Monday, February 21, 2011

Lower Your Property Taxes

One of the upsides of the declining home values in Atlanta (I know, the bright side-right?) is that, theoretically, property taxes may also decrease.  My own property value decreased sharply last year since my purchase in January 2008, so more than likely, I am way overpaying for property taxes.  But I plan to make a change right now with regards to overpaying my property taxes, and you can (and should) too.

I did a little research on the internet to determine how to go about the process of appealing the tax valuation.  I found an article at written in 2009 regarding this subject (see article) and a recent Clark Howard article on WSB's site plus I called the friendly people down at the Fulton County Tax Assessor's office to get the scoop.

They all make it sound very simple.  First, find out what your property was valued at last year.  Now, determine what you think your fair market value is this year.  Before you can appeal your property taxes, you must file a simple form called a Taxpayer's Return of Real Property (click here).  The deadline for most counties to receive this Return is March 1, and April 1 in Fulton County.  Once the helpful, friendly folks down at the county tax assessors office (diction and speaking skills are not a hiring requirement there, btw) receive your return, they will look at it and then send out a response between April and June.  They might lower your taxes, but if they don't, you will have 45 days from the time the notice was sent to appeal your taxes.  Remember, you can't appeal your taxes this year until you have been sent a notice for this year's valuation, and based on my understanding, after your county tax office has received your Taxpayer's Return of Real Property. 

There are several firms who can and will help you with this entire process if you just hate the idea of dealing with your local government on your own.  One such firm mentioned in Howard's article is My Property Tax Appeal.  Also, if you don't know what your value may be this year compared to last, please contact me and I will be glad to help you determine that based on similar properties to yours in your neighborhood that sold last year. 

Remember at the beginning of this article when I mentioned that lowering your property taxes is one of the upsides of the declining values in the local real estate market?  Well another upside is the huge savings you could get right now to buy an investment property, move up home, or first home.  Please contact me if you know of someone I could help with a real estate need at  And here's to us all lowering our property taxes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Atlanta Real Estate Sales- 4th Quarter 2010 Market Statistics

Single family home sales in Atlanta were down in 2010 7.9% below 2009.  Early gains in sales in 2010 fell off mid-year after the government homebuyer incentives expired.  4th Quarter 2010 sales fell -19.9% compared to the 4th Quarter of the previous year following increases in the first two quarters of 2010. These early year increases show that the government incentives artifically boosted sales and that the upwards sales trend failed to sustain once those incentives expired.  The chart at left shows the months of supply by pricing category.  The total months of supply is 11.1.  This means that if no new listings were to come on the market, it would take 11.1 months to sell all of the homes currently on the market given the current demand.

Foreclosure sales as a percent of total sales declined slightly in 4th Quarter 2010 and represented approximately 19.5% of the market, but when you include short sales to the category of "distressed sales" they represented 39.9% of total sales in the 4th quarter and 36.3% of total sales for the year.  This means that sellers who are not in a distressed situation still have to compete with short sales and foreclosures in order to be successful in this market. As the number of distressed  sales increased, the median price of non-foreclosure properties decreased.

A bright spot in the market is that two price categories had sharp increases in the 4th quarter of 2010.  Sales of homes priced at $750,000-999,000 increased by a whopping 35%  and sales of homes priced from $1 million and up increased by 25%.  This trend seems to be continuing into this year and it indicates that smart money is now investing in luxury homes here in Atlanta as investors feel that the bottom of the market is here or has already passed.

The median sales price also dropped last quarter by -9% from the 4th quarter of 2009.  As previously stated, this is in part due to an increase of sales of distressed properties and an increase in sales in the under $200,000 price category.

In the 4th quarter of 2010, 64 out of every 100 listings failed to sell.  Of the 36 sellers who did sell, the vast majority (70%) had to reduce the price at least once in order to sell.  Their median days on market were 181 days and they ended up taking 23.7% less than they originally listed their property for.  On the other hand, the remaining 30% of the total sales were able to get 96.7% of their asking price in under 30 days on the market without reducing the price.  What this tells us is that sellers who priced aggressively (meaning very close to what the recent sold comps in their market sold for) were able to sell quickly, and for very close to the asking price.  Their net was much higher than sellers who priced too high to start with.  In this market more than ever,  pricing strategies are extremely crucial to be able to sell- and for the highest dollar amount. 

If you are considering selling your home this year, it is important to understand what is happening with sales in your neighborhood and how it relates to the overall Atlanta market.  Please contact me at  and I can supply you the information you need to make your best decisions.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ken Rainey to the Rescue- New Loan Program Offsets Mortgage Insurance Premium

It's a bird, it's a plane, blah,blah, blah.. it's Ken Rainey from Sharpe Mortgage to the rescue on a recent transaction for one of my clients.

These days there is misinformation floating around that you can no longer buy a house with less than 20% down.  That is SO false.  Today, as in the "golden age" of real estate (that's what I'm now calling the years 2000-2006), you can still buy a house for as little as 5% down- maybe even less than that in some cases.  You do have to have good credit (meaning really good credit).  Typically, when you put down less than 20% as downpayment, you have to buy pesky Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP).  This is basically an insurance premium your lender requires to cover their ass, I mean back, if you were to default on the loan.  They figure if you put 20% of your own money down, you are less likely to walk away from paying your housepayment as you would lose a lot of your own hard earned money.  Anyway, this insurance is pricey and makes your payment higher.  So many times, a buyer would put 10% down as downpayment and take out a 2nd mortgage for the remaining 10% so they could avoid paying expensive MIP. The problem here, though, is that the 2nd mortgage rate is a good bit higher than a 1st mortgage rate.  Still, paying a house payment of a combined 1st and 2nd mortgage is cheaper than paying MIP. 

Ken Rainey from Sharpe Mortgage has educated me and my client about a new program that allows the buyer to put as little as 5% down and not have to pay the expensive monthly MIP.  The MIP is paid upfront in a lump sum.  My client bought a house for  $363,000 with 5% down.  He is able to pay 1.95% of the loan amount up front and avoid the MIP which is saving him $270 per month.  And the coolest thing of all, is that we were able to negotiate the Seller to pay enough closing costs on behalf of my client, that there was enough money to cover my client's closing costs plus the upfront MIP.  My client is happy.  I am happy.

For more information about this and other loan programs, contact Ken Rainey from Sharpe Mortgage at 678-358-4602 or .  By the way, Ken does not wear a Captain America suit (usually).