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.

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.

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.

Top Atlanta Spots To Entertain Out-of-Town Guests

DSC_0868One of the things I love most is introducing out of town guests to the eclectic neighborhoods in our city. The usual tourist spots like the World of Coke and the CNN center are always an option, but I tend to plan our itineraries around three types of activities to give my friends and family the best Atlanta experience. I like to include a park, a museum or historical tour, and a brewery over the course of a couple days. These are my top four favorites in each category: 

Parks

Atlanta is home to some awesome parks. From playgrounds and picnic tables to walking trails and free concerts, there are a lot of options to fit the personalities of your guests. These are a few of my favorites:

  1. Piedmont Park: Piedmont Park has it all…lake, pool, playground, splash pad, green market, dog park, jogging track, green space, picnic tables, charcoal grills and public restrooms. I’m a little biased since I lived next to the park and enjoyed this space every day for several years, but this park is a great spot for guests. The park also offers free historical walking tours every Saturday at 11 a.m. And there are restaurants within walking distance, so if a picnic isn’t your style, you have food options close. One of the things that I love most is heading to the park in the late afternoon and staying for the free concerts on Sunday evenings at Park Tavern. The concerts typically run April through September and start at 7 p.m.
  2. Sidney Marcus Park: Sidney Marcus Park is a perfect place to bring guests with kids. The park is tucked away in the Morningside neighborhood and has great green space and playgrounds. There are picnic tables and it offers a free family-friendly concert series several Friday evenings throughout that start at 6 p.m with music, food trucks and a favorite Atlanta treat, King of Pops.
  3. Old Fourth Ward Park: Old Fourth Ward Park has really grown over the past few years. It’s a kid’s dream. The playground is fantastic and there’s an awesome splash pad and skate park. There are also some free events throughout the year like exercise opportunities and free movies on the lawn. This is a great spot for out of town guests because it’s right across the street from Ponce City Market which offers lots shopping and restaurants.
  4. The Atlanta BeltLine: While this isn’t a park in and of itself, the BeltLine is an awesome trail that connects many of our in town neighborhoods and parks. The BeltLine provides a great activity for guests that like to walk or bike. You can walk from Piedmont Park to Old Fourth Ward Park and head into Inman Park or over to Krog Street Market. There is a lot of shopping and restaurant options along the way, which makes the stroll even better.

 

Museums and Tours

Our city offers quite a few museum and tour options. These are just a few that make my short list when I’m planning for a guest visit.

  1. Oakland Cemetery: Oakland Cemetery is my number one spot for out of town guests because it’s different from the typical museum stop. This cemetery has incredible history and beautiful architecture. I highly recommend a guided tour where you will hear stories about the people that are buried in this rural garden cemetery. I’ve done this tour several times and it’s always a little different, so continues to be one I enjoy. They also have some cool events like malts and valts where you can hear about Atlanta’s history of brewing then enjoy some local beers after the tour. We typically round out this visit with a trip across the street to Six Feet Under for food and drinks.
  2. Fernbank Museum of Natural History: Fernbank is one of my favorites because of the Giant Screen Theater. The museum exhibits are always great, but it’s nice to sit down and enjoy one of the films. They also have 75 acres of outdoor nature adventures that you can explore. And if you’re planning on an adult-only evening outing, they feature Fernbank After Dark the second Friday of each month with drinks, tapas and films.
  3. High Museum of Art: If you have art-lovers visiting, the High Museum is the perfect place. There are some free admission opportunities, which makes it an even more awesome place to take people. Free admission is offered to everyone the second Sunday of each month as part of their ‘Family Fun at Woodruff Arts Center’ promotion and there’s family-friendly programming from 1 – 4 p.m. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch customers have an additional no-cost admission opportunity with free walk-up admission on the first full weekend of each month. There are a lot of family extras, but if you want to leave the kids at home, the third Friday of each month is ‘Friday Jazz’ with drinks, music and art.
  4. Atlanta History Center: One of the great things about buying a ticket to the history center is that it’s much more than just the one museum. You also get access to some really cool historical houses like the Margaret Mitchell House, the Smith Family Farm and the Swan Coach House as well as 22 acres of gardens. Even better, if you are a Bank of America Bank of America/Merrill Lynch customer you can receive free admission during the first full weekend (Saturday and Sunday) of every month (offer expires December 31, 2017). You can also dine at the Swan Coach House Restaurant, which has some delicious Southern dishes and sandwiches.

 

Breweries

As a beer aficionado, I love introducing my guests to the local breweries. Who doesn’t love a tour that revolves around drinking beer? These are my favorites:

  1. SweetWater Brewing Company: Sweetwater is a staple in our town, so I enjoy taking people here. It’s a decent size, so good for crowds and they often have entertainment in their outdoor space. They are open Wednesday through Sunday. If you want to eat while you are there, Friday-Sunday are the best options because a food trucks are on site.
  2. Three Taverns Brewery: Three Taverns has some of my favorite local brews. The space is on the smaller side, but the tour and beer are great. If you want to spend time with your guests in Decatur, this brewery will fit perfectly into your itinerary.
  3. Orpheus Brewing: Orpheus beer is awesome and they are located right next to Piedmont Park and the BeltLine, so if you plan to take a stroll before or after, this would be the perfect stop along the way.
  4. Monday Night Brewing: Monday Night is another favorite. The space is great and large enough to fit a big crowd. The outdoor space has good seating as well.

Selling Your House: Home Office Space vs The Questionable Extra Bedroom

Its important to be honest with yourself, and with potential buyers, about how many functional bedrooms your home offers. That 10 ft x 10 ft attic expansion with no closet, or the dark basement room with no windows and the nearest shower access 2 floors away that you are marketing as an extra bedroom may be turning off more buyers than its drawing in. Presenting the features of your home in the best light possible is an elementary and bedrock principle of marketing your property. However, this must be done in an accurate and honest manner.

Imagine a qualified buyer who has a legitimate need for three functional bedrooms comes to view your home. This person has spent his or her valuable time to show up and evaluate your property for purchase. If your home is not what was represented to this buyer in the listing information, you have wasted their time, their agent’s time, and quite possibly your valuable early days on the market by trying to sell your home to the wrong buyer. This example of a potential buyer was never going to make an offer on your house because it did not meet their needs. You have now created two unhappy and dissatisfied parties who could spread negative information through word of mouth about your home while it is listed for sale. The better choice would be to market your home to buyers who are open to a two bedroom house with space for a home office, creative space, or bonus room. 

A common must-have from clients looking to buy in the city is the ability to create a functional home office.  Many of the older houses in Atlanta have unique small spaces that were created or have accidentally emerged from decades of remodels, rehabs, and expansions. That small room in the converted attic space that people weren’t quite sure what to do with in the past (and often ends up being added to the listing as an additional bedroom) has suddenly become much more useful and marketable as technology has evolved and the only space many of us need to work is somewhere to sit with our laptops and a smart phone. There is no shame in playing to this strength and getting a premium price for your home by offering this functionality to the correct buyer.

HomeOffice

Trying to sell that space as a bedroom may be a mistake that could cost you more money and time on the market than it gains you. Is a bedroom more valuable than an office? Yes. But if you don’t have a third bedroom, you don’t have a third bedroom. The market will punish you for trying to sell something that just isn’t real.

I see this while showing homes with unbelievable frequency. Walking through an open house in a renovated older home listed as a three bedroom where potential buyers are milling about and commenting that “oh, this is really a two bedroom.  I couldn’t use this space as a bedroom” as they walk right out the door makes me cringe for both the property owner and the other agent. You will command the highest and best price from your property from the market by working with me to target the right buyer and presenting your home for what it truly offers.

 

 

Live, work, play. Not necessarily in that order. Upcoming events in the city.

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I was preparing a marketing piece today that included a list of some of the upcoming festivals going on around the city in the next month or so, and I paused to appreciate the amount of culture and entertainment that I’ve enjoyed over the years by virtue of living and working in the city of Atlanta. Here is a list of upcoming events/festivals if you are looking for some unique activities to put on your calendar for late summer/fall of 2017:

Decatur BBQ, Blues, and Bluegrass Festival August 12th

Atlanta Underground Film Festival 8/18-8/20

Piedmont Park Arts Festival 8/19-8/20 

Grant Park Summer Shade Festival 8/26-8/27

Dragon Con 9/1-9/4

Music Midtown 9/16-9/17

Fall Folklife Festival 9/23

Candler Park Fall Fest 9/30-10/1

We moved over to Morningside in 2010 and I love the neighborhood, but my wife and I lived within a couple of blocks of Piedmont Park in Midtown for several years before we came here. It was phenomenal being that close to the park year-round, but it was really special when the festival season was in full swing and something was going on in the neighborhood nearly every weekend. Our life and family has since expanded outside the space of the little bungalow we were living in there, but I do get nostalgic for the ability to walk out of my house and essentially arrive at Piedmont Park for The Dogwood Festival or any other number of events that the Conservancy hosts.

It’s interesting to note that now, some seven years after we moved a few miles up the road to Morningside, I couldn’t tell you what kind of kitchen upgrades were installed in that little 1920s house in Midtown or if the appliances were stainless.  I can’t really remember what color the walls were, or if the bathroom was updated. Our friends always talked about how it was a cute place, but what I recall about the house centers on the people around us and what we spent our time doing while we were there.

I remember grilling in our backyard. I remember sitting around the old aqua(ish) blue, refurbished glass-top picnic table of questionable quality on the back porch that we bought from a guy over in Cabbage Town during a Sunday afternoon adventure like it was yesterday. I remember walking over to Midtown Arts Cinema to catch a movie on a whim. I remember finishing the Peachtree Road Race with friends and all of us strolling back to our house to hang out and grab a shower before we walked over to Fontaine’s in Virginia Highland to reward ourselves with some food and drinks. I remember a block party during a Paul McCartney concert and the entire neighborhood hanging out on our front porches listening to the show. I remember evening runs and bike rides through the neighborhood while (sometimes unsuccessfully) dodging low-hanging limbs of trees along the sidewalks. I remember the frequent walks over to Trader Joe’s to replenish our stock of “Two Buck Chuck”.

I vividly remember how we lived and what we did when we were there, but the cosmetics of the house we lived in are secondary in my mind to the lifestyle that house enabled for us.

I talk about it with clients all of the time, but its worth saying here as well: Your house is more than the number of bedrooms and bathrooms within the walls. It is more than a list of upgrades and finishes that sounds exactly like the listing for every other property for sale out there. The lifestyle your home enables for its future owner drives the value and marketability of your property.

I’m not saying it isn’t important for your house to be in the best condition possible before putting it on the market, or that your renovations and chef’s kitchen aren’t major selling points. Those things matter. However, securing the absolute best price for your house is a function of illustrating, to the right buyer, how your home will help them enable, improve, or enhance their lifestyle. The way a potential new home fits or amplifies how you live, work, and play should be a top consideration for you in your home search as well.