For the Jenkins family, the vacation home is in their blood and will be for a long time.
It’s not their vacation home per se but the prospective one for whomever wants to buy a place on the Cumberland Plateau in their development — Stoneclift, in South Pittsburgh.
Jay Jenkins, his son also named Jay and his son’s wife Jacquie are developing the first phase of 50 lots of development that will include an outdoor amphitheatre, swimming pool, playing field, wireless Internet and other amenities.
The elder Jay is a developer from Atlanta. His son, who is involved only part-time, is first and foremost a coach and teacher at Montgomery Bell Academy, and his wife is an agent with Fridrich & Clark Realty with the property listed.
They, like other developers on the plateau and lakes across Tennessee, hope to tap into an ever-growing market for vacation homes.
For the past several years, the sales of vacation homes have helped fuel the real estate boom nationally.
While the overall market has slumped, demand for vacation homes hasn’t ebbed and may not for some time. Baby Boomers are driving sales of vacation homes they may later make their retirement spot.
“We really haven’t missed a beat,” said David Bohman, managing partner of the Nashville-based group doing Overton Retreat, a land development near McMinnville that’s been working for several years now. “Our prices have gone up and continue to go up.”
Last year, sales of vacation homes hit a record nationally, climbing to 1.07 million from 1.02 million in 2005, according to the association’s annual survey earlier this year. Homes for investment dropped sharply from 2.32 million to 1.65 million last year.
“Vacation is holding it’s own,” said Walter Molony, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, while the second-home for rental property is on the decline. Molony and others in the business said demographics and lifestyles would continue to drive the sales.
Most of the buyers are older, successful and aren’t affected by a credit crunch. The developers say most pay cash for the lots they buy.
“I’m not looking at a first-time homebuyer needing a 125 percent mortgage,” Jenkins said.
Local numbers are purely anecdotal since they are blended with other home sales in reports. Bohman said Overton Retreat has seven homes built, seven more under construction and another seven or so in design. He said work is underway for the second phase.
Lee Carter, a principal in the Nashville group developing Fanning Bend on Tims Ford Lake near Winchester, said 45 of the 80 lots in the first phase have sold.
As examples, those sales don’t seem like much but they are about on target with the developers’ expectations. Unlike typical single-family developments, vacation developments can take many years as opposed to 18 months where builders arrive with speculation homes.
“The successful ones sell over a period of maybe 10 years,” said Lynn Stubblefield, owner of Cliffside Realty in Monteagle and considered the real estate dean on the mountain.
Stubblefield said building over time provides different ages and architecture, creating diversity. “That’s what makes it healthy,” she said.
With 600 acres or so on the plans for Stoneclift, the development may pass to the next Jenkins generation. “There’s enough land out here to keep us busy for awhile,” the younger Jenkins said.
Lot prices can run from $50,000 for interior lots to more than $300,000 for bluff views or lakefront properties. The buyers aren’t necessarily spur of the moment.
“It takes someone three or four trips before they buy,” said Mike Nichols, a Fridrich & Clark Realty agent who has the Fanning Bend listing.
Buyers for vacation homes typically have a driving range of about 90 minutes from their primary residence, making places like the plateau, Central Hill Lake and Crossville, desirable for Nashvillians. Carter said there are buyers who went to Florida but are now looking closer to home.
“They are tired of the high insurance and travel time to Florida,” he said.
The biggest challenge on the plateau won’t be a lack of demand but a lack of supply. Monteagle is dealing with a water shortage and building permits are tough to get as a result. Several developers down were fined earlier this year by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for violations.
Stoneclift has city water from South Pittsburgh. “We’d be in a lot of trouble with that city water,” Jenkins said.