Housing market positive during pandemic

One house is for sale in the Rockingham neighborhood in Lenoir City.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Loudon County boasts a strong housing market.

Catrina Foster, a team leader with Keller Williams in Lenoir City, said business is up 130 percent over last year.

“The housing market wasn’t affected based on what COVID brought to the table,” Foster said. “I think a lot of that is we’re not as dense as the bigger cities like Knoxville, Maryville ... but also there is a housing shortage. The amount of new construction that’s going on is huge.”

For example, Foster said 189 building permits were issued in Tellico Village in the first eight months of 2019. Through the end of August this year, 139 building permits were issued. Foster considered those numbers “healthy” for the market.

Dawn Moats, an agent with Smoky Mountain Realty in Lenoir City, said business has remained largely positive during 2020.

“The pandemic has not affected our business,” Moats said. “In fact, it’s probably improved our area and our market. We’re seeing quite a bit of out-of-state buyers that are moving into our region. One of those buyers is from California, New Jersey, New York. ... It’s very desirable for them, and they’ve been coming down for vacation and decided, ‘Hey, this is a great place to live’.”

Moats said one negative of note is the rise in prices for new construction. One local builder recently raised the asking price by $5,000, while another increased by $20,000 per home.

“They’re attributing it to the closing of (lumber) mills while the pandemic went on and weather, the hurricane that came through,” Moats said. “There are not enough homes on the market to meet local demand.”

The number of homes under $200,000 — the target price for first-time buyers — remains “slim to none,” she said.

“Right now first-time home buyers are limited on their funds, so usually first-time home buyers are pre-approved for under $200,000,” Moats said. “That home just does not come up very often. Right now we’re looking at at least $135 a square foot per home and for a first-time home buyer with a family, that’s going to be a very small home.”

Even with challenges, Foster and Moats believe the market is healthy overall.

In 2019, a house for sale in Lenoir City’s zip code 37772 stayed on the market just 15 days. So far in 2020, the average is 16 days. In Lenoir City’s zip code 37771, a house lasts only six days. In 37771, $225,000 would be the average price, while in 37772 the median price rises to $289,234.

“I never stopped working, I will tell you that,” Moats said. “I listed homes and sold them still in a matter of hours or a day, even while the pandemic went on. That right there told us how much we are in need of affordable housing and homes in our area.”

Foster anticipates having a typical busy fourth quarter.

“Dependent upon the agent and where their focus is and their business is, I think that we will continue to see an increase in buyers coming out into the market,” Foster said. “And again, that has a lot to do with new construction in the area. We have a few new developments that are starting to take off and starting to close in the months of October and November.”

According to the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors, there were 157 homes under contract in August in Loudon County.

Foster said that is an 80 percent increase over August 2019.

“It’s a huge number,” she said. “So 157 homes, there were 104 homes in the month of August that sold in Loudon County, which is up by 19 percent, and then as far as the sold volume, August year over year was up 23 percent. The market, in my opinion, is strong. We’re just short of inventory. There is a pent-up demand for housing right now. That’s where the new construction comes in. That’s why you see so much of it everywhere. It’s not just Loudon County, it’s everywhere.”