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Five Lively, Buzzing Cities That Aren’t Nashville



Nashville, the capital city of Tennessee, the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Grand Ole Opry House and Vanderbilt University, is one of the hottest residential real estate markets in the country.

Prices are high and inventory is so low—it plunged 61% from July 2020 to July 2021, according to a Realtor.com report on the top-50 largest metro markets—that even high-net-worth purchasers are finding it hard to find properties to buy. (Only one other city—Raleigh, North Carolina—ranked lower, with a drop in inventory of 64.4% during that time period.)

Buyers have begun looking at other cities that  offer some of the same cultural vibe and list of amenities—a lively music, restaurant and food scene, large outdoor spaces and a prime location that makes it easy to travel for business and pleasure.

Here are five Southern cities that prospective purchasers are considering as good alternatives to the Music City.

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Asheville, North Carolina

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains,
Asheville
couples its big-city attractions with a small-town state of mind.

“It’s an eclectic area,” said Bethany Behrmann, managing broker of Engel & Völkers Asheville.

The city, home of museum and former Vanderbilt mansion Biltmore, America’s largest house, “has an artsy vibe with an emphasis on the outdoors and wellness. It’s known for its great cuisine and beer and is sought after by foodies and artists and by outdoor enthusiasts who like rafting through rapids, paddle boarding on the river and mountain biking.”

Luxury, she said, is defined not so much by price point but by a way of life. “Whether your luxury is a private cabin in the woods with stunning mountain views, a high-rise condo in the bustling downtown area or a 4,000-square-foot home in a private gated community, Asheville can accommodate,” she said, adding that a new custom-built luxury home that’s at least 4,000 square feet typically can run over $2 million and easily into $5 million and $6 million, depending on the location, views and amenities.

Though Asheville is similar to neighboring Nashville in many respects, “the mountains are the big differentiator, both in terms of landscape and climate. Asheville’s four seasons include a breathtaking autumn, a mild winter, an early spring and a moderate summer.”

Built in 2010, this 3,651-square-foot house, which is set on 3.79 acres in Asheville, sold in August 2021 for $1.25 million.


Marilynn Kay Photography

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Chattanooga, Tennessee


Chattanooga
which is a three-hour drive from Nashville, is also a music-minded city.

It’s home to the renowned Riverbend Festival, The 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival and The Moon River Festival. It also hosts Riverfront Nights, a series of free summertime concerts.

“The city has a great waterfront downtown that includes an aquarium and a zoo,” said Debbie Elliott-Sexton, the owner and principal broker of Alliance Sotheby’s International Realty. “There also are farmers markets, mountains with hiking trails and parks. Fly-fishing is popular.”

Luxury-property prices start at $1 million to $2 million and top out at about $8 million, she said.

“There’s a lot available above $1 million,” she says. “You pay for the views: From Lookout Mountain, you can see seven states—Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, and, of course, Tennessee; there’s a property listed there for $9 million. The nearby suburban town of Signal Mountain, where there’s an $8 million property listed now, also has mountain views.”

She added that there’s much more inventory than in Nashville and at lower price points.

What really sets Chattanooga apart—and what gives it a kinship with Nashville—“is that it’s a small-big town known for its Southern comfort and hospitality.”

Listed for $9 million, this Chattanooga residence, which is on 26.81 acres and has over 17,000 square feet of living feet, has six bedrooms, five full bathrooms and three half bathrooms. It was built in 2013.


Bruce McCamish

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Knoxville, Tennessee


Knoxville
the Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, is the stage for a robust live-music scene that includes concerts and festivals and the country performance artists who call it home.

“They either come here because they feel Nashville is too crowded and there’s too much hustle and bustle or they have a connection here in town,” Ms. Elliott-Sexton said. “One songwriter recently moved here because he couldn’t stand the hour-long traffic jams in Nashville.”

She pointed out that Moon Taxi, the alternative band with Knoxville roots, has played virtually every venue in the city, and that Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West, played to a sold-out crowd at the club Cotton Eyed Joe in October.

And Band Perry, which comprises three siblings, has a ranch in neighboring Greeneville, Tennessee, and is building a recording studio in that town, according to published reports.


Luxury properties in Knoxville, which is nearly a three-hour drive from Nashville, start at about $3 million, said Ms. Elliott-Sexton, adding that the priciest places are on Fort Loudoun Lake, the Tennessee River or offer mountain views. “I just sold a lakefront property for $6.5 million. Our prices are a little less than Nashville’s, and there’s no inventory shortage in the luxury market.”

Like Nashville, Knoxville is a college town: It’s home to a campus of the University of Tennessee.

“We have some of the same restaurants,” she said. “We also have its Southern comfort and hospitality, and our Great Smoky Mountains Park is the No. 1 visited park in the nation.”

Sequoyah Farms, a 140-acre estate outside Knoxville, Tennessee is on the market for $7.75 million. The 4,120-square-foot house has five bedrooms, four full bathrooms and one half bathroom.


Bruce McCamish

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Lexington, Kentucky

Although the city is renowned as the horse capital of the world,
Lexington
like Nashville, is a college town that offers a vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene.

“We’re pretty hip because we have the University of Kentucky, but it doesn’t define us,” said Meredith S. Walker, an agent with Bluegrass Sotheby’s International Realty. “Because it’s a state school, it brings a diverse population of students who end up staying here.”

Prices of luxury single-family residences in the city, which is about a 3.25-hour drive from Nashville, start at $750,000 and climb to about $3 million, she said, noting that the homes closest to downtown command the highest prices. She added that there’s a new-construction glass condo in The Penthouses at City Center complex that’s listed for $3.66 million.

The three iconic luxury neighborhoods—Ashland Park, Chevy Chase and Fairway—are close to downtown and to each other.

While Nashville has greenways, Lexington’s neighborhoods feature canopies of mature trees, and, Ms. Walker said, “you can drive five minutes and be out in the country surrounded by horse farms.”

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The music scene, which Ms. Walker called “thriving” is more rock-and-roll and Americana than country.

“We don’t have live bands in every restaurant like Nashville,” she said, “but there are buskers at the farmer’s market.”

The city’s base of young, highly educated professionals and entrepreneurs assures that there is an up-to-date mix of chic restaurants and shops.

The city welcomes transplants, as well as everyone else, with open arms. “We have Southern charm,” Ms. Walker said.

Listed for $3.66 million, this two-bedroom, three-bathroom, 5,269-square-foot glass penthouse is in the newly constructed complex The Penthouses at City Center in downtown Lexington.


Keni Parks

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New Orleans


New Orleans
—the birthplace of jazz, the popularizer of contemporary Creole cuisine and the city that introduced Mardi Gras to the U.S.—is funky and festive.

“Nashville and New Orleans are both known for great music and good food, but the similarity ends there,” said Anne Delery Comarda, license partner and executive vice president, Engel & Völkers New Orleans. “New Orleans is recognized globally for its cuisine and has a reputation as a training ground for some of the best chefs in the world today. It is the single most recognizable regional cuisine in the U.S.”

The city’s taste in music is varied, and live performances and concerts are abundant. “We are as passionate about music as we are about food,” she said. “But instead of country, we are more likely to be found listening to jazz, blues, R&B, funk or even bounce.”

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Single-family luxury homes generally start at over $1 million and climb to above $3 million, with the most sought-after neighborhoods being Uptown/Audubon Park, Lower Garden District, CBD/Warehouse District and Old Metairie.

The city also is known as a sportsman’s paradise, with the most popular outdoor activities being fishing, boating and canoeing. There are several parks, including the 1,300-acre New Orleans City Park, which is about 50% larger than New York City’s Central Park.

“Everything about New Orleans is unique,” Ms. Comarda said. “The city is colorful in every sense of the word. We have a broad spectrum of people, places and history. There is truly something for everyone, and we welcome all with a smile.”

This four-bedroom, five-bathroom, 5,384-square-foot home, built in New Orleans in 2008, is on the market for $2.1 million.


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