ImageAs a realtor, I am always asked for service provider recommendations, especially from first time homeowners and folks new to the area. And as a Realtor, I am supposed to be very careful who and more importantly “how” I do referrals. I am supposed to refer three lenders, three inspectors, three roofers, etc. This is to keep me from getting sued because “My realtor told me to use this one guy…” 

Well I’m going to stick my neck out and recommend ONE very good auto mechanic shop in Athens, GA:  The Import Car Doctors. They are just a pleasure to work with, and I love doing business with them. They have the can do attitude with the quality of work to back it up. In a business where honesty is often called into question (and I am talking about me being a realtor), I pride myself on my integrity, and Claudio is so obviously the same way. I am in the people business first, and I know people: Claudio is good people, I just love these folks!



Once trust is established in business or life, the only thing left is to build a friendship, and that is the real meat of life because everybody has a great story and we are all in this together. Claudio’s story is one that makes me feel good (and a little jealous). I am always a sucker for a good story involving people with creative spirit, real talent, and good old American Hustle!

Husband/Wife Owners Claudio and Shelly started this business kind of not expecting to. As a pilot for UPS and flying Huge AirBus Jets overseas, Claudio is already gainfully employed. A medical condition, which was dealt with, forced Claudio to be grounded for a year, and in that time, he decided to start a small business. Growing up in his dad’s auto shop on Broad Street called C. Lopez and Son (he was the son), the business was obviously going to be mechanical in nature, and I am so glad Claudio decided to open his doors to the public. His dad is a little older now but still roams the shop. Their family moved here from Lima, Peru when Claudio Jr. was ten years old, and the rest is history. Claudio still flies but his business continues to soar…The Import Car Doctors immediately filled with reputable seasoned local mechanics whose advice you can take to the bank. They work on Toyota’s, Honda’s, Volvo’s, you name it. They even work on my Mercedes wagon (a rare service in ATH unless you go to a dealer). When I considered buying a second house-chore and mountain biking car (wait for it…a 1984 El Camino), my personal mechanic Grady said,  “Yeah, we’ll work on a Chevy.” They do it all! Ending on anecdote: Recently I was due for a 140000 mile major service, and  Claudio called me to say that was more like Dealer Fluff Speak for up-selling the unwitting customer…needless to say he didn’t do that. Enough Said. 



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!


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 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…

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.
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.

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

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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