Don’t bother trying to nab one of these East Tennessee mansions for sale on the market. Most trade is done strictly by word of mouth.
Knoxville, Tenn. – Knoxville isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of fabulous homes in a “Town & Country” setting.
East Tennessee’s affordability, growing local wealth, an influx of wealthy foreigners and – believe it or not – COVID-19 are helping to drive the “dream home” market here in East Tennessee. Tennessee, according to experts.
And when affluent buyers can’t find exactly what they’re looking for, they build it themselves.
We’re not just talking about a million dollar house, which would be great for a lot of us.
We’re talking mansions that start at $4-5 million and go up from there – homes of 8,000 square feet or more, a swimming pool, a giant kitchen, fountains, four-bay garages, and stunning views of Fort Loudoun Lake or the Smoky Mountains.
The rate of sales of homes worth at least $1 million in the Knoxville area has steadily increased in recent years – from 52 in 2015 to 508 in 2021, according to figures compiled by Hancen Sale of the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors show.
The homes are upscale, tucked away, and huge.
More and more people in our area are building and buying the mega-homes you traditionally associate with places like Nashville and Atlanta, said Sharon Bailey, director of Realty Executives Associates who often works with some of the most important people. and the wealthiest in the region.
University of Tennessee coaches? She represented a Who’s Who of these people. The executives who run our largest employers in the region? She certainly worked with them.
They expect privacy, discretion and a quality product, she says. In this price range, many decide to build their own custom home.
“There’s a difference between a $1-2 million buyer and a $5-7 million buyer,” Bailey said. “They’ve lived in a lot of homes to get to this point in their lives – most of them.
“They want privacy, for sure, and they want what they want: designers, architects, all that stuff, good builders, and we help them because we’re connected to those people.”
They also want a high quality of life, something East Tennessee has to offer in abundance.
It’s not hard to sell lavish homes these days in the Knoxville area, said Bailey, who has more than four decades of experience and is known in some circles as “the realtor to the stars.”
People looking to settle here are drawn to the area’s beauty and its still relatively affordable cost of living. Knoxville is holding up well, for example, against bigger neighbor Nashville, Bailey said.
She recently showed off a sprawling three-level home near Keller Bend Road to a couple interested in moving here from Dallas. Knoxville was on their shortlist which included Asheville and Nashville.
The couple ruled out Nashville, even though they have family there, because of the Music City traffic. And they didn’t like Asheville.
But during their three or more days in Knoxville recently, they liked the vibe of the place, the ease of walking downtown, the friendliness of the locals, Bailey said.
“I sell Knoxville to a lot of these outsiders,” she said. “You’re selling Knoxville.”
Texans were also very fond of the house in Keller Bend, another example of a house for sale but known only to a handful of savvy realtors. It’s not listed. Homes at this price point almost always sell by word of mouth, Bailey said.
It is an example of the kind of mansion that has seen increased sales in the region. There is a swimming pool, an expansive backyard that slopes down to a dock along the lake, large open spaces, a main floor home theater, a huge master bedroom with its own terrace, a garage for four cars, a mother-in-law-suite and an entrance which includes a running water point.
Bailey said many new, larger homes in Knoxville and Knox County are along what she calls “The Bends”: Keller Bend, Lyons Bend, Tooles Bend Road and River Bend. These are secluded roads and neighborhoods along the water, a major draw for big-ticket buyers.
WHO IS BUYING AND BUILDING?
California, Texas, New York and New Jersey are among the most common places from which affluent buyers settle in the region. They may come here to retire or to take up a senior position with a major employer such as a healthcare company or government contractor.
Knox County Deeds Registry Nick McBride, whose office has handled a record number of land transactions in recent years, said “the secret is out” about Knox County from a national perspective. When you move here, you move to a great place, he said.
Arriving foreigners are able to sell their existing homes for much more than they would get here, McBride said, meaning they can buy bigger once they get to East Tennessee.
Bailey has worked with many well-known transplant sports personalities, including University of Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel, former coach Butch Jones, basketball coach Rick Barnes, and current director of sports Danny White. She also worked with the coaching estate of the great Pat Summitt.
“All good people,” she noted.
White, in fact, purchased Jones’ sprawling home in West Knox County, south of Northshore Drive, Bailey said.
It is a place that the veteran real estate agent likes very much. She said the Joneses made it inviting, a home where the coach could accommodate many people, including members of the football team.
“Butch Jones’ house was really special to me because it was warm,” Bailey said.
Bailey also represents buyers of the city’s largest mansion, the 40,000-square-foot Villa Collina on Lyons View Pike. It will be demolished in the coming months. The buyers plan to divide the existing land overlooking the river into three lots for the houses.
Many of Bailey’s local customers have steadily increased, changing price ranges as they have increased, she said.
Unexpectedly, the veteran realtor noted, the coronavirus pandemic has also helped boost the luxury market.
More people started working from home when the virus hit, which meant they wanted to get out of their homes more. More room to spread out, more entertainment.
COVID also clarified that you don’t have to live in the same city as your employer.
“Who would have thought how much COVID would affect the world? she says.
2020, she said, was the best year of her sales career, Bailey said.
Looking ahead, she believes the current six-figure home market cannot sustain its current pace.
But she said she was confident the market for mega-homes here would remain stable in the future. It’s a special niche.
“Never in my career did I think we would have as many upper-tier homes as we have now,” Bailey said.