Will Church Ever Be The Same As A Result of COVID-19?

A Commercial Real Estate Agent’s Perspective

 

Recently, I was asked by a church leader who is responsible for all the land and building acquisitions as well as the dispositions of all of the church properties in the Southeast for a very recognizable and well-respected church denomination if I was seeing any new trends in the world of church real estate as a result of COVID-19?

Here, are some of my insights I shared with him from a commercial real estate agent’s perspective as of 5/27/2020.

Opening the Doors Back Up:

Churches are mixed on deciding to start services back. For example, the church I attend which is a start-up church with an average Sunday attendance of around 175 total, pre-COVID, will be starting back this coming week but no childcare or children’s ministry. Others like two of the churches I attended previously which were well attended pre-COVID with average attendances of about 800 -1000+ in total per Sunday are waiting to start back because they aren’t quite sure what to do about the children. One mega-church pastor I spoke with recently said they likely won’t be starting live services back for another month or so and despite their attendance actually increasing during COVID, online, he did not anticipate that matching in the physical once they open services back up due to many of the reasons I’ll share later in this article. I also spoke with a leader in the Korean Church who also has ministries here in the Southern US and according to him his congregation of 15,000 in South Korea has had a loss of anywhere from 30% to 50% attending their live worship services and he doesn’t foresee there ever being a time in the future that he doesn’t do video streaming of his messages.

Children:

One of the big issues are the kids. And that isn’t because they are more vulnerable to COVID, but rather because they are walking petri dishes with no social distancing comprehension whatsoever. And as a result, are the most likely to pass COVID along if they are carrying it. Honestly, this is the one that is most concerning to me. Both on a personal and professional level.

Personally, despite our church opening our doors next week my family, which includes a 9-year-old extrovert, will likely not attend services for a while until we can feel comfortable around how our church is going to manage the children post-COVID. Hard to imagine social distancing 5-year old’s.

Professionally it concerns me because almost everyone I have talked with who go to church, that have children, and who are in the spectrum of extremely to moderately concerned about COVID, which is about 2/3 of those I have talked with about this issue, are all in either the wait and see camp or a full on not going back to church until there is a cure mode. I recognize that my 66% number is not an official stat but if that number is anywhere near what the real number is of folks with kids that will likely be out of church for a while, we could be in trouble, and the future of church as an institution will likely change forever.

Seniors: 

Then there are seniors. Who knows when they will start coming back to church again? Unless the churches they attend are large with low attendance numbers allowing for lots of social distancing, and also incorporate extreme deep cleaning prodigals, I suspect it could be quite a while before they return in droves.

Tithes and Offerings: 

Interestingly enough, giving has not decreased at the same rate as attendance. A saving grace honestly for churches and their ability to service any debt they may have. One thing is for sure, those churches that had established online giving prior to COVID are faring better than those that hadn’t. I’m concerned though that as the unemployment rates continue to rise, contributions may do the opposite.

It May Never Be the Same:

Unfortunately, at this point, even if we end up learning that COVID is just a bad cold with a death rate of less than .05%, the damage has already been done.

Out of the 5 basic tenants of commercial real estate which includes land development, office, retail, industrial, and multi-family as well as special commercial uses such as senior living, and churches, it appears only the industrial market has been affected minimally. All other aspects of the commercial real estate market have been, and will likely continue to be, affected heavily in a negative way. Office, retail, senior, and churches may never fully recover to the same level they once were without significantly changing their models.

For example, many small, medium and large companies have learned during COVID that work-from-home, works, and that they don’t need as much office space to get the job done. The same goes for retailers. If shoppers didn’t know how to before, they now have become experts at online shopping, and as a result many of those shoppers will have learned a new convenient habit that will keep them home rather than in stores resulting in countless vacant retail shops and malls, even when given the opportunity to return.

What about churches? Will this hiatus from going to church form new habits for parishioners? Such as sleeping in and saving time on Sundays by not going to church as well as saving money not going out to eat afterwards, or, watching church online via Facebook or streaming, or getting together weekly with church friends on Zoom? Will this time away make them rethink the need for going to a building for “church”? Will in-home Small Groups become the sustainable church model? Will church goers have learned to become consumers and church hop virtually for the worship and/or message style they like? Will the lack of help they received from the church during this time taint their view of the need for church, pastors and gathering with friends on Sundays? Will the fear of fellow church members not initially adhering to social distancing cripple attendance recovery?

Will church attendance in church buildings ever be the same? Only time will tell, however, if the answer to that question is no, then churches and even denominations with large church buildings, with the large overhead those buildings and properties produce on a monthly and yearly basis, may find themselves in trouble. Similar to large office and retail building owners.

What to do:

What should churches be doing right now? My personal opinion is to act like any other organization during this time. Unless they have received a direct message from God, they should pray and hope for the best but plan and prepare for the worst.

What does that look like? 1) Cut Expenses: Do an audit of the books monthly and find areas to cut expenses by at least 15% including reducing salaries where possible. 2) Renegotiate: Look at all service contracts, monthly/quarterly/annually bills and see if there is any way to get them reduced. Call all vendors and shave services when and where possible.   3) Adapt/Change: Think pioneer, not homesteader. The world has changed as we know it, whether we like it or not, and the Church must be willing to change with it. This is a time to become fluid and be willing to quickly adapt and not to be stringent and affixed to old plans or the old ways of doing things. And by old, I mean even 4-month-old plans or ways. 4) Be of Service: Be the one throwing the life preserver and not the one bringing others down with you as you drown. Lead with a servant’s heart. Find ways to give in a time of need. Reach out to all your members and simply ask them how you can help. But be willing to actually help them if they ask for something. 5) Be a resource: Many times, you won’t be able to help those that need it yourselves but you’ll know someone you can recommend. If there was ever a time for you to be able to say “I know a guy”, this is it.

But God:

Now, my final thought on all of this, is that despite all of the above, I have observed in my studies of Christianity an interesting phenomenon that when Christians face persecution, famine, plague, etc., they thrive. Pressure forces us to rely on God more, to lean on Him for support, guidance and strength. It draws us closer to Him and each other. So even though the future of the institutional church could appear grim, history has taught us that the church will thrive during a time such as this. It will grow. It will succeed. It will prosper. It just might not look like it once did, and we may just have to learn to be OK with that.

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


The Atlanta Commercial Real Estate Market Faces Uncertainty but Long Term Projections Remain Strong

The economic impact of the global pandemic is being felt in markets around the world. The commercial real estate market in the Atlanta metropolitan area has already experienced immediate changes and will undoubtedly see more to come. This unprecedented event in the modern world has rapidly affected how businesses operate and will likely change market valuations for commercial properties in the months to come. In this article we will take a look at current developments in Georgia and attempt to project potential outcomes for the Atlanta commercial real estate market.

Multifamily

The multifamily sector faces extreme uncertainty amid a national job loss number of 30 million. Many experts predict that loan failures in the commercial real estate market will be led by apartment mortgages deprived of cash flows resulting from a rise in vacancies and suddenly unemployed tenants who have no means to pay rent. Forecasts show a rise in vacancy rates over the next year followed by a 2-3 year recovery. 

Retail

Retail and hospitality industries are expected to take the brunt of the economic fallout from the pandemic. The restaurant industry has been especially hard hit. Garden Fresh, the parent company for Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation decided to permanently close all 97 locations last week, and this will likely be among the first of many restaurants forced into closure. Restaurant owners and management have scrambled to adjust to a delivery and take out only model, and have already made significant labor cuts. Market rent growth in the Atlanta retail market is forecasted to to fall to as low as -8% by early 2021 with a quick one-year rebound to follow. The long-term outlook shows a steady decline in market rent growth after the quick rebound.  

Office

The Atlanta metro office market is currently in a holding pattern, avoiding the big impacts already seen in retail but facing great uncertainty as many office workers are now working from home and it is unclear if businesses will return a majority of these employees to a centralized office setting anytime soon. Limited supply has insulated the Atlanta office market from the worst of the pandemics effects but if this event ignites a long-term shift towards the virtual home office there could be significant changes to the office market as supply would quickly be abundant and in clear need of repurposing. Large office settings would be especially impacted by a long-term shift towards working from home. Office rents in the Atlanta metro market are expected to fall by 7% in 2020, and expect to see shorter lease terms for deals in the coming months. Vacancy rates are forecast to rise while long-term recovery remains unclear.

Industrial

The good news is that WalMart and Amazon have both recently decided to add facilities for distribution and fulfillment in Georgia, but with the pandemic affecting all other sectors it can only be said that cautious optimism remains in the Atlanta industrial market. Although we have yet to see the full economic impact of the pandemic, the industrial sector could remain stronger than other property types going forward due to continued demand for goods and distribution services. However, the possibility of long-term disruption to east coast port traffic could negatively affect the Atlanta industrial sector.

 

In conclusion, while extreme uncertainty exists in the Atlanta Commercial Real Estate market there will be opportunities for savvy investors given that the long-term outlook in most sectors will remain positive after the effects of the pandemic have eased. The Meridian Real Estate Group will continue to monitor local market developments in commercial real estate, and we are ready to help our clients in any way we can during these unprecedented and trying times. 

 

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Atlanta Residential Real Estate Sales Thriving Despite Covid-19  

Coronavirus has temporarily shut nations down, dramatically altered economic landscapes and forced many industries to shift focus, downsize or even close up shop altogether. Yet in Atlanta there is a trend that is significantly different than most of the country as there remains a part of the economy that is still prospering, the residential real estate market. Why? Because as other cities shuttered businesses that were considered non-essential, Realtors in Atlanta petitioned Georgia’s Governor Kemp and Atlanta’s Mayor Bottoms to make sure everyone from agents to appraisers would be able to keep their doors open. According to USA Today, as a result of this coordinated cooperation, Atlanta is one of a rare group of cities that saw real estate listings and new inventory grow in the first week of April compared with the same period a year earlier, a remarkable achievement considering that almost every major metropolitan area in the country saw a sharp drop in those categories over the same period.

The Pivot That Took Place

Necessity is the mother of invention is a modern proverb you are probably familiar with. As the need for changing the rules in buying and selling real estate has become imperative during this unprecedented time, Realtors have been forced to find ways of assisting their buyers and sellers differently than before.

Furnished with gloves, masks and disinfectant for both themselves and their clients, Atlanta real estate agents began showing property in person not too long after other big-city real estate markets had started to take a tumble. Realtors are going to homes ahead of time and turning on all the lights, opening all the doors and manipulating anything else to ensure their buyers won’t have to touch anything. They are also riding separately in cars and foregoing the cultural professional norm of handshakes, hugs or any other physical touch as a greeting.

Georgia Association of Realtors also went a step beyond and worked with attorneys to include a new COVID-19 stipulation in contracts that basically states buyers and sellers can extend deadlines (although not indefinitely) should a coronavirus related event occur to either responsible party. It provides a safety net for both parties that has never existed before.

Catching The Next Wave

The wave of the real estate future was already in progress but the coronavirus has accelerated it to the next level. This wave is of course technology. Realtors are using their smartphones more than ever as Facetime and the like have become prominent showing tools for clients who may not wish to view homes in person. Virtual tours are also quickly becoming more prevalent as they have become more advanced, some even offering 3D technology. Almost every aspect of the homebuying and selling process can now be done virtually with the exceptions of home inspections and appraisals.

All of these aforementioned steps taken have allowed Atlanta real estate to remain strong, and some would contend the market is healthier than ever due to the fact that the buyers who are currently looking are those that are strictly doing so out of necessity. Many sellers are requiring pre-approval letters before allowing a showing and therefore ensuring a ready, willing and able buyer is walking through their door. Additionally, and just as importantly, two other factors come into play; metro Atlanta’s traditionally more affordable median home price compared to other large cities (average $300K) and historic low interest rates (3-4% for a 30 year fixed rate).

First Multiple Listing Service of Georgia reports that through April 1-May 10, Fulton, Cobb and Cherokee Counties have 3,353 active listings, 760 under contract and 2,631 closed. Clearly the Atlanta real estate market is healthy and remains fairly steady. Fears that the global pandemic would collapse Atlanta’s housing market have not come to pass. Not only is this due to the fact that inventory was fairly tight before the country locked down, at around the two-month supply level, but due to the extraordinarily fast and efficient measures undertaken by Georgia real estate professionals.

We Can Help

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

 

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Strong Demand for Warehouses as Retailers Cope with Covid-19

Strong Demand for Warehouses as Retailers Cope with Covid-19

One of the most obvious real estate impacts of COVID-19 has been the heavy hit retail property has been taking. Retail owners were already being described as facing an apocalypse thanks to eCommerce and that was before the new coronavirus swept across the country and began punishing even retailers who were relatively eCommerce-immune.

Losers and winners

The challenge facing retail real estate is matched by the opportunity now present in the industrial property business. Again, this is an acceleration of existing trends. It doesn’t matter whether a retailer sells out of a brick and mortar storefront or via an online shop, the products need to come from somewhere, meaning demand for logistical properties goes up in either case. The comparative growth of eCommerce and omnichannel retailers means particular growth amongst urban last-mile logistics properties, as we discussed in a recent report.

How long will it last?

Against the backdrop of COVID-19, the need for warehouses is only growing thanks to a trend toward inventory growth as retailers try to insulate themselves from consumer hoarding behavior. But what will happen if the nationwide shutdown lasts for many more months? Demand could eventually ebb as weaker retailers fizzle out and their stronger competitors consolidate logistical operations.

Thank you www.propmodo.com for this article. For other great articles, Click Here.

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Home Buying During COVID-19

Spring is upon us, which typically involves a big peak of home buyers checking out properties, negotiating, and closing on new places. But the coronavirus outbreak—with its quarantine measures and economic uncertainties—has many a real estate shopper wondering: Should I buy a home now, or wait?

We’re here to help you navigate this confusing new normal with this series, “Home Buying in the Age of Coronavirus.”

This first installment aims to help you figure out whether you can—and should—shop for a home right now, or hold off until this crisis blows over. Read on for some honest answers that will help you decide what to do.

The impact of the coronavirus on the housing market

So what state is the housing market in right now, anyway? While that depends on how bad an outbreak an area is suffering, most markets are feeling some sort of hit.

“The coronavirus is leading to fewer home buyers searching in the marketplace, as well as some listings being delayed,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®.

However, nearly an equal number of members (45%) said that they believe lower-than-average mortgage rates are tempting buyers to shop around anyway, without any significant overall change in buyer behavior.

For those who are determined to buy a home, there is opportunity out there.

“This is the best buyer’s market I have ever seen in my career,” says Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers and Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.”

“Sellers are nervous, there’s excess supply, and interest rates have been hovering at historic lows. You can own a home for less per month than you can rent an equivalent property in most areas,” he adds.

With fewer home buyers out there looking, you have less competition in your way.

“Unmotivated and uncommitted buyers have dropped off,” adds Maggie Wells, a real estate professional in Lexington, KY. “Less competition is a huge leg up in this market.”

The window of opportunity for buyers won’t stay open wide forever. NAR data shows that there was a housing shortage prior to the outbreak.

“The temporary softening of the real estate market will likely be followed by a strong rebound, once the quarantine is lifted,” says Yun.

This pent-up demand could eventually push home prices higher. That could mean that the time to strike for bargains is now.

Bottom line: If social distancing has made you realize you don’t love the place where you’re currently spending most of your time, it’s a good time to consider buying.

How the housing industry has adapted to keep buyers safe

Although it’s a scary time to be out and about checking out real estate, it is still possible to do so and stay relatively safe. The industry has rapidly adapted, introducing approaches that minimize exposure to the virus.

For instance, many agents are now working remotely and conducting most of their business virtually.

“Buyer and seller consultations have transitioned to virtual meetings with success,” says Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in Boston.

While open houses or showings may not be easy to arrange because of quarantine or other safety issues, real estate listings have stepped up to the plate by offering virtual tours.

“We can send clients videos of whatever properties they want to see, or we are happy to have our agents FaceTime from a property,” says Leslie Turner of Maison Real Estate in Charleston, SC.

While those who are immunocompromised may want to stay home, if you’re otherwise healthy, it is also still possible to see some homes in person in some parts of the country. You’ll want to take some precautions before you go.

“Hand sanitizer at the door has become the norm, as well as shoe covers, even on sunny days,” says Ziegler.

During the tour, it’s also now customary for the listing agent to open all doors, so that home buyers can explore closets and other enclosed spaces without touching anything as they look.

If you do make an offer that’s accepted and you head to the closing table, real estate agents and attorneys are also adapting to remote closings, to keep you out of a crowded conference room. (We’ll provide more information about virtual tours and remote closings in later installments.)

How to weigh economic concerns

Coronavirus aside, anyone thinking about buying a home is also likely to be weighing whether it’s a smart idea when the economy is in a downward spiral. But in the same way you can’t easily time a stock purchase to make a profit, you can’t easily time a home purchase, either.

“Recession or not, it’s impossible to time the market, whether for buying stock or buying real estate,” says Roger Ma, a New York–based financial planner and owner of lifelaidout.

Just keep in mind that while current market conditions offer an incredible opportunity for home buyers to lock in historically low interest rates for a mortgage, rates are actually going up quickly, because so many people are refinancing.

If you wait too long to buy, you may miss the money-saving boat. So make sure to read up on the latest mortgage rates first.

Besides mortgage rates, home buyers are probably wondering about the stability of their income, as fear of layoffs loom.

“We are entering uncharted territory,” says Michael Zschunke, a real estate agent in Scottsdale, AZ.

On the flip side, putting a property under contract now and locking in a low interest rate gives a buyer some control at a time of relative uncertainty, adds Turner.

The takeaway from all this? It matters more than ever to get a pre-approved mortgage, to calculate your home-buying budget accurately.

If you’re worried about layoffs, you should buy a home well under budget so you have enough money left over for closing costs, home maintenance, and a rainy day fund. Now is the time to crunch your numbers more carefully than ever before. Below is what you need to consider.

  • Research ways to reduce your closing costs. For instance, many loans allow sellers to contribute up to 6% of the sale price to the buyer as a closing-cost credit.
  • Figure out how much you need to set aside for yearly home maintenance and repairs. A smart budget is to have between 1% and 4% of the purchase price of your home.
  • Be sure to put aside an emergency nest egg for unexpected repairs. On average, it’s a good idea to sock away 1% to 3% of a home’s value in cash reserves.

Than you to Realtor.com for this article. For other great articles, Click Here. 

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Commercial Real Estate Land Investments

Real estate is a great way to make money if you play your cards right. It all depends on what kind of real estate you invest in. While times are uncertain right now, certain rules stay the same and you can still come out ahead.

Why Invest in Commercial Land

There are many different ways to invest in real estate. In residential real estate you can fix and flip houses or buy them as rental properties. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you can buy apartment buildings and multifamily housing units. And if you are more ambitious still and have the foresight and resources to make the right moves, you can make a lot of money on vacant commercial land.

A prime example of this is revealed every time you drive by a new Dollar General, the yellow signs seem to be springing up everywhere. Just think of all the folks who recently made a profit selling commercial land to this company. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the right property in your pocket to sell at the right time?

Profit aside, vacant commercial land has some specific advantages to it that make it all the more attractive from an investment perspective.

For one thing, holding onto vacant commercial land is tax-efficient. You’ll have comparatively lower taxes compared to buying actual buildings which are taxed more heavily. Having a lighter tax load makes a big difference in property investment, an arena where one of the biggest risks is overleveraging and falling behind the cost of maintenance before a property sells.

On that note, that’s another reason why vacant commercial land can be a superior investment. You won’t have to pay to keep an entire building and it’s exterior, including landscaping and parking lot, maintained if for example you had bought an apartment complex. The added responsibilities quickly become expensive, especially in older buildings where problems are more frequent and invariably more expensive to fix than in newer buildings.

The Importance of Building a Portfolio with Land

If you are serious about investing in real estate and want to maximize your potential profits, it would be in your interest to add vacant commercial land to your portfolio. The beauty of having a portfolio is that it will pay off more as you go along. For example, you might only be able to afford one or two pieces of land or properties in the beginning. Once you’ve sold them you can pocket a tidy sum for yourself and reinvest the remaining sum into the purchase of additional properties. The more properties you sell, the more you can buy each time around. Or you can wait until your capital is more robust before investing larger amounts into more valuable properties, the ones that may have been too expensive to act on when you started out.

One of the most appealing aspects of land as an investment is that it is a finite resource. The fact that there is a limit on how much commercial land is actually available at any given time works in your favor as an investor. You can turn the supply limitations of land to your advantage with spectacular results in the right areas where prices can be expected to spike over time.

Investing in vacant commercial land is a smart move, especially during a buyer’s market with falling prices.

Partner with a Real Estate Company You Can Trust

While you can do your own market research before making a purchasing decision, it’s always wise to consult with an experienced real estate professional familiar with potential values of commercial land in the area.

The Meridian Real Estate Group has well over a decade of expertise in investment land transactions. We are a full service real estate team that can handle smaller single investments to larger tracts of land including assemblages. Land deals require specialized proficiency that most residential agents don’t have, however with our years of knowledge and experience you can be assured we will guide and represent you successfully. Contact us today at 678-631-1723 to get your process of investing in land started. We look forward to serving you.

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Why You Should Invest in Residential Land

It’s always smart to invest in the right product at the right time and real estate is no exception. But during this unprecedented time of COVID-19, should you stop investing in real estate? Or would now be a time to leverage the market to your advantage?

Why is Land a Good Investment Now?

While the real estate market might seem uncertain right now, you can actually capitalize on that uncertainty and make a tidy profit. As COVID-19 continues to press the pause button on many parts of our economy, property prices are going down. That means that while it’s not an ideal time to sell, it’s a great time to buy!

Successful real estate investors and entrepreneurs know how to look ahead of a crisis and turn it into an opportunity. First and foremost, it’s vital that you interpret the COVID-19 pandemic as temporary. Although prices on vacant land are down right now, they’re bound to shoot right back up again in time. Now is a unique opportunity to purchase land parcels from sellers who may be more interested in liquidating for cash than holding onto their properties for long term gain. After the market adjusts, you’ll then be able to sell at a higher price.

Benefits of Investing in Land

Keep in mind that as time goes on, vacant land becomes an increasingly limited resource which illustrates the basic economic principle of supply and demand. As supply is reduced, demand for a desirable product or resource will increase which means if the opportunity affords itself, making a smart investment in land will be to your benefit. Buy low and sell high, that’s the key to making money off of investing in anything. When buying residential land, you should buy strategically. Conferring with an experienced real estate firm is arguably one of the best ways to develop an effective buying strategy for investing in any type of property, especially land.

Another reason why vacant residential property is advantageous from an investment perspective is that unimproved land requires little maintenance. If you invest in residential homes, you will be faced with significant expenses and responsibilities as you will have to keep them maintained. Typical maintenance responsibilities for residential homes include lawn care, roofing, plumbing, heating, etc. When you buy vacant land, you aren’t bogged down with so many additional responsibilities.

Vacant land can be a great investment for the right person but before you go out and buy yourself a piece of property, you need to know what to look for. Is the area likely to experience growth or higher prices in the near future? What is the surrounding zoning? Are there any environmental concerns you should be aware of? What about ease of utility and sewer access? Are there plans for expanding roads or adding exits to highways nearby? An experienced real estate agent will be able to help you answer those questions and more. With proper due diligence, your investment will have a much higher chance of paying off.  

Know How to Play It

Investing in real estate takes a lot of capital. Whether you’re raising the capital yourself or financing it, you should know how to play your cards right before you get into the game.

In order to play your cards right you’ll need to know when to buy, when to hold, and when to sell. COVID-19 is making an impact on all three of those factors. Currently if you own vacant residential land it would be prudent to hold until the market recovers unless of course your goal is to obtain liquid assets. If that’s the case, cashing out now before the market is potentially saturated would be a wise decision.

Presently, it’s a favorable time to buy for long term investment. If you can invest and hold, you can make a lot of money off of buying vacant land now and selling it later. The amount of money you can make is limited only by your imagination and access to credit, capital, or both. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should always consult with a reliable real estate firm when making large investment decisions such as this.

Partner with a Real Estate Company You Can Trust

The Meridian Real Estate Group has well over a decade of expertise in investment land transactions. We are a full service real estate team that can handle smaller single investments to larger tracts of land including assemblages. Land deals require specialized proficiency that most residential agents don’t have, however with our years of knowledge and experience you can be assured we will guide and represent you effectively. Contact us today at 678-631-1723 to get your process of investing in land started. We look forward to serving you.

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


12 Reasons Why Buying Land is a Great Investment

Why Invest in Land? Is Buying Land a Good Investment? Should I Be Investing in Land?

Investing in land and buying land is not a well-understood concept. Most people don’t know for sure how land buying works. And even fewer people understand how investing in land is a smart strategic move for diversifying your portfolio. You don’t want to be one of these people.

There are lots of people who have never even considered buying land. You could find yourself asking “Is buying land a good investment?”. Understandably so – people aren’t always willing to play outside the box when it comes to their money. I’m not saying that buying land is the ‘be all end all’ of investing, but you should definitely be open to including it in your portfolio.

You owe it to yourself to at least be educated about the different types of real estate investing. Most of you are familiar with the fancier and more glamorous real estate methods. House flipping and home renovation shows take over TV channels. Robert Kiyosaki made townhomes and other building investments look easy.

No one is talking about why land is a great investment. That presents you with an opportunity. These 12 reasons will convince you that land is a fantastic investment, and will make you want to put your money in the dirt – literally.

1.  Land is a Finite Resource

No one is making any more land! I know Elon is out there trying to populate Mars, but as of the 21st century, the country lines are pretty well drawn. We’ve got a set amount of land in the USA. Buildings can be replaced and demolished, whereas land is a valuable and finite resource, with only limited quantities available.

I love the quote below. I know it’s overused in the land niche, but it’s true – forgive me if you’ve read it dozens of times already.

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.

— Mark Twain, Writer

2. Land Gives You Peace of Mind

Land is the well-behaved, ‘golden child’ of investing. Land can’t be stolen or destroyed. No extra effort from you is required. There’s nothing to protect, maintain, or renovate. There’s nothing to ‘do’. Land in its natural state will always be worth something!

A key component to investing in land is to buy a property that can have something ‘done’ to it one day (e.g. suitable for building or housing). This will make sure you have no maintenance to “do” now, but your land will be worth something in the future.

3. Land is a Tangible Resource

Land cannot vanish or disappear like shares or stocks. If tomorrow the world decided that money was just a useless piece of paper and has no value, land will still be something. It will be something tangible and physical that is yours, regardless of what the global economic situation is. Currency and monetary values may change, but ownership does not.

4. Land has Low Competition

In this real estate niche, there’s low competition. Most people (especially those with a lot of investment capital) are focused on the shiny and glamorous aspects of real estate investing – condo buildings, developments, house flipping, multi-units. It’s not their fault, almost everyone is focused there.

These methodologies sell-out conferences and consume TV channels all across the country. But sometimes to win, you have to be where others aren’t.

5. Land is Inexpensive to Own

Land is inexpensive to own over time. There are no mortgage payments or utility bills. There are no extra charges for the best internet package. No roof needs to be replaced.

Property insurance is not required, even if you do decide to purchase it’s minimal. Property taxes are minimal – I’ve seen lots with property taxes of $3/year. THREE DOLLARS! That’s less than a cup of coffee. Your asset sits quietly in the background, costing you almost nothing and silently increasing in value.

6. Land has No Government Implications

When purchasing and investing in land, there are no risky government legislations that owners have to pay attention to. The Dodd-Frank [introduced by Obama in 2010, as a response to a massive economic downturn in the U.S.] applies heavy rules to real estate but does not apply to vacant land.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act) [introduced in 2008, as a response to the mortgage crisis at that time] does not apply to transactions only dealing with vacant land. No legal implications to worry about. No need to hire lawyers or paralegals to help you meet government requirements.

Disclaimer: We are not lawyers! By reading this article, we are not giving you financial or legal advice. We have shared our interpretation of constitutions such as the Dodd-Frank and SAFE acts. These views should not be the sole source of information before performing a transaction, we still encourage you to discuss potential transactions with an attorney. 

7. Land is Great to Hold Long-Term

Land investing is not for the faint of heart or someone looking to make a quick flip and create immediate income. It’s for someone with no immediate plans to develop their property.

It’s for the patient, smart investor, someone who is willing to hold for the long-term or pass it on as a legacy. It’s for the investor who is 10 – 15 years from retirement, who want to diversify their portfolio.

Land is a smart long-term hold, allowing you to win the benefits of rising values. Especially if you buy in an area that’s due to expand and grow.

8. Land Increases in Value

Land is less costly to buy than developed real estate, simply because there’s nothing there (obvious, right?). There are no improvements or additions to it that make it more valuable.

You can purchase a valuable and quality piece of land for less than $1,000. If you do your due diligence properly and make sure that the piece of land is in a path of growth, it could be supremely attractive to future developers. You could sell that property for as much as x5 or even x10 what you bought it for! That is some easy profit!

9. Land is Easy to Purchase

When purchasing land, you don’t need to rely on an expensive bank loan or mortgage with unfair and high-interest rates. You might not need to take out any loan at all. Most of the time, if it’s a private sale, you don’t even need to get a credit check! A lot of private sellers, like myself and my company, Compass Land USA, offer affordable financing plans that make it easy to buy land on any budget.

And you can almost always pay cash for land. Land is very easy to purchase, and for the most part, you can buy when and wherever in the U.S. you want.

10. There’s Lots of Land Available

Many vacant landowners are willing to sell. Often times people bought a property that they had big plans for and never got around to, or maybe it was inherited and they didn’t really want it to begin with. Maybe they’ve experienced trauma recently and are looking to simplify their lives. Maybe they just want some cash.

Or perhaps the owner lives out of state, and they have no emotional connection to the lot. Combine that with low niche competition, and you’ve come across a well-kept investing secret with high availability. You take your pick of the crop!

11. Land is Easy to Buy

Land buying is simple. Like most things these days, the entire process can usually be done remotely – all online. This is a very attractive quality! If you live in Tennessee and wanted to invest in California property, you don’t need to travel the 2,000 miles to get there. You simply give the owner a call or email and discuss it from there. You can get everything done with your cell phone from the couch!

It’s a simple process that allows you to sign documents online and send money electronically. In some counties, you can even record deed transfers online. So easy! At Compass Land USA, we make it simple and safe for you to buy land. And we cover all closings costs. One less thing for you to worry about in an already easy process.

12. Land Gives You Freedom

Freedom! Land gives you the opportunity to be creative and mold property how you want. You can hold it for a lifetime and leave it as part of an inheritance. You can purchase land, save up some money and hold it for a decade, and then build your dream home! Or you can create your own golf course, paintball arena, dirt bike track, there are endless opportunities!

If you need inspiration, check out this list of 44 creative ways you can use land. Some of them are very unique.

Your Bottom Line on Why Buying Land is a Good Investment

Investing in land isn’t just for the rich and the famous, the Rockefellers and Kiyosakis of the world – it’s for everyone! You’ve done yourself a huge favor by taking the time to educate yourself and learn why land is a fantastic investment.

Land is a tangible, finite resource that is easy to purchase. Land requires no maintenance and is less expensive than other real estate facets, especially to own over a long period of time. Land ownership requires no additional work from you, leaving you with peace of mind. This real estate niche has low competition, and is just waiting for you to get involved!

At Compass Land USA, I work with you to help you find and buy land on any budget. We have a safe and simple purchasing process, and everything can be done completely online.

If you want to learn more about how you buy land, or if you’re looking for property to invest in, leave me a comment below. I’d love to help you. Here’s to your land ownership!

Shoutout to www.compasslandusa.com. If you are interested in similar content, make sure to check out their website.

 

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


What’s Happening with WeWork after SoftBank Pulls its Funding?

Here’s a great article for one of our favorite Commercial Real Estate news sources Propmodo.com on what’s happening with WeWork after SoftBank pulls its funding due to “unfulfilled conditions”.

SoftBank Pulls WeWork Funding for “Unfulfilled Conditions”

As part of the aftermath of the failed WeWork IPO, their biggest investors (in both size and profile) SoftBank committed $3 billion to help keep the company afloat and cash out early investors, including the founder Adam Neumann. Now, SoftBank has pulled out of that commitment citing unfulfilled conditions such as failure to get antitrust approval by April 1, 2020. This has put the company’s future in question even as its Chairman Marcelo Claure recently said that they had $1.3 billion in cash and were prepared to weather the extended closures from the COVID-19 response.

The Hits Keep Coming

The news of SoftBank’s change of plans has bounced around the media and has now been spun as Adam Neumann’s personal loss. While this is definitely one outcome of this turn of events, it is certainly not the only one. Like many startups, early employees were compensated in stock (I am tempted to call them stock options but for most startups they are anything but optional). This means that many people who have been expecting to get paid for their work will have to wait longer for their equity to be worth anything that is remotely considered fungible. This will inevitably make the recent WeWork layoffs even harder for some at a very hard time.

 

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Residential Real Estate Pricing and Online Presence

Residential Real Estate: Pricing and Online Presence

When getting ready to list your residential property in the real estate market, there are a few things that you should implement in order to sell your home quickly and for the highest price. For starters, you need to ensure that you set a proper and accurate price for your home. Homes that are priced too high will languish on the market causing agents and buyers to steer clear. Additionally, you will need to market your home with proper staging and the best photographs possible for the most impactful online presence.

Competitive Listing Price

Setting the price for a residential property can be a daunting experience for any seller, as the majority are not experts at gauging the real estate market nor is it easy to see a realistic value in personal homes as there can be emotional attachment involved. Some property owners are even willing to test the waters by intentionally overpricing their homes in the hopes they will attract a buyer regardless. Although the urge to set a higher price in order to leave space for negotiations can be tempting, there is ample evidence that shows this strategy doesn’t work and can actually delay the home selling far longer than anticipated.

The price you set for your home can determine whether it sells quickly or lingers on the market for months or even years. In today’s real estate climate, buyers are equipped with excellent online research skills, and they can smell an incorrectly priced property from a distance. They can sift through websites and compare similar properties in a given area. In today’s market, a home is likely to gain the most exposure and momentum in the first week of its listing, possibly even promoting a bidding war. After the eleventh day, the possibility of getting an offer will drastically reduce. Incorrect valuation of your property will likely make it stay longer on the market, something that might lead to you missing out on ready, willing and able buyers who may have submitted offers in the first two weeks of listing.

And as the days go by, buyers who view your listing and see it on the market for months will think there is something wrong with it, not just the price. This is a feeling that can persist even if you organize an open house for them to inspect the home. This is what is referred to as ‘stale bread effect’. Buyers don’t want something that has stayed too long on the shelves; they are attracted by fresh items that have joined the queue. With buyers having the impression that something is amiss they’ll start downward bidding, something that could have been avoided with the correct listing price, and you may even be forced to sell the home for below-market pricing.

Photos And Staging

Besides accurate and competitive pricing, real estate listing photos of a clutter-free and properly staged home will also have a significant effect on a home sale. With more than 90 percent of home buyers using the internet as part of their home search, it makes economic sense to have professional photos when listing a property.

The first impression you give a potential buyer is essential. If your listing images are poor quality and not appealing to the homebuyer, they will possibly scroll to the next option. Exciting property photos will instill a positive emotion and affect the buyer’s perception of the home before viewing it in person. And since emotion is one of the most prominent triggers for buyers, you should utilize it to your advantage by striving for excellence and getting creative with the listing photos. Cell phone cameras should never be used in lieu of a professional camera. Likewise professional lighting and video drones are highly recommended for homes in higher price points to gain the most advantage online. A professional photographer specializing in real estate is often a marketing cost well worth spent.

In addition to a high end camera or even a professional photographer for visually compelling images, it is also imperative to have proper staging of your home. Since the goal is to appeal to the homebuyer’s emotions, you need to include details that help them envision living there. A poorly furnished house won’t do that, nor will personal photos and items. One of the easiest DIY’s in this scenario is to declutter. Declutter, declutter, declutter. Look online for ideas of how to stage homes and tips on how to rearrange rooms, and/or use objects and pops of color to make your house feel professionally staged.

We Can Help

In the current real estate market, serious buyers are looking for properties that are priced in line with market conditions. Additionally, they don’t want to see dull and unprofessionally captured photos. They want to envision themselves living in the homes that are displayed on the listing websites. The Meridian Real Estate Group can help you in accurately pricing your home and providing you with the strongest online image possible. We specialize in residential real estate; from starter homes to luxury homes, from secondary residences to investment properties, we can help serve all of your real estate needs.

 

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Commercial Zoning: Processes, Impacts and Considerations

If you are an investor in the real estate market, you may be familiar with the term zoning.  Before leasing or buying a commercial real estate asset, investors are advised to ensure that property is zoned in a way that will resonate with their future goals and needs. For those unfamiliar with what zoning is, it is the process of segmenting and designating land to various uses. It also involves regulating other elements that are critical to real estate such as design, height, and density in some places.

Commercial zoning includes ordinances that regulate commercial structures such as shopping centers, apartment buildings, and office parks, among others.  The purpose of zoning is to specify what type of businesses can reside in a given area, the type of building that can be erected, and how it will be utilized. The zoning bylaws and regulations vary from one state or city to the next.  When buying a property, you should make sure that you are abreast with the updated zoning by laws for any given location in order to avoid future disappointments.

Impacts of Zoning on Your Property

When zoning is changed from one type of property to the next, it can impact your real estate investment. For example if a property is changed from commercial to residential zoning, the value of your property will plummet and lead to massive losses. However, if the reverse happens, the value of the property may increase dramatically. Additionally, banks and lenders may also have some policies which don’t favor the kind of loan you want to acquire when zoning a property. At times the municipality or state can institute a conditional zoning requirement, which can either affect your property either positively or negatively.

Understanding the impacts zoning regulations will affect your transaction can help you make an informed decision. You also need to know the steps to follow if you want to rezone the property.

The Process of Rezoning a Property

At times, investors may feel the need to rezone their properties. They need to understand what steps to follow in order to complete this potentially detailed process.  In the state of Georgia, most of the zoning decisions are handled locally.

The Zoning Ordinance in Georgia requires that you attend three meetings before you submit a Special Use Permit or Rezoning Application.

The first meeting involves the property owner or representative, and a member(s) of the Planning and Zoning Department. Here you will discuss the rezoning process, make your application, and review it together. You’ll have to explain the intended use of the property and the plan you have in place to achieve this. The Planning and Zoning Department will then determine whether your project is consistent with the area’s comprehensive plan.

Next is to attend the preliminary review meeting with the Plan Approval team. Here, you’ll discuss how new development regulations may affect the project. You’ll try to uncover significant technical hurdles and cost items.

The third step is the Community and Input Meeting, which involves the surrounding property owners and interested parties. Here, you’ll seek to know how your neighbors feel about your application.

Once the three meetings are complete, all county departments will review your application to determine whether it is feasible. They will also seek to understand if the project aligns with state and county ordinances.  If the form is complete, it will be placed on the agenda for the upcoming Planning Commission Public Hearing. The application will then be publicized so that interested parties can attend the hearing.

During the public hearing, the Planning Commission will allow the public to make their inputs, after which they’ll send a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners. The board will evaluate the proposals and act accordingly, either by approving, approving with conditions, postponing, or disapproving the application.

Should You Rezone Your Commercial Property Before Listing?

Rezoning a property can be a lucrative experience for property investors. However, it is never a smart idea to rezone a property before listing if it’s based on rumor and speculation. This is because the whole process is expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, if your plan doesn’t meet zoning requirements, it might slow down the process of actually selling your property.

However, if you conduct a thorough due diligence in your research and feel confident that rezoning will lead to a more profitable outcome, you may wish to proceed with it.

Zoning Considerations When Buying a Commercial Property  

When buying a commercial property, you need to examine the current zoning of your potential investment carefully. It would be best if you identify what uses are deemed to be acceptable and unacceptable. Be sure to survey the surrounding properties and seek to know how other property owners in the region intend to use theirs in the coming years. You may identify a property that enjoys scenic views of the sunset, only to learn later that space in between is zoned for storied, heavy metal industry.

You also need to check out design and overlay restrictions. Properties on floodplains and swamps can have limitations. The presence of endangered species or anthropological sites near the property can also have strict regulations put in place to discourage property development.

Also, consider all aspects relating to the future of the area where your property is located. Visualize the property in the next 10 years. Is the city planning to build a highway behind your property? Or a fire department on the lot next door? If so, how will these changes affect your property? Though some of these things are hard to predict with certainty, an area’s Comprehensive Plan may provide a few insights about future development activities.

We Can Help

Obviously there are many factors to consider when investing in commercial real estate and the details and processes can seem overwhelming. We can assist you through every step of the way and have a proven track record of helping investors realize their dream. The Meridian Real Estate Group is a full service commercial real estate team. We service all of the main divisions of commercial real estate including Office, Industrial, Retail, Multifamily, and Land. We are experts in the process of land assemblage for large commercial land development projects as well. Let us assist you in finding commercial property for lease for your business or finding tenants to lease your existing commercial property. Our mission is to provide the highest level of service for all of our commercial clients and to aid investors in finding properties and negotiating deals to build a lasting commercial real estate legacy.

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Understanding The Basics Of Commercial Lending

Understanding the Basics of Commercial Lending

Purchasing a property for commercial purposes is an investment that can be financially rewarding above all other real estate transactions. However, it is an endeavor that needs lots of cash.  And even though it is a lucrative investment that can generate generous monthly cash flow, it is a daunting task to build wealth in commercial real estate without an abundance of funds. This is where commercial real estate loans come in handy.  As an investor, learning the ropes of commercial real estate financing can help you seek the best rates and terms for your enterprise.

What is a Commercial Real Estate Loan, and How Does it Work?

As you may know, commercial real estate is property that is used to generate income. As such, a commercial property loan is a type of financing that is specifically designed to help you purchase a property that is purposely designated for business. A commercial real estate property may include any of the following:

  • Manufacturing industrial properties
  • Office spaces
  • Retail spaces
  • Special-use properties, such as self-storage facilities and car washes, among others.

Now that we understand that real estate loans are those that help you cover the high costs associated with purchasing a business property, how do they work?

Typically, commercial real estate lenders provide loans that are secured by liens of the property being purchased.  This means that if an investor is unable to service the loan, the lender has the legal right to seize the property. Additionally, some lenders require that you make a downpayment on the loan you are asking for. A significant number of commercial real estate lenders require that you make a downpayment of between 20-30% of the property’s buying price.

Application Process/Time Frame

When getting ready to apply for a real estate loan, there are a few things that you need to put in order.

For starters, since a solid credit score is vital for this process, you should ensure that your financial ducks are in a row. Make sure that your credit score is at the minimum above 680. Ascertain that it doesn’t contain recent bankruptcies, foreclosures, and tax liens.   A low credit score can spell doom for your loan application process.

Another important thing is to have a clear and detailed business plan. Lenders will intensely scrutinize what you intend to do with the property once you buy it. Have a clear outline of how you will utilize the property and a carefully thought out forecast of anticipated cash flow. Having the business entity set up before you actually fill out the application can make a huge difference.

Additionally, you need to tidy up your paperwork and ensure that it doesn’t contain things that may appear as red flags. Conveying a sense of preparedness will go a long way and something as simple as organized paperwork may be a determiner of whether you will get that commercial real estate loan or not.

How Long Does it Take to Get the Loan?

For most lenders, they estimate that the loan approval process should take about 30-45 days. However, experience dictates that most commercial mortgages take from 45 to 120 days to appraise the loan, but this doesn’t mean you won’t find exceptions. Nonetheless, if you are on a timeline, it is critical to understand that the process can take longer than expected.

Cash Flow Factors

As an investor, you should also understand other cash-flow factors that lenders consider when it comes to commercial real estate loans.

  1. Loan-To-Value (LTV) Ratio

Since commercial real estate loans don’t have private mortgage insurance, lenders usually use the property being bought as the collateral. Therefore, lenders largely depend on the loan-to-value ratio (LTV).  This calculates the value of the loan against the appraised value of the property.

 Loan-To-Value (LTV) = Mortgage Amount (MA)/Appraised Property Value (APV)

When the LTV is too high, lenders may not be willing to give you a loan as they view it as too risky. Typically, viable commercial real estate loans are those that have an LTV ratio ranging from 65-80%. Additionally, the LTV ratio is used by commercial lenders to determine the interest rate you’ll pay.

  1. Debt-Service Coverage Ratio

Another essential aspect that commercial lenders consider when offering commercial real estate loans is the debt-service coverage ratio (DSCR). To get this ratio, lenders divide the annual net operating income from a property by its annual mortgage debt service (principal and interest payments).

Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) = Net Operating Income/Total Debt Service

A DSCR of 1 or more indicates a positive cash flow. A ratio below 1 indicates a negative cash flow. Generally, commercial lenders usually require that a property should have a DSCR of 1.25 and above.  However, some lenders may accept a lower DSCR if they offer loans with a shorter amortization, or find out that the prospective properties have a stable cash flow.

  1. Fees

Commercial real estate loans also come with other charges besides the interest rate. You must be aware of the upfront fees that you are required to pay when getting a commercial loan. They include legal cost, property appraisal, loan origination, loan application, and survey fees. While some lenders may ask you to pay the fees upfront, others will bill them annually.

Commercial Loan Repayment Terms and Schedule

Commercial real estate loans are not like residential mortgages, which are often paid in regular installments over a fixed period. They come in two terms:

  • Intermediate-term loans of 3 years or less
  • Long-term loans that last for 5 to 20 years

The loans can also be classified as amortized or balloon loans. Amortized loans are paid in installment plus the interest until the full amount is recovered. On the other hand, balloon loans require you to make fixed monthly payments for some years and then pay in a lump sum to clear the remaining principal when the provided loan period expires.

The Meridian Real Estate Group Can Help

As you can see there are multiple factors that play a part in obtaining a loan for commercial real estate as well as many other components that are involved both before and after the loan process. If you’re an investor wanting to embark on this potentially lucrative journey, we can help. The Meridian Real Estate Group is a full service commercial real estate team servicing all of the main divisions of commercial real estate including Office, Industrial, Retail, Multifamily, and Land. We are also highly experienced in the process of land assemblage for large commercial land development projects. In addition, we can assist in finding commercial property for lease for your business or finding tenants to lease your existing commercial property. Our mission is to provide the highest level of service for all of our commercial clients and to aid investors in finding properties and negotiating deals to build a lasting commercial real estate legacy.

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Getting the Most Out of Your VA Loan Benefits

As a U.S. Veteran, you are entitled to special privileges when it comes to financing. With a VA loan, you can buy the home of your dreams and live comfortably. Many Veterans are relatively unfamiliar with VA loans, how they work, and what they can get out of them. Here is what every Veteran should know about how to get the most out of your VA loan benefits. 

Introduction to VA Loans

One of the first things you should know about VA loans is that the application rate is very low. 

Only 6% of the 21 million Veterans living in the United States take advantage of VA loans to buy a home. That means that there’s a lot of opportunity out there for Veterans looking for financing from the VA. The application rate is exceptionally low mostly because so many Veterans don’t know how to leverage VA loans.  

Blue Water Navy Act

In the Blue Water Navy Act, Congress authorized the following changes to the VA Home Loan benefit beginning on January 1, 2020, for ALL eligible Veterans. The Blue Water Navy Act introduced a number of significant modifications that are largely beneficial to Veterans seeking financing through VA loans. 

Here is a breakdown of these changes, what they mean, and how they will affect you as a Veteran.

What to Know About the VA Loan Funding Fee Change

At this time, there is a temporary change to the VA Funding Fee, which is a congressionally mandated fee associated with the VA Home Loan. Veterans and Servicemembers will see a slight increase of 0.15 to 0.30% in their funding fee (currently for two years), while National Guard and Reserve members will see a slight decrease in their fee to align with the fee paid by ‘Regular Military’ borrowers (permanent). 

Veterans with service-connected disabilities, some surviving spouses, and other potential borrowers are exempt from the VA loan funding fee and will not be impacted by this change.

Overall, the VA loan funding fee change is relatively fair as it rewards injured Veterans and members of the National Guard Reserve. While the fee was increased for uninjured Veterans and Servicemembers, the increase is nominal and should not have a large impact on their ability to secure financing through VA loans. 

How Purple Heart Recipients Can Save Money on a VA Loan

If you are an active-duty Servicemember who has earned a Purple Heart, your funding fee can be waived if you close on your home while still serving on active duty. This is perhaps one of the most significant changes to VA Home Loan programs. 

Earning a Purple Heart represents a great honor and sacrifice. It is only fitting that Veterans with a Purple Heart are honored with easier access to financing a home.  

Conforming Loan Limits

Another thing you should know is that there have been beneficial changes made to conforming loan limits that will give Veterans greater access when using their no-down-payment home loan benefits. Veterans seeking to obtain what is commonly referred to as a “jumbo” loan, or Veterans living in higher-cost markets, will no longer be subject to the Federally-established conforming loan limit maximums. 

After January 1, Veterans may obtain no-down-payment VA-backed loans in all areas of the country, regardless of home prices. The benefits of this will be huge as it means you won’t have to save up for a down payment. 

The down payment for expensive homes can be substantial and even act as a barrier that prevents folks from going after the home that they really want. By using a no-down payment loan and taking advantage of the changes to conforming loan limits that took effect after January 1st, Veterans can rest easy. You will have a wider range of options when house hunting and a higher chance of being able to finance the home of your dreams rather than having to settle for less. Let’s face it, Veterans deserve the best.    

Advantages of VA Loans

There are several great advantages to financing your home with a VA loan. First, there is no requirement for monthly mortgage insurance on a VA loan which means you’ll save a lot of money on your payments. 

The interest rates on VA loans are much lower than what you’d be paying if you applied for a conventional mortgage. 

The credit requirements to qualify for VA loans are exceptionally low which helps Veterans gain access to financing that would have been denied to them otherwise. 

Finally, VA loans offer special protections to Veterans that make it difficult to induce foreclosure. That added foreclosure avoidance protection helps Veterans keep their homes after working so hard to acquire them. 

The Meridian Real Estate Group Is Here to Help

As you can see, Veterans can be well served by participating in this unique and specialized loan program. Let The Meridian Real Estate Group assist you in navigating VA loan requirements and procedures to ensure you get the most out of your VA Loan. We look forward to making your dream homeownership a reality.

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Filing For Homestead Exemption in 2020

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, 2020            678-493-6120

Clayton County – deadline is April 1, 2020               770-477-3311

Cobb County – deadline is April 1, 2020                  770-528-8600

DeKalb County – deadline is April 1, 2020               404-298-4000

Douglas County – deadline is April 1, 2020             770-920-7272

Fayette County – deadline is April 1, 2020               770-461-3652

Forsyth County – deadline is April 1, 2020              770-781-2106

Fulton County – deadline is April 1, 2020               404-612-6440

Gwinnett County – deadline is April 1, 2020           770-822-8800

Henry County – deadline is April 1, 2020                 770-288-8180

Paulding County – deadline is April 1, 2020            770-443-7581

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.

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


What are Real Estate Experts Predicting for 2020 and This Upcoming Decade?

2020 not only brings a new year but a new decade. There’s, of course, no way to know exactly what the next decade will bring, but real estate experts have made their predictions for what the housing market could look like in this next year –

Here’s a great blog post from one of our preferred closing attorney’s Perrie & Associates, LLC about real estate trends moving into this next decade.

Mortgage Median

Mortgage rates are expected to stay at their low rate for most of 2020, according to Forbes and data from Freddie Mac. Current rates are at 3.75% and are expected to remain between 3.7% and 3.9%. Realtor.com’s 2020 Housing Report supports this, predicting that the year will end with rates at 3.88%. Ben Lane with HousingWire says this rate will make 2020 a popular year for refinancing. In 2019, reports showed that it was the best year for refis since 2016, and Freddie Mac experts are predicting $834 billion in refinance originations in 2020. The low rates will benefit home buyers as well, with Freddie Mac predicting $1.299 trillion in purchase originations to start the new decade. Sean Hundtofte, with chief economist with lender Better.com, told Forbes this will allow homebuyers to “be able to afford more house than they would have otherwise.”

Price Point

According to the chief economist at Realtor.com Danielle Hale, the price will be the major selling point for 2020. “Many people would prefer to live in the San Francisco’s and other big cities, but for the right price they will make the decision to go to another city,” she said. Forbes says home prices are expected to rise because of inventory shortages and high demand. Experts are predicting prices to rise 5.6% by September of 2020, and the lower-end of price ranges will be hit hardest due to a lack of new starter homes. Ralph DeFranco, chief economist for Archer AMI told Forbes, “low-interest rates and a shortage of starter homes will continue to push up prices. This is especially the case for lower price points, since builders have tended to focus on more expensive, higher-profit houses and less on replenishing low inventories of entry-level homes.”

Millennial Movers 

A large portion of millennials will be turning 30 in 2020 – the prime age to buy a first home, according to Realtor.com, and the oldest millennial will be turning only 39. Therefore, this generation will dominate the market. According to Hale, millennials will hold more than 50% of mortgages by mid-2020, and despite the belief that the generation doesn’t want to settle down, many are at the age where they have started having families and are ready to establish roots. However, these potential buyers will face many difficulties, as older generations are choosing to remain in place, keeping many homes off the market. This is pushing millennials to “Hipsturbia,” according to Forbes. These young homebuyers are looking to suburban markets outside of major cities that offer live-work-play neighborhoods and walkability to many amenities.

Look Locally 

While it’s important to look at market predictions across a national level, Caroline Feeney with Forbes reminds agents to focus on the local picture. Geography, affordability, jobs, and others are all nuanced factors that play a role in a local market. George Ratiu, the chief economist for realtor.com, told Feeney that 2020 will bring a lot more “differentiation between various markets.” In Atlanta, forecasts show a split down the middle between the city and the surrounding metro area as millennials flock to “Hipsturbia.” This split will see lots of activity and growth in lower price points, and “softer price points driven by weaker demand and the affordability ceiling at the higher end.” According to Forbes, Atlanta is predicted to see home values in the bottom tier raising 10%, while raising just 2.1% in the top tier.

Again, you can never be certain of what the new year will bring – but we can be sure to see many changes in real estate in 2020 and the following decade. Be sure to keep your eyes on local markets and follow us here at www.TheMeridianWay.com and like our facebook page facebook.com/themeridianway/ as we share the latest news and trends! Here’s to a wonderful new year of growth!


Did You Accomplish Your 2019 Real Estate Goals and Have You Set Your Real Estate Goals for 2020?

Did you accomplish your 2019 real estate goals and have you set your real estate goals for 2020? We can help.

Are you or someone you know in the market to buy, sell, or invest in commercial or residential real estate within the next 12 months?

Buying? Interest rates are still at historic lows which gives buyers more buying power and bang for their buck. Are you wondering how much you might qualify for and need the name of a trusted commercial or residential real estate lender? We can help.

Selling? All local and national indicators point to us having reached or come close to reaching the peak of the housing market with the commercial real estate market typically following by 18 months. So if you are thinking of selling within the next few years, right now would be the time to take advantage of selling at the peak of the market.

And despite the common mindset that the spring is the best time to sell, consider selling in the winter when your competition is lower which will help you get top dollar for your property.

Investing? It’s always a good time to invest in real estate and in fact, real estate has outperformed stocks by a 2 to 1 ratio for the last 20 years and there are no indications that will change anytime soon. https://www.investopedia.com/investing/reasons-invest-real-estate-vs-stock-market/

Refinancing? Simply refinancing and dropping your interest rate by as little as 3/4 of a point could save you several hundred dollars a month on your monthly mortgage. Need the name of a trusted commercial or residential real estate lender? We can help.

Renovating? You’ve owned your property for a while and you are still fond of it. But it’s no longer exactly what you need or want. So do you put it up for sale and move on, or upgrade and settle in for the long haul? Need help answering that question? We can help.

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


What is the Difference Between Getting a Pre-qualification Letter and a Pre-approval Letter?

Is there a difference between getting a pre-qualification letter and a pre-approval letter from your lender when starting the home buying process? And if so, what is it, and is one better than the other?

So the answer is “yes”, there is a difference.

The pre-qualifying process is a preemptive information gathering exercise where your lender will ask you to provide the information necessary to get pre-approved for a loan. However, other than pulling your credit from the social security number you’ll provide them with, they won’t actually verify the rest of the information they may ask you for. This includes W-2s, a current pay stub, a summary of your assets and your total monthly expenses, and if you already own real estate, a copy of both your mortgage statement and your homeowners insurance policy.

Based on the information you provide your lender can run some basic calculations and give you an idea of how much of a loan you’ll likely qualify for. However, since they haven’t verified the majority of the information you’ve given them, your pre-qualification won’t be as valuable as a pre-approval.

So the biggest difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification, at least from a lender’s point of view, is validating the information with documents as opposed to just getting verbal information. In a pre-approval the lender isn’t just going to take your word for it, they are going to verify the information you have given them.

From a borrower’s point of view, the difference is the leverage that pre-approval gives you when it comes to purchasing a home since most seller’s agents won’t accept an offer without a pre-approval letter. They want it to say ‘pre-approval’ at the top because they know the lender has done an in-depth analysis on the buyer.

The pre-qualification letter has its place though in the very beginning of your home searching process. It will help you and your buyer’s agent determine what is a good starting price bracket for your property search. But that will only get you so far in the process and you will soon need to take it to the next level and get a pre-approval letter.

Think of it this way. Getting pre-qualified for a loan is like asking for approval from your significant other’s parents before you propose. While it might be nice to get a “yes” from the parents, until you drop to one knee for the ultimate approval, you aren’t really getting anywhere.

Of course, you’ll still have to go through the underwriting process after you submit the application and wait for final approval.

If you need any help getting a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter, let us know. We have some great lenders we work with that can guide you through the process and put you in the right position to take advantage of this incredible market we find ourselves in.


Breast Cancer Awareness Month

It’s October, which means it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. Join in the cause to help women in need today. Together, We can make a difference. 

Click the link below to learn more about how you can help in the fight against breast cancer. 

https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-awareness-month


5 Amenities Buyers are Willing to Pay Extra for…

 When it comes to the best that money has to offer, luxury homes lead the way. So if you are interested in trying to get the best possible ROI on your next home improvement, you’ll want to know what luxury home buyers are looking for most in their next home, and figure out how you can offer similar features at any price point.

Today’s homes need to be a mixture of the newest technology, upgrades, and open space for its owners and their toys.

So let’s take a look at the amenities topping the latest must-have list for the luxury buyers.

#1 on the list is Home Automation and Smart-Tech. Homebuyers today are looking for the same great technology they have come to expect in their smartphones and mobile devices and there are certainly plenty of ways home tech can satisfy.

The ability to control everything from sprinklers and mowers, to inside temperature and lighting, entertainment and security, to appliances and beds, from one device with a voice command or push of a button is what is fast becoming expected to today’s luxury buyer.

For example why settle for a run-of-the-mill media room, when with today’s technology you can have a dedicated home theater room specifically designed with your comfort and entertainment in mind complete with a Hisense 100-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart Dual Color Laser TV, ranked one of the best TV’s for 2019 by PCMag.com https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/256493/the-best-tvs with a MSRP of $10,995.99? If that is a little out of the budget for your dream Gaming/Theater Room you can choose the equally impressive Samsung 65-inch Class Q90R, with an MSRP of $3499.99 or LG’s similarly priced 65-inch OLED dream screen.

Of course, you’ll have to sit through those long three-hour movies in style so why not select Elite Home Theater Seating, https://elitehts.com one of the finest home cinema seating builders in the world, to create you your own sumptuous custom seating experience?

Additional features in your must-have dream theater room to create the perfect ambiance include a chest-pounding surround sound system, mood-setting dimmable lighting, walls painted with a soothing color palette, and finally, a plethora of lavish materials including throw rugs, blankets, and pillows.

You can expect to spend from $5,000 if you are on a shoe-string budget, to upwards of $50,000 building your ideal high-tech, private, cinematic experience depending on your viewing appetite. But of course, if you’re someone like Tyler Perry you might go all out entertaining your guest at home in this Game of Thrones-style home theater, that according to insiders cost well over $500,000.

See our blog post titled Smart Home Tech https://www.themeridianway.com/blog/ for a list of the 2019 Best Smart Home Devices.

#2 would be a little of this and a little of that. That’s right, combining old and new together, recycled and ageless, classic with modern, has become the hottest trend in designing for luxuriousness, and it is an inclination that is likely to stay around for a while.

Incorporating reclaimed materials, like brick and wood and blending them with modern materials, fixtures, and appliances, is a way to create architectural focal points, great topics for interesting conversation and set your property apart from all the others when it’s time to sell.

By blending reclaimed materials such as this 100 year old chandelier, walnut wood and cabinetry and these massive support beams which were saved from the Savanah Harbor and preserved in The Villa De Cielo https://www.themeridianway.com/listing/683-tarpley-road-nw/ pictured here, with state of the art appliances that are available for the modern kitchen, we are actually being kinder to our world and helping our environment which is a huge selling point to the affluent and discerning buyer.

#3 on the list, and certainly a feature most people think about when creating their must-have amenity that they would be willing to pay extra for is, of course, a kitchen a chef would be envious of.

The kitchen is the heart of the home and a must-have kitchen will include high-end cabinetry, chef-grade commercial appliances, and beautiful inviting design.

Sleek or classic look doesn’t matter, open and integrated with other living spaces for entertaining is where it’s at. However, since cooking can be messy, builders are now incorporating a secondary kitchen in their designs. Called a “dirty kitchen” or a “catering kitchen”, these kitchens are usually next to the designer kitchen for ease and efficiency. But having a second kitchen where all the dirty work takes place will leave your designer kitchen nice and clean for entertaining your guests. And of course, no must-have kitchen will be without smart-technology. Today’s modern kitchen technology can include refrigerators that let you know when you are low on groceries, ovens that clean themselves, precision cookers that use Wi-Fi connectivity so you control them from anywhere, even when you’re not home, and steam ovens, coffee makers and microwaves that you can control with your phone or tablet.

#4 on this list would be living a life of luxury outside. And we’re not talking about camping. We are talking about outdoor space so inviting that you may end up spending more time there than inside your home.

Luxury buyers are used to experiencing decadent outdoor environments while traveling around the world so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t want to experience the same while they are home.

Outdoor gourmet kitchens, resort-style pools or water feature, plush comfy seating under the cover of structures like cabanas, verandas, lanais or terraces, cozy fires, and well-stocked bars are among the essentials of a well thought out, well designed outdoor living space. There are also incredible opportunities to have the best of both worlds by engineering space as both an indoor and outdoor living area. This can be done by designing partitions and walls oftentimes made of glass to break away and or fold back so as to open an indoor space to the outdoors.

 

#5 Last on the list but certainly not least would be a place to keep your collection of toys. That’s right, a grand barn for your modern-day stallions. A garage fitting of the cars that reside in it. And in this case, bigger is usually better. Large garage space has become almost as important as large bedroom closet space when it comes to making decisions on purchasing a home.

A fact not often missed with luxury homebuyers is that when it comes to displaying their items of value, the display case is important. And there is really no limit to what can be done when creating a showroom for a luxury car collection.

One thing you can count on when it comes to luxury homebuyers, they are looking for and willing to pay for the finer things of both indoor and outdoor living, and an excellent agent knows how to help them find or create what they are looking for.

 

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Job Creation Still Strong in Atlanta Despite National Slowdown

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent numbers, metropolitan Atlanta added roughly 58,700 jobs over the past 12 months, a 2.12% bump in employment.

The region has comfortably outpaced the national average for much of the economic expansion since the Great Recession and is projected to continue to do so throughout the rest of this year.

Professional and business services led the way in growth over the past year, as Atlanta added 17,500 jobs in this cohort. Overall, with small net reductions in the financial activities and information sectors, office-using employment grew by 13,800 jobs, or roughly a 1.75% increase.

While Atlanta has seen office-using employment slow, the market is on stable footing. From 2010 to 2018, Atlanta added the sixth-highest number of office-using jobs in the nation on a nominal basis, almost 170,000 high-paying jobs. The region boasted numbers higher than Los Angeles with 159,000, Boston with 140,000 and Washington, D.C., with 100,300.

White-collar employment is expected to continue growing over the next few years, as major corporations add thousands of jobs to the area. Investment firm BlackRock, health insurer Anthem and Norfolk Southern Railway are looking to add thousands of high-paying jobs to midtown, arguably Atlanta’s epicenter of corporate relocations and expansions.

Elsewhere in the region, insurance company State Farm, accounting software company LeaseQuery, and Arby’s owner Inspire Brands are in the process of adding thousands of jobs to Perimeter Center. Thyssenkrupp Elevators is expected to hire 600 employees in Cumberland and Ameris Bancorp plans to add 300 positions in Buckhead.

The addition of tens of thousands of high-paying jobs has been a boon to Atlanta’s office market, particularly for high-end properties in the region’s well-positioned markets. For example, midtown and Buckhead will have absorbed roughly 4.6 million and 2.7 million square feet of high-quality space, respectively, by the end of this year.

 

Than you to Costar for this article. For other great articles, Click Here. 

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here! 


Multifamily Sales on Pace to Set New Market Trend

The total transaction volume among apartment properties in Atlanta is on track to surpass last year’s numbers, revealing investors’ seemingly insatiable appetite for apartments in the Atlanta Market.

Every year since 2010 has experienced growth in transaction volume in the multifamily sector, and 2012 marked the first year that multifamily sales prevailed as the leading preference for investors.

So far this year, total sales volume is almost at $4.3 billion, compared to just $4.1 billion this time last year. In total, last year saw almost $7.5 billion worth of transactions – an all-time record for the metropolitan Atlanta area. On a trailing 12-month basis, Atlanta ranks third for the most sales volume, only behind New York and Los Angeles.

While apartments have proven more lucrative this expansion across the nation, properties of this cohort in Atlanta are especially enticing as rent growth remains strong and job growth holds comfortably above the national average.

In the chart below, each color corresponds with one of four property types and the amount of sales volume traded in that year. Blue Bars represent apartment complex sales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Than you to Costar for this article. For other great articles, hit the link. 

For Additional Blog Content, Click Here!


Are 19 Million Millennials Stuck Renting?

Are changing market trends and the growing number of SFR investors hampering the dream of buying a home for 19M millennials who are stuck renting?

Whether or not you are a millennial trying to compete against investors for your starter home, or an investor trying to make a wise investment we can help. www.TheMeridianWay.com

#Millennial #HelpingMillennials #StarterHome #RealEstateInvesting #AdvisingInvestors #ProvenTrackRecord

The following is a snippet from the Inman News article, by Steve Cook, entitled “Competition for starter homes will only heat up. Here’s why”

“Many prospective first-time buyers cannot find a home that they can afford, or, even worse, overpay for their first homes, thanks to the legions of investors in single-family rentals (SFRs), whose cash offers often beat out bids from other buyers. Competition with investors is one of the reasons 19 million millennials who want to buy a home and have the income to do so are still renting…

…However, it is true that investors in single-family rentals prefer the same starter-sized homes sought by first-time buyers. According to CoreLogic, the share of starter homes purchased by investors peaked at over 1 in 5 homes over the past two years. “It’s a truism that homebuyers today are more likely to cross paths with investors during an open house than at any other time in the past two decades,” McLaughlin says.

Last year, investor purchases were the highest on record and nearly twice the level before the 2008 housing crash. Through the balance of 2019 and the first half of 2020, conditions for investors will continue to favor them over first-time buyers.

And here’s why:

  1. Investors are less sensitive to rising prices than homebuyers
  2. SFR rents are rising as fast or faster than home prices
  3. SFR Investing is easier today than ever  
  4. Single-family investors have financing sources that are as good or better than those available to first-time buyers

 Remember, whether or not you are a millennial trying to compete against investors for your starter home, or an investor trying to make a wise investment we can help. www.TheMeridianWay.com  

 


SMART HOME TECH

Have you installed any Smart Home Tech in you home yet? If so what? If not, why not?
 
According to a Harvard Study, Home Tech is on the rise even in existing homes because of the ease of some DYI projects and the growing numbers of folks desiring to age in place.  https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/blog/more-existing-homes-will-have-smart-home-tech/
 
Here are the Best Smart Home Devices for 2019 according to PCmag.com
SMALL HOME HUBS AND CONTROLLERS 
The Echo is a Bluetooth speaker powered by Alexa, Amazon’s handy voice assistant  
 
Wink Hub 2 is the current PCmag Editors’ Choice for home automation hubs. It works with devices that use Z-Wave, Zigbee, Lutron Clear Connect, Kidde, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. 
 
The Brilliant Control is a unique wall switch that uses Wi-Fi to connect to and control various smart devices in your home.
 
The Logitech Harmony Elite is the ultimate universal remote.
 
The $29.99 iHome iSP6X SmartPlug is a smart switch that does almost everything like allowing you to easily control gadgets and appliances from your smartphone while delivering an unparalleled level of third-party smart home integration.
 
SMART HOME SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS
The iCamera Keep Pro from iSmartAlarm ($199.99) is a full-featured home security camera that not only works as a standalone device but can be incorporated into an iSmartAlarm DIY security system.
 
The Wyze Cam Pan, priced at just $29.99, offers features such as motion and sound detection, time-lapse recording, and free cloud storage, and it adds mechanical pan and tilt and support for IFTTT applets.
 
The SkyBell HD is a video doorbell that lets you see and speak with whoever is outside.  It delivers highly detailed video at 1080p with color night vision and captures several seconds of footage prior to a triggered event. It also integrates with numerous third-party smart home devices and comes with free cloud storage for recorded video.
 
SMART LOCKS AND HOME SECURITY SYSTEMS
The Smart Lock Pro + Connect offers August’s DoorSense technology, Z-Wave compatibility, and Wi-Fi connectivity. It’s easy to install and can be controlled remotely or with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri voice commands.
 
While ADT Pulse is certainly much more expensive than a DIY system, it offers capabilities those systems simply can’t, including 24/7 monitoring and customer support. It’s the most complete, full-featured home security system PCmag tested, and doubles as an automation platform for your other smart home devices.
 
If you prefer a DIY approach to smartening up your home security, check out the SimpliSafe Home Security System. The system is easy to set up and use and keeps your home safe from intruders and environmental threats like fires and floods.
 
SMART HEATING and COOLING
The new Ecobee4 allows you to have the thermostat do everything that the Amazon Echo and its siblings can, such as control smart devices, shop, play music, and hear the latest news and weather, all using Alexa voice commands.  
 
The Nest Learning Thermostat has Wi-Fi so you can remotely control the temperature from phone, tablet, or PC. 
 
SMART LIGHTING
The Philips Hue line delivers with bulbs that let you control not only the intensity of the light but also the color.
 
Eufy Lumos Smart Bulb White and Color lets you select from over 16 million colors, it doesn’t require a hub, and it supports voice commands via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
 
Ecobee is the first company to embed Amazon Alexa in a light switch with its $99 Ecobee Switch+. The Switch+ is more than just a smart wall switch that connects to your Wi-Fi and can be controlled using a mobile app: It can do everything an Amazon Echo does, such as tell you the current news, weather and sports scores, play music, and control other smart home devices. It also works with Apple’s HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT applets, and the SmartThings Hub, and it will eventually double as a remote room sensor for an Ecobee thermostat.
 
SMART KITCHEN APPLIANCES
The Anova Culinary Precision Cooker uses Wi-Fi connectivity so you control it from anywhere, even when you’re not home. 
 
The Perfect Bake Pro takes out the guesswork and risk when baking. It’s a baking scale connected to an app.
 
The Tovala Steam Oven, the Smarter Coffee, and the AmazonBasics Microwave are all smart kitchen appliances that you can control with your phone or tablet.
 
SMART VACUUMS
The Ecovacs Deebot N79S at $229, is relatively affordable and offers more for the price than any other vacuum PCmag tested. In addition to long battery life and manual steering, it supports features you typically see in far more expensive models such as app control and Amazon Alexa compatibility. It also delivers a stronger clean than other vacuums tested in this price range.  
 
The iRobot’s Roomba i7+ at $949.99 is the most advanced model PCmag tested. In addition to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control, multistory mapping, and adaptive camera-based navigation that cleans better as it learns your home’s layout, it’s the only vacuum tested that can empty its own dustbin.
 
iRobot’s relatively inexpensive Braava Jet 240 is a smart mopping robot. It sprays a jet of water to clean deep, and can even do damp sweeping, like a Swiffer.
 
SMART HEALTH AND FITNESS DEVICES
For tracking fat, BMI, water, muscle mass, bone composition, and even pregnancy, look no further than the QardioBase 2. It shares the info it reads with a smartphone app for your easy access. Plus, it just looks great. 
 
SMART BED
Sleep Number’s 360 Smart Bed, which incorporates biometric sensors actually tracts your sleep to help you snooze better.
 
SMART OUTDOOR GADGET
The Polaris 9650iQ Sport offers superb cleaning performance, easy-to-clean debris canister, and multiple programming options as well as Wi-Fi connectivity and a useful mobile app that lets you control the cleaner from your smartphone.
 
The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller gives you control over eight or 16 zones depending on the unit you get, with a master valve terminal for systems that have one. It won’t water the lawn if it’s raining, and you can turn it on and off remotely with your phone. Plus, it integrates with lots of other services and devices like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, and Samsung SmartThings.
 
The Automower 315X works with a well-designed mobile app that lets you use your phone to start and stop the mower, monitor its progress, create schedules, and see where it’s been on a map of your property. It has user-friendly programming options, outstanding cutting performance, and operates quietly.
IF YOU HAVE A NEED FOR PROVIDERS OR INSTALLERS FOR ANY OF THESE SMART HOME DEVICES, LET US KNOW. WE LIKELY “GOT A GUY” THAT CAN HELP