7th July 2013

Home Prices Up – Mortgage Rates Up

Trend upHome prices in East Cobb and North Fulton have increased month over month for the last four months in a row! Data through April 2013 presented by S&P   Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price   Indices showed average home prices increased 11.6 percent and 12.1   percent for the 10- and 20-City Composites in the 12 months   ending in April 2013.  The   cities of Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit and Minneapolis posted their highest  annual gains since the start of their respective indices.   Atlanta, Las Vegas,   Phoenix and San Francisco posted year-over-year gains of over 20   percent in April. Mortgage rates are trending up as   well. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) rose from 3.93 percent   last week to 4.46 percent this week; the highest it has been since the week   of July 28, 2011. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.66   percent. This represents the largest weekly increase for the 30-year FRM   since the week ending April 17, 1987. Despite recent gains in mortgage rates,   homebuyer affordability remains which should help fuel the ongoing   housing recovery.

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18th January 2013

Housing Industry Awaits Mortgage Rule On Down Payment Size

If you’re planning to buy a home and have not yet taken advantage of the outstanding home prices and low interest rates you should read this. Things could get a little tougher with regard to downpayment requirements in the next few months. Hopefully regulators like the CFPB won’t go overboard because that will do nothing but harm the economy and hurt the housing recovery which is already nicely underway.

>Housing Industry Awaits Mortgage Rule On Down Payment Size.


Need a referral to a great lender?  Give me a call.

Robert Whitfield
Advantage Realtors

posted in Home Buyers, Mortgages, New Posts | 1 Comment

2nd January 2013

A Look Back At 2012 Real Estate

2012 Atlanta Real Estate

2012 will probably be considered the year that the housing market finally hit bottom and began an upward trend back to normalcy. Home prices, home sales and new home construction all increased while at the same time inventory continued to shrink, and record-low mortgage rates continued. Let’s hope the trend continues!

These are some of the major factors affecting 2012 residential real estate, which many in the industry myself included, feel will carry over into 2013:


Stellar Mortgage Rates

Nationwide Mortgage interest rates continued a downward slide in 2012, reaching historic lows week after week. Record low rates helped  the recovery along by attracting more buyers into the housing market and spurring millions to refinance. The question is when will rates start to increase?

Declining Home Inventory

The market continued to clear its oversupply of homes, which had swelled during the housing boom. The drop in inventory is a major reason home prices began to rise: Buyers bid up prices because they had fewer homes to choose from. October’s inventory of existing homes represented a 5.4-month supply, according to the National Association of Realtors. That was 21.9 percent lower than in October 2011 and a six-year low.

Year of the Short Sale

Short sales were the word in 2012, as lenders continued to embrace that approach to liquidation as less costly than foreclosure. A short sale allows a homeowner to sell his home for less than his mortgage (in other words to sell his home “short” of the actual payoff amount).

Short sales of homes in foreclosure are currently on pace to outnumber sales of bank-owned properties. Daren Blomquist, vice-president of online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac, said that short sales of properties not in foreclosure also accelerated, accounting for about 22 percent of total sales in the third quarter of 2012.

Threat of Shadow Inventory Recedes

Worries about “shadow inventory” — the supply of distressed properties held back and not released to the market — has loomed over the housing market ever since the financial crisis began. But in 2012, estimates of the size of that inventory continued to shrink, falling to 2.3 million in the second quarter of 2012 from a peak of nearly 3 million in 2010, according to analytics firm CoreLogic. Experts now think that the shadow inventory is probably not going to hinder a recovery, as banks continue to release these properties in a controlled manner over time.

Investors Continued to Snap Up Foreclosures

Investors had to endure bidding wars in 2012 to win homes selling at bargain-basement prices and convert them into rental properties. Investors purchased 20 percent of homes sold in October 2012, according to the National Association of Realtors. In Atlanta, getting twenty offers on an REO property has become the norm, and distressed property prices have been on the rise since 2009. It has become harder and hard to find (and win) really good deals, especially in the under $60K price range due to the competition at that price point.

“Low vacancy rates and rising rental rates, along with statements by Warren Buffet, helped attract both individual and institutional investors to the single family rental market,” ReatyTrac’s Blomquist said.

New Home Construction Comes Back

In most major markets, Atlanta included, new home construction all but disappeared after the market crisis of 2007, as excess inventory made building more homes pointless. But new home construction soared in 2012, and in October reached its highest level since July 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. In East Cobb alone, at least a dozen new home developments sprang up starting in early 2011, ranging in size from 10 to 20 home enclaves of higher end homes priced over $700K,  to larger 50 and 60 home communities in $500’s.

Builder confidence is way up too, suggesting that builders will continue to break ground on more homes in 2013. Experts say that declining home inventory amid rising demand from buyers is spurring the spike in construction.

“Builders across the country are reporting some of the best sales conditions they’ve seen in more than five years, with more serious buyers coming forward and a shrinking number of vacant and foreclosed properties on the market,” said National Association of Home Builders Chairman Barry Rutenberg.

Most experts believe 2013 will see the real estate market continue to improve, and prices continue to increase, but caution that a full housing recovery will depend on the employment situation improving, which is likely to take several more years.

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21st November 2012

Million-Dollar Homes Continue to Get Zoning Nod

East Cobb’s real estate market is getting another luxury priced subdivision.

East Cobb Million Dollar Homes








This home in the Heathermoor subdivision was listed for just over $1.5 million dollar and covers around 6,000 square feet of space.

A recent zoning decision by the Cobb Board of Commissioners in early October should leave little doubt about the strong health of the East Cobb luxury real estate market.

By a 4-0 vote on October 2, 2012 (with chairman Tim Lee absent) the commissioners approved a request by Brooks Chadwick Capital, LLC, to rezone 6.6 acres on Woodlawn Road, just south of Lower Roswell Road, for 21 homes that will cost an average of $1 million.

Each home will contain between 4,000 and 6,000 square feet of space. The development will be located in the heart of the Walton High School district, and a short walk from Dickerson Middle School.

As The Marietta Daily Journal reported when the request was before the Cobb Planning Commission in October, East Cobb’s top public high schools, are helping to feed the growing demand for new luxury homes. Brooks Chadwick Capital attorney John Moore told the newspaper:

“What we’ve found is that homes located in Walton, Pope and Lassiter school districts are moving as fast as you can put them up. People realize that there’s no more land left, so we expect these to go very quickly because of the school districts.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal, written by Jon Gillooly October 03, 2012. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal)



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20th January 2011

2010 Homebuyers – Be Sure To File Your Homestead Exemptions!

Homestead Exemption

Did you buy a home in the Atlanta area last year?

If you purchased your home last year and have not already done so, file for your Homestead Exemption by the deadline or you won’t get a tax break for another year! Filing a Homestead Exemption can save you thousands of dollars in property taxes!
Some states provide this exemption automatically, but in Georgia a homestead exemption must be applied for. Depending on your county, this can be done online, by fax, by mail or in person. You only have to apply for the exemption once and the exemption remains for as long as you reside in the home as your primary residence.
A Homestead Exemption provides more than just a tax break. It also provides two important protections. It prevents the forced sale of a home to meet the demands of creditors and provides the surviving spouse with shelter.
You may file for homestead exemption year round. Deadlines are listed below by county along with a link for a homestead application. Applications received after these deadlines will be processed the following year.

• CHEROKEE COUNTY (678-493-6120) – Deadline is April 1st – Must be filed in person
• COBB COUNTY (770-528-8600) – Deadline is April 1st – Apply in person or by mail
• DEKALB COUNTY (404-298-4000) – Deadline is April 1st – Apply by mail or online
• FORSYTH COUNTY (770-781-2106) – Deadline is April 1st – Apply in person
• FULTON COUNTY (404-730-6440) – Deadline is April 1st – Apply by mail
• GWINNETT COUNTY (770-822-8800) – Deadline is April 1st – Apply online or by mail
• HALL COUNTY (770-531-6720) – Deadline is March 1st – Apply online, by mail or in person
• PAULDING COUNTY (770-443-7606) – Deadline is April 1st – Must apply in person

If your county isn’t listed here, then be sure to visit the Georgia Department of Revenue to find more information about your county.

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6th November 2010

Best places for the rich and single – Sandy Springs, GA!?

I found this interesting too – I did not know Sandy Springs was the singles Mecca it is – but with the Northside hospital complex nearby and all the young interns that attracts, it makes sense! For the single gentlemen, I do know that nearby Vinings has a high population of single women homeowners – 3-4 ladies for every man!

Anyway, Money Magazine rated Sandy Springs, GA #4 out of 25 affluent US cites where singles are abundant!

Money Magazines Description of Sandy Springs:

Charming Southern gentlemen and sweet Georgia peaches in this Atlanta suburb are making the rounds at one of three major hospitals in the area or running operations at a Fortune 500 company like United Parcel Service or Newell Rubbermaid. Thanks to the natural springs the city is named for and the Chattahoochee River that flows through it, Sandy Springs offers a tranquil and peaceful setting for romance to blossom. After taking a stroll along the riverbank, head to Buckhead, Atlanta’s vibrant uptown district, for a night on the town. –H.Y.

I agree – young doctors and interns will find Sandy Springs very convenient to the major hospital complexes at Northside, St Josephs, and Emory!

A few stats:

Population: 82,674

Single: 35.6% – (that’s a high ratio of singles)

Median family income: $115,171 (That ranks in the top 25 of all 100 Best Places Cites)

Median Home Price: $380,000

Whether you’re a Grey’s Anatomy type in the medical field, rich, middle income, single or married, I can help you get a superb deal on prime Sandy Springs, GA real estate – from $200,000 to $10,000,000 – just reach out to me at 678-585-9691!

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6th November 2010

Top 100 Places to Live – Roswell, GA at #76!

Well it’s nice to have my town, Roswell, GA win a spot (#76) in Money Magazines 2010 “Top 100 Small Cities in America” the only Georgia city to rank in the top 100 Best Places to Live! As a Roswell resident for the past 4 years I can tell you it is an excellent place to live and my family loves it.

As a licensed GA real estate broker and 30 year resident of metro Atlanta, I can tell you there are other excellent places to live in North Atlanta as well, such as Marietta, East Cobb (the section of Roswell I live in) Alpharetta, Milton, Crabapple, and Johns Creek – these should have been on the list.

Money magazines description of Roswell:

Home to several plantation houses from the Civil War era, historically rich Roswell is committed to a family-friendly environment. It has some of the best public schools in the state, the lowest crime rate in the region, and a myriad of outdoor activities, making it easy to understand why families flock to this affluent Atlanta suburb. Residents love their many public events, including the monthly Alive after Five summer festival, with plenty of food, shopping, and live music. –J.S.

All true and here are a few stats to go along:

Median Family Income- $113,750 (ranked 24th highest income of the100 cities)

Median Home Price – $246,700 (the average of the 100 was $239,300)

Now as you know, Oprah Winfrey can afford to live anywhere on the planet, and I read a quote in a magazine article where she said Roswell, GA was one of the best places to live a few years ago – though I can’t recall which magazine, I agree with Oprah!

Oprah or anyone else wanting a fantastic deal on prime Roswell real estate should call me immediately at 678-585-9691!

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13th October 2010

Fall Home Maintenance Tips – Get Your Atlanta Home Ready For Winter

It’s time to give our Atlanta homes a Fall tune-up. Everything from your furnace to the gutters needs to be made ready for the long cold winter months. Ok, I know all of you northerners are saying, it’s Atlanta – don’t you mean long mild winter months? Hey, winter is cold wherever you are! To help you cover all the bases, we’ve come up with a handy fall-maintenance checklist. Consult it every year and your home will thank you – actually many of these items need to be checked in late spring as well for season appropriate service such an AC check up.

Check your heating equipment before the beginning of cold weather – I like to know that my furnace will come on while its still in the 70’s! Have a qualified heating and cooling contractor clean and service your furnaces and if you have a heat pump the outside units as well. Clean heat pump coils operate more efficiently, and a seasonal service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels.

Check and replace your furnace filters every month. Clean filters not only keep your house cleaner, they reduce your utility bills because your HVAC system does not have run as long to make your home comfortable as when the filters are clogged with dust.

Change batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – don’t worry that your batteries may still have some charge and your “blowing $6” – this can save your life. As Nike says – Just Do It!

Clean out your gutters as soon as the leaves have all fallen – sometimes this has to be done twice. This is very important – clogged gutters can overflow and over time seep into walls and cause serious water damage to structural members. Check for loose or leaky gutters. Improper drainage can lead to water in the basement or crawl space. Make sure downspouts drain away from the foundation and are clear and free of debris. Hire a company if your home is a two story.

Low areas in the yard or next to the foundation should be filled with compacted soil. Winter rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage from settlement.

Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Make wood repairs now before the winter rains do more damage to the exposed wood. For small pockets of damage or rot, Borden makes very good wood filler that is available at most homes centers, and Zinsser makes a great exterior spackle called MH Ready Patch that outperforms vinyl spackling compounds – home centers and paint stores sell this product. (No, I don’t get a commission from either company.)

Examine putty and caulk joints around exterior window panes and window and door trim and re-putty or caulk as needed to keep out water and air. Ensure that weather stripping on doors and windows creates a good seal.

From the ground, examine roof shingles to see if any were lost or damaged during summer storms. If your home has an older roof covering, you may want to start a budget for replacement. The summer sun can really damage roof shingles. Shingles that are cracked, buckled or loose or are missing granules need to be replaced. Flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys need to be checked and repaired by a qualified roofer.

Examine the exterior of the chimney for signs of damage. Have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep. A burning fireplaces in winter is charming – burning your house down is not! Have your flue checked for creosote buildup at least every two years if you use the fireplace regularly and never burn pine wood in a fireplace, and only burn coal if the fireplace is rated for coal and has the proper coal grate – most are not rated for coal.

Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs should drain away from the home’s foundation. Fill cracks between your foundation and items that abut the foundation such as: porches or entrance stairs, sidewalks, and driveways with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk.

Locate and turn off the shut off valves for all outside hose faucets, then disconnect garden hoses, and drain the faucet and the hose for the winter.

Check your gas-powered lawn equipment to make sure they are ready for storage – empty the gas tanks and run the equipment until the gas is completely used up before storing it away.

As the Boy Scouts Say, Be Prepared! Winter Emergency Tips for the Unexpected!

When the power goes out, or the ice builds up and you can’t get out of your driveway it can be inconvenient and in some cases dangerous. The following are preparedness items you might want to stock up on.

Candles – heavy pillar candles that can burn for days – never leave a candle burning unattended or while you sleep.

Rock salt – to keep your steps, porches, and driveways clear of ice and help prevent dangerous falls. If you have a steep driveway – a few 10 lb bags of rock salt can be the difference in being ice bound in your home, or being able to leave.

Sleeping bags – if you don’t have multiple heavy down comforters, even cheap Wal-Mart 30-40 degree bags can be way better than piles of blankets when the power is out comfort in winter – they can even be a life saver.

Of course there are emergency food ration kits to support an individual for up to a year for those so inclined – search on Google. You could also stock up on some canned goods. One great and pretty inexpensive option for a few days to a week is to buy freeze dried Mountain House meals that you just add boiling water to the foil pouch and wait 5 minutes. I have had the Spaghetti, Chili Mac, and Beef Stroganoff while backpacking on the Appalachian Trail and these taste (and look) great – I suggest you avoid military rations. You can get Mountain House products at Wal-Mart, REI and other outdoor outfitters. It helps to have a way to boil water or heat food – I have MSR isobutane camping/backpacking stoves to boil water.

Water – I store 10 one gallon jugs of distilled water in my basement for emergencies. In closing, you never know how long the power will be off…

In our famous Atlanta snow jam of 1983, (should have been called ice jam) I was visiting my grandmother down in Griffin on her farm and was watching an interesting Jacques Cousteau deep sea diving special on TV and the power went off. After about 45 minutes of waiting for the power to come on I began to get annoyed…little did I know that the power was going to be off for 7 full days and nighttime temps would plummet to 30 below zero 30 miles south of Atlanta! Fortunately the farm was set up to endure that event much better than the average suburban Atlanta home – old fashioned oil burning lamps, a full supply room of home grown canned vegetables, and my grandmothers awesome stews and cobblers, and two coal burning stoves kept us far more comfortable than hundreds of thousands of other folks who were caught in the snow jam – we were actually quite cozy in a strange “back to the 1800s” time warp. I got a real appreciation for how wonderful electricity is thank you Mr. Edison – I was lucky I was there and not back at my then home in the burbs of Stone Mountain.

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27th June 2010

Buyer Broker Agreements. Do you use them?


As a member of some professional real estate groups on Linked In, I recently answered the following agents post and thought it might be of interest to my readers. About 50 other agents and brokers responded as well and made the obvious point that agents protect themselves when they insist on a Buyer Brokerage Agreement. A few agents said they had no problem “working” with buyers without the agreement – that no buyer had stiffed them. What no one discussed was the legal implications for the agent when they dont excercise thier duty to fully disclose agency choices to buyers so they understand the implications of thier choices, the limitations and risks to the agent and buyer when the agent agrees to work without a Brokerage Agreement, and all the negative implications for the buyer when no Brokerage Agreement is used – that’s why I wanted to respond with an answer that more fully incompassed the ramifications of all aspects of the subject:

Buyer Broker Agreements. Do you use them?

Jarred – I typically only work with someone if they will sign a buyer broker. It just adds protection. Yet I have a new buyer who sought me out from an open house I had, whose wife is a former Realtor from another state and he’s just adamant about not signing one because they fear it ‘locks them into me.’ I may veer away from them because of this. If they’re already telling me they don’t want to be locked into ONE Realtor already this may be a red flag for me that I’ll end up getting left in the cold. Thoughts?

Robert Whitfield • I will only work with a buyer while under a written Exclusive Buyer Brokerage Agreement – and here is why:

1. You do protect yourself – against a buyer using another agent after you have done all the work – or thinking they can somehow do better than you and contacting the seller directly.

Note: I have a very unique and advantageous Buyer Representation Program that no other agent here in Atlanta can match, so I run very little risk of a buyer leaving me for another agent. For me, the next point is really the driving reason to ONLY work with buyers under a written Brokerage Agreement.

2. You can fully serve and protect the buyer – ONLY when they become your client. This is the one that buyers who don’t want to be “locked in” to an agent don’t get (and many agents completely forget) – it’s all about agency relationships. In the absence of a Buyer Brokerage Agreement, you as the agent can not legally give the buyer the benefits of your expertise and knowledge, or protect them from mistakes, etc, because those services are reserved for “clients”. A buyer who is merely “working” with an agent without a Buyer Brokerage agreement is a customer – and the agent in that case is supposed to provide only ministerial acts – acts that require no judgment, expertise, or industry knowledge – to do otherwise can set the agent up for a lawsuit by the buyer and various other parties (the seller) if something goes wrong. It is in the buyer’s best interests to be represented as a client and never left to fend for themselves as a customer. Agents who work with buyers without representing them risk becoming an “undisclosed dual agent” without realizing it – in most states that can get them into serious trouble with the real estate commission.

While buyers may not know anything about agency, or how to protect themselves in a transaction, or what duties agents owe them when they are a client versus a customer – we as agents and brokers are responsible for fully informing them about agency and their choices of service levels (before we ever work with them) so they know the ramifications of their choice of being a client versus merely a customer.

In the rare cases where I run into buyers who are leery of Exclusive Buyer Brokerage Agreements (usually first-time buyers or buyers who had a horrible agent in the past), I make sure they fully understand the above – I have only had one buyer in ten years not sign a Buyer Brokerage Agreement when they fully understood that it was in their best interest to do so. (Some people need to be saved from themselves!)

I have offered a 1-2 day Brokerage Agreement to a few buyers which is a “try it before you buy it” approach that works well. It allows you to protect yourself, and provide top level representation to your client, and they see how you work and then are comfortable signing a longer term agreement.

I also explain to buyers who seem nervous about “committing” to an agent – “any agent who is willing to work with you without a Brokerage Agreement is not only agreeing to do less than a great job for you, but refusing to protect ‘their own commission and livelihood’, so what in the world makes you think such an agent will protect YOUR interests and money in a transaction if they won’t even protect their own interests?”

I refused to help the buyer who refused to sign my agreement, explaining that it would be a disservice to him. His wife was furious with him and apologized to me, but I will never make an exception to this practice. Its just good business – I am supposed to be the expert – I don’t let my prospects or clients dictate how I run my business.

What do you think?

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7th May 2010

Breaking News – Charter Schools OK in Georgia


Judge Rules State Charter Schools are Constitutional
By D. Aileen Dodd
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Fulton County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that charter schools created by the state Georgia Charter Schools Commission are constitutional.
Judge Wendy L. Shoob’s quick decision came after listening closely to arguments presented by seven school districts that had complained money was being taken away from their students and given to charter schools they didn’t approve.

Shoob said Georgia law allows the schools to be approved and funded by the state. “It is not an independent school system,” Shoob said. “The General Assembly has provided sufficient guidelines.

Commission charter schools are not required to be under the control or managed by an elected board of education. The funding is constitutional.”

The news brought Nina Gilbert, head of school for Ivy Prep Academy, to tears. She left the courtroom and waited in a hallway, sobbing with relief. She then shared the good news with nine Ivy Prep students who had been ejected from the courtroom earlier.

“I am so overwhelmed and excited,” Gilbert said as she stood before her students. “This confirms we are doing the right thing and we are doing it for the right reason.
“All of our schools are constitutional. Now we can receive equal funding and our girls deserve that. We are so thankful for Judge Shoob.”

Students also were excited about the news. They huddled together smiling. “I feel extremely happy we finally got accepted to keep going,” Ivy Prep student Atiya Shaikh said.

Kathy Harwood, the head of school for the Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology, or CCAT, said she and her students were heading home to Statesboro vindicated.

“It’s the best news I’ve heard in eight years of doing this,” she said. The day didn’t start the way some of the students had hoped, after Shoob ejected 14 of them before the proceedings began. Some of the children had traveled four hours to get a live lesson in social studies and law.

“The judge has a standing order in all cases that kids of school age should be at school, not at the courthouse,” said Bruce Brown, a lawyer representing the charter schools named in the lawsuit, CCAT, Ivy Prep in Norcross and Heron Bay Academy in Locust Grove.
The disappointed students, shoulders slumped, filed out of the courtroom respectfully. Some were angry. Some were frustrated.

The judge apparently didn’t understand the point of the courthouse field trip and the untraditional ways in which charter school students learn, said Zahra Juma, a sixth-grader at Ivy Prep.

“We want to know how court works,” Zahra said as she sat on a bench in the shadow of the courtroom. “We wanted to learn something. We have a right to be in court because we are the main reason why they are here.”

The Ivy Prep students did as they are empowered to do at school when they find fault with the way the government works: They spoke up. The girls sat quietly drafting letters of complaint to the court, checking their spelling and sentence structure. They were not intimidated by the views of the adults.

“Today nine Ivy Prep scholars were denied the opportunity to be present in a hearing concerning our school,” wrote Zoe Nuhfer, a seventh-grader who said she came to cover the trial for the Ivy Vine, the school’s newspaper.

“The judge and bailiff in the court said kids were not permitted in the courtroom. We asked for an exception and it was rejected. Our scholars are upset that we could not support our school. …”

Students from CCAT were also upset. They carpooled four hours on Thursday and slept overnight in Atlanta to get good seats for the hearing. They sat across from the Ivy Prep students waiting for word of what was going on behind the court’s closed doors.

“I love that school,” said Emily Reeves, who waited with her mother and brother. “I grew up there. They are like my family.”

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