Monday, September 27, 2010

Home Hunting with a Creative Mind!

I'm a blog-o-holic - I follow several real estate and home decorating blogs like a sports fanatic follows ESPN. As a Realtor, I love looking at houses, so therefore, I can spend countless hours on the internet looking at houses and browsing for new decorating ideas. I stumbled across two photos on a blog dedicated to decorating, yet it applies to so many buyers that I've worked with that I knew I wanted to share. These two photos are so simple, but they say so much. They are "before and after" photos of a kitchen. Check them out below and see what a dramatic change took place:



Impressive, huh? Any modern makeover is always exciting, but there's something even more exciting... Look carefully at the pictures. Do you notice that there are only 2 major features that are different? Paint and cabinet hardware. They painted the cabinets one color and the wood paneling up top another color for contrast. They also changed out the cabinet hardware and added a pop of color with the shade on the window. The tile backsplash is the same, the appliances are the same, the countertops are the same, so is the sink and the faucet. An updated and modern kitchen for $150 or so. The point I want to make to buyers looking for a home, is to look with an open mind and think of the simple changes that you can make to update a house and make it your home. Need inspiration? I've got 1254 home decorating blogs that I can send you links to! :)

There's also a moral of the story for sellers - can you guess what I'm about to say? You should also think of the small things you can do to update your home and make it more appealing to buyers. The kitchen is one of the most important rooms of a house when it comes to selling. A tranformation like this would be well worth the $150!!

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Serving the Southern Crescent of Metro Atlanta: Henry County, Clayton County, Fayette County, Coweta County, Spalding County, Pike County, Rockdale County, Butts County, etc. McDonough, Stockbridge, Locust Grove, Hampton, Jackson, Conyers, Fayetteville, Brooks, Tyrone, Peachtree City, Senoia, Newnan, Sharpsburg, Griffin, Barnesville, Riverdale, Forest Park, Jonesboro, Rex, Morrow, East Point, Hapeville, etc.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Incredible Time to Buy in Atlanta & It's Suburbs!

Interest Rates are At a 40 Year Low and You Can Live in Atlanta and its Suburbs for Less than $800 a Month!

Browsing the Yahoo page this morning, I came across an article discussing 10 places you can live for $800 or less that was taken from US News. Here's the clippings I want to share with you.

"While the nation's real estate crash has been a nightmare for homeowners, it has created some outstanding opportunities for would-be buyers. Home prices in 20 major cities dropped 33 percent from the summer of 2006 to the spring of 2009--and in certain markets, the plunge was even steeper. At the same time, the federal government's efforts to revive the housing market have helped drive financing costs to record lows. Thirty-year fixed mortgage rates fell to an average of 4.32 percent for the week ending September 2. That's the lowest level in nearly 40 years of record-keeping. Lower property values and dirt-cheap mortgage rates have combined to restore affordability to many real estate markets that were once wildly overpriced. "Right now, housing is about as affordable as it has been since at least the 1970s," says Patrick Newport, a U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight.

To see how far your real estate dollar will stretch in different places across the country, U.S. News examined housing costs on a monthly payment basis. We started with the National Association of Realtors' median home price data for 159 distinct metropolitan statistical areas as of the second quarter of 2010. After subtracting a 20 percent down payment from a market's median price, we plugged the remaining figure into a mortgage calculator using a 4.32 percent interest rate on a 30-year fixed loan. The exercise produces a monthly payment figure for mortgage principal and interest, which represents the bulk of most property owners' monthly housing costs. (Note that this figure does not include monthly costs for utilities, insurance, or taxes, which can vary a great deal from one place to another. Nor does it reflect the one-time costs associated with a home purchase, such as the down payment and closing costs.) Using this calculation, here is a look at 10 places where you can buy a home for less than $800 a month"

1. Austin, Texas
2. Sarasota, Florida
3. Albuquerque, New Mexico
4. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Missouri
5. Columbus, Ohio
6. Phoenix, Arizona
7. Columbia, South Carolina
8.  Boise, Idaho
9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
10. Atlanta, Georgia: With a young, fast-growing population, Atlanta is an exciting city in the heart of the South. The median home price in the Atlanta area was nearly $123,000 in the second quarter of this year, up slightly from the same period a year earlier. After a 20 percent down payment--or $24,600--monthly payments for mortgage principal and interest on a median-priced Atlanta home come to $488.

One Note I want to make about this article is that they base everything on a 20% downpayment. Don't fret if you can't do that! There are loan products that offer as little as 3.5% down and even some that still offer 100% financing and just $100 down. Even with those little down payments we can find you a home for right around $800 a month. We're closing two very nice homes this month where our buyers are going to be paying around $800-$900 a month. That's cheaper than rent! Call us and we'll explain the process!

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Home Prices Continue to Fall - Put Your House on the Market Now to Obtain the Highest Price! Next Year Will Not be Better!

The next three months will be interesting for home prices.
The impact of the homebuyers’ tax credit is fading from the market and so are the buyers. We must realize that in September, October and November of last year buyers were rushing to buy a home before the expiration of the original tax credit (November 30). There is no such impetus this year.

As evidence, this week’s Mortgage Bankers’ Association Weekly Application Survey showed that mortgage purchase applications were:  well below levels seen prior to the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit, and is almost 40 percent below the level recorded one year ago.

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported:  Housing inventories rose in many U.S. cities for the eighth straight month in August in a sign of the continued headwinds facing a soft housing market … Inventories nationally remain at their highest levels since November 2008.

We’re back to the theory of supply and demand. Demand is softening as the supply of homes for sale is escalating.

Bottom Line
There will be tremendous downward pressure on prices throughout the rest of 2010 and going into 2011. You should sell as soon as possible if you are thinking of selling in that time frame. Don't think like some sellers......"Oh, I'll just wait until prices come back up in a year or two." They aren't coming back up that soon!

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Appraisals Under More Scrutiny!

 Home Appraisals Come Under More Scrutiny!
By: Marcie Geffner of

Homebuyers and sellers who expect an appraisal to sail through to closing without a hitch may be surprised to discover that home appraisals today can be problematic. The reasons for the change are complex, but there's no question that mortgage lenders have started to demand more reviews and do-overs.

Rob Johnson, vice president of lending at San Diego Funding, a mortgage company in San Diego, attributes the increase in home appraisal reviews to lender-specific requirements imposed because of past problems with certain types of home loans. For example, a mortgage lender might demand more scrutiny of an appraisal if the borrower has a marginal credit score or high debt level relative to income or if the property was a foreclosure that was fixed up and flipped by an investor.

Appraisals may lag home prices

Home prices are also a factor. When prices are on the rise, perhaps because buyers have bid more in a multiple-offer situation, appraised values might still be lower. The reverse is also the case.

"Any time you have a market in transition, appraisals aren't going to keep up because the appraisal is based on historical data," Johnson says.

Inadequate "comps" can present problems as well. ("Comps" are recent sales of nearby homes that are similar, or comparable, to the home that's the subject of the appraisal.) The mortgage lender may deem the comps inadequate if the homes were too far away or were sold in such nontraditional circumstances as a short sale or foreclosure or if the sales occurred too long ago. If the comps aren't sufficient, the lender may order a review or second home appraisal to verify that they were chosen correctly.

"If (the appraiser) can't find three comps within that area and has to expand, that is where you start to get appraisal reviews or secondary appraisal requirements to make sure the appraisal was valid or that (the lender) was comfortable," Johnson says.

The term "second appraisal" generally refers to a new, start-from-scratch valuation. An appraisal review could be a "desk review," in which the appraisal gets a second look by an office-bound person, or a "field review," in which the appraisal is subject to another drive-by or in-person inspection of the property. A review is more common than a second appraisal.
New guidelines distance lenders from appraisers

Leslie Sellers, president of the Appraisal Institute in Chicago, says a lender might order a new home appraisal if the first one was based on factual errors or the appraiser wasn't competent in the area.

Some second appraisals, he adds, result from a misunderstanding of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct, guidelines that were meant to prevent undue pressure being placed on appraisers to inflate home valuations, but that may have caused some lenders to cut off communication with appraisers."The banks are thinking they can't even talk to the appraiser," he says.

Sellers can offer comps to appraiser

An appraisal review can cost several hundred dollars while a second appraisal generally involves a second full fee, says Sara Schwarzentraub, owner of Inter-State Appraisal Service in San Diego. These costs usually are paid by the buyer.

"It's commendable that the lenders are being cautious and having stricter criteria to protect themselves, because in the long term that protects everybody, but it does make it more costly," she says.

Home sellers can offer the appraiser information that might affect the appraiser's opinion of the home's value. This information is best handed over before the appraisal is prepared. "If you know of a sale that's similar to your house and it was a foreclosure, short sale, divorce or anything of that nature, make the appraiser aware of that," Sellers says.
Real-estate brokers can help buyers and sellers find comps to offer the appraiser, Johnson says. If the broker believes comps may present a problem, the buyer and seller can plan accordingly. "A good real-estate agent is aware of these issues. Many times, an agent will call us and say, 'I know we are going to have problems with comps on this," he says.

Buyers and sellers also can agree on longer time frames for the home appraisal contingency and closing date. Schwarzentraub says that asking for a 45- or 60-day closing, rather than 30 days, is not unreasonable.

Buyers are entitled by federal law to a copy of any appraisal for which they've paid a fee. Buyers should look over the appraisal and notify the lender of any errors that could have affected the appraiser's opinion of the home's value.

What This Means for Stephens & Stephens and You
For Our Sellers:
 We are always brutally honest with our sellers about values. We pledge to always tell you upfront what we expect your house to sell for and to back it up with comps from the area. This helps avoid any shock when the appraisal comes in. Rebekah and I always tell our sellers that we have to sell the house twice, the first time to the buyer, and the second to the appraiser (meaning we have to make them see the value in the home too). We rarely run into appraisal issues because of this, but every once it awhile it still happens. When it does, we do our best to show the appraiser where we are coming from and provide additional comps or information on the home.

For Our Buyers: Before our buyers place an offer on any home, we'll show you a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) on the neighborhood or area to show you what homes are selling for. After reviewing it with the buyer, we'll help make a decision about a fair offer price. The comps we review are likely the same comps an appraiser will look at, therefore we already kind of know what the comparisons are going to be. If the comps don't support the seller's asking price, then obviously we advise our buyers to offer less and back it up by showing the comps. We also add protection for our buyers by adding an "Appraisal Contingency" clause, meaning the house must appraise for the contract price or you'll have the right to renegotiate or walk away.

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