Buying Real Estate

Yet another reason why neighborhoods matter

Of course we all know that neighborhoods are important for many reasons; friendly neighbors, community support, etc. And we all know there are many reasons to choose a particular neighborhood; location, style, affordability, etc. However, from the perspective of your wallet, there's another important benefit the right neighborhood can provide; price stability.

A recent study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University showed that higher-priced homes are less susceptible to bubbles than are lower-priced homes. Higher-priced homes don't appreciate as quickly in a run-up, but neither do they fall as quickly in a downturn. According to analysis of Standand & Poor's / Case-Shiller home price data, prices of lower end homes in Atlanta fell by nearly 50% from the 2007 peak to December 2010. The drop for higher-end homes fell by less than half that percentage. Of course, this is a macro look at the entire Atlanta metro area, in which "low tier" homes were qualified as those under about $122k and "high tier" homes were those above approximately $221k. You might extrapolate from this data that even higher-tier homes in desirable neighborhoods may have lost even less value since the 2007 peak. You'd be right. A quick check of the sought-after Intown Atlanta neighborhood of Morningside shows an average sale price of $668,952 in 2007. The average sale price in 2010 was $582,339, a 12.9% decrease from the peak. That's certainly a lot better than the national average. Checking the Buckhead neighborhood...

Square footage and Atlanta real estate

One of the most popular criteria home buyers have traditionally used when searching for a home is square footage. Until very recently, out-of-state or new-in-town home buyers looking for homes in Atlanta found themselves dismayed at the inability to search by square footage.

Yes, as absurd as it seems, it had been a long-standing policy of the local Multiple Listings Service (MLS) in Atlanta to prohibit the quoting of square footage in property listings. It was explained to me that this was to protect the agents from liability. Sure, there have been cases in the past where the buyer found out later that the square footage was not as quoted in the listing, and sued the agent. However, most markets throughout the country easily solved this with a simple disclaimer, something like "Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed." Also, most Purchase and Sale Agreements are written such that it's the buyer's responsibility to inspect, survey, appraise and measure the property during the Due Diligence period. (The measurement is usually done by the appraiser.) But even though the local MLS's implemented such disclaimers on general listing information, they still persisted with the ban of square footage information. Until now. Recently, the primary Multiple Listing Service used by Intown Atlanta real estate agents, FMLS, began to allow square footage information. For whatever reason, they did this initially on condos only, but now they have finally allowed it on single-family homes as well.

Still wary of a litigious society, they require that the source for the square footage information is included in the listing. Only three approved sources are allowed: tax records, appraisal, or the builder. Keep in mind, that tax records are not always accurate....

Intown Atlanta Foreclosures

Our Intown Atlanta home buyers are often asking about foreclosures, many times because they assume that a foreclosure automatically equals a good deal.  Well, that's not always true.  There are some great deals on foreclosures out there, but not all foreclosures are great deals.  Also, due to current market conditions, buyers can often find great deals on conventional sales.  So, the important thing is to assess each property for it's own value, and not assume that a listing is a deal or not based on whether it's bank-owned or not. Intown Atlanta ForeclosuresWhat exactly is a foreclosure listing?  In Georgia, banks can foreclose on a home without a judicial process if the loan is in default.  A clause in the deed to secure debt (mortgage note) gives the banks this power.  You agree to this language when you sign your mortgage loan papers at closing. Using this "power of sale", banks will attempt an auction to sell the property.  These auctions happen the first Tuesday of every month on the steps of the county courthouse where the property is located.  Anyone can bid on these properties, but if you win the bid, you must pay cash on the spot, and there is no right of inspection or other opportunity for due diligence.  Quite often, the bank's opening bid price is higher than what any bidder is willing to pay.  At that point, the property becomes "REO", meaning "Real Estate Owned." At that point, the bank will list the property for sale on the open market.  Listings you can find on this site are these REO or bank-owned properties.  Sometimes the bank will list a property a low price right off the bat, hoping to stir up multiple offers and unload the property quickly.  Other times the bank will list the property at a high price, and slowly reduce the price over...

Atlanta Green Homes

Whether it's environmental concerns, an interest in national energy independence, or just personal economic motivations, more and more home buyers are asking about "going green."  But in real estate, what does "going green" really mean?  There is talk of "green homes," but how do you know which homes are actually green?

Atlanta Green Real EstateThere are a number of local and national green building certification programs to help the home buyer make that determination, including EarthCraft House, Energy Star Homes, LEED for Homes and NAHB National Green Building Program.  For more information, our Atlanta Green real estate page gives an overview of each of these green building programs. But how does one put all this information to work in their home search?  Well, on most home search web sites, you're out of luck.  But here at Intown Elite, our property search engine is actually empowered to help you to find green homes. 

Our Atlanta Green homes page displays all the listings in the Atlanta area that are certified in at least one of the above mentioned green building programs. Our web site also shows the WalkScore(TM) of every property, displayed on the upper right of each listing.  WalkScore(TM) helps home buyers find a walkable, car-lite place to live. It works by measuring the distance from a particular residence to nearby amenities, such as grocery stores, restaurants, parks, libraries, shops, etc. Living in a walkable location promotes better health, a reduction...

Good News Week for Atlanta Real Estate

This week brought a couple pieces of good news about the Atlanta real estate market. First, a report released by Metrostudy shows that Atlanta's housing market has hit bottom, with primary indicators having reversed and now trending to the positive.  Although the trend is positive for sellers, we at Intown Elite believe that buyers continue to maintain the power in negotiations, since there’s still nearly 13 months of inventory on the market.

The other good news for the real estate market is the extension of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers until May 1, 2010. In addition, a credit up to $6,500 is available for other home buyers who have owned their current homes for at least 5 years. This opens tax incentives to "move-up" buyers who are purchasing a primary residence.

As always, there are limits to these credits, so please contact your real estate professional for the details.   These tax credits are not likely to be further extended, so if you are considering buying a home, now is the time.

Please feel free to contact us here at Intown Elite with any questions you have about the new tax credits. Thank you and happy house-hunting! 

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Looking for a deal?

"I'm looking for a really good deal." That's what just about every buyer says when they first speak with us about buying a home.    Not that they're looking for a particular style of home with a specific number of bedrooms or baths, a specified location or even whether it's a condo, townhome or single-family home. We’re finding that buyers are focusing more on the type of deal they can get rather than what attributes they really want in a home.

Of course, everyone wants a good deal, but it's important not to get so tunnel-visioned that you miss out on the perfect home for you, because you're holding out for the deal of the century.   Do you want a good deal on a home you love, or a great deal on a home that's just OK? You have to live there. If you don't love it, is it really that great of a deal?

Waiting for the bottom? Many folks are sitting on the sidelines,  waiting for the bottom of the market before they’ll  jump in.  If that sounds like you, how will you know when  the market has bottomed out?  Market timing is a tricky game to play.  Check out the graphic below:

Let's say the graphic represents the housing market.  Although the market is cyclical, with ebbs and flows,, most people tend to think in a straight line. Point A was near the peak of the market. Although the market was overinflated, many people thought that prices would continue to climb. This was a contributing factor to the "bubble" that occurred in some markets.

Then, the market began to take a turn in the opposite direction.. Let’s say that now we're at the other end of the spectrum (point B). The market has turned downward and people wonder if we’re near the bottom. The big question on everyone’s minds: When will we...

Do-It-Yourself Home Buying? Three Ways it Can Cost You

Buying a home is one of the largest, most significant investments you will make in your lifetime. The decisions you make during the buying process are critical and will affect you long after the sale. There’s a lot at stake, but by relying on the experience of a real estate agent, you can eliminate much of the uncertainty and stress when buying a home. So, why do some buyers try to go it alone and buy without using an agent?

Unfortunately, some buyers mistakenly believe that they’ll be better off without a real estate agent when buying a home. Following are three common misconceptions that some buyers have about using an agent, and why giving into those misconceptions could potentially put their real estate investments at risk.

Misconception #1 “It will be easier and more convenient to have the agent who has the FOR SALE sign in the yard help me, rather than getting my own agent.”

The person who has the property listed (and who has placed the FOR SALE sign in the yard) is called a Listing Agent. The Listing Agent works for the seller and, by law, must act in the seller's best interest. Not yours. It’s the Listing Agent’s job to sell the home for as much money as possible and with terms that benefit the seller. Therefore, as a buyer, it typically isn’t advantageous to rely on the advice or counsel of the Listing Agent. Be leery of a Listing Agent who volunteers to represent both you and the seller. This is called Dual Agency - a complicated scenario requiring the Listing Agent’s loyalties to lie with both you and the seller simultaneously. Dual Agency is illegal in some states. An agent who represents buyers is called a Buyer’s Agent. It is the job of the Buyer’s Agent to help the buyer obtain his or her ideal home for the lowest price and best terms possible. A Buyer’s Agent works exclusively for you - the buyer - and has a legal fiduciary obligation to represent your best interests. A Buyer’s...

Real Estate is On Sale!

It’s been a while since we made a blog post, partly due to the holidays, but partly because we have been busy with several new buyers.  Why, in an uncertain economy, are so many buyers jumping into the real estate market?  Do they know something you don’t know?  It’s really quite simple - the current market condition represents an unprecedented opportunity for home / condo buyers.  So what makes now such a great time to buy?

It’s a buyer’s market.

That’s because there are currently many more people trying to sell real estate than there are people willing and able to buy.  That means prices are lower and sellers are more negotiable now than in the past.

Scarcity = Leverage.

Qualified buyers have the power.  Not only are there fewer buyers than there are sellers overall, but banks are being more strict on their lending standards.  Gone are the no-doc “liar’s loans”, sub-prime, Alt-A and other crazy loan products that created the financial mess we’re in.  These tougher standards make qualified buyers even more scarce.  If you are a qualified buyer in this market, you are the rare gem.  This gives you the upper hand in negotiations.

Mortgage rates near 50-year lows.

Not only can you get a reduced purchase price on a home, but your cost to borrow money is also at historical lows.  Many Atlanta mortgage lenders have reported rates under 5% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage!  This also increases your buying power, enables you to buy more home for a given payment, or get a lower payment on a given home.

People are funny.

Human behavior is sometimes irrational and we often repeat our own mistakes time and time...