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Wears Valley, Tenn., in the Smoky Mountains.

Wears Valley, Tenn., in the Smoky Mountains.

Photographer: Tamara Reynolds for Bloomberg Markets

Markets Magazine

Americans Are Building Vacation-Home Empires With Easy-Money Loans

Selling risky mortgages based on volatile per-night Airbnb income could end badly for communities, borrowers, and investors.


Brenna Carles drives along a winding country road in the Great Smoky Mountains, a get-rich real estate podcast playing on the speakers of her brand-new Lincoln SUV. Not long ago, Carles was belting out tunes at Nashville honky-tonks as she struggled to make it as a country singer. Now, at 32, she’s one of the region’s most successful mortgage brokers specializing in loans for vacation home rentals.

Carles, who started her company less than a year ago, says she’s embarrassed to admit how much she’s clearing these days: $100,000 a month, give or take, on track to earn $1 million this year. “People ask how much I make a year, I try to lie now, because I think people wouldn’t believe it,” she says.