Can Adaptive Reuse Save American Malls?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Logan Nagel for Propmodo Research July 15th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retail

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

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

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

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

Industrial

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

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

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

Multifamily

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

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

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

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

Office

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

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

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

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

Short Term Prognosis

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

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


We Can Help

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

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Americans Leave Large Cities for Suburban Areas and Rural Towns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Holly Morris

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10 of the Best Beach Towns to Retire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Forbearance Volume Falls For First Time Since COVID-19 Outbreak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can Your Pool Kill the Coronavirus? And Everything Else You Should Know About Swimming During a Pandemic

By now, you may have heard that the novel coronavirus can live up to three days on some surfaces. But what about in your swimming pool? Is there any way you could get the virus from your afternoon dip?

The short answer: You probably won’t get the virus from pool water. But a pool is still a risky environment as far as social distancing and person-to-person transmission are concerned.

So before you head for a swim in your backyard or community pool, read on for expert advice on how to keep yourself and other swimmers safe.

Pool water doesn’t spread the virus, but people do

“If you look at what the CDC has to say, there’s no evidence that [the coronavirus] spreads in water,” says Bill Carroll, an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University. “It can’t reproduce in water. This is not like a food-borne virus that you can eat, and it’s not a water-borne virus. This is an inhaled virus, and in order to be infected, you have to be inhaling it.”

Plus, the chemicals in your pool or hot tub can help kill the virus. “Chlorine in pool water inactivates the virus so it is no longer infectious,” says Dr. Chris J. Wiant, chair of the Water Quality & Health Council. “A properly maintained pool protects swimmers from the virus in pool water.”

But outside of the water, the virus can spread among people—and the risk is especially high at a community aquatic center or an apartment building pool where lots of swimmers come and go.  “If you’re going to be exposed to the coronavirus, it’s because you’re going to the pool and there’s other people there and you’re not social distancing,” Carroll says.

Be smart about social distancing at the pool

If you go to a community or friend’s pool, remember to practice social distancing and avoid coming within 6 feet of anyone you don’t live with. “If possible, sanitize chairs before sitting down,” Wiant says. “Minimize time in the locker room by coming dressed to swim, and shower at home both before and after swimming.”

When it comes to your face mask, you should never wear a cloth mask when you’re underwater. “If your head is going to be underwater, a mask isn’t going to do a thing for anybody,” Carroll says. But if you’re standing in the shallow end or lounging poolside, be sure to wear your mask to protect other people.

You can also call the pool ahead of time to ask what precautions are being taken to keep people safe, like limiting the number of swimmers and spacing lounge chairs at least 6 feet apart. And remember: If you’re feeling sick or experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, stay home.

Normal pool maintenance should be enough to inactivate the virus

Pool water maintenance guidelines haven’t changed in the wake of COVID-19, Wiant says. If you’re responsible for maintaining a public pool, follow the CDC guidelines and check the pH and chlorine levels twice a day, or more if you have a lot of swimmers in the water.

For a residential pool, “there’s nothing special you need to do” beyond your normal weekly maintenance, Carroll says. Stick to your usual pool cleaning routine: Test your pH at least once a week and make sure you have plenty of chlorine available. It’s also a good idea to hyperchlorinate once a week to ward off cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite that can make swimmers severely ill.

Pool vs. beach: Which option is better?

If you’re worried about coming into contact with other people at the pool and you live near a natural body of water, you may be considering heading to the beach instead.

Properly maintained pools offer an advantage with its chlorine and chemicals that inactivate the virus, but “beaches have large volumes of moving water that dilute virus particles efficiently and reduce risk of exposure to the virus,” Wiant says. Ultimately, “the safest place to swim is wherever there are the fewest people.”

Before you head to the beach, check with your local health department to make sure the water has been tested recently and is safe for swimming.

Please, please, please: Don’t pee in the pool

We hope it goes without saying, but you really need to adhere to proper hygiene while in the pool.

“Shower before swimming, and never pee in the pool,” Wiant says. “The contaminants people bring into the water use up the chlorine, making less available to disinfect against viruses, like the coronavirus, and bacteria.”

 

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The Great Escape

With companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Capital One, Nationwide, and Amazon all extending their work-from-home (WFH)  policies out to much later in the year and many experts believing WFH could become less of an exception to the rule and more of a norm, smaller, less expensive cities will likely benefit. Even with a cost-of-living adjustment many well paid employees still simply can’t afford to purchase a home in high-cost urban areas.  This along with the massive lifestyle changes that were forced on city dwellers during the social distancing lockdown over the last three months, will find many urbanites looking for wider spaces and slower paced lifestyle.

“The city has a way of always keeping you running from event to event—always hustling,” says Elizabeth, a former New Yorker, in an article written by Kimberly Dawn Neamann, for Realtor.com, on June 1, 2020, titled,  ‘I Left My New York City Apartment To Live on a Farm’.  “Being on the farm”, Elizabeth says, “has encouraged me to slow down “to a medium pace.”‘

In fact, Elizabeth was surprised to discover that living in a place with less to do and see helped her get a whole different set of things done—things she’d always meant to do but kept putting off. “I finished a course to get my registered yoga teacher card. It had been on my to-do list for five years.”

Choosing to live on a farm, may not be your thing but Americans are flocking to the suburbs and Atlanta, The Big Little City In The Trees, with its 6 million residents spread out over 200 neighborhoods and towns and its great music, entertainment, dining and nightlife, its multiple professional sports teams, art and cultural centers, as well as being the home for 100’s of major national and international corporations, is primed to becoming home to many of those looking for a new home. One of the largest draws to Atlanta is how spread out it is and how there is so much to do extracurricularly. But knowing where to relocate to is important.

For example, long regarded as one of the best places to live in metro Atlanta, Cobb County captures the best of what Atlanta has to offer with growing businesses, neighborhoods and more just beyond the I-285 Perimeter. It provides easy access to recreation and entertainment opportunities, as well as a thriving commercial center.

https://www.knowatlanta.com/county/cobb/

https://www.getbellhops.com/blog/best-up-and-coming-neighborhoods-in-atlanta/ 

https://www.noradarealestate.com/blog/atlanta-real-estate-market/

https://www.aceableagent.com/blog/10-fastest-growing-cities-georgia

https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/search/best-suburbs-to-buy-a-house/m/atlanta-metro-area/

https://www.businessinsider.com/suburbs-where-home-values-are-increasing-fastest-america-ranked-2019-7

https://www.realtor.com/advice/rent/i-left-my-nyc-apartment-to-live-on-a-farm/

 

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Historic Events Impact Atlanta’s Commercial Real Estate Market

The events of 2020 have quickly put a stop to the longest running economic expansion in United States history. First, the world was seemingly caught off guard by the quick spread of the coronavirus bringing global economies to a screeching halt. Then, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th during an incident with police captured in a viral video triggered mass protests and riots across all major US cities. On Friday, May 29th, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in Fulton   County as the protest in Atlanta turned violent and destructive calling in the Georgia National Guard to protect people and property.  

Obviously the combined effects of all of these events – the pandemic, the economic crisis, and the mass protests and riots – will have long lasting implications to the social and economic fabric of our country as well as the metro-Atlanta area. Here we look to examine the current state of the commercial real estate market in metro- Atlanta and project how the latest events will affect the market going forward.      

Metro-Atlanta lost almost 300,000 jobs during March and April wiping out 5 years of employment growth. The immediate impact to the Atlanta commercial real estate industry has been a significant reduction to the number of leases signed and properties sold accompanied by a reduction in commercial real estate lending activity. Even so, Atlanta has fared better than many other US cities in part because of its lack of reliance on tourism dollars and its strong position in the industrial and distribution sectors. 

Office 

The last decade of economic growth was particularly strong for Atlanta’s office market. The metro area added approximately 200,000 office-using jobs since 2010, sustaining solid demand for office space. Midtown Atlanta led the way with its fast-growing technology sector. North Fulton and Forsyth also experienced a strong increase in demand over the last decade. Companies remain bullish on Atlanta’s long term outlook due to its highly educated workforce and relative affordability.    

There has been mixed news recently for the Atlanta office market. Microsoft plans to open an artificial intelligence and cloud services technology hub next year at Atlantic Station that would create 1,500 high-tech jobs in Atlanta. Leasing 523,000 square feet at Atlantic Yards, Microsoft is reportedly investing $75 million in the new mixed-use facility that will include retail space that is open to the public. 

“We are excited that a global leader like Microsoft Corp. is expanding its investment in

Georgia with tech jobs that will be truly beneficial to the company and our state,” Governor Kemp stated in a press release. “I am confident that our top-notch tech talent and education pipeline will continue to be an asset to Microsoft.”

However, less than a week after Microsoft announced its plans for Atlantic Yards, Macy’s lowered the optimism stating that the pandemic has caused it to abandon plans for a center of its own across the street from the planned Microsoft offices.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the Macy’s Inc. business. As a result, we have decided not to occupy the T3 West Midtown building in Atlanta,” Macy’s spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz said in an email. “We have notified the Georgia Department of Economic Development that we will not proceed on our application for economic support in connection with the T3 facility.” 

David Kahn stated this was the first tenant to back out of a major office lease in Atlanta since the start of the pandemic. “The loss of 600 high-paying new jobs and 100,000 square feet of office is a blow to Midtown, but the recent Microsoft deal highlights that fortune 500 firms continue to look to Midtown for their technology and software development operations,” Khan said.

Retail

The most recent data shows the bigger picture of the coronavirus impact on metro Atlanta’s retail sector. Layoffs and furloughs are significant in the region and consumer spending is far below pre-coronavirus levels. The pandemic has hit retailers and restaurants especially hard with many businesses closing their doors for two months. Even with Gov. Kemp’s aggressive reopening schedule, the limited retail demand is doing damage to businesses that could cause rents to fall drastically in the coming months. 

A slow recovery or a second-wave of the virus could change the landscape of the US retail market permanently. 

“Hundreds of retail stores were in some form of distress but were financially viable,” said Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia University in New York. “Now they’ve been all closed for months, and it’s anybody’s guess what might become of retail space.”

Store closures are expected to number in the tens of thousands this year amounting to an estimated 70 million square feet of retail space. Raya Sokolyanska, a senior analyst Moody’s Investors Service, said to investors, “Apparel and footwear retailers are undergoing a sector-wide shock that will push weak players into default and reverberate into 2021.”

Adding that “for most apparel retailers, liquidity management will remain a key focus after stores reopen, as they contend with clearing inventory and weak consumer demand.”

Sokolyanska projects that even a potential recovery in 2021 will be 15% to 35% below pre-coronavirus levels. She predicts “the crisis will push stressed retailers into default

and challenge the rest.” Investors with deep pockets will eventually see opportunity as coronavirus accelerates changes in consumer spending behavior likely resulting in liquidations and store closings. 

Landlords and private-equity groups have amassed multibillion-dollar war chests to swoop in on opportunities created by financial distress. For example, Apollo Global Management plans to stockpile $20 billion in order to scoop up distressed properties.

Brookfield Asset Management has $5 billion in a “revitalization program” to help ailing retailers and $60 billion “ready to be deployed globally as opportunities arise,” according to CEO Bruce Flatt. “In reflecting on what really matters to our business, it is liquidity, liquidity and liquidity, in that order,” he said in a letter to shareholders.

Another firm, Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, has $3 billion at the ready. “We’re also starting to see some rescue situations, although distress takes time to play out,” Blackstone Group President Jon Gray said. “The next thing you’ll see is some rescue capital needs, and we’ll start to address some of that. People will run through their reserves, then you’ll begin to see assets trade.”

Stores already going into bankruptcy include Pier 1, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, and J. Crew. Moody’s analyst Raya Sokolyanskan anticipates that after the recession companies with differentiated brands, strong balance sheets and well-developed e-commerce businesses will take the market share left behind by the numerous companies that could not survive.

Industrial

The industrial market in metro-Atlanta was boosted with the news of two large acquisitions.

Summit Real Estate of St. Louis paid $33.5 million for Creekside Distribution Center, a 538,500-square-foot building in East Point, Georgia, less than 4 miles from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The acquisition is Summit Real Estate’s eighth in the Atlanta market since 2014.  

Transwestern Investment Group, a Texas firm, said Monday it bought Bohannon Logistics Center Fairburn, Georgia, a newly constructed industrial building it expects to lease to companies seeking logistics space near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

“The acquisition of Bohannon Logistics Center provides the opportunity to take advantage of critical demand drivers in the Interstate 85 South submarket,” Transwestern Vice President Wes Davidson said in a press release. “The asset’s proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson airport, CSX Intermodal Terminal and Interstates 85 and 285 position it to attract a variety of industrial and logistics users.”

The Hartsfield Airport-North Clayton market is among the best-performing industrial sectors in the region, although momentum has slowed over recent quarters and overall vacancy has increased.

“The airport-North Clayton submarket continues to lead the Atlanta metro with a strong leasing environment and a massive construction pipeline,” CoStar managing analyst David Kahn and market analyst Trenton Turner wrote in a report “However, speculative deliveries are starting to impact the submarket, and vacancies have shot up in recent months. With roughly 6.2 million square feet underway and a large portion of that speculative, vacancies are likely to continue to rise in the coming quarters.”

Multifamily

Despite soaring unemployment the multifamily market in Atlanta appears to be somewhat stabilizing. Rents have steadied over the most recent weeks after a short period of decline. Most U.S. apartment renters continue to pay on time and there appears hope for the long-term future of metro Atlanta’s office market with the Microsoft expansion adding to the abundance of tech firms gravitating to the city’s booming Midtown district.

Nevertheless, extensive job losses will continue to impact housing demand in Atlanta for the next few months. Rising vacancies will be the norm until the job situation recovers and there are signs that the rent collection rates may not be sustainable. Particularly, renters in the most vulnerable positions in cheaper and older apartments are starting to have problems paying on time.

However, despite the coronavirus pandemic causing a slowdown in economic activity, Metro Atlanta’s structural advantages will continue to give the region an edge over peer markets. Atlanta, with its key distribution location and highly educated workforce, will likely remain a premier destination for attracting new office jobs, driving demand for the multifamily sector.

Nationally, anticipation is building that there may be a long term shift away from urban centers and into suburbs and smaller cities. These last few weeks have shown the possibility of many office jobs shifting to work from home positions. If the working from home trend continues, living in a luxury apartment in a major city near a corporate office may no longer be a necessity. An affordable suburban home provides more space for a home office and may be seen to be a more appealing alternative if there’s no commute required into the city.

 


We Can Help

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

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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.

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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. 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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