SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Investors have always liked putting their money down on homes and using them as a rental property in the Smoky Mountains but they are now thinking bigger. The homes being built aren’t the typical 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot rentals. Instead, they’re two to three times that size, around 7,500 square feet.

In February, TripAdvisor chose Gatlinburg as the No. 1 destination spot in the country, and Pigeon Forge came in at No. 4. Since then, investors have taken notice. Those with money to spare have chosen the mountains of Sevier County to build luxury homes where they can stay and rent their place for others to enjoy.

Pam Hill, owner of Stony Brook Cabins, showed WATE 6 On Your Side a Bluff Mountain rental home. Called “Simply the Best,” the new 7,000-square-foot residence costs $2.5 million.

“And it really is,” she said. “It’s the best. It is a beautiful, beautiful place.

“We have a lot of families that come. They want to get together and no one has a home big enough to host everyone. They can come to this place that has eight bedrooms and sleeps 28 people, so there is lots of sleeping, three levels, room to spread out.”

In the mountain-view neighborhood of Bluff Mountain, there are several luxury homes on the rise within the same neighborhood So, what’s going on? Why is there this mini-building boom? Why are people spending lots of money on such big homes?

“I think they’re investing in a place that they know is going to be very successful for years to come.” Hill said. “They’re finding a place to invest their money and be able to have it as a vacation home for themselves, but also to make a profit.

“You know a lot of families want to come and have a cabin, a simple rustic cabin and enjoy their vacation. We have those too. Then there are some families that just want the lap of luxury and that extra, extra detail. That’s what we offer at cabins like this one.”

For the second consecutive year, a record number of people are calling the reception desk at Stony Brook, either inquiring about cabin rentals or booking them. For this family-owned business, in spite of the pandemic last year, 2020 set records.

“It was our biggest revenue year ever,” Hill said. “2021 surpassed that by about April. We knew that 2021 was already going to be bigger than our biggest year ever and it is.”

What vacationers seek are the views, especially now with the leaves changing. They want to get out and enjoy life, Gatlinburg fills that bill. In cabins, visitors are comfortable, away from the crowds, and they don’t have to wear masks. For the final months of 2021, business looks brisk.

“The weather is gorgeous and the leaves are still beautiful,” Hill said. “We are full on both the first two weekends in November. Then there is Thanksgiving; we get full the weekend before, the week off, and the weekend after so it’s crazy busy November. And then December. The first weekend will be the Dolly (Parton) Christmas parade.”

And that TripAdvisor survey reveals where a majority of travelers want to spend family time. According to that survey, more than half, 52%, say they are more likely to take an outdoor trip favoring outdoor spots and be away from crowded cities than they were before the pandemic.