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 Mary McPherson, the managing broker of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Alpharetta office. Licensed since 1986, Mary was a top-producing sales associate in North Fulton County and received the prestigious Phoenix Award from the Atlanta Board of Realtors, recognizing 10 consecutive years of million dollar production; she became the managing broker of Coldwell Banker’s Alpharetta North Point office in 2000, and since then, the office has been the company’s highest producing in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007.
Atlanta Agent (AA): We recently took an in-depth look at the mortgage markets; are your agents still dealing with tight lending standards?
Mary McPherson (MM): Mortgage documentation is stricter than it’s ever been before, and I think it will remain that way; in addition, we also have the government initiatives that have been put in place, so that what happened in 2008 won’t be repeated.
When corrections are made, sometimes there is an overcorrection and the pendulum swings back too far in the other direction, and I think that people who have not gotten loans recently are feeling that they’re being put under a microscope more than they should be. With good education from their agent at the beginning of the process, clients will know that the mortgage guidelines have changed, and that lenders are going to ask you many questions and require more documentation than ever before. Knowing what to expect makes a big difference to most clients. Buyers should not take it personally; lenders simply have to meet all of the guidelines that have now been put in place.
Also, we’re beginning to see lenders add more loan products as their potential risk lessens. Lenders are still very anxious to make loans – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that; it’s how they make their money.
AA: More than a third of home sales in Atlanta are still all-cash; do you see that in your markets?
MM: That is a high number – here in Coldwell Banker, we are seeing more of a trend toward 30 percent all-cash. Now, when you break that number down to specific areas, some feature more cash buyers than others.
For instance, in the North Fulton market (which my office services), I’m not seeing that many cash buyers; we are trending lower than 30 percent. But when you look at our entire Atlanta market, sales in the West Cobb area have a much higher percentage in regards to all-cash. There are still investors who are out there buying properties, and they are normally dealing in cash.
Also, we do see many empty nesters pay all-cash. Typically, they are consumers whose home is paid off and who are down-sizing, so they take the money from their sale and pay all-cash for the home that they buy.
AA: Home sales in the 11-county Atlanta area stumbled a bit last month; how have sales been in your respective markets, though?
MM: July was a bit slower than May or June. When I look at the numbers, in July the market is trending about 20 percent down in open sales and about the same in closed sales. June was very robust, and outperformed June 2013; listings were up 24 percent over the previous year, and up 6 percent over the previous month. That is encouraging, because listing inventory has been quite low. Days on the market in Alpharetta is down 12 percent over 2013, so when homes come on the market and they are in good condition and priced realistically, they sell quickly. Average days on the market in June, for instance, was just 36 days, which is phenomenal.
The media often paints another picture, but that’s often a national picture. You really have to look at each individual market area to see how homes are performing, and I think that’s the value that the real estate agent brings to the table – they help the client understand that what’s happening nationally is one thing, but what’s happening in their market area and particular neighborhood are the factors that will determine how quickly the home will sell and at the highest possible price.