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He has certainly done a lot of research on lake living (in Tennessee) and log home building, in general.
Joe and his wife recently spent some time in East Tennessee visiting potential homesites for their future log home. We are most grateful that Joe has taken the time to compile a summary of his findings.
If you are interested in buying lake property in Tennessee (or, you’re simply exploring the option of buying or building a log home near a lake), then I’m sure you will find some valuable information here.
In Joe’s own words…
Lynnette, our observations on East Tennessee:
Our 4 days in Tennessee to get a feel for the area around Knoxville proved to us that several trips are going to be needed.
We concentrated on Watts Bar Lake southeast of Knoxville, Norris Lake to the north, and Douglas Lake to the east. We are looking for lakefront only and had a chance to see so many places it got to be a blur. Each area offered good and bad features.
Each of the realtors spent a lot of time with us:
- Steve Mayo — TheLakeMan.com in Spring City
- Carolyn Wilson — CarolynWilsonHomes.com in Norris Lake
- Sam Rankin — SamRankinRealEstate.com in Dandridge
- Ron Hillman — SailawayRealty.com in Kingston
We did the unforgivable and just walked in the door with no appointment and they dropped what they were doing and took us out to get a flavor for their area even though we told them we weren’t buying for 6 months to a year.
They overlapped a little in areas that they sold in. No matter who you choose to work with, stick with them, don’t hop around from realtor to realtor in a given area. These realtors spend a lot of unpaid time and money taking you around. The local realtors may even know the areas better than the big chains. Be honest with them and know what you are looking for ie. lake, woods, golf course, planned community, flat, hillside, mountain goat land etc.
Most important, know your honest budget. Spend hours on websites like Lakehouse.com. Study monthly temperature averages on AOL weather pages. Go to Tennessee Valley Authority to understand lake levels and quality.
I made a file on each area I wanted to visit. I didn’t have to waste time asking about weather, lake quality, etc and had a pretty good idea of what it was going to cost us. (You are not going to buy a $200,000 lake front for $100,000.)
We were able to concentrate on what the area was like and didn’t get bogged down in a particular house. We wanted to understand the lay of the land, especially local services. We volunteered to buy lunch so we could see how far a decent restaurant was.
By the way, $100,000, off the lakes can easily buy you a first-class lake view, just make sure of what can go between you and that view. It will also buy you a lake lot if you can figure out how to build on it without spending a fortune on pilings to hold the house.
I used Google Earth 3-Dimensional to really get a look at what the views would look like in each area and topography. I can tell you that being there was much more impressive than what I could see on the Internet. It was beautiful in all areas and interestingly rugged. The elevation only varied about 300 foot in the lake areas we were in, but when you are on a narrow road with no lines, no shoulder and no guard rail (remember those cheap taxes come with a cost), a 50 foot drop can look scary and is. Five miles can take 20 minutes on narrow winding roads. (Sales tax by the way is 9.75%, no income tax and low property taxes.)
As Lynnette has pointed out, make sure you know how you are going to get the trucks in to build your log home.
You will find that once you get out of the 4 major cities it is a hike to the grocery store, home depot, classy restaurant, hospitals etc. Here in Sarasota we have 3 major hospitals within 10 miles. Not so in Tennessee. The “log” home area is not going to cooperate. Having a Super WalMart is a sign of a big town (not that this is bad). The local gas station market is the norm in some of these towns. It’s a different lifestyle for most of us.
Most counties are seriously dry, which may explain the dirge of fancy restaurants. This IS the bible belt. If you are going to buy lakefront, you most likely will pass mobile homes with cars on blocks, and washers & dryers on the front porch. If you can’t live with this, you aren’t ready for country life in Tennessee.
If you make an offer I suggest amongst many things, that you ask for a disclosure of all known faults, survey, proof of perking (or require your own test), title search, dock permit situation, deed restrictions, etc. If a house is involved, require an inspection. (Find your own on the Internet. Don’t use the realtor’s.)
I saw several homes with 6 bedrooms and I already knew the area only would perk for 3. Buy this with a large family and you will have the pumpout truck parked in your front yard. A buyers agent should protect you, a sellers agent has no obligation, so know what you are dealing with. If you are going to build a log home, an attorney is probably a cheap investment.
Remember these are simple observations, but we have spent 100’s of hours on the Internet researching. You are going to spend a lot of hard earned money on this move. Research it, go back several times without the broker and take your time. This is not a lease car that you turn in in a year, it’s your life. Read though The Fun Times Guide to Log Homes and learn before you sign.
I will cover my limited research and meetings with a few log home companies another time.
My favorite expression is “never fall in love with it until you own it” (wife is exception). Be prepared to walk and never be afraid to admit that this is not for you, it may save a marriage.
We've gone through the entire process of designing and planning every single detail of our dream log home! We have the blueprints… and the land… and the contractor… and the goal for our log cabin home to be our retirement home. Before you build (or buy) a log home, I have a slew of helpful tips for you — to plan, design, build, decorate, and maintain your very own rustic modern log home. When I'm not fine-tuning the log home of my dreams, you'll find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).