‘It’s going to be priceless’: A look inside the fiercely competitive Boone Lake real estate market

Restoring Boone Lake

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — If a property on Boone Lake is priced right, it can be sold within 24 hours.

But there are too few properties up for sale around Boone, and too many eager buyers hoping to secure their piece of the lakefront. The result is a highly competitive and increasingly expensive real estate market.

“There are very high-ticket, high-level properties for sale. Million dollars on up,” said Steve Lohoff of Town & Country Realty.

Lohoff specializes in lake properties. He’s seen the effect the Boone Dam repair project and lowering of the lake in 2014 has had on the surrounding real estate market.

“It seems as though, in the first year or two, there were people who panic-sold. Especially people who didn’t live there full-time. They did sell at a depressed value,” he said.

In the last couple years, Lohoff said sales on Boone Lake have still been in-demand.

“Recently, now that the lake levels come up, people have held out and waited until now to put their properties on the market. They’re bringing very nice values at this time,” he said.

News that water would be rising again excited sellers.

“They got their properties in order and did their updates and put them on [the market]. Because they knew people would be standing in line, waiting on those,” said Lohoff.

Houses in the Grande Harbor area of Blountville

In recent months, Lohoff has sold six or seven lots in his own neighborhood, the Grande Harbor community of Blountville. While the land behind some backyards still more closely resembles a desert than a lake, this is expected to change soon. The TVA has said Boone Lake will rise back to normal summer pool levels this July.

Lohoff said many buyers come from other states, including New York and California. Cash buyers account for around 40 percent of transactions.

“It would just be nice if we had more listings and more properties to sell,” he said. “Because when they hit the market and they’re priced accordingly, they fly off the shelves.”

Data shows the housing inventory in the neighborhoods surrounding Boone Lake is tight.

The Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors says so far this year, home sales have increased 17.2 percent. Land sales increased to 19 from four during the first four months of last year.

Available listings have decreased. NETAR reports active listings are down 25.3% from the spring of last year.

Ronnie Nelson of Piney Flats owns five different properties by Boone Lake. When it comes to renting and selling them, there are waiting lists. He says there’s no need to advertise. Interested parties come to him first.

One of Nelson’s houses on Boone Lake

“People were telling me I was crazy when I was buying when the water was down. Now they’re, ‘Well, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all,'” said Nelson.

NETAR data shows the average sales price is $379,868 in neighborhoods around Boone Lake. This is 10.3 percent higher than last year

Nelson has seen the rising values ever since he first acquired property on the lake in the 1980s. He initially sold the house, and bought it back in recent years.

Nelson’s first house on Boone Lake

“When I purchased it, I purchased it for $62,000. Sold it for [$160,000]. And bought it back five years ago for [$310,000]…. then I’ve turned down probably over [$800,000] for it now,” he said.

Potential buyers are offering him top-dollar amounts for his properties. But Nelson is hanging on to his slice of Boone paradise for now.

“It’s like a vacation home every Friday. People in New York and Pennsylvania, when they get here, they just fall in love with it,” he said.

Nelson is thrilled the rising water will bring back the sense of lake community he knew before.

In about a month, he anticipates finally being able to get his boat in the water again. It’s been stuck in his dock ever since water levels suddenly dropped in 2014.

A boat has remained below Nelson’s dock for seven years

He describes Boone Lake as a ‘diamond in the rough’, and the word is finally getting out.

“If you want a good location on the lake, you’re going to have to purchase a home, tear it down, and build what you want,” he said.

He believes properties will only become more valuable going forward.

“In the next two, three decades, it’s going to be priceless,” he said.

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