Changes in Amenities Coming to Luxury Real Estate as a Result of the Coronavirus

“Here are some great insights about some of the changes in amenities coming to Luxury real estate as a result of the CoronaVirus Pandemic we found in an article written by Dima Williams titled “Coronavirus Pandemic Prompts Developers to Rethink the Future of Homes”

“Homes would probably grow in square footage, a result of a new crop of shoppers currently cooped up and seeking additional space to unfurl all aspects of their lives—work, children and socialization—in their residences…

In the five luxury houses that make up Case, a Malibu community Mr. Gillen is preparing for a 2021 debut, he is “adding freezers in the garage and much more storage for dry goods, whether that be more first-aid kits or masks or medical supplies…

While most developers concur that layouts are likely to expand, there seems to be disagreement whether the contemporary open-floor plan would emerge unchanged from the pandemic. Some see it as a means to promote air circulation and, thus, minimize viral contamination. Others say that flowing layouts eschew the privacy that families might desire in order to carry out disparate obligations such as school work, conference calls and meal preparation.

Regardless of the level of room separation a post-pandemic lifestyle might call for, air and water purification systems, generous kitchens and comfortable home offices are already arising as must-haves.

“I believe we will see people designing new homes now incorporating areas such as libraries or studies where they can go and get work done, or engage in video conferencing,” said Roderick Anderson, CEO and design director of Costa Rica-based boutique firm SARCO Architects. “Previously, owners just wanted time away from everything and to relax.”

With that comes the requirement for high-speed internet at home, which also supports a deeper integration of technology into daily life. Because of the coronavirus, smart homes would probably get even smarter with voice-enabled and face-recognizing applications that control not only appliances but the availability of amenities and package-delivery schedules.

South Florida-based development firm Shoma Group is already integrating “next generation” technology in its projects through a partnership with ButterflyMX, a smart intercom company that caters to both residents and property managers.”

“Everything is keyless, and you are able to control everything with your phone,” said Shoma Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Shojaee. “You don’t have to touch everything as often as you used to.”

In a post-pandemic world, though, the nature of amenities would likely change as well. “Amenity spaces will be fundamentally altered, encouraging more elbow room,” said Dan Kodsi, developer of PARAMOUNT Miami Worldcenter.

Gyms, for example, would spread out and bundle together disparate types of equipment—as opposed to the current approach of clustering the same machines nearby—for semi-private workout sessions.

 

Some amenity areas, such as exclusive clubs, could take to balconies, where patrons would be able to physically distance with less fear of infection in the open air. Private parks, where residents can escape the confines of their homes, may also become a sought-after perk of new developments.

Some wellness amenities could retreat from the common spaces and into private abodes so that owners can avoid close contact with others but retain access to conveniences. In Kohanaiki, an exclusive club community on Hawaii’s Big Island, Chuck Cary, vice president of sales and marketing, is already assisting home buyers who wish to bring more amenities into their residences. One client is adding a cold plunge spa, Mr. Cary said.

“They’re putting that in their house now so that if [shared amenities] get shut down during these types of times, they want to make sure that they’ve got that in their house as well,” Mr. Cary said.

Whether they are in shared spaces or individual homes, the materials with which developers cloak their projects are also changing in light of a virus that has proven to linger on surfaces. “You are going to see closed-pore wood finishes,” said Mark Mantione, CEO North America of German luxury interior design company metrica. “You’re going to see a lot more metal finishes that have low microbe growth.”

Because home buyers would be able to add even more upgrades to their units in order to create a design that enhances health and comfort, Mr. Kingston anticipates prices to rise. “When dealing with sophisticated buyers, there is a layer of customizations to address specific demands,” he said. “We are inserting another layer on top of that [in response to the coronavirus]. It would not have an impact across the board but just to the clients who elect to upgrade”

Shared amenities fortified against the virus, though, are unlikely to further inflate price. “We are already dealing with the best-in-class amenities, features and facilities,” Mr. Kingston said. “Any change is really incremental at this level of luxury.”

Nonetheless, as new developments often take several years to materialize, some of the coronavirus effects on homes could be slow to emerge. Others that sound appealing today may fade as the country regenerates its social fabric.

“We’re not designing for tomorrow; we are designing for three years from now,” Mr. Defortuna said. “We need to be very careful on what is appreciated today versus what will continue to be appreciated in the future.”

 

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Agents in the Know: What Do Buyers Want Most in a Home? Best New Home Features of 2020

Here are some excerpts taken from a Better Homes and Garden real estate blog written on July 13th, 2020 entitled,   Agents in the Know: What Do Buyers Want Most in a Home? Best New Home Features of 2020.

These are the best new home features for 2020, and the products and amenities you should keep an eye out for when viewing properties…

Walk-In Master Bedroom Closets

The walk-in master bedroom closet is one of the most sought-after new-home features this year. Ranked in the top five of essential amenities for a new residence, the walk-in master closet offers more space and storage flexibility, with the ability to easily organize clothes, shoes, jewelry, luggage and more in one convenient area. Homes that have walk-in master bedroom closets are generally easier to sell when buyers need to move, a big plus down the road.

Stainless Steel Appliances

Buyers are picky when it comes to their appliance’s colors and features. Stainless steel beats out black and white for refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, microwaves and range hoods. While there isn’t a consensus on kitchen cabinet colors among home buyers, stainless steel appliances that go with any type of decor are where it is at among trends for new-home kitchens.

Open Floor Plans

Open floor plans are not new, but they are very ‘now.” These expansive and airy spaces provide a visual connection between the kitchen, dining area and family room, bringing people together and keeping interiors looking bigger and cleaner. Open floor plans are ideal for entertaining and they offer a casual atmosphere that is perfect for today’s buyer who wants comfort above almost all.

Bringing the Outdoors In

Entertainment today is not confined to inside the home. Outdoor spaces that double as places to relax, dine and socialize are a must among new-home buyers. Your clients will likely desire houses that offer a seamless transition from indoors to out, with areas in both spaces for comfortable and functional design elements like plush sofas and large dining tables.

Hideaway Spaces

Finding privacy to work is essential for buyers with home businesses. Laundry areas that can be out-of-sight when company comes over are ideal. Hideaway spaces to section off desks, unsightly appliances and other parts of the home that the homeowner does not want to be used as the main living area will be must-haves in new houses throughout 2020.

Buyers are also partial to having features like high-tech lighting, large windows, marble countertops and floors, modern architectural elements, spa-like bathrooms, and any feature that gives them the ability to customize a home in their own way…

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Tips for Staging a Home to Sell

Anyone who has sold a home before knows just how important staging is to the selling process. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Home Staging report, 83% of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for buyers to visualize the property as a future home. When people are looking for a home, they are looking for new beginnings and a fresh start. Here are some tips on how to show buyers your homes’ true potential with home staging.

Stage where It Counts

Home staging can turn around a sale that was otherwise slow to sell. For the biggest impact, it’s best to stage before your listing photos are taken. This brings in more buyers from online listings photos since your home looks like something from a catalog. The NAR Home Staging report states that the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, and dining room are the most common rooms that sellers stage. Similarly, buyers thought staging the living room, followed by the master bedroom, then the kitchen were the most important when viewing a listing. Both buyers and sellers felt the guest bedroom should be last on the priority list. It’s important to find the right balance between cleanliness and looking lived in to help buyers imagine that they could live there; an experienced realtor will know just the right touch to apply.

Go Neutral

If your home is filled with bright colors, patterns, or designs on the walls, you may want to consider re-painting to create a new space that is neutral for buyers. Stick with sophisticated neutral and earth-tone colors to appeal to the widest audience possible. Even though buyers may want bright colors themselves, a neutral home provides more flexibility to change it (or not). Re-painting can give new life to a room that can make it feel bigger and brighter.

Walls aren’t the only aspect of the home that can serve as a distraction to home buyers. Keep the kitchen and bathrooms clean and clear of too many appliances or products on the counter. If you have any bold or colorful bedding, try replacing with a neutral fluffy comforter with pillows to create a new comfortable space that a buyer can see themselves in. When selling your home, it’s important to keep your own style out of it. Remember that buyers may investigate the nooks and crannies of your home that you overlooked, so be prepared and clear out overcrowded closet spaces and junk drawers. And speaking of “junk” …

Declutter

Although every room may not need professional staging, it’s still a good idea to have every room deep-cleaned from top to bottom. Even the cleanest of houses can benefit from a little organization. You want buyers to focus on the abundance of space, not the collection of clutter. Creating this new space helps buyers see that they will have room to grow. The key to home staging is to show off your home’s space, not your personal belongings. So, try to put yourself in the shoes of a buyer and walk through your home to see what you can put in storage or out of the way. Part of the decluttering process should include removing family photos, religious or political symbols, and other personal items from view; these types of items can distract potential buyers. Buyers also love to see a home with natural light, so be sure to open the blinds and push back heavy draperies to reveal the natural light your home provides. You can also replace any outdated light fixtures and add lamps to any dark areas in the home.

Outside Spaces

Buyers polled for the NAR Home Staging report placed more importance on staging the yard and outside space than the bathroom, children or guest bedrooms. Even if you are selling a property with limited yard space, you can always make a good first impression with a decorated front door. Pools, fire pits, outside kitchens, and patios should be thoroughly cleaned and maintained for the appropriate season. Eliminate dog signs, kids’ toys, branches, and leaves from the property. It also may be a good idea to power wash your home’s siding and walkways, wash the windows, and hang easy to read house numbers if you haven’t done so already. Adding a hammock or sitting area to your otherwise barren outdoor space can help buyers visualize themselves relaxing on the porch or in the backyard. The goal is to impress buyers with your curb appeal and make visitors feel invited and welcome to your home.

By our Preferred Vendor, Choice Home Warranty.

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Fall Home Maintenance Guide

Fall is finally here, which means winter is right around the corner. In the colder parts of the country, those winter months can reap costly damage if homeowners aren’t prepared. Below are some tips on fall home maintenance you should focus on this season.

1. Trees, Shrubs, & Garden

Falling tree limbs could be a major hazard in the winter, and fall is the perfect time to address them. A professional tree service will be able to examine the trees on your property for signs of failing health to help prevent tree loss, and prune correctly to avoid any branches falling off. Take extra care with any limbs that are growing close to the roof or power lines.

In the northern regions, fall is actually a great time to fertilize and reseed the lawn. Although the grass may appear to stop growing this time of year, its roots are actually growing deeper into the ground to prepare for the snowy months. Now is also a good time to prune any shrubs; after the leaves turn, a careful pruning will encourage healthy growth. When you’re finished, make sure to clean off your gardening tools before putting them in storage for winter.

2. Leaves

The changing leaves are synonymous with autumn, and can look beautiful covering the lawn. However, if not taken care of before the snow, those leaves can prevent growth in the spring. When large layers of leave get wet, then can become compact and suffocate the lawn beneath. This also facilitates an environment ripe for infestation and germs. By making sure to regularly rake the lawn, particularly before any snowfalls, you can help keep your lawn healthy for spring.

To make the job as easy as possible, put on some gardening gloves to protect your hands, use a lightweight rake, and scoop the piles into bags. However, you could also consider putting those leaves to good use in your garden. Leaves are rich in nutrients, and can be used for composting, insulating your garden, and enriching your soil. Just make sure to shred the leaves first. A leaf shredder will be most efficient, but a lawn mower will achieve the same results.

3. Gutters

All those leaves coming down can also clog your gutters and downspouts if left unchecked. When it rains, or the snow melts, clogged gutters will cause the water to pool which can cause damage to your siding or roof. It can also create ice dams To prevent this, make sure to regularly clean them out during the fall months. The drainage areas should be completely unblocked by leaves, twigs, or other debris.

For the roof, you’ll probably need to break out a ladder. Use extreme caution when doing this, or hire a professional if you’re unsure. And to save yourself headaches in the future, consider installing some gutter guards to prevent clogging.

4. Safety

Those of you that live in seasonally cold regions know how dangerous it can be just to walk to your front door when it’s icy out. To prepare, make a point in the fall to look for wobbly railings or loose stairs, and refasten or replace anything that doesn’t feel sturdy. Also take a look at your driveway and walkways- smooth surfaces make for much easier shoveling, so repair any cracks or consider repaving if needed.

If you’ve never checked for radon, fall is a good time to do so. As the weather gets colder, you’re more likely to keep the windows and doors shut more often- and trap radon in, which is very harmful at high levels. While you’re at it, test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace any batteries as needed. Finally, if you own a wood-burning fireplace, be sure to inspect and clean it before the cold weather sets in to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and chimney fires.

5. Plumbing

An commonly known but easily forgotten rule is to shut off the water to your exterior faucets before temperatures drop below freezing and the pipes freeze and burst. In case the pipes do freeze, make sure you know where your shut-off valve is located. Any hoses should not only be drained, but also stored indoors before the winter- leaving them attached could cause water to back up in the pipes and freeze.

If you have an irrigation system, this will also need to be drained. Irrigation lines, even if buried, can freeze in the winter and leave you with busted pipes and sprinklers. The process to drain the system will differ depending on whether it is a manual or automatic valve, so research carefully.

6. Insulate

According to Energy.Gov, between 25% to 30% of residential heating use is due to heat loss through windows. To save on energy this winter, weatherstripping is an easy, low-cost solution. Apply the stripping around windows and doorframes to seal the heat inside. Door sweeps can also help along the bottoms of drafty doors. For additional energy saving, grab some exterior caulk and take a trip around the exterior of the home to seal any cracks between the trim and siding.

Next, journey up to the attic to make sure the insulation is still in order. If installed correctly, the vapor barrier should be facing down; if it’s facing up, it will trap moisture and cause water damage. Also, make sure the insulation isn’t covering any vents, which could cause ice dams on the roof.

7. HVAC

If you have window air conditioning units, fall is the time to take those down. If that’s not possible, use an insulating wrap to cover the exterior of the unit to prevent drafts. For central units, it’s not necessary to wrap the entire unit for the winter- doing so can actually cause condensation, which could corrode the unit. However, it is smart to place a piece of plywood on top of the unit for protection from falling icicles in the winter.

Now for your furnace or heating system. Make sure to replace the filters before you start using it regularly. This is something homeowners should do every 2-3 months regardless, but if you’re behind on the maintenance, now is the time. The system should also be inspected and cleaned by a licensed HVAC technician- this is important to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and ensure peak performance through the winter.

 

By our Preferred Vendor, Choice Home Warranty.

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Halloween Isn’t Canceled! Here’s How To Celebrate the Holiday Without Getting—or Spreading—COVID-19

In a year full of canceled vacations, socially distant celebrations, and postponed events, we’re all desperate to hold on to any festivity and sense of normalcy we can get our hands on—including Halloween.

The tradition of going door to door for candy or inching your way through a haunted house is a sketchy proposition in a pandemic world. But if the idea of sacrificing Halloween altogether this year is just too spooky to endure, we talked with health experts about ways you can celebrate while keeping a safe distance from others and minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. We’re here to save Halloween, folks!

But just because you can’t do Halloween the same way this year doesn’t mean you have to forgo your favorite activities. Take haunted houses, for example: An indoor haunted house would be a real nightmare during a pandemic. But with a little creativity, you can still enjoy the experience.

“I’ve heard of groups putting together drive-through haunted house experiences, which seems like a fun but safe way to get into the Halloween spirit,” says Dr.Jean Moorjani, a pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

And let’s face it: Halloween wouldn’t be the same without candy. But trick-or-treating is tough to pull off without making contact with the neighbors. One solution? Give your Halloween candy the Easter egg treatment.

“You may choose to skip trick-or-treating completely and do a scavenger hunt with your children to find Halloween-themed items as they walk through the neighborhood looking at the decorations from a distance,” says Dr. Kavita Shanker-Patel, a family medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “A socially distanced Halloween costume parade is also another fun way to help kids enjoy the holiday.”

Get creative about doling out candy

Trick-or-treating inherently comes with some risk of spreading the virus; any activity where social distancing is hard to maintain presents a moderate risk, Shanker-Patel says.

If your neighborhood is intent on keeping the trick-or-treat spirit alive this year, you’ll need to rethink the traditional method of handing out candy from your doorstep.

You might be tempted to leave a bowl of candy in front of the house so kids can help themselves, but this isn’t a good idea either—it just creates a free-for-all for germs to spread.

“I don’t recommend leaving candy in a bowl where many hands will come into contact with it,” Moorjani says. “I’ve heard of people creating ‘candy chutes’ where they slide treats to trick-or-treaters in a contactless, but fun way.”

Another candy bowl alternative is to spread out pieces of candy on a table (or in individually wrapped goodie bags), Shanker-Patel says. “As the children walk by, they can pick them up on their own.”

No matter how you dole out the sweet stuff, it’s important for all treats to be individually wrapped or sealed. Don’t forget to thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands before handling treats.

If you go trick-or-treating, plan your route

As you traverse the neighborhood, avoid gathering in large groups or making contact with anyone outside of your household. You may need to zigzag across the street more often than usual, or set up parameters in your neighborhood to limit trick-or-treating routes. For example, if you have an even-numbered address, maybe you trick-or-treat only on the even side of the street.

Homeowners can also do their part by clearly marking what a safe distance looks like.

“It may be helpful to draw markings along the sidewalk and driveway indicating 6-feet distance,” Shanker-Patel says.

And don’t leave home without this year’s hottest Halloween accessories: a bottle of hand sanitizer and a mask that covers your mouth and nose.

Mask up (costume masks don’t count)

Speaking of masks, you can’t rely on a mask that’s part of your costume to do the job of keeping you and others safe.

“A Halloween costume mask does not suffice, unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face,” Shanker-Patel says.

Encourage proper hygiene before kids chow down

Resist the temptation to start snacking on your candy before you get home. This year, you’ll want to be extra careful before diving into your hard-earned loot.

“Right now, we don’t have any research or data that would suggest that kids need to wait a certain amount of time before eating candy,” Moorjani says, but “we still encourage proper hand hygiene for everyone before consuming Halloween candy and treats. And just like any year, don’t let your children consume candy that is not properly wrapped or sealed.”

Embrace new traditions

Sure, it’s going to be a little different from last year, but that doesn’t mean Halloween is canceled.

“Families have the opportunity to create new Halloween traditions,” Moorjani says. “Kids can still dress up in costumes at home, they can watch family Halloween movies together, and they can create Halloween-themed treats or arts and crafts.”

And remember: Outdoor activities like hayrides and pumpkin patches might still be open in your area, but that doesn’t mean they’re 100% safe.

“As always, limiting exposure to others is the most effective way of containing the spread of this disease, so if you don’t have to do these things, then we recommend you don’t,” Shanker-Patel says.

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How To Crush It As A Buyer In A Seller’s Market

I’ve held a real estate license for 20 years and have never faced such a competitive seller’s market as the one in North Metro Atlanta right now due to the combination of historically low interest rates and tight inventory. We are seeing time and again ‘A+’ to ‘B+’ homes going under contract in as little as 1-3 days. If you’re okay with a fixer upper or a home that is not considered ‘move in ready’, you have more flexibility. If not, these tips are for you.

We tell all our buyers to put their game face on and get ready to be QUICK and AGGRESSIVE. This market is not for the timid and frankly I have had to up my game as well. I like to take my time and analyze a decision thoroughly before making a move. Nope, not in this market. Act first, think later (don’t worry, there are safety nets). When you see a home come on the market you really like, call your agent immediately. You should be set up on a search that allows you to see homes become active in real time…if you’re on Zillow you’re behind the curve. A good agent will give you access to the same search engine Realtors use.

Schedule a tour of the home asap, same day if possible. If you don’t move to see an ‘A’ property quickly, your agent will need to call to make sure the home isn’t already under contract when your schedule opens up.

Testimony: Our client sent me her list of 10 homes she wanted to see and I noticed some of them were showing as active for longer than 3 days. Since sometimes agents don’t immediately update the listing sites, I knew to call and confirm. 8 out of 10 were already under contract and the remaining 2 were ‘C’ properties. Moving forward she knew to act quickly and we found the perfect home for her and her family a couple weeks later.

Therein lies the ‘quick’ part of my recommendation. Next comes the ‘aggressive’ part which may be a little challenging for some. When an ‘A’ property meeting your criteria comes on the market (even more so for the rare ‘A+’ unicorn home), you decide to make an offer. Great! How much over asking price are you willing to go, because a bidding war is about to begin.

Testimony: Our clients put in 2 separate offers on’ A’ homes and increased their price by $5,000 each over asking price, however both times stronger offers came in from other buyers. The third home was the charm, more of a B+ property so they didn’t need to be as aggressive. A client we started working with today asked me to check on an ‘A+’ unicorn home. It already had 9 offers submitted, one which was 10% over asking price and still wasn’t the winning offer. This market can be brutal!!

Unfortunately, some buyers experience regret losing their first choice in a home. Keep in mind every $1,000 added to your mortgage on a $300,000 home is only going to increase your monthly payment by approximately $7 (confirm the exact amount with your lender). Ask yourself if your first choice isn’t worth $35 more per month (less than the cost of a gas station coffee per day)?

Here come the safety nets, a couple tricks of the trade that can make this decision easier. The first is the appraisal. Don’t worry about buying a home for more than it is worth because that is the appraiser’s job. If the home doesn’t appraise, the seller will have the option to lower the price (assuming you don’t agree to pay over the appraisal price) or they can refund your earnest money and hope an all cash offer comes in. In our experience, most sellers lower the price of the home to match the appraised value because they want a quicker close.

Another means to aid you in a bidding war is something my husband (Tony Morris, the founder of The Meridian Real Estate Group) isn’t thrilled I’m about to share as not all agents employ this. You can add an ‘escalation clause’ to the contract. In effect it states that you are willing to increase your original offer by a set amount to surpass any other bona fide written offers up to a designated cap sales price (eg your original offer is $350,000 and you include an escalation clause to increase by $1,000 over the highest offer, up to and not to exceed $360,000). You can rest assured that the other offer will be bona fide as a Realtor would risk losing their license if they lied. Real estate law is quite serious when it comes to shenanigans by shady agents.

And the ultimate quick and aggressive move? Putting a competitive offer in on a home before you have toured it. Most contracts have due diligence periods which essentially states that you have a set amount of time to make sure the home is right for you. This ranges from 7-14 days and allows you to have all inspections completed and to get any estimates from contractors on work you might want done after closing. If at any point during that window you decide the home isn’t right for you, for ANY reason, you can walk away and get your earnest money back. The earnest money you put down doesn’t have to be physically turned in until 2-3 days after the binding agreement date as well. This means if you are unable to view the home as soon as it comes on the market and you and your Realtor recognize it is an ‘A’ property, you can still be a contender as the future owner.

Now that you know tools to wield in order to crush this seller’s market, make sure your real estate agent is as aggressive and motivated as you are or your efforts may not be enough.

The ‘A+’ unicorn home I mentioned that went under contract yesterday? The buyer was using Zillow as her search engine and the agent she was using didn’t return her phone calls in a timely manner. Now she’s with us, and GAME ON!!!

Good luck and happy hunting!

By Holly A. Morris, Realtor

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Third Quarter Results Show Mixed Results for Atlanta’s Commercial Real Estate Market

Metro Atlanta added approximately 24,200 new jobs in August according to the most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Currently, Atlanta has added back nearly 60% of the jobs lost during the initial pandemic shutdown. Local job gains have been largely reflective of the spread of the virus in the area with a slow down in jobs added during June and July when Georgia became a national hotspot for the virus. 

Now, with cases declining, job growth is once again picking up. The trade, transportation, and utilities sectors posted the strongest gains in August while leisure and hospitality continue to struggle. The impact of these job numbers are resulting in notable trends within the commercial real estate industry in Atlanta. The Atlanta multifamily market has improved recently while the office sector is starting to show the effects of the pandemic. The industrial market has been the bright spot and retail has struggled in Atlanta as well as nationwide.

Industrial

Atlanta’s industrial market continues to be a bright spot in the Atlanta commercial real estate market with vacancy rates declining from the previous quarter and demand outpacing supply. Leasing activity was strong during the summer months as tenants showed confidence in signing new deals for added industrial space. Major move-ins are expected in the fourth quarter which should help to hold off supply side pressure.

Multifamily

Atlanta’s multifamily market has proven resilient so far in the midst of the pandemic and all key indicators showed growth in the third quarter. Leasing activity has picked up over the last few months helping to increase rents in more affordable suburban locations. And while the high-end urban market is struggling to maintain rents the metro market as a whole is outperforming the national benchmark for rent growth.

Office

Wework’s CEO recently promoted the new trend of hub-and-spoke office systems and is now opening another center in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur. CEO Sandeep Mathrani said a hub-and-spoke office plan with a central headquarters and multiple locations would promote high levels of productivity and innovation which has been challenging since people started working from home in high numbers since the start of the pandemic.

“You want a hub for collaboration purposes, but you need a spoke system for where people live,” said Mathrani.

Errol Williams, vice president of WeWork’s Atlantic region, said, “We were drawn to Decatur’s dynamic environment from day one, and we look forward to providing the city’s purpose-driven workforce with flexible workspace solutions that will allow companies to pivot and grow with ease.”

Retail

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted Georgia’s retail sector more than any other type of commercial real estate. An expected wave of permanent retail closures will continue to have a negative impact in the coming months. Georgia has not seen the current level of vacancies since the second quarter of 2011 when the economy was still recovering from the Great Recession and currently the forecasts for the immediate future show many more negative months for this downturn.   


We Can Help

Whether you’re looking to lease, buy, or sell commercial property, now is still the time to do it in Atlanta. The Meridian Real Estate Group has been assisting commercial clients for well over a decade and would love the privilege of earning your business. Our goal is not just to help our clients with a transaction, but to support the building of financial legacies through real estate. Call us today at 678-631-1723 or visit us online at www.themeridianway.com. We look forward to serving you.

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What to Expect in the New Office Ownership Landscape

Cushman & Wakefield’s recently released Global Office Impact Study & Recovery Timing Report has some fascinating conclusions on how the office space market may evolve over the coming years. According to the report, vacancy will reach an apex in Q2 2022 with rents bottoming out slightly before then in Q1. Cushman & Wakefield expects both vacancies and rents to return to their pre-outbreak levels by 2025.

While this is hardly the end of the office world as we know it, such a prolonged period of price depression and heightened vacancy will require new approaches and strategies from office landlords and managers alike. Many of these new strategies can be seen in our Commercial Building Manager’s 2021 Budget Priority Report. For instance, most managers expect to take a more conservative stance with their properties in 2021, focusing on cutting costs and keeping occupancy up, versus making substantial upgrades or big investments.

We may see this perspective last quite some time. PropTech investment has been high for a long time, but over the next half-decade, it may be those companies and services that help property owners defend their market positions rather than those promising the next, coolest thing that sticks around longest.

Propmodo September, 29th, 2020

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An Interior Designer Guide on What You Need to Know Before you Renovate

 

1)       Don’t skimp when picking your team.

You need to put a full team in place.  This means the designer, architect and builder/contractor.  Get the team together early in the process so that everyone can work together. This allows for continuity and better workflow. Also, you’ll want to check the experience level of the key team members and be sure they are as qualified as you need them to be.  Additionally, see if the team has worked together previously?  Finally, investigate and find out how much construction experience the designer has.

2)       Always expect the unexpected.

No matter how much planning there is in place, something always happens that isn’t expected during a renovation. Be open to changes. You never know what is lurking behind the walls!

3)       Selections.

If at all possible, make all the material selections before starting.  The more preplanning you do, the more efficient everyone can be. Order early, as soon as the true measurements are taken by the professional.  There is nothing worse than a project stopping while waiting on materials to arrive.

4)       Budget.

Always allow for a 20% surprise fund.  Something unexpected will happen along the way.  It is better to have the funds set aside than have to scramble to find them during the project.

5)       Will you stay or will you go.

In the early planning process, decide how long you plan to stay in this residence.  It will drive timeless vs trendy selections.

6)       Plan with the end in mind.

Definitely think about how you use a home.  Where you are in your life is very important. Things to consider are whether you are planning a family, near-empty nesting, working from home or needing to renovate for your elder parents who are coming to live with you. Do you use a formal dining room?  Need a library or study area, etc.?

7)       Initial Time Investment.

Really spend some time with the architect and designer. This is a relationship business. Their job is to get in your head and interpret what the homeowner wants but may not be able to truly communicate or create.

8)       Ongoing Collaborations.

Construction meetings are a must with the team and homeowners.  That way nothing falls through the cracks.  And the builder/contractor is never waiting for a decision. Renovations are a process and the more you act like a team the better the results.

Tish Mills Kirk of Tish Mills Interiors, a preferred vendor of The Meridian Real Estate Group, is an award-winning interior designer who has been working with clients on their homes for more than two decades. She believes that it is essential to put together a cohesive plan for your home renovation before you get started that can be carried out by the team of experts you assemble. www.harmoniousliving.net

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 Photos provided by Chris Little.


Air Filters And MERV Ratings

Air moving through most any building has to pass through an air filter. Most air filters will capture larger particles. Some filters catch the smaller particles, but not all. Your air filter alone can improve the quality of the air you breathe. The MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of a filter tells you a lot about how well it’s going to filter your air. The higher the MERV rating, the more it filters your air.

Homes, commercial buildings, and hospitals generally have MERV 16 and below filters. Operating rooms and anywhere that requires a completely sterile environment use MERV 17-20.

Your first thought maybe that you want a filter with the highest possible MERV rating, but that’s not always the best answer. Furnaces and air handlers have a recommended MERV rating, however, HVAC systems are only built to handle a certain amount of airflow resistance. The higher the MERV rating, the more difficult it becomes to push air through the filter.

Air Quality

Utilizing a filter with the highest MERV rating that your system is rated for will improve your air quality. Beyond that, an air cleaner, an air purifier or a UV light will help you achieve your air quality goals. Room air purifiers are a good start, but a whole-house air purification system will work a lot better than anything free-standing.

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U.S. MORTGAGE RATES FALL TO ALL-TIME LOWS THIS WEEK

Record lows: The average 30-year fixed rate is 2.86% this week, and the 15-year is 2.37%, Freddie Mac says

Average mortgage rates for 30-year and 15-year mortgages fell to all-time lows this week, Freddie Mac said in a report on Thursday.

The 30-year average is 2.86%, breaking the prior low of 2.88% set in the first week of August, and the 15-year average is 2.37%, beating last week’s record low of 2.42%, the mortgage financier said.

The rates are driving demand in the housing market, helping to counter-balance an economic slowdown that showed signs of worsening after the COVID-19 pandemic flared in some of the nation’s largest states in recent months, said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

“These low rates have ignited robust purchase demand activity,” Khater said.

U.S. home sales surged at a record pace in June and July as purchases that were delayed during pandemic lockdowns were shifted later in the year.

Seasonally adjusted existing-home sales jumped 25% in July, beating the prior record monthly gain of 21% set in June, the National Association of Realtors said in an Aug. 21 report.

The supply of homes on the market was the lowest for any July since NAR started tracking the data about five decades ago, said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

Existing home sales in 2020 likely will total 5.4 million, a gain of 1.1% from last year, Yun said. Sales of new houses probably will rise 17% to 800,000, Yun said.

Early in the pandemic, before it was clear the Federal Reserve’s intervention in the bond market would drive mortgage rates to all-time lows, Yun projected home sales in 2020 would plummet 15% this year.

“The buyers are coming in because of the low interest rates – that’s the No. 1 reason in my view,” Yun said in an interview.

HousingWire.com September 10, 2020, 10:00 am By Kathleen Howley


Atlanta Industrial Market Shines As Other Sectors Are Slow To Recover

According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Atlanta has added back a little more than half of the jobs lost during the initial shutdown due to the global pandemic, but the most recent jobs report shows a vast slowdown in those jobs gains during the last two months. The reports show that as Georgia became a coronavirus hot spot in July job gains slowed with the accompanying reduction of economic activity. As virus numbers are now beginning to trend down experts are hopeful that the economic recovery in Georgia will again pick up the pace.

In another example of the pandemic’s negative economic impact, Coca-Cola announced plans to eliminate thousands of jobs in an effort to reorganize operations in reaction to less sales worldwide in the hospitality and restaurant industries.

“Given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and levels of lockdown, the ultimate impact on full year 2020 results is unknown,” Coke said in its second-quarter earnings statement. “The company’s balance sheet remains strong, and the company is confident in its liquidity position as it continues to navigate through the crisis.”

The impact of the pandemic on the economic statistics has generated observable trends in the commercial real estate market in Atlanta. Amongst the four major commercial property types retail has been the most affected by the pandemic. The office market has also seen a slow down in leasing activity, but Atlanta’s industrial and multifamily markets are both amongst the leaders of the economic recovery nationwide. 

Industrial

So far there has yet to be an overall negative effect to the industrial real estate in metro Atlanta from the pandemic. Leasing activity has not stalled due in large part to an industrial space leasing spree in the region from Amazon, signing four new leases in Georgia since the start of the pandemic. Amazon is not alone as other large companies have made significant commitments in the region including, Walmart, the Home Depot, and Purple.   

While leasing activity remains strong there is a concern that the amount of space coming in the construction pipeline will add supply-side pressure causing vacancies to rise. However, for the immediate future it appears that the leasing volume will keep pace with increasing supply. Georgia benefits from its cheap land, multiple rail lines and interstates and the fastest growing port in the nation, the Port of Savannah. 

Office

There have been many theories as to the long term effects of the pandemic upon the office market. Obviously, more people are currently working from home than at any time in recent memory, and modern technology is responsible for making that possible. This trend will almost undoubtedly have an impact on the long-term performance of the office market.

In the Atlanta metro area monthly leasing activity is down about 30 to 40% when compared to recent historical averages. Both urban and suburban areas saw a steep drop in office leasing activity immediately after the onset of the pandemic and only a slight recovery of activity since. A massive office lease was signed by Microsoft in Midtown helped to buoy urban office leasing performance in Atlanta, but take out that deal which alone accounts for 100% of Atlanta leasing for a typical month, and there is an even bleaker picture. 

It appears that the slowdown in office leasing will continue for the foreseeable future, as firms nearing the end of their current lease commitments are not likely to sign long-term extensions with so much uncertainty in the business climate.

Multifamily

Despite the summertime rise of Covid cases, Atlanta’s multifamily market continues to recover at a pace higher than the other tech heavy downtown locales. While leasing activity has picked up over the last few months there are still significant challenges moving forward. Supply is peaking while job growth in the area has slowed.

The recovery within the multifamily market has varied for different locations and price points. Rents fell significantly across the board in the weeks immediately following the initial economic shutdown. In premiere urban locations, like Buckhead and Downtown, rents have remained flat with the only exception being West Midtown where rents are improving. While the more blue-collar suburban markets like Henry County and Clayton County have led the recovery.   

As for the long term outlook there remains great uncertainty and performance over the next few months will depend greatly upon government stimulus and the status of the overall public health crisis. Multifamily construction activity has slowed greatly due to this uncertainty.

Retail

Atlanta’s retail sector has been significantly affected by the pandemic, as many retail locations had to either temporarily shut down or limit their services in some way. Even with Georgia being one of the first states to reopen their economy, the retail market as a whole will not return to pre-pandemic levels for quite some time. Retail vacancies are expected to continue to rise over the next few months leading to weaker rent growth and slower transaction activity. 

The retail market in Atlanta was strong heading into the pandemic, but while leasing activity has increased somewhat in recent months more retail businesses and restaurants are continuing to shutter permanently. There have been significant shifts in business models in reaction to the pandemic, but it remains to be determined how long it will take for the retail market to recover in metro Atlanta.


We Can Help

Whether you’re looking to lease, buy, or sell commercial property, now is still the time to do it in Atlanta. The Meridian Real Estate Group has been assisting commercial clients for well over a decade and would love the privilege of earning your business. Our goal is not just to help our clients with a transaction, but to support the building of financial legacies through real estate. Call us today at 678-631-1723 or visit us online at www.themeridianway.com. We look forward to serving you.

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The Unemployment Rate is Saving Forbearances

Forbearance housing market crash bros have a problem. Jobs are coming back faster than they thought.

Back in April, when the COVID-19 data and unemployment numbers were at their worst, the housing bubble boys had a halfway legitimate 2020 housing market crash thesis. If unemployment rates had stayed between 20%-30%, the economic damage down to homeowners would have been epic. This could have led to a rapid increase in inventory on the market, which would have crashed home prices as demand collapsed.

That didn’t happen, of course.

Instead, the U.S. housing market has been the best-performing economic sector in the world during the pandemic. This alone should make you question those ridiculous bubble boy websites, the trolling Facebook friends, and those Youtube videos of the same ilk. (Those YouTube videos are especially egregious).

It is easy to go on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube and say the current housing market is like 2008 all over again – but if you dig just a little bit deeper into the numbers, that thesis quickly falls apart.

Before we go into the data I believe it’s time to move the Housing Bubble Boys over to their new name: the Forbearance Housing Market Crash Bros.

There is one problem the forbearance housing market crash bros have now: jobs are coming back.

Unemployment during COVID

Only during the Great Depression of the 1930s was the employment rate more heartbreakingly bleak then it is now during the COVID-19 recession. Although methods of measurement may not have been as sophisticated then as they are now, the unemployment rate was estimated to have reached as high as 25%, with 15 million Americans unemployed in 1933.

In April of 2020, the unemployment rate reached 14.7%. Currently, the total unemployment rate stands at 8.4%. 

At peak unemployment in April, women 20 years and older suffered higher unemployment (15.5%) then men 20 years and older (13.0%) – and this is due to the over-representation of women in the hospitality and service sectors, the hardest hit by the crisis and stay-at-home mandates. Today we have seen improvement in both, as the unemployment rates for men over the age of 20 is 8% and women over the age of 20 is 8.4%. 

The unemployment rate has also been inversely proportional to education level. Those with more education and in higher-paid positions have been less affected by job losses. The unemployment rate among those with less than a high school diploma is 12.6%, for those with a high school diploma it is 9.8%, for those with some college or an Associate’s degree it’s 8%, and for those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the rate stands at 5.3%.  From this, it is both intuitive and factual that the burden of job losses was shouldered more by workers with lower incomes.


Because the unemployment crisis has been significantly worse for those with lower incomes, the economic consequences, too, have been considerably worse for renters compared to homeowners. Also, fiscal and monetary disaster relief along with forbearance are factors for why we should not expect a glut of foreclosures due to the high unemployment rate.

Remember, even with the high unemployment rate (which is back to single digits); we will have over 140 million Americans working and the existing home sales market needs 4 million new mortgage buyers a year to be stable.

Forbearance

To be sure, homeowners with mortgages did suffer job losses due to COVID-19. But we are still early in the job recovery process. As more Americans return to work, they are more likely to get off forbearance plans, though this may lag job gains by a few months. As long as job growth is positive and the U.S. government continues to financially and monetarily support the economy with disaster relief, it is doubtful the housing market will crash in 2021, even if the forbearance plans end, which is still a questionable outcome. Whoever wins the presidential race in 2020 might not want to see the forbearance plans expire if we are still far below the peak job numbers we had in February of 2020. 

Since the peak, roughly 10.6 million jobs have been recovered. A healthy proportion of these job gains have been due to rehires for jobs that were lost, rather than newly created jobs – so this is the easier portion of the recovered employment. The more challenging work for the country is the creation of new jobs after we recover the remaining 11.5 million jobs needed to get back to the employment levels of February of 2020. Some of the jobs lost are not coming back so easily, as permanent job losses have increased to 3.4 million.

While we have had four months of job gains, the rate of growth is slowing. It’s impossible to have the U.S. economy and the world economies run as they did before COVID-19 while the virus is still active. Certain industries will be at a disadvantage versus the virus for many months to come while others do benefit from this crisis.

Sooner than later, we will earn the right to have more labor in the marketplace. Once the virus is under control of an effective vaccine, more labor will be needed as people can walk the earth freely again.

However, the most critical point I want to make here is that one of the biggest factors for the housing market crash thesis in 2020 was high unemployment and that is starting to fade. I urge my forbearance crash bros to be patient and wait until December of 2020. Then I can give you an actual model on how likely your 30%, 40%, or 50% home-price crash thesis for 2021 will be. 

HousingWire.com September 8, 2020, 12:02 pm By Logan Mohtashami  

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Lumber Prices to Skyrocket More Than 160%

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused lumber prices to skyrocket more than 160% since April after a spike in home renovation by cooped-up Americans, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
Higher prices are adding about $16,000 to the cost of a new house, said Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist.

“As people started nesting in response to the pandemic, they started undertaking all sorts of home renovation projects,” Dietz said. “At the same time, sawmills started shutting down and have only partially reopened because of social distancing concerns.”

The lumber industry lost 6,000 jobs as a result of the pandemic, and has gained back – on a net basis – only half of those, he said.

“Growing demand for lumber met insufficient supply, and the result has been escalating prices,” Dietz said.

The above excerpts were taken from an article titled Spike in lumber prices boosts construction costs, written on September 4th, 2020 by Kathleen Howley for HousingWire.com  

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Know Your Neighborhood: Marietta

Now known for its bustling city square, Marietta was once home to Creek and Cherokee Indians. The birth of Marietta began with 4 community homes near an old Indian Trail which accounted for less than 50 people. The city was named after the wife of T. R. R. Cobb, Mary Cobb.  Hence the county of which Marietta lies in, Cobb County.  Marietta was formally established into a county seat in 1834.

In 1837, Marietta was chosen as a home base for the Western and Atlantic Railroad running from the Chattahoochee to the Tennessee River.  The railroad was finally completed in 1842 which resulted in Marietta emerging as a popular stop. Surrounded by Kennesaw Mountain and Little Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta became quite the tourist destination.

Marietta also played an important role in the Civil War.  Union soldier, William Sherman took control of the city and the surrounding Kennesaw Mountain from the Confederate Army July 2-November 14, 1864.  The Fletcher House, later known as the Kennesaw House, became an important base for many important Union soldiers.  Atlanta was finally captured by the Union Army which led to the South surrendering in April of 1865 and reconstruction of the city began.

Marietta served as home base for the Bell Bomber factory during World War II which was based at Marietta’s Rickenbacher Field.  The Bell Bomber factory built 669 B-29 bombers used by American forces during the war.  After being abandoned in 1951, Charmichael and Lockhead Corporation rescued the plant, which lead to the birth of Lockeed-Martin. Lockheed-Martin is one of the major employers of the state.

The next time you are in Cobb County, make sure you stop by the hip city square that offers a beautiful center with a fountain and small stage for summertime entertainment.  During Spring and Summer weekends, the square offers art walks, a concert series with live entertainment, The Taste of Marietta and many more fun events to attend. The square is surrounded by an array of restaurants with outdoor seating as well as Glover Park Brewery and soon to be open Red Hare Brewery at the old Hemingway’s location.

 

By our Preferred Vendors, Neel Robinson & Stafford, LLC, on September 8th, 2020

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A Strong Warning from Professional Realtors Why Now May NOT Be the Time to Buy a Home

Professional Realtors take their fiduciary responsibility to clients quite seriously and although seemingly counterintuitive, may strongly advise AGAINST buying or selling a home right now if certain criteria apply. This month The Meridian Real Estate Group will explore the TOP 5 reasons NOT to buy a home in today’s market.

Do NOT buy if:

1) You prefer to keep up with the Joneses- This is understandable. Most of your friends and family have mortgage interest rates that average between 5.25% all the way up to 9%. You may not want to surpass your peers by taking advantage of current historically low interest rates that start in the low 3’s (not a typo). Imagine the stares and subsequent deferential treatment at parties and other social gatherings this would garner when others realize how much more financially savvy and sophisticated you are. This could be quite unnerving if you’re not used to winning in life.

2) You prefer less cleaning and yard maintenance- After all, who wants more square footage or land to take care of? By leveraging the lower interest rates in your favor, you may accidentally stumble into a much larger home and/or lot you would not have been able to afford otherwise. It’s basic math…more square footage and acreage equals more dusting, sweeping, gardening, etc. Super boring. Instead you could be bingeing the latest streaming show with a giant bag of barbeque chips in your lap and a box of powdered doughnuts as back up. The only thing you would need to worry about dusting off in this scenario would be your clothes and couch. All. Day. Long.

3) You don’t like people in your personal space- This goes hand in hand with the basic math mentioned earlier. If you prefer solitude over socializing, don’t buy now or you may get more home for your money. You could gain another bedroom or worse yet an in law suite and then what? Random friends and family just assume they can not only visit but stay for awhile?? Your cats would be traumatized. Nope, nope and nope. Wisely keep your socialization in public places, not private spaces.

4) You prefer above ground storage- Many Americans these days have handily converted their garages into large storage spaces and are parking their cars in the driveways, thus giving them more access to the elements such as sunshine, rain and bird droppings. Although this may be detrimental to the paint job and interiors of said automobiles, this probably makes the cars happier and definitely employs multiple car washes in the area. Plus as your garage inevitably fills up over time, you will have the added benefit of periodically becoming a local garage sale guru. We recommend not buying a home with a basement (which you may be able to afford now with the ridiculously low interest rates) if waking up at 5:30am to haggle with professional garage sale shoppers over a dented colander thrills you in any way.

5) You are a natural DIYer- There are so many advantages if you are a type A creative personality to stay where you are. With affordability to better locations possible with the low, low, low interest rates currently, avoid the temptation to move to a better area that may be closer to conveniences such as shopping, top rated schools or access to highways. Instead, jump on the world wide web and learn how to DIY just about anything! Uh oh, you ran out of butter? Learn how to churn your own from expired milk. Farther away from the school district you would like little Johnny in? Simply become a homeschooling superhero via online courses and spend every waking hour together. You barely see your significant other because it takes them hours to drive to and from work? Become sufficient at different languages and/or accents and you can entertain yourself endlessly with stimulating conversation by tricking your mind into believing someone else is there. The possibilities are endless.

This list is far from comprehensive but gives a good foundation in determining whether or not you may fall into the category of someone who would NOT benefit from buying in today’s market with the ridiculously low interest rates. Next month we will cover why now is NOT the right time to SELL your home. Until then, if you do decide to buy or sell real estate, give us a call. We would love to help.

By Holly A. Morris, Realtor

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Atlanta’s Commercial Real Estate Market Outpaces Other US Metros Since Pandemic

The United States added 7.5 million jobs in May and June, which is about a third of the jobs that were lost in the previous 3 months during the initial phase of the global pandemic breakout and shutdown. Atlanta and the rest of the sunbelt metro areas outside of California have performed well in relation to the overall national job numbers. However, a rise in cases in Texas and Georgia threatens to dampen the overall optimism of quick v-shaped recovery across the South.

New York posted some of the strongest job gains in June. Orlando, on the other hand, with its reliance on a tourism economy, continues to lag behind the rest of the nation. Metro Atlanta initially lost approximately 300,000 jobs from March to April but has since added back roughly half of those jobs. The next few jobs reports should more clearly indicate the effect of the recent rise in case of numbers in Georgia upon the overall economic recovery of the state.

The rise in cases has done little to stop Atlanta’s industrial market as it is currently a leader nationwide. The multifamily market in the metro area remains strong compared to other locales, while the office and retail markets remain in precarious economic positions. Here is a closer look at each of these sectors of the Atlanta commercial real estate market.

Industrial 

Given the circumstances of the economic situation as a whole, Atlanta’s industrial market continues to show its muscle. With a recent flurry of activity Atlanta now ranks second nationally in the amount of industrial space currently under construction at nearly 25 million square feet, trailing only the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Current leasing velocity has helped to silence the concerns of adding too much inventory to the market as almost half of the space under construction is already preleased.

Growing firms are targeting areas south of I-20 for industrial space. The southside of Atlanta should continue to see new industrial construction and move-ins due to its relatively unclogged roads, favorable zoning, and strategic location near the airport and the Port of Savannah.

Home Depot announced plans to open three new distribution centers in Georgia as part of a larger nationwide initiative to upgrade its supply chain to better meet the growing demand of online shopping. The new Georgia facilities will be located in DeKalb, Fulton and Henry counties in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

CoStar managing analyst David Kahn commented on Home Depot’s plans as part of a larger national trend for retailers. “The importance of same-day and next-day delivery continues to drive decisions by major distributors throughout the country, and we’ve seen companies such as Home Depot expand to new, highly-efficient facilities throughout the country in order to better service their brick and mortar footprints,” Kahn said. “While e-commerce and same-day and next-day delivery is often focused on business-to-consumer operations, for Home Depot in particular, this is important for their business-to-business operations, too.”

Multifamily

Atlanta’s multifamily recovery is among the leaders of cities across the nation. Atlanta rents fell during the early months of the pandemic but have come surging back as of late. Atlanta joins Portland and Philadelphia as the only three major US cities whose rents are above pre-coronavirus levels. Although this appears to be a positive trend in comparison to the rest of the country, it is still close to nil in rent growth for year over year marks, having missed on the usual surge in springtime demand for apartments.

There is growing concern that the rapid rent recovery is not a sustainable trend amongst the recent rise in case levels in Georgia and as temporary jobs losses increasingly appear to be long-term in nature. Continued rent growth will undoubtedly be tied to the effectiveness of the government’s public health response and economic recovery stimulus packages, specifically regarding enhanced unemployment benefits.

Another trend worth noting since the pandemic hit is that renters in the Atlanta area have seemingly shifted the demand towards more affordable suburban locations. Cherokee County, Clayton County, Southeast DeKalb, Westside Atlanta and South Fulton have shown the strongest gains in 2020. These areas have ample mid-tier apartments available and lower asking rents in comparison with their urban Atlanta counterparts. Buckhead and Midtown have struggled to add new renters since the pandemic hit.

Office

Before the pandemic hit, Atlanta’s office market had enjoyed years of increased rent growth and high occupancy rates. While the city has recently secured large commitments for office space from companies like Microsoft and Google, the weakness in this sector is beginning to show. One key indicator, space available for sublease, has steadily increased during the first half of the year. This would typically signify a future softening of the office market in the near term.

As an example of this trend, Buckhead has seen large amounts of sublet space go on the market recently. Areas with a higher concentration of sublet space will be especially vulnerable to a prolonged economic downturn as coronavirus cases rise and the pandemic grinds on into the fall and winter months.

Developers remain optimistic about Atlanta’s long term office outlook, and while there will undoubtedly be short term pain in the market, the metro area’s highly educated workforce, lower rents, and relatively affordable cost of living should continue to attract new office tenants.

Retail

Leasing activity for retail in metro Atlanta has slowed to minimal pace following the national trend as retail and hospitality have been the hardest hit sectors of the commercial real estate world. The pandemic has caused a massive shift towards online shopping and food delivery services and brick mortar retailers are struggling to adjust and fighting to survive.

Retailers nationwide have backed out of preplanned expansions and are hesitant to commit to renewals. The second quarter of 2020 was one of the worst in recent history in terms of retail leasing in metro Atlanta. Net absorption was negative for the first time in almost a decade. It remains to be seen how long this downturn will last and what the retail recovery will look like, but one thing is for certain – it will not be the same as before the pandemic hit for a long time, if ever.


We Can Help

Whether you’re looking to lease, buy, or sell commercial property, now is still the time to do it in Atlanta. The Meridian Real Estate Group has been assisting commercial clients for well over a decade and would love the privilege of earning your business. Our goal is not just to help our clients with a transaction, but to support the building of financial legacies through real estate. Call us today at 678-631-1723 or visit us online at www.themeridianway.com. We look forward to serving you.

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Can Adaptive Reuse Save American Malls?

What is the most common reason to get in the car and start driving on any given day of the week? Depending on where you’re from, the obvious answer might be commuting to work. Surprisingly, though, this is not the case. According to the Department of Transportation as of 2017, 41 percent of daily trips are for shopping and errands, 27 percent are for social or recreational travel, and fifteen percent are for commuting. Retail is not only the biggest category of trips by volume, but it also represents a hugely oversupplied property use in the U.S. according to data from the International Council of Shopping Centers and Cushman & Wakefield: 23.5 square feet per person, as opposed to the next highest, Canada, with 16.8 square feet per person. After Australia, at 11.2 square feet, no other surveyed country exceeded 4.6 square feet per person.

In our newest research report, we explore the logic and risks beyond repurposing properties whose uses have become obsolete. But an interesting scenario appears when the property in question is not totally obsolete. Are there opportunities to eat up some of that excess retail space by combining multiple property uses within the shells of existing, somewhat but not totally obsolete properties? Consider a shopping mall facing growing vacancies. Around two hundred and fifty J.C. Penney stores may be closing, along with other familiar mall anchor and non-anchor tenants like Neiman Marcus and Victoria’s Secret. Instead of trying to re-tenant these spaces with other retail occupiers, mall owners could hang on to their well-performing, smaller tenants and redevelop some of the extra space into apartments.

Such an approach would suck up a lot of square footage quickly, while also providing the remaining mall tenants with a built-in captive audience. No matter where you live, picture your nearest shopping mall. Now imagine you live on-site. How often would you leave the property premises to shop somewhere else? Even if your shopping excursion requires a car, it would be easier and quicker to take a three-minute trip through the parking lot than a ten-minute drive down the highway.

Building residential space into malls offers other advantages, too. Grocery stores could deliver bags of food to runners employed directly by the landlord who could, in turn, bring everything directly into residents’ units. These blended centers could be particularly attractive to older adults, who would benefit from both the proximity to shopping and services as well as the sense of activity that being near a buzzing destination provides. And according to Steve Henenfeld, a retail broker and current executive managing director at Colliers, “Malls are typically located on or near an intersection of a highway or the main street and are well served by public transportation. That puts the residential properties at the center of town, allowing residents easy access to main roads and highway systems.”

Some might think that living in a mall is particularly nightmarish, but well-executed projects could look much like normal mixed-use developments, or manifest as separate residential towers surrounded by well-manicured landscaping, and not just like small apartments crammed into vacant big-box shells. Projects that add residential space to malls are already underway. In a northern suburb of Seattle, Alderwood Mall is developing 300 apartments that will complement the remaining 90,000 square feet of retail space at the property. Alderwood is the product of a collaboration between Brookfield and AvalonBay, titans in retail and multifamily, respectively.

No modern conversation about retail real estate could be complete without mention of the coronavirus. Adding residential space to malls would allow entire populations of people to shop at their on-site stores without having to take public transit or risk infecting another area if they are themselves infected. If things get even worse, it would be possible for on-site retail to close their doors to outsiders, cutting down transmission chances even more.

Bringing people closer to retail is only one solution for the glut of distressed malls across the country. Another solution is to add office space to malls, which similarly cuts down on commuting time since access to shopping would be available immediately after leaving the workplace. Co-working has been a noted supplement at some malls, like those of the large owner Macerich, which partnered with co-working operator Industrious last year. Traditional office space can be a potent, long-term stabilizer for shopping centers, too.

A glitzier solution than adding offices is the transition of mall spaces into entertainment venues. New malls are being built with these uses in mind. Consider the American Dream mall in New Jersey, which has both a ski hill and a water park. For property repurposes, empty anchor stores can provide useful canvases to fill with go-kart tracks, mini-golf venues, and other uses that cannot be replicated digitally at home. Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, some malls are using their parking lots as venues for drive-in theaters, allowing visitors a social distancing-friendly recreation experience.

One other possible addition to malls is distribution space. “With distribution, as long as more and more people are looking to have stuff delivered at home, the demand for space to store goods close to people increases,” said Pauline Hale, Senior Manager for Altus Group. Amazon has taken this approach, building distribution space into malls in places like Ohio.

According to Eli Finkelshteyn, the CEO and co-founder of eCommerce tool Constructor.io, “As Walmart races to catch up to Amazon technologically, Amazon is racing to catch up to Walmart in brick and mortar logistical know-how, as well as physical locations it can use as fulfillment centers for its recent one-day shipping promises. Currently, Walmart is pressing its physical presence advantages and new e-commerce abilities with programs like curbside pick-up, and Amazon knows it needs to gobble up physical locations quickly to catch up.”

Each of these solutions requires its own economic indicators to properly underwrite. Some markets will be well-supplied with housing but undersupplied with logistics space, or vice versa, and it is up to the project developer to understand exactly what is needed in a given market. It’s also up to the developer to acknowledge when a given project would push them too far out of their comfort zone, and when a partnership, as at Macerich or Brookfield, is necessary.

Each of these types of adaptations addresses the oversupply of retail space in the U.S. by combining existing, sustainable retail with other property uses. Whether office, distribution, entertainment, or residential, there are favorable economies of scale to be leveraged by this sort of project mixing. This kind of work could change the fabric of neighborhoods used to viewing the mall as just a place to shop, but it might be just what communities need to keep travel times low, delivery times short, and social distancing high.

By Logan Nagel for Propmodo Research July 15th, 2020

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Atlanta’s Industrial Market Remains Strong While Other Sectors Adapt To Overcome New Obstacles

Atlanta has quickly established itself as the tech hub of the Southeast with companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon planning to add many more jobs in the near future. The addition of these high-paying jobs from tech firms will continue to fuel demand for office space and high-end apartments. 

While the long term outlook remains bullish the realities of the current situation can at best be described as uncertain. Atlanta lost approximately 300,000 jobs from March to April during the initial shutdown due to the global pandemic, erasing over 4 years worth of employment gains in the city. Labor statistics are starting to show a feeble recovery as the city added 35,000 jobs from April to May, but a recent rise in coronavirus cases after Gov. Kemp’s aggressive reopening and massive protests in the streets threaten to stall the optimism of a quick, v-shaped recovery for the metro area.  

Kemp is moving forward with his strategy to stem the negative tide of a prolonged economic downturn, most recently by reopening the state’s film, television and entertainment industry to continue productions. Kemp stated that film production companies are planning to invest over $2 billion into the Georgia economy over the next year and a half. 

“The entertainment production industry is coming back and ready to jump-start the Georgia economy by creating jobs and generating greatly needed investment and spending in communities across the Peach State,” Kemp said in a press release. 

Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston commented further saying, “The creative arts and entertainment — particularly television and film — have long been driving forces in our economy, and they will be instrumental as we recover from the impact of the pandemic. Working together, we will keep Georgia the leading destination for film and television production — thousands of Georgia jobs depend on it.” 

The other big piece of real estate related news for the city is that WarnerMedia plans to sell and lease back the iconic CNN Center in downtown Atlanta. The building, with its large red CNN logo outside, was a national focal point during the recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, and sustained extensive damage once the protests turned to looting and rioting. WarnerMedia released a statement saying that with the five-year leaseback plan, “There will be no immediate impact to employees working at the CNN Center.”

Now let’s take a closer look at how the commercial real estate market has fared in metro-Atlanta over the last month.

Retail

The retail market has been hit hard in general by the Covid-19 shutdown but retail investment sales broker KB Yabuku with Ackerman & Co. is hopeful we are seeing the first signs of a comeback. 

“For a couple of months, it was pretty quiet,” Yabuku said. “But in the past few weeks, guys have been starting to come from under the rocks. We’re definitely starting to see more activity.” 

Part of that activity includes Avalon, the $1 billion mixed-use development in Alpharetta, securing four new retailers with High Country Outfitters, Onward Reserve, Restore Hyper Wellness + Cryotherapy and Tempur-Pedic deciding to open stores there. High Country Outfitters has already opened and the others expect to open by fall. 

CoStar market analyst Trenton Turner stated, “Avalon sits adjacent to some of metro Atlanta’s wealthiest households and several fast growing neighborhoods. As such, retail tenants stand to benefit from high-paying consumers living and working in the surrounding communities. With a scarce amount of available retail space in urban nodes of North Fulton, Avalon will likely remain an attractive option for retailers.” 

Industrial

With brick and mortar retail struggling to overcome a new reality, Internet shopping and food delivery apps have quickly expanded to fill the need of the flow of goods from producers to consumers. Atlanta has continued to see large investments from e-commerce giants like Amazon. 

The company has targeted Atlanta as the hub of its Southeastern US operations, and leases about 12 million square feet of industrial space in the Atlanta region. 2020 has been a busy year for Amazon around Atlanta adding about 4.25 million square feet of distribution and warehouse space in the area with the signing of 4 new leases.

So far the pandemic has not created a slowdown in industrial leasing in the metro area. Leasing velocity has actually accelerated over the last few months. Atlanta hosts a diverse number of multinational companies that use the hub to distribute regionally and nationally. The city’s infrastructure and educated workforce will continue to make it a premier industrial hub.

Multifamily

As many people have switched from going into the office to working from home many experts expect to see a long term effect on the multifamily market. John Affleck, CoStar’s vice president of market analytics states that, “Working from home has made proximity to the office or transit irrelevant, at least for now. These realities have upended the demand patterns that have driven the multifamily market over the past decade.”

Demand for multifamily units has slowed in central business districts but has started to increase in the suburbs. “The quarter began with rents in freefall, just as the spring leasing season kicked off,” Affleck said. “Suburban product offering more space at a lower cost appears to be in high demand.” 

Midtown Atlanta had recently been a fast-growing favorite of multifamily developers with a boom in multifamily construction from 2017 to 2019. Currently there are only two projects underway as developers have put the brakes on new projects to allow completed high-rises to lease up. Rent growth has not recovered in Midtown mostly due to the pandemic, but developers are beginning to respond to recent announcements of future new jobs from companies like Microsoft and Facebook with several upcoming development projects on the horizon.  

The real test for Atlanta multifamily leasing comes over the next few months, during what would normally be the prime leasing season. The reopening of the Georgia economy has brought with it a recent spike in coronavirus cases. If this trend continues and if Atlanta faces a longer and more cautious reopening timeline then leasing activity in the city could remain weak for a number of months to come. This possibility would certainly slow down investment in new multifamily projects as well.

Office

It is unlikely that we are seeing the demise of the corporate office building in its entirety, but the office market will certainly be significantly impacted by a long term shift to the possibilities of working from home now that the response to the virus has shown that it can be done on a large scale basis. Owner’s of office properties will need to become more active in their tenant relationships as many companies will reassess their need for offices for a large majority of their workforce and reconfigure their office environment to account for new social distancing protocols.

Matt Bronfman, CEO of real estate investment firm Jamestown confirms the need for a more active tenant relationship saying, “The owners with the biggest struggles will be those that bought properties thinking they were just going to sit back and let the rent checks roll in, occasionally hiring a broker to fill vacant space. Successful owners are going to be those that actively partner with and support their tenants, helping both keep them in business and get them to the point where they can thrive.”

Developer Egbert Perry, CEO of The Integral Group states that, “People across many industries have had to rethink the balance between the use of technology vs. in-person engagement, and as a result, I think we are going to see some work habits change. There could be increased focus on designing residential space to have the flexibility to also serve, in part, as an office, with a technology-enabled environment to support that.”

Owners and operators of existing office buildings will need to reconsider many aspects of their office environments as currently configured. Once common solutions such as elevators and open floor plans may no longer serve the needs of office workers as many are now seeking private offices and touchless technologies and scrutinizing the cleanliness of HVAC filtration systems.

Short Term Prognosis

Although facing an unprecedented crisis of public health and civil unrest, Atlanta, with its structural advantages, will likely continue to grow at a faster pace than many other metro areas across the United States. Atlanta is home to one of the busiest airports in the world and is a hub of interstate highways and rail lines in the South. The metro area boasts a very desirable mixture for businesses of both affordability and a highly educated workforce.   

Atlanta has quickly established itself as the tech hub of the Southeast with companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon planning to add many more jobs in the near future. The addition of these high-paying jobs from tech firms will continue to fuel demand for office space and high-end apartments. 


We Can Help

Whether you’re looking to lease, buy or sell commercial property, now is still the time to do it in Atlanta. The Meridian Real Estate Group has been assisting commercial clients for well over a decade and would love the privilege of earning your business. Our goal is not just to help our clients with a transaction, but to support the building of financial legacies through real estate. Call us today at 678-631-1723 or visit us online at www.themeridianway.com. We look forward to serving you.

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Americans Leave Large Cities for Suburban Areas and Rural Towns

A combination of the coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty, and social unrest is prompting waves of Americans to move from large cities and permanently relocate to more sparsely populated areas. The trend has been accelerated by technology and shifting attitudes that make it easier than ever to work remotely. Residents of all ages and incomes are moving in record numbers to suburban areas and small towns.

A perfect storm of factors makes the decision to leave major cities like New York very obvious. The dense nature of urban living and the lack of proper local government planning led to the coronavirus spreading five times faster in New York than the rest of the country. The city that never sleeps now resembles a ghost town in many areas after thousands of its wealthy and middle-class residents fled early in the pandemic.

Many are moving to small towns north of the five boroughs. Four upstate counties have seen an incredible surge in real estate demand, while the rest of the New York market is cratering. In Ulster County, the number of homes now under contract nearly doubles the 2016 figures. It saw steady sales in March and April while the overall New York market fell by nearly 30 percent. Some people are staying at their vacation homes, but the data suggest there are many permanent moves in the works.

An estimated quarter of a million New York residents will move upstate for good, while another 2 million could permanently move out of the state. More than 16,000 New York residents have already relocated to suburban Connecticut. The preliminary figures show New York is also losing citizens to rural New England and Florida in significant numbers. Similar trends are happening in other large urban areas. There is a political element within the domestic migration at play across the nation, but what is more telling is the level of movement to suburban areas and rural towns.

Over 40 percent of urbanites have browsed online for real estate, more than twice the level of people who live in the country. Redfin reports that more than a quarter of searches on its website are by urbanites in Seattle, San Francisco, and the District of Columbia searching for homes across less populated places. While real estate sales are down in San Francisco, where prices are falling by more than 50 percent, demand in its suburbs has been soaring, where prices are rising by almost 10 percent.

There has been a sharp uptick in interest in moving out to Montana, with the majority of new inquiries coming from California. Real estate sales in Montana are 10 percent higher than at this time last year. Rural Colorado, Oregon, and Maine have seen similar upticks in property sales. Vermont is going through a renaissance in real estate, with an agent there remarking that “people are buying houses without even seeing them.”

Some of the biggest changes are less obvious, yet even the hidden trends support the idea that cities are emptying out. In March and April, over 2 million young people moved back in with their parents or grandparents. If the allure of cities declines further due to the risk of disease, a sputtering economy, and a future of telework, the flight to suburban and rural safety will continue well after a coronavirus vaccine hits the market.

Social unrest and urban crime rate spikes also raise the possibility of a sharp increase of exits from large cities. A breakdown in order, especially if police are defunded, could further downsize cities rebuilt with law and order approaches. Urban trends of the last 50 years are being reversed. Instead of smaller towns and rural areas facing the steep declines, large metropolitan areas may soon be the places bleeding citizens.

The moves and the circumstances that precipitated them will likely cause profound changes in the places receiving the most coronavirus refugees. It is still too early to forecast the political impacts of these demographic trends, but they could be significant. Floods of former urbanites could bring more taxes, restrictions, and regulations to these areas.

On the other hand, an influx of money could reinvigorate former industrial towns. A curious question is whether the waves of new residents will see these smaller areas as their real homes or as places of convenience that need to be reshaped in the image of the cities they fled from.

By Kristin Tate for ‘The Hill’ on July 5, 2020

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Home Improvements To Gain Highest Return on Investments (ROI) and Faster Sales

The Atlanta real estate market remains robust compared to the majority of other major cities in the country due to the fact Realtors were deemed essential in Georgia and pivoted quickly to facilitate safety in the showing and closings of homes during Covid-19. The amount of homes available still remains somewhat tight which is good news for sellers as more buyers are compete for less inventory. In a seller’s market, you still need to compare to other homes in your area and price range favorably. Independent of location, there are 3 primary driving factors in selling your home in a timely manner…price, condition and marketing. A good Realtor will help you determine a fair price based on a professional market analysis of comparables, as well as provide you with the marketing resources crucial in exposing your home to as wide an audience of ready, willing and able buyers as possible. The job of the home seller is to ensure the condition is as good or better than the surrounding competition in order to sell quickly at the highest price. If you have loved your home well, this may sound somewhat intimidating as to what investment this may entail, but the more move-in ready a home appears, the more readily others can see themselves in it. Returns on your investment will vary from making more money on the sale, to selling your home faster thus having less mortgage and utility payments.

  1. Curb appeal- The importance of your first impression is similar to a job interview. What is the initial opinion of the decision maker? If the front of your home presents well, the buyer will immediately be excited to see more. You can do this by sprucing up your landscape by making sure weeds are pulled and your lawn is mowed. Consider adding fresh pine straw, flower beds or potted plants near the front. Repainting your front door will make it pop, and if these are cracked or outdated, replace the door handle and doorbell cover. Another easy repair is pressure washing the driveway and sidewalk. Pressure washers can be rented at home supply stores inexpensively. Any amount of money you spend from where the car is parked to the front door will typically give you a 103% return on investment.

  2. Paint the interior- Unless your home is already a neutral color throughout that can be spruced up with either light touch ups or cleaning scuff marks off the walls, it’s a good idea to paint the primary living areas of the home, entryway and hallways. Not only will this make the home appear bigger, brighter and more welcoming, but the smell of fresh paint gives the sensation of a cleaner and newer home, much like new car smell. Plus neutral palates create more of a blank slate which will help future homeowners envision living there. Stick to lighter shades and endeavor to complement the color of the flooring. For instance you may be tempted to paint a cool grey tone throughout but if your carpet is a warm brown, stick to beige tones. DIY painting ranges from $200-400 per room or hire a professional painter for approximately $700 per room.

  3. Clean or replace flooring- If you have outdated vinyl or dark, worn or stained carpeting, you may want to consider replacing it if a good steam clean doesn’t make it look somewhat new. Much like the smell of fresh paint, the smell of new carpeting is a trigger for people’s senses that a home is move in ready and is one less thing for them to worry about. Vinyl flooring has come a long way and laminates are inexpensive and emulate the look of hardwood. Be sure to once again stick with neutral colors and take into consideration the color of the walls when choosing flooring. This may be your biggest cost in prepping your home for sale but history has shown that homes which offer a flooring incentive vs. homes with new floors will languish on the market longer. Flooring expenses vary widely based off of cleaning vs. replacement costs, but the difference in the speed of how quickly your home sells may be well worth it.

  4. Light it up- The easiest way to make your home appear inviting and ready for a new owner is to ensure every lamp and light in your home have working lightbulbs. This may seem insignificant but a chandelier with a blown light bulb can send a subliminal message that there may be other projects lurking around the house. You should also consider upgrading some of your light fixtures if they appear old or outdated, especially in the foyer, dining room, and bathrooms. Fairly affordable fixtures can be found at home supply stores or you can find used ones online or at thrift stores. If you prefer spending less money but perhaps more time, a couple of coats of bronze or black spray paint transform old brass light fixtures within hours and noticeably give the appearance of an updated feel. Light bulbs are inexpensive and changing light fixtures by either painting them or replacing them can range from $50 to several hundred dollars.

  5. Turn it around- What is something that turns every day that you may not notice but a buyer will? Doorknobs, faucet fixtures and ceiling fans. Doorknobs are a fairly inexpensive and easy DIY project to update and faucet fixtures and ceiling fans can often be handled by the same handyman. If the style of any of these are outdated, much like light fixtures, your home will immediately appear newer with simple and somewhat affordable adjustments. For sources outside of home supply stores, Ebay is a great place to look for secondhand fixtures and Amazon has a wide selection of new products that are quite affordable. Prices start as low as $15 per doorknob, $50 per faucet fixture and $60 per fan plus any installation fees.

  6. De-clutter, clean and stage- The majority of your investment here will probably be your time, some miscellaneous cleaning supplies and perhaps a short-term storage solution such as a family member’s garage or renting a POD. An empty room looks larger than a cluttered room and a well-staged, decluttered room looks larger than an empty room. Prepping your home for sale also means getting a jump on packing early. Remove all personal items such as family photos and memorabilia as possible so new buyers can picture themselves over the mantle, not your lovely family. De-clutter all countertops and organize storage to give the appearance of more than adequate space. Clean your home as if you were having an important guest come to dinner, and then clean it some more. And make sure it smells good. Obviously you can’t stop living your life, but understand if you cook inside and then show your home shortly after, the lingering smell of bacon grease or fish will be a turn off. Studies have shown the most appealing smells to be baking bread, cookies or vanilla. Air fresheners that neutralize odors are a solution as are plug ins if necessary (for instance in the kitchen or the room the dog sleeps in), but just be sure they are turned down low as too much fragrance can also backfire. And if you don’t have the money to hire a staging company ($300-$600 for initial consultation with no furniture rental), look online for ideas. Pinterest is a great resource for not just staging individual rooms but also outside spaces like decks and patios.

You’ve done a great job getting your home ready to sell, now what? Homes that are listed, marketed and sold by Realtors make more money and sell faster. According to the National Association of Realtor’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyer and Sellers, data shows that in 2019 FSBOs sold on average 40% less ($200,000 vs. $280,000) than homes listed by a Realtor. And it’s impossible to quantify the amount of time and headaches a Realtor can save you by handling the marketing, showing and contract negotiations required to get a home to closing, not to mention running interference for any challenges that pop up. After all your hard work, possibly the biggest return on your investment will be hiring a qualified and experienced Realtor.

By Holly Morris

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10 of the Best Beach Towns to Retire

Thinking of retiring on the beach? Here are 10 of the best and most affordable options ranked by experts that looked at more than 1,300 towns with salty beach water. Limiting the choices to one per state, for variety, this ranking from a Realtor.com article is based on the population of residents aged 55 and over per capita, affordability based on the median list price, access to hospitals and other health care facilities, the number of amenities like golf courses (for low-impact exercise) and country clubs (for the social scene), as well as marinas and water-recreation businesses like boating and fishing, for that all-around beach town experience.

1. Murrells Inlet, SC – Median list price: $329,950

Just 15 minutes south of the bustling tourist shops, boardwalks, and mini-golf courses of Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet offers retirees a quiet respite from that popular vacation town. The former fishing village is bordered by a beautiful marsh shoreline and dotted with wooded areas. It also boasts a strong health care system, numerous golf courses, and a stunning sculpture park and wildlife preserve, Brookgreen Gardens, hailed as one of the Top 10 Gardens in the United States by TripAdvisor.

The mild weather, coastal scenery, good airport, and myriad amenities have made Murrells Inlet a desirable retirement destination for Northeasterners seeking a break from high tax rates and harsh winters.

Retirees can get into affordable homes starting at just under $200,000, including this $196,919 two-bedroom in a 55-plus community or this three-bedroom with a whirlpool hot tub—and no age restrictions—for $249,900.

“You kind of have the best of both worlds [in Murrells Inlet] if you’re looking for a nice, affordable area to retire to,” says Jeremy Jenks, vice president of sales at Keller Williams The Trembley Group. “It takes 15 minutes to get to everything Myrtle Beach has to offer without having to worry about traffic and stuff.”

2. Venice, FL – Median list price: $299,950

Venice’s shoreline is located halfway between Sarasota and Port Charlotte, on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Mexico. The powdery white-sand beaches are a paradise for sunbathers—or those who seek shade under an umbrella—and shell seekers. The city hails itself as “The Shark Tooth Capital of the World” due to the thick fossil beds that lie right under its gently lapping shores. The shallow and sedimentary conditions of the beach expose thousands of ancient shark teeth every day.

If hunting for shark teeth won’t keep the grandkids occupied, chances are nothing will—but you could always try taking them to the arboretum or Historic Venice Train Depot, or take them for a boat ride. Buyers can get into the market at a wide price range, from a three-bedroom manufactured home for $159,900 to this three-bedroom with water views and a private pool for $350,000.

3. Morehead City, NC – Median list price: $339,050

Morehead City has enough nautical attractions to make die-hard boaters keel over. The port town offers great boating, fishing, and nearly every type of water sport imaginable in both the sound and the Atlantic. Homes start in the $200,000 range, and it’s possible to snap up a townhome with an onsite dock such as this sprawling three-bedroom for $274,000 or this $350,000 three-bedroom with water views.

Though Morehead City is on the mainland, protected from storms by a barrier island, the city proper isn’t known for its beaches. To hit the soft sand of beautiful Atlantic Beach, locals have to drive about seven minutes across the bridge.

4. Lewes, DE – Median list price: $399,050

Lewes and nearby Rehoboth Beach have become one of the hottest LGBTQ retirement destinations on the East Coast. The welcoming area boasts many gay bars and restaurants, a thriving Pride parade (in years past), and an LGBTQ center—all on the shores of tax-friendly Delaware.

Historic Lewes has a more natural, small-town feel and (slightly) lower home prices. Retirees can get into active adult communities like Bay Crossing in a $239,000 two-bedroom condo all the way up to a fully kitted-out four-bedroom for $620,000.

“It’s a popular gay retirement community,” says Russell Stucki, real estate associate at Re/Max Realty Group. “People enjoy it.”

5. Toms River, NJ – Median list price: $279,950

New Jersey—and its infamous shore—gets a lot of flak, but it’s called the Garden State for good reason: It’s friggin’ beautiful when you exit the turnpike. That includes Toms River, a seaside town that’s nestled along the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay, a rich estuary that’s long been a destination for fishing, crabbing, and boating. The historic city boasts a vibrant downtown with shops and restaurants, 15 recreational parks (including a golf course), and waterfront views from both the mainland and the peninsula across the water.

Buyers looking for a deal can get into a one-bedroom home starting around $125,000 or even a four-bedroom right next to the water for $349,000.

6. Coos Bay, OR – Median home price: $279,050

Most folks probably don’t imagine spending their beachy retirement huddled up under layers of sweaters and blankets, but they’re missing out. The cliff-edged and chilly shoreline of Bastendorff Beach, just a short trip over the bridge from Coos Bay, is gorgeous, a wholly relaxing place to collect shells, pitch a tent, or ride a horse.

Many locals also take whale watching tours by boat, view masterpieces at Coos Art Museum, swing a 9-iron, or watch the pros play golf at the Bandon Dunes Resort, home to the Curtis Cup. Homeowners can look at the bay from their two-bedroom bungalow for just $169,000 or smell the salt air in a grand four-bedroom Dutch Colonial in the heart of town for a cool $649,000.

7. Seal Beach, CA – Median list price: $279,050

This is not a typo: Southern California does, in fact, boast affordable retirement homes right near the coast. Leisure World, a gated retirement community located just 12 minutes from the sands of Seal Beach, offers some serious deals. This renovated one-bedroom cottage is listed for just $199,999 and this two-bedroom at $225,000.

The large community has various purchase restrictions, including a minimum age, and in some cases requires all-cash transactions; but to buy in another part of the desirable beach town would cost at least $700,000. And locals are willing to fork over that kind of money for a reason. Seals actually do galumph around on the shore. The laid-back city boasts a restaurant- and shop-lined Main Street, which spills out to a nice pier and beach.

“Seal Beach is quaint and cute to walk around,” says Melinda Elmer, a Realtor® with Century 21 Masters. “It has a little bit of everything.”

8. New London, CT – Median list price: $207,950

Located at the mouth of the Thames River, this seaport city—the second-largest whaling port in the world back in the “Moby Dick” days—boasts a historic waterfront district that has become the creative hub of the city with art, music, and design venues, unique boutiques, and more than 30 restaurants. Retirees can take the grandkids on whale watching tours or picnic at one of the many parks or the beach.

However, what really makes this port town ideal for the 55-plus crowd is the easy access to quality health care. Part of Yale–New Haven Health, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital is home to the region’s only inpatient rehab unit and a nationally recognized cardiac rehabilitation program.

A two-bedroom condo right near the hospital and within walking distance to Ocean Beach can be had for just $99,000 and $209,900 can fetch a three-bedroom Cape Codder with a master bed and bath on the first floor, blocks from the water.

9. Rockport, TX – Median list price: $324,050

This Gulf Coast tourist haven has clean beaches, great fishing, and fantastic fowl. It has 10 birding sites on the Great Texas Birding Trail and the planet’s sole migrating flock of over 265 whooping cranes, which passes through the Aransas Wildlife Refuge every winter.

About 27% of the city’s 10,000 residents are aged 65 and up. Many of them seek out single-story homes with attached garages right around the golf course, marina, and beaches. They include this three-bedroom on the water for $275,000 and this two-bedroom cottage for $219,000.

10. Hyannis, MA – Median list price: $399,950

With its bustling main street, John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, and world-renowned Cape Cod Hospital, Hyannis is basically the hub of the Cape. It’s home to lots of shopping, plenty of restaurants, nice golf courses, a great sailing scene, and beautiful beaches. It even has an airport and ferry terminal that connects the mainland to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Many of the retired residents of Hyannis move into their former summer homes, but there are still plenty of boomers relocating to the area. Year-round homes start around $350,000 and reach nearly $4 million. Though a four-bedroom on the beach will set you back $1,650,000, a two-bedroom right next to downtown can be purchased for just $249,900.

“There’s still a lot of areas in Hyannis that are very affordable,” says Jeanette Neeven, a Realtor with Century 21 Cobb Real Estate. “Obviously, just like anywhere, the closer to the water you are, the more expensive the property.”

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Forbearance Volume Falls For First Time Since COVID-19 Outbreak

Mortgage forbearance volumes fell between May 26 and June 6 – the first drop since the COVID-19 crisis began, according to a report by Black Knight. That means that servicers and mortgage investors may need to start shifting their focus from pipeline growth to pipeline management. Fortunately, most homeowners in forbearance have a reasonable amount of equity in their homes, said Ben Graboske, president of Black Knight Data & Analytics.

“The first decline in the number of homeowners in active forbearance volumes is undoubtedly a good sign, particularly coming as it does on the heels of an overall trend of flattening inflow,” Graboske said. “Of course, the shift from pipeline growth to pipeline management presents its own set of challenges for servicers and investors. The good news is that equity positions among homeowners in forbearance are, by and large, strong.”

Nearly 80% of homeowners in active forbearance have 20% or more equity in their homes, Graboske said. That gives servicers and regulators options to help avoid foreclosure activity and default-related losses.

“Just 9% have 10% or less equity – typically enough to cover the cost of a sale of a property – with another 1% underwater on their mortgages,” Graboske said. “Of course, this leaves a population of nearly half a million homeowners who may lack the necessary equity to sell their homes to avoid foreclosure in a worst-case scenario.”

The share of low- and negative-equity borrowers in forbearance is much higher among FHA and VA loans, Graboske said.

“This segment – which has the highest forbearance rates overall – sees 19% of homeowners holding 10% or less equity in their homes,” he said.

While 25% of the workforce has filed for unemployment benefits, just 9% of mortgages are currently in forbearance, according to Black Knight.

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25 GENIUS MOVING TIPS FOR PERMANENT CHANGE-OF-STATION (PCS) MOVES

When you are moving or “PCS’ing”, everyone has learned that you contact the transportation office, check your documents and/or research the place you are going to live. What’s even better is knowing genius PCS moving tips so you can have a great move. Here are 25 of them.

1. Wait to start planning… no, really. Once you have orders in hand, legit, tangible, orders, then you can start planning. There’s no use in creating stress when it can be delayed.

2. Start a diet… for your house. Moving from duty station to duty station, you tend to accumulate a lot of stuff. Move room by room to either give everything a home or put it in the sell/donate/throw away pile.

3. Binder Time. Bust out the binder, it’s time for paperwork. Get a sturdy binder with sleeve protectors, labels, and dividers, and fill it up with all of your important documents. It also helps to create a folder in your email and file any correspondence that pertains to your PCS there.

4. Wait in line. Get yourself on the list ASAP. What list do you ask? There are two important ones: Military Housing List and Childcare List. Research what housing you qualify for, and get on the waitlist if possible. As for childcare, even if you “think” you “may” be pregnant, put the little embryo on there. Childcare lists take FOREVER.

5. Purge. That box in the corner that never got unpacked from the previous move? Get rid of it. If you haven’t used it in 3 years, chances are you won’t need it. The exception is if you’re moving from warm weather to cold weather, and you’ll need coats and jackets. Let’s not end up on an episode of “Hoarders”.

6. Photo/Video OF EVERY ANGLE. You know that taking photos for inventory is a must, but remember to take photos/videos of every angle. The movers thought they could get away with punching a hole in THE BACK of my couch. FAIL. I noticed and thankfully took pictures of the back of the couch at our previous duty station.

7. Fresh Start. Wash all of your linens that have been piled up in the back of your linen closet (you know what I’m talking about). If it looks and smells dingy, throw it out. This includes curtains, tablecloths, napkins, etc.

8. Big and Little Ziploc bags. These bags are great for packing and keeping similar things together like utensils, silverware, toys, or that giant box of pens (of only which half of them work). Also, use them to keep tools and hardware attached to their furniture.

9. Keep all high-value items together. Make sure you’re there when the recorder is writing down everything. If you have the boxes for electronics, leave it out for them to pack (otherwise they might shift any damage blame on you).  And oh yeah, please remember where they packed the remote controls.

10.Sample Size.  Liquids and chemicals don’t get packed. Don’t bother throwing a fit when you see all that wasted money. Instead, in the month or two before you leave, don’t buy large quantities of liquid or chemical items (see you later, Costco!). Try buying sample sizes to avoid waste.

11. Get a really big purse or extra travel bag. Don’t fill it up all the way. There will last-minute items or things that weren’t packed or you picked up during the transition of moving. Throw these items into the big bag.

12. Beg for a playdate.  You are much more likely to have friends offer to keep your kids when you are moving out than when you are moving in. Not only should you say yes to any offers of help with your kids, but you should actively ask for help on moving days.  People are willing.

13. Eww.Toss toilet brushes, plungers, old sponges, old mops, and brooms. I don’t feel like this needs explaining.

14. Be nice. Especially to the packers. Don’t just be cordial, but be friendly. Learn their names, ask if they need anything. They’re the ones handling your stuff, remember? Some moving companies refuse tips. Bottled water and snacks are always a nice touch.

15. Put aside a few dollars. It’s time for takeout. And sandwiches, lots of sandwiches. The environmentalists will kill me, but perhaps a few days before you pack out only use paper plates and utensils. That way your stuff is guaranteed to be clean and dry.

16. Don’t pack “EVERYTHING”  For ones with kiddos, leave a few toys out to entertain the little ones when the movers arrive. They’ll also need some entertainment when you travel. If you can, call a babysitter to watch the rugrats while the movers are there. If you have pets, reserve some food and treats for your fur-baby.

17. First Day Box. Pack a First Day Box. As in the box you need on your first day at your new place. Include toilet paper, paper towels, shower curtain. More toys for the kids.

18. Label boxes yourself. I know the packers might label boxes. From experience, they either write it really small, really messy or not at all. When you’re unpacking, it’ll be easier to find things to unpack if you know where they’re going.

19. Outsource cleaning? Consider hiring a local cleaner because then 1) you don’t have to do it 2) cleaners understand how meticulous it has to be for a moveout  3) you don’t have to spend money on cleaning supplies or see them go to waste. If you would rather clean on your own, divide up the chores, start the week before the pack out, so it’s not so overwhelming at the end.

21. Empty. As is empty the trash, the dishwasher, the refrigerator, the washer and dryer for anything that may be left behind.

22.  Now’s the time to be picky. When you get to your new place, take photos before you move in. Document anything and everything that could even maybe possibly be wrong. Turn it into the housing office. Your new landlord will consider you the biggest effing diva, but at least they know you’re not kidding around.

23. Only open one box at a time.  Once you open a box, empty it completely then break down the box. THEN you can move on to the next box. Otherwise, you will have a bunch of half-open boxes, and nowhere to put things.

24. Pick up the packing paper as you go. It makes for less stress when you can actually walk around the floor. Assign one or two boxes to be the packing paper box. Before you throw it out, post to your local housing or spouse’s Facebook page to see if anyone will need it.

25. Stay positive. Moving sucks. We know. Focus on the good things like maybe you’re getting away from the neighbors, a better house, better area, closer to home, etc.

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