Skip to main content

Author: newmanifest

Burger Wars Heating Up

News of In-N-Out’s Arrival—Joining Whataburger, Cookout, and Others—Brings Sizzle to Eastern Middle Tennessee’s Fast-Food Scene

Remember when the Coke vs. Pepsi debate raged from the 1970s up into the 2000s? Billy Joel sang about it in his classic song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (“rock ’n roll, the cola wars, I can’t take it anymore!”). One Nashville-area top executive at hospital owner HCA, having fielded fevered complaints when the company’s headquarters was considering a switch from one cola provider to the other, lamented to employees: “I didn’t anticipate so much passion and energy over sugar water!”

Well, while the cola wars have mostly cooled, the burger battle is blazing as hot as ever, and the front has arrived here in Eastern Middle Tennessee, especially in light of the news that West Coast favorite In-N-Out plans to open one of its first Tennessee locations—in fact, only its second or third location east of the Mississippi River—in Lebanon.

What a Debate . . .

Already, popular Texas-based chain Whataburger has beefed up its Tennessee presence with two area locations, one in Lebanon and another in nearby Hermitage (along with recently opened or planned additions in Gallatin, Madison, Murfreesboro, and other hot spots).

Add to that the success of North Carolina-based Cookout (whose area footprint is anchored by its bustling Lebanon location right across from Whataburger, a half-mile or so north of I-65), along with other joints that specialize in burgers, fries, sodas, and shakes—and the grill is fired up for a lot of mostly good-natured (but often passionate) discussion about who dishes out the best patties and fixin’s.

“Does any of this really matter?” you might ask. “I mean, come on—we’re talking fast food here.”

It’s a fair point. As our members know, real estate is an increasingly complex profession, and REALTORS® today are navigating a bevy of challenges: a vibrant housing market keeping us on our toes, competition for buyers’ and sellers’ attention, mortgage rates that continue to inch upward, laws and regulations to abide by, continuing education (CE) to secure, not to mention industry changes on the way resulting from the recently announced proposed NAR lawsuits settlement.

All of that said, a case can be made that, yes, it does matter. After all, tons of Californians (and others from out West) continue to make their way eastward to the great state of Tennessee, and our communities in Wilson, Smith, and Dekalb counties are among the hottest, most appealing destinations for them to relocate to and purchase property. To many of them, In-n-Out is a reminder of home. For others, Whataburger holds a special place in their culinary hearts. And Cookout has exploded in recent years as a favorite eatery in the South and beyond.

What’s more, we know that amenities that tend to draw new residents don’t begin and end with the “big” ones that come to mind, such as housing availability, good schools, recreational activities, enriching cultural attractions, fair taxation, and a tone of friendliness and hospitality. Those items are foremost in the minds of prospective property buyers, of course, but the draws also include the “little things” like convenient, familiar places to grab a quick-but-quality bite after work or on the way home from a child’s sports practice.

Lettuce Consider In-N-Out

In-N-Out is poised to make a spicy entry into the mix. The buzz surrounding the almost-mythic chain’s 2023 announcement that it would launch its Eastern U.S. operations with a headquarters in the Nashville area (20 miles south in Franklin), along with plans to open several area restaurants, was a loud one, drawing attention from Governor Bill Lee, multiple news-media outlets, and tons of posts and comments across social media. Lots of people were (and are) talking about it, and that level of conversation tends to seep into the minds of those considering a move to a particular city or town.

As the Tennessean reported on April 1, 2024, “The well-known West Coast burger brand has included Lebanon in its expansion into Middle Tennessee with a newly approved site plan to build on 3.45 acres on the corner of South Hartmann Drive and Franklin road. A drive-thru is included.”

It will be “a 3,885-square-foot restaurant on vacant property in front of Home Depot,” according to an earlier Tennessean article on March 5, which also noted that Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell and Economic Development Director Sarah Haston “have made adding restaurant choices in the city a priority.”

The newspaper went on, “[Mayor Bell] spoke in support of the restaurant before a unanimous planning commission vote passing the site plan, saying In-N-Out is ‘one brand we wanted,’ and that it ‘fits our values,’ pointing to Bible verses on packaging such as wrappers and cups. In-N-Out is in the pre-development phase and Vice President of Store Development Mike Abbate said ‘it’s still too early to say’ when a restaurant in Lebanon could open. Once construction does start, the build generally takes eight to nine months, Abbate said.”

For now, anticipation about In-n-Out will build even as already-established restaurants like Whataburger and Cookout continue to vie for fast-food buyers’ appetites. The extent to which the burger battle will make its way into REALTORS®’ conversations with clients remains to be seen, but odds are the aroma of searing sandwiches wafting into nostrils and salivary glands all across our communities will not go unnoticed.

Where there’s a grill, there’s a way.

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

April Marks Fair Housing Month

*EMTAR Issues Fairhaven Challenge to Members ~ And You Could Win Big*

Each April, REALTORS® commemorate the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and reflect on housing discrimination and segregation, past and present.

EMTAR is no exception. As community leaders who make a profound positive difference, our REALTOR® members throughout Wilson, Smith, and Dekalb counties have an opportunity to be a part of equitable and inclusive change. Fair Housing Month signifies a recommitment to advancing opportunities and expanding homeownership for all. We are here to “Reflect. Repair. Renew.” Because That’s Who We R®.

As the month unfolds, here are several resources available that you might choose to explore:

EMTAR Members: Take the Fairhaven Challenge

Also in celebration of Fair Housing Month, EMTAR is encouraging our members to engage in NAR’s Fairhaven Challenge. 

By visiting Fairhaven online and obtaining your “Recognition of Completion,” members will qualify for a chance to win FREE 2025 EMTAR Dues (local portion) for next year’s billing cycle. For every multiple of 20 members who participate, 1 lucky person will win. If 100 EMTAR members take the Fairhaven challenge, 5 names will be drawn and awarded FREE 2025 Dues (local portion), etc.

This challenge is estimated to take about an hour online and could save you $251 next year! This challenge is OPEN TO ALL EMTAR REALTORS®.

Note: Recognition of Completion certificates must be sent to

More Details About Fairhaven

In November 2020, NAR launched this fair housing simulation training for REALTORS® that uses the power of storytelling to help members identify, prevent, and address discriminatory practices in real estate.

Inspired by real stories, this innovative online experience has agents work against the clock to sell homes in the fictional town of Fairhaven, while confronting discrimination in the homebuying process. Learners also walk in the shoes of a homebuyer facing discrimination. The training provides customized feedback that learners can apply to daily business interactions.

We hope you will take the Fairhaven challenge!

No matter how you participate in fair housing efforts, EMTAR encourages our members to recognize Fair Housing Month within your brokerages and with your clients, and to join with us as we continue to champion the availability and affordability of housing options for everyone in our communities.

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

Updates for EMTAR Members on the NAR Settlement

*Updated April 9, 2024*

By now our EMTAR members are likely well aware of the NAR settlement agreement announced March 15. As the dust settles a bit, we wanted to provide an update on what the settlement includes, how it may affect you as a local REALTOR®, and the impact on the buyers and sellers you serve throughout Eastern Middle Tennessee.

News of the settlement proposal took the industry by surprise, but our leadership immediately began to think through how EMTAR can and will support our members, your clients, and the protection of private property rights as it unfold.

While the proposed settlement is just that—a proposal that will require court approval and take effect over a period of months—we know it’s important to take steps now to prepare for what we anticipate.

For starters:

As with any changes in our industry, we all want to learn the facts and assess the future. You as a REALTOR® have the opportunity to thrive as these changes develop. Here are several areas you can focus on right now:

Understand Buyer’s Representation Agreements. The proposed settlement calls for those agreements to be required before showing any property.

Listing agents, communicate clearly how the buyer’s agent can be paid, how sellers can take part, and the potential impact to the seller.

Make buyer consultations a part of your business (if you don’t already) in the same way you’ve done with sellers. Have a well-prepared presentation that defines your value and your fee.

Sharpen your mindset. View this proposal in light of the opportunities it presents to grow and thrive.  

Now, more details about the agreement:

While the settlement is subject to court approval, the proposal would resolve claims against NAR; more than one million NAR members; all state, territorial, and local REALTOR® associations; all association-owned Multiple Listing Services (MLSs); and all brokerages with an NAR member as principal that had a residential transaction volume in 2022 of $2 billion or below. 

As part of its initial announcement, NAR said, “The agreement makes clear that NAR continues to deny any wrongdoing in connection with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) cooperative compensation model rule (MLS Model Rule) that was introduced in the 1990s in response to calls from consumer protection advocates for buyer representation. Under the terms of the agreement, NAR would pay $418 million over approximately four years.”

While the agreement would cover a majority of REALTORS®, it does not cover brokerage firms with residential transaction volume above $2 billion in 2022, despite NAR’s effort to include them. However, for those companies, the settlement provides an avenue to pursue inclusion in the release but does not obligate them to do so.

Next, here are two primary changes that are likely to result:

Offers of compensation moved off of the MLS
NAR has agreed to implement a rule that prohibits offers of compensation in the MLS. Offers of compensation could continue to be an option consumers can pursue off-MLS through negotiation and consultation with real estate professionals. In addition, sellers may offer buyer concessions on an MLS (for example—concessions for buyer closing costs). This change is set to go into effect in mid-July of 2024.

Written agreements required for MLS participant buyers
NAR has already championed the use of written agreements for years. In the settlement, NAR has agreed to require MLS participants working with buyers to enter into written representation agreements. This change also is expected to take effect by mid-July of 2024. 

Finally, here are several steps we are taking as your local association to help support you during this time:

Tennessee Forms Updates
As noted above, NAR has agreed to require MLS participants working with buyers to enter into written buyer representation agreements. In light of that, we will collaborate with our state association, Tennessee REALTORS®, to ensure that EMTAR members have access to the forms you may need based on the new requirements. Also as noted, this change is likely to go into effect in mid-July 2024. For the moment, we don’t have a specified date for forms changes, but we will stay on top of this and make any adjusted forms available to you when the time comes.

Changes to the Realtracs MLS
We’re also staying in touch with Realtracs about changes the MLS will need to make in light of the settlement. As you read above, NAR has agreed to adopt a rule that prohibits offers of compensation on the MLS. Consumers could continue to pursue those offers off-MLS, through negotiation and consultation. In addition, sellers could offer buyer concessions within an MLS (e.g., buyer concessions for closing costs). We don’t have a target date for Realtracs changes, since the settlement is pending court approval, but we will communicate to you on this as any changes emerge.

MLS Webinar, Wednesday, March 27, 1:00 PM
Realtracs will hold a webinar Wednesday, March 27, at 1:00 PM, on the proposed NAR settlement. Brian Schneider, Realtracs’ legal counsel, will discuss the settlement’s implications and field questions. The webinar is open to all Realtracs customers (which includes EMTAR) and will be recorded. Please register here.

CE and Professional Development Opportunities
As your partner in success, EMTAR continually seeks to make continuing education (CE) and other professional development available to you.

Among other things, the NAR settlement proposal underscores that negotiation skills will be more important than ever. We are working on local courses, as well as connecting you with national and other course opportunities. Please check our EMTAR education page and stay tuned for new classes as they become available.

For one, EMTAR is providing FREE ABR® designation classes, and while the first class in April is at max capacity, we will be providing more opportunities. Please keep an eye on our Upcoming Courses page.

As another option, throughout 2024 NAR is making the popular Accredited Buyer’s Representation (ABR) designation course, typically $295, available at no cost. Take the first step toward earning your ABR designation at

For More Information…

If you have questions about the settlement, you may visit NAR’s central resource at (you’ll need to log in with your NAR credentials) and/or visit any of these resources:

The Truth About the NAR Settlement

Tim Hur Fortune magazine Op-ed article: “90% of homebuyers have historically opted to work with a real estate agent or broker. Here’s why that’s unlikely to change, according to the National Association of Realtors”

30-Minute NAR Video Update

NAR Settlement Fact Sheet

NAR Settlement Announcement

Fostering Consumer-Friendly Real Estate Marketplaces

Kevin Sears on Real Estate Today Podcast Discussing the NAR Settlement

Kevin Sears: Video Update from the Road in Wyoming

Thank you for your patience and perseverance as we navigate what the NAR settlement means and the effects it will have moving forward. We greatly appreciate you and the difference you make as an EMTAR member and a valued part of our community!

What Are the Hottest Home Paint Colors?

Spring is springing outside, which means all the colors of the rainbow are blooming on flowers, trees, shrubs, and lawns. The same is true on the inside of homes as many sellers work to brighten (or darken) their walls in preparation for the spring and summer home-buying season.

Several recent articles have shined timely light on some of the hottest, most trending color choices, as well as colors that experts recommend avoiding when updating a house in preparation to put it on the market.

For example, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) blogged last week about “Colors to Avoid When Selling a Home,” noting that, “Adding color is a hot trend in home design lately, but be careful which color you choose.”

Among other insights, the blog’s author, Melissa Dittmann Tracey, cited results from the home remodeling site in its Paint & Color Trends 2024, flagging “the most off-putting colors to home buyers.” The not-so-appealing colors included:

  • Red: 53%
  • Lime green: 53%
  • Bright yellow: 40%
  • Mustard yellow: 19%
  • Pink: 10%
  • Turquoise: 9%

The blog also noted, “Instead of splashing interiors in bright hues, home stagers and designers say they like to use color strategically to warm up a space and even make it appear more spacious.” For example, “61% of experts recommend using warm neutrals—like beiges and whites—to help make small spaces appear larger.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the Tennessean ran an AP article in its Sunday Real Estate section titled “Far from Gloomy: Darker paints create a cozy, more welcoming room.” Author Kim Cook wrote, “Dark hues have a bad rap as gloomy and depressing. More likely, they’re bringing the good vibes, all year long.”

The darker colors she mentioned as popular include Greenblack, as well as hues such as deep indigo, Dock Blue, Basalt, Goblin, Adventurer, and Jewel Beetle (most of those by British paint maker Little Greene, which has recently branched into the US).

One home design expert, Noz Nozawa, selected the “deep, fruity Wine Red” to be BlueStar’s 2023 Color of the Year.

The article did advise balancing light and dark if a homeowner chooses to paint the walls a darker shade, by adding touches such as well-placed mirrors, lighter furniture and décor, and other brighter-leaning accents (rugs, curtains).

HGTV, in its 2024 Color Collection of the Year, spotlighted several lighter paint shades (Softer Tan, Pearly White), along with the richer, darker Persimmon. It wrote, “Relaxing neutrals and layers of texture persuade us to slow down and unwind. Plush, upholstered bedframe, headboard and gently curved bench beckon us to a favorite restorative space.”

Meanwhile, Good Housekeeping, in a blog titled “12 Trending Paint Colors for 2024, According to Design Experts,” wrote, “When choosing a hue, it’s important to consider the lighting, the color of your existing furniture, and the mood you’re trying to set. Lighter hues, like creamy white, silvery gray, and muted pastels, help create the illusion of a larger, brighter interior. Meanwhile, darker shades, like deep purple, warm red, and moody blue, make a bold design statement and create a cozy and intimate atmosphere.”

Among Good Housekeeping’s top 12 colors were Medium Blue, Rich Brown, Earthy Green, Warm Red, and Dusty Pink. (See the full list here.)

Finally, Better Homes & Gardens published a post headlined “Every 2024 Color of the Year We Know So Far,” highlighting the fact that “Soothing earth tones, deep moody hues, and various shades of blue are among the most popular colors this year.” Its favorites included Satin French Blue, Peach Fuzz, Blue Nova, Thermal, and Skipping Stones. It also joined HGTV in highlighting Persimmon as a hot color choice.

In the end, paint-color selections might also be influenced by geography (coastal areas vs. mountains, for instance), neighborhood patterns, target-buyer preferences, and many other factors. 

The NAR blog concluded with a good reminder not only for paint colors but for other aspects of preparing a home to sell: “The latest trends may call for attention-getting colors, but . . . ‘a trend today is not necessarily the trend that buyers are yet ready to embrace. They need to have certain exposure to a new trend before they fall in love with the new trend. While these trends are great for interior design, they need to be used in a more moderate way when selling a property.’”

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

Nashville’s “Media Darling” Loves Eastern Middle Tennessee

Note: On occasion, we will feature noteworthy people in our EMTAR blog whom you might know from the media, entertainment, or business, especially those with strong ties to our community.

If you’ve been around the Nashville area a while, chances are you’ve heard the voice or seen the face of TV and radio personality Joe “Big Joe on the Go” Dubin, who has humorously dubbed himself “Nashville’s media darling” over several decades of a wide-ranging local career.  

Big Joe is homegrown (he played football at McGavock High before attending Samford and MTSU), and he has logged countless hours reporting on News 2, covering high school sports, appearing on Fox 17’s weekly football show, co-hosting a daily sport-radio show (currently 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on 102.5/106.3 FM The Game), and even interviewing celebrities on the red carpet of big events such as the CMA Awards.

He’s also a fan of our community, having spent lots of time here. In a recent interview, he shared how much he admires Eastern Middle Tennessee and the job our EMTAR members do as REALTORS®. He noted that “the overwhelming sense of community and care is amazing,” from the “fantastic” town square in Lebanon, to the vibrant commerce in Mt. Juliet, to the school spirit and educational excellence throughout Wilson, Smith, and Dekalb counties.

‘People Care’

“Overall, [Eastern Middle Tennessee] reminds me of how I grew up in the ’80s,” he says. “The community support for all the high schools is amazing. Games are packed, and the turnout shows the support for all the sports and any kind of activity with the schools. Basically, people care. They care about you. They care about the neighborhoods. And it’s clean. I love Lebanon and the cool shops there. Wilson is the sixth-largest county land-wise, but it just feels right.” 

The area’s appeal extends to our many natural wonders, he says. “It’s nicely settled between two lakes, so there are plenty of recreational activities: golf, trails, greenways. I also love how it seems far away from the big city, but it’s really not.”

Among many favorite spots to visit, he says “Jonathan’s Grille has been amazing for food and fellowship. I’ve celebrated a lot of good things there.”

Big Joe shares much in common with REALTORS® in that he knows how to hustle, work hard, overcome and learn from mistakes, and make things happen.

“You know the saying, ‘I failed a thousand times, but on a thousand and one I succeeded’?” he said as a guest on a recent episode of Danielle Dyer’s (Dani D. Fitness) Love Your Body podcast. “You hear that, and you’re like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ But no, it’s real.”

For example, “I wanted to be a sports anchor, and I made a resume tape and sent it to about 60 places. I got back zero responses. I’m like, What am I doing here? And I came across the Einstein quote, which I had never heard before: ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’ So I redid my resume tape, made it fun . . . sent out 10 copies, and got six job offers. It was crazy. And that’s how I got to News 2 and the whole ‘Big Joe on the Go’ thing happened. That led to 15 years at News 2.”

Have Fun and Be a Go-Getter

Along the way, Big Joe learned a valuable lesson about being himself and not taking himself too seriously. “I’ve got like seven part-time jobs. I believe in having fun and being a go-getter.”

In addition to his work in high school football, Big Joe has a newer, key role on the collegiate level. He is the football color analyst for the MTSU Sports Network, which can be heard locally on 93.3 Classic Hits. (He’s a 1997 Blue Raider graduate, so the fit is a natural one.)

Big Joe also loves to mentor and help people. He holds a deep faith in God and a strong sense of the importance of family and friendship.

He’s a frequent blogger, mixing inspiration with humor, and has written three bestselling books, including his latest, Lord, Please Don’t Hit That Mailbox.

To learn more about Joe, you can visit these links:

*Daily sports radio show
*Joe’s website and blog
*Joe’s (often hilarious) Instagram feed
*Joe’s (also funny) Facebook page
*Amazon link to Joe’s books

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

Tornado Preparation for Your Home or Business

As Middle Tennesseans know all too well, there is no 100 percent, guaranteed way to avoid tornado damage, whether it’s to a home, a business, a church, or any other structure that falls in the path of a storm cell that turns ferocious.

But as the spring-weather season approaches, it’s wise to take steps to make dwellings and their inhabitants as safe as possible when the winds turn deadly.

According to at least one source, we have reason to be increasingly concerned. The Emergency Assistance Foundation (EAF) noted that areas including our own have become more prevalent targets for strong storms.

“Tornadoes occur in many areas of the world, but in the United States, they are particularly common in what has become known as Tornado Alley,” the EAF writes in this post. “This area is loosely defined, but generally includes areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.

“However, some research suggests that Tornado Alley is shifting east and south due to changing weather patterns. This new area with increased frequency and severity of tornadoes includes Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee and has become known to some as Dixie Alley.”

As residents of Dixie Alley, what can we do to improve our preparation in the face of potential tornadic weather events?

Making Homes More Resilient

From a bigger-picture perspective, in recent years many developers and builders have been challenged to improve the quality and strength of construction, and significant strides have been made. For example, numerous sources within the homebuilding industry share insights, courses, and checklists aimed at creating stronger, more resilient houses—and they are targeting more of this guidance toward the South, including Tennessee.

For example, a website called Tornado Talk, whose “writers and researchers dive deep into the details about each tornado event describing what happened through damage analysis and storytelling,” published an article titled, “Construction Tips for Creating a Tornado-Proof Home.” (Keep in mind what we noted at the top of this blog: that there is no fully perfect solution.) The story focused on several methods of shelter creation, including the importance of insulated concrete forms (ICF), as well as the ins and outs of tornado-safe rooms.

According to some news outlets, efforts such as those remain a work in progress with much room left for improvement.

Last month, in a special report about tornado preparation in and around Nashville, the Tennessean wrote, “Middle Tennessee tornadoes in recent years have exposed problems in old and newer homes, where houses are not properly attached to the foundations. The poor construction could lead to deadly outcomes.” The same story reported, “After the Clarksville tornado [December 9, 2023], the National Weather Service reported that some homes couldn’t handle the strength of the winds in part because of how they were attached to the foundations.”

Personal Protection Tips

While homes can and should continue to be made stronger to endure higher winds and fiercer storm surges, there are also steps residents can take to improve their home’s resilience and bolster the chances of surviving a tornado.

Among many resources, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) operates a website called Tornado Strong, which is devoted to helping those who live in tornado-prone areas to be as prepared as possible. The tools, tips, and guidance it offers include:

Buyer’s Guide to Resilient Homes
The home-selection process, how to maintain your home for maximum safety, a basic resilience checklist, recommend retrofits, and more.

Homeowner’s Guide to Insurance (PDF file)
If disaster strikes, will you be covered? Sources and types of insurance, how to reduce potential damages, premiums, how to file a disaster claim, and more.

Inspect to Protect
How strong is my building code (search by zip code); renovations, retrofits, and upgrades to make your home safer and stronger; your community’s disaster history; and more . . .

. . . and FEMA’s Ready Business (for nonresidential structures)
“The goal of the FEMA Ready Business Program is to assist businesses in developing a preparedness program by providing tools to create a business continuity and preparedness and mitigation plan that addresses the impact of many hazards.”

In addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides a list of tornado-preparation tips, as well as links to many other storm-prep sources, on its website here.

And the My Home website run by FeddieMac offers helpful ideas in a post titled “How to Prepare Your Home for a Tornado,” available at this link.

Of course, these are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tools and resources for homeowners, buyers, sellers, and business owners to explore as tornadoes become a more pervasive threat to our communities.

As in all other matters related to real estate, perhaps the best tool is awareness. Learning more about what to expect from storms, how to prepare a home to be as resilient as possible, and staying up-to-speed on the many resources available to help will all go a long way toward providing safety, security, and peace of mind.

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

THDA: Valuable Housing Services for Tennesseans

**NOTE: The THDA’s 2024 Tennessee Housing Conference is coming up February 29–March 1 at the Music City Center in Nashville. To learn more and register, visit HERE.

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency just completed its 50th year of service to the Volunteer State. The agency was created by the General Assembly in 1973 as the state’s housing finance agency.

Its purpose is to promote the addition of affordable housing, the preservation and rehab of existing affordable housing, and the stability of the residential construction industry (and related industries) to assure a steady flow of new housing units.

As you might be aware, THDA offers loan products through private-sector lending partners that help Tennesseans achieve the goal of homeownership. All THDA loans have 30-year, fixed-rate terms and offer down payment assistance as an optional second loan. The agency also provides servicing for these loans through Volunteer Mortgage Loan Servicing. (Proceeds directly support the operations of THDA and are reinvested in our state through THDA’s programs and grant initiatives.)

As the state’s housing finance agency, THDA also serves Tennesseans in many other ways. They include:

  • providing grants to preserve and create homes
  • offering rental assistance on several different levels
  • assisting in the creation and maintenance of rental housing
  • providing educational opportunities
  • and helping other state agencies with housing missions to solve problems and save taxpayers’ money.

Here is a menu of the programs THDA offers in a broad range of categories. Please keep these in mind as any buyers, sellers, or other folks in your network and area of service are looking for such valuable opportunities. Click on any of the titles below to learn more.

For Homebuyers:

For Homeowners:

For Renters/Section 8:

For Rental Housing Partners:

For Homeownership Partners:

For Local Government & Nonprofit Partners:

THDA also has a Research and Planning department that compiles a report of impacts and investments across the state from year to year. In addition, the agency provides interactive maps, housing indicators at a glance, housing market trends, issue briefs, and other helpful resources. Learn more about all of those HERE.

You can find answers to Frequently Asked Questions about THDA HERE, and read inspiring stories from those who have benefited from THDA services HERE.

EMTAR appreciates the half-century (and beyond) of important services provided by our friends at the Tennessee Housing Development Agency!

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

Nashville’s Transit Referendum: A Turning Point for Housing and Mobility

Note: To shine light on a topic of interest “next door” to us in the city, we are sharing the following blog by permission of our friends at Greater Nashville REALTORS®. The post, from 2024 Greater Nashville president Kevin Wilson, was published on the Association’s website and in the Real Estate section of The Tennessean. We hope you enjoy this important perspective.

Also, a virtual event is planned to discuss the subject in more depth: Greater Nashville REALTORS®: Nashonomics Now: Thursday, February 29—The Next Steps and Future of Mass Transit in Middle Tennessee. Learn more here.

As Nashville residents look to the future, the possibility of a transit referendum is generating excitement and hope. While the prospect of improved transit systems brings promises of better mobility and economic growth, it also holds the potential to shape the city’s housing landscape significantly.

Nashville has struggled with transit-related challenges for years. To address these issues and secure funding for essential transit projects, Nashville must bring forth a well-defined transit plan and take it to voters through a referendum.

The transit referendum is more than just a vote on transportation; it’s a pivotal moment that can redefine the city’s housing availability, affordability, and accessibility. Here’s how:

Economic Growth and Opportunity: Transit investments have the power to stimulate economic growth by creating jobs in construction, maintenance, and operation. This fosters economic mobility without the burden of owning a personal vehicle, making homeownership more attainable.

Health and Wellness: A robust public transit system can improve public health by reducing air pollution. Accessible public transit encourages physical activity, leading to healthier lifestyles.

Equity and Social Inclusion: Transit services bridge the gap for marginalized communities by offering affordable transportation options and connecting everyone to essential services, education, and job opportunities.

Environmental Sustainability: Transit-oriented development can play a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions, mitigating the impact of climate change.

Community Resilience and Connectivity: Reliable and efficient transit systems create stronger, more connected communities. It strengthens community ties, providing better access to cultural and recreational activities, ultimately promoting a sense of belonging.

Quality of Life Improvements: A well-planned transit system can reduce traffic congestion, leading to less time spent commuting and increased productivity for residents.

Long-Term Cost Savings: Investments in transit infrastructure can lead to long-term cost savings by reducing road maintenance expenses, traffic congestion-related costs, and healthcare expenditures due to improved air quality and fewer accidents.

Strategic Regional Development:  Transit-oriented development attracts businesses and investment, promoting smart growth strategies that foster vibrant, economically resilient communities.

Mayor [Freddie] O’Connell’s administration’s decision regarding the transit referendum will have far-reaching implications for Nashville’s housing market and overall quality of life. It presents an opportunity to create a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous city where homeownership is within reach for all.

Kevin Wilson is President of Greater Nashville REALTORS®. A REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) who subscribes to its strict code of ethics.

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

Advocacy Group Calls for Cap on Tennessee Property Taxes

A recent editorial column caught our eye in the Sunday, January 21, 2024, edition of The Tennessean, addressing a topic that is relevant to the real estate industry, our EMTAR members, and property owners throughout the Volunteer State.

Titled “Recent property tax increases show why Tennessee needs a cap,” the article was written by Dr. Arthur Laffer, an economic researcher and former economic advisor to President Ronald Reagan; Joe Scarlett, retired Chairman of Tractor Supply Co. and vice chairman of the Beacon Center; and Justin Owens, president and CEO of the Beacon Center.

The Beacon Center is a Middle Tennessee-based nonprofit whose stated purpose is to “empower Tennesseans to reclaim and protect their freedoms, so that they can freely pursue their version of the American dream.”

Among other issues the center champions is fair taxation. Here is the message shared on its Housing and Property Rights section:

The cost to own or rent a home has skyrocketed in recent years. While Nashville gets frequent headlines about its growth, this is a growing trend across most of the state . . .  In fact, Tennessee has the fourth-highest growth in home prices in the nation. Beacon will work to reduce the cost of both homeownership and renting through a “Cost of Housing Reduction Package.” Among our proposals, we are:

  • Calling for a statewide limit on large property tax increases like that in 46 other states, which will benefit both homeowners and renters alike.
  • Launching an interactive zoning map allowing Tennesseans to see how zoning regulations impact the cost of their home.
  • Reducing government red tape that stifles housing supply, including a Permit Freedom Act to expedite local permitting.
  • Reforming the state’s home improvement contractor license to make it easier for homeowners to make more affordable improvements to their homes.
  • Prohibiting so-called “pending ordinance doctrines” by local governments that allow local laws to take effect before they pass and often drive up housing prices before they are even passed by the local legislative body.

As for the Tennessean article, the three authors asserted, “Limiting the growth in property taxes will benefit every single Tennessee family. And with prices of many goods and services at an all-time high, this relief couldn’t come a moment too soon.”

The case they made also included:

  • “Property tax bills, tax rates, and assessed property values have been on a tear here in Tennessee. People who have lived in their homes throughout their careers are seeing eye-popping property tax hikes that are putting a strain on their pocketbooks.
  • “Rental properties have been forced to increase rents because of higher property taxes.  And the costs of owning and buying a home have risen a lot in part due to property tax hikes. 
  • “In recent years, cities and counties across Tennessee have raised property taxes by double-digit percentage points. 
  • “When property taxes go up, everyone, without exception, suffers.  This is especially true for low- and middle-income families. 
  • “Without any homeowner protection, local governments in our state can raise taxes with reckless abandon and little accountability to taxpayers. Tennessee is one of only five states that does not place a cap on property tax hikes, according to the Tax Foundation.  
  • “In 45 other states, local governments have learned to live within their means and pay for essential services without going back to taxpayers for more money year after year.  
  • “It may come as no surprise that placing a cap on property tax hikes is extremely popular among voters.  A recent Beacon Poll found that 74% of voters support some type of state intervention on property taxes.  
  • “On Jan. 9, state legislators returned to Nashville to conduct the people’s business and voters expect them to make property tax relief a top priority.” 

This is a topic that bears much watching, advocacy, and thoughtful conversation, especially as the Tennessee General Assembly is in session and we have opportunities to let our legislators know that we, as REALTORS®, champion fairness when it comes to housing-related taxation, including property taxes.

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

A Roundup of 2024 Housing Market Forecasts

Happy New Year, EMTAR members! Ready or not, 2024 is here, and real estate experts, economists, gurus, news outlets, websites, and other prognosticators** have released their views on how the year will play out in home sales, demand, prices, mortgage rates, and more. Here are summaries of some of those forecasts with links to learn more if you and/or your clients are interested. Have a great 2024!

 “Tennessee housing market 2024 forecast: Where prices will fall and what homebuyers should know”
The Tennessean/USA Today Network

“Predictions for the real estate market in 2024 show a general decrease in prices and sales across the nation . . .” Read more >>>

“NAR Forecasts 4.71 Million Existing-Home Sales, Improved Outlook for Home Buyers in 2024”
National Association of REALTORS®

“NAR predicts 4.71 million existing-home sales in 2024, up 13.5% from 4.1 million anticipated in 2023. Annual median home prices are expected to remain largely unchanged at the national level in 2024, for the second straight year, modestly improving affordability from rising income. Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Nashville, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. join five other metropolitan areas among NAR’s top 10 housing markets with the most pent-up housing demand in 2024 . . .” Read more >>>

“2024 Housing Market Forecast and Predictions: Housing Affordability Finally Begins to Turn around”

“As we look ahead to 2024, we see a mix of continuity and change in both the housing market and economy. Against a backdrop of modest economic growth, slightly higher unemployment, and easing inflation longer term interest rates including mortgage rates begin a slow retreat. The shift from climbing to falling mortgage rates improves housing affordability, but saps some of the urgency home shoppers had previously sensed. Less frenzied housing demand and plenty of rental home options keep home sales relatively stable at low levels in 2024, helping home prices to adjust slightly lower even as the number of for-sale homes continues to dwindle . . .” Read more >>>

“Housing market predictions: Six experts weigh in on the real estate outlook for 2024”
USA Today

“No other phrase has defined the 2023 housing market as much as the ‘mortgage rate lock-in effect’— a phenomenon that brought the industry to a standstill, putting downward pressure on everything from inventory levels to home sales. The pandemic-era sub-5% mortgage interest rates that 85% of mortgage holders are locked in to kept homeowners from selling their home and buying another at elevated interest rates, which peaked at 7.79% the week ending Oct. 26, according to Freddie Mac. But will things change this year? . . .” Read more >>>

“Is 2024 a good year to buy a home?”

The year 2023 was “the least affordable housing market in a generation. Sales of existing homes dipped below 4 million units, reaching levels last seen in 2010. But still, even with fewer buyers, home prices kept climbing because there weren’t enough homes on the market and competition pushed prices higher. Will this picture improve in 2024? What should homebuyers expect next year? . . .” Read more >>>

“Logan Mohgashami’s 2024 housing market and rate forecast”

“The 2023 housing market faced one of the same roadblocks we saw in 2022: mortgage rates were too high for home sales growth. Now that we’re in 2024, the Federal Reserve‘s rate hike cycle is over, so let’s look at what that means for housing demand and home prices. However, a yearly forecast has limitations and in this crazy housing and economic cycle, if people give you a yearly forecast without guidance as variables change, you’ll be dealing with stale data. Every Saturday I publish a weekly housing market tracker with forward-looking data and insights so you can adjust quickly to market conditions. . . .” Read more >>>

“Housing Market Predictions for 2024: When Will Home Prices Be Affordable Again?”

“. . . despite this easing [of mortgage rates], a perfect storm of still-high mortgage rates and home prices amid historically low housing stock continues to put homeownership out of reach for many—most notably first-time buyers—who remain more pessimistic than ever about being able to afford a home as we close in on 2024 . . .” Read more >>>

“Housing market predictions for 2024”

“Low levels of inventory mean that sellers continue to have the upper hand in the housing market. . . . Mortgage rates have come down from their peak but are still high, and steep home prixes are dissuading would-be buyers. . . . If rates were to drop further in 2024, that would spur the market for both buyers and sellers. . .” Read more >>>

**For links to more 2024 predictions, visit this search page on Google.

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.