Michigan executive Scott Ferguson could stay in a hotel when he is in Nashville, but he had a better idea. Like growing numbers of business travelers, retirees and weekend visitors, Ferguson purchased a second home in the city.

"Based on the price point, it was a no brainer," said Ferguson, who calculates that his monthly mortgage payments at the Solo East condos in East Nashville will be about the same as the cost of three nights in a downtown hotel.

The owners of Bliss Home, a Knoxville-based furniture store, reached the same conclusion when they opened a store on Eighth Avenue in Nashville in 2014. The store recently underwent a major expansion.

Instead of accepting the cost and inconvenience of staying in hotels, Scott Schimmel and his wife, Lisa Sorensen, bought a condo in the Lofts at Werthan Mills in downtown's Germantown neighborhood.

"It gives us a place to stay when we're in Nashville, and it's a great investment," said Schimmel.

The condo is also used by friends and their employees when they are in the city.

"We try to have people stay in it as often as possible," said Schimmel.


A strong investment

Second-home ownership is a growing trend in Nashville, said Jessi Sgarlata, lead agent with The Southbound Group, who was Schimmel and Sorensen's Realtor.

"Second-home buying makes sense here in Nashville and we see it quite a bit. It's a two-fold investment. One, you're diversifying your portfolio by investing in a city that has proven its growth and sustainability over the years, and two, while you're building equity you are also saving on hotels if you're traveling for business or rental costs if you have a child moving here for college," said Sgarlata.

Second-home buyers are purchasing condos and townhouses in downtown Nashville and in suburban Franklin, said David McGowan, president of Regent Homes.

Business travelers have purchased two townhouses at Mason Rowhouses, a 10-residence development in the West End Park neighborhood between Centennial Park and Interstate 440. Prices range from $359,900 to $389,900.

People coming to Middle Tennessee on business are also purchasing condominiums developed by Regent in the Berry Farms master planned community along I-65 in Franklin, said McGowan.

At Franklin's Westhaven community, condominiums are being snapped up by retirees who spend part of the year in Middle Tennessee visiting their grandchildren, he said.

"They might have another home on the West or East Coast and commute according to the weather or the time of year," said McGowan.


Mixing business, pleasure

Regent is planning to begin construction of another 27 condos at Berry Farms in early 2016. There is already a waiting list of potential buyers, said Jeffrey Caruth, affiliate broker for the company.

"Nashville is an eight-hour drive from 75 percent of the U.S. population. We get business people (and) people who want to see the grandkids but don't want to stay at their house and would like a condo," he said.

Chad Wohlers, a Realtor for Parks, sold 15 condos in 2015 to people who were buying them as a second home. Many of them live in neighboring communities like Cookeville and visit the city on weekends.

"Instead of $500 a night in a hotel, they're buying condos," said Wohlers.

Bruce McNeilage, whose company is developing Solo Eastcondominiums, said second-home buyers are a significant force in the condo market. He is a partner in Harpeth Development, which includes Steven and Rachael Franks.

Prices for Solo East's 130 condos range from $149,900 to $235,000. Construction is expected to start soon.

"I see a lot of people who live in two cities and need a crash pad or a second home but don't want to stay in a hotel," McNeilage said.

Some, like Scott Ferguson, are from out of state, but others live in the Nashville area and visit the city on weekends.

"They want a second home near downtown. They may use it for a couple of years and then sell it. Others see it as their retreat," said McNeilage.

Owning a condo near downtown will be a convenient way to mix business and pleasure, said Ferguson.

"The ultimate plan is to plan meetings on Thursday and Fridays and spend the weekends there," he said.

Reach Bill Lewis at 615-262-5862 or wlewis77229@comcast.net.