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 Courtney Newton, the president and sales lead at Courtney Newton & Associates. An eight-year veteran of Greater Atlanta real estate, Courtney leads the top real estate team in Cobb County. With specialties in distressed sales, investment homes, first-time homebuyers and government contracts, Courtney primarily sells homes and advises her clients on transactions and housing opportunities.
Atlanta Agent (AA): We keep seeing reports of heightened construction around Atlanta, but what kind of activity are you observing in your specific markets?
Courtney Newton (CN): The big thing that we’re seeing is, all the builders who bought during the housing slump are now building on those lots, and there’s a little bit of a lag time from a developing standpoint. Land is very hot right now because everybody wants to build, and the market is asking for inventory. The challenge, though, is in the development – it’s a good six to nine months before the builder commits to the home, and then you have another six months to build, so we’re thinking this time next year, we’ll be seeing construction really return.
When you’re talking to a buyer, it’s one of those things where they either want new construction or they don’t. And you’re definitely not seeing any spec from the builders. You see some of it from the builders who were relatively strong through the bust, such as Kerley Family Homes, and the small local builders; they’re comfortable building spec because they know it will sell.
AA: With the clients you work with, do you find that the 20 percent downpayment is still the norm, or is there more flexibility for homebuyers today?
CN: There’s a lot more flexibility. The game that everyone’s playing is, how do I put down the least amount of money that I can and still avoid mortgage insurance? That’s the big question, and you have strategic buyers who are following an 80-10-10, 85-10-5 financing strategy, because the money is so cheap but they want to avoid any insurance.
And you’re also seeing the FHA mortgages price themselves out of the market, because the mortgage insurance is a requirement through the life of the loan; so, if the borrower can save for a couple more months and put 5 percent down, instead of the FHA’s 3.5 percent, then they’ll only have mortgage insurance for five years.
AA: What kinds of things are you paying attention to with your listings before they hit the market?
CN: What I’m looking for is a clean listing. Clean goes a long way in this market. Oftentimes, you assume that you need granite and new carpet and fresh light fixtures, but I’m looking for clean windows, steam-cleaned carpets and pressure-washed exteriors. I sell homes all the time that have laminate countertops, and you can sell a home with older carpet if it’s clean.
I’m also looking for sellers who understand why we pay for a stager to look at the home; the seller who incorporates the stager’s recommendations sees their home sell quicker, for more money and on better terms than the seller who idled a bit.