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.

Building in 2020

As we approach spring of 2020, we continue to see a strong sellers’ market for our vacation cabins here in the Smokies, meaning we have a low number of cabins for sale and a rising market value for properties with strong rental potential. Our theme for last year was “building is making a comeback,” and our theme for this year is “a season of building.” Many new construction projects planned in 2019 are now underway and more lots are continually being developed as places to construct cabins (and traditional homes, too).

If you currently own a vacation cabin, this is the best time to sell. The market value compared to building has not plateaued, and if you’ve owned your cabin for a while, it’s likely you could take what you make from your sale and put into a new construction. This will mean new amenities, updated designs in line with the current trends, and a concept utilizing both of those ideas that will translate into higher passive income for you. For example, cabins with indoor pools are performing better than ones without because they attract people at times of the year such as January when there are less people coming in for a visit. The National Park is closed during the winter, but people will still rent a cabin to go swimming in its indoor pool.

Those of you who have followed my newsletter will know our top local resorts are Sherwood Forest, Starr Crest, and Legacy Mountain. Last year, cabins in those resorts sold at prices that hadn’t been seen since before the downturn in 2008. Along with that, we saw the time to receive an accepted offer for many cabins – not just in those resorts, but in general – drop from a few weeks to a few days. This trend is continuing even now. So if you’re thinking about selling, now is the time.

One of the first steps to take in considering selling is to see for yourself what your cabin is worth in today’s market and compare it to the price you paid when you bought it. We can definitely help you with finding those two things out! Just give us a call or send an email or text. I look forward to hearing from you! I can be reached at 865-765-6157 or 865-654-2111, or by email at deborah@deborahkorlin.us.  You will be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.

And if you’re considering buying, this is a great time for you as well if you are able to make the decision quickly. I’ve talked before about how to put the strongest offer forward for the cabin you want. Although prices are higher, the rental income for these properties continues to be strong. You will want to hold onto the property for as long as possible until you reach a point where you can sell it and invest the money in what you have planned for your next season, whether that is a bigger cabin or another life goal you are working toward. Our tourism industry attracted a record number of people in the last year, with totals breaking more than 12 million people. And we know that the majority of people who come here want to stay in a vacation cabin.

If as a buyer you are more interested in building, that is definitely an option. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will have to wait a little while to start making money, as it takes between six to nine months to build. Some builders are financing their projects and then selling when completed, but most are requiring buyers to secure their own construction loans to fund the project.

Remember, now is the time.

Resort cabin is ready to rent!

If you’re looking for an investment that is ready to go, you won’t want to miss seeing this recently remodeled cabin at Hidden Springs resort! The basement is finished, with a newly added game room and additional bedroom! The cabin’s recessed hot tub and generous game room provide plenty of space for guests to relax and take in the mountain location of this home. Just minutes from Dollywood and Pigeon Forge, this cabin is conveniently located within a short drive of the area’s major attractions! Resort features and indoor and outdoor pool that allows guests to swim year round!

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

To schedule a showing at this cabin, call or text our team line 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.

Making the Most from Your Cabin Investment

As we near the end of 2019, we’re reaching that time of year where cabin owners who are thinking about their taxes in the spring make the decision to sell their investment/vacation property. Maybe that’s you. In terms of where the market is at, this is the time if you’re thinking about selling.

In my November blog, I talked about why that is true. Low inventory coupled with a flurry of buyers that hasn’t really slowed down despite the lack of properties to choose from has resulted in a resurgence of new construction. 2020 will be a season of building and property values will start to plateau once the construction projects takes root. So if you’re holding an older cabin, now could be a super good time to take advantage of the cycle and sell it. You can purchase something new for just a little bit more. 

The question we are hearing from our buyers and sellers now is how long until we reach the top of where cabins can cash flow positive? Until about two years ago, we were seeing cabins gross roughly 15 percent, on average, of what they sold for. So this means a cabin that sold for $200,000 was yielding a return of about $30,000 gross rental income. Then you’d have the split with the rental company if you were using one, and pay your expenses from your net income. That amount would vary based on taxes, HOA dues, amenity fees, etc. Now that same $200,000 cabin is likely to sell for $325,000 but with about the same gross rental income. You might be able to negotiate a slightly better split with the rental company, but you’re probably looking at around 10 to 12 percent of the sales price in gross rental income, rather than 15. So it will still provide positive cash flow.  We have also seen gross rental revenue increase in cabins that were upscale, fully outfitted and had amenities like a fire-pit;  therefore it is possible that the reduction is actually an increase for some.

So when will we plateau, or slow down in terms of market prices?  I believe it is likely when the purchase price rises to the point that the revenue only covers costs and no longer makes an income.  Then our properties become attractive to those who desire a true second home. Those in the market will be owners who only want revenue to defer some of the cost, whereas a true investor will look elsewhere for passive income. It will be much like you see at the beach where those who are wealthy and have discretionary excess income purchase a second home for their enjoyment and if rentals defray maintenance cost and HOA dues they’re pleased. 

But right now is a wonderful time to sell high if you bought low and a wonderful time to buy something that will cash flow positive pay for itself and give you a tax write off.  Where else can you stay in your investment and watch the sunset? Not in your stock and bonds!

If you’re thinking about buying a rental cabin as an investment, there’s a win for you, too. What’s important is that you buy sooner rather than later and prepare to hold it even if the market plateaus or enters another downturn. Even in the downturn more than a decade ago, our clients who prospered through it did so by using the rental income to pay the cabin off. Then, they waited until the market was on the upswing before selling. Even in those years when property values were low, rental income didn’t change.  In a downturn we become an even more attractive destination.  Vacationers who were going overseas playing in the Caribbean decided to stay closer to home and to drive to their vacation destination rather than fly. Americans believe in vacationing! It’s very close to mom and apple pie. And since we are within a day’s driving distance to 75% of the population of the United States.

Whenever you can it is always a good move to own the latest, greatest, newest, largest in short to have the best.  And sometimes that means remodeling, refreshing, or just buying new. As time marches on, make sure your investment stays strong and at the top of its potential performance! 

My team and I are always here to answer any questions you may have about our local real estate market. Call us at 865-654-2111! We would love to talk with you! We never mind giving you specific values on your property so you can make informed decisions. 

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.

2-bedroom cabin at Covered Bridge can be fantastic rental opportunity

This extremely well maintained two bedroom and two bath cabin in Covered Bridge Resort is our featured “Cabin of the Month” for September. Currently used strictly as a second home, this cabin has never been on a rental program! It is in perfect condition and is located just minutes from all of the attractions of Pigeon Forge.

The great room welcomes you with a beautiful river rock fireplace and open floor plan. The kitchen is found just off of the living area. Including two king size bedrooms, one on the main and the other on the second floor, this more than 1,100 foot cabin is a must-see! Come make this prestigious cabin your second home or rental destination!

To schedule a visit to see this cabin, call us at 865-654-2111.

To learn more about this listing, 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.

Mountain home can be the perfect rental investment!

Our featured “Cabin of the Month” for February is this beautiful private mountain homemountain home situated in the heart of Wears Valley! Its gorgeous mountain views from the double back deck and an open spacious floor plan are perfect for entertaining a large group. With its 4 bedrooms each set up as master suites and large game room, this mountain home makes for the perfect overnight rental!
Conveniently located just 15 minutes from Pigeon Forge, this mountain home provides instant access to the newly opened Foothills Parkway addition! Located on easy to drive roads, plenty of privacy, and a mountain view all make this home a dream getaway for you and your guests!
If you’d like to know more about this property, click here.

If you’d like to schedule a showing at this mountain home, call or text me at 865-765-6157 or call or text my support line at 865-654-2111.