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Archive for August 28th, 2008

Alright, I committed one of the most heinous crimes a blogger can commit, and I am about to admit it:  I failed to post recently!  It’s true, and you know it.  Spencer from Athens Habitat for Humanity noticed it, and he was good enough to email today and say, “Dude, you need some new posts!”  I hate when people state the obvious things about me that need to change, but I like Spencer and I applaud honesty in people big time.  Like, when I notice something has not been done in our office, and I politely ask the responsible party what gives, and they say, “Sorry, it got buried in my stuff, and I forgot.”  No passive language, like “it got lost, and it didn’t get done…mistakes were made.”

So here’s what I am working on right now with the blog and otherwise.  I am editing a piece by Brian our appraiser, and am working on a piece about what Days on Market in Athens, GA really means when analyzing a listing and why ATH seems to have such high DOM averages.  Buyers are also suddenly coming out of the woodwork, and I am totally covered up in a good way.  Also, my partner and I just signed a strong listing contract for 15 in-town lofts (see way below in this post for why this news is ironic) that I don’t want to mention because this blog is not about marketing.  If you want to see them, though, go to my other site for my business.  I tell you this mostly because they are about the most unusual build-out in ATH history.  If you googled anything ATH related, you ran across them because the marketing has been excellent. 

But getting back to the buyers coming out of the woodwork thing. . .  It’s true. It’s the end of August and things are getting busier by the day.  I can say this for my personal business, but I also sense something changing in the office as well.  There is a heightened sense of activity. All our conference rooms seem filled with young couples, crying babies, excited agents wandering in and out in search of purchase and sale agreements and appraisal contingency exhibits.  Could it be that things are looking up?  Perhaps, but…

If you have been following RE news, you will know that most down payment assistance loan programs are rapidly going away, and lenders are scrambling to take advantage of the last week or two with these loan products still on the shelf.  Kind of like outlawing FREON but allowing it to be sold (stockpiled?) for a few more months before the complete ban goes into effect.  First time buyers beware:  The days of waltzing into a home without dropping a dime of your own money are just about up. 

OK, I will temper the gloomy/pessimistic assessment of the current exciting bump in market activity with some other upbeat news I just heard today.  Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two largest publicly-traded buyers of mortgages in the secondary market are up 20% and 15%, respectively, for the week, signaling a possibly bullish stance from investors who may be sensing a light at the end of the RE tunnel.  I could temper this positive news with a pessimistic analysis of what it could really mean, but I won’t.

What does all this mean for ATH?  OK, I am going to make a prediction.  Every one seems to say things will get much worse before they get better, maybe 18 months to 2 years (or more) of decreased values and market woes.  I am predicting that ATH will see a rebound or bottom out sooner than other areas of the United States or even the South, to be more specific.  How soon?  This Spring will be the beginning of the settling down of the market here.  Prices will stabilize in most neighborhoods and some will begin their ascent but maybe not to the ethereal zone where they were in the recent past. 

I also predict that certain neighborhoods will not fair as well, and they will be permanently scarred from this mess.  I’ve written in the past about the reality of neighborhood life cycles and sub-prime neighborhoods, and these areas may be in for it.  By permanent, I don’t mean permanent (I voted for the war before I voted against it…).  I just mean a long term trend may have been started that will take some areas in ATH a while to overcome (like a generation). 

The reality of rapid gentrification of in-town ATH is also going to intersect with the aforementioned rapidly declining outlying neighborhood syndrome recently made worse by the mortgage/credit/RE market woes.  Toss it how you want, those without money will go where they can afford to live, and many of the city’s many outlying neighborhoods, formerly home to those with more means, are becoming and will continue to become remote pockets of poverty.  The RE mess currently in play is having its way with a lot of neighborhoods on the cusp, making them even more affordable, less desirable by seemingly savvy investors,  and more ripe for places to hide our impoverished fellow citizens. 

This post is dedicated to Spencer Frye tonight because I know he is going to read this and tell me he agrees with my analysis on poverty in ATH.  There is a trend here in ATH, and if you didn’t know it, you do now.  I just hope I am wrong.  But I get paid to be right, so…

Athens, GA:  A great place to call home and a great place to raise a family, but also not a place for wimps who can’t handle the truth.  And that’s why I love it.  No hiding here (unlike many other college towns in the United States)  More posts sooner than later.  I promise.  JP

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