Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their thoughts on some of housing’s most pressing issues. This week, we talked with Collette McDonald, a Realtor with RE/MAX Around Atlanta. The No. 1 Realtor with her brokerage the last three years, Collette had a 2014 sales volume of $35 million. She has appeared on several HGTV shows, including “Design to Sell” and “My First Place,” and since 2013, she has been the official Realtor for the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta Agent (AA): You cover several distinct areas in Metro Atlanta; what areas are seeing the most interest from homebuyers, and why?
Collette McDonald (CM): Brookhaven is generating the most interest from my buyers, and for several reasons. First, the fact that it became a city two years ago has been a huge benefit. Now that we’re no longer part of unincorporated DeKalb, we’re not only receiving more press about the positives of the area, but our taxes have also gone down while our services have gone up.
The second reason reason is, when you look at Brookhaven, there are three distinct areas, and they range from low density to high density. We have two MARTA lines that are on the border, 285 on the north section and 400 on the west section. So you have all these major transportation corridors that feed to this diverse area.
The quality of life is also wonderful in Brookhaven. There are five parks, multiple trails, soccer complexes and two lakes. I tell clients all the time that Brookhaven offers the same opportunities that Chastain Park did 30 years ago.
AA: We still hear from agents that lending standards are too tight – is that your experience?
CM: That is my experience, and I think lending is going to get even worse. The smart agents out there must control who their buyers are lending with. It makes it so much more difficult if a buyer does not understand the process and uses either a national company with no connection to the local community or an online company that is absolutely atrocious.
Furthermore, the Dodd-Frank act is going to make it difficult for us to meet timelines of closings. Not only do we have these high underwriting standards – which, honestly, we should have in place, in light of the downturn – but now, with the latest Dodd-Frank reforms in place, if one thing changes on the good faith estimate that the buyer has received, they are automatically requiring a three-day auto-renew.
That’s a problem, because as agents, we work on timelines. If we say someone is closing on June 1, the buyers and sellers have their moving vans, they’ve given notice on their leases or maybe they’ve sold a house and need to vacate the property. Dodd-Frank, with that three-day renewal process, is going to hold all that up. Now, as agents, we have to manage expectations. We have to say, “Best case scenario, we’ll close on this day, but we’re probably not going to.” Agents need to work with strong lenders who get all the information and has the package available to the attorney a week before closing.
A local lender, with its feet on the ground, is going to become even more important to a transaction than ever before.
AA: Finally, what are some challenges that agents should prepare for, when starting their business?
CM: In addition to the new Dodd-Frank timelines, the big challenge that we agents have to prepare for is the lack of supply. Interest rates remain low, but when buyers enter the marketplace, the problem is that we do not have enough supply for buyers to take advantage of those low interest rates.
So it’s a challenge finding property for the buyer, and it’s important that you be a true “neighborhood agent,” meaning someone who identifies with a specific area and hears about all the listings that are going on the market, including “pocket” and “quiet” listings.