The Poplar Propcast is back with an exciting market update, and this time Justin invited the guys from Rebuilt, an established real estate company that focuses on off-market deals, to dish the insider scoop. On the episode, Justin is joined by Chief Acquisition Officer Brandon Devlin, and Chief Growth Officer Scott Pennebaker, who provide valuable insights into the Nashville real estate market.
Brandon and Scott have extensive knowledge of Nashville real estate, with Brandon having lived there himself and their company, Rebuilt, having a considerable market presence. The team, being well-versed in the local market trends and conditions, dives into the history of Nashville, its economy, real estate, and politics. Scott also shares with us the reason why they decided to move Rebuilt, originally founded in Lexington, to Nashville.
All the information here came from their discussion about Nashville on Season 2, Episode 4 of the Poplar Propcast, available on Google Podcast. So have a listen or keep reading for more on Nashville.
A background on Nashville
How Nashville developed into what it is today
When you look at Nashville today, one of the first things that comes to mind is its reputation for many genres of music and being a culinary treasure known for fiery fried chicken and fluffy biscuits. It wasn’t always brimming with energy and enthusiasm as Nashville was one of the first places immediately captured by the Union and one of the first places to fall during the Civil War. And so, in thinking about the history and origination of Nashville, Justin asked Brandon how Nashville developed into a place known for publishing, music, hot chicken, and food despite its hurdled past.
“The modern era of Nashville definitely began after the Civil War,” said Brandon. “It was under Union occupation, and then after the war ended, it was depressed and was under federal occupation along with other areas that kind of held it back from recovering for a while. But once it began to blossom, publishing and railroads were a big part of their economy.”
“Also, universities—Nashville is known as the Athens of the South, and they have the Parthenon, which is a recreation of the Parthenon over in Greece. So it’s always been known as an educated part of the state,” Brandon continued. “It’s the state capital of Tennessee, and it’s been known for education, you know, for publishing for insurance as well.”
How Nashville became known for music
Nashville’s reputation as a hub of music, particularly country music, is well established. But how did it come to be known for its musical heritage? Justin and Brandon explored the roots of this reputation.
“Nashville just so happened to have one of the largest radios and satellites in the country (at that time),” said Brandon. “And it just so happened that Nashville had the satellite capabilities to broadcast and sell insurance. The radio was becoming popular throughout the deep south and across the country. So they’d tune in and listen.”
“Along with that, there’s a bevy of musical talents like the Carter family and Jimmy Rogers. You had all these amazing musicians all just so happened to be in the mid and deep south in an area that had the most powerful satellite that broadcast all across the country combined with publishing,” Brandon added. “Eventually, people figured out we could record this stuff because you also had vinyl records that were beginning to become a thing. And so, music publishing and licensing became huge, and that was the dawn of country music.”
How Nashville’s economy runs
Justin was impressed by the close relationship between Nashville’s economy and live music. He said, “When we’re talking about Nashville, and we’re talking about how its economy runs, it’s a lot of music. It’s really cool. I’ve been to Nashville a couple of times and just walked down the street and bumped into any bar, and it always has live music, which blows me away.”
As Nashville’s reputation has grown, big corporations have started to take notice of its potential. Justin and Brandon discussed the recent influx of fast-food chains and restaurants in the city.
“When we look at what Nashville has now and what’s coming for it, I know of one, which is a Southern California delicacy, which is soon to be headquartered out in Nashville, and that’s In-N-Out (Burgers) is coming your way now, which is exciting,” said Justin.
However, food and music are not the only drivers of Nashville’s economy, according to Brandon. “Nashville in 2023 is a very eclectic city. Music obviously is part of the DNA of Nashville, and that’s what it’s known for, tourism and live music. The talent agencies, the managers, the producers—every major record label in the world has a presence in Nashville. But along with that, a big part of Nashville’s economy over the past 40 years has actually been healthcare.”
“Health insurance, healthcare technology, and SaaS companies—they have a major presence in the city. And Nashville is a healthcare hub in the south,” Brandon added.
How Nashville attracts businesses
Nashville has been the headquarters for Nissan and Bridgestone. Now, it’s also become a national hub for Oracle and Amazon.
When asked what could be the driving force behind these companies deciding to invest in Nashville, Brandon replied, “I think there’s a couple of common sense reasons. One is it’s an extraordinarily business-friendly state. Anything from the state legislature to grants to the fact that there’s no state income tax. It attracts a lot of companies that see that. And if you juxtapose that with California, I think we can agree that it’s a harder business environment,”
Brandon added, “It’s also a right-to-work state; I think that’s more appealing to businesses, obviously. And then, geographically speaking, you can get to Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Dallas. There’s a bunch of cities, and I think that is one of the reasons that it’s become a bachelorette hub as well,”
According to Brandon, Nashville is growing not only because it’s a business-friendly city but also because it’s very welcoming. He said, “Nashville is one of the most friendly cities you’ll ever visit.”
Taxes in Nashville
After learning that part of the reason why Nashville is growing is because of the non-existent state income tax, Justin poses a question, “If the income tax is nonexistent, then what’s its tax basis? Does it heavy down on property taxes? Where does it get its money around the state, then?”
Brandon was quick to respond, “tourists.” He further explained, “tourists that come here have a really high sales tax which is around 9%. They tax booze; they have high hotel and airport taxes and stuff like that. It’s primarily off tourism and their sales tax.”
Justin and the founders at Rebuilt discuss the regulatory bodies in Nashville and how they impact the city. Justin began by voicing out his own observations saying, “the regulatory body there (in Tennessee) is kind of weird. And you often see disagreement between the city of Nashville and the state of Nashville (Tennessee). I think the last election was 65% democratic votes, but the legislature still is majority Republican. Looking a little bit longer term, in the 10 to 20-year horizon, if there is a change in the makeup of the regulatory body in the state, will that have profound fallout consequences? Or do they know what Nashville and Tennessee are?
Brandon says Nashville does a good job of walking the political line. He then compared Nashville to other states by sharing his observations “As you see in Florida with Governor DeSantis, he’s going after Disney and critical race theory and stuff, and that does happen in Tennessee to a degree, but compared to Texas and Florida and these other places, I don’t think it’s as prevalent.”
He attributed that to his observations that people in Nashville get along and just want to have a good time, listen to country music, drink some Jack Daniels, and enjoy the smoky mountains and the Mississippi River.
Nashville and real estate
With the focus of real estate on the Propcast, Justin steered the discussion into the housing market by asking a series of questions about the real estate market and its potential growth.
Home prices in Nashville
“if you’re looking at properties in Nashville, what’s the general market been like when the market started recovering post 2006 -2008 until now? What’s the Nashville single-family housing market and apartment markets look like?” asks Justin.
“During all that great recession stuff, Nashville saw healthy home value appreciation from the early nineties onward, but they didn’t really see a massive boom at all from that ramp-up of 2005 to 2008. Homes here were very, very affordable,” says Brandon.
He also recalled that livable homes in the city of Nashville were selling for only $60,000 to $100,000 in 2013.
Brandon also shared what he thinks about home prices in Nashville compared to the big cities; “Compared to the property values in New York or in Boston or DC or even on the West Coast, I’m like ‘dude, I can get like a killer house here for $350,000.’ Like, I’m talking, a 2200 square foot newly constructed home on half an acre in a cool area with great bars and restaurants right up the street for 350 (thousand). Like that, that’s a slam dunk,”
Nashville’s growth potential
Apart from the affordable housing, Brandon also highlighted the growing population of Nashville. “Along with that, the demographics, you’re seeing population growth, which is really healthy. Two years ago, Nashville surpassed Memphis as the largest city in the state,” says Brandon.
“It is growing; it’s booming. You’re seeing all the demographic shifts that are going on, and it was undervalued. I mean, you had this period of time where there was a market inefficiency, you can buy a home for $90,000 in 2013 and 2014, and you could get $1,200 of rent immediately for it,” he continued.
Nashville market post-pandemic
Justin recalls how the pandemic started normalizing work-from-home setups and asked if it helped push the real estate market up.
Brandon responded, “Of course. It wasn’t as frothy as Boise or Austin or Miami, or Atlanta, but it was absolutely top 10 for market appreciation.” However, Brandon thinks that most of the appreciation was because home prices in Nashville were undervalued pre-pandemic.
The future of Nashville
Looking back to history, Justin explains, “One of the things that we’ve seen happen historically is that there are these parts of countries that are massively underpriced. And because they’re underpriced, it gives an opportunity for people that aren’t making much money to move there. And that often tends to be artists, artistic types, and students, which leads to this development of culture. It’s something that happened in New York, San Francisco, and LA.”
“…and then those places become more and more commercial, more and more expensive, and they end up extinguishing the origin of the culture,” he continued, “So is that something that could happen to Nashville? Do you, do you think that that’s a danger?”
Brandon agrees and claims it’s happening nonstop. He recalls there was a time after the 1998 tornado when cool people started purchasing the Victorian and Craftsman-style homes left by the urban pioneers who lived in East Nashville, which was then a wealthy enclave. These people then started fixing up the homes and turning them into cool bars, restaurants, tattoo parlors, and other businesses that created culture.
Soon after, as more and more people started moving over, prices and rents went up, and it pushed a lot of those people out. Some went to other areas of the city, while others moved out of the county.
Brandon explains that it’s the same with a musician trying to make a living by playing gigs around the city; you won’t be able to survive living in the city with $100 a gig. And as the prices go up, that could prompt you to look for another place to live, and that could lose the cool factor that Nashville has.
Positive influences in Nashville
Justin pivoted the discussion to talk about the positive influences Nashville has that could make it a better place to buy properties and invest for the next 5-10 years.
Brandon simply responded by saying, “Nashville is a place that people want to be,” and that “there are people from all over the world who dream of moving to Nashville,” he elaborated, “Nashville is an iconic city if you want to be in music; people dream of moving here, and it’s got that cache. So that alone drives a lot of interest in living here.”
He also thinks part of why businesses would want to move to Nashville is its geographical location. “…That’s why I think a lot of these businesses that are on the west coast like Nashville is because they can get where they want to with relative ease.”
Brandon also shares why he likes Nashville from a rental property owner’s perspective, “As a landlord, I love Nashville because, you just have an incredibly, uh, strong and robust demand for rental from people that are in the service industry.” He claims that workers from the service industry can make a thousand bucks a night waiting tables, and so he makes it a basis for the rent.
With that, Brandon shares their strategy on what types of properties they invest in. “We don’t do luxury-type stuff or anything of the sort, but for the working class, you know, diet in the wool bread and butter rentals, you’ve got excellent demand.”
Why Rebuilt moved to Nashville
Rebuilt was initially founded in Lexington, Kentucky. But after several years, the founders decided it was best to move their business to Nashville. After discussing the time zones in Nashville and Kentucky, Scott explained what prompted the decision to move to Nashville.
“We moved Rebuilt to Nashville, although it was founded in Lexington, because we realized that to recruit the talent that we wanted and to really build what we’re trying to build, we would have to open it up to people all over the country. And no one really knows about Lexington, Kentucky, but everyone knows about Nashville, and it’s really proven to be a smart move to move our headquarters there and to be founded there.”
Scott also invited investors who are interested in learning how they can source off-market deals from Rebuilt to sign up for their VIP buyers list at www.rebuilt.com.
Nashville has a rich history that has led to its development as a hub for music, publishing, insurance, and healthcare. With a business-friendly environment and no state income tax, Nashville has attracted major companies such as Nissan, Bridgestone, Oracle, Amazon, and now, In-N-Out Burger. The city’s reputation as a center for music, live entertainment, and tourism has given it a strong local economy, making it a desirable location for investing in rental properties.