Introduction to Our Mountains

I offer real estate consulting services and buyer representation to people who want to invest in a cabins, land, or waterfront property in the Blue Ridge area, which includes Fannin, Gilmer, and Union counties in Georgia, along with the adjacent parts of Tennessee and North Carolina. The information below provides a brief sketch of the various locations.

Fannin vs. Gilmer vs. Union

Fannin County (Blue Ridge) has become the preferred destination for second home buyers in our area. Because of the river, the lake, and the Aska Adventure Area, it probably has the best mix of outdoor recreational opportunities in our area. The average cabin buyer is between the ages of 35 and 55. Taken as a whole, Fannin probably has the best architectural conformity of the three counties, and the highest average property values. Fightingtown Creek is renowned for trout, and many people consider the Toccoa River tailrace the best trout stream in Georgia. The southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Springer Mountain, is in Fannin County. Blue Ridge also has a flourishing downtown, with antique shops, restaurants, and specialty stores. The Blue Ridge Arts Association is particularly strong; it is the largest community organization in the county, and it has set itself a goal of making Blue Ridge one of the Top 100 Art Communities in the country. The prevalent style is the log cabin with a tongue and groove interior.

Gilmer County (Ellijay) has the advantage of being fifteen or twenty minutes closer to Atlanta, and boasts more large gated communities than Fannin County. Gilmer has three rivers, and river property in Gilmer is typically priced somewhat lower than in the same type of river property in Fannin. In general, comparable cabin property in Gilmer is a bit cheaper than in Fannin. Gilmer includes parts of the Rich Mountain and Cohutta Wilderness areas. Many local real estate agents consider the downside of Gilmer County to be its numerous chicken farms (they smell bad) and dubious conformity in some Gilmer developments. The prevalent style is a mix of both cabin properties and traditional homes.

Union County (Blairsville) is twenty minutes further from Atlanta than Fannin County, placing it beyond what many second home buyers consider the limit for a weekend resort. Perhaps for this reason, Union is more of a retirement community. One major advantage to Union is that property on Lake Nottely is currently very reasonable compared to property on Lake Blue Ridge. Blairsville is definitely more progressive than Fannin County. While Blairsville’s downtown can’t compare to Blue Ridge’s, Blairsville does have a Home Depot and a WalMart. Some consider Blairsville is a bit “sleepy” compared to Blue Ridge, reflecting the fact that it is more of a classic retirement community. The prevalent style is a mix of traditional and cabin features that is appealing to many retirees.

In looking at our listings, bear in mind that our MLS classifies properties on the basis of which post office serves the address. So when a listing says “Morganton,” for instance, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in Morganton. It might be twenty miles from town, so long as the Morganton post office serves it.

Tennessee and North Carolina

The portion of Tennessee that borders Fannin County is a growing area for second home buyers. While it is at least twenty or thirty minutes further from Atlanta, cabin and land prices in Tennessee are currently a bargain compared to comparable property in Fannin. The town of Copperhill has undergone a renaissance in the past few years, and it is now home to some interesting shops, along with several restaurants. There are also some charmingly renovated homes in the town of Copperhill. At this time, Tennessee still has no state income tax, and it may be a good choice for retirees who have no need to commute to and from Atlanta. Aside from the greater distance from Atlanta, the major downside of this part of Tennessee is that to reach most properties in this area, it is necessary to pass by the old copper plant, a major eyesore. Some concerns remain about the operations at the chemical plant, and buyers need to educate themselves to this issue. Additionally, much of the land in this area is sold without the mineral rights. It is fair to say that distressed property is more of a concern in this area than in others. Cleanup efforts have allowed the Ocoee River north of the plant, which previously did not support aquatic life, to begin to make a real recovery. Rafting tours through the Ocoee Gorge – the site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events – are a very popular activity.

The portion of North Carolina that borders Fannin County is a viable option for buyers who do not mind being further from Atlanta. In general, resort property in North Carolina is higher than comparable property in Georgia, but there are exceptions to this rule in our area. Average annual rainfall is higher in eastern North Carolina than in our area. Appalachia Lake is a designated wilderness lake, and is not drawn down for flood control during the winter. This area may be a good choice for artists and others who want to be close to the John C. Campbell Folk School and/or the Asheville market.