East Tennessee housing market strong despite pandemic

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The pandemic has not slowed down existing home sales in East Tennessee.

With interest rates near an all-time low and the supply of homes tight, it is currently a seller’s market and homes are being sold quickly.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare spoke with a couple who recently moved to the area to retire.

The couple frequently visited East Tennessee — always enjoying the mountains and the laid-back style of living compared to their big-city lifestyle. Then, last year with home mortgage rates starting to fall and both of them retiring, they got serious about moving.

The new neighbors in this Northwest Knoxville subdivision are Randy and Lois Lundquist. Both recently retired and moved here from Chicago last December. Their house was built in 1955 that’s when homes had large back yards — one of the selling points for the couple.

“We have a much bigger yard here, we have a yard here. In Chicago, we had a little postage stamp back yard. Here, it’s a third of an acre,” Randy Lundquist said. “I’m a farmer now. We have a watermelon patch and a pond.”

“We came to visit my nephew who lives in Knoxville, it was the end of November. It was still beautiful outside, it was like a revelation: ‘Why are we in Chicago when winter can be like this?'” Lois Lundquist said.

Simply put, in Illinois, the couple got tired of miserably cold winters and Chicago’s high cost of living. Randy immediately liked the back yard and Lois — well, that kitchen was perfect.

“That was the big draw for me. A lovely beautiful modernized kitchen with so much counter space so many cabinets,” Lois Lundquist said.

“Well, we saw a lot of houses. When they saw this one, it was perfect for them,” listing agent Felisa Zinckgraf said.

Felisa Zinckgraf was the listing agent for the Lunquists. She says here Randy and Lois were able to get more house for their money … and moved quickly on it even paying beyond the asking price.

“The inventory that we have is so low and the houses are moving so fast. And I tell my clients when they call me that this is a seller’s market. So you got to be ready to go and when you see one you like, you have to jump on it,” Felisa Zinckgraf said.

Other real estate experts agree.

Claudia Stallings is vice president of residential sales at Coldwell Banker Wallace. She compared home inventory 10 years, the middle of the recession, to July of this year, the middle of the pandemic.

“When we go back to this point in time there were almost 15,000 home that were listed for sale. Compared to this past July, just over 36-hundred.  So our inventory is extraordinarily low. In all of July 2010, we sold 812 homes in the Knoxville multiple listing service. This past July over 2,300,” Claudia Stallings said.

The Lundquists return to Chicago only to visit family who they are urging to move here.

“Come one down, definitely. I want all my family and friends to come down and everybody’s invited,” Lois Lundquist said.

Since the pandemic came to Tennessee in mid-March, we have been reporting the ups and downs of existing housing sales in East Tennessee, a driving factor to our local economy. With the 30-year fixed mortgage rate at an average of about 3%, the lowest since 1971.

The pick-up in sales over the last six weeks is expected to continue into the early part of fall.

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