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I will file this in the file called “Things that make you go Hmmm…” I knew the market busted wide open in the Athens, GA Regional Area in the last 3 months, but apparently the national water supply has been spiked with “buyer frenzy”. Even if you don’t really care too much about real estate, Part 1 of this piece is a must listen if only for its sheer sociological value.  It was broadcast yesterday on our local NPR station, WUGA 91.7 FM. Give a listen…I’m sure you will be talking about it with friends later in the day. Have a Great Day!

Joe P.

Listen Here!

 

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Part I: Introduction

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but the Athens, GA Regional Real Estate Market is now officially on the side of the seller, flipped like a light switch while you were asleep, buyers dreaming of sweetheart deals and sellers of falling knives…

We are now well under the standard amount of inventory typically on market, and buyers who were picking through the same old scraps are now actually deciding to buy those too! Seems like everything with a sign in the yard has been going under contract. Stucco home riddled with termites on a flood plane and in a questionable neighborhood? Under Contract! That house in your neighborhood that looked like it would never sell, the one that has been through 4 separate realtors for literally a 1000+ days on market? Multiple offers! Overnight, gone are the days of low-ball offers that actually get countered, three-day seller response deadlines, and washers and dryers thrown in to seal the deal. Now, buyers better bring it strong(er), demand a seller response in 8 hours, and go get their own washer and dryer! And new construction? Yes, it’s back too…big time.

I was going to do ONE blog post on what could possibly be fueling the buying frenzy currently underway in the Athens area, but as I started to list the possibilities, I just kept typing and typing! And as I continued writing, I kept stopping to jot reminders of other things happening that are likely fueling the frenzy. The result: A Multi-Post Series I am now working on called Fueling the Frenzy: Why the Athens, GA Housing Just Keeps Getting Hotter and Hotter.

THE OBVIOUS

The obvious first cause of this market turnaround has to do with rates staying at close to the historical lows we all know about. Credit is also getting a little looser, and buyers are able to shop out their mortgages, and competition ensues. The result: Great Rates and Closing Costs. After shopping around, one of my clients he was able to settle on a local lender who gave him next to 0% loan origination on an 80% Loan to Value mortgage. His rate was 3.375%, and the his total closing costs, including escrowed insurance and taxes were only 2.0% of purchase price (308k) if you factored out owner’s title insurance, which I don’t always think is a must have in every transaction. With T.I., his closing costs were about 2.2%. To put that into perspective, I usually tell my buyers to expect to pay a 3-4% in closing costs for houses under 200k and around 3% for houses over 300k.

In my current experiences, prospective buyers are also getting the sense that these heady days of great rates and desperate sellers are not going to stick around for long, and they are now partly fulfilling their prophecy by pushing us into a seller’s market. There are just too darn many buyers out there right now and too few sellers of fine housing stock. The result: Inventory depletion, market stabilization, moderate price increases, and a shift in the buyer-seller dynamic we’ve grown used to these last 4 years.

More to Come!

Next Post: The Less Obvious Reasons for the Turnaround that is most definitely not happening elsewhere as dramatically as it is here in the 3 to 5 County Area (Clarke, Oconee, Madison, Jackson, and Oglethorpe)

Please consider sharing this post with anyone you may think would benefit. Spring will be in the air next week, and it is definitely not too late to sell or buy, but now is the time for both…

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What a dreary day in ATH.  It has been raining for three straight days, but I kind of like it.  My daughter loves it, but I only kind of like it because I just keep thinking about the gutters and downspouts, drainage, the shedding of water off the roof near the chimney, and other homeowner concerns when an extraordinary amount of rain comes down.  Ignorance is bliss…

 
So last Friday I sat down with UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson to talk to him a little bit about the department and then more specifically about the changes in the department associated with the opening of the new Normaltown area Health Science Campus (HSC).  For the uninitiated, The HSC is a 57 acre new addition to UGA.  Located West of Downtown and Main Campus, the HSC is the former home of the U.S. Navy Supply School, which was recently closed as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC). Lots of folks kept calling the campus “the new med school campus” because the campus was soon going to house a new UGA med school in partnership with the Medical College of Georgia. The reality is a little different; yes the med school will be housed there, but many other heath science classes will also be held there (along with faculty offices and housing).  Estimates are that there will be up to 300 undergrads taking classes there each day along with the med school students (last I heard, the med school goal was to graduate 140 doctors each year).  Big changes for Normaltown are in process!  Normaltown, by the way, got its name from the fact that the Navy School was originally a normal school (teacher college) many moons ago. 

 
All this got me to thinking: An additional 57 acre satellite campus a few miles from main campus is surely going to change the UGA Police Department’s already unique role in the community.  Policing a large addition several miles away from main campus definitely puts the UGA police in more contact with the general public while wending their way to Normaltown.  What does that mean for us? The chief and I met a while ago when I showed him and his wife a house that I had listed, and I have since sort of kept up with him.  He was kind of enough to talk with Classic City Guide about the topic at hand.  It would be great if you would share this interview as a link with your friends in the community. The chief is a really good guy, and his crew that hails from what amounts to the coolest police station ever (The old/newly renovated Hodgson Oil Building in Downtown) are professionals from the top down.  Being a UGA police officer is not a stepping stone to a “real” police career, as you will hear; rather, they are the real deal and look after us in more ways than one.  Joe P.
 
 
 

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If things go well, I am looking to have December be my best month of 2011.  Never thought I’d write a sentence like that, but business has picked up noticeably in the 4th Quarter in the Athens Area.  It is still extremely challenging to keep deals moving towards an actual closing, but that has a lot to do with appraisals and the quirky disposition of many buyers these days (More on that later). The report is encouraging and proves what I think many of us have already intuitively been realizing: Things are picking up! Is this the rebound we’ve all been waiting for? Perhaps but RE in this town is neighborhood by neighborhood, it’s that localized.  I will have a much better idea in three years…  ;^)
 

Read the report here.

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It’s 8:30 AM and I just got back from dropping off my bro in law downtown to drink beer before the UGA vs. Kentucky game. Let me repeat, It’s 8:30 AM. Only in Athens…If I did that, tomorrow would feel like recovering from minor surgery.

Anyway, I came home and wrote a long post associated with the article below, and then I said, “forget it, trash it, let the article stand on its own merits.”

Flagpole Magazine — City Pages — Law Enforcement — 11.16.11

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Has the Whole World Gone Mad?

(Water Sobchak: The Big Lebowski)

 

A funny thing happened to me again yesterday. I call is Foreclosure Mania, that intense desire to purchase a foreclosure, so much so that all other listings on the market are ignored regardless of their inherent value. The following anecdote will demonstrate how the affliction manifests itself in today’s buyer. But first, a description of the property involved.

This is a very cool, shed-style, 80’s era cedar-sided contemporary in the woods for 114k.  Move-in ready but could use some updating in the kitchen and baths, and all this could be done on the cheap, but the improvements are not absolutely necessary.  Lots of wow factor to the place. Open floorplan; vaulted ceilings; hearth-like fireplace; much like a mini ski-lodge). In my opinion, a steal at 114k. And that is the asking price. These are negotiable buyers. Also a very good location that is convenient to town, campus, and the East Side Athens retail corridor with grocery stores, banks, restaurants, cafes, bars, etc.

OK, so last night I got an automated text message from our lockbox provider, telling me that the above home was shown by a local realtor.  The house is vacant house, so I had no prior indication that the place would be shown, which is fine.  The showing agent is also a good friend of mine.  I called him a few hours later for feedback. He said the showing went well and that he was showing houses to a friend and he really wanted her to see my listing, which had been on his radar for a while. The basics of the conversation: Young woman buying first home, and according to the agent she “doesn’t have a lot of scratch” (love that term!).  She wants to be on the East Side of Athens.  She likes the house very much but “really wants to buy a foreclosure.” There wasn’t a touch of irony in how he said it. Forget that the house already has a killer price tag.  Forget the new roof, new interior paint throughout, a two car garage in a neighborhood of one car garages, new HVAC, original owner and more.  Forget that you would never find a foreclosure on the East Side in this good of shape at this price.  Not in a million years. Forget that it is already priced like a foreclosure and the sellers have told me to market their negotiability.

 

What gets me is that the buyer and presumably my friend are both wearing blinders (I chastised him for this, don’t worry). I mean, what are you shopping for, a home or a foreclosure? That’s like saying, “Yes, I realize that is a great sweater at a great price and I really really like it, but it’s not on the clearance rack!” OK, It’s not a closeout! It’s not on sale! But darn it, this is a kick butt house in a great college town, and it can be yours for probably lower than 114k! One Hundred Fourteen Thousand Dollars! Hello?

Sadly, I’ve heard this story so many times in the last two years that I am beginning to have a visceral response each time I hear it.  Last night, I was driving while having that conversation, and I began looking for the largest hardwood tree close to the road so I could steer my car right into it and end the pain! Nahh…that’s too easy. I guess I will just grin and bear it.

But seriously, somebody tell me what I am missing? Am I not seeing something here that would explain the near sightedness on the part of the buyer and her agent? Isn’t it incumbent upon him to step up and disabuse her of her notions? Instead, I think he gulped some kool-aid too.  When is this going to end?

“I used to be disgusted, and now I try to be amused.”

(Elvis Costello: Angels Wanna Wear my Red Shoes.)

 

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Now that the buying season is supposedly officially over, it is time time to prep your house for next year’s market…which begins in three months! No kidding. Expect a bit of a slow down in the last quarter almost upon us, but there is still a market in the year’s last three months. I had my best best month ever one November about three years ago. Man, the number 3 is figuring prominently in this post, so let’s stick with it. If you are really thinking about selling next year, er uh, I mean in three months, you need to prepare now. Don’t wait. Holidays will be here shortly and Jan 1 is a blink away. There are plenty of things you can be doing that you will be glad you did come crunch time, that dreaded week before the listing when you are working on the long list of things you still need to do before the photographer arrives.

Here are three things you can do right away, without even thinking about it. Well, four, actually, if you do the right thing and call a realtor after step three. That is a given. So many listings appointments I go to have faded FSBO signs in the garage. Some of us are actually pretty good at what we do ;^)

1. De-Clutter – Remove everything in your house that you know deep down that you really don’t use that much. Get rid of the rowing machine (do they still exist?). Box up the 2000 pounds of books. All the stuff in room corners, get rid of it. Closets! Clean ‘em out. Box and store off property, donate it, or throw it out, vowing to never again acquire so much crap! Also? De-Stage if you are the type who likes wall after wall of little tables that look nice but just make your otherwise larger house feel tiny. Anything that is not functional, seriously consider removing before deciding to keep it. And here’s a tip: If you are even remotely considering removing something, remove it! My clients ask WWJS: What would Joe say? Get it gone! And tackle the Laundry Room!

2. Clean – Nothing makes a buyer walk out of a house like grime. Nothing makes a place look sharp and crisp like no grime. Buyers rarely comment on how clean a house is (they expect it to be clean), but when they see inexplicably grimy floor trim, soiled light switches, fan blades caked with years of dust and grease, they get really skeeved really quickly. Do this deep cleaning now and then simply maintain it. And tackle the Laundry Room! Can’t do it alone? PAY SOMEONE TO HELP YOU! Admit you suck at cleaning, vow to change, and get it done. You will like the results so much, you may not want to move. Careful! Pride is a dangerous thing.

3. Yard Work and Garage – Remember that person you fancied yourself when you first bought your house? You know, the happy homeowner who was going to garden every weekend, do wood working in your spacious garage (Honey, we could have a party in here!). Then the kids came and while they demanded so much attention, your house did something really weird: It became your home. You actually lived in it! God forbid! And playing with the kids at the baseball field, face it, is way more fun (and more important) than staying on top of things domestically speaking. Well, now’s the time.
First: The Garage. If you have one, that is, of you don’t, you win! Declutter the hell out of it! All the scraps of wood, the myriad projects started and stopped, the Christmas tree laying in the corner like a mob hit. GO TO THE DUMP, and vow to never be this way again. Organize for the umpteenth time, but this time, keep it this way…at least until you see the place, right! Go in on a dumpster with a neighbor or two and agree to have it located in your driveway for 5 days. Fill it, and curse yourself for have too much stuff…we’ve all been there. Whatever. Again, if it is daunting, pay someone to help you. I can give you three names today of reliable and inexpensive helpers to ease your burden and still get you on the couch for the game, so no excuses.
Second: The Yard: Engage in some improvements using what I call Addition by Subtraction. Piece of cake. You need hand pruners, loppers, pruning saw, rake, maybe a shovel. You would not believe the drastic change you can make to your curb appeal simply by limbing up trees, hacking back shrubs (or removing them altogether), Debulking all the biomass from last year’s fall that you just kept blowing to the sides, clean the gutters and roof, pull weeds and cut /dig out volunteer plants that are turing into trees and growing at your foundation. Hose stuff down. That’s it. I didn’t even suggest planting some color by the front door! But you already know that, and that can wait for closer to listing day and for another blog post…

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