What you should know about the UC real estate market

3578 Rolling Hills Rd.

By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ

PUTNAM COUNTY – On a recent afternoon, the UCBJ sat down with Upper Cumberland Association of Realtors (UCAR) President Kathy Dunn to get an overview of the Putnam County real estate market and the results were astounding. With less than a 20-day supply of houses available on the market, those looking for a deal on a residential property better be prepared to move quickly when they spot one that they really like.

It’s hard to imagine, but over 1,200 home sales have closed across the UC since Jan. 1. That’s over 200 per month. Of that number, over 500 were in Putnam County where there are another 147 homes under contract. 

The most expensive sale so far this year has been 3578 Rolling Hills Road, which had a $1.3 million listing price and sold for $1.25 million.

Dunn says the market has been like this in the Nashville area for the last five years and she was expecting it to finally reach here. There have even been several realtors from Rutherford and Wilson counties to recently join the UCAR to have access to listings in this region for their buyers.  

“There was a home in Nashville recently that was listed for $775,000 and sold for $950,000. That’s here now. The list price on the majority of homes on the market is where offers start, and they are selling for above listing price,” she said. 

According to Dunn, the majority of buyers are looking for homes in the under $325,000 range. The price of real estate is climbing with only 25 houses listed under that price point that have been on the market for less than 30 days. 

In fact, there are only four on the market in the coveted $175,000 to $225,000 price range, with 19 under contract in that range.

“It’s a survival of the fittest,” she jokes. “When I have a buyer, I tell them, ‘Are you ready? We are going to be tied at the hip. When I call you, we have to go look – now.’ 

“I’ve sold more sight unseen, out-of-state buyers because they just can’t hop back and forth from north, west or south of here. It’s been north and west mainly. And any realtor will have the same story,” she added. 

The scarcity of available homes is resulting in many properties that are “under contract” also accepting “backup offers.”

People are writing backup offers in case something falls through. Before, few would write a backup offer because there were lots of houses to choose from. Now, according to Dunn, people are putting in backup offers so if an offer falls through, they will be next in line.

Dunn said recently she had a house under contract with two backup offers on it. Fortunately, the original offer was able to close the sale.

In fact, 27% of all Putnam home sales in 2021 have been cash sales with no financing involved. 

“Twenty-five years of real estate, and I’ve never seen a market like this,” Dunn said. 

The price per square foot of houses continues to rise also, in part due to the increasing price of building materials for new construction homes. As recently as September 2018, the UCBJ reported that two homes selling for over $175 per square foot had broken the residential price ceiling. Now the record high has reached $217.38 and averages $180.31 for homes selling in the over $500,000 range. Houses selling for $400,000 to $500,000 have reached as high as $196.90 per square foot.

The median price per square foot for houses under contract is:

Houses selling under $200,000     $133.65

Houses $200,000 – $300,000        $144.34

Houses $300,000 – $400,000         $157.19

Houses $400,000 – $500,000         $176.95 

Houses over $500K                       $180.31 

Surrounding counties are seeing prices rise also, according to Dunn.

“It used to be if someone was moving in here, and I couldn’t find something, I’d say ‘Let’s go to White or Overton County.’ Now you can’t find it there either. Their prices are surging also,” she said. “Now, I have to ask if they are ok with going to Jamestown, Byrdstown or Celina. Some are ok with that, but right now they don’t have hospitals in those three counties.” 

Most people 50 or older want to know that there is a hospital within 20-30 minutes, said Dunn. And if they still have children in schools, they are asking proximity to those schools.

Telecommuting is a major contributor to the current influx of new residents. 

“Many of the people I have sold have said to themselves, ‘Why do I want to sit around and continue to pay these high taxes and not have a lot in my community to show for it, when I can go somewhere like Tennessee and have beautiful outdoor spaces?’” shared Dunn. “Out-of-state home buyers are looking at the state parks we have access to within 20-30 miles from Cookeville and how good our roads and hospitals are.”

With 4.1 buyers nationally for every house on the market, it is definitely a seller’s market. Both buyers and sellers need to educate themselves before entering today’s hot real estate market.

*All sales price and statistics are from the UCAR MLS.

This is part five of a six-part series on real estate in the Upper Cumberland. 

Part one in the series: Property reassessments go up, but taxes remain steady

Part two in the series: UC, nation facing housing shortage, not bubble

Part three in the series: A shortage of contractors drives up the new home market

Part four in the series: Building materials: How shortages are impacting housing market 

Part five in the series: What you should know about the UC real estate market 

Part six in the series: Realtor’s advice for buyers, sellers in today’s market 

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