What Can Commercial Real Estate Expect from the Biden Administration’s Economic Policies?

This is the second in a series about how Biden’s policies will differ from those of the current administration. In my first article, I examined the potential impact of Biden’s expected tax proposals. In this article, I explore the expected spending priorities and regulatory approach, as well as the broader economic climate.

Buried under the shocking scenes of rioting at the capitol is the fact that the Democratic Party will control both houses of Congress for at least the next two years. The party’s sweep in the Georgia runoff elections dramatically raises the odds that the Biden Administration will be able to implement much of his campaign platform. However, the razor-thin edge in both houses will likely temper the scale and ambition of his initiatives.

Clouds in the short-term forecast

“What’s good for General Motors is good for the country, and visa versa.” Though that (in)famous quote by GM’s former president is often misleadingly taken out of context, we could say the same for the commercial real estate sector. Commercial real estate prospers when the country’s economy is robust, and economic growth certainly benefits from strong property markets.

Indeed, no factor will be more critical for real estate’s overall vitality than the speed and strength of the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession, and then the longer-term economy’s growth prospects. The economy was clearly weakening in the latter months of 2020 as the number of COVID-19 again surged to new record levels, providing Congress with the impetus to finally enact a second pandemic relief package.

The $900 billion in stimulus will help the economy get through the next few months, but more aid likely will be needed once some of the key provisions of this latest bill expire at the end of March. However, with Democrats soon to control the Senate, another, and larger, pandemic-relief bill seems almost certain to be enacted early in the Biden Administration. Major elements of Biden’s “Emergency Action Plan” could include raising the $600 stimulus checks by $1,400 for a total of $2,000 per family member; extending unemployment benefits beyond March; and providing fiscal relief to broke state and local governments. These should keep propping up the economy a while longer.

Nonetheless, real healing cannot begin until vaccine distribution reaches a critical mass so that consumers and businesses believe it’s safe to resume regular economic activities. Until then, property markets will suffer along with the larger economy. Not all sectors, however. The industrial sector is thriving with the surge in e-commerce. Online shopping will recede as the economy reopens, but other drivers should keep warehouse demand growing for years to come. But other major CRE sectors will all endure dampened property demand to varying degrees, at least until growth resumes a healthier pace.

Of more direct consequence for residential landlords, the second coronavirus relief bill also extended the eviction moratorium for many needy tenants to the end of January, and allocated $25 billion in grants to state and local governments for housing-related assistance to low-income households for up to 12 months. Biden’s emergency stimulus bill could extend the eviction moratorium further, following the lead of New York, Oregon, and other states.

Another possible direct benefit to the retail sector: help for the beleaguered restaurant industry. The revised Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROS) Act passed by the House in September included $120 billion in targeted relief for restaurants. Though not explicitly endorsed by Biden, a similar provision could be included in any future stimulus package.

Sunnier skies in the longer-term

Looking past the pandemic, growth prospects for later this year and beyond will depend partly on Biden’s economic policies as well as the degree of damage the economy sustained during the pandemic. There is every reason to expect a surge of pent-up demand once the economy fully reopens, though recent delays in the vaccine rollout suggest widespread distribution may not occur before the summer.

For now, the primary headwind to economic growth and property demand is not consumer spending, which has held up remarkably well overall during the recession thanks to government largesse and buoyant equity markets. Rather, the constraints are on the supply side of the economy. Countless small businesses have close temporarily due to the pandemic, but many have now shuttered permanently, destroying millions of jobs in the process.

More than any other single factor, it is job growth that fuels property demand: for apartments and houses to shelter the workers; for the offices and warehouses where they work; and for the stores where they’ll shop. Economic growth and property demand in the coming quarters will depend greatly on how many of these firms can survive, how quickly the failed businesses can be replaced, and thus how quickly jobless workers can be rehired.

Raining carrots and sticks

Beyond the tax policies analyzed in my previous article, Biden has proposed various initiatives that would influence economic growth or have more direct impacts on commercial property markets.

Increased Federal spending: Biden proposes to significantly increase government spending in several key areas, including infrastructure, health care, and education. Independent assessments estimate the total bill would amount to over $7 trillion, much of it front-loaded to jump-start the recovery. Biden won’t get everything he wants, but the Democratic Congress will support much of his agenda.

Business regulation: Biden will try to reverse much of Trump’s business-friendly deregulatory agenda. The incoming Administration will likely immediately terminate any Trump initiatives still in the approval pipeline and work to overturn many that have already been enacted, mainly related to the environment, public health, and banking. The energy and financial sectors are likely to see less favorable regulatory treatment.

Immigration: Biden promises to roll back Trump’s immigration restrictions where he can and ask Congress to expand legal immigration. In particular, we can expect Biden to push to make the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program permanent and increase the number of refugees and asylum seekers allowed to enter the country. Expanding immigration would raise aggregate demand and GDP growth and could grow the pool of workers in sectors that suffered from shortages prior to the pandemic, such as construction and nursing.

Trade: Trade is one policy area when Biden shows more kinship with Trump. Though not as protectionist, Biden is not a strong free-trader and, like Trump, wants tougher trade practices with China. Biden also seeks to “re-shore” American jobs through his “Made in America” program to increase government purchases of American-made products. But overall, trade tensions should ease should under the Biden Administration.

Economic development: The Opportunity Zone program was enacted as part of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) and is Trump’s signature initiative for driving private investment into economically distressed communities. The program has been popular with investors, but critics complain that the program often subsidizes investments that would have occurred anyway. The Biden Administration seeks to retain but reform the program as part of his Build Back Better agenda. Biden also proposes to expand the separate New Markets Tax Credit, providing more opportunities for community development groups to invest in lower-income neighborhoods.

Building Sustainability: As part of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, Biden has set ambitious environmental goals, including upgrading four million buildings, weatherizing two million homes, and constructing 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units. Specific proposals include tax credits for carbon capture, emission reduction, and restoration of the Energy Investment Tax Credit.

Growth on the forecast

Several leading non-partisan forecasting firms, including Oxford Economics, Moody’s Analytics, and Rabobank have prepared projections comparing growth anticipated under a second Trump Administration versus a new Biden Administration. Each uses different assumptions about what tax and spending proposals are ultimately adopted, but all projections conclude that Biden’s “tax and spend” policies would yield somewhat faster GDP and job growth (and federal debt) than would Trump’s plan that focuses on reducing taxes, spending and regulation.

Forecasts from partisan think-tanks inevitably reach differing conclusions based on their ideological perspectives. But most impartial analysts conclude that if Biden is successful in enacting a substantial share of his policy initiatives, the stimulus effect alone from his increased spending should ensure above-trendline economic and job growth, more than offsetting any potential slowing attributable to expected tax increases and additional regulations. This growth should provide a solid foundation for property demand in the coming years.

Lastly, Biden’s picks for top economic policy jobs can greatly impact how policy initiatives are interpreted and implemented. Most notable is former Fed Chair Janet Yellen for Treasury Secretary. She and Cecilia Rouse, whom Biden will nominate to head the Council of Economic Advisors, are both liberal labor economists, ensuring that the Biden Administration’s economic focus will shift sharply from Trump’s pro-business, Wall Street orientation.

Biden also intends to nominate several other economists whose careers have focused on climate change or equity issues including Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget; Brian Deese to serve as National Economic Council director; and Heather Marie Boushey and Jared Bernstein to serve with Rouse on the CEA. In a sharp departure from the Trump Administration, no senior officials are drawn directly from the commercial real estate sector.

Property shelters from the storm

Despite higher taxes and greater regulation, the commercial property sector should prosper as the economy emerges from the pandemic and greater government spending promotes economic growth. The impacts of Biden’s economic policies on each property type will vary.

The industrial sector has been the clear property outperformer in recent years and gained more during the pandemic, particularly at the expense of retailing. Industrial stands to benefit from Biden’s potential plans to increase spending on housing, building sustainability, and other forms of infrastructure. Rising trade flows would also support warehouse demand generally, though Biden’s desire to encourage domestic manufacturing could alter the hot locations.

The impact of Biden’s policies on the housing and multifamily markets should also be positive. Biden’s sustainability plan includes financial incentives to weatherize houses and apartment buildings. The Administration’s tilt from Wall Street to Main Street and greater focus on equitable growth should provide more affordable housing opportunities. Population growth might tick up if immigration expands, bolstering housing demand.

The office and retail sectors both face tough transitions coming out of the pandemic. Demand for offices is sure not to revert to its pre-pandemic levels as more employees work from home more often, but the sector should benefit overall from faster economic growth. Similarly, demand for retail space will not return to prior levels for many years. However, retailers and shopping centers that cater to less affluent consumers should benefit from tax policies that protect the tax-home pay of lower-income households while raising taxes on wealthier families. Finally, investor demand for property could take a hit from Biden’s plans to raise taxes on business revenue and wealthier households through higher tax rates and the reduction or elimination of some tax write-offs. 1031 exchanges could be eliminated or sharply reduced. However, Biden is likely to focus on growing the economy before initiating a tax overhaul, so property investors would benefit from improving market conditions before the tax man comes knocking.

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What Will the Incoming Biden Administration Mean for the Mortgage Industry?

As Joe Biden moves into his role as President of the United States, the country as a whole anticipates change, and the mortgage industry is no exception. With all eyes on housing-related legislation emphasized by the Biden/Harris ticket, lenders wonder what a fresh start in the White House will mean for them in the coming months. From economic shifts to policy reforms, mortgage professionals can undoubtedly expect a new industry outlook to accompany the incoming Biden administration.

Rising interest rates

A projected rise in interest rates should come as no surprise. With interest rates at historic lows in the final quarter of 2020, there’s really nowhere to go but up.

The coronavirus vaccine is expected to normalize economic activity in the travel, lodging, and entertainment sectors, which should give lift to the general GDP. At the same time, firming inflation has the potential to lead to higher market-based interest rates. Based on data from the Obama era, analysts suggest that over the next year, interest rates could potentially peak around 3.2% or 3.44% for 30 year FRM on the high or “worst-case” end.

Of course, projections are speculative. Additional COVID strain outbreaks and the unknown recovery time for small businesses in every sector could keep rates lower than expected. However, most industry professionals doubt that we’ll see rates dip below what we’re currently experiencing at the beginning of 2021.

For lenders, rising interest rates could theoretically lead to a decline in new loan generation as the monthly costs of carrying a mortgage rise for borrowers, though the gradual increase doesn’t seem to be enough to realistically deter home purchases. More likely, the consumer push to refinance current mortgages will probably begin to slow down a bit.

Leveling home prices

Fueled by pandemic-driven urban sprawl, the housing market has seen remarkable resiliency and even growth in the past few quarters of 2020. A sellers’ market pushed home prices up, particularly in suburban locales.

But with hope for post-pandemic normalcy in the months to come, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) anticipates more balance in supply and demand, which will inevitably affect home prices. Where the median price is currently $303,000, the NAR projects a slight dip to $297,000 in the first quarter, then a subsequent return to normal growth models.

For mortgage lenders, home pricing is largely tied to appraisals. During his campaign, Biden made broad statements regarding the need for national appraisal standards and additional appraiser training, specifically in the valuation of homes in communities comprised primarily of people of color. As home prices level, appraisals could come under more scrutiny; lenders will do well to remain vigilant about new standards when requesting appraisals in the coming years.

Additional access for borrowers

Housing reform was one of the hallmarks of the Biden campaign and will likely be a priority for the administration. Anticipated new leadership for the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) could mean a focused and strategic implementation of Biden’s six principles for housing: affordability, stability, safety, accessibility, efficiency, and proximity.

During his campaign, Biden proposed a $640 billion investment in housing over the next 10 years. One part of that investment includes the initiation of a downpayment tax credit of up to $15,000 for first-time homebuyers. The credit is intended to make it easier for borrowers to jump that initial hurdle of homeownership by offering immediate assistance (rather than waiting until next year’s tax filing).

With the Georgia elections shifting the balance of power in the senate, housing experts consider this tax credit to be more likely to succeed in some measure or another. An additional stimulus package for individuals and small business is also expected. Even if existing home inventory remains low, these incentives could drive contractors to invest more in new builds in order to capitalize on buyers’ increased purchase power. Subsequently, new home sales––and mortgages––could rise in the third and fourth quarters of this year.

Biden also hopes to create a new public credit reporting agency under the CFPB, saying that the three major credit reporting companies are “rife with problems.” The public credit reporting agency would work toward the elimination of racial disparities and account for non-traditional data sources, which could boost credit scores. Better credit scores should, in turn, create better access to mortgages.

Fewer foreclosures

Biden plans to create a Homeowner Bill of Rights modeled after similar legislation enacted by Kamala Harris in 2013 in the state of California. Provisions within the California Homeowner Bill of Rights restrict and regulate foreclosure proceedings and expand the statute of limitations for prosecution of mortgage-related crimes.

A study out of UCLA suggests that anti-foreclosure laws in California not only dramatically decreased the number of foreclosures but also increased housing prices over projections. Analysts say the upward push on pricing results from two sources: 1) a containment of housing panic where foreclosed homes that are “priced-to-sell” depress other home prices in the market and 2) a limiting of the “disamenity effect” where foreclosed homeowners avoid home upkeep and therefore diminish the value of surrounding homes.

Assuming that the Biden administration establishes a national Homeowner Bill of Rights, the mortgage industry can expect more red tape when pursuing foreclosures. Considering that 3.5 million Americans are currently experiencing mortgage forbearance due to the pandemic, this legislation could seriously disrupt the market on two sides of the same coin. While loan recovery becomes more difficult, loan modifications may become more necessary.

Expanded or reinstated legislation

In the months to come, lenders will also want to watch for legislative changes that could affect the loan industry directly or indirectly. The following are some specific pieces of legislation that Biden has mentioned expanding or reinstating.

HFA RISK-SHARING

Biden wishes to reinstate the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) risk-sharing rule, section 542(c). This rule allows HUD to share the risk of mortgages written for multifamily housing projects by state and local housing finance agencies (HFAs) in an effort to provide affordable rental options.

COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT ACT

Biden’s campaign promised an expansion of the Community Reinvestment Act to include not only oversight of banks but also of non-bank lenders and insurance companies. The goal of this expansion is to close loopholes that allow institutions to avoid investing in certain communities.

GOOD NEIGHBOR NEXT DOOR PROGRAM

The Good Neighbor Next Door program offers assistance to first responders, educators, and other public servants who pursue housing in consistently impoverished communities or communities with fewer affordable housing options. Biden wishes to expand this program to offer additional downpayment assistance, increase the pool of qualified homes, and allow for low-interest rehab loans.

MAINTAINED OR INCREASED REGULATION

Historically, Democrats tend to maintain or increase regulation in all markets, so there’s a good chance that the mortgage industry will see some additional government oversight. At this time, many mortgage professionals have eyes on the future of GSEs as well as discrimination litigation.

CONSERVATORSHIP OF GSES

Trump had proposed a boost in capital reserves leading to the eventual re-privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, Biden has made no reference to these government sponsored enterprises (GSEs). Some interpret the silence to mean that re-privatization is not a priority. Analysts anticipate that Biden will maintain government control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, speculating that he might use GSE profits to fund affordable housing goals rather than focus on capital reserves.

DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES

Under the Trump administration, discriminatory practice suits within the lending industry were difficult to litigate. A HUD rule established in 2020 required a preponderance of evidence in disparate impact cases, and the CFPB was limited in its ability to enforce settlements against discriminatory mortgages practices. Biden has claimed that his administration will enact regulations designed to protect consumers from discriminatory lending and will make discrimination prosecution easier.

Bottom line

The mortgage industry can expect both economic and regulatory changes as Joe Biden begins his term as President of the United States. Navigating a new industry landscape will require some flexibility from lenders at every level, but with proper support, future changes should be easily accommodated.

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A Look Back at 2020 and Looking Forward to 2021 for the Atlanta Commercial Real Estate Market

2020 was a year of uncertainty and struggle. Back in January few could predict the multiple crises that would make 2020 a year like no other. In early January the CDC issued travel warnings about a strange new virus outbreak in Wuhan, China. By January 21st the first reported US coronavirus case was confirmed in Washington state. Within a week China enforced a full lockdown in Wuhan and President Trump suspended entry into the US from foreign national travelers coming from China.  

During February the world watched as the virus quickly spread and businesses began to brace for the coming economic impact as rising numbers in Asia began to foretell what looked to be a deadly global pandemic on the horizon. By the middle of the month the outbreak was presenting major logistical challenges as ports and supply chains reported delays and stalling production. On February 24th the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its worst day in two years and by the end of the month the US would have its first confirmed death due to effects of COVID-19.

March brought major lockdown announcements in Europe including Italy which was hit particularly hard in the early months of the outbreak. By March 11th the World Health Organization declared that the virus outbreak was now at the level of a global pandemic. In the US grocery stores shelves went empty for items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer and people began to become familiar with social distancing and preventative measures such as wearing masks in public places and working from home. Many restaurant and retail locations began to close as the case numbers and deaths continued to rise. On March 13th, President Trump declared a national emergency releasing $50 million in aid to buoy a quickly failing economy. Another $2.2 trillion of stimulus money was agreed to on March 27th.

By April unemployment had shot up from 3.8% in February to 14.4%. New York City became the major US hotspot for the virus. By late May it appeared that many of the measures taken to slow the spread were having a positive effect, but then, at the end of month, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. The gruesome video of the incident went viral and triggered weeks of massive protests nationwide. 

As the summer moved along, coronavirus cases again began to rise. By September 25th the US surpassed 7 million cases. During the final days of the presidential campaign, President Trump himself tested positive for the virus. Trump would end up losing the race for the presidency in a close election to Democrat challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden.

In December the first COVID-19 vaccines were approved and started the rollout process, racing against the continued rise in case numbers to once again return our lives to something akin to normal.  

During these trying times Atlanta has fared better economically than many other US metros, adding back roughly three-quarters of the jobs lost since the start of the pandemic. Atlanta benefited from an economy not dependent on tourism as its industrial base and strategic distribution location buoyed the local economy. Looking forward it is obvious that the commercial real estate market in Atlanta will continue to be affected by the pandemic for the foreseeable future. It is also obvious that the speed of the recovery will vary greatly from sector to sector.

Industrial

Atlants’ industrial market flexed its muscle when it was needed most during the economic turbulence experienced during the pandemic. After an initial knee-jerk reaction slow down for industrial leasing at the onset of the pandemic the Atlanta industrial market picked up steam with leasing volume surging over the last few months. Low vacancy rates and high demand have protected landlords from the falling rents seen in other commercial sectors. Atlanta will continue to benefit from its strategic location and continue to rise as the distribution hub of the south.

Office

Atlanta continues to be an attractive location for big name office tenants landing commitments from the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Papa Johns and Google over the last year, but slowing rent growth and a rise in subletting has become a burden on the sector’s overall recovery. Atlanta has not been unscathed from the effects of the pandemic but it has clearly outperformed peer US metros and should continue to do so in the future. 

The major threat to the Atlanta office market recovery is an expected increase in supply combined with a trend towards more permanent work from home solutions as many companies have come to the realization that working from home may be a net plus cost wise even after the pandemic has waned. The long term outlook for the Atlanta office remains positive as other metros simply cannot compete with Atlanta’s highly educated workforce and overall affordability.

MultiFamily

Atlanta’s multifamily market closed out the year in strong fashion showing a surprising resilience to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Strong demand has allowed for above average rent growth especially in Atlanta’s more affordable suburban markets. Encouraged by these positive signs in the market, investors have returned in full force setting record sales volume numbers in the final quarter of the year.

Retail

Retail, of course, has been the commercial real estate market most affected by the pandemic. Lease terms have shortened and with continued uncertainty surrounding the speed of the vaccine rollout there is still no end in sight for the struggling retail market in Atlanta or the nation as a whole. 

Even with Georgia’s aggressive response to the pandemic, opening the economy fully in May, many restaurants and retailers face an extreme shortfall in expected revenues compared to anything close to a normal year of economic performance.

With the trend towards less consumer spending in brick-and-mortar locations and sit-down restaurants, retail tenants have been reluctant to commit to longer leases. How quickly the US  returns to normal retail consumer behavior is largely dependent on the success of the vaccine rollout. Until then, expect the retail market to continue to suffer. 


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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Home Office Tips/Trends

What is key to having a functional home office these days?

While we are working at home more, we want our spaces to be beautiful and functional.

Beautiful storage that looks more like residential furniture than a true office.

Invest in a good office chair that doesn’t look like you brought it home from the office.  There are some great choices that bridge that gap.  Make sure to find an appropriate mix of lighting that should include ambient, task and natural (if possible).

As more people are using laptops, etc.  does this allow for beautiful tables, etc. as desk surfaces?

Yes.  I did a lady’s office that used a settee. It is possible to work from anywhere and sitting on anything that is comfortable and makes you feel good about your surroundings. If you are doing it for a long time day in and day out make sure it is good for you ergonomically.  Many people even prop up in bed to WFH.  Upholstered headboard, good pillows  and lighting, and you’re good to go.

Have you had any queries to convert spaces?  If so, what have you done?

Yes.  Those “extra” spaces or bedrooms that look good but are never used have been replanned to become a beautiful home offices.

For a while there was  trend to having the Command Central tech center in kitchens/mudrooms?    Is that still true or is there another trend you are seeing?

Not so much anymore.  We do see a lot of requests for charging stations in these areas.  But with the need for homework/homeschooling areas, as well as both spouses working from home, it has been more about turning dining rooms into multifunctional areas.  Or that extra bedroom.

Do you have bookcases, etc. in the space?

As needed, yes.  But with so much being on the internet and laptops being so portable, there isn’t the need that there was 5-10 years ago.  It is more about comfort and lighting wherever someone chooses to work.   Bookcases do add character, but aren’t  used in same way.  They may not incorporate collections from travels, photos, etc.

How do you incorporate technology into the space, so it isn’t obvious?

Almost everything is wireless, so we don’t really have that problem.  Printers, routers and the sort are typically concealed in a cabinet or closet, so they are easily tucked away.  Some homes have a room that has all of house systems from security, heating, sound, etc.

From a sound perspective,   do drapes, furniture and carpeting help absorb ambient noise so there is more clarity?

We look to incorporate those solutions in residential projects as a whole, so for the most part these items are already incorporated into the spaces.

I approach home offices the way I do the remainder of any residential project.  Peacefulness and balance are the point of entry.  Not a lot of clutter.  Comfort is king.  And the things needed for functionality at your fingertips.

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 in 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.


FILING FOR HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION IN 2021

If you are filing for homestead exemption, homeowners may need to provide their Warranty Deed book and page, proof of residence, social security numbers, driver’s license, and car tag info. In most counties, to be eligible for the current year, you must have owned and occupied the property as of January 1st.  If the property is located within city limits, the homeowner may be required to file with the city as well.

Cherokee County – deadline is April 1, 2021 678-493-6120
http://www.cherokeega.com/Tax-Assessors-Office/homestead-exemptions/

Clayton County – deadline is April 1, 2021 770-477-3311
http://www.claytoncountyga.gov/government/tax-commissioner/exemptions

Cobb County – deadline is April 1, 2021 770-528-8600
http://www.cobbtax.org/property/exemptions

DeKalb County – deadline is April 1, 2021 404-298-4000
https://dekalbtax.org/file-homestead-exemption

Douglas County – deadline is April 1, 2021 770-920-7272
http://www.celebratedouglascounty.com/340/Exemptions

Fayette County – deadline is April 1, 2021 770-461-3652
http://www.fayettecountytaxcomm.com/subpages/Exemptions.asp

Forsyth County – deadline is April 1, 2021 770-781-2106
http://www.forsythco.com/Departments-Offices/Board-of-Assessors/Homestead-Exemption

Fulton County – deadline is April 1, 2021 404-612-6440
http://www.fultonassessor.org/exemptions/

Gwinnett County – deadline is April 1, 2021 770-822-8800
https://gwinnetttaxcommissioner.publicaccessnow.com/HomesteadExemptionApplication.aspx

Henry County – deadline is April 1, 2021 770-288-8180
https://www.henrytc.org/#/property

Paulding County – deadline is April 1, 2021 770-443-7581
http://www.paulding.gov/index.aspx?NID=89

This information was provided by one of our preferred closing attorneys Neel, Robinson, & Stafford, LLC. All rights reserved. NRS has multiple offices to choose from including Glenridge, Buckhead, West Cobb, Inman Park, Alpharetta, and Acworth.

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2021 Opens With A New Record Low For Mortgage Rates

The average 30-year mortgage hit an all-time low of 2.65% this week, according to data from Freddie Mac released Thursday.

Despite predictions that mortgage rates would slowly tick back up in 2021, the new year opened this week with the same old story: mortgage rates hitting a new record low.

The average rate for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 2.65 percent for the week ending January 7, the lowest number ever recorded by Freddie Mac since the government-sponsored enterprise began tracking weekly rate fluctuations in 1971.

But despite the drop, housing affordability has continued to decrease.

“A new year, a new record low mortgage rate,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, in a statement. “Despite a full percentage point decline in rates over the past year, housing affordability has decreased because these low rates have been offset by rising home prices.”

The forces behind plummeting rates are also starting to shift, according to Khater, so economists shouldn’t abandon the position that rates will climb in 2021 after one contrary week.

“The combination of rising mortgage rates and increasing home prices will accelerate the decline in affordability and further squeeze potential home buyers during the spring home sales season,” Khater said.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.67 percent last week and was 3.64 percent a year ago at this time, which means it’s dropped nearly an entire percentage point year over year.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.16 percent for the week ending January 7, down from 3.07 percent a year ago. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.75 percent for the week, down from last year’s average of 3.30 percent for the same week.

Mortgage purchases are still higher than this point last year, but slowing the rate of increase considerably. The unadjusted purchase index — published weekly by the Mortgage Bankers Association — was down 30 percent compared with two weeks earlier, but up 3 percent year over year for the week ending January 6.

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Selling Your Home This Winter

We all know that winter is traditionally real estate’s slowest season for a multitude of reasons – the cold weather, holidays, and school is usually in full swing… just to name a few. But what if we said it may be a little different this year? Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors, predicts “it will be one of the best winter sales years ever”. If you’re thinking of selling your home this winter, here are things to prepare for.

Online Listings

Regardless of the weather, people are looking online for listings. According to the NAR, 52% of buyers found the home they purchased through the internet in 2020. Make sure you are doing your due-diligence in making sure your listing is up to par. Virtual tours are a great feature to add to really get buyers interested in your home. They allow buyers to view many homes in a short span of time and get a better feel for the layout; this means that when the buyers reaches out to you, they likely have some genuine interest in purchasing. If you aren’t doing a virtual tour, be sure to take high resolution pictures and take the pictures strategically to show off all the angles of your home.

Work from home is more important

Working from home is more important than ever this year, and the trend seems to be impacting home preferences as well.  As remote work grows, some Americans who once used to work in offices are in greater need of a home office space. This could lead to the latest trend in moving to the suburbs to remain even after the pandemic. Make sure to really accent your office space, if you have one. Even if you don’t have an extra room to stage as an office, try finding a space in your home where you could make a spot for a desk. If you aren’t staging your home, make sure to mention an office room or space in the description of the listing to help buyers envision themselves living and working there.

Keep it Simple with Decorations

If you are trying to sell your home around the holiday season and you’re an ardent holiday decorator, make sure the decorations are accentuating, but not overpowering. Some real estate professionals will say to forego the decorations altogether, but if your neighborhood is festive and everyone participates, you may actually be doing yourself a disservice by being one of the only houses in the dark – and that’s not very inviting. For showings, you can light the fireplace if you have one, play relaxing holiday music, and prepare fresh baked goods and serve cider and hot chocolate to guests to increase the ambiance of your home.

More Exterior Advice

When taking pictures of your home to sell, make sure to take them when there’s not a blanket of snow covering the property. Buyers may think you are hiding something like a weathered roof, cracked pathways, or a yellowed and unkempt lawn. Try to take pictures for your listing on a clear and sunny day. If avoiding the snow is not an option, clean off all pathways, driveways and brush off trees or bushes with a broom. Also keep in mind how much earlier it gets darker at this time of year; it’s a good idea to keep your home illuminated for potential buyers to look at when they drive by.

By our Preferred Vendor, Choice Home Warranty.

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Trees- Are They Affecting Your Property Value?

Did you know that the trees in your yard could actually have an effect on your property value? It’s not just the fancy interiors and neighborhood extras that factor into an appraisal. But how do you know if your trees are adding value or if you should be scheduling removal? Whether you’re a home owner, buyer, or seller, we’ve provided you with some tips on how to detect if your trees are an asset or something to get rid of.

Is it an Old Tree?

Big trees are usually old trees. Therefore, they often have wandering roots that may go beyond the human eye. Tree roots search for water and nutrients, and in turn they expand and grow – which may cause problems throughout the surrounding property. Tree roots on average can extend up to two to three times farther than the tree’s foliage, also known as the tree’s crown.  This can cause an array of problems if the root emerges through the ground or grows into structures, pavement, pipes, or utility service lines. So, it’s a good idea to get to know your trees and how long they’ve been there. Inspect the area surrounding the tree for these warning signs. If your old tree is in healthy condition and poses no risks, it is likely no risk, and possibly a boon, to your property value.

Are you Prepared for a Mess?

The healthiest of trees will often times result in a mess in your yard. Are you prepared for the task and the associated cost of the tools needed? Whether you are raking or leaf blowing, this type of maintenance takes time and or money to pay someone to do it – so be aware about the kinds of trees you have in your yard and what kinds of debris they shed throughout the year. Remember that when big storms roll in, branches big and small will be falling in the yard and require cleanup. Speaking of branches, trees that hang over driveways pose a big risk as well. Consider the scenario of dead or even healthy branches falling and blocking the driveway, falling on people, cars, or the garage. For many homeowners, this may not be a dealbreaker – but it is still something to prepare for.

Are all Trees the Same?

There is not actually one specific tree species that is proven to increase property value. The more important factors concern the overall quality of the tree – is it disease resistant? Is it suited for your planting zone? Planting zones are an indication of your average minimum temperature and will help you determine what species of trees will survive and flourish in your area. You can also speak to a local arborist about choosing the right trees for your property if you’re interested in planting new ones and are unsure.

What Are Good Tree Qualities?

Trees are essential to our collective effort for a more sustainable environment. Big, hearty, and healthy trees provide warming effects of the sun in the winter, maximize shade during the summer, and deflect heavy winds. Signs of a good tree that will add property value will come down to the appropriateness of the tree species for the area, the location of the tree in proximity of your home, and the tree’s overall condition. When looking at the overall condition of your tree, check for growth each year by measuring the trunk and inspecting its branches to compare this year’s bloom to last years. With the exception of some trees, the bark of your tree should not be coming loose or peeling. The bark should also be free of moss or fungi as well. Check for proper leaf color, shape, and size to ensure it is growing properly and staying healthy. Even healthy trees need to be trimmed and pruned, so make sure to also keep up with this type of maintenance every year to ensure your tree is at its best health.

By our Preferred Vendor, Choice Home Warranty.

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What a Biden Tax Plan Might Hold for Commercial Real Estate

President-elect Biden’s policies are likely to mark a distinct departure from those under the Trump Administration and, in many cases, won’t be as favorable for the commercial real estate sector. But a full accounting of the expected policies presents a range of plusses and minuses for the industry. In the first of a two-part article, I examine the tax proposals.

With one of its own in the White House, the commercial real estate sector was treated well by the Trump Administration. The property industry benefited from generally pro-business policies and as well as more relaxed banking and environmental regulation. Investors benefited from President Trump’s signature legislative achievement, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted in late 2017. The new tax code provided some new special benefits for the industry, including opportunity zones, a 20 percent pass-through deduction for certain types of qualified business income, and bonus depreciation for certain assets. The TCJA also lowered tax rates on both corporate and individual income, reducing tax liabilities for commercial property owners. And perhaps more importantly, the law preserved several significant benefits that already existed—notably tax-free 1031 exchanges and carried interest—that had been targeted in earlier versions of the legislation.

Winter outlook dominated by the pandemic

How might CRE fare under a Biden Administration? The most important factor will be the strength of the economy, which at least initially will depend primarily on containing the pandemic. Until COVID-19 is under control, property markets cannot revert to “normal” performance—whatever that new “normal” looks like in the future.

Fortunately, several vaccines recently have been shown to be highly effective in preventing COVID-19 symptoms, an essential step in the economic recovery, but even optimistic predictions do not anticipate widespread distribution before the spring. The Biden Administration promises a more aggressive federal response to limiting the virus’s spread and treating the afflicted but, of course, does not take office for another two months.

In the meantime, the best hope for the economy and the property sectors may be a robust stimulus package, which Biden just announced is his top priority—even prior to his inauguration. Congress has been at an impasse for months over the size and contours of this next pandemic relief bill, though a new bipartisan proposal might offer hope. Among other provisions, the bill would provide assistance to jobless workers by extending federal unemployment benefits at $300 per week for 16 weeks, and would provide additional funding for small businesses via the Paycheck Protection Program. Though there seems to be widespread  support for the compromise, the White House and Senate Majority Leader have offered competing proposals offering less aid for unemployed workers, and the prospects for the passage of any stimulus package remains uncertain.

The Biden tax plan

Eventually, the virus will be contained, and consumers and businesses will get back to whatever they used to do. What then? What would the Biden plan mean for the property sector? No policies have been formally proposed, but we know much of what the administration would like to implement based on Biden’s campaign statements and speeches, though much of the detail must still be fleshed out.

And even then, much will depend on the outcome of the upcoming runoff elections in Georgia for the two undecided Senate seats. Biden can’t unilaterally enact his plans; it’s up to Congress to ratify the legislation that coverts the campaign ideas into practice. Should these seats remain in Republican hands, as conventional wisdom expects, Republicans almost certainly would retain control of the Senate, which would likely doom, or at least dilute, many of Biden’s proposals.

But for the sake of analysis, let’s review Biden’s central positions. As a candidate, Biden proposed a variety of tax policies that collectively would raise some $2.1 trillion in revenue over the next decade, according to recent analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Few of the provisions specifically target real estate, but some do, and others would directly impact property investors and real estate companies. Among the key proposals:

Tax rates and income classifications

Raise tax rates on corporations and high-income individuals: Biden promises to hold or reduce taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, but wealthy taxpayers and corporations would pay more. Biden wants to roll back some parts of the TJCA tax cuts by increasing the corporate tax rate back up to 28 percent (from 21 percent) while individual income tax rates would revert to their pre-TCJA values for taxable incomes above $400,000, raising the top rate from 37 to 39.6 percent. In isolation, these measures would have little direct impact on property sector operations but would reduce investors’ after-tax returns.

Phase out qualified business income (QBI) deduction above $400,000 of income: The 20 percent QBI deduction authorized by the TJCA effectively lowered the top tax rate from 37 percent down to 29.6 on flow-through income for certain types of non-corporate small businesses and partnerships. Eliminating this deduction would further depress real estate returns for property investors.

Treat capital gains and dividends like ordinary income for households earning over $1 million: The Biden plan calls for “asking those making more than $1 million to pay the same rate on investment income that they do on their wages,” though many details remain sketchy. Currently, the top tax rate on long-term capital gains is 20 percent (for investors with an income of at least $441,451 in 2020), plus a net investment income tax (NITT) of 3.8 percent (for married couples filing jointly earning at least $250,000), for a total of 23.8 percent. The proposed tax increase would nearly double the tax rate to 43.4 percent for households earning more than $1 million (39.6 percent rate on ordinary income plus the 3.8 percent NITT).

The treatment of carried interest could also change. “Carried interest” is the profit share received by general partners in a fund as part of their compensation. Currently considered to be investment income by the tax code, it is thus taxed at the capital gains rate. Though the current plan does not expressly propose changing the treatment of carried interest, Biden has proposed this change in the past, and treating all investment income as ordinary income for high-income households would effectively accomplish the same objective.

If enacted, these proposals would be present a much greater hit to real estate investment returns than the relatively nominal increases in personal tax rates. The blow to private equity firms and real estate partnerships would be greater still, affecting both the investors and employees of these firms.

Asset treatment

Eliminate the step-up basis for inherited assets: The Biden plan proposes to change the tax basis of inherited assets from the fair market value at the time of inheritance (the “stepped-up” value) to the original acquisition price before all the accrued appreciation. For example, if you inherit a property from your parents that they acquired for $1 million that is now worth $3 million, under current law your tax basis is $3 million, but Biden plans to revert the basis to the original purchase price of $1 million.

Such a change would negatively impact property values by reducing the total returns to owners. However, it is unclear whether the tax would be due in the year the asset is inherited or only upon sale. If the latter, the tax liability theoretically could be pushed to the next generation, and perhaps indefinitely, if the asset is retained and not sold.

Limiting Use of 1031 Exchanges to Households Earning Less than $400,000: Property investors may defer paying capital gains taxes on investment sales if they reinvest the proceeds into a “like-kind” property within certain time limits. Although there are no specific value limits on properties that can be exchanged, for practical reasons, the assets tend to be smaller investment properties and not larger institutional-quality assets.

Although not explicitly mentioned in the Biden tax plan language, campaign officials have alluded to restricting the use of these exchanges to households with less than $400,000 of income. The impact of this limitation could be significant, particularly in the market for smaller investment properties and vacation homes ( cannot be used for primary residences and thus would not be affected). The annual volume of 1031 exchanges is substantial but unknown as property transfers are not publicly available in every state. However, a recently updated academic study identified over $30 billion in 1031 exchanges for each of the last five years, topping out at $37.2 billion in 2019, though these figures understate the total volume in several important respects.

This same study concluded that “We conclude that elimination of real estate exchanges would likely lead to a decrease in transaction activity in most CRE markets as well as price declines in some markets, at least in the short run. These price declines would be more pronounced in states with high income tax rates. Elimination would also likely produce a decrease in capital investment on acquired properties, an increase in investment holding periods, and an increase in the use of leverage to finance acquisitions.” While the objectivity of this analysis could be questioned given its funding by the Real Estate Like-Kind Exchange Coalition, the study is widely cited, rigorous, and well documented.

Reduce the estate tax exemption and raise the estate tax rates: Biden proposes to restore the estate and gift tax rates and exemptions to their 2009 levels, increasing the top rate for the estate tax to 45 percent and reducing the exemption amount from the current $11.58 million down to $3.5 million. These changes would reduce the value of inherited assets for their new owners. As with limiting the use of 1031 exchanges, raising the estate taxes could ultimately depress asset prices though the impact on property investment levels would be less clear.

Bonus depreciation changes: The TJCA doubled the bonus depreciation deduction from 50 percent to 100 percent for eligible assets, enabling firms to immediately write-off these assets—a key benefit for real estate companies. The Biden tax plan does not specifically target this provision, but a proposed minimum 15 percent tax on the book income of large corporations could limit the value of these deductions. Moreover, this deduction will phase out starting in 2022. President Trump was proposing to extend the deduction while Biden may be less likely to. Thus, the Biden tax plan could effectively limit and eventually eliminate the bonus depreciation deduction, reducing after-tax income for real estate corporations.

Other programs

Reform Opportunity Zone (OZ) program: Another key benefit in the TJCA for the property sector, the OZ program allows for tax-free capital gains for investments held at least ten years in designated areas, among other provisions. Biden seeks to reform the program to provide more community benefits. His ideas include greater transparency about investments, encourage investors to partner with community groups, and conduct a regulatory review to better target OZ funds. Biden also proposes to expand the separate New Markets Tax Credit and make it permanent, providing more opportunities and incentives for community development groups to invest in lower-income neighborhoods.

Expand renewable-energy tax credits: The commercial real estate sector could benefit from Biden’s desire to expand funding for various sustainability programs, including tax credits for carbon capture, emission reduction, and restoration of the Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

Net impact

After four years of business-friendly tax policies under Trump, the incoming Biden Administration is certain to be not as directly supportive. Most of the known and likely tax policies would raise taxes on both business revenue and the personal income of wealthier households, and many would change the treatments of investment income that reduces net returns. But real estate firms could also benefit from the retention or expansion of some tax policies like Opportunity Zones and the New Markets Tax Credit program, as well as renewable energy policies. The details of the new administration’s plans are obviously not set in stone but from what we have heard from them so far, there will be some sweeping changes in the tax code. All of this might be a moot point though if the administration is not able to stem the tide on the pandemic and help the economy recover from what will be almost a year of on-and-off lockdowns.

Thank you Propmodo.com for this article. For the whole article, Click Here.

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The 8 Biggest Stories That Impacted Real Estate Investors In 2020

The hottest topics for real estate investors this year ran the gamut — Airbnb’s IPO, WeWork’s new CEO, the vacation rental market’s comeback, eviction bans, and more.

The quick turn of events early on in 2020 threw the real estate community — and the rest of the world — for a loop. Many of the year’s biggest real estate stories that affected investors most were in relation to ongoing changes due to the coronavirus pandemic. Still, standalone developments from Airbnb, WeWork, and Vacasa also made an impact this year.

From a glance in the rearview window, here’s a look at the hottest topics in Property Portfolio from 2020.

The Vacation Rental Market’s Comeback

Early spring was a tenuous time at best for the vacation rental market. Amid the uncertainty of a rapidly spreading pandemic and statewide stay-at-home orders, travelers were canceling reservations and hunkering down at home. As a result, companies like Airbnb and Vacasa initiated cost-saving measures like severely reducing executive salaries and furloughing employees. But, by the time late spring rolled around and people started craving more time outside of the house, the vacation rental market made an incredible comeback.

During the weekend of June 5 to June 7, 2020, Airbnb experienced year-over-year growth in its gross booking value for the first time since February. But, travelers started seeking out new kinds of rentals than previously — ones relatively close to home, in smaller towns and cities, and that would offer the flexibility of a longer stay and the ability to bring pets along.

Likewise, vacation rental company Vrbo told Inman in June that 95 percent of the company’s booking demand at the time was for non-urban areas, and that there had been a 15 percent increase in demand for bookings within 500 miles of the traveler’s home.

In-flux Evictions Moratoria

Landlord groups in New York City and California were among the first to call for a halt to evictions in 2020 as the seriousness of the pandemic became more apparent to the public. The federal government also enacted a ban on evictions early on, which was allowed to expire at the end of July when renters were once again thrown into the lurch for a month until a new federal ban was put into place at the beginning of September, one now set to expire at the end of 2020.

Individuals states also established and continue to adjust their own eviction bans on a regular basis. In general, the enforcement of such bans has been a bit of a mess at worst and not uniform at best, with outcomes largely dependent on what judge oversees the proceedings.

In recent weeks, landlords, lobbyists and Realtor associations have fought back against bans with legal challenges, arguing that the situation is simply untenable for landlords, and may even be positioning the market for a housing crisis.

At the end of November, the Alabama Association of Realtors and the Georgia Association of Realtors filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration for the national eviction ban, arguing it merely shifts billions of dollars in rent debt from renters to landlords.

Airbnb’s Downs, Ups and an IPO

At the end of March, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced dramatic cost-saving measures for the short-term rental company amid coronavirus-induced stay-at-home orders and reductions in bookings, including executive-level salary cuts and eliminating the company’s marketing.

Many wondered how well the company could weather the storm as hosts who depend on income from bookings lost money on Airbnb’s more lenient cancellation policies enacted as a result of the pandemic.

Still, Airbnb pulled through and secured $1 billion in debt and equity funding from Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners in April. Although some in the industry were skeptical that the company would be able to put forth an IPO this year given its financial turmoil at the start of the pandemic, Airbnb succeeded in filing paperwork for an IPO in November.

But, the company isn’t quite out of hot water yet, as it now faces a class-action lawsuit led by one of its hosts over how the company issued refunds to guests in the spring.

Property Managers and Building Owners Respond to COVID

The pandemic caused a great shift in American professional and personal life from public and social to private and sequestered, as result of the need for preventing spread of the virus. In response, apartment and office building owners have had to rethink daily operations in order to be able to operate safely and reassure tenants in this new world.

Real estate industry intelligence firm Propmodo recently released guidelines for how property managers can prepare for smooth operations this winter with the virus, including maintaining and updating HVAC systems, adopting staffing policies that allow for remote working and cross-training staff in case of long-term absences, and managing access to buildings, among other measures.

Predictive cleaning, whereby sensor technology determines areas in a building that are used more frequently, and therefore, need to be cleaned more frequently, was also identified during the past year as an essential resource for property managers and owners in order to conduct more effective cleaning.

Likewise, air purifiers with the capacity to deactivate viruses in the air started flying off the shelves in 2020, and will likely become a staple for places of business in years to come.

WeWork Gets a new CEO

One month into 2020 — and nearly five months after founder and CEO Adam Neumann resigned — co-working startup WeWork announced its new CEO, Sandeep Mathrani. Mathrani came from Brookfield Properties’ retail group, and had a weighty load going in to his new position. In 2019, WeWork had filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announcing its intention to go public, but had to put a pause on those plans once the filing revealed the company’s significant losses.

Although Neumann stepped into the shadows for some time after his resignation, recent movement from the former CEO shows he hasn’t completely called it quits on real estate. In October, Neumann’s family office, 166 2nd LLC, led a $42 million funding round for residential management software startup Alfred, an end-to-end platform that boasts in-home support and local services for residents.

How Landlords Dealt with Dropping Rent Prices, Non-paying Tenants

Economic uncertainty and unemployment have hit the rental market hard during 2020. As a result, many landlords have had to get creative in order to make ends meet by doing things like creating payment plans with tenants, restructuring bed and breakfast-type room rentals to a single-family vacation rental, and helping tenants apply for federal aid.

The number of rental concessions landlords offered to tenants also nearly doubled between February and July, according to Zillow. And, in pricey West Coast markets, landlords have resorted to lowering rents and offering discounts as people who can now work remotely have started relocating to more affordable areas, resulting in trending rent declines in these more expensive markets.

While some larger property management companies and real estate investment trusts received millions of dollars in aid from the federal government through the CARES Act, many smaller management companies and landlords were excluded.

The California Apartment Association told Inman that they believed many small landlords didn’t even try applying for aid because it would be difficult for them to maneuver the restrictions for how aid packages were allowed to be used, and were worried it might end up causing them legal trouble down the line.

Vacasa’s Leadership Shakeups

Vacation rental giant Vacasa saw some significant leadership changes early on in the year. As then-chief technology officer Tim Goodwin left the company to work for a healthcare communication firm, Jeff Flitton, who was serving as vice president of engineering, was promoted to take Goodwin’s place. Mike Dodson, who had formerly served as chief revenue officer at OpenTable and briefly as CEO of restaurant marketing company Fishbowl, joined Vacasa in March as chief revenue officer.

But, the biggest change at Vacasa in 2020 was the stepping down of founder and then-CEO Eric Breon. After 10 years at the helm, Breon said that “the time was right for me to step away from day-to-day operations” and instead focus on the company’s strategy by continuing to serve on the board of directors.

Matt Roberts, who had been a Vacasa board member and served as CEO of OpenTable for four years, stepped in as Vacasa’s new CEO. Since then, former Zillow and Angie’s List executives have joined the company’s board of directors as well.

Smart Investments in a Turbulent Year

Many investors learned the hard way this year that putting one’s eggs all in the same basket isn’t a great idea. Investors with properties concentrated in urban areas faced a reckoning as many city dwellers made the shift to the suburbs and small towns in an effort to avoid the virus.

Those who maintained a diverse portfolio of investment properties were more likely to remain on solid footing as Americans fundamentally reassessed how and where they wanted to live through the pandemic.

Investors looking for new opportunities also learned that mobile-home parks, generally considered a recession-proof investment, continue to be a sound investment during this pandemic.

As people have also striven to social distance for all daily activities, investors also learned that their parking lots could be given new life by being repurposed as outdoor markets, extra spaces for rental car companies with an excess of inventory, or even as a portable storage location with the addition of shipping containers.

Thank you Inman for this article. For the whole article, Click Here.


Creating Harmony at Home

As 2020 has been an unprecedented year on so many fronts, and the stress and anxiety level for so many has increased.   It is important to find ways that we can reflect and find calmness in our home environments especially since we are spending much more time there.

Interior Designer Tish Mills has put together some suggestions on how you can create harmony in your home.

What makes a space tranquil?

There are multiple ways to make a space feel tranquil.  Tranquility is all about balance.  There needs to be balanced in everything from, room arrangement, to finishes, to use of color. Tish starts by really thinking about the objective and key use of a space.  Then she looks at the form of a space and takes cues from any significant architectural elements.  From there it is planning and most importantly, restraint. It is about the contrast and pushes/pull to create balance.  She always tells Clients, not everything in a room can be the star. She always decides what the star moments in a room will be and then the remaining pieces and fabrics are the support to the star.  That immediately creates a balance which, in turn, creates a tranquil feeling.  Even in a bold space.

How do you create the energy to ensure that a space feels pleasant?

Balance and restraint.  Think of when you are getting dressed to go out.  You determine where you are going and how you want to look and feel.  You start with the base and then add the appropriate layers.  And finally, the perfect accessories.  Then, follow the fashion rule of removing one.  That way everything works together is in balance and harmony with the surroundings.

What is important in the floorplan? 

The floorplan and architecture are the bones and are the jumping-off point.

How important is the color palette? Are some colors more soothing than others? If so, which ones do you use and where?

Color is an interesting question.  You can approach the color palette by using color theory and stay with colors that ground and calm you.  A second approach is washing with one color.  This is effective as long as it isn’t jarring, it can also promote a soothing outcome and feeling.  Or, there are times that the use a lot of bold, saturated color actually comes off as a soothing neutral space.  It is really about balance and the compliment of color combinations.

In living rooms, what is the balance that is needed to make the room sing?

How and when does furniture play into the conversation?  What is a consideration in fabric selection?   

For Living Rooms again, I first start with: How will the room be used?  Will the Client entertain in there? Is it a space to sneak away and meditate and read since it is one of the least used rooms typically?  Or is it a place to unwind and have a glass of wine with your spouse?  Once I get that established, I look at traffic patterns through the space so that nothing is in conflict with that function.  From there, I channel the Client’s personality so that it is a true reflection of them.  As for furniture, often comfort isn’t taken into account as much in Living Room furniture.  I don’t do that. Other than potentially a single sculptural piece such as a chair, I believe that everything should be comfortable and usable.

Fabric consideration depends on the project.  Once a color story is created for a home, I love to allow different colors from that story, to come forward in the different rooms to help with making each space have its own personality. Like a puzzle, each piece fits together to create a beautiful picture that overall provides balance and tranquility in the home.

How do you mix patterns and textures effectively to create balance?

I love to mix textures and patterns within a home.  I often do that by keeping the same color in the main fabrics and change textures to create interest.  I suggest using only one main pattern and then let any additional patterns create more of a supporting role as to not fight with the star fabric of the room.

Let’s talk about Lighting.   How do you use it to create different moods?

When planning a space, I always look at the mix of general, task, and ambient lighting to create the perfect balance.  And let’s not forget about the power of leaving some areas a bit darker or shadowy to help create mood and ambiance.

When it comes to floors how should rugs be utilized vs natural flooring and tile?

I do love layering. Use rugs wherever possible regardless of if the surface is hardwoods or tile.  They anchor a space, promoting balance, while also helping with comfort, warmth, and sound absorption.  Many designers start with the rug, which speaks to how important they are to a space.  I don’t tend to do that. I treat them more like the exclamation point at the end.

In the bathroom, what is needed for a space to have harmony?  Is there a focal point?

Types of materials.  Tubs vs Showers.

Bathrooms are one of my favorite areas to design.  The options are limitless, and the materials can be used in numerous combinations.  In bathrooms, just like living spaces, I first decide what will be the star of the space.  Will the tub sit as the eye line when you walk into the room?  Will the shower be tucked away or front and center?  Single vanity or dual spaces?  Once the base layout is decided using these points, I tend to take my cues from outside for Master Bathrooms as so many have many windows these days.  Or for bathrooms without large windows, I take my inspiration from the adjoining bedroom.   Regardless of whether a bathroom design is organic or super glamorous, if the space is balanced, it will be peaceful and soothing.

As for materials, I’m always a big fan of natural stone.  But these days, there are so many options for porcelains that are rich and textural, that I’m finding that I’m using more even in primary spaces.

What types of technology is out there to help create different moods as well as create wellness?

Especially in this time that we are all home much more, I’m finding that Clients are taking more time to create more spa-like bathrooms.  Finishes have become very important as to have the actual selections.  More clients are really looking at what type of air tubs to install, such as light therapy or heated backrest.  Some have started to install infrared saunas in their homes.  I’m a big fan of the benefits here.  On a more of the technology side, vanity drawers that light when opened so that looking for things are easy on the eyes.  And, of course, motorized shades for privacy.

How important are plants and greenery to a room?

I do love including something living in a space.  There is a reason that so much of the magazine photography includes fresh flowers or plants.  I tend to pull that off “only for photography” and into day-to-day life.  Fresh flowers or a plant will always lift the spirit while also helping to feel more grounded and alive in a space.

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 in 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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Six Things to Consider When Buying Rural Land

  1. Location & Use

Location is always an important factor for any piece of real estate purchase and land is no different. Of course, when considering location it is important to know what you are going to use the land for. Recreational hunting land would obviously have much different requirements than a farm or a homestead. Access to basic utilities like water and electricity is vitally important when considering the location of a property you are looking to purchase. If you are going to live on the property you will need to ensure that land will support a septic system by ordering a perc test to study the drainage capability of the soil, as most rural land will not have access to a public sewer system.

  1. Find an Land Agent

Real estate is a local business. Finding a local expert who knows all the in and outs of the local land market is a must. As well as knowing the basic features and prices of land in the area a knowledge of the local governments and legal practices is critical to making a good purchasing decision and getting the transaction closed.

  1. Get a Survey

You will often find rural land that has never been surveyed. Without a proper land survey you can never actually be certain of the acreage and boundaries of the property. Surveys can be expensive but the knowledge gained is usually well worth it, and if you are financing the purchase then most lenders will require it anyway. If you decide to forgo a survey you will at least want to roughly confirm the acreage and boundaries by walking the land to inspect the boundaries, reviewing the legal description on the title, and examining the county GPS topographical maps.

  1. Understand the Zoning and Easements

Most rural land will be governed by county zoning departments. Zoning codes different greatly from county to county or town to town if you are within a city’s limits. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the current zoning for the land and how that may affect what you are legally allowed to do with the property.

You will need to have a clear understanding of what easements currently exist on the land and how they may affect what can and cannot be done with the property. It is also important to anticipate what easements you made need to request from neighboring property owners for access or utilities.

  1. Price

Of course you will need to understand at what price land is generally going for per acre in the area that you are looking in and what factors may greatly affect that per acre price. Many land sellers will have an over-inflated value of what they think their land is worth. Even if you are willing to pay a little extra for your dream property you should at least know what the average prices are in the area and then make your judgments on what to offer accordingly.

  1. Terrain and Water

Again the topographical GPS maps that most counties provide online are a huge asset to researching the topography and hydrology of any land you are considering to purchase. Topography is something that you want to start by researching on a map but then you will want to walk the property as well. There are many aspects of understanding the lay of the land that are hard to visualize unless you are actually looking at the land in person.

Water in the form of creeks, streams, ponds, flood plains, and wells have a huge impact on what you can feasibly build on the land. You will always want to understand where water is present on the property both on the maps available and by inspecting the land in person.


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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