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Dec/Jan 2006

Real Estate
Finding the Key to Your New Home
By Rebecca Simmons-Lamm

With almost every individual agent today having his or her own Web site, finding an agent online can be extremely confusing and challenging. Word-of-mouth is still the most efficient and reliable way to find a good realtor. However, for newcomers who may not know many local homeowners to go to for advice, perhaps the best way to get started is to simply take a drive through the neighborhood where you desire to live. Scope it out and see what realtors reign supreme with the most listings, write down their names and phone numbers and then call them. How quickly they call you back is a good indication of their attentiveness and professionalism.

When you conduct your telephone interview, ask about their credentials. Are they a member of the Graduate Realtor Institute? Are they Certified Relocation Specialists? This knowledge is important because it can mean the difference between a serious agent and someone who may only sell a few random homes a year on the side. Look for someone with a successful track record who will work as your advocate when the time comes for closing. You don't have to hire the first agent you talk to. The more you interview, the greater your chances of finding someone who can help you find your dream home.

Most agents cover specific areas of town, and finding one who specializes, even lives in, the area where you want to buy is like winning the informational jackpot. Graphs and charts can provide neighborhood details, but an agent who knows the community is a real asset when it comes to evaluating price and negotiating a contract.

The following is a user's guide to the varied real estate companies in Atlanta. Hopefully with a little homework you will find the agent that will find you the home of your dreams.

The Big B rokers

Atlanta Intown (404-881-1810, With three Midtown offices, this locally owned and operated company takes pride in intown living. With five brokers (and 55 licensed agents), Atlanta Intown offers more than 20 years experience serving Midtown, Druid Hills, Morningside, East Atlanta, Virginia-Highland, Grant Park and more. Mostly they list previously owned single-family homes, multi-family homes, condominiums and townhouses.

Buy Owner (800-468-1999, If you are willing to do your own legwork, Buy Owner has a very user-friendly Web site that provides a megalist of houses for sale by owners rather than realtors. However, if you are deciding on your location based on a specific neighborhood of preference, this may end up being a hit-or-miss situation. Keep in mind that Buy Owner is a great way to save money on the realtor's expense, but you may be narrowing your search and location if you are only looking at these types of listings.

Century 21 (Multiple locations, Offering listings in many metro-Atlanta counties, Century 21 prides themselves on being very education friendly (informative on the varied school districts), and their Web site has search options based on what school districts you desire. If you have a house to sell as well as to buy, Century 21's network of 6,600 offices and more than 100,000 agents nationwide could be of great benefit.

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage (404-705-1717, With a plethora of metro-area offices and more than 30 years of experience serving the Atlanta market, Coldwell Banker is truly a powerhouse in Atlanta real estate, and offers a nationally recognized Relocation Services team to help you find a home that fits your needs.

Coldwell Banker The Condo Store (404-262-6636, Specializing in condos, lofts, luxury high-rises, cluster homes and townhouses, The Condo Store was one of the nation's first firms to sell exclusively condominiums, and it maintains one of the nation's highest volumes for condominium sales.

Harry Norman Realtors (404-236-2159, Serving multiple metro counties and specializing in high-end, single-family homes for more than 70 years, Harry Norman boasts of having the most experienced relocation specialists and one of the Southeast's largest relocation divisions.

Jenny Pruitt & Associates Realtors (770-394-5400, These realtors represent a wide variety of properties, from single-family homes on golf courses and homes in new cluster communities to residential lots across the metro area. Offerings range from low $100s to more than $1 million.

Metro Brokers/GMAC Real Estate (404-843-2500, One of the fastest-growing real estate companies in the area, with listings of more than 75,000 homes in the metro-Atlanta counties, Metro Brokers/GMAC offers free relocation kits and maps and an impressive, informative Web site that makes it easy to find an agent or data on neighborhoods and schools.

Prudential Georgia Realty (770-992-4100, With more than 40 years of experience, 26 offices and more than 900 sales associates, Prudential Georgia sells properties from the North Georgia mountains to the metropolitan life of Buckhead and the golf neighborhoods of Peachtree City.

RE/MAX (770-394-0100, This mega-source of realtors and brokers represent Atlanta and all of its surrounding areas. At RE/MAX, agents are affiliates, but more or less work for themselves, therefore making it more likely that you will get a serious agent versus dabblers.

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