Sarah Umstead traveled from California to Tennessee in 2011. It didn’t take long for the young entrepreneur to develop a keen interest in real estate and historic properties and decided to use her skills to style and renovate landmark properties. Along with her builder husband, Mike, this duo manages some of the most remarkable rental properties in Middle Tennessee.
After visiting Leiper’s Fork, the scenic and quaint village a few miles southeast of Franklin, Sarah became enthralled with the area’s tranquility and beauty. “It’s Americana with the city promise, a place where the road winds so subtle you’d think it rolled in with the breeze,” Sarah writes on her company website, HouseAndSanctuary.com.
Sarah slowly began building a base of rental property homes in 2011, eventually managing six properties. “When we first began advertising on VRBO, only a handful of properties in the area were on the site,” says Sarah. “I was definitely one of the first to style our properties to make them more appealing to potential renters.”
As a result of some changes in her personal life, Sarah took a break from the vacation rental business. However, her love of real estate and renovating older properties resurfaced again.
What began with purchasing one property for a renovation project has elevated Sarah to managing nine distinctive vacation rental properties, all within what some have coined as, “Nashville’s Big Back Yard.”
The first property Sarah managed is a project she and her husband undertook called Milk + Honey, which they purchased in 2018. The renovation took more than two years and was initially undertaken as a project the couple hoped to flip. Located in the tiny community of Lynnville (population 409), the two-story, four-bedroom farmhouse offers beautiful wood floors and modern amenities with a touch of rustic charm in the interior decor.
Once Sarah decided to keep the home and offer it as a vacation rental property, she and Mike, who she describes as “my creative, super talented, perfectionist, contractor hubby,” focused on styling their dream cottage.
“Homes that I manage need to have some type of character. All of my properties have the aesthetics necessary to attract a certain type of clientele,” explains Sarah. “I want our guests to be inspired by the decor and property. After all, anyone can provide a place to sleep, but it’s also important to offer a place to create memories.”
In addition to her own, today, Sarah manages 12 properties, all of which came about through word-of-mouth.
The largest property under the House + Sanctuary umbrella is the 6,000-square-foot home in Leiper’s Fork known as The Big Blue House. This gorgeous property sits on five acres and offers stunning views of the rural Middle Tennessee landscape. It sleeps up to 15 guests, and the outdoor fire pit provides guests a place to warm themselves on chilly fall and spring evenings.
Other properties in or near Leiper’s Fork include Sweeney Cottage, located in the heart of the village, Storybook Cottage, Hargrove House, Wildflower Farm and Millville.
Just South of Leiper’s Fork sits the small town of Columbia, Tennessee, where Sarah manages two unique properties. One is Two Lanes Guesthouse, outfitted from the personal antique collection of Mike Wolfe, from American Picker fame.
Sarah’s boutique rental management style is certainly impacting the upscale, short-term rental market in Middle Tennessee. “It’s fun to do something that you absolutely love,” Sarah notes with excitement. “I hope our guests enjoy the personal touches we provide. I feel like it shows because of all the repeat business.”