Signs of Sustained Recovery Abound

The various small businesses that drive the country’s housing market are reporting signs that the industry may be making a real and sustained comeback.

At the start of this year’s spring selling season, home builders and real estate professionals alike expressed optimism about the growing number of prospective buyers showing up at open houses and inquiring about current house listings. It now appears that interest has translated into sales in many markets.

Mark Prather, whose real estate agency, ERA Buy America Real Estate Services is on the border of Los Angeles and Orange counties in California, states, “We had a terrific March, better April, and May is going to be the best closing month since 2006.”

Other success stories are being reported across the nation, as business is being driven by pent-up demand. Many people had put off buying a home since prior to the recession, and prices are lower after plummeting during the housing crisis. In addition, rising rents are making buying more attractive, and mortgage rates are at record lows.  The National Association of Realtors states that more than 1.3 million previously occupied homes were sold from January through April—a 7 percent increase from more than 1.2 million a year ago.

Source: “Housing Market is Perking Up,”Buffalo News/Associated Press (06/11/12)

Baby Boomers Are On The Move










The recent Housing Summit hosted by SmartNumbers and ViaSearch provided some interesting insight into some of the most recent migration patterns for buyers in Metro Atlanta. Their data shows that the “third or higher move up” category continues to be the leading segment of buyers across Metro Atlanta. This is further supported by the “head of household age group of 45-65+” showing a positive trend. See the chart below.











For many years, the first time buyer was the leading buyer segment for Metro Atlanta. But recent challenges to gainful employment and increased scrutiny for mortgage underwriting have forced many younger buyers to rent versus buy. Starting on January of 2011, more than 10,000 boomers started turning 65 every day. This began one of the most significant migration trends we will see in our lifetimes. Retiring boomers are once again moving from the cold weather of the Midwest and Northeast to the Sun Belt. Others are bailing out of high cost and high tax areas to places with a more reasonable cost of living. That is good for Metro Atlanta. Many baby boomers will want to move closer to their children and grandchildren. Others will seek a simpler, less maintenance lifestyle. Others will move to assisted living or transitional housing.

Many baby boomers are surprised to see the math regarding staying in their current properties or moving. And many will be unpleasantly surprised at how little they can afford when prices rise and mortgage rates rise over time. If you or someone you know is considering their options, we would be happy to show them their options so they can make the most informed decision. Contact us today at

Smyrna Tackles Litter and Helps Its Property Values

Local Smyrna residents might have noticed some funny billboards popping up in the last few months. My personal favorite compares littering to “networking at a funeral.” So glaringly wrong, it gets your attention. And it’s supposed to!

Who is behind the littering campaign?  Keep Smyrna Beautiful (KSB) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help the public become more aware and concerned about environmental issues. KSB is funded by the City of Smyrna, recycling revenues, and private contributions which all help the organization host community events, manage recycling programs, and sponsor outreach programs like providing private ashtrays to help smokers dispose of their butts properly. The Keep Smyrna Beautiful Program and volunteers continue to win awards, year after year.

A member of the Keep America Beautiful (KAB) system, KSB has joined in a litter prevention campaign to help increase the awareness of the problem of litter. Under the leadership of Keith Bentley, KSB will be using banners, volunteers at events, t-shirts, and other give-aways to promote the campaign. It links littering with other undeniable – and often humorous—wrongdoings, such as “networking at a funeral,” “breaking up on Valentine’s Day,” or “giving a kid sugar at bedtime.”

Why should you care?  If you are own a house and want it to maintain any value it has, you should care. KAB’s 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study found that litter in a community decreases property values 7 percent. Now more than ever, that’s a definite reason to care! If you shop locally, pay taxes, or own a local business, you should also care. Litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year, with businesses paying $9.1 billion.  Governments, schools, and other organizations pick up the remainder. The presence of litter in a community takes a significant toll on the quality of life, property values, and housing prices.

What can you do?  Spreading the word is easy. On the website, visitors can share their own “wrongs,” including uploading photos and videos which will help generate more buzz for the problem of litter. People can also take part via the campaign’s Facebook page and on Twitter. Locally, you can check out KAB’s facebook page for local news and events. You can also volunteer by contacting the Keep Smyrna Beautiful Office by phone at (770) 431-2863 or email KAB at either or


NAR: Pending home sales up 13.3% over year-ago figures

“The housing market is clearly superior this year compared with the past four years,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Actual closings for existing-home sales have been notably higher since the beginning of the year and we’re on track to see a 9 to 10 percent improvement in total sales for 2012.”

Home contract signings rose for the 13th straight month, according to the National Association of Realtors, which reported pending home sales rising 13.3% over May 2011 and up nearly 6% over April 2012.

“The housing market is clearly superior this year compared with the past four years,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Actual closings for existing-home sales have been notably higher since the beginning of the year and we’re on track to see a 9 to 10% improvement in total sales for 2012.”

The news from NAR joins a larger discussion on the impact of positive housing news for the spring selling season.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller 20-city index increased by 0.7% in both March and April. The CoreLogic ($17.35 0%)  national house price index rose by 1.1% and 1.2% in March and April, respectively. Additionally, Zillow ($33.22 0%) home value index posted a 0.5% increase in May.

Housing analysts at Goldman Sachs ($91.36 0.33%)  said there are some suspicions as to whether all of this good housing news may be misleading. After all, they point there are 2 million vacant housing units, with another 4 million in shadow inventory.

“These two seemingly contradictory aspects of the housing market lead many to ask: Can house prices increase in the presence of excess housing supply?” they ask.

Yun commented that desirable housing inventory is actually low, indicating a push on prices. This low inventory, he said, could actually hold back some contract activity.  “If credit conditions returned to normal and if we had more inventory, especially in the lower price ranges, more people would become successful buyers.  In an environment of historically favorable housing affordability conditions, it’s frustrating to see some consumers thwarted in the process,” Yun said.


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Local Family Fun on July 4th

Looking for some fun family fun to enjoy this fourth of July? Whether it’s a parade or a carnival you’re looking for, plenty of local events offer your family lots of variety and activity. What’s that? Your family craves the booming sensation of fireworks lighting up the night sky while patriotic songs we all love to sing fill the air waves? Well, there’s plenty of that kind of Independence Day fun, too! Don’t forget to check with your local homeowner’s associations and your town’s website or newspaper for more details on all of the activities planned for the 4th. Here’s a list of just a few local events we put together…

The city of Marietta’s Fourth in the Park celebration begins Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 10 a.m. and includes a parade, free live concerts, museum tours, arts and crafts show, food, carnival games and fireworks finale. The Marietta Freedom Parade includes 110 entries, 2,000 participants and an estimated 30,000 spectators. The parade begins at 10 a.m. at Roswell Street Baptist Church and travels west on Roswell Street, north on East Park Square past Glover Park and the Square, down Cherokee Street and ends at North Marietta Parkway. The end of the parade marks the start of the Festival. Food concessions, arts and crafts and carnival will provide plenty to do for the whole family.

Celebrate Independence Day with family and friends at Wills Park in Alpharetta. Bring your blanket or yard chairs and picnic basket and relax under the stars. Activities include free children’s game, concert by the Alpharetta City Band and other musicians. Watch a beautiful fireworks display at dusk.

Come celebrate Centennial Olympic Park’s 4th of July Celebration with a night of fun and entertainment for the entire family, including downtown Atlanta’s best fireworks display. Park gates open at 6 p.m. and fireworks start at approximately 9:40 p.m. The finale of the evening is Centennnial Olympic Park’s Fireworks Spectacular, Atlanta’s best fireworks display synchronized to a special selection of patriotic and popular music. Each year, thousands of people come to Centennial Olympic Park to celebrate Independence Day. MARTA is strongly encouraged for transportation. Exit the West Line at the Philips Arena/Dome/GWCC Station (W-1) or exit the North Line at Peachtree Center (N-1), and follow the signs to Centennial Olympic Park.
And, of course, there’s always Lenox Square. Hosting the largest fireworks show in the Southeast, Lenox Square will light up the sky with their huge Pyrotechnic Extravaganza at 9:40pm. This year the 4th of July Fireworks at Lenox Square will feature over 4000 shots making it one of the largest fireworks displays in the country! The Lenox Square Independence Day Celebration starts at noon and offers fun for everyone. Between the Fourth of July Fireworks Show and the Peachtree Road Race, Lenox Square will be bustling with activity! Don your red, white and blue, and discover the fun at Lenox Square! 4th of July will be celebrated in grand tradition with activities for the entire family, including a Kids Zone, live musical entertainment from Party on the Moon, food concessions and the largest fireworks display in the Southeast. Everyone is invited to Lenox Square to experience Atlanta’s legendary celebration!

Metro Atlanta Real Estate Market Update

The Metro Atlanta real estate market continues to show signs of improvement for sellers. In 2011, we reported that over 60% of sold transactions were short sales and foreclosures. And approximately 50% of closed sales were under $100,000 which would normally have been 10-15% of the market. But we have now seen a prolonged period of low “for sale” inventory. At the same time, the pace of pre-foreclosures (notices of default) and foreclosures has slowed. Here are some specific numbers from our sources:

  • Listed inventory is down 36% from May of 2011.
  • Properties sold under $100,000 now represent 22% of the market versus almost 50% in 2011. A normal price distribution is 10-15% of sales in the under $100,000 range.
  • Pre-foreclosures and Foreclosures are down almost 50% from the 2011 run-rate.
  • For three months in a row, normal market sales (resales, new homes) are now outpacing bank-owned sales!
  • Desirable properties with market pricing are getting multiple offers and selling fast!

So what is causing these positive trends and how long will these conditions last? The combination of low inventory, strong demand and the slowdown in short sales & foreclosures is driving these latest market conditions. But real estate is local and our markets can be very different. Some areas will continue to see low inventory and values are expected to start rising. Other areas have looming “shadow inventory” and we will see more short sales and foreclosures coming late this year and into next year. We have the facts to help guide you if you want to know more about your area. Visit for more information.

Future of U.S. Housing Markets Depends Largely on Echo Boomers

The next two decades in housing markets depends largely on the Echo Boomers. That’s according to panelists at the “Shifting Demographics and Housing Choice: A Whole New World?” session today during the Realtors® 2012 Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo on May 18th in Washington, D.C.

There are approximately 62 million echo boomers in the U.S. Also called “millennials,” echo boomers are currently ages 17-31. According to the 2011 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, younger home buyers – those ages 18-34 – represent 31 percent of all recent home purchases.

“We know that although many young people may be delaying home purchases in today’s economic climate, most of them still aspire to homeownership,” said NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami. “Realtors® are committed to ensuring that the dream of homeownership can become a reality for generations of Americans to come.”

During the session, economists NAR, the University of Washington, and Florida State University presented various research and data that illustrate the future of homeownership from a generational standpoint.

“Demography is destiny,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “In that vein, demographics can provide very useful insights into the future of housing and homeownership, and the results of these reports indicate that certain generational shifts will have a significant impact on the real estate industry over the next two decades.”

NAR Economist Selma Hepp identified several key demographic trends on both ends of the housing age spectrum. The demand for affordable, accessible housing will increase as the 65-and-over population grows; at the same time, as seniors leave their homes and move into assisted living and other arrangements, they will add to the current supply of housing. Because of their sheer size, however, echo boomers will significantly impact the next two decades in housing.

“Echo boomers represent a long-term opportunity for a housing market recovery, but they are struggling in the current economic crisis,” said NAR’s Selma Hepp. “Consequently, demand for rental housing is likely to climb in the near term.”

As a group, the echo boomers are more racially and ethnically diverse than their baby boomer parents. While 65 percent of baby boomers are Caucasian, only 55 percent of echo boomers are Caucasian. Echo boomers are also more likely to be college educated than previous generations, and are remaining single longer.

Glenn E. Crenlin from the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington shared his insights into recent declines in homeownership and whether those declines indicate possible generational trends.

“It is worrying that the homeownership rate for those under 35 has fallen more sharply than the rate for older Americans,” said Crenlin. “But I think we need to examine homeownership rates by generation in a more balanced way. Although the Millennial generation does not own homes at the same percentages of those in other generations, many of them are still in the early stages of household formation – in fact, some of them are still in high school.”

Crenlin presented data from the American Community Survey that shows a significant increase in homeownership among millennials when compared to baby boomers at the same age. While 900,000 households in the millennial generation own their own home, only 500,000 baby boomer households owned their own homes at the same point in their lives.

“Given these data, what we’re looking at in terms of the millennial generation is likely only a delay in homeownership of three to five years, not a long-term trend away from homeownership itself,” said Crenlin.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.


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How to Stage Your Pet for Selling Your Home

You’ve cleaned, polished, washed, painted, planted, decluttered, and depersonalized. You’ve done everything to prepare your home for prospective buyers. But what about Fido and Fluffy?

Pets can be a real challenge when selling your home.  Many pet owners work during the day and can’t be home to take the dog for a walk or shoo the cat outside. Having strangers in their home—especially when their owners are away—can be stressful and frightening to a pet and their behavior can become unpredictable. Keeping the dog crated might seem like a good idea, but having a dog barking at buyers during a showing is distracting. You don’t want your home to be remembered as “the one with the dog in the crate.” While sending pets away to board or to live elsewhere temporarily is perhaps the ideal solution, it is rarely a feasible option.  So what is a pet loving seller to do?

There are certain concessions and changes in behavior a seller has to make when their home is on the market. As a pet owner, look at adding a few extra things to that daily checklist before you head out the door to work.

Smells  A huge turn off to prospective buyers is smell and, let’s be honest, pets sometimes smell like… pets. Treat your pet to some new bedding that is machine washable. If the bed can be disguised behind or beneath a piece of furniture, even better. A bed that is out of sight and washed frequently will also be out of a buyer’s mind. Keep pets bathed and groomed more often than usual, so as not to add to existing pet odor. In homes with cats, concealing the litter box is a great idea in addition to adopting a meticulous scooping routine. Also try letting some fresh air in. A closed in home will hold more odors so open the windows.

Stains  As soon as a prospective buyer realizes you have pets, they are likely going to start looking for stains. Stains suggest the home has not been well maintained overall and limit the possibility of a high offer. Stains don’t have to be permanent. Many companies offer products for heavy duty stain removal and odor control you can . Considering hiring a professional to clean your carpets or furniture to remove any stains and odors.

Vaccuming  When you have pets, it’s a good idea to vacuum daily while your home is on the market. Look for a non-perfumed deodorizer you can use when vacuuming and change the bag more frequently than usual. Even if the carpets have been professionally cleaned, frequent vacuuming will cut down on the amount of odors, pet hair, and pet dander floating around your home, potentially deterring buyers with allergies or just sensitive noses. Plus, a freshly vacuumed home suggests to buyers that the entire home is well maintained.

Another approach to consider is how you can actually incorporate your pets into the staging of your home. This doesn’t mean you should leave the rawhide bones and pouches of catnip lying around, but there are ways to embrace your pet as a part of what makes your home cozy and inviting for the right buyer’s family. “Styled, Staged, and Sold” blogger Melissa Dittman Tracey did just that when she sold her last home. In the post Can You Stage the Household Dog?, she discussed how she came up with a pet-friendly staging plan.

Tracey included a pet specific talking point sign at the home’s entrance which included a welcome message, a photo of the dogs, what their names were and their secure location in the home. Tracey also made sure the dogs were in an out-of-the-way room, situated behind a pet gate, and included another talking point sign by the door of that room. She even dressed up her smaller breed dogs in matching sweaters in case viewers wanted to peek into the room– for some pooches this may be taking things a bit far, but it’s definitely a whimsical touch. The bottom line for this life situation is maintaining a warm, secure, safe environment for both pets and visiting buyers when the home is on the market.

Perfect Perrenials for Zone 7

When planting flowers in Atlanta, it’s important to look for hardy breeds. Although our winters are generally mild, the hot, humid summers can really stress flowers that aren’t suitable for our region. Before purchasing flowers for your garden, make sure they are suggested for planting in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6-8. Below are some wonderful flowering, easy-to-grow perennials that are perfect for our region.

Shepherd’s Needles are in the daisy family. The plant is also know as Spanish needles, butterfly needles, beggarticks, or botanically as Bidens alba. It’s a  short-lived perennial that attracts butterflies with its white, daisy-like blooms. The plant grows 1 to 4 feet tall with 1 to 5 inch long leaves and 1 inch wide flowers in clusters. It does require rich, moist soil in full sun, so be sure to plant where your sprinkler can reach it.

Formosa Lily is also known botanically as Lilium formosanum and commonly as August Lily, Taiwan Lily, or Philippine Lily. It is a fragrant, easy to grow perennial that can get up to 7 feet tall. Its leaves are a dark green and get 3 to 8 inches long with clusters of white, trumpet-like flowers that are 5 to 8 inches long. Formosa Lilies prefer full sun and moist, acidic soil.

Shasta Daisies, botanically known as Leucantheum x superbum) is a wonderful flower for cut flower arrangements. It will grow 2 to 3 feet tall, with clump forming foliage. Flowers are 2 to 5 inches wide and blooms continue from summer into fall. Shasta Daisies prefer well-drained, non-acidic soil in partial to full sun light.

Bear’s Breech comes form the acanthus family of plants and is botanically known as Acanthus mollis. Common names are Artist’s Acanthus and Grecian pattern plant. This perennial can grow 5 feet tall. Leaves are 3 feet long with white, pink, or purple flowers on stalks. Bear’s breech enjoy loose soil in partial to full sun.

CoreLogic: Negative Equity Props up Home Prices in Toughest Markets

The negative equity problem may actually be pushing up home prices at the bottom of some of the hardest-hit housing markets, according to a report from CoreLogic ($17.05 -0.28%).

The national supply of unsold homes dropped to 6.5 months in April from nine months last June. But the decline occurred less because of an increase in sales. In fact, pending home sales dropped 5.5% in April, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Instead, fewer homes reached the market because the owners owe more on their mortgage than the home is worth and are trapped in negative equity, said CoreLogic Senior Economist Sam Khater in the report.

More than 11 million borrowers are underwater, according to CoreLogic.

“Negative equity is typically a demand-side obstacle to sales and refinances, but currently is also restricting the supply of homes for sale,” Khater said.

In markets where more than half of borrowers are underwater, the average supply drops to 4.7 months, compared to 8.3 months in healthier areas.

As a result of the restricted supply, lower-priced homes in these areas are actually rebounding at their fastest pace since the homebuyer tax-credit “boom” in 2010, according to CoreLogic.

Prices on less expensive homes increased an average 4.5% from one year ago, compared to just a 0.6% uptick at the higher end of the market.

“Paradoxically, as the flow of REOs has slowed over the last 18 months, negative equity has become a positive force in real estate markets by restricting supply in the face of increasing demand,” Khater said. “We have transitioned from pricing dynamics driven by economic weakness and high shares of distressed sales to one of restricted supply, which will likely exist for some time to come.”

By Jon Prior • June 11, 2012 • HousingWire