Country Music Isn’t the Only Hot Thing for Sale: How to Buy a House in Nashville

What was once a tourism town has now become an epicenter for easy and convenient daily living, though it will forever be known as “Music City.” From college grads to retirees, everyone is flocking to Nashville, Tennessee — and with good reason. With its booming corporate presence, prime location, and a list of neighborhoods as diverse as its roots, there’s no better time than now to buy a house in Nashville.

So what does this mean for your home search? Well, for starters you’ll be far from the only buyer seeking a comfortable single-family home in country music’s backyard, and you’ll need to know exactly how to make a competitive offer and what the big housing pitfalls are, among other tips to be successful.

We spoke to experts with decades of experience in Nashville real estate, scoured all the neighborhoods, and did the math to find the best recommendations for your budget, lifestyle, and needs. In this comprehensive guide you’ll discover where and when you should be shopping, how to find the historic home of your dreams, and why you need to be on the lookout for termites.

Two people standing in front of a painted wall that says "Nashville."
Source: (Katy Anne / Unsplash)

Low cost of living and low unemployment? Yes, please!

The city has one of the lowest costs of living relative to other comparable cities across the country. In fact, as of January 2020, it was reported as 5% lower than the national average. That’s why it isn’t surprising that more than half of the city’s population owns properties rather than rents them.

Nashville is experiencing a huge influx of well-known corporations, such as Amazon, Ernst & Young, and Mitsubishi. Ashley Luther, a seasoned real estate agent with more than a decade of experience selling houses, says that this can be greatly attributed to the lower cost of living and the business-friendly structure of property taxes. “We have no city or state income tax, so we see a lot of corporations coming here,” she says.

Thanks in part to a diverse economy and the aforementioned flood of corporations, at just 2.6% in November 2019, Nashville’s unemployment rate sits below the national average (3.5% in November 2019). In 2018, Nashville had the lowest rate of unemployment among the 51 most-populated metropolitan areas in the country. This makes sense, considering that 38.54% of residents have either a bachelor’s or advanced graduate degree.

While the city has seen a growing corporate presence, Nashville is also a great place for a wide demographic of people. Many individuals (55 and older) looking to retire and maintain their assets are migrating to and buying houses in Nashville because it is so affordable. But not only is it the low cost of living and low taxes that inspire retirees to move to Nashville, but also the activities (it is “Music City,” after all), and the mild climate.

The demographics of those currently buying in Nashville are definitely a mix. In addition to retirees, the city has also seen a flood of millennial residents. This is for a couple of reasons. One major one: it’s home to more than 20 universities.

“…Because we have so many corporate relocations here, and so many new jobs opening up [in the healthcare, financial, and tech industries], we’re able to keep a lot of our graduates. And so they stay around,” says Luther.

In fact, 18.2% of the population is in its 20s. According to SmartAsset, Nashville is the second-best city for new college grads in 2019. With its relatively low overall cost of living and its status of having the seventh-highest concentration of entertainment and dining establishments of any U.S. city, there is enough in Tennessee’s capital to keep everyone happy.

What’s the housing stock like in Nashville?

Nashville had 275,676 housing units as of 2012, with 43% of all those units built prior to 1960. Many of Nashville’s housing units (49,647) were built during the 1970s, while only a small number (1,768) units were built during 2010 or later.

7% of the city’s housing units were built prior to 1940, while only 14% of the nation’s current homes were built during the same time. Since older homes require more maintenance, home inspection and code enforcement is key.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the construction date of a home is not always indicative of its condition. Many of Nashville’s historic neighborhoods are kept in pristine condition.

In Nashville, most homes are single-family units, with the largest proportion of them (37%) containing three bedrooms. However, it is the location of the bedrooms that makes the difference — especially in multi-generational homes. “Probably the most desirable floor plan right now is two bedrooms on the main level for the master and one other. That’s a trend that I’m seeing right now for sure,” says Luther.

According to Luther, pantries and yard space are two popular features that buyers seek out in Nashville. Another thing Luther says buyers are currently looking for: Bedrooms on the main level of the home. “I think a lot of people are looking for bedrooms on the main level because we’re moving toward a multi-generational housing where the cost of assisted living or nursing homes is just out-of-control expensive.” Having bedrooms on the main level of the home can help to make an aging parent more comfortable.

Some wood that may have been eaten by termites in a house in Nashville.
Source: (Bence Balla-Schottner / Unsplash)

Possible pitfalls: The risks of buying in Nashville

Termites

Due to Tennessee’s widespread termite activity, getting a termite inspection is always key. Due to its climate, in Nashville it’s not a matter of whether you’ll get termites, but rather when. Termite activity is found quite frequently and serves as one of the top deal-killers in the local market.

Mold

The other leading deal-killer in the local market: Mold. As with termites, mold and mildew both commonly occur in damp locations, such as basements, bathrooms, and crawl spaces. Mold and mildew are common in wet climates and older homes, of which Nashville has many. This is concerning, as some molds produce toxins that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals. That is why mold inspection is important to ensure that your home — new or old — is free of mold.

Flooding

With the Cumberland River running through the middle of the city, flooding is always a possibility in Nashville. Just one inch of water in a typical 2,000-square-foot home can cause $20,920 in damage.

If you find a home in a high-risk flood plain, flood insurance is a good idea. Since typical homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damages, it is important to obtain additional coverage through either the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) (if your community participates) or a private provider. If you also work from home, you will need to purchase separate coverage for your business and/or its contents.

In Nashville a single-family home can be insured for flood damage for up to $250,000, with an additional $100,000 in coverage available for contents. Under the NFIP, the average premium is about $700 annually.

However, where it can rain, it can flood. In fact, more than 25% of flood insurance claims come from outside of “high-risk flood zones.” Since it usually takes about 30 days for your policy to go into effect, don’t wait to purchase one.

A street in Nashville, where you can buy a house.
Source: (Drew Hays / Unsplash)

Neighborhood guide

If its growing economy and diverse residential landscape aren’t enough to convince you, there’s also its prime location. Nashville rests at a perfect vantage point, with 40% of the U.S. population living within 600 miles of the city.

Intersected by three major highways (I-65, I-40, and I-24), with easy access to the Music City Star Rail, metro bus service, ride-sharing, and Nashville International Airport, travel in and out of Nashville is especially easy. Not that you’d ever need to leave!

With varying types of architecture, built over many periods of time, there is something for every taste.

The Gulch

If you’re looking for an upscale neighborhood with a trendy vibe, the Gulch may just be the place for you. Jam-packed with things to do, the Gulch is extremely walkable. Located in the heart of Nashville, the Gulch is generally best appreciated by young adults. If you enjoy maintaining an active lifestyle, you can easily hop on your bicycle and go for a relaxing ride.

Families looking for the perfect spot to call home may find difficulty locating it in the Gulch, as there are only condos and high-rise apartments. So if you are looking for a walkup or bi-level home, you may want to keep looking.

Downtown Nashville & SoBro

Many of the musicians who relocate to Nashville will spend a good amount of time in Downtown Nashville — specifically at the infamous cross-location of Broadway and Second Avenue. With over 60 bars and restaurants, there is so much to do and see in Nashville. While shopping in Downtown Nashville, you will find many music stores, souvenirs, boot shops, and Western attire.

With live-music venues, such as the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and a mile-long stretch of renowned music attractions, such as the Country Music Hall of Fame, if you aspire to perform or if you enjoy spending your time listening to up-and-coming talent, look no further.

While Downtown Nashville and South of Broadway (SoBro) are walkable, they can be difficult to navigate when running from one place to another. However, this can be remedied by utilizing Uber or Lyft.  Similar to the Gulch, Downtown Nashville is also not a great place for families, as it consists mainly of apartment buildings and high-rises.

Hillsboro Village

Sandwiched between Belmont University, often recognized as one of the “most innovative,” and Vanderbilt University, top-ranked in both academics and financial aid, Hillsboro Village is home to many college students and young adults. But with its variety of housing options (including townhomes, duplexes, and mid-sized apartment communities) and large number of single-family homes, many families also reside within this popular neighborhood.

Home to fabulous shopping, from boutiques to bookstores, as well as a variety of shops, theaters, and restaurants (you have to try Pancake Pantry!) there is definitely enough to keep you entertained.

But while you can likely walk to many places, you may be more likely to drive to the grocery store than you would in some other neighborhoods. Also, since you won’t see any high-rise apartment buildings here, those looking for a long list of luxury amenities may not be as enticed.

A man and woman dancing for Oktoberfest in Nashville, where you can buy a house.
Source: (Brett Sayles / Pexels)

Germantown

While small and eclectic, Germantown is currently going through some major development. One of the older areas in Nashville, it’s known for its annual Oktoberfest, a free, popular event during which the whole city can’t get enough German beer, live music, and related traditions.

With close proximity to the Bicentennial Capitol Mall, a local state park, as well as the Nashville Farmers’ Market (open year-round!), those who enjoy a low-key, outdoor-oriented, and relaxing weekend vibe may just find utter bliss in Germantown.

However, with most restaurants closing by 10 p.m., the night scene in Germantown is pretty much nonexistent. For younger individuals looking to go out, drink, and dance, this may not be a good fit.

Sylvan Park & Sylvan Heights

With close access to the indoor climbing gym, Climb Nashville, and the McCabe Park Community Center, offering everything from youth recreational sports to Senior Strength (and everything in between), Sylvan Park & Sylvan Heights may appeal to more active individuals. A more residential area with a community feel and a plethora of mostly single-family homes, Sylvan Park is a great place for families.

Although you can certainly find a nice restaurant, coffee shop, and salon, there aren’t a ton of bars and restaurants in the area. For single people looking to go bar-hopping or dancing, this is likely not the neighborhood for you. However, with apartment communities continuing to increase, it remains unseen whether this may begin to change.

12 South

Comprising mostly younger families and vivacious singles, you are bound to see musicians, entrepreneurs, and moms sharing space at the local coffee shop in 12 South. One of the more posh areas of town, 12 South boasts high-end restaurants and boutiques, such as Reese Witherspoon’s boutique Draper James, up and down the Avenue.

If you don’t have a car or if you are looking for a neighborhood that requires little driving, this may not be the best choice. Though it is walkable to Belmont Boulevard, where you’ll find a plethora of casual options for shopping, fitness, and dining, you’d have to get behind the wheel to get to most other places in Nashville.

Edgehill Village

If you’re in search of a more affordable option, Edgehill Village may be calling your name. Parallel to Music Row, and surrounded by 12 South and Eighth Avenue, this small up-and-coming neighborhood would be a viable option for singles or young couples looking to reside in a more central location. Looking for some good food? Be sure to hit up local neighborhood favorites, Taco Mamacita and NoBaked Cookie Dough.

Although Edgehill Village caters more to commercial real estate and less to residential housing, you’ll still find single-family homes, though a variety of options exist.

Edgehill Village has been restored in order to embrace its historical style and importance. According to Riley Wills of the Wills Company, the current trend is to appreciate old and historic houses that can be updated for function while still paying homage to the very designs that make them unique.

But if you are searching for a larger area, Edgehill Village, which can be walked in a matter of a couple hours, simply will not do.

Green Hills

Since 2000, Shelby Avenue/S. Tenth Street has been the highest-appreciating Nashville neighborhood, while Green Hills remains the most expensive — but with good reason. One of the larger areas in Nashville, with local boutiques, high-end shopping, restaurants, well-known shops, and grocery stores, if you reside in Green Hills, you’ll never have to leave. This is probably for the best, considering that while you can get around all of Green Hills easily on foot, the same can’t be said for walking from this neighborhood to any other.

With wealthy families and adults comprising the majority of this neighborhood, this may not be the best option for the individual on a budget. However, Green Hills offers a nice selection of housing in the form of condos, single-family homes, and apartment complexes.

East Nashville/West Nashville

As one of — if not the most— progressive and desired areas in the city, East Nashville is home to mostly young, eccentric adults, including artists and musicians, as well as families. With historic homes dating back to the early 1900s, this eclectic neighborhood has gone through a lot of changes — notably over the last decade — and offers a large selection of businesses.

If you were looking to walk to the other side of the river from your home, you’d be out of luck. Though the neighborhood is walkable itself, those living in East Nashville should be willing to drive a bit to get to other places. Another one of this neighborhood’s drawbacks is that it has become quite expensive.

For this reason, a lot of people are now taking to West Nashville, a hip area close to all the nightlife and best restaurants (French-inspired Margot Café & Bar is a favorite); This is where you’ll find most of the younger buyers in Nashville. This super trendy area has remained strong from about 2013 onward.

Other notable mentions

Best Nightlife: Midtown

For people looking for a neighborhood where the nightlife is nothing short of fantastic, Midtown is the bar-hopping oasis of your dreams. With a large handful of bars and restaurants that remain open through 3 a.m., Midtown is a popular spot for locals who want to enjoy themselves without being bothered by tourists.

Understandably, Midtown is not the best option for families but would be perfect for singles and young adults who love to get out and meet others.

Best real estate value: Rockvale

According to the Nashville Business Journal, Rockvale is the best place to live in Nashville, due in large part to its five-year growth in median home value, its median effective property tax, and its homeownership rate.

Nashville, where you can buy a house.
Source: (Tanner Boriack / Unsplash)

Tips for buyers

It can be very exciting when you find a house that seems to check all of your boxes. But before you sign on the dotted line, here are three tips to remember when buying a house in Nashville.

1. Consider buying in February

With a temperate climate, Nashville, historically, is not a very seasonal market. During the holiday season throughout December and January, there tend to be fewer houses on the market, but also generally fewer buyers at that time.

However, according to HomeLight’s housing transaction data for Nashville, February may be the best month to buy a house since (at -8.09%) it is the worst time to sell one.

2. Write a competitive offer

When in a seller’s market, homebuyers must understand how to make a competitive offer. When numerous potential buyers are involved, it is best to think of the asking price as the floor, whereas in a buyer’s market it can be considered the ceiling. Another smart tactic is to make an earnest money deposit in order to demonstrate your good-faith intent of purchasing a home. This shows the seller just how serious you are.

A growing trend across Nashville is for buyers to pay for the lender’s title insurance in addition to appraisals in order to be competitive. Though not a lot of money, it is one more thing, other than the purchase price, that increases the seller’s net profit.

3. Work with a top Nashville agent

One of the most important things to remember is that not all agents are created equal. Top Nashville real estate agents help buyers buy for 82.7% of the listing price, saving their clients $49,992. That’s a lot of nights out on the town!

Ideally, you should think about securing a top real estate agent anywhere from three to six months before you want to move in. You really need someone who can guide you and act aggressively on your behalf; Just because someone has their real estate license doesn’t mean that they are the right person to represent you.  If you are looking to buy a home in Nashville, there is no substitute for those with local knowledge and experience. Get matched with a top Nashville real estate agent today.

Header Image Source: (Sean Pavone / Shutterstock)

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