Real Estate Roundup Spring 2024

Marc Garfinkel, Prosperity Home Mortgage LLC

It’s full speed ahead in the home buying and selling landscape. As mortgage rates rise, smart strategies for buyers and sellers are important to understand and take into consideration. Seasoned mortgage expert Marc Garfinkel, a highly regarded mortgage consultant and lender with Prosperity Home Mortgage LLC, shares positive news for sellers who strategize proactively. Even with today’s lack of inventory, Garfinkel reports that buyers are still offering top dollar for a well listed home, and despite the higher interest rates, there’s important information to consider.

Marc Garfinkel, Prosperity Home Mortgage LLC

Garfinkel commented, “For buyers, the best guidance I can give is to not wait for rates to come down if they are in a position to buy now. There are no guarantees that rates will see a significant drop anytime soon. Back in 2022, when 30-year fixed intertest rates rapidly increased from the low threes to the fives, I remember buyers pausing their home search saying they wanted to wait for rates to drop. Fast forward two years and rates have climbed up over 7 percent in some cases.

“At the same time, home values have continued to increase. Rates dropping back down into the five percent range would represent a huge shift in the market which would likely result in a massive increase in buyer demand. When buyer demand increases, prices increase as buyers will likely have to forfeit all their negotiating power. However, if you purchase in the perceived higher interest rate market today, you can take advantage of the lower interest rates and lower payment with a refinance if/when rates fall. It is much easier to time the interest rate market if you own your home with a refinance, then trying to buy a home when you and anyone else who has waited starts to see the rates come down.”

Informed sellers also know that buyers are struggling with these higher interest rates. He added, “One way to help attract buyers is to offer a financing incentive as part of your listing. Before lowering a price on a listing that has not had the showering or offers that a seller was expecting, talk to a loan officer and explore financing incentives. For example, a seller could offer to pay for a temporary or permanent interest rate buy down. Often, buying down an interest rate for a buyer can lower the monthly payment more than if you reduce the price. If it costs $5,000 to reduce an interest rate by .5 percent that will save the buyer much more over time than reducing a purchase price by $5,000 for the buyer financing 80-97 percent of the home value. This creates a win-win for the buyer and seller.”

Regarding expendable funds and when you should put down more money if you are able to for a mortgage, Garfinkel suggests, “Your loan officer, and a financial advisor will assist you in formulating a budget for your new home. The obvious advantage to putting more money down is a lower monthly payment and things to also consider. Do you have any other higher interest/higher payment debt? Sometimes you can increase your overall monthly cashflow by putting less money down on your house and use the additional funds to pay off other debt. A $10,000 lower mortgage amount may save you $60 to $75 a month, while you may also have a $10,000 credit card or auto loan balance with a payment of $500 to $1,000.”

Next, Garfinkel shared light on considering the value of liquid of funds. He said, “Once you put money down on your house, those funds are not easy to access. You would either need to sell your home, take out a HELOC, or a cash out refinance to access those funds should you ever need them. Fixed mortgages can also end up lower than the return on investment in the market. Talk to a financial advisor before making the decision to put down a large down payment. Mortgage debt is typically the lowest and cheapest way to borrower money – take advantage!”

In addition, he added, “To a seller, the all-cash buyer is seen as less risky than the buyer who needs to obtain a mortgage to close on the house. I try to have my buyers fully underwritten prior to going under contract on a house. That means having an underwriter review a buyer’s application and sign off on their income, assets, and credit history. If a buyer has already received a commitment letter from a lender’s underwriter, then they would not need to have a financing contingency as part of their offer. This is the best way to compete with the cash offer. Another advantage to being fully underwritten prior to going under contract is that the buyer can offer a quick closing, just like a cash buyer.

“Buyers should also start working with their loan officers weeks prior to looking at house. A good loan officer will have a buyer comfortable with the purchase range they can qualify for and what the payment and cash to close requirements are. They will also start the underwriting process so that buyer can offer the most attractive terms to the seller, giving them the best chance to get their offer accepted.”

And lastly, Garfinkel reminds buyers, “After a closing on a mortgage, many lenders allow for a buyer to make a large chunk principal reduction payment ($10,000-plus) and modify the mortgage to reduce the payment by keeping the same terms of the loan (interest rate and amortization time). This is a great option for buyers who are selling a home after they purchase the new home. They can roll over the equity from the sale of the departure property to the new mortgage to lower the payment.

By Robyn Gerson

Robin Blass and Lauren Solomon, The Robin Blass Group at Harry Norman Realtors

Competition for a well-located and appointed house remains in great demand. This consensus continues as 2024 is still a highly competitive landscape. There are multiple buyers ready to offer rising bids on houses, especially those that are updated or newer with the latest trends in home renovations. While commercial and resident sellers attract buyers quickly, more inventory is needed.

Robin Blass and Lauren Solomon, The Robin Blass Group at Harry Norman Realtors

The message we’re hearing reminds us to consult a trusted professional ahead of time for all things real estate. Locating a house even before it goes on the market is a strategy worthy of an expert’s time who will go to work for you and prepare you for what’s available to find the home of your dreams.

Robin Blass, The Robin Blass Group at Harry Norman Realtors, along with her daughter, Lauren Solomon, are two of Atlanta’s premier real estate experts and have a combined 56 years of industry experience and knowledge. Their deep understanding of the market and commitment to excellence sets them apart as trusted advisors in the community. Clients praise their attention to details and appreciate their dedication to each and every individual.

Blass commented on the process of selecting a real estate agent, “In a seller’s market, it’s easier to sell a home and harder to buy one. Building a strong agent-client relationship is crucial and a client should look for an agent who completely understands the current market and has expertise in negotiating. You want a trusted real estate professional looking out for you who is well-connected and a trusted advisor who can competently help you navigate the market even when there are only a few listings when you set out. Every day, new homes are listing and it’s all about knowing what’s coming soon, about to happen and then showing up first or soon as possible.”

Another important consideration Blass stresses is when buying to understand the neighborhoods. She shared, “A realtor can guide you to make informed decisions based on your needs. This includes information regarding the community, city, schools, parks and so much more. I love being in a large office with other successful realtors, networking, sharing new listings and having the support of the staff at my office adds to my success in supporting my clients.”

An agent can prepare a buyer when there is not a lot of inventory on the market. Blass added, “When I have a lack of inventory in a particular area or neighborhood, I will send drop mailings that “I have a buyer,” call expired listings and cold call when neighbors looking for inventory to show and sell. There are lots of purposeful ways to find houses that are not on the market.”

To be a successful purchaser, Blass continued, “Being prepared ahead of time is also essential. A successful buyer must have made a loan application and get fully approved prior to making an offer. It is crucial to have all financing in order before presenting an offer. The buyer must be able to waive financing and appraisal contingency and find a lender that can fully approve them while the due diligence period is in place. Write a sincere love letter with the offer that tells the seller why you love the house so much and how you can see your family in it for years to come.”

As a seller, she advises that there are a few things that matter like if an “as is” house is still sellable. She believes it is still very important to get the house in perfect show ready condition, painting, new carpet, new light fixtures inside and out where they are dated. A freshly painted home, and pristine clean conditions are how properties sell quickly, achieve multiple offers, and receive over list prices.

If you are selling or creating a bidding situation, Blass suggests, “Every situation is different and there is no rule of thumb on this matter. I encounter both quite often. Recently my seller took an offer from a neighbor so she could be across the street from her grandkids. The buyer was happy with the price she offered after we went over the comparable pricing in the neighborhood. Then there are other sellers who just want to be in a multiple offer situation to get the highest possible price and best terms.”

Blass adds one final note of caution, “No matter what the market brings, I would not forgo a home inspection or routine inspections that are customary in our marketplace.”

By Robyn Gerson

David Neimark, Senior Mortgage Banker, Ameris Bank

David Neimark has amassed 28 years of lending experience and a deep understanding of the mortgage industry. Here, he shares his thoughts on the current local housing market.

David Neimark, Senior Mortgage Banker, Ameris Bank

“In today’s ever-changing economy, mortgage rates are a hot topic for homeowners, prospective buyers, and industry experts. Recently, we’ve seen significant shifts in these rates due to global economic conditions and domestic policy changes. Understanding the current mortgage rate environment is essential for making smart decisions about homeownership and financial planning.”

Neimark first turns his attention to mortgage rates.

“After a period of historic lows, mortgage rates have risen quickly. Between 2020 and 2021 interest rates were as low as 1.875 percent. Lately, they’ve fluctuated between 6.5 percent and 8 percent over the past five months. While these rates are still good compared to historical standards, their upward trend makes timing crucial for those considering buying a home or refinancing existing loans. The Federal Reserve’s decisions, inflation, and market sentiment all play a role in where these rates go, adding unpredictability.”

Neimark continues, “For existing homeowners, this might be a good time to refinance before rates climb higher. However, many current homeowners are reluctant to sell and are staying in their homes because they secured very low interest rates in previous years. This reluctance has affected the number of homes on the market, driving up prices due to a lack of inventory. Prospective buyers need to consider how higher rates and higher prices affect their buying power and long-term affordability. Real estate agents and lenders like myself must adjust our strategies to help clients navigate these changing conditions.

Neimark noted that rising interest rates can have a domino effect throughout the entire housing market.

“The current mortgage rate environment also impacts broader economic trends, influencing consumer behavior and market sentiment. When mortgage rates change, it affects housing market activity, which in turn impacts economic growth and stability. The housing market drives consumer spending, investment, and job creation, making mortgage rates a key indicator of economic health.”

Neimark also discussed what he refers to as “creative financing options” which may help homebuyers have more success in finding the right place.

“Creative financing options like portfolio loans and first and second mortgage combinations offer tailored solutions for unique financial situations. Portfolio loans, retained by the lender, allow for flexible underwriting, ideal for those with non-traditional income or credit profiles. First and second mortgage combinations enable buyers to finance a home purchase with two loans simultaneously, often avoiding private mortgage insurance and reducing monthly payments. These methods provide customized mortgage solutions for diverse client needs.”

Neimark then turned his attention toward the current conditions surrounding those looking to purchase their first home.

“First-time home buyers are particularly affected by higher rates and rising home prices. Thankfully, several programs now offer down payment grants up to $12,500, which are forgiven over five years. This is making homeownership available to some that are in need of lowering their loan amounts to make the mortgage more affordable. Additionally, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have adjusted rates for investors and second home buyers, making it easier for first-time buyers to compete without investor pressure.

“In conclusion, today’s mortgage rate environment reflects a mix of economic forces and policy decisions with wide-ranging effects. By staying informed and planning carefully, you can navigate this landscape confidently and seize opportunities for long-term prosperity.”

Reach out to Neimark at [email protected] for expert mortgage advice and services.

Jon Shapiro, The Jon Shapiro Group

Jon Shapiro, The Jon Shapiro Group

Local real estate expert Jon Shapiro shared his thoughts about the current housing market and what Atlantans may be facing when either buying or selling a home.

“To understand our current 2024 real estate market, you have to understand where we were in 2023, where we are right now, and where we are going. 2023 home sales were the lowest on record for 30 years. The main reasons were that owners were locked into low mortgage interest rates they did not want to give up, creating very low inventory of listings. The interest rates doubling from 2022 to 2023 also knocked many buyers out of the market which, of course, was also a contributing factor to less 2023 sales.”

He continued, “In 2024, even though prices are pretty steady year over year with about a 5 percent increase from 2023 to 2024, people are starting to act. We are already seeing a 10 percent jump in inventory and closings year over year. The belief is rates will drop to around 6 percent over the next year and inventory will continue to rise. Most people I am working with are ready to go and don’t really see any benefit in waiting any longer. I believe we have all seen the correlation between lower rates and over market pricing. Seems more logical to secure a home with the best possible pricing now and refinance when rates go down. There are many consumers who paid over market in the low interest rate buying frenzy and there will be some folks upside down to where they could owe more than a home is worth. 2025 is predicted to be a record-breaking sales year. Bring it on!”

Shapiro then turned his attention toward some of the current trends that he and his team have recently observed.

“Trends we are seeing in the current market are that fewer consumers are excited with the current pricing of materials and labor to do gut renovations. We are seeing refreshed, updated homes often sell with multi-offers for good prices when the buyer does not have to do a lot of work. HGTV has set our consumer expectations of what homes should look like. I would stay away from anything too bright or flashy as it’s trendy and dates quickly. Any kind of outdoor entertaining space will remain in demand.”

Shapiro also discussed the controversial and still pending lawsuit facing the National Association of Realtors.

“I have never experienced so much incorrect information on one topic. Bottom line is as the year progresses there will be no publication on our multi-list systems like FMLS and MLS to how brokerage fees are paid between the listing agent who represents the seller and the buyer’s agent that represents the buyer. There will be other simple ways to share this information between real estate agents.

“After 33 years of being in business, one thing I know for sure is that sellers want to net the most money and buyers want their best possible terms as well. Realtors will continue to work together as we have been for many decades to make this happen. Buyers and sellers have always had options to venture out on their own and not hire a professional in this and any industry. There’s a reason over 90 percent of consumers choose to work with a realtor. I don’t see this changing anytime soon.”

To reach Shapiro, please call (404) 845-3050.

Amy Barocas, The Barocas & Feldman Team, Harry Norman Realtors

Amy Barocas, The Barocas & Feldman Team, Harry Norman Realtors

Amy Barocas, a realtor with The Barocas & Feldman Team of Harry Norman Realtors, discussed what’s hot and what’s not in the Atlanta real estate market, including emerging trends, and shared some helpful hints and basic tips for homebuyers and sellers.

Barocas said, “The Atlanta real estate market is experiencing a period of strong growth and resilience as we move through 2024. What’s hot are listings and the need for more market-ready homes. Homes that have been well prepared to enter this market are selling fast and for over list price, and listings that didn’t are not. Atlanta continues to attract buyers for all that it has to offer from jobs, affordable cost of living, market stability & our incredible sports & entertainment. Just another reason we are called “HOT-lanta”!

As far as trends, Barocas offered, “Days on market have been a bit higher lately than the years past, but they still remain at slightly above list price. This allows for a more balanced market in Atlanta, but there are still those pocket areas that consistently are stronger and have little or no inventory. The homes that are priced right, in good school districts, and are ‘move-in’ showing condition with little to no repairs or maintenance [needed] are seeing the quickest sales and highest prices.”

Regarding interest rates, Barocas suggested those currently maneuvering the market maintain some historical perspective.

“In 1971, interest rates for a mortgage were 7.33 percent, which is higher than today’s average rate. If you waited for interest rates to go down, you would have continued to rent or stayed in your current home until 1993 – 22 years of waiting – for interest rates to go down. Meanwhile, the value of real estate quadrupled. You cannot time the market on the perfect time to buy your first home, upgrade to your next home, or invest in real estate.”

She continued, “My No. 1 piece of advice … make moves based on when it makes sense for you personally. The market is always going to fluctuate, and as history has shown us, real estate has tangible value and remains an invaluable asset in all of our portfolios.”

Barocas concluded by sharing some helpful hints and tips for homebuyers and sellers.

“Enlist the help and guidance of a market expert and local realtor,” she said. “The real estate market evolves incredibly quickly, and choosing a team to assist you with your next big purchase or sale is invaluable.”

To reach Barocas, please call (404) 790-0913.

Leigh and Michael Schiff, Schiff Atlanta Fine Homes

The Schiff Team, Schiff Atlanta Fine Homes

Leigh and Michael Schiff, real estate advisors with The Schiff Team and Schiff Atlanta Fine Homes, share their expertise in analyzing the local real estate market and offers some helpful tips for consumers.

“In the Atlanta real estate market, homes that are in excellent condition and priced correctly are in high demand,” the Schiffs said. “When sellers and their listing agents set the right price, these homes often receive multiple offers and go under contract within a weekend. On the other hand, the high-end market (properties priced at $3 million and higher) is currently not as hot. The inventory levels for luxury homes in the intown area are quite high, with some properties sitting on the market for over a year. This abundance of inventory gives buyers an advantage in negotiating offers for the homes they are interested in purchasing.”

The Schiffs then turned their attention to current issues surrounding the real estate industry.

“One of the current challenges in the Atlanta real estate market is the limited inventory across most price points. This shortage of available homes makes it difficult for buyers to find suitable properties. As a result, when a desirable home does hit the market and is priced correctly, it often receives multiple offers and sells above the list price. In order to compete in this competitive market, it is crucial for buyers to be fully approved for their mortgage or be prepared to pay in cash. This shows the seller that the buyer is serious and financially capable, increasing their chances of winning a multiple offer situation.

“Another key factor in competitive negotiations is the absence of contingencies and a shorter due diligence period, typically around three to five days. Buyers who are willing to waive contingencies and complete their due diligence quickly are often seen as more desirable by sellers, giving them an edge in negotiations. Overall, limited inventory in the Atlanta market has made it challenging for buyers. To succeed in this competitive market, buyers need to be financially prepared, ready to act quickly, and willing to make strong offers without contingencies.”

The Schiffs then provided some solid advice for homebuyers and sellers.

For the buyers, they say: “Ensure you are fully approved by an experienced lender before starting your search for a home. This will give you a better understanding of your budget and increase your chances of securing your dream home. And don’t wait until the weekend to look at new listings. As soon as a house is listed, try to visit it as soon as possible. This will give you an advantage over other buyers and allow you to submit an offer promptly if you’re interested.”

For the sellers, they say: “Consider investing in your home before listing it. Most buyers prefer a move-in ready home, where they can simply unpack and feel at home. By addressing any deferred maintenance or necessary repairs, you can attract more buyers and potentially receive higher offers. Remember that visible deferred maintenance can make buyers wary. If they see signs of neglect in the house, they may question what else has been overlooked. This hesitation can deter them from making an offer. So, it’s essential to address any maintenance issues before listing your property.”

To reach The Schiff Team, call (770) 821-1354 or email [email protected] or [email protected]

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