Sellers Beware Predatory Buyers & Misleading Marketing

Unless you have been living in cave like a hermit, you are probably aware that the local real estate market is doing well.  Here in the Athens area, we are seeing a return of value in the condo market along with increased values in the traditional housing market.  I have expressed my thoughts on these gains in past posts, but overall there are many factors helping our market.  Interest rates, population growth, low supply, and the overall economy are some of the main factors.  We are even seeing a historically low supply in areas of student housing with Cap Rates below 7%.   At this point, I have not seen a dip in the demand or jump in supply so I think the market will hold for a while longer barring any unforeseen changes in the economy.  This is all good news for property owners and sellers, but when the market is strong mistakes can still happen.  One of the biggest mistakes I see sellers and property owners make is selling under value.  This usually happens one of two ways.  The seller is either desperate and needs to sell quickly or they have been misled by a “predatory buyer.” In most cases, if someone needs cash quickly they have to take a lesser price to speed things along.  This is unfortunate but a reality.   However, what bothers me is when an investor or even other real estate agents use deceiving practices to buy or list a property.  Allow me to explain:

I am sure most of you that own a property have received something in the mail where a person or a business claims “this is my final offer” or “my last attempt to buy your house”, and the worst one “please call me about an urgent matter concerning your home”.  In other cases, they simply explain that they buy homes and have an interest in your property.  Most people understand that these people are willing to buy, but only at a price that makes sense to them.  And that price is usually low.  Let me be clear that some properties that are not kept up or have an obsolete floor plan do provide good opportunities for people to add value and flip the house.  I would not call this predatory, but simply seizing an opportunity.   On the other hand, we are starting to see a new model in larger cities where people will buy your house in cash to help you move.  In theory, this sounds like an intriguing new model in the housing industry.  However, I would have some reservations before entering into one of these agreements.  First of all, people are usually in business to make money.  And people can’t always make money if they buy your property at fair market value.  I understand this business model attempts to provide some certainty, but it may leave you with less money.  If you are considering this please take the time to ask some questions.  For example, how did they arrive at the purchase price?  What will they do with your home after they buy?  Are there any extra fees? How long have they been in business?  Please take the time to research the process before you agree because if something sounds too good to be true it often is too good to be true.

Lastly, there is another method that agents might employ to gain business.  In some areas, we see real estate agents offering to buy your house if they cannot sell it for you.  This tactic is really frustrating for me as a realtor, a broker, and business professional.  I take what I do very seriously, and I work hard to do it with integrity and class. Therefore, I would never purposely mislead someone with regard to my services.  I have never listed a house with an agent that promised to buy it, and I am not personally aware of any realtors that have bought a client’s house in one of these agreements.  That doesn’t mean it may never happen, but based on my experience it seldom does.  Working in real estate is extremely competitive, and agents need to be aggressive in marketing not only to gain business but to help their clients.  So please beware a realtor that promises to buy your house if it does not sell.  In most cases, this is likely a bait and switch tactic. They simply want to get their foot in the door so to speak.  If you call them they may very well agree to buy your house, but I can assure it will be at a price well below its value.  As I stated before, people are in business to make money not to lose money.  And they cannot make money on your house if they pay too much for it.  If you choose to call a realtor because they promise to buy your house, do the same thing and ask some questions.  How much will they pay for the house?  How did they arrive at the price?  What will they do with the house if they have to buy?  How many houses have they actually bought?  In closing, I would like to make sure property owners educate themselves when selling and make sure they read the fine print.

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Athens Real Estate is Booming:  Will it Last?

If you live in the Athens area then you probably know our real estate market is booming.  Granted, there are a few pockets and price points that have not performed too well, but in general the market is thriving.  I recently wrote an article about Athens home buyers where I described the current frustrations of home buyers in this seller’s market.  Over the last several months, I have had many people ask me what I think is driving our market and how long do I think it will last.  In reality, no one knows for sure, but when asked I try to give an open and honest opinion based on what we see in the market on a daily basis.   This morning I find myself in the office looking out the window while Athens is under a tornado watch and flash flood warning.  This being the case, it seems like a good use of time to write a post and share my thoughts on this topic.

For many of us, the past mortgage crisis and real estate bust is ever present in our mind, and that influences our caution or even pessimism about the future.  Nevertheless, it doesn’t’ mean we are heading that way once again.  A wise man once said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.   With that in mind, I think it would be smart to consider the Athens market before the last recession.  I began my career in real estate here in Athens right after graduating from UGA.  It was the early 2000s and the real estate market was strong.  It is fair to say I was pretty green when I started, but with a little hard work along with some help from others I was able to find a little success and make a living.  Nowadays, I am a little older, a little heavier, and a lot wiser.  And I have found that my experience of living through the recession has really helped and given me a good perspective on where we are now in Athens real estate.  I am sure many of my colleagues feel the same way.  That being said, what was going in real estate before the bust?  And how does that compare with what we are seeing now?

Well I can only speak to my personal experience during this time with regard to what I saw in Athens real estate from 2003 to 2009.  At this time rates were not too high but they definitely were not this low.  In some cases, prices were even higher than they are now.  I saw condos finance with ease at prices that have still not returned.  I saw numerous people move towards Watkinsville for schools, more land, and 3,000 plus square feet.  While 5 Points was still very desirable it was nowhere near as popular as it is right now.  In fact, many areas of 5 Points were heavy with rentals for students.  As for Normaltown and Boulevard, they were also filled with rentals and prices per sq. foot much lower than the $175 to $200 we see today.  I often heard clients refer to 5 Points as overpriced and out of date.  To quote a past client, “Why would we pay $300,000 for a 1950s kitchen and no closet space?” Overall, it seemed more and more Athenians were moving out and into newer subdivisions.  We all seemed to think real estate values could never go down, and most folks outside of our industry had never heard of loan terms like sub-prime, no doc, stated income, and the dreaded adjustable rate.  Lastly, it seemed every builder believed “if you build it they will come”.  Looking back I did a lot sitting in neighborhoods asking myself, “Where in the hell I am going to find all the people needed to buy these houses?”  So what is different between then and now?  The major difference between then and now is the Supply and Demand. Back in those days I never saw anything that resembled what I am seeing today.

Many things have changed since the “Great Recession”.  First of all, we all know low interest rates have helped and they continue too.  While we should expect rates to increase, I don’t think we will see anything drastic in the near future.  Interest rates aside, I think the major difference seems to be the demand for housing in our area.  While the University has not grown significantly, people’s desire to live and work here has increased greatly.  In 2005, if a client asked me to find them a home in Athens under $250,000 the options would greatly exceed what you find today.  There would even be feasible options in 5 points and Normaltown.  In the end, the supply was slightly ahead of the demand back then.  Not much but a little.  Nowadays, we have a scarcity of affordable in town housing, and sadly I don’t see that changing anytime soon.  This demand has been created by numerous factors.  Athens as a whole has become a retirement destination to people in Georgia and across the country.  We have a vibrant college town that offers great food, better music, and a good quality of life. Thanks to technology more folks are able to work away from their office in Atlanta which has brought even more people into our area.  I personally have worked with 4 clients in the past year that work inside I-285, but have chosen to reside here in Athens.  Furthermore, our in town neighborhoods just have more to offer now than they did in 2005.  You can walk to dinner and drinks in many areas, and the shopping is better from the Eastside clear across to Epps Bridge.  As I have mentioned before, HGTV shows have influenced numerous people over the years and have helped create many remodels in our area.  While these remodels and tear downs are not always popular with everyone they are a sign of strong local market where demand is way out in front of supply.  To further this point, just look to the recent moratorium on new development in Oconee County which could have a similar impact on the housing climate in Watkinsville .  I do not have a crystal ball, but I think our residential housing market will remain strong in the near future barring any unforeseen national crisis or drastic jump in interest rates.   As for our student housing market, well that is probably better discussed in a future post.  In closing, the market is strong and shows no signs of weakening at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you can buy anything anywhere.  You still need to consider all the factors to purchase wisely.

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Athens Real Estate: Heaven Help the Home Buyers

My basement is full of firewood that I have yet to burn because the weather been has so warm this winter, and just like the weather in Athens the real estate market has been historically HOT in 2017.  It is truly amazing just how fast some things are moving.  I have lived in Athens for 18 years now, and I cannot recall a time where the supply was this low or the demand so high.  In many ways this would seem a like a good thing for our area, but honestly it has caused a lot frustration in the real estate world. As a real estate broker, one of my primary jobs is to help buyers and sellers come together, and that has seemed harder lately than I can remember which has surprised me.  The main reason seems to be the lack of supply.  Many buyers have found it hard just to get inside a property before it is under contract, and many sellers have remained firm at high list prices resulting in low appraisals.  At the end of day, my job is to help people navigate these hurdles, and today it seems the buyers have many more hurdles than the sellers.  So I want to talk a little about our market and what a buyer should be doing to find their ideal property.

First of all, why do we have such a large amount of home buyers in our market?  In my opinion, this is due to the return of seller equity and low interest rates.  Many sellers were not able to sell when the market was down, but now they can exit their own property without taking a loss.  It seems a lot of these sellers become Athens area home buyers, because so many people want to move here and so few want to leave the area.  Long and short, we have it pretty good in the classic city, but what do you need to do to buy in the area you prefer?  I would start by telling any home buyer to reach out to a good local and experienced realtor for many reasons.  But most of all, for their expertise and knowledge in the market where you are trying to move.  When the market is up you need strong advice on prices, appraisal values, and when to act fast.  This is not the time to call your best friend who sells two houses a year or less.  You need to call people that have the experience in the market you want to buy.  Don’t ask your buddy if he knows someone unless your buddy knows a lot of people in real estate.   In most cases, an out of town agent simply cannot know a market well when they live hours away.   Our town can be very close knit, and a local realtor often will know of homes for sale that are not on the market.  Here at 5Market, we frequently have seller clients that reach out and ask us to bring an offer from a qualified buyer instead of listing their house.  Despite the efforts of many, our real estate market is heavily based on experience and strong local relationships.

The next thing to do is to tell the truth.  I often start with telling my clients to be honest with me about properties so I can better understand how to help.  It is ok to say, “I hate this house or I don’t care for this street”.  Please tell your agent what you want and why.  Another part of being a home buyer is being prepared to act.  Buyers need to have a conversation with their lender before stepping foot in one home.  That way you have an idea of what you can afford and what cash outlay is best for you. Therefore, you can act quickly on a hot property.   In most cases, your realtor will know several good lenders to speak with before getting started.  Home buyer’s now need to be proactive on the home search as well by using websites like Zillow and Realtor.com.   Many real estate brokers are often frustrated with Zillow and Trulia because the sites can be inaccurate and sometimes advertise homes that are not for sale.  Furthermore, they can mislead buyers and sellers on home values especially here in Athens.  While this is true, I appreciate these sites because it gives my clients a place to search homes on their schedule.  A good agent will have more than a few clients, and they can’t be expected to sit at the computer to wait for new homes all day every day.  For example, I encourage buyers to use these sites, but we also encourage them to download the MLS app which can verify listings they might find.

In closing, I think the most important thing I typically discuss with clients is that things have a tendency of working out the way they should.  In my experience, when a client loses a house or an inspection goes badly it seems to work out for the best.  So many buyers lose out on houses, but they often find another one they like even better.  I am a big fan of learning and borrowing from others.  When I hear something wise I try to remember it and internalize it.  One of the best things I have heard my co-worker, Jeb Bradberry say is that, “Patience is a Virtue”.  This is true in life, and true in real estate.  So remember try not to be discouraged and remain patient because if you deal with good people in business it has a tendency to work out for the best.

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Real Estate Appreciation in Athens

It is now the beginning of August, and kids are either back in school or getting ready to start.  The summer is almost over, but it hasn’t cooled off in the slightest.  And it probably won’t for a month or two.  Historically, this time of year marks the slowdown of the Athens real estate market at least with regards to residential homes.  However, I will say that this year may be unique because things haven’t slowed down quite yet.  There are still plenty of buyers in the house-prices-upmarket, and a surprising number of homes are still going up for sale.  Long and short, our local market seems to be generally strong despite a few areas here and there or difficult price points.  Overall, we have seen most properties continue to appreciate over the last year.  Especially, when it comes to the in town neighborhoods.  Which is great news of course, but what is causing our values to go up?  Will it continue?  Will it not?  No one has a crystal ball of course, and there are numerous factors that create our market many of which are on a national level.  I don’t know who is going to be President, and I don’t know what will happen to interest rates.  I can certainly make an educated guess, but that would be all.  However, I do know our area market, and I think the best way to understand all this appreciation is to focus on the local factors that are influencing our market.

First of all, let me make it abundantly clear that low interest rates are a MAJOR reason for our strong real estate market and increased values.  Money is cheap right now, and people should take advantage while they can because it will not last forever.    While interest rates are a big factor, they are not the only factor.download (2)  For instance, not every real estate market is strong right now even with the low interest rates.  But here in Athens, we have a lot going for us which really helps our real estate.  Earlier, I mentioned in town neighborhoods where homes are achieving the highest per square foot in the area.  This is actually not a new trend.  As an example, 5 Points has always had strong value relative to other areas of town.  It is highly desirable, and land is scarce.  The same can be said for our Normaltown and Boulevard neighborhoods.  Nowadays, Athens is a great place for retirees, families, and young professionals. Which is truly unique for a town the size of Athens.  People are flocking to our small little city because it can offer a high quality of life.  Retirees want to be in town, and many of them can afford to pay for it. Meanwhile, we are seeing just as many young families come to Athens or Oconee from the Atlanta area.  In some cases, they are even willing to commute5 Points Clockeditededited into Atlanta everyday just to live in Athens.  This is all great of course, but I do worry if too many move here we may just become another Atlanta suburb.  Scary stuff!  Another factor that has always helped the Athens economy is the University.  Our local economy is not massive, but thanks to UGA it has some real stability.  UGA is our biggest employer, and it is the primary engine that drives commerce.  The students are wonderful customers to many of our local establishments.  Downtown would likely be a ghost town without them.  Here in Athens, we sell students most of their clothes, gas, entertainment, housing, and food.  Which reminds me of a local business owner who once told me a story about buying a car in Athens.  He said, “the car salesman told me that the university didn’t help his business at all”, to which he replied, “where the hell do you think I got the money to buy this car you dumb@$$? I got it from selling ice cream to college kids!”  To further my point, most of the people that want to move to Athens went to UGA, and love Athens because of the time they spent here in school.  In summary, Athens offers a somewhat stable economy in a highly desirable town.  Meanwhile, land is scarce in most of the in town neighborhoods which creates a demand with limited supply.  Conversely, our neighboring counties have an abundance of land, but also have great schools, achievable home values, and they are right next door to our great city.

To sum it all up, we are really fortunate in Athens.  There many other things I could discuss that influence our market, but I think you get my point.  Besides, I have run on for long enough.  Regardless, this doesn’t mean that you can buy any house in any location and see appreciation.  The same rules will apply to anydownload (1) wise purchase.   First, think about the location which is always the most important factor.  Next, you need to consider the supply in your area and the comparable values.  Lastly, think carefully about the schools, and how many buyers will want your house when you need to sell.  It is much easier to make a bad decision in a strong market.  Thanks for reading, and get excited because we are 31 days away from Georgia football.  Go Dawgs!

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Home Buyers Are Angry in Athens

If you reside in the Athens area than you are probably aware that our real estate market is generally very strong.  After some real tough years, the local market has come back with a vengeance.   As I have mentioned in earlier posts, our in town neighborhoods are seeing appreciation and in some cases a return to the values of 2005 and 2006.  In addition, many areas of Oconee County are performing well, and builders are experiencing a boom in real estate sales. For many people that depend on real estate to earn a living this all sounds too good to be true, and I am of course one of these people. However, in my job I provide many types of Angry Buyersreal estate service.  Here at 5Market, we assist sellers, buyers, investors, tenants, and business owners because they all have real estate needs.  And while many sellers are very happy these days, there is an equal amount of very frustrated buyers.

Currently, several neighborhoods are highly competitive.  In many cases, properties are going under contract before most buyers get to set foot in the door.  Two prime examples of this are Normaltown and Forest Heights.  Normaltown has many varied and unique properties which appeals to a wide range of buyers.   But it seems now that a buyer needs an insider tip to find something in this area.  Additionally, Forest Heights, which is located on the other side of Hawthorne, offers houses well below $200,000.  As a result, properties have been flying off the market in Forest Heights over the last several months.  These are just two areas where buyers are experiencing

Normal Hardware On Prince Ave
Normal Hardware On Prince Ave

frustration, but they are many more examples throughout the Athens area.   Meanwhile, there are still some areas and price points where the sellers are not always in control.   For example, people that are selling a property in Oconee for over $500,000 probably don’t think it is a “seller’s market”.  This doesn’t mean that no one is buying over $500,000, but that fewer buyers are able to afford this range.  Furthermore, many neighborhoods in west Athens are not seeing the appreciation they probably deserve.  The Timothy road corridor is full of great neighborhoods that still offer a lot of house for a reasonable amount of money.  But in the end, it always comes back to supply and demand.  The trends change from time to time, and right now it is trending towards our in town neighborhoods which is driving up the demand.

All that being said, what does it mean if you are a buyer in this market?  Well it means you should keep the faith, remain patient, and keep looking.  We all know that these property values cannot grow to infinity.  At some point, the market will level off or even come down a little.  But that doesn’t mean buyers shouldn’tdownload purchase.  The biggest reason buyers need to buy now are the interest rates.  If you can find a rate below 4.5% or even below 4%, you need to take advantage.  It is impossible to know what will happen with Athens real estate over the next 20 or 30 years.  But I know that they aren’t making any more land, and rates will have to go up at some point.

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UGA’s Impact on Athens Real Estate

This blog hasn’t been up for very long, but if you have read even a couple articles you should be able to tell how much I love the city of Athens, UGA, and especially Georgia Football.  While this blog is officially dedicated to Athens real estate, it is already apparent that Georgia athletics will always be a major topic for many posts. Arch For me, it is impossible to live or work in Athens and not care about the university and its future.   Here in Athens, we are so fortunate to have this great university right in the heart of our town. Small college towns are often unique and vibrant communities throughout the entire country.  I am of course somewhat bias, but I don’t think there are any better than Athens, GA.  The university brings so much to our town it is hard to really quantify.  It impacts our entire economy, and therefore it also impacts our real estate and its value.  With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to explore and discuss some of the ways UGA impacts Athens real estate.

First of all, the university brings stability to our local economy.  UGA has an enrollment of around 35,000 students.  That doesn’t include all the staff, and professors employed by the university which makes it an incredible employer and engine to the area.  The university isn’t exactly the kind of employer that is going to pack up and leave either.  If the University of Georgia goes out of business we will likely have bigger problems in the world than a lack of jobs.  So it brings people and jobs, but how does that effect Athens real estate.  Well obviously, it has a positive impact.  There are so many ways that UGA influences the real estate market that it is hard to cover entirely.  Maybe the best approach is to discuss UGA’s impact on residential, investment, and commercial real estate throughout the area.

Residential property is generally any property where people reside.  This could include your house, a condo, or an apartment complex. But for the purposes of this discussion we will classify residential property as a house in a residential neighborhood.  In previous posts, I have discussed residential markets in Normaltown and 5 Points.  Both areas of town are seeing a good bit of renovation and growth in value.  The driving factor behind this is location, and what makes their location desirable is their proximity to the university.  On the other side of Athens, the university has a similar impact on the east side of town.  As I mentioned earlier, the east side provides buyers with a different type of value.  Basically, more bang for your buck.  In addition, the east side is now DSC04143editedhome to the Veterinary Medical Center which is yet another example of the university impacting the area.  UGA is the heartbeat of Athens.  So many things center on it like employment, education, and entertainment.  It is only natural that people would want to reside in close proximity.  This creates a demand which in turn can increase property value.  Nevertheless, residential neighborhoods that are located a little further out benefit as well.  Just look to the growth in Oconee.  The Watkinsville area has become a very desirable place to live thanks to the new homes and good schools.  Many of the people that purchase homes in Oconee either work for UGA or have businesses that benefit from the school.  So whatever the value of your home is today just be glad it is in proximity to UGA because if not it would likely be worth less.

In many cases, commercial and investment property can be thrown into the same category.  Commercial real estate involves properties that are used for business purposes like retail stores, restaurants, or office space.  Almost every business owner in the area has to have a commercial space to operate their business.  For example, Athens is blessed with a unique downtown filled with bars, shops, and restaurants.  Downtown Athens is located right next to UGA’s north campus which is a major reason the downtown area does so well.  Every restaurant Welcome-to-Downtown-Athensdowntown depends on students, professors, and parents to make money.  Every retail space downtown needs students to shop in their store.  Every bar owner needs students to hang out in their bar to be successful.  If you think about it, without UGA downtown Athens would likely have a lot of vacant space.  In fact, how do think local retailers feel about Georgia football?  If they are smart they want Georgia football to succeed.  The better UGA does in sports the more people come to visit.  Consider a restaurant owner or bar owner during the football season.  They need that business to thrive, and without Georgia football many local businesses may not be here. But downtown is just one example of UGA’s impact on commercial real estate.   Go a little further out, and look at the Alps road area or the development around College Station.  Those are more examples of thriving commercial locations thanks to UGA.  So remember the next time you are eating in your favorite restaurant that it is probably still in business thanks to the university.

While most commercial properties are often investment properties, many residential properties are used for investment as well. When it comes to rental or investment property the correlation with UGA is fairly evident.  The student population provides a huge rental market in the area, and many people purchase residential properties to rent as an investment.   This market can be a little tricky from time to time because rental properties and their income are more sensitive to outside factors.  For instance, a property’s income will change over the years based on its age and the overall supply of housing.  In the end, the same old rule applies.  The better the location the more likely a property will have a higher return and higher value.

Here at 5 Market we are no different.  We work with residential, commercial, and investment properties that all benefit from UGA.  Truthfully, this information should be fairly evident to most people.  But sometimes we all need a reminder of how lucky we are here in Athens.  So be thankful to UGA, and be excited a new coach is coming.  Because even Georgia football is important to our real estate.

If you have any questions or real estate needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit my real estate brokerage firm, 5 Market Realty.

Athens, GA Real Estate: Where to Spend Money in Your Home

Here in Athens, real estate seems to be doing very well. Another area that is currently thriving is construction.  Builders are back building new homes, and contractors are booked up for months.  It seems that there are renovations going on all over town, and it is definitely a good time to be a contractor.  As we all know, supply and demand are tied together. under-renovation Therefore, if the demand for contractors is higher than you should probably expect the cost to be higher as well.  Conversely, if you look back to 2010 the cost was lower due to the lack of demand.  As I mentioned before, the 5 Points and Normaltown areas are seeing a lot of renovations and remodels.  Depending on your taste, you may or may not like the trend.  But trust me when I tell you that it is a good thing for our community.  When people invest in their home it is a sign of confidence in the market.  It also a good sign when builders invest in properties.  However, the one thing to watch out for is supply.  You never want to see the supply greatly exceed the demand.  All that aside, many homeowners are taking advantage of the low interest rates and investing in their homes.  This is great to see, but it is an area that many homeowners need advice because they often make mistakes.

HGTV-showchip-property-brothers
Property Brothers on HGTV

Thanks to the wonders of HGTV, many of us watch remodeling shows all the time.  The problem with these TV shows is that they are just that…TV shows.  For instance, Bill Cosby made raising kids seem fairly easy and often humorous.   Well it is often funny, but it may be one of the hardiest things a person will do in their life.  TV shows are not always based in reality.  This is especially true with so called “Reality TV Shows”.  If you pay attention to the credits in some reality shows they give credit to “writers”.  How in the world can a “Reality TV Show” have a writer?  My point is that these shows are fun and entertaining.  They are good for giving us ideas, but keep in mind that what works in California may not work here in Georgia.  HGTV-showchip-flip-or-flop Too often homeowners get excited and spend money in the wrong areas.  So where should homeowners spend money in their house? In my opinion, homeowners should focus on three main areas when upgrading or investing in their property.

  • Maintenance
  • Livable Space
  • Up Dates

First, you must spend money on maintenance.  This is commonly overlooked by a majority of property owners.  You absolutely have to maintain your property. Maintenance comes first no matter what.  It makes no sense to put in cultured marble if you have rotten windows.  The issue here is that most people don’t see the deferred maintenance.  But they can easily see a new bathroom.  If you do not maintain and upkeep your property it will definitely cost you money in the long run.  The next area that owners should focus their money is in the main living area or even adding more livable space.  Everybody seems to focus on bathrooms and the owner’s suite.  And these can be good areas to put money if you have it to spend.  But be warned that you may not get it back.  You need to be careful with how much you spend in areas like a master bedroom or bathroom.  In some cases, it is smart to upgrade them or make them larger but you can overdo it quickly.  You need to understand that people don’t live in their bathroom or bedroom.  They sleep and shower there, but they live in the rest of the house.  Buyers want large and functional kitchens with open living space.  Any outdoor living space is always a huge plus as well.  Storage can be a big plus, and if you want to expand a master it would be wise to make sure the closets are spacious.  Lastly, it is important to keep your house up to date or least keep it from becoming too dated.  Some older houses have fantastic space, but they have not been touched in 30 + years.  Therefore, they eventually sell at lower price because the entire house needs updating.  Which creates a good opportunity for a buyer to purchase the property low.  I am not suggesting that you remodel your kitchen and redecorate every 5 years.  However, if you are in your property for 15 years you may need to update a few things.

In closing, you will need to spend money on your home no matter what.  At the bare minimum, you need to maintain the property.  But if you take it a step further and renovate.  Be sure to do it wisely.  In the end, your home belongs to you, and you can decorate or upgrade it any way that you see fit.  But if you ever plan to sell it would be smart to consider future buyers.

If you have any questions or real estate needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit my real estate brokerage firm, 5 Market Realty.

Home Buying Process Part 2: Finding a Lender

Finding a lender and understanding your financial situation are critical when buying a home.  It is very common for home buyers to start looking at homes before talking with a lender but it can be a HUGE mistake.  Most people will go to a website and figure out a manageable monthly payment and then use that as a guide to begin searching homes.  In reality there are many factors and many options when financing a home.  The only people that are qualified to help you with this are a mortgage broker or a loan officer from an institutional lender.  Realtors can advise on where to go and what options may be best but they do not understand your credit history or your tax returns.  Therefore, it would be impossible for a realtor to speculate what your interest rate will be in the end.  Some people may even tell you to talk with a lender before finding a realtor.  housing-loan1 That is not a bad idea but a good realtor will help you find a good lender to get started.  There are many things you will need to understand when searching for a lender and a real estate professional can help you find the best people to speak with about a new loan. In general, a good realtor will explain the process to you before meeting with a lender because the more you understand about the process the better decision you will make.

First, you need to know that bigger is not always better.  Many people have an account with a large bank like Bank of America or a similar size bank, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them for a mortgage.  You need to work with people that are experienced and do a great job for their clients.  Sometimes the best loan officers don’t always stay with the big banks and that can happen for many reasons.  For example, bigger banks have recently been much slower when it comes to under writing and that can add frustrations to an already tedious process.  Second, you only need to meet with one or two lenders.  If they are referred to you by a professional than you should feel good about working with either one of them.  You don’t want to go around and meet with 8 lenders before making a decision.  In most cases a lender will pull your credit score when you meet.  And if you meet 8 lenders than your score will be pulled 8 times and that will lower your overall score.  Furthermore, there will not be a huge difference in rates between two very good lenders.  You may find a better deal on the fees or a better program, and sometimes you may just get along with one more than the other.  Third, DO NOT USE AN INTERNET LENDER!  You need to work with someone in your area and someone that you can keep a relationship with moving forward. Amazon Prime is great and everyone loves the internet but it is not a good place to get a loan plain and simple.  Lastly, get your documents in order before making an offer.  Any lender is going to need a lot of documentation from you to underwrite the loan.  For example, tax returns, paychecks, W2s, leases on existing properties, your net worth and the list goes on.  It is better to get this done early because it will speed up your loan.

In the end, you will enjoy the process much more if you locate a realtor and a lender in the beginning.  The loan process can feel overwhelming due to underwriting and government regulation.  It is tremendously helpful to have two professionals guide you through it and provide you with a realistic expectation of the process.

If you have any questions or real estate needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit my real estate brokerage firm, 5 Market Realty.

Home Buying Process: Part 1 Finding an Agent

Part 1:  Finding an Agent

The first thing to do when buying a property is to find a well-qualified real estate expert to help you with the process.  It is always fun to look for houses on the IPad or smart phone, and really it is ok to go ahead and do that when you decide to buy.  But do not set foot in a house or property until you have found a good realtor to help you. If you are buying in an area that you currently live than you probably already know a good deal about your town.  But a good realtor will know a lot more and be able to assist you throughout the entire process.  If you are moving out of town than it is imperative that you locate a professional in the area you are buying.  The last thing you want to do is waste time looking at properties in an area that you should not be buying.  Or you could end up buying the wrong house in the wrong location.  Home-Buying-101An expert in the area can really help you locate the right property for your family and lifestyle.  But locating a house is just the beginning. A good realtor should be able to provide real value during the entire process.  For example, negotiating, inspecting, financing, and creating the contract.  You can find a good person by searching the internet, making a few phones calls or even meeting with a few different agents.  Now that you know you need help it is important to understand what to look for in a good real estate person.

First, please understand that sometimes less is more.  The agent that sells the most may not be the best fit for you.  Top sellers usually employ a team of agents and they focus primarily on volume.  Top producers are good agents but they may not have a lot of knowledge in some markets.  For example, if an agent sells 200 homes a year spread out over 4 counties it would be almost impossible for that agent to have expert knowledge in all of those areas.   Second, you need to find someone that earns a living selling real estate and works full time in the business.  There are some part time agents that work very well in their market. But you probably wouldn’t hire an attorney that practiced law as a side business.  Would you go to a doctor that that mainly worked as a landscaper and practiced medicine part time?  NO! So why on earth would you buy a house or investment property from someone who “dabbles” in real estate?  It is impossible to be good at something by going half way.  Real estate is a profession just like law, medicine, or finance.  So you need to find a professional and not a part timer.

Lastly, find a person that knows the area you are looking to buy.  The best agent in Atlanta, GA is just about the worst agent in town when they come to Athens to sell a property.  Real estate is a local business that involves high level local knowledge and high level service.  You cannot get either from someone that doesn’t live and work in the area you are buying.  If you keep these three things in mind when looking for a realtor you will likely find a good professional to work with you through the entire process.

In closing, you need to understand that you need help.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how much HGTV you have watched.  If you want the process to run smoothly you need a good realtor.  If you have any questions or need help in the Athens area just email or call.

If you have any questions or real estate needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit my real estate brokerage firm, 5 Market Realty.

Location, Location, Location!

Most everyone has heard that the three most important things when it comes to real estate are location, location, location. In reality it is true, true, true. We all understand that real estate in Beverly Hills or Manhattan is generally worth athensdtmore than real estate in Nebraska. But this principle usually applies to even the smallest cities or towns. In the Athens area location and school district directly affect the value and desirability of a residential property. For example, the two strongest residential markets in Athens-Clarke County are the 5 Points Area and the Normaltown/Boulevard Area. Both of these neighborhoods are close to many in town amenities, the university, and are located in strong elementary school zones. In 5 Points we are seeing values above $200 per sq. foot and in Normaltown values are around $170 per sq foot in some areas. There are many factors that can contribute to value but most can be traced back to location

For example, the Watkinsville area has some of the best schools in the state and it is in close proximity to Athens, GA. This creates a strong residential market in Oconee County and makes it desirable. The land can be purchased cheaper and therefore buyers can see a value to living in that area because they can have more house for less money. So if the schools are strong and the location is good why can someone buy more house for less money? Because land is more abundant in that area. The availability of land is directly correlated to the location. There is just not as much land to build or own in Clarke County as there is in Oconee. For example, a condo in the heart of Downtown Athens will be worth more than one located on Epps Bridge because in the downtown location land is scarce. Basically, it comes down to supply and demand. With little supply demand can grow.

Real Estate values are returning in our area and confidence is up with consumers. It is not likely that the market will crash like it did in 2008 but the reality is that trees do not grow to the sky. At some point, the local market will have to slow. It doesn’t mean it will fall but it will not grow to infinity. The best thing to do is to be aware of all the factors in location when buying a property. Make sure the location has a value and will remain valuable in good times and bad. Please understand that popular interior features are always changing when it comes to real estate. There is no way to know what will be the hot new look of a kitchen in 15 years but one can make a reasonable prediction on what locations will still have a high value. In closing, a well located property will sell in a good market or a bad market. So always make location the TOP priority when purchasing a property. Do not get too wrapped up in granite, tile, or other interior features interior. Remember location always wins.

If you have any questions or real estate needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit my real estate brokerage firm, 5 Market Realty.