Welcome to Fall!

-2Fall officially started at 4:44pm on Sunday, September 22nd.  The Braves have clinched the National League East for the first time since 2005.  College football is in full swing and the Atlanta Falcons are beginning their season with hopes of playing in the Super Bowl.  We are blessed with a long fall season with pleasant weather and beautiful colors.

So what are the prospects for the colors of fall this year?  “The main thing that makes for good fall color are sunny days beginning in mid- to late-August and continuing into September, coupled with cool nights,” says Howard Neufeld, an Appalachian State University professor whose weekly leaf-watching reports have earned him the title of “Fall Color Guy.”  The early summer was unusually wet this year.  The average rainfall for Metro Atlanta is 49.71 inches per year.  In the first 8 months, we have already had 51.04 inches.  But the late summer starting in August turned drier.  The Atlanta-based Weather Channel predicts autumn will be more dry and cooler than average in the Southeast.  That would point to a colorful tree canopy and a likelihood that many of us won’t depend too much on air-conditioning or heat going into December.

Click here to view the locations for the South’s Best Fall Colors according to Southern Living magazine.  So get out there and enjoy our beautiful fall season!

Bird-Friendly Gardens = A Win-Win for All in the South

0905_GN_aColorful birds can be a welcoming sight to dull winter landscapes. Now is the time to start planning and planting to attract more birds this winter. Better Homes and Gardens magazine offers some great tips on attracting birds to your lawn this winter.

Landscaping can do a lot to welcome birds into your yard. Welcome birds to your garden with these plants native to the Southeast.

Birds love ornamental grasses and berries. Add ornamental grasses to your garden for multiseason color, texture, and food sources for a host of birds. Here’s some grasses birds love. Invite flocks to your backyard by planting fruit-bearing trees, shrubs, and groundcovers in your landscape. These berry producing plants do double duty– they attract and feed birds in the winter but they also add a nice sparkle and burst of color to your landscape.

Use these 10 ideas to help you attract songbirds to the garden. Knowing the secrets to bird hosting can help you convince the birds to take up residence. Once they stop by for a visit, here’s six quick and easy ways to create a welcoming space for birds to inhabit.


Hooda and Kathy Lee Want to Help You With Curb Appeal


Creating curb appeal

You only have one chance to make a first impression and the same can be said for your home. Creating curb appeal is key for homeowners, buyers and sellers alike, local experts agree. If the house doesn’t pop from the road, then you can be out of luck. Below are some key tips to keep in mind. To read more tips, check out the full article here.

Landscaping is Key. Proper landscaping can add a finished touch to a new home.

Color Goes a Long Way. The color of the front door and gutters can make a big impact with just a little bit of work and effort. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint or a new color on the front door can improve things tremendously.

The Difference is in the Details. Just like decorating your living room, you may want to add a few bright decorative touches as focal points- like a birdbath, bird house, a stick-in-the-ground trellis, or a bench. Adding a new mailbox or replacing old light fixtures are another easy upgrade.

Don’t Forget Decks and Driveways. Through the years, mold and mildew can collect on surfaces outside the home. Getting these cleaned is a big boost to your home’s appearance.

Still need some specific help with boosting your home’s curb appeal? Upload your photos to the Kathy Lee and Hooda show on NBC’s Today Show by posting on their Facebook wall or tweeting them to @klgandhoda and real estate expert Barbara Corcoran will give you some tips to improve your home’s curb appeal.


Mostly Good News for Atlanta in Latest Case-Shiller National Index

The latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index came out last week, and it brought mostly good news for homeowners across the country.

The Case-Shiller National Index covers all nine U.S. Census divisions, giving us broad insight into national home-price trends. The 20-City Composite shows what prices are doing in 20 of the nation’s largest metro areas. The latest report contained data through the end of June 2013, due to a two-month reporting lag.

Nationally, home prices rose 10.1% in the second quarter of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012. The 20-City Composite was up 12.1% in June, compared to a year earlier.

Locally, there is some good news among the highlights. Atlanta had the largest monthly gain in the latest report, with home prices rising 3.4% from May to June of this year. Coincidentally, prices also rose by 3.4% from April to May of 2013.

The not as great news: Prices could start cooling within the Atlanta real estate market, due to inventory gains. Atlanta is currently one of the top 10 housing markets for inventory growth. This could put downward pressure on property values, going forward.
Read more: http://www.homebuyinginstitute.com/news/case-shiller-summary-august-453/#ixzz2dq5KdE00

10 key questions to ask a lender

ten_key_questions_to_ask_a_lenderI recently ran across a great blog entry from 11Alive News here in Atlanta about what to ask a lender before applying for a mortgage. If you’re thinking about buying a home, talking to a lender is your first step. Choosing the right lender and making sure you know as much information about the loan process as possible can make all the difference in whether your real estate transaction is a smooth process or not. Read the blog here or just keep reading:

Here are 10 key questions for you to ask at application to make sure you will get the best overall mortgage and the best possible understanding of the loan process.

1. What is the interest rate on this mortgage?
2. How many points will I pay?
3. What are the closing costs?
4. When can I lock the interest rate?
5. What will my monthly payment be?
6. What are the down payment requirements for this loan?
7. What are the qualifying guidelines for this loan?
8. What documents will I have to provide?
9. How long will it take to process my loan application?
10. What are some possible issues that could arise?

1. What is the interest rate on this mortgage?
To determine how much you will pay over the life of the loan, you need to know the interest rate. Rates change daily and if your credit is less than perfect you may not qualify for the best possible figure.

The most effective way to compare different offers, ask for the annual percentage rate (APR) which is generally higher than the interest rate. Be aware the APR found in some advertisements may be misleading. Some lenders do not include all of the fees they charge to calculate their APR.

2. How many points will I pay?
Points can also be considered loan origination or loan discount. These fees are charged for an interest rate that is provided. The lower the interest rate the higher the points or origination for the loan.

3. What are the closing costs?
Mortgages come with fees for services provided by lenders and third parties involved in the transaction. There are generally three different portions of closing costs, origination from the lender, attorney fees and pre-paid items which generally includes the cost of setting up your escrow account and pre-paid interest.

4. When can I lock the interest rate?
Interest rates can fluctuate from the time you were provided an initial estimate to the time you are ready to close due to daily rate fluctuation. To stop this from happening you will want to lock into a rate and cost you are comfortable with. A good time to lock is generally when you begin the application process and are ready to proceed with the loan. Each interest rate has a different cost associated with locking in that rate so look at different options.

5. What will my monthly payment be?
Your monthly payment takes into account several different factors, these factors include interest rate, loan amount, are taxes and insurance included and is there PMI on this mortgage. These are key items to understand to have a grasp of what your monthly mortgage payment will be.

6. What are the down payment requirements for this loan?
There are several different down payment options to be aware of. The minimum down payment is traditionally an FHA mortgage. There are down payments for this program as low as $100 down but standard FHA down payments are 3.5%. Conventional mortgages are generally a better loan option than FHA but require a 5% down payment. If you put less than 20% down you will generally have PMI (private mortgage insurance), which adds to your monthly payment. The more you put down the lower your PMI will be. To obtain the very best loan term you will require a 20% down payment.

7. What are the qualifying guidelines for this loan?
These guidelines are related to your income, employment, attest, liabilities and credit. FHA, VA and other government sponsored mortgage programs usually have easier qualifying guidelines than conventional loans.

8. What documents will I have to provide?
The most common documents required to process your loan are proof of income including pay stubs, W2’s, tax returns, driver’s license and assets. Each situation is a bit different so there may be other documents that are required.

9. How long will it take to process my loan application?
The answer to this question depends on several different variables. When loan volume is high, underwriters get slowed down and this itself can show up the process due to a bottleneck in the pipeline. Generally a good expectation is 30 to 45 days to close your loan.

10. What might delay approval of my loan?
Providing the lender with all documentation and accurate information beginning the process should allow the transaction to run smoothly. Some of the more common concerns are any type of credit problems, issues with the sourcing of funds for your down payment, appraisal problems or being re-conditioned by the underwriter for additional documentation. Be sure to notify the lender if there is any increase or decrease in salary, change in jobs, if you obtain any additional debt or change in marital status between time of application and the loan closing. Any one of these items could cause the loan process to slow down, that is why it is important to get everything possible to your lender up-front to try to avoid these issues.

Getting clear answers to these questions will allow you to have a much better understanding of the loan process and make sure you have as smooth a loan process as possible.

Number of Underwater Homeowners Down 42%

Home prices are rising, more underwater home owners are regaining equity, and home sales are on the rise, according to the Obama Housing Scorecard, released each month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The August report showed that home prices continue to make strong gains while the number of underwater home owners has dropped by 42 percent since the beginning of 2012. The number of home owners who owe more on their mortgage than it is currently worth has dropped from 12.1 million to 7.1 million as of the second quarter of 2013. Home sales—for existing homes and new homes—continue to rebound as well.

However, the report also strikes a cautious note, underscoring the fact that housing market hasn’t returned to normal quite yet.

“As we regain stability in our housing markets, it is important to remember that we still have a long way to go in making sure that our housing finance system is strong for future generations,” says Kurt Usowski, HUD deputy assistant secretary for economic affairs.

The report notes that more than 1.7 million home owner assistance actions have taken place through the administration’s Making Home Affordable Program, including loan modifications and other foreclosure-mitigation efforts. But the administration continues to press mortgage servicers to improve their processes in helping struggling home owners, such as through better identification of home owners who could be helped through the program as well as improving upon the timeliness, accuracy, and detail of servicers communications with home owners.

“While there is significant progress, there is still more improvement needed in [mortgage] servicer behavior,” says Tim Massad, Treasury assistant secretary for financial stability. “And while the housing market has recovered substantially, there are still home owners struggling to avoid foreclosure and it is vital that we continue to try to help them.”

Source: http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2013/09/16/number-underwater-homeowners-down-42?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DailyRealEstateNews+%28Daily+Real+Estate+News%29

20 Ways to Upgrade Your Deck

101503798.jpg.rendition.largestJust because summer is drawing to a close, doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon your deck or patio. Fall can be the perfect time to do a little outdoor updating.

From refreshing to refinishing, these fab deck ideas show how to transform a dull deck into a sizzling space to gather, grill, and garden. Be inspired to dig into these smart deck updates and rethink your space this fall with Better Homes and Gardens Magazine’s 20 easy deck updates.

One Atlanta Area Named to List of 10 Metro Areas Where Home Prices Rose the Most

FE_PR_091211money425x283CoreLogic, a financial information company, released the results of their latest Home Price Index (HPI) report on Tuesday. It brought good news for homeowners across Southern California and a handful of other metro areas, where home prices have risen by more than 10% year over year.

According to the report, prices rose in 99 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. Nationally, home values rose by 12.4% in July, compared to the same month last year. CoreLogic also singled out the ten metro-level housing markets with the most appreciation.

The list shows how single-family home prices changed from July 2012 to July 2013. These rankings are based on a repeat-sales index that tracks increases and decreases in sales prices and includes distressed sales.

At number 4 on the list behind Los Angelos, Riverside, California, and Phoenix, Arizona is the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Georgia area with an increase of +15.61%.

Atlanta’s housing market is leading the charge in the eastern half of the country. After falling longer and further than most east-coast metros, home prices in Atlanta are now rebounding strongly. Prices in this metro area rose by nearly 16% in July, compared to the same time last year.

Atlanta was also a standout in the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, posting the largest monthly gain of the 20 composite cities.

But here again, we are seeing a significant change with inventory trends. The number of homes for sale in and around Atlanta fell sharply toward the end of 2011, and into the first part of 2012. But the trend is reversing. According to Realtor.com’s monthly housing summary, the total number of active listings in Atlanta’s real estate market has risen by 17.85% in the last year.

Bottom line: Inventory is still tight in this market, but it probably won’t stay that way. Expect home-price appreciation to wane somewhat over the coming months.

Read more about other metro areas where home prices rose the most at: http://www.homebuyinginstitute.com/news/top-metros-for-price-gains-457/#ixzz2eOdil4vO

Foreclosures Down 25% From Last Year

report_highlights_nfr_1308_topThere were fewer foreclosures this July than one year ago according to recent data released from CoreLogic, a leading residential property information analytics and services provider. Their recently released July National Foreclosure Report says properties in the foreclosure pipeline also fell.

CoreLogic reports there were 49,000 completed foreclosures in the US in July 2013. That is down from 65,000 in July 2012—a 25 percent decrease. That’s also down 8.6 percent from the the 53,000 foreclosures reported in June.

CoreLogic reports there were approximately 949,000 homes in the US in some stage of foreclosure in July of 2013. In July of 2012, that number was 1.4 million. That’s a decrease of 32 percent in one year.

For broader comparison purposes, consider that prior to the housing market’s decline in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month nationwide between 2000 and 2006. Since the housing market’s decline and financial crisis that began in September 2008, there have been approximately 4.5 million completed foreclosures in the US.

While Georgia was one of the five states with highest number of completed foreclosures for 12 months ending in July 2013 with 41,000 foreclosures, the local housing market is still showing marked signs of recovery. CoreLogic believes the numbers support continued strength in the housing market.

You can read more about CoreLogic’s report here or download the full National Foreclosure Report.

The 81st Annual North Georgia State Fair

The 81st Annual Superior Plumbing North Georgia State Fair will take place Thursday, Sept. 19 through Sunday, Sept. 29, at Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta. Attracting nearly 300,000 people from throughout metro Atlanta, North Georgia and surrounding states, the Superior Plumbing North Georgia State Fair is the largest fair in metro Atlanta and the second largest in Georgia. Once again, exciting concerts are scheduled for The Georgia Lottery Concert Series. Scheduled entertainers who will perform in the covered arena include:

  • Phillips, Craig and Dean on Friday, Sept. 20
  • Lauren Alaina on Saturday, Sept. 21
  • Lee Brice on Wednesday, Sept. 25
  • Loretta Lynn on Thursday, Sept. 26
  • Colt Ford on Friday, Sept. 27
  • Jerrod Niemann on Saturday, Sept. 28

All concerts begin at 8 p.m. and admission is free with your fair admission.

New for 2013 is the Georgia Mountain Lift, the longest lift in Georgia, spanning more than 2,000 feet. Patrons can ride from one end of the fairgrounds to the other as more than 130 cars take you above all the action of the fair and the James H. Drew Carnival Midway. New Live shows that are free with paid admission include Sea Lion Splash!, The Tiger Encounter with Teen Tiger Mom, Felicia Frisco and the Rowdy Rooster Puppet Show. All-time favorite shows and attractions returning again this year include Horses, Horses, Horses!, Brian Ruth “Master of the Chainsaw” and Wit Carson’s Petting Zoo.


Advance tickets can be purchased for $5.00 for adults, and $11.00 for a book of 21 ride tickets – nearly 50 percent off. There is a $1.00 fee for postage and handling. Advance tickets are on sale at www.northgeorgiastatefair.com. Regular tickets can be purchased at the gate at $7.00 for adults, with children 10 and under free. Ride tickets are $1.25 each, $20.00 for 21 tickets, $50.00 for 55 tickets and 120 tickets for $100. Parking is $3.00. Discount tickets are available at all metro-Atlanta Walgreens stores through Sept. 20. Discount tickets are $3.50 for adult admission and $11 for 21 ride tickets. Specials during the fair include ‘Unlimited Ride Specials’ – $15 pay one price ride special on Monday, Sept. 23; $18 pay one price ride special on Thursday, Sept. 19 (opening day), Tuesday, Sept. 24 and Wednesday, Sept. 25; $25 pay one price ride special on Saturdays, Sept. 21 and 28 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. (good till close). For more information, visit www.northgeorgiastatefair.com or facebook.com/thenorthgeorgiastatefair.