Real estate market trends show multiple bids, competition from out of state
By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
Decatur, GA — During her 21-year career in lending, longtime Decatur resident Laura Sosa-Rocha Witte has never seen a housing market like the current one. The pandemic caused homeowners to spend more time at home than usual. The need for a home office coupled with low interest rates has caused a boom, said Witte, VP of Truth and Lending and Mortgage Banker with Northpointe Bank.
“People are realizing their needs have shifted. While some people need more space, some need less. COVID drove home how important it is to live comfortable in your space,” Witte said.
Sydnee Heidt, realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Metro Broker, says the suburbs of Atlanta are hot, hot, hot. She said listings are seeing bids from 70 buyers at a time, which makes it an extremely competitive market.
“I’ve seen bids for $50,000 over asking price for sellers waiving appraisal gaps,” Heidt said.
According to National Association of Realtors, inventory is down 30%. With fewer homes available, buyers are all fighting for the same home. Heidt said cash buyers – who are often investors — are researching location, appreciation of properties and money spent by cities to improve neighborhoods.
As taxes rise in Atlanta and Decatur, Heidt said homebuyers are being driven to the suburbs. While the average home in Decatur comes in around $550,000, suburbs like Jonesboro, Ellenwood, McDonough and Stockbridge offer proximity to the city, more land and a larger home.
And for those who can’t stomach the thought of being away from the hubbub of Decatur? Timothy Cox, lead realtor of Timothy Cox Realtors/Keller Williams, says Decatur will never go out of style.
“Decatur will continue to be highly sought after for its walkability, green spaces, great schools, diversity and entrepreneurial spirit in the business community as well as the local government through its Better Together initiatives,” said Cox.
Cox said the demand for buyers has doubled due to the pandemic. Fueled by low interest rates, people have equity in their current home and are ready to buy. They are not panic buying, they are necessity-buying, he noted.
“What we experienced during the great recession was a mortgage/financing bubble. Poorly underwritten mortgages drove up prices. People would go late on payments and not care. Default homeowners had not equity to draw on nor options to refinance or modify. Bad mortgages became toxic. Now, mortgage underwriting has more checks and balances as well as requiring reasonable down payments,” said Cox.
For homebuyers in this sticky market, Cox suggests a few tips:
– Interview a buyer’s agent like you would interview a listing agent. A buyer’s agent should be experienced, local and know the market. They should have expertise in finding off market properties.
– Do your homework. What do you want from a home, and why do you want it? If a buyer is looking for a better school district, Cox says they should attend a PTA meeting and talk to parents and teachers in the area.
– Be patient but persistent. Don’t settle for a property you don’t love. Buying a home is an important decision. Be persistent – once you have put your toes in the water, you need to keep pursuing listings. Don’t take time off.
– Lastly, take care of your investment. When you close on a home, keep the DIY stuff to a minimum. Have a realistic timeline in place to upgrade your home where it is most needed.
Cox agreed homebuyers are coming from out of state, but he sees a slightly different trend. Lately, he has sold property to grandparents who are moving to DeKalb County to be closer to their grandchildren. He says that’s always a real estate deal he likes to do.