Spring Season, Competitive Housing Market in Atlanta

Rather than throw a bunch of stats at you, I’ll keep this short and sweet:

  • Inventory is painfully low.
  • Realistically priced homes in popular areas sell in a few days (or hours), often with multiple offers.
  • Interest rates are fluctuating wildly on the current stock market turmoil. I think most experts would argue that the long term pressure and trend is for rates to rise, which is exacerbating the drive for buyers to purchase now before the cost of financing rises further.
  • There has not been a better time in recent history to sell your home in the City of Atlanta.

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Its tough out there right now and people do “fight” over in-demand properties, but I can help you get through it.

If You are Buying:

  • Register at scott.viewhomesforsaleatlanta.com.
  • Get your financing in order. Get as far in the loan underwriting process as your lender will allow without a purchase contract on a specific property.
  • Set up showings with me for properties that interest you as quickly as possible.
  • Make the strongest offer you are comfortable making up front and be willing to walk if it doesn’t get the house. Don’t waste time playing the negotiation game. Too often, it just allows more time for other competing offers to come in on the property.

Thinking of Selling?

  • Set up an appointment with me to view your home. We’ll talk about a customized marketing system to get the most money out of your house in the shortest amount of time possible.
  • Check with your lender and see if you need to sell your current home before you can execute the purchase of your next house.
  • Start researching short to medium term housing options in the event that your home sells before we find you the right house to make your next home.
  • Breathe. Its good to be the one holding the house right now. If you bought more than 2 or 3 years ago you are likely in really good shape and we can get you through this with as little stress as possible.

House vs. Location: What is more important?

Whether you’re scraping together every dollar at your disposal to buy your first home or plunking down a huge down payment on your 4th or 5th house, eventually most of us have to make a decision based on a combination of budget, tastes, and location/neighborhood preference. It often comes down to whether you want a smaller, less updated house in a trendy neighborhood that’s in demand, or if you want the biggest and best house your money can buy; even if that means sacrificing commute times and perhaps living in a neighborhood you find less attractive.

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Whats the correct way to think about it? There is no one right answer. Personally, I think its less stressful and is generally better for your lifestyle and long-term happiness to pick an area where you want to live, then seriously evaluate whether your budget will allow you to purchase a home there. This doesn’t mean “Oh hey! Out of the 145 sales in the past year this one house sold within our budget 6 months ago. We’ll just wait on that deal to come up again”. At this point, you are searching for a unicorn and setting yourself up for heartache and frustration.

Realistic, in my opinion, means that when you look at homes for sale that meet your needs and must haves in the area, you find that some are at or above your budget, and also discover some that are for sale or have sold below your budget. Buying at the rock bottom of the price range in the area can often mean that you are buying a house that either has a defect (is it in a flood zone?) or needs serious renovation (which is often going to blow out your budget anyway).

If your first choice neighborhood isn’t realistic, then simply pick your next favorite location, evaluate feasibility, rinse and repeat if necessary.

You can always get a bigger and better house by compromising on location. That is a perfectly valid choice to make depending on your personal priorities. I find that honestly answering these three questions will lead you to a balanced decision that puts your investment in the best long-term position possible:

What is my budget?

What are the absolute must-haves I need from this house?

What is the most desirable area, neighborhood, and school district with housing inventory within my budget that satisfies my must-have requirements and fits my lifestyle?

 

 

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Happy Holidays.

Be present in the moment and enjoy the time with your friends, family, and whoever else makes the list of who you love this holiday season. For my crew, this is also the time of the year that we enter the month long marathon of watching our favorite holiday films. For the adults in my house this means:

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Die Hard (Its not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Tower).

Elf (Not now, Arctic Puffin.)

Four Christmases (Mistletoe!)

Bad Santa (Do you want some sandwiches?)

Love Actually (Oooooo… Would we call her chubby? RIP, Alan Rickman)

My kiddos aren’t quite old enough to pay attention through a whole movie just yet so they’ll make due with some periodic exposure to Rudolph and Frosty.

With market activity slowing heading into December and current sellers getting anxious about whether their house will sell before the clock runs out on 2017, its arguably the best time of the year to get a great deal on a home. Avoid the mad rush and bidding wars that chronic low inventory is going to bring in the spring. Call me today. 

Also- We have a new website/search platform going live in a few weeks. Check it out at scott.viewhomesforsaleatlanta.com . Register, play around with it, and let me know what you think.

On Wardrobe Malfunctions, Big Brother, and High School Nightmares: Are you being watched while you shop for your next home?

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Is the Real Estate Game the new Spy Game?

( Image from Spy Game: (2001) Robert Redford, Catherine McCormack, and Brad Pitt. Great flick if you haven’t seen it)

I’ve been meaning to get a post out about this for some time now, but a “wardrobe malfunction” last week put it front and center of my mind.

Allow me to set the scene:

Its 3PM on a beautiful autumn Thursday in the city of Atlanta. My out-of-town client is flying in to view several houses over the weekend. They texted me about a specific property and wanted more information on a couple of features in the home. The house was vacant, so I ran over to get a better look at what they were asking about, take some pictures, and to decide whether to add that property to our itinerary to view on Saturday.

I arrive at the home, make my way to the front door, and bend down to activate the lockbox and retrieve the key.  Upon performing this completely reasonable, harmless, and relatively risk-free action, my belt decides that it can no longer take the strain, and explodes right there on the front porch. In what can only be described as clothing carnage, the buckle lay scattered across the battlefield in 4 different pieces.

Two things go through my mind:

1. I am so glad the client isn’t with me.

2. I really, really need to find the time to get into shape.

Now that I am very much reliving a high-school nightmare where my clothing stops functioning, I hurry my now-very-awkward-self inside to get situated. I fumbled with the belt for a good minute or so before surrendering to the sad fact that nothing could be done to fix it. As I gave up the fight, I looked up to see that I had been performing this embarrassing ritual dance directly in front of their DIY internet security camera.

So, a couple of big things to be learned here:

  1. If I show up for an appointment belt-less, please don’t judge. Keep in mind I may have lost it in a recent tragic incident that will negatively impact my mental state for the foreseeable future.
  2. People may very well be listening or watching you through electronic devices while you walk through a potential new home.

I do attempt to emphasize this to all of my clients, but a best practice during home shopping is to wait until you are safely back outside to discuss your feelings on price, condition, and your overall desire to purchase the property. Don’t give the seller the advantage in future negotiations by telling them exactly how much you love the property, and how much you may be willing to pay, before we ink the initial offer. With today’s technology and connectivity, you can never be sure that you are not being monitored.

30306 Real Estate Trends By the Numbers

Median Days on Market. Properly priced and marketed homes are still moving very quickly.

Med Days to Contract (Sales) - ZIP- 30306

Median Sale Price and Median List Price are Moving in lockstep. Homes are still selling very close to list price on average.

Pricing Trends - ZIP- 30306

Housing inventory is still very limited. New listings have crept up, but not nearly enough to flip us into an overall buyer’s market. Some of that inventory is going to get snapped up as we move into the next busy cycle closing out 2017 and into the early months of 2018.

Market Activity - ZIP- 30306

Equifax Compromised- What To Do NOW To Protect Yourself

I worked in the mortgage industry for several years and unfortunately one of my most memorable and painful experiences during that time is reviewing a credit report with a client who had no idea, until that moment, that their identity had been compromised and tens of thousands of dollars of fraudulent credit lines had been opened in their name. Getting the mess cleaned up can be a very long and frustrating ordeal. I don’t want to see any of my friends or clients suffer through that because of this data leak.

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This security breach is unique in that the Equifax company is one of the three major credit reporting agencies and maintains a database of extremely sensitive information on nearly anyone who has ever bought a car, house, signed up for a cell phone, or opened a credit card in this country. The potential impact is 143 Million US Consumers. Considering that the total number of people currently living in the United States is 323 Million according to my Google Home Assistant… Its a big damn breach.

Do This.

Go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/

Click on the potential impact button. You can enter your last name and last 6 digits of your social security number to check to see if they currently suspect your information was compromised. Regardless of whether or not your information is currently listed as impacted, they are offering everyone the option of enrolling in their credit protection and security program free of charge.

The irony of providing Equifax with personal information to check and see if they may have exposed your personal information is not lost on me, but I believe this is currently the best course of action.

Quick stop at the soap box: There are reports that several high level corporate employees sold several million dollars worth of company stock in the days after the breach was discovered, but Equifax is currently saying that the employees had no knowledge of the breach at the time they initiated the sales. I could go on for awhile about whether I believe that the Chief Financial Officer wasn’t in the loop on a security event of this magnitude that had to have been making waves at the executive level within hours of the discovery… but lets focus on being proactive about securing your identity.

I detailed how to do an annual credit maintenance check for free in an earlier post here.

Relevant Text if you don’t want to scroll through the article:

You are entitled to review your credit report once every twelve months for free (read more about it at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports). Obtaining your annual credit report from http://www.annualcreditreport.com is a great place to start. Beware of impostor sites seeking to steal your information or charge you for something that the major credit agencies are required by law to give you for free once per year. You can always navigate to the correct site from the FTC.gov site I linked above.  Check for inaccuracies and verify the credit lines that show up on your report are actually yours. Whether you are a first time buyer or have been a homeowner for years, this is a great tool to make sure your credit history is up to date and accurate.

The blunt truth is that you didn’t cause this problem but there is a significant chance you were affected and still need to deal with it. There was nothing you could have done differently to have prevented the leak. Having said that, no one is going to do anything to protect you from the impact. You have to do that yourself. Check to see if you were affected. Keep an eye on your credit reports going forward.

2017 YTD Atlanta Real Estate Market Update

Just a quick update for YTD market stats in Atlanta. Thinking of buying or selling? Opportunities abound.

Inventory is still low and properly priced properties in great condition move fast, but there are deals to be had.

Thinking of selling? The upward sales price trend has flattened somewhat heading into the late summer.  Its impossible to precisely time any market, be it real estate, stocks, or virtual currency (get at me, Bitcoin millionaires). If the time is right for you and your life situation, the market is still at its highest level in years.

Time to buy? The right home is out there. Low inventory just means I have to work a little harder to lock it down for you. That’s what I’m here for.

Making a Purchase Offer in a Hot Market

First, let me state the obvious:

The Atlanta Metro Real Estate market is currently at low inventory levels. Fairly priced and affordable properties in good condition and in sought-after areas are often under contract within 24-48 hours.

We all want the deal of the century, right?

Nobody faults you for that. If you are dead-set on submitting a low-ball offer on a sought-after property in this environment, you must also be willing to walk away from the property if and when your bid is not successful. If you fell in love with the home and just assumed that you’d start low and come up if the seller didn’t bite on your first offer, you may be blindsided when they decline to counter and take an offer from another client while you are stuck considering your next move.

An Example:

Hypothetically, let’s say you were trying to buy a well-appointed two bedroom condo in Midtown that just listed today for $350,000. No savvy negotiator pays full ask, right? Conventional wisdom and tradition tells us that list price is the starting negotiation point. So, you decide to open with an offer of $335,000 and see if they bite. Closing costs are expensive as well, so lets ask the seller to cover $6,500 of that and just see what they say. You’ve essentially made an offer that nets the seller $328,500. In a slower market, or maybe if the property has been sitting for a month or so, I wouldn’t necessarily advise against this strategy. In this example, that just isn’t the case.

Many times, this is what actually happens:

Another buyer looking at the same limited inventory in your price band and location goes in to view the property a couple of hours after you. They are also interested and have been looking at properties for weeks. They, unbeknownst to you, have the benefit of experience on their side. They have already lost out on two homes they loved because they were crowded out by stronger offers. They have impeccable taste, just like you, and also decide the property is suitable and decide to make an offer. Their agent calls the listing agent, who communicates that the seller is currently considering another offer on the property. Not wanting to lose out and waste more time searching, they submit an offer at $348,000 and ask for no concessions for closing costs.

Many sellers choose not to start a round of multiple offer/highest and best bidding in this situation. The reality is, the seller has two offers in hand and are quickly burning through their valuable first days on the market. Your offer is currently $19,500 lower than the other buyer’s. The seller does not want to risk alienating or scaring away the stronger offer with additional negotiation on the off-chance that you’ll increase your offer $20,000 just to compete. They accept the other buyer’s offer, and bid you adieu.

Fine, right? You win some, you lose some. We’ll try again on the next property…

Here is where I am going to get a little “meta”: Are you now chasing the market up?

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Gotta Have It.

Lets say this condo is in a high-rise development. You love the amenities (Hnnng…that pool is sexy, right?) and location and you really want to get a unit in this building. The neighbor down the hall from the one you lost out on owns a unit with the same floor plan. They noticed the unit listed for $350,000 and decide its time to sell. Just like you want the deal of the century, owners want the highest price for their property the market will support. They decide to list their home at $360,000… Assuming that this property is comparable to the original one, what do you think you would decide to offer? You’ve now placed yourself in a situation where you may be “chasing the market up”. You get the idea? Starting to feel a little like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day?

If you are home shopping in a highly competitive environment and think you have found “the one”, my advice is to make the strongest offer you are comfortable with and willing to commit to as soon as possible.