KNOXVILLE, Tenn — It's been a long, frustrating year for Allison Poland. She started her search for a new house at the beginning of the pandemic, looking for more space while working from home and a bigger yard for her dog.
"I thought it was going to be way easier and put an offer in maybe two or three (houses) because that's what my realtor told me because the third one's always the charm, and four later here we are," Poland said.
Many of the homes she visited received multiple offers the same day they went on the market.
"I always bid over the price with closing costs to make it better, and I was always the second-best, never the first one," she said.
The housing market across the U.S. is booming, especially in Knoxville, but not enough homes are for sale.
Experts said an inventory crisis is driving fierce competition among buyers.
According to the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors, a record low of 1,835 new homes were listed in the Knoxville area in March, down almost 8% from 2020.
At the same time, median sale prices increased more than 17% from last year.
The average home in the Knoxville area sold for $255,000.
"You want to see home prices appreciating, you want to see them going up, but you don't want to price too many people out of the market, and particularly in our market, the inventory below $250,000 is as constrained as it has been ever in Knoxville," said Hancen Sale, KAAR Governmental Affairs & Policy Director.
Realtors said first-time homebuyers are feeling the most strain and people looking for homes from $100,000 to $200,000.
"That's who's really affected, and they don't have the ability to raise their purchase price $20,000 in order to win the bid," said Ryan Levenson, principal broker at Re/Max Preferred Properties in Knoxville.
Poland is willing to compromise her wish list to get a house she wants at a price she can afford, but for now, her search is on hold.
"It's frustrating, but it is what it is. I guess none of those houses were meant for me," she said.
Resources available for first-time and low-income buyers:
- The City of Knoxville offers a down-payment assistance program as well as financial and homebuyer education programming.
- East Tennessee Housing Development Corporation (ETHDC) develops quality, affordable homes for low-income families and individuals and empowers low-income residents through their financial coaching and mentoring program. They directly assist clients in qualifying for mortgages and secure down payment and closing cost assistance for eligible buyers.
- Home Source East Tennessee works to enhance communities through quality housing and building wealth through homeownership. Services include new construction of affordable homes, homebuyer education, financial assistance, and renovation of existing properties.
- Neighborhood Housing, Inc. (NHI) promotes healthy neighborhoods by providing good quality, affordable housing for low and moderate-income families. Strategies for this goal include minor home repair services and construction of new affordable homes, with financial assistance to purchasers.