Every week, we ask an Atlanta real estate professional for their thoughts on the top trends in Atlanta real estate.
This week, we talked with Lane Jones, the managing broker/senior vice president with Harry Norman, Realtors in Marietta. A 13-year veteran of the industry, Lane was the 2002-03 director of th Cobb Association of Realtors, and is currently serving on both the Atlanta Board of Realtors Board of Directors and the Georgia Institute of Real Estate Board of Governors, in addition to her three-year term on the Professional Standards Committee for ABR.
Atlanta Agent (AA): Atlanta’s home-price gains in the latest Case-Shiller were among the best in the nation; what do you think is behind Atlanta’s strong trend in prices, the last few months?
Lane Jones (LJ): Atlanta continues to provide a high quality of life and low cost of living, which keeps it very desirable. I think the biggest thing, though, is that we have such low inventory, and with the absorption of the foreclosures and the demand for housing high, the price has been driven up.
That environment will definitely continue in the coming months. I felt that way when I did my budget back in August; I could see some of my agents struggle in finding the proper inventory with investors, and that indicated to me that inventory was going to be really tight and low for all buyers in 2014.
AA: Home sales, both current and pending, have been a bit softer in 2014; have you observed a slower sales pace in your respective markets? And do you think we’ll see things pick up for the spring homebuying season?
LJ: The biggest challenge that we’ve had is the significant weather events. We pretty much lost a good two weeks of the January/February market because of those unpredictable weather events.
Also, we’re struggling with quality inventory. We’re finding buyers who are in a multiple-offer situation, they lose out on one or two of those situations and they delay their purchase and wait for something to come on the market that is more in line with their desires.
Last year, it seemed like there was such a sense of urgency. We were believing that rates were going to rise, and that the market was starting to recover. Buyers believed that they were still getting “the deal” they were looking for; you’re not hearing that so much anymore. Now, they’re realizing that the market has shifted to a seller’s market, and that’s made a big difference in the buyer’s mindset as well.
AA: Finally, what’s the biggest challenge that you see agents facing, as 2014’s market begins to really take shape?
LJ: I see three challenges that we’ll be facing this year:
First, some sellers are becoming more motivated to test the market, rather than be realistic; so, pricing to them is, “If I put it out there, someone will be willing to pay it.” The thing is, we’re still having problems with appraisals, so while it sounds great that you’ll “test” the price, even if you receive an offer, it still has to go through the appraisal process when seeking financing. Additionally, we’re seeing quite a few pocket listings (or, quiet listings), which appraisers are not able to use as comparables because they’re not in the MLS system.
Second, there are still sellers who are underwater, and even if they’re at a break-even point, they are holding onto the property until they can make some money.
And finally, we deal with agents who are not well trained. In some cases they are part time and work another full time job. I recognize that some agents have to for economic reasons. But we also experience they’re not doing anything to get the training that they need to become a part of and develop in our industry. I really do believe that it’s too easy to get a license.