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 Deidre Saulsberry, a real estate strategist in Atlanta. A veteran agent who started with RE/MAX in Suwanee, Deidre has worked with PalmerHouse Properties and Harry Norman, Realtors, and now offers a la carte services at a small boutique. An Atlanta native and graduate of Clark Atlanta University, she loves fine dining, fast cars and fashion trends.
Atlanta Agent (AA): What is your take on the local mortgage markets? Is it any easier to get a mortgage, nowadays?
Deidre Saulsberry (DS): The words “mortgage” and “easy” never really go together. That said, I do think lending is easier, because there are so many programs now for first-time homebuyers when it comes to down payment assistance, and they can layer programs with other programs; I’ve seen some clients get into a home with as little as a $1,000 investment. Also, credit scores of 580 to 640 were considered low scores, but you can now get into a property with that score. PMI has been reduced 0.85, and the down payment is 3 percent on an FHA, so a person can purchase a larger home or save more on their purchase.
Regarding other assistance programs, there is the “Georgia Dream” program, which you can layer with other down payment programs, such as NACA, which goes up to the FHA limits and features no down payment and no closing costs. It’s partnered with Bank of America, and when they qualify and approve the borrower, they truly are going to close; it’s almost 100-percent guaranteed.
AA: We recently reported that Atlanta is seeing a high rate of gentrification; are there any neighborhoods that you think have changed in recent years?
DS: One particular area is the Beltline area, which we used to call “Old Fourth Ward.” It was riddled with colorful activity and other things of that nature, but you don’t see that anymore; it’s all been pushed two blocks away. So on one side of the line, you still see those problems, but on the other side, you see the Old Fourth Ward, with wonderful restaurants, condos, townhouses – it’s beautiful.
The Beltline investment was definitely the beginning of that activity. The analogy I use is that of a buttered knife. When you butter your bread with a knife, it depends on what side you dip in to get the butter; with gentrification, it depends on what side you use.
AA: Finally, what advice would you give to new agents looking to succeed?
DS: The first thing would be not being overanxious about getting a high-end client. That client will come, because at one point, they themselves bought a $100,000 home. So with that in mind, love all your clients and treat them all like high-end clients, because some money is better than none. As the actual agent, though, you must look like you have money, even if you do not have a dollar in your bank account.
You must know your product. Go look at houses; look at the latest designs and what’s trending; and love those things, and bring them into your own hands. That way, when you’re selling a property, you’ll know what coffered ceilings are, for instance.
Also, new agents needs to develop some structure in their business model, one that they can easily duplicate in others. And finally, agents should find a way to give back, and volunteer for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.