One Fine Piece of Real Estate

Wednesday afternoon I joined a group of about 22 fellow Rotarians and spouses for an afternoon of chasing horses and hounds at the final day of  hunt season for the Belle Meade Hunt.  Growing up in McDuffie County I’m ashamed to say this was my first trip to the hunt and after a wonderful day, I must admit I left with regret.  Regret, that it was my first outing, but vowing it would not be my last. Regret, that I missed the opportunity to participate in the sport either through riding or for the love and care of the hounds.

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Our group was accompanied this day by the Master of Fox Hunt, Epp Wilson. For those that know MFH Epp this was a real treat for us.  Rarely does this event take place without him on horse back.  It was a warmer than average day for early March so the horses and hounds were taking the afternoon easy which gave our host time to show us the sites from our Tally Ho wagon and to explain some of the history of the hunt and the location.

Ah, the location.  What an amazing piece of real estate.  Growing up I had the good fortune of living two lives.  One as a city girl in the small town of Thomson, GA.  Second as a farm girl playing in the freshly plowed fields and riding on Massey Ferguson tractors with my Granddaddy in the even smaller two of Warthen, GA .  Those longer summer visits gave me an appreciation for a nice breeze, the smell of hay and wide open spaces.

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The Belle Meade Hunt spans over 35,000 acres of land with the majority of   land being owned by several generations of three families. These families have dedicated their own resources to see this tradition continue.  Resources that could have been sold, divided, bulldozed and developed six ways to Sunday. Families that have been so gracious to allow visitors from near and far to romp across their pastures, cross their bridges and streams, and stomp through their woods.  These landowners have chosen tradition and sportsmanship over land development and urban sprawl and let me tell you one thing this is one fine piece of real estate.

New Low Down Payment Option for Augusta Mortgage Loans?

Last week brought an announcement that should get the attention of a large segment of would-be Augusta home buyers—particularly those who have been stymied by the difficulty of trying to build their credit scores by paying all the monthly bills on time while simultaneously saving up a pile of cash for a down payment.

For too many CSRA nine-to-fivers, the two ambitions are achievable—just not at the same time. Although inflation hasn’t been horrendous, even a modest degree of rising prices causes a crunch for those whose incomes are flat. For many Americans, coming up with the down payment has been an immovable stumbling block.
Into the breach came last week’s Bank of America announcement of a new mortgage product. Cutting to the chase, these home loans will be structured to allow qualified homeowners to make down payments of as little as 3%.

Yes, 3%!

If you don’t believe there’s ever any free lunch, you may be wondering why, if this makes sense to a bank, it hasn’t been offered until now. The answer has to do with the way the FHA regulates home loans.
The Federal Housing Administration insures banks against defaults on FHA-backed mortgages (they allow down payments of as little as 3.5%) but sometimes holds the banks responsible when borrowers fail to repay. In fact, the FHA won billions in settlements in recent years when bank paperwork turned out to be inaccurate. The banks were not pleased: they said many of the errors were minor. They also decided to cut back on offering FHA loans. That had the effect of slowing the residential real estate market across the U.S.—and Augusta was no exception.

This new home loan structure is Bank of America’s solution for “families of modest means”—a group everyone agrees has been left out in the cold. It avoids FHA rules by avoiding the FHA altogether, instead relying on the backing of Freddie Mac and a nonprofit fund. Among the guidelines for the new low down payment product are requirements that borrowers have credit scores of at least 660 (FHA allows 580) and incomes that are lower than the area’s median. Because there will be no requirement that borrowers pay for private mortgage insurance, the loans should be less expensive than corresponding FHA mortgages. Great deal!

It remains to be seen how widely available such loans are going to be for Augusta borrowers. Bank of America will at first be capping the number of loans it issues while it tests the market. But it’s a sure thing that other national lenders will be watching what happens…and very likely rolling out their own low down payment products. It should be one answer for folks who have proved they are deserving and responsible—yet have found themselves closed out of the market.

As the spring selling season heats up, many potential opportunities also open up for sharp-eyed prospective buyers. If you are one, I’m standing by to help!

Property Management Decision can be “Customer” Centered

Everyone who owns a rental property in Augusta makes a continuing management decision concerning how much of the day-to-day operational responsibility to outsource. Some are inclined to tackle the nuts and bolts of tenant management, while others are content to leave it to one of Augusta’s professional property managers.

If the main motive for acquiring the rental was for its value as a long term real estate investment, there is an increased likelihood that one of Augusta’s professional property management firms will get the nod. Beyond the dollars-and-cents dimension—which can boil down to a calculation on how you value your own time—there can be personal elements behind the decision. Do you enjoy keeping a close watch on all your business dealings? Or is minimizing the hassle factor a higher priority? Those are tradeoffs only you can calculate, or recalculate if your initial decision doesn’t work out.

Another factor can come into play—one that’s seldom mentioned or written about. It has to do with another party in the business arrangement that is being created: the tenants! How much or little interaction do you want to have with your tenant?

When all is said and done, setting up the way a rental property is to be managed is identical to creating the operations blueprint for any ongoing business enterprise. Both involve a customer relations element. As landlord, you are the proprietor, and the tenants are the customers. Every business that hopes to maximize its return on operations soon experiences why taking customer satisfaction into account pays dividends (at least, the more successful ones do)!

By that yardstick, the decision on whether to choose professional property management is not only about a landlord’s willingness to expend the time and effort their personal involvement will require. That choice should also take the tenant’s satisfaction into account…and on that score, the years of experience that come with a veteran Augusta professional property management firm can tilt the scales in its favor.

Having a proven system for handling trouble calls in a timely manner is one obvious advantage—as is being able to tap the talent of professionals whose full-time job it is to take those inevitable situations in stride. The timely response to prospects looking to rent your home adds to increased customer satisfaction.

Locating and helping you acquire choice Augusta investment properties is one way we help our clients. Another is to provide a solid resource for new owners as they go about organizing their ongoing tenant-handling arrangements. Call us anytime to discuss today’s great current array of available investment properties—and the best ways you can make the most of them!

Heads Up! Augusta’s Spring Selling Market Is Here!

Augusta’s spring selling season is underway!

Okay—it’s understandable if that seems like a somewhat premature announcement, but it is verifiable from any number of sources. Never mind that this year, spring doesn’t officially arrive in Augusta until March 20…but that’s only what astronomers say (and they can’t even decide whether Pluto is a planet). Meteorologists take issue with them, anyway. It’s always March 1 as far as meteorologists are concerned. But this year’s Godzilla El Niño has made everything they say subject to revision. And anyway, we’re talking about real estate—and when it comes to real estate, spring is here already!

Now, it may be true that if you look on one of those bank calendars you got in the mail last December, it’s likely to tell you that we’re weeks away from the change in seasons. And depending on what the latest weather seems to be doing, winter may seem to be hanging on for a while longer.

But nimble Augusta real estate watchers know they can’t believe everything they read (or see happening outside in the garden). Cherry blossoms can’t call the shots when it comes to announcing Augusta’s spring selling season, any more than tulips can. And that groundhog can stay in his den, for all the difference it makes to home sales.

This is fact: according to the real estate industry’s calendar, the spring selling season—in Augusta and everywhere else across the nation—has definitely sprung!

Supporting evidence has flooded in from everywhere. For example:

CNBC put it in real time: “Spring housing season kicks off with record short supply” was their headline. If CNBC says so, who could argue?
Internet real estate behemoth Zillow came out advising that everybody who is thinking about taking advantage of the spring selling season should start preparing their property “NOW”—and that was two weeks ago!
Home Depot just announced it is hiring 80,000 workers for spring. These are the folks who work the cash registers [nowadays, shouldn’t they be called “plastic card registers?”] and help us wander up and down the aisles, looking for things we can’t describe exactly. Without them, spring wouldn’t be the same. With them, spring is clearly underway.
Baseball teams have hightailed it into camp. That should end the discussion…
These harbingers of the spring selling season should certainly mean more than robins hopping across lawns or yellow and pink Peeps appearing on grocery store shelves. Oh, and don’t forget the Green and White Augusta National signs that will be popping up along Washington Road. And even for any overly cautious souls who decide to wait for the bank calendars’ say-so, taking full advantage of the spring selling season in Augusta necessarily calls for advance preparation. A strong way to start is by giving us a call!