Buying a home is a big commitment and there are a lot of difficult decisions facing anyone wading into the market. From floor plans and fireplaces to school districts and square footage, the list is nearly endless.
The AJT spoke with five Atlanta-area real estate agents to discuss current trends, what’s falling out of fashion and what to keep in mind when looking for a home.
Several agents shared common answers, especially about which areas are the most popular. Many mentioned Buckhead, Midtown, Brookhaven, Virginia-Highland, Morningside, Sandy Springs and East Cobb.
Here are a few thoughts from Atlanta’s real estate pros:
A Harry Norman Realtor in Buckhead, Sandy Abrams explained that younger buyers, just entering the housing market, have specific needs that they expect to be met.
“Millennials want everything in perfect condition and totally renovated,” she said. “They don’t necessarily want to buy a property and still have to put in a bunch of work.”
Abrams focuses on showing buyers as much as possible within their price range and areas in which they’re searching. Once that’s done, her advice is simple:
“After that, pick specific things that are really important to you and we’ll focus on those in the search,” she said. “Never take anything for granted in your home search.”
The availability of more information online in recent years has presented new challenges, Abrams observed.
“It has given everyone a sense of false knowledge when they enter the market, so it’s a little more difficult to meet expectations, so its really about showing them what’s available,” she said.
Abrams cited Decatur as an up-and-coming neighborhood for young Jewish adults, alongside the always popular Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Morningside and Midtown. She also said that East Cobb remains a great area to invest, but it has fallen somewhat in popularity because of traffic.
Also with Harry Norman and located inside the perimeter, Amy Barocas said many of the current trends sweeping Atlanta are innovative and reshaping the city into a better planned urban community.
While the most popular innovations in metro Atlanta include the transformations of Midtown, Brookhaven and Sandy Springs, Barocas also pointed a little further from the center to areas such as Johns Creek and Suwanee.
“They are making their mark with amazing shopping, dining, groceries, etc.,” she said.
She mentioned millennials and those over 55 as key demographics that redefine needs in the real estate market. Millennials express a desire for single-family homes that incorporate stylish design and open-concept floor plans.
Commercial real estate also plays a role in redefining these spaces, according to Barocas, as less brick-and-mortar space is needed, and retail spaces are “intertwined with residential living.”
Citing a pair of classic real estate sayings, Barocas explained that both can simultaneously miss the mark.
“Bigger is not always better, but less is not always more,” she said, but maintained that the classic, “location, location, location,” along with school districts, remain vital when considering a good investment.
“Watch those taxes too, they can sneak up on you!” she emphasized.
Robin Blass is a Coldwell Banker associate located in Dunwoody. She described the trends that are common both in new homes and in older homes, which are sometimes overlooked.
“The open floor plan is extremely popular,” she said.
In particular, she referenced warmth and comfort as important factors, noting that some classics are making a resurgence.
“Wood treatment on fireplaces and dining room walls, called shiplap, was very popular back in the ‘old days,’ and is being done all the time now in old and new construction,” she said.
As for other trends of the past, Blass mentioned brushed nickel fixtures, which are more commonly being replaced by gold.
As for those in the market now, Blass said good investment areas include Kirkwood, Chamblee and properties inside the perimeter. Her advice, “Act quickly if there is a good purchase, so you’re not one of multiple offers.”
Jon Shapiro and his son David work together in their family business as RE/MAX Around Atlanta Realty. In speaking to the AJT, Jon noted that many buyers today are not looking for the largest possible space.
“There is a demographic of buyers who are wanting smaller homes, even tiny homes, as not to pay via a 30-year mortgage. … There is consciousness around what home ownership really costs and this consumer wants to ensure cost-effectiveness,” he said.
He added that flexibility is a major factor in new homes “so you use the whole house,” rather than “a formal living room that is used for holidays.” Further commenting on downsizing, Shapiro said that large, high-maintenance lots were falling out of fashion.
With regard to investments, Shapiro suggested homes in areas that boast the best, award-winning schools, are pedestrian accessible and have access to public transportation.
“[Having] a less expensive home in a more expensive area is always a good idea as well,” he said.
In particular, he said that anything on or near the Atlanta BeltLine is incredibly popular and highly sought after. As for advice for those on the market, Shapiro said that finding an experienced real estate professional is key, someone who can help navigate overwhelming amounts of information.
“We are experiencing a bit of a shift away from a seller’s market right now and you want to make sure you are dealing with best and [most] timely information in the exact market you are buying or selling in,” he said.
Debbie Sonenshine, head of The Sonenshine Team with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, said walkability is vital when it comes to younger buyers and empty nesters.
“They are often willing to sacrifice square footage for location,” she said. As for older trends falling out of fashion, “the huge whirlpool tubs are no longer in vogue with many owners replacing them with high-end showers.”
She added that renovated homes in good school districts remain incredibly popular, but that current buyers don’t want to put too much work into fixing up a home.
“Buyers today are less interested in doing any renovation or even updating themselves,” Sonenshine said. “They want move-in condition; we call that the HGTV syndrome!”
As for the downsizing empty nesters, she identified a shortage of smaller, one-story homes in central locations.
“It is almost impossible to build a one-level home for a moderate price because of the large footprint and high lot price, yet that is what a large segment of the market is looking for,” she said.
She pointed to multifamily buildings and apartment-to-condo conversions as more symptoms of high land costs in the city, as builders try to maximize their use of expensive space.