25th January 2010

Advantage Realtors Joins GA MLS

gamls_jpgAdvantage Realtors joined Georgia MLS on Friday January 22, 2010 and are now members of both of the big main Multiple Listing Services in Georgia – GA MLS & FMLS. This means Advantage Realtors clients and the general public can go to the Advantage Realtors Homescanner Search Engine on any of the company or agent websites and see virtually every home listed by every real estate agent and firm in Georgia. This also means Advantage Realtors listings will now have a much wider exposure to more agents in Georgia working with buyers. To compensate for not being a GAMLS member, Advantage Realtors targeted advertising to various GAMLS agent offices to advertise thier northside listings to those southside offices – sometimes at considerable expense – now its all done automatically and at significantly less cost.

While Advantage agents always had manual access to GAMLS listings for thier clients, visitors to the Advantage Realtors websites did not have this same access – visitors were seeing primarily FMLS listings which cover 20+ counties around Atlanta.  FMLS and GAMLS have always overlapped, however among industry users such as realtors, FMLS has always been associated with listings in In-Town and Downtown Atlanta and the Greater North Atlanta area. GAMLS has always been associated with southside and outerlying counties including most other counties all over GA. While that still largly holds true, both MLS’s have expanded thier listings into each others “historical” coverage area and all over Georgia as well.

Broker/Owner, Robert Whitfield said the move to join GAMLS was a good one and will help every area of the companies business, as more buyers and sellers from outside of the metro Atlanta area seek to do business with the company.

posted in Atlanta Housing Market, New Posts | Comments Off on Advantage Realtors Joins GA MLS

9th January 2010

Big Gains in Existing-Home Sales as Buyers Respond to Tax Credit

sold-house

Conditions in the current housing market, with great interest rates and cheaper prices are optimal for buyers with secure jobs – add in the current tax credits of $8000 for first time buyers, or $6500 for buyers with existing homes (both set to expire April 30, 2010) and it doesnt get any better! And plenty of buyers are taking action as the stats below show. 

I just helped a young first time buyer get out of her apartment and into her first home and at the same time qualifiy for the $8000 tax credit – it was really exciting. Like most buyers, rather than waiting until 2009 taxes are filed, she will file an amendment to her 2008 return and the IRS will mail her an $8000 refund check in a few weeks. What an awesome way to cap off the wonderful experience of becoming a new homeowner!

Take a look at some interesting sales statistics from data compiled in a late December 09 report by NAR (National Association of Realtors®):

Existing-home sales rose again in November 09 as first-time buyers rushed to close sales before the original November 30 deadline for the recently extended and expanded $8000 tax credit.

Total housing inventory at the end of November declined 1.3 percent to 3.52 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.5-month supply, down from an 7.0-month supply in October.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average loan commitment rate for a 30-year conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.88 percent in November from 4.95 percent in October; the rate was 6.09 percent in November 2008. November 09’s mortgage interest rate of 4.88 was the second lowest on record after bottoming at 4.81 percent in April 2009.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 7.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.54 million units in November from 6.09 million in October, and are 44.1 percent higher than the 4.54 million-unit pace in November 2008. Sales remain at the highest level since February 2007 when they hit 6.55 million.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the rise was expected. “This clearly is a rush of first-time buyers not wanting to miss out on the tax credit, but there are many more potential buyers who can enter the market in the months ahead,” he said. “We expect a temporary sales drop while buying activity ramps up for another surge in the spring when buyers take advantage of the expanded tax credit, which hopefully will take us into a self-sustaining market in the second half of 2010. In all, 4.4 million households are expected to claim the tax credit before it expires and balance should be restored to the housing sector with inventories continuing to decline.”

An NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 51 percent of homes in November, compared with an upwardly revised 50 percent of transactions in October.
For the second month in a row, sales have risen in all price classes from a year earlier. Prior to October, the only consistent gains were in the lower price ranges.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said conditions are optimal for buyers in the current market. “Inventories have steadily declined and are closer to balanced levels, which indicate home prices in many areas are either stabilizing or could soon stabilize and return to normal appreciation patterns,” she said. “This means buyers still have good choices but are purchasing near the bottom of the price cycle with historically low mortgage interest rates. Throw a tax credit on top and it really doesn’t get any better for buyers with secure jobs and long-term ownership plans.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $172,600 in November, which is 4.3 percent below November 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 33 percent of sales in November, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.

Sales are Up, Prices are down!

Single-family home sales jumped 8.5 percent to 5.77 million units in November from 5.32 million units in October – 42.1 percent above the pace in November 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $171,900 in November, down 4.4 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales in November were 60.1 percent above sales a year ago. The median existing condo price was $178,000 in November – 3.1 percent below November 2008.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 6.6 percent to an annual level of 1.13 million in November, and are 52.7 percent higher than November 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $223,400 – down 13.1 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 8.4 percent in November to a pace of 1.55 million and are 53.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $140,800 – a decline of 0.4 percent from November 2008.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 4.8 percent to an annual level of 2.39 million in November and are 44.8 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $151,400 – down 1.4 percent from November 2008.

Existing-home sales in the West increased 10.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.46 million in November and are 28.1 percent above November 2008. The median price in the West was $231,100 – 4.1 percent below a year ago.

If you or anyone you know would like to discuss any aspect of Atlanta Real Estate,  such as the Atlanta Housing Market or the Extended Homebuyer Tax Credit, I can be reached at 678-585-9691. For a few examples of some of the unique services I provide to inform and protect homebuyers I represent – services that exceed what other agents can offer, go to http://www.thehomebuyersrep.com/actual_success_stories.htm .
Robert Whitfield, Broker/Owner

Advantage Realtors

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21st July 2009

Foreclosures Slow Down, Short-Sales and Deed-in-Lieu Numbers Jump!

just-reduced-graphic

By Robert Whitfield

Update: Foreclosures, Short Sales and Deed in Lieu Actions

As foreclosure moratoriums provided temporary relief to troubled borrowers earlier this year, two other kinds of home forfeiture–short sales and deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure actions — rose sharply.

In a mortgage study released in early July, federal financial regulators reported a 176% jump in short sales and deed-in-lieu proceedings from the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter this year.

Short sales and deed-in-lieu actions require borrowers to forfeit their homes to eradicate their mortgage debts, usually for less than the full amount owed. Both these actions require the lenders approval.

Selling a home or handing it back to the bank in this manner does less damage to a borrower’s credit rating than a foreclosure, and is less of a hassle for the lender.

Year-over-year first-quarter short sales jumped from 5,523 to 17,036, according to the report from the Comptroller of the Currency and Office of Thrift Supervision, the U.S. Treasury Department agencies that oversee banks and S&Ls.
Quarterly deed-in-lieu actions (voluntarily giving your home back to the lender to avoid foreclosure action) edged up from 1,065 to 1,158.

Completed foreclosures still far outnumbered the alternate forfeitures. They totaled 78,936, up from 76,548 in the year-earlier quarter but far below the high of 126,266 in the third quarter of 2008.

But things are NOT getting better. In fact, they will probably get worse.

Foreclosure statistics are expected to spike again soon as federal, state, local and lender-imposed moratoriums expire.
The regulators said their report covered 64% of current home loans in the United States. Astonishingly, they noted that most of the short sales involved borrowers with prime loans, not subprime or alt-A mortgages!

Whether you’re an investor, second home buyer, or a first time home buyer, you don’t need a Doctorate in Economics to see this market is a golden opportunity! Now is the time to buy real estate – and because of the new first time buyer $8500 tax credit (which does not have to be paid back) on home purchases through the end of 2009, now may be the best opportunity first time buyers will ever see to get into a home.

We are not just talking about deals – there are literally Steals out there in all price ranges and property categories – if you know where and how to look. This opportunity includes starter homes, residential and commercial investment properties, luxury homes, second and retirement homes in costal and mountain resort areas and everything in between.

Those who can take advantage of the market now will reap great rewards for years to come as they simply ride the tide of rising values over time – and the market will come back and values will rise as it always has after every economic downturn in history.

I can help you buy your next Atlanta Home, Atlanta Luxury Home, Atlanta Investment Property, and now even Costal and Mountain Resort Properties (more in a future blog) – give me a call to learn more!

Robert Whitfield

posted in Atlanta Housing Market, New Posts | Comments Off on Foreclosures Slow Down, Short-Sales and Deed-in-Lieu Numbers Jump!

30th April 2009

Atlanta New Home Market Stabilizing…

The following article is a summary from Metrostudy, a respect source on Atlanta’s New Home Market.

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Lisa R. Schoolcraft Staff Writer

Metro Atlanta’s housing stock is shrinking, with new home starts down to the lowest level in decades.
“The homebuilding industry has severely limited the amount of new inventory introduced to the market, which in turn, has limited the number of unsold new homes,” said Eugene James, director of Metrostudy’s Atlanta division, which recently released first quarter data.
New home inventory has declined substantially, with more homes closed than started every quarter for the last 30 months, James said.
In March 2009, quarterly starts fell 74.8 percent year-over-year.
Housing inventory is currently at a nine-year low, with only 20,657 units under construction or finished and vacant in the 22-county metro Atlanta region.
“At its peak in mid-2006, new-housing inventory in Atlanta exceeded 41,000 units,” James said. “Currently, there is no oversupply of homes, but rather the demand for housing continues to be suppressed for multiple reasons, including lack of consumer confidence, fear of job loss and fear of falling home prices.”
New home closings declined 41.4 percent year-over-year in March.
Some metro Atlanta homebuilders have begun offering peace of mind with price guarantees, James said.
If home prices decline by certain amounts, those homebuilders will refund the difference. Others are offering to pay mortgages or buy back homes if buyers lose their jobs.
While the pullback in housing starts has helped shrink inventory, it’s done nothing to reduce Atlanta’s swollen inventory of developed lots, James said.
Finished lot inventories have leveled off and now stand at 150,004.
“It’s going to take a very long time to go through such a large number of lots,” he said, “but the superior lot locations are already being acquired and some homebuilding is beginning to occur.”
Nationally, unsold new home inventories are beginning to stabilize in many markets, Metrostudy reported.
Builders continue to report the lack of available credit from banks to support new construction, and consumers are squeezed by their own credit issues, the residential real estate research firm said.
Those two factors indicate the industry is nearing stability, but a recovery in sales and construction is unlikely to occur before mid-2010.

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23rd February 2009

Now Is The Time To Protest Your Property Taxes!

Now is the time to call your county tax commissioner and find out the deadlines for protesting your property tax assessment in your particular county. Contact us for market stats in your neighborhood during 2008, especially the foreclosures and distressed sales. The Atlanta housing market has been ranked one of the ten most stable markets in the US during this sub prime economic mess, however, our have values have declined year over year since 2006, albiet not as severly as most other areas of the country – still it is wise to make sure you are not paying more than your property is worth.

We have seen several cases where Metro Atlanta county property tax assessments were clearly off base with market realities and the year to year decline in property prices for 2008 vs 2007. No matter what the proposed valuation from the county is, it’s worth a postage stamp to file a protest based on the recent decline of property values in your neighborhood. Most counties are over-valuing now due to the failure of owners to protest, and yet it’s so easy to file a protest. The county will even assist you in filling out the papers. And it could save you a chunk of money for years to come.

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8th January 2009

To A Prosperous New Year!

By Robert Whitfield
I wanted to take a moment to address the current economic situation and reassure you that your Atlanta area home is still one of the best investments you could have made or own during these troubled times.

I watch Squawk Box on CNBC every morning and always note the latest DJIA current and year to year stats. Just before this writing – stocks were down 38+ % from the same time last year! I am sure many peoples investment/retirement portfolio has lost even more. Except for certain California and Florida “bubble” markets, nowhere have home prices dropped nearly as badly as stocks. For example, per the latest Case-Shiller index, Atlanta prices are off only 10.8 percent over the same time last year. Since early ‘07 Forbes and Business Week have ranked Atlanta in the top 15 most stable US housing markets.

The market will come back as it always does and you can bet future home prices will only rise. Why do I and so many others think buying real estate is the best investment of all time? For many reasons – the worlds population keeps growing and people will always need somewhere to live. I have personally made and helped others make more profit in one transaction in a short amount of time than they ever could have in the stock market with the same amount of money and time span. In addition, as my grandfather used to say and as we’ve all heard “they aren’t making any more land” – thats true and one of the fundamental powers of real estate, but in the context of this article I am referring to “developed or improved land”. I dont recommend investing/speculating in raw land ever – unless you’re a developer, a population trend expert, visionary, or gambler with deep pockets! Why, because the hold time can be decades! Sure, I know someone who made a fortune selling land in and around the Perimeter Mall area 25 – 30 years ago but that land was in the family for half a century and the area was essentially a cow pasture then! I dont personally know too many other people who have done very well in land speculation. I do know plenty of people who have made money with single family homes and for the more sophisticated investor, multifamily apartment acquisitions.

Investors are absorbing great deals right now which is advantageous to themselves and the market as a whole. (Let me rant for a moment.) I get disgusted when certain media refers to investors as “vulture investors” – as if buying an already foreclosed home is doing a disservice to the family who used to own it! If investors don’t “take advantage”, many markets will remain so flooded with deteriorating bank REO assets (foreclosures) that it will take much longer for thier housing markets to stabilize. Someone should ask these reporters, “Would you rather see a foreclosed home on your own street become a vacant (often vandalized) REO home – a neighborhood eyesore that only drives down prices the longer it is vacant, or be purchased ASAP by someone who will fix it up, rent it to a deserving family and sell it for the highest possible price when the time is right – thereby maintaining or even raising neighborhood values?” The answer is obvoius when you frame it in reality – investors play an important role in bringing this housing market back to some kind of equalibrium – and in my opinion, we should be thankful they have the money, intestinal fortitude, and vision to do what they do.

Couple all of the historical and forward looking benefits of owning real estate with some of the current advertised and unadvertised deals available, the cheap mortgage money, and our up to $10,000 Cash Reward and a reasonably well planned real estate transaction can be a great opportunity.

The Economic Downturn is a Huge Plus for investors, first time buyers, and even move-up buyers needing a larger home. Move up buyers? Yes, as an Atlanta area seller you will not get as much for your home as in ‘06/’07, but you can more than make up the difference when you buy, and if your credit is good, mortgage rates are really outstanding. Investors, you need a buy and hold strategy; flipping is tough unless you’re a pro at certian market segments or wholesale deals to other investors. Buyers, get with your lender before you even think about looking – rates are great but qualifying is harder – it’s a good idea to make sure you can get a loan! I have seen to my surprise a few deals not be approved or not be viable because of extra underwriter requirements this year (not subprime either) that would have been a slam dunk in 06 and even the first half of 07. One involved credit scores in the high 700’s, the other was a Physician making over $800K a year. Exceptional deals are there IF you have cash or can get a mortgage. This market will be looked back upon by buyers and investors who are making shrewd acquisitions now and in the comming months, as one of the golden opportunities of a lifetime!

posted in Atlanta Housing Market, Buyer Incentives | Comments Off on To A Prosperous New Year!

24th October 2008

Ready for Some Good News? Say Yes!

Beleive it or not I am about to share some with you – both nationally and locally! I know everyone is tired of the bad financial news so here goes – a little upbeat housing market news…

Existing Home Sales Rise on Improved AffordabilityWASHINGTON, October 24, 2008

Existing-home sales increased last month as buyers responded to improved housing affordability conditions, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 5.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.18 million units in September from a level of 4.91 million in August, and are 1.4 percent higher than the 5.11 million-unit pace in September 2007.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said more markets are seeing year-over-year gains. “The sales turnaround which began in California several months ago is broadening now to Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Rhode Island,” he said. “The South was hampered by much lower home sales in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.”

NAR President Richard F. Gaylord, said low home prices and low interest rates have been attracting buyers. “This is the first time since November 2005 that home sales have been above year-ago levels,” he said. “Credit tightened at the end of September, but the improvement demonstrates that buyers who’ve been on the sidelines want to get into the market to make a long-term investment in their future.”

Total housing inventory at the end of September fell 1.6 percent to 4.27 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.9-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.6-month supply in August. This marks two consecutive monthly declines since inventories peaked in July.
“Compared to a fairly small share of foreclosures or short sales a year ago, distressed sales are currently 35 to 40 percent of transactions. These are pulling the median price down because many are being sold at discounted prices,” Yun explained. “The current market is not being dominated by speculative investors. Rather, 80 percent of current buyers are purchasing a primary residence, which is a bit higher than historic norms.”

Now for Metro Atlanta…

According to Smart Numbers, after 18 consecutive monthly year-to-year percentage closing declines metro Atlanta will post an increase in the number of single family closings once the September closing lags are reported. Additionally, the number of closed transactions for September may be close or even exceed August 08’s 4180 closings. This is especially good news since historically September experiences a 10 to 25% decline in closed transactions compared to August.

Finally, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes as reported by Reuters on September 30 2008, markets in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver and Minneapolis showed the most evidence that a bottom has formed, with home price increases for the past three months or more.

posted in Atlanta Housing Market, New Posts | Comments Off on Ready for Some Good News? Say Yes!

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