One of the less positive issues that we try always to talk about with buyers is how streets and roads are maintained. In our community, this is generally done by one of the cities of Sevier County or if the location is outside of any of the cities’ jurisdiction, the county itself maintains the road. Of course, there are also roads that are maintained by the state of Tennessee or even interstate 40 that runs through the county and is federally maintained. That is usually the way it works and all three incorporated cities: Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg do a good job of maintaining their streets keeping potholes filled and renewing asphalt as necessary. The Sevier County Highway Department also does a pretty good job of maintaining thousands of miles of roads throughout our large county and the state/federal highways are wonderfully maintained.
The challenge comes when the road that serves a property is not covered by any government agency, but rather is privately maintained. Many streets in our Smoky Mountain area fall into this category. In fact, in many of the developments done in years past, the responsibility for maintaining the roads is left entirely to the neighborhood home owner’s association (HOA), or even to the homeowners that are served by the road. With many HOAs severely under-capitalized, road maintenance is no longer something that they can afford. If there is no HOA, the situation can be even worse as it is very difficult to get a group of owners to agree to fund road repairs. Sometimes, the roads can decay to the point that access itself is threatened and that obviously results in a serious decrease in property values.
There is, however, a way to quite easily determine which roads are privately maintained. That simple answer is to look at the name of the street itself – If the road name ends in “Way”, that is generally (but not absolutely always) an indication that the road is privately maintained. If the road name ends in Way, look closely at the homes around the property that you are considering. It’s also probably a good idea to review the financial condition of the HOA or if there is no HOA, look VERY closely at the way the road was built. If there isn’t a HOA, you will likely be responsible for maintaining the roads and there is no guarantee that your neighbors will want to assist you when (not if!) that maintenance becomes necessary. Gravel does require replacement and roadways won’t stay pristine forever, no matter how well they are originally created. Don’t get me wrong, the quality of the initial work does matter a lot, but even the best work will eventually require maintenance.
With all of the above in mind, I am very reluctant to recommend the purchase of any home on a street that ends in “Way”. In fact, if there is no solvent HOA, I will never recommend the purchase of that home. In my opinion, it is best always to completely avoid the “Ways” of the world, or at least those of Sevier County…