Thursday, May 26, 2011

Buckhead Atlanta replaces "Streets of Buckhead"

Have you noticed the big, unsightly hole in the ground in central Buckhead with lots of concrete footers and rebar and cranes and not much else?  Right.. how could one miss it??  Well there is a new plan with new money and a new name for this project... Buckhead Atlanta.  Yes, that is the new name... Buckhead Atlanta (in Buckhead, Atlanta, get it? ).  “Formerly known as The Streets of Buckhead, the project was one of the highest profile developments in the country halted by the economic downturn and financing drought,” according to project spokesman Bryan Long in an email to What Now Atlanta. “The new name signifies a departure from the concept of a single destination development and a move toward a mixed-use community that will fit seamlessly within the existing Buckhead Village.”

The project's developer, OliverMcMillan, a San Diego based real estate firm that develops mixed use retail, entertainment and residential projects plans to put $300 million into the project which already has $400 million invested in it.  OliverMcMillan plas to begin construction on the six block, eight acre project late this year.

Questions and concerns arise from many Atlantans including a distaste for the name, Buckhead Atlanta.  Seems a little redundant... and lame?  "I'm going to Buckhead Atlanta in Buckhead, Atlanta" (? Huh??).   And will this project be an upscale shopping glut like an outdoor Phipps Plaza?  Or will it be more like a flailing Atlantic Station, or another Underground?  Will it create more real estate inventory in a slumping market?

I like to think positive and I am glad that someone is taking a vision to completion for our fine community in Buckhead.  I don't really think we need lots more luxury shopping and dining, but so what.  It sure beats a hole in the ground (I hope).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Behind on Mortgage Payments? Short Sale May be the Answer: HAFA Short Sale Program

Yesterday, I spent all day in a continuing education class learning about the government's HAFA short sale program.  I learned some interesting information that could be a lifeline for any of you out there that are missing mortgage payments and are looking down the road at a potential foreclosure.  Help may be on the way.  It is really surprising that lots of homes go into foreclosure without even trying to work out a deal with the bank and go straight into foreclosure.  Don't do it, there is an alternative.  HAFA stands for Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative, which is just that... a viable alternative to foreclosure.

A short sale means that you have negotiated with your lender to sell the house for less money than you owe on it.   In an non-HAFA short sale agreement, there are some pitfalls you need to look out for- primarily two things:  1) You may not be released from liablility to pay back the short fall the bank gets from accepting less money than you owe and 2) you get $0 at closing from the sale of your property.

Here are the advantages for the seller of a HAFA short sale:
  • Sellers receive $3000 (vs. $0 non-HAFA short sale) relocation expense at closing (funded through TARP money)
  • The foreclosure sale must be suspended while eligibility for the HAFA program is determined and if approved, while the property is being marketed or closing a sale is pending.
  • Sellers are released of all liability on 1st mortgages and subordinate liens!
  • Sellers cannot be required to sign a note or pay additional amounts to satisfy liens
  • The short sale is pre-approved.   This takes more time on the front end of a transaction, but much less time after a purchase contract is accepted by the seller.  This in itself can make a short sale listing much easier to sell.
  • Buyers offers are approved or denied within 10 business days.  If the buyer's offer meets the pre-approved terms, the short sale MUST be approved and the deal gets done!
Many (in fact most) lenders (for a list of servicers who are participating in this program go to ) are participating in the HAFA program because they are getting TARP money for their participation.  If your lender is participating, they are required to offer you this HAFA short sale opportunity prior to starting the foreclosure process.  Once they have mailed you the offer, you have 14 days to respond.   Many people become overwhelmed with anxiety when they become delinquent on paying their mortgage and don't open the mail sent from their lender.   Please open your mail so you won't miss this option!  Or call your loan servicer to find out if this is an option for you.   If you want to keep your house, you may be eligible for a loan modification  program.  If you feel that you must sell or be foreclosed and your home's value is less than you owe, this program could be an answer for you.

One of the big down sides of short-selling your house is that it hurts your credit, although not nearly as much as a foreclosure.  If you simply cannot pay the mortgage and you can't sell the house for what you owe, your options are limited, but the HAFA short sale program has some strong benefits compared to the alternatives!  There is a lot more to this program and the short sale process is very complicated.  But this program (set to expire 12/31/2012 unless extended) can offer lots of American homeowners an out that will help the real estate market overall, help distressed homeowners who might othewise lose their home, release liability for sellers to pay back the short fall from the short sale, and give some money to sellers to help them fund the moving expense from their home.  For more information contact me or go to .

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's Happening in Atlanta Housing Market (1st Quarter 2011 Results)

Good news.  The 1st quarter 2011 Atlanta area market sales statistics reveal that 7061 single family detached homes were sold representing an increase in sales of 2% over the 1st quarter 2010.  What's great about a 2% increase you might ask.  It's an INCREASE, I say.  More significantly, this increase is comparing to last years sales when there was a government incentive in place.  Last year's government incentive (tax rebate) inflated sales, and this year, we exceeded those inflated sales without any government incentives.  Good news indeed.

We saw a couple of interesting trends: sales volume increased primarily in homes priced below $200,000 where 1st time home buyers and smart investors focused on distressed properties, and a sharp increase in sales of homes priced from $750,000-999,000.  There was even a hefty increase in sales of homes over $1 million.  Foreclosures represented 21.3% of total sales in 2011 1st quarter as opposed to 28.5% of total sales in the 1st quarter of 2010, but short sales sharply increased to 24.9% of total sales in 1st quarter this year compared to only 9% of 1st quarter last year.  This is partly due to the banks working out better solutions to foreclosure, which is a good thing.  Overall, distressed properties (short sales+foreclosures) represented 46.2% of all sales in the Metro Atlanta area in the first quarter this year, the majority of which were in the price range below $200,000. 

Overall the median sales price for our area dropped 13.7% from $157,000 to $135,000 this first quarter.  This is not to be confused with average sale price.  Median just means that it is the midway mark.  So more lower priced houses sold this last quarter.   This doesn't necessarily mean that prices have continued to decline, it just means that more volume of lower priced homes sold.  Every neighborhood area is so different, and some declined in value while others maintained or slightly increased in value.

The average seller took a discount of 17.5% lower than their original asking price in order to sell and the median days on the market were 132.  Ouch.   Remember when I talked earlier about the price range of $750,000-999,000 increased in sales??  Well, guess what?  They sharply decreased in days on the market from 531 to 258 days on market (1st quarter 2010 compared to same period in 2011).  I know you must be thinking - OMG.. it takes almost a year to sell a house in this price range instead of almost 2 years.. yikes!

Most sellers had to reduce the price of their house (many times) in order to finally sell.  That turns out to be a terrible strategy because when a price reduction was required to interest a buyer, the median sales show that sellers took a price hit of 26%, but if the seller priced the house right and sold without a price reduction, they were able to get 96.9% of their asking price and sold in only 32 days!  10.8% of the time, sellers even got 100%+ of their asking price.  This happens mostly in distressed sales, where bargain shoppers bidded against below market foreclosures and short sales, but also can happen in the regular market if the house is a great house, in great condition and priced to compete with distressed properties. 

The bottom line is this:  for every 100 listings in the 1st quarter 2011, 58 did not sell and 42 homes sold.  29 of those 42 sales had to reduce and reduce their price in order to sell and only got 73.9% of their original asking price and it took 188 days to sell.  13 out of the 42 sales were priced correctly and sold for 96.9% of their asking price without having to reduce the price and sold in 32 days.  If you would like to know how the market did in your own neighborhood, contact me for a free analysis.

In my opinion, the market is getting better, I am seeing my sales as much more active and I am working with more buyers compared to same period last year.  I think we've seen the bottom of prices and buyers now want to take advantage of this amazing market and especially take advantage of crazy low mortgage rates.  There are still homeowners who are in trouble, but homeowners and banks are working out short sales as alternatives to foreclosures.  The most interesting thing is that, as a buyer, you may end up paying a lot less than the asking price for a home, or you may end up paying at or close to the asking price.  It's up to you (with guidance from a good realtor) to determine what is a good deal for you.