How useful are all those so-called data-driven housing reports? 

Rick Chantry 

Two of the most recent national stories that gave the Northeast Tennessee housing market another 15 minutes of fame were: 

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  •’s market hotness rankings. The Kingsport-Bristol and Johnson City metro areas were ranked 12th and 13th in the U.S. Here’s what that means. tracks how many clicks each property listing gets. That’s a supply index. They also track the average number of days a listing is on the market. That’s a demand index. They track the median property listing price. They combine that data and give each metro area a hotness ranking. Then they track the rankings monthly for a market hotness report. That’s a 1,000-foot snapshot – not a detailed explanation of the analysis methodology.  
  • Next came the Migration Nation Report. The firm’s researchers mined the site’s user data to gauge interest in listings by geography, then aggregated the number to see which states and metro areas were popular with renters. The Tri-Cities ranked second in the U.S. 

Both reports are helpful to the extent of what they show. Neither analysis was about how many people were moving here or how much they were paying for homes or rent. They were simply about how many people looked at property listings or web surfing for rental information.  

There is an almost daily parade of these time items on the web and in the mass media. Who’s the hottest, where’s the best – or worst – places – can go on and on. They are media staples that can provide insights into any number of interests or pollute the knowledge well. Careful information consumers and critical thinkers know the difference and use good information. Others give an infographic a quick glance and assume they are empowered.

Combine’s hotness report with its suite of blogs and research reports, and you’re on the way to keeping your fingers on the market’s pulse. Good renter information is a heavier lift. Since so much is based on the reporting firm’s listings, the worth of the analysis depends on who has the most listings.  

There’s little question that the attention Northeast Tennessee has received boosted the region’s status. Four years ago, the most recognizable thing someone living 100 miles from the Tri-Cities might know was Bristol Motor Speedway. Most people had never heard of Kingsport, Johnson City, or the Tri-Cities. In fact, there are several Tri-Cities in the U.S. Do a Google basic search, and the Washington State Tri-Cities comes up first more often than not. This name recognition is one of the core issues behind the sometimes on-again or off-again local regionalism effort. It’s one of the first hurdles to better marketing. 

Things like the U-Haul study showing the Tri-Cities led the nation in one-way trailer rentals,’s suite of research products, the Wall Street Journal’s Emerging Market Index, and others continue to feed the number of folks who want to move here. That’s important because the Tri-Cities’ population would be declining without them. The latest Census estimates show that as of July last year, the region had a net population growth of almost 2,800 people from the previous year. That’s after the number of births and deaths, those who left the area were factored into the equation. Over 80 percent of that growth was in Washington and Sullivan counties. And most of the growth was in Johnson City and Kingsport. But that’s another story. 

The comprehensive and most current ongoing local housing market story comes from the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors (NETAR). It’s based on data that consumers and real estate professionals use to track home sales, prices, and all the other market items. 

In a nutshell, here’s where we stand as of the end of August. 

  • Buyers are getting some additional bargaining power, and sellers are beginning to do more bargaining before accepting a contract. But it’s still a sellers’ market and not likely to change for a while.  
  • Despite higher mortgage rates, prices have not declined. The typical sales price has been flat since May. The eight-month price trend is 18 percent higher than it was this time last year. With four months to go, prices are on the path to another annual double-digit price increase.  
  • Listing prices have increased every month this year and were at an all-time high at the end of August.  
  • Sales are beginning to look a little more like typical seasonal patterns, and inventory is making some slow gains. Still, things are a long way from returning to balanced market conditions. 

The best way to keep up with the local market is with NETAR’s monthly reports and the weekly Market Pulse snapshots. Most real estate professionals use and combine their marketing know-how to find the best options for their clients.  

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,800+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at