Is it difficult to buy a house in Knoxville? Buyers share tips


When it comes to homeownership, Cana Johnson and Chantel O’Neal have different histories.

Ultimately, their motivations are the same: to improve their family’s quality of life and stay in County Knox. But when they started looking for new homes, the two had to contend with the harsh realities of Knox County’s rugged real estate market.

Johnson, who has been looking for a home for seven months, and O’Neal, who bought his first home after a short but stressful search, told Knox News about their experiences to highlight what other buyers could expect.

How Johnson maneuvers in the market

At the start of her research, Johnson was optimistic, but she quickly realized how difficult it would be to achieve her dreams in the Knox County housing market.

“When I first moved to Knoxville I was living with the projects. So to go from the projects to potentially a $ 300,000 house, I was really proud of myself,” Johnson told Knox News. “I was so excited, and then it turned out that $ 100,000 is nothing in County Knox. It was disheartening to realize. There are people who buy houses for $ 300,000. cash as if nothing had happened, and I was clearly out of my element. “

Johnson, like many others looking to buy, had to change strategy when it came to bidding on a property. She suggests that those hoping to buy a home submit an offer as soon as they can, even if they haven’t seen the home. Then, if the offer is accepted, home buyers have their foot in the door to make a decision about buying the home.

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Johnson also advises others in the market to request a home inspection. While it can cost her hundreds of dollars, Johnson said she would rather pay the price rather than forgo a home inspection like other buyers, especially out-of-state ones, for avoid problems later.

“It’s potentially a waste, but at least you potentially have a house,” Johnson said.

Another thing Johnson learned from the home hunt is when to cut losses in a sellers market. She is currently trying to close a house that spans 11 acres and is in need of major renovations. It is listed at $ 250,000. Johnson is awaiting an appraisal and hopes it won’t be less than the price of the property. If so, the house will go to the next online buyer.

“We tried to negotiate some repair expenses with the vendors. Their response was, ‘You can take it as is or we’ll give it to the next person behind you,” Johnson said. “So out of fear of losing the property, we just took it as it is and considered it a loss because while I would like to think of this as all talk, it isn’t. “

While Johnson’s research lasted longer than most, his experiences are not uncommon. Johnson was outbid by out-of-state buyers who could offer the money. She had to suddenly change her schedule to visit the houses and submit an offer on the same day just to be turned down. And she considered renting or even buying a trailer to stay there until the market calmed down.

“To be honest, I don’t know if the market is going to go down, which is part of why it was so important for us to find something because I think it’s going to get worse,” Johnson said.

O’Neal’s tips for homebuyers

After leaving a 15-year career in legal and administrative work to pursue massage therapy in 2019, O’Neal gave herself two years until she began looking for a home. With the help of his sister, O’Neal devised a plan to pay off student debt and save as much as possible.

Like many other first-time homebuyers and lifelong renters, debt is a barrier, but buying a home is possible if buyers can budget their money and pay what they owe.

“I worked two and three jobs for a long, long time. I had to sacrifice a lot of time away from my kids, and that was the hardest part for me,” said O’Neal. “But I told my kids we had to buckle up, so we didn’t spend a lot. I was very focused and determined, I was paying for things to get to where I needed to be.”

Chantel O'Neal watches the courtyard of her first home on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. O'Neal hasn't furnished the bedrooms as the items are out of stock, but O'Neal and her family still feel at home.  For O'Neal, that's all that matters.

January 21 marked O’Neal’s two years in massage therapy. That day, she called her bank to begin her home buying journey. Her wish list was not long. She wasn’t looking for the house of her dreams. Instead, O’Neal’s hunt was “strategic”.

Chantel O'Neal admires the front yard of her first home in Inskip on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.

His persistence paid off in April when O’Neal found a three bedroom, two bathroom home in Inskip. It was put $ 50,000 over her budget, but O’Neal didn’t think she had a choice. If she wanted a home in the Knox County real estate market, she would have to pay more than asking price.

O’Neal used his experience as a tenant to get in touch with the sellers of the house. She suggests that buyers work with their agents to understand what is important to sellers, other than price. For some sellers, this may be a similar family structure or a commitment to keep the house or land as it is. For O’Neal sellers, it was the love of the bike.

“My real estate agent was talking to salespeople, and they were talking about the fact that it was a good place to ride a bike. It’s a bit bittersweet and it brought tears to my eyes because my kids didn’t really never had a place to ride a bike, live in apartments most of their lives, ”O’Neal said.“ I told (my real estate agent) to tell him that because it might affect something. something relevant to these sellers. ”

O’Neal’s idea worked, and after agreeing to pay $ 200,000 plus closing costs, she bought her first home. O’Neal still hasn’t furnished some rooms because the furniture is out of stock, but she still feels right at home to herself and her family. For O’Neal, that’s all that matters.

“My 17 year old daughter told me the other day that she was out with my 12 year old daughter and heard her say, ‘I love this house. “It means more to me than anything,” O’Neal said. “The air is different inside a house that you own.”


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