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 John Zercher of John Zercher & Associates, a Keller Williams Realty office in Smyrna. A native Georgian, John has lived in metro Atlanta for more than 29 years, and is a graduate of the University of Georgia in marketing and management information systems. Coming from a career in IT, John uses his expertise in marketing and technology for his real estate business.
Atlanta Agent (AA): What’s your view on syndication sites (Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com)? Are they a positive for agents, or just unnecessary noise?
John Zercher (JZ): I was not a fan originally, but I’m seeing more and more benefits. When those sites originally came out, especially Zillow with its “Zestimate” feature, it caused quite a bit of controversy, because consumers began looking at those like an appraisal. Of course, that’s not what a Zestimate is; it’s only intended to give you a ballpark value. Those measures, though, have become more accurate, and they actually benefit agents in how they give consumers an idea of what they’re home is worth.
Also, it those sites do give validity to agents. If you’re an agent, you work full-time in the business and you have a successful track record, those sites give you an opportunity to present that track record to the consumers. I received calls, for instance, from sellers in the area who have gone online, read reviews on my Zillow and Trulia profiles and decided to contact me. So the sites allow the consumer to do research upfront, and to research you as an agent. And of course, having those reviews will set you apart from other agents and give you an edge.
AA: Home flipping was a pretty big deal during both the housing boom years and the downturn, given all the distressed properties; do you see any flipping in your markets, or is it pretty much gone?
JZ: We are still seeing a lot of opportunities out there; consumers have to dig a little harder than they did a couple years ago, but there are still plenty of opportunities.
Most of the successful investors that we see are finding listings off the beaten path. For instance, investment homes may not always be on the MLS system nowadays. One thing that’s happening quite a bit nowadays is private Realtor Facebook groups; within those referral networks, investors will have access to properties long before the competition will.
As of right now, there is still a lot of opportunity where the market has not completely rebounded, such as between the $750,000 and $1 million market. In some of the higher-end markets, you still see investment activity, whereas in the lower end, those homes were snatched up in the last couple of years by investment groups.
AA: Finally, how have appraisals been for your listings? Are they improving, or still a hassle?
JZ: They’ve improved quite a bit in the last year. I was having so many appraisal issues in 2013, but as prices have come up, much of it has cleared up.
The problem is, of course, that appraisers are still looking in the rearview mirror, and they can’t find the comps to support what the buyers are seeing in the market. For six months, I had not experienced any appraisal issues, but I’ve had a few pop up recently; I think we’re starting to see a change as inventory increases again, and though you do still encounter issues where sales are lower (and there are less comps, as a result), most appraisers are pretty easy to talk to, and we always provide them with information about how we priced the property, so they know where we’re coming from.
Now, going forward, positive-time-adjustments, or appraising the homes with rising prices in mind, could still pose problems. When the market was going downward, appraisers were taking off prices for a declining market and were appraising less than the comps – now, though, they’re not doing that for a positive market, and prices are rising.