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 H. Mason, a Realtor and senior marketing consultant with Harry Norman, Realtors in Atlanta. Part of the Atlanta Board of Realtors Multi-Million Dollar Club, John worked at three Fortune 500 companies – Levi Strauss & Company; The Stride Rite Corporation; and The May Company – before working in real estate full-time. Now, as a Realtor with 35 years of experience, John represents buyers, sellers and investors, and works in such communities as Alpharetta, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Roswell.
Atlanta Agent (AA): How have sales been in your area?
John Mason (JM): I work in the Georgia 400 Corridor, and business along it has been very strong. We had a big slowdown in move-up buyers, because so many people (as many as 60 percent, at one point) were underwater. Once prices began escalating, though, sellers were able to get the prices they wanted to sell and move on to other areas. That’s been a huge boost to my area.
That said, 40 percent of my business is first-time homebuyers. Although it’s been difficult getting final approval on the lending front, it’s actually helping move things around, because more qualified buyers are now able to purchase properties from empty nesters, who have finally made profits and moved on.
AA: Interest rates are starting to creep up, and analysts are freaking out about its implications for housing. Are their fears overblown?
JM: I have not heard too many people talking about it, and with incremental rate increases, you’re only looking at an extra $24 to $70 a month. I know it can be difficult for younger people – believe me, my first mortgage was 18 percent – but I see the impact being more on the pricing side.
I do worry that consumers are getting used to low rates. It’s been a long time since we had rates even in the 6-percent range. That said, rents continue to climb, and for every first-time buyer I’ve worked with, their mortgage is substantially lower than their rent was. And as long as first-time buyers can get through the lending process, even a 5-percent mortgage will be less than what they’re paying for rents.
AA: Finally, what kinds of things do you consider when pricing properties, especially in a hot market like now?
JM: I have to look outside the neighborhood for comps, so I always go neighborhood first, and then I look at the elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. In some case, the seller’s have thought that was not strong enough, so then I have to study a broader range of ZIP codes and compare as many features to similar properties as I can. I also will show the sellers historical pricing data.
Pricing has definitely become more difficult, because the sellers are expecting top dollar for their homes. I have a checklist they have to follow to pull that off: get rid of the brass; update the bathrooms; install granite countertops; install tile, etc. If they are not willing to do those things, then they will not sell at that level.