Residential Real Estate Market Skyrockets
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Residential Real Estate Market Skyrockets

Atlanta’s top real estate agents share what both buyers and sellers need to know.

Robyn Spizman Gerson is a New York Times best-selling author of many books, including “When Words Matter Most.” She is also a communications professional and well-known media personality, having appeared often locally on “Atlanta and Company” and nationally on NBC’s “Today” show. For more information go to

  • Randolph Kallenberg of Keller Knapp Realty.
    Randolph Kallenberg of Keller Knapp Realty.
  • Eydie Koonin of Atlanta Fine Home Sotheby's International Realty with clients.
    Eydie Koonin of Atlanta Fine Home Sotheby's International Realty with clients.
  • Lauren Blass Solomon and her mother, Robin Blass, of the Robin Blass Group at Harry Norman Realtors.
    Lauren Blass Solomon and her mother, Robin Blass, of the Robin Blass Group at Harry Norman Realtors.
  • Debbie Sonenshine of Coldwell Banker Realty.
    Debbie Sonenshine of Coldwell Banker Realty.
  • Leigh and Michael Schiff, Schiff Real Estate Team.
    Leigh and Michael Schiff, Schiff Real Estate Team.
  • Neal Heery and George Heery, founding partners of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty.
    Neal Heery and George Heery, founding partners of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty.

Something is happening in the Atlanta housing market. With homes selling before they’re even on the market, historically low inventory, and bidding wars and home values soaring, the AJT spoke to a group of seasoned real estate agents to find out what both buyers and sellers need to know.

Robin Blass, of the Robin Blass Group at Harry Norman Realtors, has been in the business for 40 years, the past 10 years in partnership with daughter Lauren Blass Solomon. “There are two different perspectives when it comes to representing the buyer,” she said, “and it’s not only about increasing the price if there are multiple offers, but the entire package has to be considered. There are a lot of approaches to make your offer look more advantageous. If they have the cash to prove they can pay, that’s the route to go. It shows that my buyer has the funds and is stronger.”

Lauren Blass Solomon and her mother, Robin Blass, of the Robin Blass Group at Harry Norman Realtors.

As far as changes in the market go, Blass adds, “I’m excited that we’ve already sold and closed 83 houses this year. … It’s probably not the best time to renovate, as it’s hard to get supplies if you’re in a time crunch. Invest in your home and don’t let things get out of hand. It’s easier to take one room at a time and get it updated.”

Lauren Solomon, who became a real estate agent while she was still a sophomore in college, representing a younger demographic — buyers and sellers in their late twenties and thirties — says, “Everyone wants updated, renovated, newer interior, and they all have budgets that don’t match the current markets. Features include an open-concept kitchen that opens onto the family room, painted white brick, outdoor living space, master mostly up where the kids are, and location, location, location. More are moving to the suburbs, including Sandy Springs, Chamblee, Brookhaven and Dunwoody.”

Leigh Schiff, who runs Schiff Real Estate Team and Ansley Real Estate with her husband Michael, added, “It continues to be a market with record low inventory levels, rising demand, and historically low interest rates, resulting in a bullish seller’s market. While it is a wonderful time to sell, it remains a challenge for homeowners to find properties to purchase. It has never been more important to have a skilled representative who can strategically position both seller and buyer for success in this market. There also seem to be less instances of multiple offers, compared to the first half of the year.”

Leigh and Michael Schiff, Schiff Real Estate Team.

She added, “When correctly positioned, we are still seeing multiple offers resulting in above-full-price offers with little or no contingencies. We have been negotiating occupancy after closing for all our sellers that need it at no additional cost to them, and up to 59 days. This gives them the opportunity to identify a new home to purchase if they have not yet been able to do so.”

Regarding renovations, Schiff said that good contractors may be hard to find. “Right now, contractors are extremely busy with long lead times (6-12 months) and the cost of raw materials are at an all-time high, with many delays in the supply chain. This is one reason that we are seeing people paying top dollar for homes that are completely turnkey, and not even making offers on properties that need updated kitchens, bathrooms or outdoor living spaces.”

It’s not all data points and business, though. Eydie Koonin, of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, says the process can be intimate, as well. “Selling someone’s home is personal to me and I hope I always remain in someone’s life after the transaction is completed. That’s the beginning of the story. The rest of the story is being in the business for over 13 years and earlier clients are repeat clients, and I am a generational real estate agent. I’m moving parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren, folks relocating to Atlanta, and real estate is about investing in a relationship. You are better off working with someone whose values you know because they’ll have your back. When you buy a home, you are buying a lifestyle. Understand that you are not only buying the home, but also the neighborhood, the schools, and surroundings. Drive around the entire area and make sure your grocery store and the amenities are close enough to your daily life.”

Eydie Koonin of Atlanta Fine Home Sotheby’s International Realty with clients.

George Heery agrees. “The most rewarding deal I ever did was when I was brand new in the business,” he said. “My clients were Ben and Hilda Weissman (of blessed memory), who had a ranch house in the Margaret Mitchell neighborhood for several decades and made a home there. They then purchased a condo that they were proud to call home. This journey and relationship brought a deep appreciation for the ‘business’ of being a residential realtor. Ben and Hilda always wanted to know what was happening in my life, because we helped them feel at home.”

Amy Barocas, of the Barocas & Feldman Team at Harry Norman Realtors, works with her mother Peggy Feldman and daughter-in-law Kelsey. She said, “As real estate agents, we are experiencing a market that Atlanta has never seen before. Beginning last year, we began to see a mass exodus of buyers from other states coming to Georgia. Right before Atlanta issued a shelter-in-place warning, we had a client call and say they wanted to buy a new construction home, all cash, up to a million dollars — and close in two weeks. They were in route with all their personal belongings and ended up closing two weeks later, after looking for three days, sunrise to sunset. It’s been like a perfect storm with low interest rates, an under-supply of homes, relocation in high numbers, increased lumber costs, little standing inventory in new construction, and people seeking a new normal lifestyle while working from home. The demands have changed and become more flexible.”

Neal Heery and George Heery, founding partners of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty.

Jon Shapiro has been in the business for 30 years. He says that versatile spaces are especially in demand right now. “What sellers need to know is that the market continues to move very rapidly, and home values have exploded over the past year. First, get your home in top condition. Then call in an independent bank appraiser to appraise your home in order to ensure that top dollar is being pursued in the exact market you are selling in. Many sellers underestimate the value of their home. I think a trend that will continue is the desire for flexible space in the home for exercise, a home office, play area, and outdoor space of any kind. As restaurants hold on to the outdoor space they built during the pandemic, I think homeowners will want to also continue to create great outdoor spaces for themselves and entertaining guests.”

Debbie Sonenshine, a 40-year veteran of the residential real estate business, thinks the seller’s market may be swelling some heads. “While it is clearly a seller’s market, sellers need to be realistic,” she said. “Homes that are updated, in perfect move-in condition, located in a great school district and properly priced, are selling immediately at high prices. When evaluating offers it is important to consider all the terms, not just price. We are seeing buyers jump and make a high offer after seeing a home for just a few minutes and then having buyer’s remorse. Sellers should work with their realtor to develop a strategy before listing the house for sale.”

Debbie Sonenshine of Coldwell Banker Realty.

She added, “Buyers should be ready to act quickly. Just in the last couple of weeks, the market has changed. The frenzy has slowed a bit and the number of homes on the market is increasing. The end of the summer often brings a slower pace to sales, as school is about to start and people are taking their last vacations of the summer. I am seeing many people (grandparents, couples with young children, and even young singles) relocate to be closer to family. I think the focus on family and a healthier lifestyle is very positive. The basics of real estate are always the same, but there is something new every day, which is why I love it!”

Randolph Kallenberg, of Keller Knapp Realty, specializes in commercial, small multi-family and residential. Regarding issues that consumers should know about, he said, “A lot of people like new construction and want a new spec build, but it’s hard to find in-town. The problem is people get caught up in the moment and they want that property and sometimes don’t think about the builder or the details. That house is probably going to be taken quickly and they’ll pay the premium. The problem with that is that buyers don’t do due diligence and that’s what a real estate agent should do.”

Kallenberg said that buyers might not be aware of all the issues, including flooding. Before making an offer, he suggests, “look at the drainage situation and statute of limitations so you are protected. Drainage is a huge problem in Atlanta, since it’s hilly, or if a house is built at the bottom of a hill, you could have flooding. No one wants a flooded basement, so buyer beware, and work with an agent who will educate you about what you need to know.”

Randolph Kallenberg of Keller Knapp Realty.

Christiane Schendowich, a 35-year Phoenix Award Recipient and realtor at Harry Norman Realtors said, “For sellers it’s the best time to sell your house, due to low inventory and high demand. Due to COVID, everything has changed. Because of the pandemic, sellers didn’t want to put their houses on the market and now people are ready. Specific zip codes and price ranges are in high demand. Most people are moving from the city to the suburbs because they want to work from home, which they got used to, and now people want larger homes.”

A personal letter that shares why you want the house is another key idea that Schendowich believes can help. “It is an old-fashioned way to work, but if you really love the house, you say what you feel, that you love the layout, the kitchen and put it in writing. An example is: ‘As soon as I entered your house, I could see our family living here. We appreciate the details you put into the interior.’ Share what you observe to the seller and how beautiful their home is. In my experience, the seller does not always pick the highest price. They can see when a new buyer is a perfect fit for the home they’ve loved and they will envision their family traditions continuing. A homeowner has an emotional attachment to their home, so a letter that you share can sometimes make the difference.”

“Today, a house that is pristine sells for around 30% more,” she added, “but right now we have a seller’s market, so it’s not as important to have a move-in-ready house. In a balanced market, by the end of the year and next year, it’s important that the property is decluttered and super clean. Prepare, plan and sell.”

Knowing when to walk away can be just as important. “If you think you are paying too much money, say goodbye,” she suggests. “Know how far you’ll go and try not to be emotionally attached and stick to your principles.”

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