Entering a new season in 2020

I hope you and your family are staying safe as we navigate the global challenge of the coronavirus.

As a cabin owner, it’s important to me to keep you updated as to the values of your real estate in the Great Smoky Mountains. This is a very unusual time, and a very difficult time to predict what the aftermath of this crisis is going to mean to real estate values. However, we do have data from our last challenge with the National Park Wildfires. And, we have insights that we gained as we worked our way through the national economic downturn more than 10 years ago. So, we can see ahead at least to the end of this year.

To understand it a little better, let’s look at where we were right before this all began. We just came through the first quarter of 2020, with record sales and high values. Visitation to our area and occupancy rates broke records. We saw over 12.5 million visitors to the National Park (setting a new record). We climbed to the top of the market in terms of property values and reached pre-economic downturn figures. Inventory continued to be down being a part of keeping values high. Then the coronavirus happened…

So what to expect?  Of course April and May will be very extremely quiet. The National Park is closed at the moment as well as all our large venues, Dollywood Theme Park, our shows, our convention centers.  Rental income will be fairly dismal.

We believe two new sellers emerge out of this crisis.  Most of our cabin owners have significant equity in their cabins. We are fairly certain that there is going to be flurry of cabin sellers over the summer. These new sellers are going to use their cabin equity through a sale to help their families heal financially. The other seller is a second home owner who did not make a purchase that pays for itself and will need to sell as their discretionary income will not allow them to continue this luxury as the rental market makes a comeback. It will be about the middle of the summer before these sales will be recorded. This is important as these sales will almost surely drive values down. However we expect there to be continued demand among buyers.  So it’s not likely that we will see dramatic shortsales or high rates of foreclosures the way we did in the downturn. We believe that lending will continue to offer low rates making it attractive and possible for buyers to purchase. We think some of the more creative loans will disappear and banks will become more conservative on terms and approvals of loans. But healthy sales will continue but not at the level of 2019.

Therefore, we are going to recommend that if selling is to your advantage you go ahead and get ahead of this group.  If you are in a position to hold your property we recommend that you remodel, deep clean, enjoy your property. We are here for you if you want to discuss this in more detail.  We are working from home at the moment! But so are you! My cell is 865-765-6157, or you can email me at deborahkorlin@gmail.com – text is always wonderful as well. 

In the meantime, if you have time and want to read more sign up for my monthly email newsletter and get on my blog site.  I will continue to follow the results of this crisis and what it means to Smoky Mountain Real Estate values.  We will also update you on events as we open the National Park again and all our attractions, shopping and restaurants in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area.  We will also list investment opportunities as they appear, featuring homes and cabins currently on the market.  If you have money to invest in a cabin, let us know that as well. We have sellers who won’t list their properties on the market  publicly as they do not want their rental company to withdraw marketing efforts but they would sell.  They want to buy stocks – imagine that. They expect a rebound in several years, believe they will double their money, and then return to the Smokies to build some more over-night rental cabins with their profits! 

Goodness! It’s a crazy time no doubt!  My company and I sincerely hope and pray you are weathering this storm well and I know we will all appreciate the sunny days ahead.

Make this cabin your vacation destination!

This recently remodeled Hidden Springs resort cabin is our featured “Cabin of the Month” for 2020! With its finished basement, game room and additional bedroom recently added, this cabin can be a great vacation or rental opportunity! This 3-bedroom cabin is conveniently located just minutes from Dollywood and Pigeon Forge!

The recessed hot tub and spacious game room provide plenty of comfort for guests to relax. Your guests will enjoy the adventure this mountain location home has to offer. In addition to the cabin amenities, the Hidden Springs Resort features an indoor and outdoor pool that allows guests to swim year round!

To learn more about this 3-bedroom cabin, click here. To schedule a showing, call us at 865-654-2111.

Finding the Win in Real Estate in 2020

Throughout 2019, our theme has been “building is making a comeback.” And it has. We’ve seen so many new cabin construction projects over the last year, including a few resorts we helped developers and builders to implement. Hibernation Station was one of our team’s most exciting projects! We absolutely love some of the new products!  In particular “log” cabins that are being constructed from a special concrete that is not only indistinguishable from a traditional log cabin, but also higher quality and lower maintenance.  Carpenter bees aren’t going to bore into concrete! 

Part of what has made building so popular is the fact that we have a shortage of available cabins for sale. As early as last spring, we began to see prices climb on vacation rental cabins due to the high demand among buyers, and if it was an awesome cabin, the demand was even greater. This past year, it was not uncommon to see a cabin receive multiple offers within days, sometimes hours, of coming on the market. And the later it was in the year, the more those offers were. Our team has had several cabins listed that were under contract within a day or 2. The demand has just pushed the prices higher and higher, until we will very soon reach a point where the cost to buy a cabin matches the cost to build one.

So going into 2020, the most important thing to keep in mind when building a cabin is that you need to build with the current trends in mind. You want to stay on the front of the changing designs.  You will want your new investment cabin to reflect what people are looking for now and tomorrow. Before you all go away screaming and pulling your hair out, here are a few tips to keep in mind that will make the project easier to manage.

Choose the floor plan that best fits the most popular desires. Some of the concepts that are out of date now are elements like tiny kitchens where the refrigerator is positioned up against the stove, whirlpools in the bedroom, no game room, no special media-theater amenity and non-existent outdoor areas because the cabin is sitting at the edge of a wooded cliff overlook. Instead, the next generation of cabins will have larger kitchen spaces, a defined dining area, a private bathroom for every bedroom, and space for outdoor living, kitchen, fire pit area. Indoor pools and swim spas are also popular if you have the space in your floor plan to include them. All of these amenities will add to the gross rental income and should pay for themselves. Elements that have never gone out of style; walls of glass, rustic elements, the cabin look and feel, drama and openness to the floor plan, lofts.

Be patient with the construction process. As building becomes more popular, the wait time for a cabin to be built can increase. Even after you pick out the lot that can accommodate the design you have selected, you may find that you need to wait a little while due to other steps before building can begin. You will need to secure permits and HOA approvals, conduct surveys and appraisals- all before you break ground. So while you’re waiting, you’re obviously not making money on your investment. You need to make sure you can manage the long game until your cabin is finished. As a good rule of thumb, plan on about a sixteen months from start to finish.

Be willing to sell an existing cabin to finance your new build. If you have a rental cabin already, don’t remodel it – sell it. It’s less expensive to build something correctly than it is to remodel. Additionally, new cabins are at the top of the rental market because of the adjustments in the amenities. So it will cost as much or more to remodel something existing to make it match what’s being built new (where it’s even possible), but probably won’t increase the value to match that of a new cabin. The value of a new cabin is between 20 to 25 percent more than an existing cabin of similar size. In fact, many of our top investors making their living on vacation cabins are selling their existing cabin to build a new one. Roughly 90 percent of our Hibernation Station clients were people who owned in another popular resort, Sherwood Forest.

In the coming months, we will be sharing details on new resort projects that are developing and what is happening with the existing cabin market. I expect the trend of multiple offer situations on existing cabins to continue, so if you prefer to buy than to build you will need to prepare yourself to win the bid. I will share more on how to do that in my next blog article.

4-bedroom Sevierville home offers serene views!

4-bedroom homeThe gorgeous views on the over sized lot of this 4-bedroom Sevierville home provides the perfect backdrop for entertaining family, friends, neighbors, and other guests.

Our featured “House of the Month” for June, this 4,000 square foot 4-bedroom home also includes 3.5 bathrooms, a 2 car attached garage and an additional detached garage for one more vehicle. Or you can make it the perfect place for extra storage! With nearly two acres of ground, you can enjoy both the front and back yard. Each offers ample outdoor space for entertaining. Out front you can relax on your covered attached gazebo or front porch swing. The back yard offers you a wonderful concrete patio and latticed deck perfect for hosting a cookout!
With the master suite on main floor you will love the open concept floor plan and upscale custom finishes throughout! The designer kitchen with granite counter tops, an eat in kitchen, formal dinning area, large great room with immense bay windows for natural light, gas fireplace and large front office accompanied by high ceilings and large windows are a sight to behold. Upstairs you will find another master suite with its own walk-in closet and jetted tub, two more large bedrooms, another over sized great room/media room, and your very own personal gym with mat flooring!
If you’d like to visit this 4-bedroom home, call me at 865-765-6157 or my support line at 865-654-2111.

You can learn more about this 4-bedroom Sevierville home here.

Whether you’re buying or selling, the time to get started is now

If you’ve been thinking about buying or selling your home or cabin, now is the time  – whichever side of the process you are on.

buying or sellingFor sellers, it’s the right time to sell because you can ask for a higher price these days. The number of properties – including homes and vacation/rental cabins – is low, creating a market where those properties that are priced competitively will sell for very close to asking price and very quickly, too. It has also meant an increase in sales prices as people are willing to offer more to get the home they want and face a greater number of buyers competing for less inventory. We’ve seen properties with offers on them within as little as three days of being listed, and usually at or above the asking price of the cabin or home.

For buyers, it’s the right time to buy because interest rates are still relatively low and down payment terms are reasonable. If you are considering a cabin as a second home property, you should also talk with your accountant because it’s been reported that second homes are still eligible for some tax deductions that were removed from other types of home ownership in the tax bill the federal government adopted at the end of 2017. National outlets such as realtor.com are telling us to expect the rates to reach 5 percent before the end of the year, so the longer you wait, the more it may cost you in the long run. Of course, buyers who are working with lenders are getting some tough competition from buyers who are willing to bring cash to the table, so that’s something to keep in mind when making an offer on a home or cabin.

If you’re a buyer, another thing to consider is that homes are continuing to increase in value. So, if you wait another year, you’re going to pay more for the same square feet or the same house than you would right now. However, you don’t want to panic or settle for something that you don’t love, but waiting to start the search isn’t a good idea.

If you’re preparing for the process of buying or selling and want to learn more about the local market, need help determining the value of your property in order to sell it for the most appropriate price, or need help finding the best second home/investment cabin to buy, we are here to answer any questions you may have.

Six commonly asked questions about selling

selling a homeAre you thinking about selling your home?

Recently, I wrote an article for the Sevier News Messenger about the questions I am most commonly asked by new homeowners planning on selling their home or cabin on the market.

You can read the article in its entirety here.

If you are thinking about selling your home and have other questions you’d like to ask, don’t hesitate to call! I stay busy, but I’m never too busy to help you with any of your real estate needs. Call me anytime at 865-765-6157 or 865-429-2121. You can also call my support line at 865-654-2111.

Making the decision to build a home

build a homeSo you want to build a home?

I’m so excited for you! I love building. I’ve built several custom homes myself and every time was a grand adventure.

How do you know that building is right for you? Let me outline the process.

First, in order to make the decision to build a home I would suggest you go house/cabin shopping first.

Perhaps what you want to build is already out there. Nine times out of ten the purchase price of a home is less expensive than what it costs to build that exact same home. So maybe with a little remodeling you can create your perfect home and spend less money than if you built from the ground up! It’s a lot like building only quicker, not as complicated of a process, and often easier to finance. While you’re looking and nothing is coming up right, you’re in the process of finding out what you really want when you do decide to build a home. This is definitely not a waste of time.

While you’re searching, it’s a good time to accept that, “No home is perfect.” Or if it is, you – like most of us – wouldn’t want to spend the amount of money it takes to make it “perfect.” The level of mastery to make a home perfect is just absolutely crazy expensive and time consuming. So, relax. Unless you really have pockets lined with gold, now isn’t the time to be a perfectionist.

If after a thorough search, you discover the home you want doesn’t exist, the first step to build a home is to call a lender. Many construction lenders disappeared in the financial downturn, so you’ll need to be persistent. We know of about four in our area that have lending products to help people build a home. All have a bit different terms, so you’ll need to walk through the various options with them before you commit to any decisions. You may want to begin with the bank you do your banking with if you’re a local resident. If not, call us and we can send you in the right direction.

build a homeWith most lenders who offer construction loans, your construction loan will need to be rolled into a permanent loan when it’s completed. You’ll want to address that at the same time (unless, of course, you have cash to build a home with). In that case you’ll just need to make sure you have dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s with your builder and know the entire cost of your project. You’ll also need to be prepared to make payments during construction on the amount of money that’s been used to build a home. Some personal budgeting will be necessary. Construction on a custom home/cabin generally never takes less than 6 months. Often it is 10 to 12 months before completion.

Once you have secured a loan, you’ll want to meet with an architect or draftsman. You’ll need to be ready with pencil sketches of your ideal floor plan. Also, a list of wants and don’t wants and a collection of photos and magazine clippings can help your drawings move more quickly to the reality of your dream home.

At the same time, you’ll need to select a builder, or general contractor. We can help with this process as well. We have a wonderful group of builders we can highly recommend. You will want to go and visit other homes that your prospective builder has completed. Talk to homeowners about the builder’s past projects. You need to feel that you can work with this individual for half a year to a year. This is probably the most important next person in your life.

Lastly, you’ll want to nail down your lot or land. It can be a real advantage to have your builder and your designer look at your potential land in order to determine that the home you are envisioning will go well on the chosen spot. There are several items you’ll want to discuss with your builder, such as the lay of the land, the steepness of grade (this will be important in determining where the main floor will be vs. the basement), and what the driveway will look like and potentially cost. Also, you will need to know what types of utilities are available for this lot. Do you need a septic? If so, where will the field-line probably need to be? What about a well? If there are cuts in a bank for a road, or a stream or pond you will have to meet field line regulations. What about the covenants and restrictions? Who controls the zoning for the area where you are plan to build a home, and what are their rules that might affect your construction? Your builder and architect will help you navigate these questions and choose a lot that is just right for you. At this stage they are also helpful in keeping you within your budget. A driveway that meanders from the bottom of an acre lot will be more expensive than a driveway cut in from the top and is 1/3 the distance.

So after you have chosen a lot, it’s time to go back to the drawing board! At this point don’t lose sight of overall value. It is important as you go through the process to check yourself. Ask yourself: am I creating a home that will have a very healthy resale value? Often mistakes are made by custom home-owners when they customize their home too much in a way that doesn’t appeal to a future buyer. Be careful. Life happens and you never know when circumstances will cause you to need to move on to your next adventure, so you definitely want to make sure that new house you just built a few years ago can be sold for at least as much as you’ve put into it (or even better, for a profit)!

The best way to make sure the resale value is there is to have the home designed by someone with a great talent for it. If that’s you, that’s awesome! You can do really well making your money back when it’s time to sell. If it’s not you, you are going to want to find someone who can do a great job for you and trust them to build a home that matches your dream.

So to recap: new construction is not a project for the weak at heart, as you can face some unforeseen challenges during the process. Try to find a home that suits your desires before you embark on the process to build a home. But if you decide the choice to build a home is right for you, go for it! The key is to keep a level head, be prepared to troubleshoot creatively, and make sure you are managing your resources along the way. Just stay focused on the joy that is waiting for you when it’s finished and you are able to move in!

If you are ready to build a home and are looking for that perfect lot to put your new house on, I would be glad to help you with that – call me at 865-765-6157, my support line at 865-654-2111, or my office at 865-429-2121.

Deborah Korlin introduces newsletter

Deborah Korlin introduces newsletter

Hello friends-  Because many of you have signed up for more information in the past, I am starting a newsletter to provide current information about the Great Smoky Mountains area.   In addition, we will be giving advice about real estate.  We will be providing you several listings that I think are extraordinary opportunities for your consideration.  We solicit your comments on the newsletter.  Please give us suggestion of things you would like for us to include.


Deborah Korlin

Owner-Broker, Century 21 MVP