Clickscape LogoClickscape Realtors

Clicks & Mortar BannerClicks and Mortar

Clickscape's Real Estate Blog

Q&A with a Mortgage Expert – Jeremy Owens

Mortgage

 

Jeremy Owens is a well-respected Mortgage Banker with Brand Mortgage in Atlanta, GA. We recently caught up with Jeremy to get his take on the top 5 questions we hear from homebuyers about the mortgage process and interest rates.

What’s the most important thing a buyer can do in preparation for getting a mortgage?

With the advent of free credit reports, everyone should be reviewing a credit report at least annually for inaccurate information. A buyer should review their credit report in the 6-12 months prior to beginning their home search.  A buyer should pay special attention to their debt usage ratio (total of revolving credit account balances/total available revolving credit limit).  The debt usage ratio should stay at or below 30%.  A buyer should also plan to resolve any outstanding collections as quickly as possible.

What can a homebuyer expect from the mortgage application process?

The mortgage application process can be intimidating.  I purchased my first home after I had been a mortgage lender for 3 years, and I was still nervous.  Securing mortgage approval and satisfying underwriting conditions is NOT the hard part of the application process.  The government has imposed strict oversight and regulations on mortgage lenders.  We are now required to document, document, and over document each application.  If you are prepared to say “Yes” every time a new document is requested, your application will be easy.

What should a homebuyer look for in a mortgage lender?

Your mortgage lender should be a competent professional, well versed in PURCHASE mortgage applications.  Your mortgage lender should also have a local presence in the community you are considering joining.  A local lender is better equipped to help move your application through the multiple back room layers of underwriters, processors, and closers.  There are no end to horror stories from homebuyers that chose lenders with out of state operations or internet lenders offering “too good to be true deals” only to end up being rescued by a local lender.

Are lending restrictions starting to ease up? If so, why?

Lending restrictions are beginning to ease up slowly as investors are realizing the quality of today’s mortgage is very high.  Banks will be more willing to lend as interest rates begin to normalize.

What do you think will happen to interest rates over the next 12 months?

The Federal Reserve has been purchasing billions of dollars in mortgage paper. This has caused interest rates to remain artificially low.  As the Fed continues to reduce their purchase on mortgage paper, interest rates should begin to rise to more normalized levels. Mortgage interest rates are still at historical lows, but with the impending rise in rates, now is the time to find a home and secure a mortgage.

Have additional questions? Connect with Jeremy.

Jeremy Owens

 

Four Great Reasons to Take the Old Fourth Ward’s Tour of Homes This Weekend

 IMG_0019-500x384

A tour of homes is a great way to discover what a particular neighborhood has to offer. You may not be looking to purchase the particular homes on the tour, but the tour will give you a chance to see the various types of homes, learn a little history, and get a general feel for the area.

Old Fourth Ward is nestled between Inman Park and downtown Atlanta. It contains the Martin Luther King, Jr. historic district, one of the most developed portions of the Beltline, and no fewer than two massive marketplaces in construction. Here are the top reasons to check out the area via the district’s annual tour of homes this weekend:

1- Treat yourself at Irwin Street Market

The tour kicks off at Studioplex, a cotton warehouse-turned-artist workspace-turned-condominium space. The space is conveniently located across the street from Irwin Street Market, home to both Bell Street Burritos and Jake’s Ice Cream. This is THE definitive burrito/ice cream combination in Atlanta. Each one has been voted best of its kind in Atlanta. Get both, and if you’re walking for the tour, those calories will burn right off, right?

2- Get a taste of O4W’s housing variety

There are ten total homes on the tour, and you’ll get to see both lofts and houses. While they all fit with the feel of the neighborhood, there’s a good deal of variety on the tour. Some of the lofts are artist work/living spaces, others are simply described as “art deco-inspired” or “with Art Moderne Façade.” Either way, the units seem fit for both creative types and art appreciators. Some of the stops on the tour are older; at least two date to the 1920s. Others are newer- one of the homes is built to Earthcraft standards, an Atlanta green construction initiative.

3- Did I mention the art?

O4W-3

The neighborhood is wrought with murals and art installations. Whether they’re from Living Walls’ recent conference (just south, of O4W, the Edgewood district has the city’s highest concentration of Living Walls murals), commissioned by the city (like the oddity pictured above, on Highland Ave), or installations on the Beltline, you’ll be able to soak in the pieces in a way you just wouldn’t be able to by just driving through.

4- This puppy-dog:

Dog

In the gallery of the tour’s website, there’s a picture of this adorable puppy-dog. Will he be at all the houses, or just one? Can I keep him? Gimme that puppy-dog. 

Like what Old Fourth Ward has to offer? Check out these homes for sale.

Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta

LaborDay

Labor Day weekend always offers a plethora of options for celebration. Do you invite the friends and family over for a cookout? Do you make the drive to a friend’s lake house? Or do you enjoy the summers’ end out on the town at one of the innumerable street festivals?

In Atlanta in particular, the weekend is the perfect storm- it’s the weekend when the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game descends on the Georgia Dome, the nerds assemble for DragonCon, and the festivities commence for Black Gay Pride- and that’s just downtown. There are festivals, concerts and gatherings aplenty all over the metro area. But if you want to beat the traffic, you could check out one of these options right in your own neighborhood.

1. Art In The Park in Marietta

The Marietta Square has plenty going for it already- independent restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, and boutiques. So when this annual art festival comes up every year, the backdrop is already set. The festival features both local and national artists in every medium you could think of, and even includes a section for children’s art. The centerpiece of the festival is ChalkFest, a sidewalk chalk art competition featuring 20 professional chalk artists.

2. Riverdale’s Seafood and Beer Festival

South of the Perimeter? Check out this street festival in the City of Riverdale. The festival features just what the name suggests from both local vendors and international crafters. Seafood and beer: can you think of a better way to cap off the summer? If that’s not enough, there will be KidZone for the little ones, performances all day long from soul, R&B, and hip-hop artists, and a fireworks show at the end of the night.

 3. AJC Decatur Book Festival

Whether you’re an aspiring author or just a casual book lover, the Decatur Book Festival will be absolutely slammed with things to do. From writing workshops to author forums, the festival isn’t just for those in love with words; it’s for anyone interested in any topic. Arts, sports, religion, LGBT, science- there will be talks given on anything you could imagine. Go to the website and plan out your day in advance so you can make it to every talk you want to attend, and finish out the night with the Art After Dark block party, featuring Flux artists.

Historic Roswell

The Broadwell House - Historic Roswell

When considering a listing with the descriptor “within walking distance to Historic Roswell” attached, what you see is what you get. Roswell is a town touting its civil war history through a collection of antebellum homes available for tour or events, mill ruins from the cotton gin days, beautiful churches and cemeteries, museums, monuments and historic sites. Just take a drive through the Historic Roswell area and along Canton Street to get a feel for the architecture and the atmosphere– for being OTP, Roswell has plenty going on. On Canton Street alone are art and antique shops, cute boutiques and local eateries that drive Atlanta locals up 400N to get a taste (try Table & Main and SALT Factory). On the third Thursday of every month from April to October “Alive After 5” takes over Canton Street, the Roswell Square and the community corner at Canton St. and Woodstock Rd. for live music, outdoor vendors, face painting and games for kids. The historic district of Roswell will not leave its residents without a place to meet up with friends or to take out-of-town guests.

Bordered by the Chattahoochee River, Roswell residents are frequently seen outdoors – walking, biking, fishing and canoeing. The Chattahoochee Nature Center is a favorite spot for school trips, summer camps and family outings due to their popular butterfly garden, bog garden with carnivorous plants, river boardwalk, and woodland trails. The city’s Old Mill Park skims Vickery Creek and the dam and is just one of many walking trails throughout Roswell.

Roswell is a great place to raise a family. In fact, Zillow notes that one of the top three demographics fall under “country clubbers”: affluent married couples with children who are educated and own their homes. The other two types generally fall under “most eligible” (pre-middle age to middle age singles with high income) and “easy street” (middle-aged married couples living a comfortable life without children).

The city of Roswell is located just north of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs and borders Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Milton. Access to 400 is very convenient, and there is a MARTA rail station where 400 meets Mansell Rd. at exit 8. Neighborhood kids attend Roswell North Elementary, Crabapple Middle School and Roswell High School.

Atlanta's Very Own Haunted Mansion – 3816 Turnberry Ct

With it being Halloween week, our Over-the-Top Property is appropriately a replica of Disney’s very own Haunted Mansion – 3816 Turnberry Ct, Duluth, GA 30096. While listed by a real estate broker, this big ticket item is also listed on ebay with a Buy It Now price of $873,000. With 4 hours remaining in the bidding, 54 offers have been made through ebay – all declined.

So how much hauntedness does almost $900k get you? I’m glad you asked.

  •  7 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms across 10,008 square feet
  • Designed and owned by Mark Hurt (Former Disney Contractor) – built in 1996 in the gated community of Sweet Bottom Plantation (“That’s a sweet ass house”)
  • Used the same foundry that Walt Disney used to make the iron details of the original Haunted Mansion
  • Specially themed 1st floor bathroom complete with animated ghost scene. (What commode is complete without one?)
  • 2 story library
  • 1,100 square foot cypress wood roof deck
  • 2nd floor front terrace
  • Not actually haunted.

Check out the entire video tour.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Haunted Mansions. How does this Duluth GA version stack up?

 

 

Atlanta's Best Neighborhoods for Trick-or-Treating, 2012 Edition

The annual Little 5 Points Halloween Parade - Image via Creative Loafing

The annual Little 5 Points Halloween Parade – Image via Creative Loafing

Oh how the spooky have fallen! After ranking as the 15th best city in the nation for trick-or-treating in 2010, Atlanta has been unranked for the past 2 years in Zillow’s annual Trick-or-Treat Index (Yes, that’s actually a thing). As Zombie Capital of the World, how is this possible? How many brains does a city have to eat to get on this list?

Before we recap our favorite neighborhoods in Atlanta to go door-to-door, let’s dig into a few of the cities that were ranked and figure out why the good people at Zillow believe these cities to be scarier than Atlanta:

  • San Francisco – Alcatraz and Trolleys. But mostly the trolleys.
  • Boston – Home of the Boston Strangler and Al Davis. Just boo, baby.
  • Honolulu – Close your eyes. You’re on stage for a spelling bee. Your word – Kuliouou-Kalani Iki. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!
  • Philadelphia -They throw batteries at Santa; Imagine what they would do to you.
  • Washington -More politicians than anywhere else in the nation. Need I say more?
  • PittsburghBrett Keisel’s beard.
  • MinneapolisMall of America. I shudder to think of all the kids, (40 million people annually) and all the shopping (500+ stores) under one roof. This is my nightmare.
  • BuffaloThe Bills. Have you seen them play lately? Frightening.
On second thought, maybe it’s was a good thing not to be included on this list. Thanks Zillow!
As promised here are the Atlanta neighborhoods you should hit up tonight on your candy crusade.

Top Neighborhoods in Atlanta for Trick-or-Treating

  1. Atkins Park
  2. Brookwood Hills
  3. Ansley Park
  4. Garden Hills
  5. Candler Park
  6. Morningside/Lenox Park
  7. Virginia Highland
  8. Inman Park

6 Reasons Why You’ll Hate Condominiums

Photo courtesy of Seattle PI Blog

Condo? More like Con-don’t think so!

Here are 6 reasons why you’ll hate living in an condominium.

  1. Like an Alcatraz cell, but smaller – Living in a box is not fun. Living in a box with another person is even less fun. And if there happens to be a kid involved too? Straight up torture.
  2. No room for your junk- You might get a unit that comes with a storage room, but with smaller closets, no attic, and no basement, there’s no place to adequately store all your ceramic Siamese cat figurines.
  3. They are Anti-Freedom – Condos are typically ruled with an iron fist; Joseph Stalin was a pushover compared to your new Condo Board. Here’s a few things that a Condominium complex may not allow – home-based businesses, pets, the ability to rent out your unit, or civil liberties. Well, the last one is a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.
  4. Prepare to be pasty- If you have a greenthumb, enjoy taking in a sunset in your backyard, or have any desire to frolick, then you’re out of luck. With little to no outdoor space, you’ll be spending more time indoors than Boo Radley.
  5. Good luck selling it – I don’t recall much from Econ 101, but I do remember a little something called supply and demand. Since units are very similar, the ease of selling depends almost strictly on supply. If there are only a couple of available units on the market, then you’re in luck. If there are many units on the market, then prepare to take a sizable haircut to get your unit sold.
  6. Parking is a pain – There’s a good chance that a condo will either have 1) only street parking 2) a parking lot with 1 assigned spot 3)  a parking garage with 1 assigned spot. It’s pretty rare to get a condo that has 2 assigned spots so if your family has 2 cars or you intend on having frequent visitors, you can count on parking to be a huge pain in the asphalt.

Think I’m wrong? Think condos are better than houses? Let me know why.

7 Reasons Why Condos are Better than Houses

Condos aren’t for masses, but they are a perfect lifestyle fit for some. Sure, it’s less space, but they’re chock full of goodness.

Condominiums you say? Nay. They are Condomaximums. <self-satisfied snort>

Check out these 7 Reasons Why Condos are Better than Houses:

  1. Meet more people – Living in a condo building you’ll naturally be around more people. Since units are closer together and there are many more common areas like party rooms, fitness centers, and pools, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet your neighbors and kick it.
  2. Lock it, then rocket - A condo is like life before kids. It used to be so easy to spontaneously decide to go to dinner and drinks with my wife. 3 kids later? It takes us 25 minutes just to get in the car. That’s a house. You can’t just leave a house. A condo though? Lock it up and head to Uruguay for a month.
  3. Feels like Fort Knox - Still afraid of the dark? I don’t blame you – it’s terrifying. But it’s nothing that the locked-down, buttoned-up security of a condo building can’t fix for you. With keyed entrances, on duty security, and security cameras, it’ll take an Ocean’s Eleven – type heist to get anywhere near your authentic Chewbacca replica costume. All that security leads to fewer break-ins and a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
  4. Get friendly with Mother Earth – Walk, bike, and ride public transportation around the city with a clear conscience – It won’t be your car emissions that’ll be Chuck Liddelling Mother Gaia to death.
  5. Closer to the action – Let’s be honest. You’re a mover and a shaker. You need to be knee-deep in the action and the condo life brings you closer to restaurants, bars, theaters, and many other city-centric events and shows. In a world full of commutes and carpool fools, you’ll perpetually be less than 20 minutes away from everything.
  6. Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up – Unlike the death trappiness of a home, you’re never far from people in your condo building. This really pays off when you have an emergency like that time you got your foot stuck in the toilet.
  7. Save your back – Do your fingers hurt from a long week a work? Guess what? Now your back is going to hurt because you’ve got landscaping duty. Sounds terrible to me. Time spent mowing the lawn, pruning shrubs, or pulling weeds is better spent, well, doing anything else in the world.

Convinced? Good. Do yourself a favor and sit back, relax, and rock a condo to the max.

Over-the-Top-Property of the Day: Back to the Eighties North of Chastain Park

It’s always fun when a listing catches you off guard. There you are, perusing photos of a not-so-unusual $1,799,999 dollar home, and then BAM – where did that come from? Such is the case with this 1989 contemporary off Mount Paran Road not too far north of Chastain Park. But we won’t let the secret out just yet. First, let’s take a look at what fancy schmancy Atlanta real estate looked at the end of one of our cheesiest decades.

During the 1980s, Atlanta gained high marks for the new High Museum building designed by Richard Meier. City boosters won’t hesitate to say it was one of the signature buildings of that decade – I mean hey, it was pictured on a postage stamp! Meier’s bright white, often square forms were a key Postmodern look and everything from small additions to entire mansions acquired the aesthetic, including this one. Consider that your history lesson for the day.

3 Misty Ridge peeks out from behind a wall, which is kind of odd considering the already secluded location. It makes more sense when you realize that the home’s pool is inside this enclosure; I suppose the home’s steep rear lot necessitated this unusual configuration. Inside there aren’t too many surprises. Plenty of windows let in copious amounts of light and allow views of the leafy terrain Mount Paran is known for. I wonder how big the budget was for can lights – they’re everywhere! The mezzanine level is an neat touch that reflects the era’s obsession with loft architecture. Luckily, it looks like the kitchen was recently renovated; 1989 kitchens aren’t known for their visual wonders. All this is leading up to the home’s coolest feature: a full fledged nightclub! At least, it could be with the right people. Glowy lighting, slick furniture, a full bar, and wall projectors complete the Miami Vice scene. Maybe you could rent it out for Sweet Sixteens? Or maybe it’s the space referred to in the listing as being large enough to fit 25 cars? Nevertheless, it’s strong evidence that the Northside crowd really knows how to throw down.

The Atlanta Neighborhood that Could: East Lake

Atlanta’s East Lake neighborhood has seen quite the transformation over the past decade. Not too long ago, who could have imagined that one this place – one of the city’s most notorious areas – would one day end up second on our list of locales with the greatest home value increases? Still, there’s ample opportunity to find your diamond in the rough, if you’re looking for a deal and don’t mind a little (or a lot of) work. This eastside ‘hood is known for its pioneering spirit, so you’ll hardly be alone in your quest for urban nirvana.

East Lake #18

Photo by stonehousegolf on Flickr

The land that East Lake encompasses was rural up until the end of the 19th century. It was in the 1890s that ambitious plans were drawn up for an artificial lake surrounded by homes, hotels, schools, and entertainment facilities that would serve a mix of residents and fun-seeking tourists. The lake was built, and a few cottages were placed around it, but the financial downturn of 1896 meant that the touristy aspect of the plan would be the only function to survive. The amusement park was bought out in 1904, and not after that that a golf course was constructed. Voilà – Atlanta’s first country club! The neighborhood as we know it grew up around this emerald centerpiece.

The golf course went through many redesigns and changed hands quite a few times, but it was the construction of a large public housing project in the 1960s that had the greatest effect on East Lake. Named East Lake Meadows, the well intentioned development went into a deep decline that was nothing short of terrifying; at one point it had a crime rate eighteen times the national average. In the mid-1990s East Lake Meadows was torn down and redeveloped by the Cousins Foundation, who also revamped the golfing facilities, and the site is now a mixed income apartment community know as the Villages at East Lake. This positive turnaround was the catalyst for East Lake’s revitalization.

East Lake is located a scant 4.5 miles east of downtown Atlanta and borders Oakhurst, Kirkwood, and unincorporated Dekalb County. Access to I-20 is super easy, and the neighborhood’s served by its own MARTA rail station. As it always has, the East Lake Golf Club is the sun around which the neighborhood revolves. Things are particularly buzzy when the PGA holds its annual Tour Championship here. East Lake never developed a commercial district of its own, but those of Oakhurst and Kirkwood, not to mention East Atlanta Village, give residents nearby options for shopping, dining, and nightlife. One coveted asset the neighborhood is lucky to have: a fairly new Publix grocery store. East Lake Park holds a playground and hosts a farmer market, and there’s also a community YMCA.

Historically, housing in East Lake has been on the modest side, with bungalows, Tudor cottages, and Minimal Traditional homes making up the bulk of the available options. The larger homes tend to be historically inspired newer homes which have seen continued construction even as the housing market’s dragged. If you see chicken coops don’t be alarmed, as East Lake’s been one of the more popular places in the city for urban farming. Prices typically range from below $100,000 to $500,000.