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Oct/Nov 2004

Imagine It!
Learning is disguised as fun at The Children's Museum of Atlanta.
by Sarah Gleim

Imagine It! The Children's Museum of Atlanta offers four different learning zones that are as fun as they are educational.
If you're relocating to Atlanta and planning to buy a home, you've probably done some preliminary research already. You may have spent Saturdays scouting out various parts of town and digging up information on local agents. The home-buying process can be tricky and time-consuming, and it's not always easy to determine which route to take.

To help point you in the right direction, here's advice from some of Atlanta's top real estate experts that will help put you a few steps closer to your new doorstep.

Before beginning your search, get your bearings. "Determine what the market value of your current housing is," says Peggy Neldner, relocation director for Coldwell Banker. "Speak with a lender to find out what kind of a loan you qualify for." Researching where your office will be, what the commute times look like and which schools in the area appeal to your family can help give your search more direction, Neldner suggests.

One of the most exciting elements of house hunting is exploring a city to find which neighborhoods suit you best. Some of the most important criteria to consider are school districts, office locations and whether commuting is an issue, said Chris Bliss, Rental Relocation's vice president of corporate services. "If someone works downtown and doesn't want to commute, we're not going to steer them to Forsyth County," he says.

There's certainly no substitution, however, for truly getting a feel for the area before you buy. Rental Relocation, for instance, suggests prospective homeowners rent a property for six to 12 months before buying. "That way, they're not forced into coming to town and buying something, and then finding they don't like the location or the ho use," Bliss says. Traffic patterns and neighborhood ambience are elements often difficult to distinguish on a weekend trip.

Perhaps the most valuable asset in helping you wade through the characteristics of your new city will be your realtor. To ensure that you and your real estate agent click, interview realtors, and speak with someone who has worked with a realtor in the past, says Kathy Connelly, vice president of relocation and corporate services with Georgia Prudential Realty. "This is a people business. You need to have compatibility with your realtor, and you need someone you can trust and have confidence in," Connelly says.

Virginia Highlands is a popular neighborhood.
(Photo courtesy of GDITT.)
Also, consider the geographical area that is your realtor's specialty. "People say they're moving to Atlanta, but then may end up in Douglasville, Lilburn or Dunwoody," Connelly says. Your realtor will be able to serve you best if she's familiar with the area in which you're interested.

Don't overlook credentials, either, Connelly notes. Be sure your agent is a member of the National Association of Realtors and has a real estate license. A tech-savvy realtor who can set up an online profile for you and email listings for your review before you move can be incredibly helpful as well.

What you ultimately end up purchasing should be largely based on your lifestyle--"whether you want to cut your grass, or whether you want someone else to cut your grass," says Shelley Sears, owner and president of the Shelley Sears Team.

A family with several children and pets may not be comfortable living in tighter quarters where the environment can be very confining, Sears says. At the same time, a smaller family that has little time or inclination to maintain a home may prefer an alternative housing option such as an apartment, cluster home or condominium.

For many homebuyers, a desire to live in an intown area and/or focus on lower cost options makes condominium, loft or town home living a perfect fit. "Condominium living is a lifestyle and location choice," says David Tufts, president of The Condo Store. "You have to look at the dominant buying motivation."

Price point can be a significant factor, especially for those who work in town and are looking for less pricey options close to the office, or for those who simply prefer intown living but can't necessarily afford an enormous lot. Still, "the price points within condominiums are varied," Tufts says, and the buyer's personal style plays substantially into what type of condominium will be the best fit.

What you end up purchasing should be largely based on your lifestyle.
Perhaps the most complicated and exhausting aspect of buying a home is finance. The two most important aspects to consider when evaluating what type of mortgage is most appropriate for you is how long you plan to stay in your home and your financial situation. Adjusted-rate mortgages offer the best advantage to those homeowners who plan to remain in their homes between three and five years. ARMs generally come with lower rates and can help homebuyers who need to stretch their borrowing limits.

Planning to be in the same home for a while? Then you'll likely enjoy the stability of a lower-risk 10-, 15- or 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which, though the interest rate may be higher, won't be subject to fluctuations in the economy.

Wherever you decide to move within metro Atlanta, be prepared for the effects of the city's notorious sprawl. The growth isn't subsiding, says Kevin Levent, Metro Brokers GMAC Real Estate president. "What used to be a good thing for people living in the suburban areas has become a burden," he says. "There's going to be continued growth in the areas we've established, with denser projects and denser living areas where people can live, work and play."

Newcomer's Board of Experts

Chris Bliss, Rental Relocation
Chris Bliss is vice president of corporate services for Rental Relocation, Inc., and has been active in the apartment and relocation industry for more than 21 years. For additional advice he can be reached at 770-641-8393.

Kathy Connelly, Prudential Atlanta Realty
Kathy Connelly, SCRP, is vice president of relocation and corporate services for The Prudential Atlanta Realty. She was a member of the 2003-2004 Board of Directors for the Relocation Director's Council, and is a 2004-2005 member of the ERC Industry Advisory Council. For additional advice she can be reached at 770-992-4100.

Kevin Levent, Metro Brokers/GMAC
Kevin Levent is president and CEO of Metro Brokers/GMAC Real Estate. He has been in the real estate industry for more than 21 years. Under Levent's leadership, the company has grown from 600 associates in 1996 to almost 2,000 today. For additional advice he can be reached at 404-843-2500.

Peggy Neldner, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Peggy Neldner, SCRP, is senior vice president of relocation services for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. She is past president of the Metro Atlanta Relocation Council and currently serves on its Advisory Council. For additional advice she can be reached at 404-257-3164.

David Tufts, Coldwell Banker The Condo Store
David Tufts is executive vice president and founder of Coldwell Banker The Condo Store. He has been the instrumental force in driving their real estate sales to an excess of $1 billion and building their reputation as Atlanta's experts in the sales and marketing of condos, lofts and townhomes. For additional advice he can be reached at 404-705-1500.

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