Looking for a Contemporary Home in Atlanta

Looking for a Contemporary Home in Atlanta? You are probably finding that there is not much to choose from. That makes knowing this niche market all the more crucial!

1180 East Beechwood Dr

The home at 1180 East Beechwood Dr is one of Atlanta’s most unique homes. Rebuilt in 2012 by Obie Award winning Epic Construction, this home takes full advantage of its topography, wooded setting and views by utilizing huge windows and main lounge rooms on all three floors. The upper lounge (shown in the photo below) is open air, has both a fireplace and a wetbar and overlooks the wooded streetscape.

1180 East Beechwood Dr

Ample windows, sunlight and dramatic spaces usually make for excitement around every corner.  In this photo, you get a feel for features that make contemporary styling so appealing.

1180 East Beechwood Dr

Alternatives that still scratch that Contemporary itch

One alternative emerging in the Atlanta marketplace is taking traditional homes and renovating the interior to create a “transitional” feel. Transitional architecture usually incorporates industrial and sleek design elements into a traditional floor plan so that the function of the living spaces is familiar and yet the finish is edgy and fun.

Basement away from theater

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Selling Your House with a Flat Fee or Discount Broker

When it comes to selling your house, there are several choices ranging from doing everything yourself – to hiring a team of professionals to manage the entire process for you.  Somewhere in the middle you will find Flat Fee and Discount Brokers.  In this post we will cover the hybrid approach where you hire a real estate broker, select from a menu of a la carte support services and drive most of the process yourself.

Discount Brokers with A la Carte Service Options

Menu of Discount Broker ServicesMost of these brokers will tout that you will save thousands of dollars by using them.  Who doesn’t want to save money?  I will even concede that sometimes discount brokers beat out full fee agents because real estate may be the only business arena where idiots and experts get paid the same amount… Please do us all a favor and investigate your choices thoroughly – you never get a second chance to make that first impression on the market.

The challenge is to make sure you actually end up saving the money you are hoping to save if you go this route.  Read the wording carefully in the descriptions of what a broker is offering to do for you.  Take a highlighter out and mark phrases like “upon request”, “help you”, “support”, “assist”, “optional”, “small fee” and “other services” – these are the a la carte items that can add up.  Less is not more – less is less.

Another challenge is that houses are all unique – especially in the Atlanta marketplace where square footage is unreliable and houses vary greatly even within the same neighborhood.  Amazon can’t comparison shop a model number for you online and let you pick the best balance of low price and highest merchant review rating.  Selling a house is more akin to auctioning off a vintage car that has been restored.  The whole goal should be to create a sense of urgency with the buyer pool so you get the most money and the most favorable contract terms. The actual sale price for a particular house is determined organically through a bidding process with interested buyers.  It’s a process driven by strategy, condition and marketing.  Differing strategies will result in differing levels of buyer enthusiasm and thus differing sale prices.  The difference may not be huge.  It doesn’t have to be – it will only take one misstep to melt away your savings of a couple of percentage points.

Now, you may be saying “This guy is biased”.  No doubt, I am.   I am pro-business and I believe I am pro-seller.  The flat fee or discount broker business model is definitely a win for the broker.  The broker gets paid up front regardless of whether your house sells or not.  The broker can also leverage your sign calls into buyer leads where there is a higher profit margin.  The question is how much service is someone going to get for $500 – especially when that $500 is paid up front?  If the broker makes more money off of converting buyer leads than selling your house, the lure of those leads would be very strong – perhaps compromising the primary objective.  That may not be a big issue for you as long as you know this going in.  You use the broker; the broker uses your house.  You both could win.  The broker will for sure.

Another concern has to do with liability since most legal action arises from the buyer side of the equation.  Proof of this shows up in contract form revisions as they address new litigation outcomes (something that is happening at least once a year now).  Any business model that promises to coach you on how to shrewdly fill out disclosure forms OR how to talk prospective buyers out of getting their own representation so you can save thousands of dollars should give you cause for pause.  Hell hath no fury like a Buyer scorned… On average people move every 8-10 years. Will it really be worth it if you end up in a lawsuit?

Here are some other key aspects of the process to consider:

  1. Multiple Listing Service (MLS) – One of the first objectives in selling a house is getting it listed on the MLS.  It is common to see fees ranging $400-$500 for this.  In the Atlanta marketplace, we happen to have two overlapping MLS’s.  Check to make sure your property gets into both of them.
  2. Property Disclosures – These should be filed out as forthrightly and honestly. Some brokers offer to guide you on how to fill out these forms to save money. Be careful.
  3. Lockbox – the Supra infrared lockbox that most agents use usually costs extra.
  4. Professional photos – Usually costs extra.
  5. Professional onsite staging services – Usually costs extra.
  6. Contract Forms – Although the Georgia Association of Realtors (GAR) contract forms are copyrighted, most brokers will provide you with GAR disclosure forms to complete. Ask about personal access to someone experienced to go over your offers when you get them.  And, how they plan to handle multiple offers if you get them.
  7. Listing Syndication on the Internet – most internet syndication is automatic these days.  This makes the professional photography and staging crucial.  Bad photos upload just as fast as great ones.  It is also important  to go back later and enhance your pages once the automated processes are finished.  You will probably have to do this yourself.
  8. Pricing and Selling Strategy – this is usually up to you.  I don’t know how anyone outside of real estate does it.  We preview competing properties, crunch numbers, interview buyer agents on recent sales and build a case for our pricing that will ultimately be presented to the appraiser.  This process takes time, experience and fresh market knowledge.  It is probably one of the most crucial aspects to selling your house!
  9. Business Hours – Since no one agent can genuinely be available  24/7/365, get a commitment for who will be accessible to you and when.  Real estate matters are time sensitive and deadlines matter.  Make sure your agent texts, monitors email and has the ability to gather signatures electronically so you are not chasing down a printer or a fax machine.
  10. Flyers – Typically you get a template so you can make and print your own.  Don’t skimp here – it will cheapen you and your house.
  11. Showing Feedback – Many brokers have automated systems for this.  If the broker you are considering does, make sure your home’s template questions are ones that will actually result in meaningful feedback.  Most buyer agents we know despise these systems because the questions are so generic and uninspiring.  After a day of showing 10-15 houses, the houses all run together.  I know when we get a couple of personal emails and 12 automated generic emails, we respond to the personal ones first because they seem to actually care about what we thought.

Stay tuned for part 3 of this series, we will cover Full Fee / Full Service Brokers.

Curious about Part 1? Here it is: Avoiding For-Sale-by-Owner Pitfalls

Avoid Common For Sale by Owner Pitfalls

Ever wonder what the most successful agents do to sell more homes?  Here’s the list to help you avoid common for sale by owner pitfalls. When it comes to selling your house, there are several choices.  The choices range from doing it yourself with no help – all the way to hiring a team of professionals to manage the entire process for you.  The choice could be as simple as black and white.  Or if you have the resources, it may just come down to how you view life and the experience you want to have.

Choices

This is Part 1 of a 3 part series where we will tackle three of the most common paths to selling your house. 

For Sale by Owner

Some people relish the thought of selling their own house.  Sometimes it stems from a previous negative experience with a Realtor.  Sometimes home owners are hoping to save part of the real estate commission.  If you are considering this option, it probably sounds like fun to you.  As you prepare, here are ways to avoid some common pitfalls:

  1. Make sure your marketing materials are professional in appearance so your showing experience is not cheapened from the start.
  2. Take COMPELLING photos of the house and property that evoke emotion or tell a “lifestyle” story.
  3. Consider using a professional Stager to transform the house from “it’s mine” to “it can be yours”.
  4. Familiarize yourself with Georgia specific court-tested real estate contract forms.
  5. Set aside time to prospect for buyers every day.
  6. Objectively compare the buyer’s other choices and market to expose their weaknesses.
  7. Preview all the competition.  Buyer prospects know the inventory extremely well – They stay up late doing research because buying a home is a big decision. They cruise the streets and go to open houses relentlessly.
  8. Create a unique “wow” impression so you don’t get beat out by sellers with competing houses who were willing to work harder to wow the same buyer prospects.
  9. Do not miss the mark on pricing.  Statistics show that playing catch-up expends both money and time attracting buyers who may have moved on.
  10. Focus your time and resources on the marketing venues that statistics show really reach the most buyers.
  11. Prepare for and properly manage the home inspection process.  You could end up giving away the money you were hoping to save just to hold the deal together.
  12. Do not talk too much when showing the house – it will seem desperate and turn off the buyers (overselling).  Buyers will wonder why the house’s value cannot stand on its own and has to be “justified”.
  13. Be careful not to force showings into your schedule when you could accommodate the buyer’s and build good will.  On the other hand, don’t be so accommodating that you seem pressured to sell.  It is a delicate balance.
  14. Go to the effort of verifying the buyer’s financial capability and follow up all the way up to closing.  If a lender is involved, you need to check that lender’s track record for being able to actually close the sale on time.
  15. Be ready for the conversations you will have. Understand that people have various levels of language or negotiating experience.  Words matter. Body language matters.  There are reasons why some people are more effective at negotiating and selling than others.  Someone is always selling someone.
  16. Be careful not to lose sight of your overall reason for moving because emotions almost always flare up at some point.
  17. Be clear and forthright on property condition disclosures. Buyers are inherently suspicious.  If they find something during the inspection that should have been disclosed up front, your buyer want to hear you “forgot” it – they will assume you hid it.  Many times the contract ends up falling apart after an issue like this due to categorical mistrust.  “If they did not disclose _____, what else did they not disclose?!?!
  18. Lastly, be prepared to field the steady stream of emails going back and forth between the parties leading up to the closing.  Ironing out all of the details before the actual closing documents are signed can be overwhelming to many in today’s market.

In part 2 of this series, we will cover a hybrid scenario with real estate brokers who offer a menu of a la carte services.  Stay tuned!