Cobb County Real Estate and Community News

Nov. 1, 2019

Is Now the Time for Downsizing from the Family Home?

 

 

Is Now the Time for Downsizing from the Family Home?

(A Smaller Home Very Well Could Be Right for You)


The word “rightsizing” may work better for you instead of “downsizing.” The time for this major life change is different for everyone. Maybe it’s shortly after your kids move out or after you retire. It might be even later in life when the house simply becomes too big to maintain or too difficult navigating around in. The time does come when most people experience more enjoyment from life in a home meeting their changed needs.

Right Size Your Way

Maybe surprisingly, a Gallup's annual Economy and Personal Finance Poll found that although total homeownership decreased from 71% in 2001 to 63% in 2017, the only age group to buck the decreasing homeownership trend were seniors (65+ years) that increased to 82%. So, wanting to continue owning their home seems to be what the vast majority of seniors are choosing to do.

There’s a long list of benefits for remaining a homeowner but in a more comfortable and smaller home. Cost can be one of the biggest incentives. And there are many costs to consider.

Costs. Savings with a smaller home come in many forms. First of all, you might be able to pay cash for a smaller home and stop making a monthly mortgage payment on the big old family home. Don’t think about what you paid for the home 20 years ago. Instead, think about what it might be worth today and what that will buy in a home more suitable to your needs today. Your big home might be worth $350,000 today even if you only paid $125,000 for it 20 years ago. If you sold it today to a young family needing all of that space, you could quite possibly buy a “rightsize” home for $275,000. You would be rid of the mortgage payment, own your home free and clear, and still have cash left over for retirement. Of course, you could do something similar with a reverse mortgage but that will not get you out of all the other expenses associated with a big old house. A rightsized house reduces costs in many more ways.

Energy effieciency. Energy effieciency is more than just better insulation and triple pane windows. Yes, you’ll get those with a newer house along with newer furnace and A/C systems that are both more efficient and less likely to need replacing or major repairs in coming years. Just the fact that the house is smaller means less cost for heating and cooling.

Maintenance and repairs. You’ll get a similar major cost savings by moving into a house with a new roof instead of needing to soon replace the roof on an aging house. You’re also likely to get newer and more energy efficient appliances that can include everything from the oven to the washer and dryer.

Less Taxes. Even if you decide to stay in your family home, I hope you take advantage of the tax breaks available with Homestead and Senior Tax Exemptions. Of course, a rightsize home will likely have less in taxes due each year. Smaller houses are built on smaller parcels of land and the land is a significant part of the property tax assessment. Besides the land, when you pay less for a smaller home than your current home is worth, that lowers the tax bill again. No mortgage and a smaller tax bill make a big difference in what your retirement income affords for your enjoyment.

Getting Close to Retirement? 

Shortly before retirement, many people go on a quest to pay off the mortgage and other debts. Switching from a big house to a smaller house can eliminate that mortgage and generate the cash to pay of your other debts. Even if you don’t pay the mortgage off in full, a condo or smaller house can mean a smaller mortgage with smaller monthly payments.

Pay off debts. If you’re fully set for retirement, good for you and enjoy. However many baby boomers feel like they still have a ways to go with their financial goals. If you haven’t done the math yet but are starting to dream about retirement, maybe it’s time to do the math. Not just the downside of adding up everything you owe on credit cards and other consumer debt but also the upside of how you can pay off that debt to enter retirement financially healthy. If you’re paying $500 or $700 or more a month for debts, consider what it would mean to your retirement lifestyle if you paid those debts off in full or at least a big chunk of it to significantly lower the monthly payments. If you’re one of the lucky ones without any consumer debt, think about how lower monthly expenses will enable you to add more each month to your retirement account or even retire now.

But gracefully growing older and retirement are about much more than money…

Is It Time for Positive Lifestyle Changes?

What you want out of life today probably isn’t the same as what you wanted at age 40 or 50. The needs of most people actually tend to become less as life goes on. Along with no longer needing the big house to raise children, you no longer need to be in the best school district or where your children’s friends grew up. 

What would be better today? Hopefully your health is good but some seniors benefit by living closer to medical facilities or maybe along a better public transportation system. For the activity orientated, it can be closer to entertainment, shopping, and sports venues.  If your family home was partly chosen to be close to work, moving closer to grown children and family might be better for your lifestyle today.

Without a doubt, rightsizing needs to consider a lot of factors that include more than the biggies of finances and lifestyle. Take your time to consider all the implications before making the big decision.

More Resources for Making a Big Decision

Please check out all of these resources as you work through your decisions. When you’re ready, have questions, or need more information please contact us or call us at (678) 570-8123.

Senior Housing: There are Lots of Options

Tips for Buying a Condo

Top 10 Blogs for Seniors to Follow

Aging In Place: Will Your Home Work for You?

Downsizing is a Step-By-Step Approach

Space Planning When Downsizing

Top 10 Tips for Downsizing

 

I wish you all of the best and happiness in your retirement. I encourage you to continue reading our blogs. If you need more information or have questions, please Contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you! C:\Users\user\Documents\Astral Services\Elance\Upwork\Active\Chad - Real estate Article & Blog Writing\Articles\Photo 4-19.JPG

 

Oct. 23, 2019

Qualifying a Listing Agent

Qualifying a Listing Agent

(What Haven’t I Asked That I Should?)

 

I’ve seen too many people hire an agent based on little more than appearance and a gut hunch. This is too important of a financial transaction to only go with your gut. I suggest you put together a plan that considers three or more agents and uses pertinent questions to make the best decision. Whether you’ve sold one home or a half a dozen, it’s usually been several years between each one. One of your first questions should be to simply have the agent refresh your memory about the overall sales process. If you’ve sold before, you’ll probably recall the basic steps quickly so most of your time can be spent on any rule and regulation changes and what those changes mean to you?

Interview Listing Agents

Ask questions like how long the average listing stays on the market and what types of homes are selling for the highest/lowest prices? There should be a lot of information about to your local neighborhood. Are 2, 3, or 4 bedroom homes most in demand? Do buyers want split levels or ranch style or basements (finished or unfinished)? But you don’t need to know everything about every sale for the past year. Focus on the information that is useful to you. 

One thing you should ask about the neighborhood is the general direction prices are going? You want specific information about prices for the past 3 to 6 months and things like if purchase agreements have been full offers or less than the asking price? If a significant number have been less than asking price, you want to know how much less (5% less, 10% less)? At that point, ask the agent how his/her recommended selling prices have done (average list price to sale price ratio)?

Also, ask about his or her marketing approach for your neighborhood. What’s been tried in the past? What worked well and what might not be a good approach? When is the last time a new approach was tried and especially for details about marketing your specific home?

Be Specific About Your Own Home

If you haven’t already, set up a face-to-face meeting with the agents on your short list. Plan to spend close to an hour with each. I’ve seen sellers simply hand over a written list of questions to be answered but you really should engage in a conversation to learn communication styles and to ask follow on questions when needed.

Although you don’t simply hand over a list of questions, you should have questions prepared as a guide.

  • What is the marketing strategy? Besides the MLS, will an online video tour be used? Where will videos, photos, and other marketing materials be posted online besides through the agent’s website? What are the other elements of the marketing strategy? Ask to see marketing materials from other listings as examples.
  • What makes them different from competitors? A good agent knows his or her strengths and weaknesses. It could be marketing, industry contacts, communication, negotiating, or something else. He or she should be able to quickly rattle off three or four. At a minimum, you want an agent who is honest, trustworthy, and assertive. They should also have a plan to bolster weaknesses.
  • What marketing changes will be made if offers aren’t being written within 30 or so days? Most listings are for 90 days. If you don’t see any action within several weeks, you probably want a “plan B.” Plan B should be more than just reducing the asking price.  
  • Will the agent be able to help you understand the pros and cons of different purchase offers if more than one comes in? You probably want to dig a little deeper into the agent’s knowledge and resources regarding mortgage loans and lenders. Interest rate volatility can affect even a prequalified buyer’s ability to close the deal. A good listing agent can rescue a faltering deal when they’re financially wise and well-connected with quality lenders. 
  • Ask about the agent’s statistics. Agents should know their numbers. At least ask about his or her list-to-price ratio. This is the final sale price divided by the most recent listing price. Another important statistic is the average number of days on the market.

  • Once the agent has seen your home, ask what small improvements will help achieve the highest sales price. Also, ask for staging advice.

  • Ask any other questions that are important to you.

Along with asking other important questions, before signing a listing agreement, you should ask the commission amount, terms, how long the agreement is for, and if there is a cancellation fee. Read the entire contract carefully. 

The commission or compensation certainly shouldn’t be the only criteria for deciding on a listing agent but it should come up in the discussion before making the decision. Other things you want to consider include the agent’s specific plan for marketing your home, experience level, and recent success selling homes similar to yours. 

I encourage you to continue reading our blogs for valuable information about the real estate market in the Atlanta area and for more specific information about listing your home.

If you need more information or have questions, please  contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you! 


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Oct. 22, 2019

Qualifying a Buyer’s Agent

Qualifying a Buyer’s Agent

(Finding Your Dream Home)


Buying a home is an emotionally challenging life-event for most people. It doesn't matter if it's your first home or your seventh, buying a home is a major undertaking. First time buyers always make up a significant portion of the market. That’s very true today with millennials being the lion’s share of first time buyers. Millennials, along with all homebuyers, have unique needs and requirements. Even in this age of information, most buyers will become a little lost in the buying process at some point.

Your Agent Should Always Have Your Needs and Wants in Mind

Your home buying experience is an exciting time when your agent has answers to your needs and wants. An experienced and skilled buyer’s agent provides an awareness and answers often even before you know a hurdle or concern exists. First time buyers and repeat buyers are not entirely different. One has never been through the process before and the other only goes through this life-changing process a few times in their entire life. It’s vitally important that the agent always keep your needs at the forefront of the process.

Typically, first time buyers are familiar with agreeing to and signing an apartment lease, which is much different than buying their own home. The types of questions these people would normally ask are something like – “can I have a pet?” or “what utilities will be paid for me?’ or “will I have an assigned parking space?” Obviously, these are very different from the questions that homebuyers need to have answered. A buyer’s agent should always help you understand the process.

Tips for Finding a Buyer’s Agent

Finding a buyer’s agent is a personal experience. You really should take the time to get it right. You’ll have your own preferences but these tips make a good starting point.

  1. Find your own real estate agent. If you call on a house being advertised online or go to an open house, you’re working with the seller's agent. You must understand the seller's agent has a fiduciary responsibility to the seller. Having your own agent flips that responsibility to focusing on you as the buyer. Your own agent will show you the house that you are first interested in as well as offer suggestions for similar homes or other homes that very easily could be a better personal match for you. 
  2. You also want an agent specializing in the neighborhoods you are interested in and who can tell you about neighborhoods you that haven’t considered. 
  3. Before deciding on an agent, come up with a list of what you want in an agent. It could be showing homes in the evenings, or in the way they communicate with you, or in their dedication to following through with the paperwork once you decide on a home to buy. The best buyer’s agent will be skilled at all of these but some will be a better fit with you than others are. You should make a few phone calls to create a list of possible buyer agents and then set up interviews with those you think will be your best match. 
  4. Create a "must have" list. It's easy to be caught up in the time consuming process of looking at every house on the market. Instead, let your agent filter the showings down to your "must have list.” You also include a "wish list" for your ideal home. You want to look at all of the houses on your "must have" list to find the ones that also have much of what’s on your “wish list.” But there is little value in looking at houses that don't meet your minimum requirements.
  5. Be open to suggestions. Go over your "must have" list in detail with your agent. As a professional, he or she might point out that the amenities you're looking for aren’t typically found in the ranch style house that you said you want. Instead, it might be suggested you look at two story homes that have been remodeled within the past ten years. 
  6. Learn about the neighborhood. Good buyer agents specialize in neighborhoods. Once you find your ideal home, take the time to learn about the neighborhood in-depth. Drive the streets during different times of the day and on the weekend. Try to talk to a few neighbors. Also, visit the local businesses where you are likely to be a customer. If you have kids, learn about the schools. This is going to be your new home, you want to make sure the entire neighborhood is a good fit.

A highly qualified buyer’s agent does much more than show you homes. He or she coaches you through the entire process from mortgage qualification, to finding the home, to writing the offer, to negotiating, to closing the deal, and much more.

Interviewing Buyer’s Agents

Besides your wish list, ask interview questions about these other important topics.

  • Prequalifying for a loan.
  • Current market conditions (buyers’ or sellers’ market and trends).
  • Loan options that are available.
  • The home viewing process – open houses, private tours, and giving you some background information about a home so that you can learn the more intimate details such as what might be motivating the seller.
  • Earnest money and purchase offer (with contingency clauses).
  • The typical negotiation process.
  • Helping you understand HOA covenants.
  • Home inspections.
  • Appraisals.
  • Buying and selling agency fees and who pays what.
  • The closing process and the fees you’ll be expected to pay.
  • The process of taking possession of the home.

There are certainly other buyer’s questions that you want answers to such as preferred school district, shopping convenience, commute times, entertainment, medical facilities, and much more. You don’t have to ask every question during an interview but you do want to come away comfortable that your agent will have answers when you have questions. 

 

If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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Oct. 3, 2019

Caring for An Aging Parent When You’re an Only Child

 

Caring for An Aging Parent When You’re an Only Child

(Old Age is a Blessing That Should Never Be a Cause for Fear)


Your parents kept you safe when you were a young child until you were ready to take on the world yourself. They taught you to be self-dependent and provided the necessities of life at the same time. Your parents were the one constant in life that you thought would never change.

One Day You Open Your Eyes and Your Parents Are Old

It’s difficult seeing how much your parents have changed over the years and to finally realize how much they now need you. As life moves through the full circle, a role reversal happens. Your father, who once walked you down the aisle on your wedding day, can no longer climb the stairs without help. Your mother, who cooked three meals a day and cleaned up after everyone else, no longer has the energy to do any more than microwave a frozen dinner.

Mom and dad seem to be doing okay when you visit occasionally but their health is constantly on your mind. Still, you live three hours away and have your own children to raise. You realize that they are rapidly becoming more frail every time you visit. You’re ready to face reality, begin making some long term plans for their advancing age, and need for help. 

Now it’s your turn to give your parents the level of care that they need from you. It will be a challenge! 

You Have Many Options to Help Your Aging Parents

Depending on your parent’s age and physical condition, you may want to consider a series of transitions for their living arrangements. Their living arrangements are at the heart of how active their lives will remain for years to come but you may need to face the prospect that soon they will need daily assistance and eventually nursing care. So where do you start?

Maybe the first step is helping them down size out of the family home into a single level home without any stairs. Or maybe your parents are still very active and what they would enjoy most is an active community with plenty of recreation, social, and outdoor activities. As your parents become less mobile, their quality of life real does revolve around their local community. Fortunately, today we have communities designed for active seniors. Here are some resources that you will find useful.

Senior Housing: There are Lots of Options

Tips for Buying a Condo

Downsizing and Part Time Care Could be Your Answer

It’s pretty common for the elderly to go into denial that they need to make lifestyle changes. You may be the more mature adult in the relationship at this point in time. It could be time for you sit down and have that open and honest type of conversation they once had with you. Be prepared to express your concerns in a meaningful, helpful, and loving way. Don’t expect praise and flowers for caring about how they will get along during the years to come. Instead, be prepared for some denial and anger. Keep the conversation short but leave them with resources to consider once they realize you have their best interests at heart.

Top 10 Blogs for Seniors to Follow

Aging In Place: Will Your Home Work for You?

Downsizing is a Step-By-Step Approach

Space Planning When Downsizing

Top 10 Tips for Downsizing

Listen to What Your Parents Have to Say

You always wanted to be listened to and heard when your parents gave you advice and suggestions. Show them the same respect during these difficult conversations. They have likes, dislikes, pains, fears, and other emotions that can be hard to verbalize. Be patient and ask questions to help them express what is important to them as well as help you understand what will make them the most happy.

Even take notes that you can look back at later. Be prepared with a list of topics you want to discuss. Discuss all known medical issues and financial concerns. This may be a multipart conversation that needs to occur over weeks or even months. Make sure you have their attention during the entire conversation. Leave them with a list of what was discussed and any decisions made. They may need more reminders such as any signs and symptoms of aging that you have observed. Also a list of topics that you want to discuss the next time that you visit.

The transition will be easier and everyone will come away happier when you get your parents talking to you. Not only will things go more smoothly all around, but you may also learn some things about them that you never knew. Never make decisions without consulting them unless you are sure their thinking is not clear enough to add value to the conversation.

After this conversation is out of the way, with some input from your parents, you can put a plan in action allowing them the best life possible and your peace of mind that you have done as much for them as they once did for you.

 

I encourage you to continue reading our blogs. If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you! 

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Sept. 16, 2019

What is the Difference Between a Buyer’s Market and a Seller’s Market?



What is the Difference Between a Buyer’s Market and a Seller’s Market?

(Real Estate Has Cycles)

 

A Bankrate survey shows that many Americans (especially millennials) are developing a “skittishness” when it comes to real estate investing. We know the real estate market goes through cycles that eventually include a down market. Could this be the earliest stages of a down market that presents both homeownership and investment opportunities for the astute buyer?

The survey found that 32% of all Americans think the stock market is the best place to invest savings that will not be needed for at least 10 years. Another 24% say they prefer “no-risk” cash liquid investments for the long term. Only 22% now prefer real estate. This is the first time in 4 years that the survey did not prefer real estate. That’s a total of 78% of people surveyed. The remainder mostly preferred gold, bonds, and bitcoin. 

The Real Estate Cycle

Buying low and selling high isn’t necessarily a primary goal when buyers are looking for their next home but it doesn’t hurt when the low point coincides with a buyer’s needs. And high points can motivate sellers into the market when they are on the fence. The real estate market follows the basic market rule for supply and demand. 

The major phases of the real estate cycle are the bottom, which is a good time for buyers/savvy investors to buy low. The middle is when many homeowners hold tight while waiting for prices to appreciate in value. And there is the high point, which is the time to sell for a profit before the cycle dips back into a new low cycle. Sellers sitting on the fence want to make their move before the high cycle turns towards lower.

The last low cycle roughly lasted from 2008 to 2011. Since 2012, we’ve been in the middle of the cycle characterized by rapid appreciation in property values and rising rents. Although no one can accurately predict it, we are past due for a down turn in the cycle. Slowing sales volumes and more houses on the market for longer periods of time are strong indicators that the market might be shifting.

However, just because general investor sediment is beginning to turn away from real estate does not mean we are near the low point of the cycle or that this is even prime time to make big decisions. It is noteworthy that we may have turned from the top of the cycle and are beginning to dip lower. Another market characterization is prices first plateauing and then staying on the market for longer periods of time before decreasing (if prices even do decrease).

Whether this is actually happening and how significant any decreases become is anyone’s guess at this time. What the survey shows is a strong indicator that investment money is beginning to steer away from real estate. 

None of this should overly excite buyers or sellers because real estate prices have a very long history of going up over time. Cycles are merely trends that are often short term although last high cycle was exceeding long. What history tells us it that prices occasionally plateau and then again trend upward at a rate exceeding inflation.

Other Indicators the Cycle Might be Turning

One fact is difficult to disagree with. High prices have simply made it very difficult for potential buyers in the market to afford a house by qualifying for a loan. A saving grace that has sustained the market was the retreat in interest rates after briefly shifting higher. We remain at historically low interest rates and indications are rates will remain affordable. That places the focus squarely on home prices. 

According to a recent ConsumerAffairs Report, a combination of lower interest rates and slowing price increases is working in favor of buyers. However, Millennials are now the largest demographic of homebuyers. A different survey by Bank of the West shows 54% of Millennials believe the American dream of homeownership is no longer attainable. 

Affordability is a very real problem. Adding to the financial problems of Millennials is the huge amount of college debt that they owe, which no previous generation has ever held. According to the Federal Reserve, Millennials held a median average savings of only $2,600 in 2016 (most recent data). This has led 3 out of 10 Millennials to currently say cash is their favorite long-term investment.

The growth and high point of the real estate cycle has enjoyed a long and vigorous run. But it always goes through the full cycle. Almost certainly, this isn’t yet the time to be searching out bargain homes. However, as we enter into the slowing autumn and winter seasons, look for more indicators that buying sentiment is also changing. This is likely the time for well-informed buyers to be getting their finances in order for future opportunities. And for those considering selling to decide if the best market timing is now.

 

If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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Sept. 6, 2019

Bennett Woods is Where Life is Enjoyed

 

 

Bennett Woods is the neighborhood you want to explore for your next home in the suburbs close to Atlanta. Bennett Woods in Smyrna is a neighborhood easily described as having your cake and eating it too. This charming neighborhood of more than 300 homes features mostly southern traditional brick ranch houses from the 1960s and 1970s with some new construction. 

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Bennett Woods Overview

Homes for sale in Bennett Woods are ranging from $250,000 to $350,000. Besides very well-maintained homes, you’ll also find luxury new construction. All are within a short commute of downtown Atlanta. This friendly Smyrna neighborhood is between North Cooper Lake Road and Concord Road.

Here you will appreciate and adore the many quiet, and open green spaces. Nearby is the Silver Comet Trail with 13 miles of strolling, hiking, and cycling through the surrounding countryside for your viewing pleasure. You’ll also enjoy North Cooper Lake Park with the Smyrna Community Garden.C:\Users\user\Documents\Astral Services\Elance\Active\Chad - Real estate Article & Blog Writing\Ref and Photos\silvercomet.jpg

Within a mile are the Tolleson Park that features Swim and Tennis.  It has six tennis courts, a pool, and a diving area. Other nearby parks and amenities include Lake Court Park featuring a playground and off-leash dog area. 

The Heart of the Village

Smyrna (the Jonquil City) made Money magazine’s List of Best Places to Live in 2018. The Market Village in Smyrna is walking friendly to fully experience the landscaping and open feeling of more than 40,000 square feet of retail space with many restaurants. The Market Village is pedestrian oriented with an emphasis on streetscapes, landscaping, and openness. This is the place you stroll while shopping and deciding whether to next enjoy the atmosphere of Atkins Park Tavern, Moe’s Southwest Grill, The Corner Taqueria, Zucca Bar & Pizzeria, and others 

Downtown is also an Urban Land Institute Award of Excellence winner for the mix of gracious living and work. This where you find the City Library, Community Center, and City Hall. All part of an amazingly beautiful downtown with a fountain, and an arboretum. 

Recreation and Entertainment Goes On and On… Near Bennett Woods

The outdoor and community life extends to include 25 parks, trails, playgrounds, golf courses, sport fields, swimming pools, dog parks, and obviously much more. All with a wealth of scheduled and unscheduled activities and entertainment for people of all ages.

The Spring Jonquil Festival is an annual highlight when the abundant Jonquil flowers are in full bloom. Friends and family come to be entertained at more than 175 arts & crafts booths, 15 food booths, an entertainment stage, and a variety of children's activities. It’s all about the family playing, eating, drinking, shopping, and just having a great day together. Artisans congregate from all parts of the southeast to show off hand-made crafts, paintings, clothing, furniture, jewelry and much more. It wouldn’t be a festival without cotton candy, candy apples, corn dogs, hand-dipped ice cream, snow cones, polish sausage, chicken sandwiches, and BBQ. The kids and young at heart enjoy the interactive area with large and small inflatable activities, sand art, and more.

The golfer will not be disappointed with Bennett Woods. Fox Creek Golf is a Par 62 course designed by famed designer John LaFoy. This is the course surrounded by towering Georgia pines for golfers of all skill levels and ages wanting a fun place to play and practice. More golfing enjoyment is found at the Par 58 executive Legacy Golf Links.

Within nearby vicinity of your new home are even more parks and trails.

  • Askew Park

  • Brinkley Park

  • Chuck Camp Park

  • Church St. Park

  • Cobb Park

  • Creatwood Park

  • GB Williams Park

  • Jonquil Park

  • Rose Garden Park

  • Taylor Brawner Park

  • Tolleson Park

  • Ward Park

  • Whitfiled Park



Visit Bennett Woods – You’ll Stay for a Lifetime

If you want location, location, location, this is the place to be. Besides being ultra-close to Atlanta, it is a crossroads for I-75, I-20, and I-285. For distant travelers, Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport is only a 30-minute drive away. Within an 18-mile radius, you’ll also find 4 smaller airports and 2 major railways.

The social interaction is fun and free flowing. Here is where you still find families walking to the local shopping centers as well as the many trails. At the same time, it enjoys being an art and entertainment hub with the likes of the Cobb Performing Arts Center. People are sincere about keeping it a mixed use community that is welcoming to all.

As you look closely at Bennet Woods for your new home, be sure to ask Total Atlanta Group for more information about the neighborhood association, organized activities, and social gatherings in the neighborhood, along with city organized activities downtown. We’ll happily guide you through deciding how to proceed with your home purchase.

At Total Atlanta Group, we enjoy being part of your move into the next chapter of your life. If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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Sept. 4, 2019

Top 10 Tips for Downsizing (Downsizing to a stress-free and simpler life)

 

 

 

Top 10 Tips for Downsizing

(Downsizing to a stress-free and simpler life)

 

Is keeping up with cleaning the size of your house causing you stress? Or maybe it’s the maintenance and yard work? Or maybe it’s being too far away from family? At some point in our lives, it becomes time to simplify things and do some downsizing. For many baby boomers, that time is now.

Downsizing can actually move you closer to your dream life and more happiness. You’ve probably accumulated a lifetime of kids’ artwork, paperwork, kitchen gadgets, and a lot of stuff tucked back in the corners of closets that you don’t even know is there. You may have formal rooms in your home that you keep clean but haven’t used in years. Or a mosquito-filled backyard where summers are too unbearably hot to be outside anyway. 

All of these and other reasons are telling you that life will be much simpler if you downsize. As overwhelming as it may seem, downsizing creates a simple, safe, and stress-free home so you can enjoy living again. 

Here are the top 10 senior downsizing tips for minimizing stress and maximizing living.

  1. Be clear about why you are downsizing. Do you need to reduce your monthly cost of living? Do you want to be in the city near more culture and entertainment? Do you want to be in a community with people your own age? Do you want to be closer to family? Do you want help with daily chores? All are good reasons and there may be more than one reason. You may need to prioritize your reasons. But you do need to be clear about what you will gain by downsizing.
  2. Downsize while you’re in good health and a good frame of mind.  Even if you’re not quite ready to make the big move, start the process while you have your health.  Start with the least-used room in your home. Make a routine of spending one hour a day or three hours a week on this.  Take a break when you become overwhelmed or tired. Create your process and schedule long before the big day comes.
  3. Work with a realtor to find your perfect new home. When you’re ready to downsize, you need a realtor knowledgeable about the type of home and mortgage that’s the best fit for your retirement plan and makes sense for this phase of your life. Perhaps by using your home equity line of credit as a down payment so you can move now and sell your current home afterwards. Have a realtor explain and demonstrate factors like stairs, hallways, doorways, and interior spaces. Not only what they mean while you still have full mobility but also what these can mean in 10, 20, or even 30 years into your future. Realtors are about connecting you to a network of other professionals. These can be professionals who help with downsizing-related issues, such as financial advisers who consult on purchase affordability and long-term savings. It can also be a realtor willing to work closely with family members helping to make the right decisions. The right realtor is an important person in the downsizing process.
  4. Test downsizing. Don’t immediately donate and give everything away. First, box things up and put them out of sight and out of easy reach. Test if you can actually live without somethings you think are indispensable. You may be surprised that you no longer think about them. You’ll learn how much you enjoy living with less stuff.
  5. Make this your opportunity to redecorate. Now that you’ve done some major decluttering (including furniture), you can try any new decorating ideas that you have. If you’ve decided on the smaller place you’re moving to, visit it several times to get the feel of it. Redecorate your current home in the manner you think you want your new place. Maybe you can test drive some new furniture or appliances. You will further identify what you can and cannot live without. Use this as an opportunity to update and try a new lifestyle.
  6. Categorize your stuff. As you go through the process, identify what you will take with you, what goes into storage, what you’ll give away, what you’ll donate, what you’ll sell, and what is headed for the landfill. Box it, stack it, and store it accordingly. You’ll begin learning the pleasures of living with less clutter while still being able to retrieve anything you find you can’t live without.
  7. Go over the details of where you are moving. Give serious thought to what your new life will be like and how it will be organized. Have a loved one or close friend go over how you are thinking this will work. What amenities do you have now and what changes will be made? Are your physical or security needs changing and what does this mean to how you’ll be living? Size does matter. Now that you’ve categorized everything, consider how the stuff you’re keeping fits into the new space. If crafts are important to you, make sure you have a plan for your craft table no matter how much smaller the space is. Take another inventory. If it’s not all going to fit, further identify what needs to go to storage. Make a plan for this stuff to be easily retrievable from storage.
  8. Take your time. Embrace your memories as your sort through all of your belongings. Go through old photo albums and journals. If you can’t take them all with you, this is the time to have some of it digitized. You’ll also find that some stuff has truly become old clutter that you no longer need.
  9. Consider professional movers. The time you could bribe friends into helping you move with a rented truck, a case of beer, and a couple of pizzas is in the past. Hiring professionals eases the packing and moving process tremendously. Your realtor or storage facility can recommend trusted and experienced movers to do the heavy lifting. Many offer discounted prices for seniors.
  10. Have fun! This is your chance to celebrate items you haven’t enjoyed for many years as well as get rid of the stuff that is nothing more than a cleaning chore, trip hazard, or storage frustration. Involve your friends, family, and loved ones as much as you can, and pour a few glasses of wine if it suits you. Cheers to this next step in your life!

 

At Total Atlanta Group, we enjoy being part of your move into the next phase of your life. If you need more information or have questions, please send us a note. You can also reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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Posted in Home Improvement
Aug. 24, 2019

Simple Ways to Improve Your Credit Score (Nudging Your Credit Score Higher)

 

 

 

Simple Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

(Nudging Your Credit Score Higher)


It happens – people have damaged credit reports. But it’s easier making big strides towards improving your credit score than you might think. These techniques won’t overcome major problems like bankruptcies and foreclosures. However, you can fix errors in your credit report and even overcome a few late payments that may be holding you back from qualifying for a better interest rate. This might be all it takes for you to become pre-approved for a mortgage.  

Even if these tips don’t solve all credit problems, these are known to move people’s score in the right direction

Removing Errors and Derogatories

Errors happen that you probably don’t even know about. Derogatories are any negative marks on your credit report dragging down your score. Derogatories show up in codes that you probably don’t understand. These could be valid or have nothing to do with how you’ve managed your credit. The credit industry wants you to think that you are responsible for proving any mistake they make.  If you read the consumer laws, the responsibility firmly sits with this massive industry. All you are doing here is making them follow the law by validating the codes they entered onto your credit report.

Maybe there is a 30 day late pay because you or the lender made an error but it has been brought current, contact the lender to ask that they remove it. They almost always will because they know how damaging it is to your credit score. 

More Than One Missed Payment

Every time a payment is missed, another derogatory is added. Another one is added at 60 days, 90 days, 120 days, and so on up to 180 days. At about 180 days, the lender charges off the money as bad debt. This is when they add a derogatory saying they charged off the bad debt.

As you can imagine, getting multiple late pays and charge offs removed is more challenging but there are a few simple ways it can be done.

First, you can dispute the derogatory for several reasons. Federal law requires all information on your credit report to be accurate and complete. So begin by looking for inaccurate and missing information.

Sometimes, late pays do not have a date associated with them. This is important missing information. Send the credit bureau a letter saying, “I dispute the undated late pays on account [XXXX]. Delete the account immediately.”

Notice, you don’t ask them to update the information or give them the correct information. There might be six late pays listed on the account but only one has a missing date. You want to make them delete the entire account because of a single missing or inaccurate piece of information.

Maybe the account has been charged off but shows that it is still open. A charged off account cannot still be open and active. Write saying, “I dispute account [XXXX]. It is not an open account. Delete it immediately.”

These types of errors are made all the time and consumers pay for it with higher interest rates and denied credit. All because lenders don’t keep accurate records.

Credit bureaus can verify or update the information instead of deleting the account but first they have to find the correct information. This can mean going back to the lender to find it in their records. That is a lot of work. Sometimes, they will or sometimes they will just delete the account. 

Credit Information Must Be Accurate

Something else you can do is review the reports from all three bureaus for consistency. If different bureaus are reporting different information, you might really be on to something that can help your cause.

It might be different account balances, different dates for the same late pay, different status of the same account, or one of many other reasons. 

This time you want to contact the lender to ask them for the correct information that appears differently on the three reports. Hopefully, the reason it is different is because the lender no longer has a file on you and the bureaus cannot verify the information.

When this happens, what you do is write to all three bureaus demanding that they validate the account. Again, this comes under federal law. They must contact the original lender to obtain and provide you with a copy of the file they have on you. You already know there is no file. When they cannot validate the debt, they are required to delete it.

In fact, if the account has been charged off, there is a very good possibility that the original lender purged the account and cannot document any of the negative information. If this is the situation, it’s probably a good idea to ask to have the account validated at the very beginning.

Other errors on their part to keep your eyes peeled for:

  • Delinquencies or late pays after charge off.
  • Delinquencies or late pays for $0.
  • Delinquencies or late $123.
  • Balances that are above the “high balance” or “balance limit”.
  • Accounts that have been transferred from one collection agency to another but the balance at the old collection agency is not “$0”.

Often you will find accounts with incomplete information. Remember the information must be both accurate and complete. All you need to do is send a letter say “You are listing an incomplete account. Delete it immediately.” Unless they want to go to the trouble of figuring out what is missing and finding the missing information, they have to delete the derogatory account.

Debt to Credit Ratio

This one is very important. Those with a good payment history will find this is probably the best technique for quickly raising your score even higher.

You may find it amazing but you can often improve your score by taking on a little more credit. Credit card companies make money by charging you interest on the borrowed money. They want to see you borrowing and repaying in a responsible manner.  Your debt to credit ratio may not be something you pay attention to but lenders find it very important. 

Lenders like to see you borrowing between 10% and 30% of your credit limit. That means if your Visa account has a $1,000 limit, you should have a balance between $100 and $300 on the account. 

Paying off the account in full each month is counter rational to what the credit bureaus are looking for. They want to earn interest from you but they don’t want you borrowing near the limit because that indicates you might be out of control with your credit.

This is where you might want to open a new account and transfer part of the balance from any accounts that are above 30%. If you have a card with a $10,000 credit limit, and have borrowed $8,500, your debt to credit ratio is at 85%. You should move $3,000 to a new card with a $10,000 limit and pay part of the first account off to get both cards down to 30%.

It sounds crazy but that is how the scoring models work.

Make this work best for you, find a new account that offers 6 months or a full year interest free when you transfer the balance from an existing account.

All of this is about managing your credit report so that you are pre-approved for a mortage.

I encourage you to continue reading our blogs for more valuable information about becoming a homeowner. A blog you might be interested in is: Top Ways to Develop Money Saving Habits.

 

If you need more information or have questions, please send us a note. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

 

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Aug. 22, 2019

Gorgeous Ranch Home For Sale in Smyrna

 

 

Gorgeous renovated ranch by award winning Longo Custom Home Builders. This house is truly a custom home. Open floor plan with high ceilings and exposed beams, custom cabinets, and high end appliances. This home boasts a beautiful  master suite, a spacious patio that overlooks a large back yard. It is only a few blocks from Smyrna Village, short drive to I75, I285, and Atlanta Battery/Braves Stadium.

Features:
  • Master on Main
  • Double Vanity
  • Award winning design home
  • Highend appliances 
  • Close to shopping and entertainment

Disclosures and Exhibits

Check our Latest Newsletter

Aug. 22, 2019

Stunning Home for Sale in Lakestone, Woodstock!

 

 

Fantastic two story home in sought after Lakestone subdivision. This home has an open floor plan, with two story great room with wonderful hardwood flooring. The kitchen  is stunning with island, tile floors, and granite. Bedroom on main has own bath. Upstairs features spacious bedrooms, and an oversized master suite with separate vanities, large shower. Outside features two screened porches and gorgeous patio with covered area that leads to a large level fenced backyard. Close to 575, shopping and dining!

Features:
  • Open floor plan
  • Two story great room 
  • Swim and Tennis Community 
  • Fenced backyard

Disclosures and Exhibits

Check our Latest Newsletter