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:

die hard santa

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?

spygame

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.

creditpost

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?

poolsexy
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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you sell my house?

Absolutely, and I want, value, and need your business. Keep Reading, then call me.

Can you help me buy a home or investment property?

Absolutely, and I want, value, and need your business. Keep Reading, then call me.

Why you, Scott? There are a million agents out there.

I bring a unique mix of experience to the table on your behalf. I have worked on the mortgage/lending side of the industry for multiple major financial firms. This experience provides great value to both my buyer and seller clients because I have been involved in hundreds of real estate closings from the viewpoint of the lender, who typically has the de facto largest financial interest in the transaction. I’ve seen what happens when things go wrong. Real estate contracts, inspections, and mortgage finance are second nature to me and make my career as an agent a natural fit. I can often see a problem coming with the finance side of the transaction and either get ahead of it, or find another lender with a better option to get you across the finish line and to the closing table before a speed bump turns into a crisis.

I also have a deep corporate sales and operations background where I negotiated contracts typically valued in excess of 1-10 million dollars in the highly competitive supply chain industry both in enterprise sales and procurement/buyer capacities. I am accustomed to delivering on deadlines and making sure that all of the moving pieces of a transaction come together for a successful closing.

I have a long-standing passion for this business. I hesitate to use that term because “passion” has become an overused buzzword in the corporate scene, but it really describes how I feel. I have owned or been involved in many investment properties over the past 15 years, including rentals, remodels, rehabs, and personal investment vehicles. I honestly turned my profitable “fun side-hustle” into a career. I grew up with a contractor/electrician for a father and I spent many summers in my teens and twenties remodeling and improving homes. I have trouble walking into a property without immediately cycling through the value, improvement opportunities present, or how I could better use the space in my head.

When you enter into an agency relationship with me, you get my mind, my knowledge, my experience, and my advocacy. I know that exceptional service means hard work. I’ve poured out gallons of sweat remodeling homes in 140 degree attic spaces during the mean Georgia summers, and I’ve negotiated deals in the corporate world from the comfort of private aircraft at 30,000 feet. In the end, no matter the circumstance, I’ll always do the hard work to get you every advantage I can in your deal. My number one priority will always be the best possible outcome for you in your real estate transaction.

Are you a buyer’s agent or a listing agent?

I don’t limit or market myself as one or the other. I’d rather position myself as a consultant and partner for my client for all of their real estate needs, building a relationship based on trust and communication that will last for years to come. I don’t want to handle one side of a single transaction for my clients; I want to be thought of as their personal real estate adviser from our first transaction forward. Many clients need to sell a house in order to buy their next one, and I am perfectly capable and excited to work with you on both deals to create the best experience possible for your move.

We need to have trust, understanding, and common end goal. Those are my qualifying factors for a successful relationship. Not whether you are buying or selling.

How will you market my home?

I will bring the full force of all traditional, internet, targeted social media, and other cutting edge marketing resources at my disposal to get as many qualified, ready, willing, and able eyeballs onto your property as quickly as possible. The specific strategy for this depends on the property and the lifestyle it offers to the right buyer. I will help guide you on a path to presenting the best possible product to the marketplace and to make your property as accessible, appealing, and approachable to potential buyers as possible.

Unfortunately, the industry does hold its share of greed-motivated individuals that will limit the scope of marketing for your property as long as possible to maximize or avoid sharing their commissions. My overarching goal is always getting your home sold for the highest amount of money in the shortest amount of time possible.

We will never try to keep commissions “in-house” by limiting the scope of visibility for your property. Many firms use their agent count as a selling point in their marketing plan while stacking the deck behind the scenes, hoping that they can find a buyer within their company network to make sure they don’t have to share commissions outside of their corporate family.

Here’s a tip and a promise: When you hire me, you’ll get access to all of those agents and their buyers as well. We syndicate our listings to every available real estate firm in the market. We have a higher average per-agent transaction count compared to our peers because we will engage every brokerage in the market to get your home sold as quickly as possible for the most money and only employ full-time professional agents. The sale of your home is our number one priority.

Contact me for a full description of the expansive marketing reach of our team at Real Living Capital City and to get an overview of our unique lifestyle marketing philosophy that will result in a successful transaction because we find the right buyer for your home.

Why do I need you to represent me when I’m buying a home? How much will it cost me?

To be blunt: In any transaction valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, professional representation is a good idea. The agent for the home seller has a written agreement to represent the seller’s interests above all else in the transaction as long as certain lines of disclosure ethics and laws are not crossed. I can be your advocate in the negotiation and be sure that someone is looking out for your best interests as well.

In nearly every case, hiring me as a buyer’s agent will not cost you a dime. The listing agent will share the commission being charged to the seller. I’m there to protect your interests. Often the negotiation process can be more adversarial than it needs to be, but I can help mitigate that. I cannot force you to make a good decision, but I can do everything in my power to prevent you making a bad one.

During the home search process, I can also give you back some of the most valuable resource that any of us possess: Time. Let me do the legwork. I have access to the latest sales data, trends, property listings, and market intelligence. When you sign a buyer-brokerage agreement with me, you have hired a hunter. Don’t waste time out of your professional and personal life trying to chase down the fast moving Atlanta real estate market. Let me run that race for you.

Full Service Vs Limited Service Brokerage?

I don’t do gimmicks. I don’t offer cut rate services and then tack on junk fees for items as trivial as running by your property to put a lock box on the door or spending a few minutes with you discussing the sale of your home. Hot markets allow some shady marketing schemes and terrible service providers to hang around much longer than they should. I will not harm your interests by marketing some self-serving and deceptive variation of “your home sold in 30 days or we buy it” or “sell your home for this unrealistically cheap flat fee” gimmick. I don’t make a dime until I have procured a ready, willing, and able buyer for your home.

The truth is, we all work to make a living. That includes me. Proper marketing, representation, education, experience, time, and service costs money. I’d rather part ways with a potential client than offer a substandard level of service, for what is often one of the largest transactions an individual will ever take part in, in the name of capturing a few extra dollars. I don’t care about selling more homes. I care about getting your hold sold for more money, faster.

In real estate, “you get what you pay for” often rings very true and many people only learn that lesson after they show up to the closing table with attorneys, lenders, and agents all representing the interests of the other side of the deal while they sit alone because the “discount” service provider has already cashed their check and moved on to the next victim.

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.