mortgage. Others will offer a one-time closing.

During the building process, the lender will issue draws. These are payments made to the builder for materials, work performed, etc. As the buyer, you are generally only responsible for the amount borrowed on with each draw and payments you make are interest-only for the duration of the building process. So you can know fairly well ahead of time how much you can expect your payments to be as construction progresses.

If building your own cabin is the path you are considering, we can help you. We have worked with a number of builders on dozens of construction projects and would be glad to share our experience and expertise with you.

New cabin construction designed with indoor pool

Admire the breathtaking long range views from this 6 bedroom, 6 bathroom, 2 and a half bath cabin! Located just 10 minutes from the Pigeon Forge Parkway, this is your Smoky Mountains investment waiting to happen. With a projected yearly gross income ranging between $120,000 to $150,000, your second home can make you a second income! This cabin offers plenty of potential with its spacious more than 4,400 square feet, its sparkling granite counters, hardy wood-look floors, handsome tongue and groove walls, an outfitted game room, an outfitted theater room, and private indoor pool – the latest attraction for guests to the Smokies looking to rent a vacation cabin. vacation cabinOpen floor plan, high ceilings, and expansive decks are perfect for entertaining guests. Best of all, its just a short drive to the attractions. This is just one of our latest construction projects taking place in Wears Valley, so the pictures are of similar finished 6 bedroom cabins within the developing Smoky Mountain Ridge resort (actual floor plan may vary based on how the lot sets).

You can view more details about this cabin here.

To learn more about this and our other cabin construction projects, call me at 865-765-6157 or my support line at 865-654-2111.

Deciding When to Build

For the last few months we’ve been sharing with you about how building is making a comeback due to the lack of properties for sale in our market. More and more lenders are offering loans for building. Lots are in abundance even when residential homes and cabins are the opposite. Contractors are taking on building projects.

rebuilding after wildfireFor most people, building is an option when you either can’t find exactly what you want or your dream home/cabin is in the wrong location for where you want to be. Because buying is still a little cheaper – and easier – I recommend trying to find something existing that checks your boxes first, but if what you’re looking for just isn’t out there, then that’s when you should consider building.

So what’s the first step in building? Well, before anything else you will want to have a list of “non-negotiables,” items that are must-haves for your home or cabin. Do you want an open floor plan? How many bedrooms? What square footage is acceptable for your new home? Do you need the cabin you’re building to cash flow as an investment, or is this going to be more of a vacation property? Once you have this list nailed down, then you can start looking for the lot where you want it to be built. It’ll help you in the long run if you know before you buy the lot that it can’t be permitted for a 3-bedroom because the field line is too small if you need your home to have 3 bedrooms. It’s going to cost a lot more if you go about it the other way around.

Next, you will need to interview builders as part of the bid process for the construction project. While most people prefer to go it alone, this is one area where working with a real estate agent who has a firm understanding of construction can really be helpful for you. A knowledgeable real estate agent can help pair you with the right builder for the project. If you found the perfect floor plan in a different location, maybe the builder will be available or at least be able to provide the building plans for your home. Your agent can also provide you the names of lenders who offer construction loans. My team and I know a handful of lenders we work well with and are positive about when it comes to new build projects. And we know great builders who do fantastic work, too.

The other area where working with a real estate agent can be beneficial is in helping you save money on the project. If you design it correctly, it’s possible to make the project appraise for a value that’s far higher than the cost of building it will be. This could be a win for you if you are able to use the lot you are purchasing as part of the deal as a down payment on the project.

In next month’s article, I will walk you through the process of how lenders typically set up the loan and offer some tips on things you can do to manage the financing for the project as your home or cabin is being built.

Buying in a sellers’ market

sellers marketAround this time last summer, I shared with you that we are living in a sellers’ market in the Great Smoky Mountains. One year later, that fact hasn’t changed. The number of properties available – particularly vacation rental cabins, since that is our primary residential market in this area – has dropped below where it was last year while the number of buyers looking hasn’t. In fact, the interest among potential buyers has continued to increase, which has in turn continued to drive up the prices of available homes. This is great news for your if you own a cabin and are considering selling it, but it has proven to be somewhat frustrating for buyers who find the prices to be a little more than they were planning or who don’t want to make a seemingly impulsive decision and end up either missing out on the cabin they love or just giving up on the idea completely.

However, if you’re in love with the dream of owning a vacation cabin in the Smokies, there’s hope. There are things you can do and ways you can approach the opportunity, even in this market. The three things you want to focus on is making the successful bid, making it make sense with your investment plans, and making sure the decision to make an offer doesn’t feel impulsive (if like many of us that is an area you struggle with).

Study the market ahead of time. We frequently send out listings via email to people based on criteria they provide us weeks, even months, ahead of their plan to visit the area and pick a cabin. Of course, just about everything you look at now will be under contract and/or sold before your trip in the fall. However, the more you know about what’s on the market and what the prices look like before you make the trip, the easier it will be for you to spot exactly what you want when you go inside the home or cabin that will be for sale when you get here. And it won’t feel quite so impulsive when it matches something else you saw weeks ago that you really loved online.

Ask your agent to preview the home. When you live in another state, making a day’s drive on a Tuesday afternoon to see a cabin Wednesday morning before driving home in the afternoon so you can be back at work on Thursday isn’t always the most practical. If you don’t have a way to view the cabin before Friday afternoon, it might be under contract by then. So one of the services we offer our clients who we know are serious about buying a property is to go and check it out for them. We know what they are looking for in a home or cabin and can usually send photos or videos, or give a call while we are at the property walking around. Then, you can make an informed decision about the specific property and if you like it based on your agent’s feedback, be able to go ahead and make an offer following the tips I suggested last year.

Consider building your own home. The other good news is that if you can’t find exactly what you want, or you have time to plan out your vision for owning property in the Smokies is that building is making a comeback because of the shortage of properties for sale. So that is an option you should consider.

If you would like to know more or need help navigating the market, my staff and I would enjoy the opportunity to work with you on your adventure! You can call or text me at 865-765-6157 or my support line at 865-654-2111. I can also be reached via email: deborah@deborahkorlin.us

Building is making a comeback

As we reach a point where listings are scarce, we are entering a new season where building is making a comeback! It is an exciting time, as we have not had much new construction since the downturn more than 10 years ago. Since that time, it’s been cheaper to buy than it has been to build, but these past few months we have seen that trend began to shift. The number of residential properties for sale in our market is the lowest it’s been in quite some time. This has resulted in prices – especially for vacation rental cabins – increasing significantly, finally reaching a point where they are selling for amounts during the peak times in the early 2000s.

The top 3 reasons to choose building over buying

Over the last year, we’ve seen many buyers become discouraged with the market prices, which is understandable. But if owning a vacation cabin is something you’d like to pursue, there are a lot of great reasons to consider building. The best reason to pick building over buying is that you can create your cabin to meet the current trends that make it as profitable as possible. For example, a cabin with an indoor pool will gross significantly more than a cabin without one, and there are options for building a cabin with an indoor pool at a price that makes sense. It doesn’t even have to be a big cabin like it once did as the price for building a 1-2 bedroom cabin is much more in line with where the prices for buying an existing cabin are now. Indoor pools pay for themselves.

Secondly, you can pick your location. That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you consider the fact that with so few cabins, the ones in the best locations that are priced correctly will have offers on them even before they are listed due to the high demand, or multiple offers on them within a day or 2 of being listed. But there is an abundance of lots in a variety of places and many of these have fantastic views. So with the number of lots so high, you can almost assuredly find a place that will have the surroundings you want, whether that be a wooded area or one up on top of a mountain where your guests can admire the view.

Third, lenders are providing competitive options for building as it becomes more popular. We’ve had several lenders reach out to us about their construction loan options in the last few months, some of whom have revamped what they’re doing to keep up with the changing market.

If you haven’t found the vacation cabin you are looking for, building may be the best option for you. We’d love to talk with you about how we approach new construction and help you find the perfect lot for your goals!

(Or if you just want to know more about the pros and cons of building, we are here to help with that, too!)

Indoor swimming pools keep your cabin booked year round!

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 indoor swimming poolsreasons. 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!

As always, my staff and I are here to answer any questions you may have. If you’d like to learn more about how indoor swimming pools can add to your annual rental income, call me at 865-765-6157 or 865-654-2111.

New construction is ramping up this year

We are frequently asked, “So what’s going on with new construction in the Smokies, particularly with cabins?”

Oh my goodness – what a question! As many of you know, we have been involved in bringing back new construction to our Great Smoky Mountains for the last two to three years. Through our partnership with developers in Sherwood Forest Resort, we have overseen the construction of dozens of new cabins there. More recently, I shared plans to create additional new resorts in our region. The work has been slow going but extremely rewarding, and we are excited for the future as more cabin construction takes place in those resort locations.

In a nutshell, new construction is continuing to make its way forward. The values of existing properties are escalating to the point that they are close to intersecting with the price of building based on average price per square foot. That is exciting for the contractor, the developer and for you and me! It’s still not easy and market prices are advancing slowly, but progress is being made.new construction

Of course, the loss of hundreds of cabins and homes in and around Gatlinburg has affected new construction in several different ways. As you can imagine, there has been a huge interest in building back destroyed structures. Home owners and cabin owners are looking to replace what they lost in the fire and in some cases are in a bit of a scramble to locate a plan, find a contractor and tie down some material to build back. However, it is not a straight forward process. Building permits are required and there may be new building codes that weren’t in effect when the original structure on the property was built. Owners have so many new issues to consider as they work on a plan to rebuild. For example, the foundations have to be assessed for stability. Can they be reused, or must they be demolished and cleared away before new construction can begin? Do we have adequate utilities? Are the septic or sewer lines still in place? What about the water lines or the well head? What is the resort or neighborhood going to look like in the next few years? These are just a few of the items owners are dealing with, and as a result rebuilding may not be a feasible option. There are many who have decided to not pursue rebuilding but have already replaced their properties with a home in another location. Some have simply decided to wait and see how things go before wading into the decision to rebuild.

Ultimately, I believe there will be several outcomes. One result will be a boost to building. Subcontractors are being attracted back to the area. Those who had laid down the hammer and now work at places like Dollywood may return to the profession. This will create more activity and building opportunities for those who want a newly constructed home or cabin. Along with new construction, we are also going to see a facelift to some areas that were becoming a bit tired as properties had aged. Historic and areas that were well loved like Chalet Village in Gatlinburg will have new life as home owners build new chalets and cabins on property. We are still trying to see the bright side of what was a very dark day. Actually one of those positives is that views that had been lost to thick trees now have outstanding vista views as nature pruned itself.

A side note that many of us didn’t realize is that nature actually needs fires from time to time. It provides and enrichment to the soil, natures fertilizer. There are even seeds that only are activated by fire. You can see it already in the regrowth along the side of the National Park roads as the green growth returns. It looks like a St. Patrick’s Day parade of lime green color!

In the short run, the fires will cause market prices to further increase. The number of residential properties for sale in the Great Smoky Mountains was already a bit down even before the fires. Now it is down even more with the new influx of cabin buyers looking to replace lost properties. Many of them are visiting properties with an insurance check in hand, so they might be willing to be a little more competitive with their offers.

A third result we will see is difficulty in attracting contractors to individual projects as they are in high demand and probably will have more than enough work to keep them very busy for the foreseeable future. However we have been contacted by contractors just outside of our area willing to travel an hour or so to work. I think it will take more perseverance to find a quality, knowledgeable contractor but it will be possible. Feel free to ask for our help as we work our way through the contractors; we can send you in the right direction at least with the right questions!

We have also seen lending open up to new construction. When I started 3 years ago representing builders and developers we could hardly talk anyone into giving us money for logs and nails – but now every month I am being approached by a new lender who is putting their toe in the new construction loan waters. That is really good news. The required minimum down payments amounts are being relaxed. Right now, you can build a residential home for as little as five percent down, and you can use your lot as a down payment. The lending terms on an investment cabin come with a 20 percent down payment requirement for the construction loan.

So if you’ve ever thought of building your perfect home, this is the time to start dreaming with those cabin plan books or house plan books! Construction is back to stay for a good long while! Over the next year, lots of us are going to learn to build again and how to understand new construction… not a bad thing if you are like me, and love construction projects.

As always, I and my staff are here to answer any questions you have about the real estate market or new construction.