Land sales take a breather, growth seeing more push back 


GRAY, TENN. – Tri-Cities vacant land sales are looking a lot like a real estate market in a typical seasonal pattern. It’s not that much different from other market elements like residential resales and new homes. Sales in both are down, but not in the correction mode that dominates so many news reports.

So far this year, there have been 38 vacant land transactions that were listed on the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors (NETAR) Commercial Multiple Listing Service (CMLS) and 1,928 that were listed on the Flex Listing Service. Those are the two primary local listing services.

CMLS transactions are up one from the first 11 months of last year, while there were 15 fewer than this time last year from the Flex listings.

Most transactions this year have been in the $30,000 to $39,999 price range. The price with the largest number of active inventory is in the $500,000 and up range. And the listing in that range is 21% higher than this time last year.

Twenty-three of the local vacant land listings are priced at $1 million or more. The most expensive is 70 acres near the I-81 Exit 74 exit. That listing is for $8.5 million.

Those are just the land listing on the two local databases and do not include all properties for sale or lease.

The growing growth pushback is the pregnant question swirling around both the existing home, new home, and land sales markets. Some residents would like to see growth that models the region’s existing density. It exists in the existing home, a new home more than the vacant land market, but it’s still an issue.

Landowners recently defeated a rezoning along the South Holston that could have seen additional rental cabins. Some opponents, who are already rental cabin owners, complained the roads are too narrow, the river is already over-fished, and they didn’t want to see the area become another Gatlinburg.

And opponents to the Keebler annexation in Gray are concerned about traffic and school overcrowding. But the chief concern is density. They want to see subdivisions with more open space. It’s easy to understand their concerns. The annexation is a big one. It weighs in at 135 acres. And the proposed project is for 496 homes. But the way growth proponents look at it is more open space means fewer homes; fewer homes mean what is built has a higher price point when affordability has become almost a big issue is inventory.

The density-affordability issue comes at a time when Washington County has already dropped below one affordability benchmark. Attom Data Solutions Home Price Index says that a person making the median wage in Washington Co. doesn’t have the purchasing power to buy a median-priced home. That index is based on the assumption the buyer has a 20% down payment, a 28% debt-to-income ratio, and good credit. The current average down payment in Washington County is 8%.

Compounding that is the growing concern over the county’s and the region’s lack of workforce housing. The typical benchmark for that level of housing is 80% of the current median home price.

The larger issue is the region’s economic development efforts are beginning to feel the effects of the housing shortage. New businesses that like the area have second thoughts when looking at the current housing market.

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Categories: REAL ESTATE