Helping First-Time Real Estate Investors In Atlanta


Rent continues to rise in Metro Atlanta and novice real estate investors are wanting to take advantage.

I’ve received numerous calls recently from mostly out-of-state rookie investors looking to produce income. Most don’t have the cash to buy the property outright, but they typically have enough money to put down at least 20 percent.

The mistake most first-time investors and future landlords make is finding a property where the rental income covers only the mortgage payment, HOA fees and taxes. But that is short-sighted thinking.

That’s not taking into account a property manager’s fees (assuming they want a property manager), cost of repairs and months with no tenant. In the end you’re fortunate to break even and you mistakenly count on the idea that the value of the property will continue to rise.

I try to find my investor-clients properties that will bring in 2x the monthly mortgage payments. With twice as much rental income coming in compared to mortgage payments going out, you give yourself some breathing room.

For example:
$120,000 home
20% down
$96,000 mortgage
$550 monthly payment (approximate)
$1,100 monthly rent from tenant

Finding homes that will fit this financial criteria isn’t black and white. A good real estate agent can identify ideal rental homes, however, through a little hard work.

First, you’ll want to make sure there are no HOA rental restrictions. Many properties inside of Atlanta have such restrictions. For example, many of the high-rise condo buildings allow only 10 percent of the units to be rented — and there is typically a long waiting list for owners who would like to rent their unit out.

Many MLS descriptions will say that there are no HOA restrictions, but you should not always count on that information being accurate. A good agent will verify with the HOA or property management group that there are no restrictions on renting.

Imagine buying a townhome and putting a “For Rent” sign in the window, only to find out that you can’t rent the home. You’re stuck with that property.

Most first-time investors, especially those out of state, want to purchase a property that is move-in ready, or close to it. The last thing they want to do is spend thousands of dollars on repairs before they can begin renting it.

Again, a good real estate agent will filter the fixer-uppers out.

Once an agent finds you a list of potential properties, then the number-crunching begins. An agent will look at comparable properties to identify a fair purchase price. In addition, he/she will look at the average rent for similar properties in the area to get a good idea of what the property will rent for.

Now that the list has been narrowed down, I will go to the property and show it to the investors via Face Time or Skype. Some investors will use this virtual tour, along with my feedback, to make an offer. Others will want to come view the house in person — the much more highly recommended method if possible.

Shallow Ridge
This home in Kennesaw lists for $129,900 and could possibly be rented for up to $1,200 per month.

If you or anyone you know is curious about purchasing rental property in the Atlanta area, call me (404.295.8703).

First-Time Home Buyers Can Get Their Dream Home With Just 3% Down

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The biggest obstacle to home ownership for first-time home buyers is saving for a down payment, according to

That obstacle recently got a lot smaller. Our Coldwell Banker partners at Sun Belt Lending are now offering a conventional loan for just three percent down — and that three percent can come in the form of a gift!

With rent rising at a maddening pace, purchasing a home now makes more sense than ever.

Loan program details:

  • 3% down payment
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage
  • Down payment may be gifted
  • At least one borrower must be a first-time homebuyer
  • Flexible mortgage insurance options
  • Homebuyer education may be required

Property types include single family residences, condominiums, PUDs and townhomes used as primary residence. Manufactured homes are not permitted.

If you — or anyone you know — is curious about purchasing a new home, call me today. Along with Sun Belt Lending, we’ll get you that dream home.

Work With An Agent Who Does Real Estate Full-Time

Real Estate Agent

There’s a good article in the Contra Costa Times called “10 Things To Know About Real Estate Agents.”

While all 10 nuggets in the story are good advice, I think item No. 4 — Make Sure The Agent Works Full-Time — is especially crucial.

Here’s what that portion of the article says:

Make sure the agent does real estate full time. Whether you’re a buyer or seller, you want to choose an agent who is actively following the market every day. If you’re buying, you want an agent who can jump on new listings and show them to you immediately. If you’re a seller, you want an agent who is always available to show your home to prospective buyers. A good agent should know about other area properties that are available “off the top of his head.” They should also have an office and phone number you can reach them at any time.

Rent vs. Buy? Now There’s Another Option

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Michael Walker, who had been renting a Marietta apartment since 2013, was shocked when he got the letter in the mail recently.

“I figured my rent would go up,” Walker said, “but they raised it by nearly two-hundred dollars. It’s going to be difficult to make ends meet.”

Rent is up throughout Atlanta. Renters are paying an average of $77 more monthly this year compared to a year ago. All signs indicate that rent will continue to soar in the next year and beyond. Atlanta ranks 16th nationally as the most expensive places to rent.

In many cases, it’s cheaper to purchase a home with a mortgage – especially with interest rates still in the low 4s — than to continue renting. The problem for many renters, however, is coming up with a down payment of at least 3.5 percent for an FHA loan or 5.0 percent for conventional.

Other renters would love to buy, but they have a foreclosure or short sale dragging down their credit score, making it more difficult to get a mortgage.

“We felt we were in limbo,” Walker said. “We want to save money for a down payment and we wanted to continue to grow our credit score, but the increase it rent makes it increasingly difficult to do either.

To buy or to continue renting is the dilemma many are facing. However, there is another option.

I work with a real estate investment trust that is allowing renters to move into their dream home and get out apartment living.

“Instead of moving from apartment to apartment, we found we can pick out a great home that’s actually for sale,” Walker said. “The home is purchased for us. We pay rent – about the same as we would be paying for an apartment – and we have the option to purchase it at any time.

“Assuming we continue to love the house and the neighborhood,” Walker said, “we’ll buy it in a year or so.”

In this program – which I can explain to you in detail – there is no surprise and large jump in monthly rent. You are told from the beginning what your rent will be now, one year from now, two years from now and so on. You’re also given a good estimate on what the house would cost you to purchase it in a year or beyond. It’s quite transparent.

So, what’s the catch? There is none, really. The program does require a deposit equal to two month’s rent. But, after one year you have the option to walk away – no strings attached.

The program’s philosophy is sound. They will only purchase single-family homes or fee simple townhomes, and they’ll purchase only in good school districts. They usually pay a good price for the house because they pay cash with no financial or appraisal contingencies.

In short, here is how the program works:

  1. Renter applies for the program ($75) and lists me as their agent.
  2. Renter works with me to search for the perfect home.
  3. Our partners negotiate then purchase the home for cash.
  4. After reaching an agreement with the seller, it takes about 20 days to close, then 10 additional days to get the home ready.
  5. If the home is in need of fix-up, many times the carpet is replaced and/or the home is painted.
  6. About 40 days after finding the perfect home, the renter moves in to their dream home.

It’s basically that simple.

I’ve worked with a number of clients who were in the rental market. Frustrated by rising rent and how quickly rental properties were being snatched up by other renters, they began working with me and all have been pleased with the process.

One current client is looking at a 2-bedroom townhome in Marietta, a 1,400-square foot property that lists for $145,000. The monthly rent is $1,250.

Another client has his eye on a $469,900 four-bedroom home in Woodstock than rents for $2,830.

If you are curious about the program, just give me a call (404.295.8703).

1468 Liberty Parkway NW, Atlanta, GA 30108 ($195,000)

Location, location… you know the rest… move-in ready 2bed/3.5 bath unit located in the gated Liberty Park community, located close to West Midtown, Vinings and the Cumberland area… the first level has a recently renovated bonus room, complete with a full bath and a closet — could easily be used as a 3rd bedroom… 2-story foyer w/ cathedral ceilings… outstanding kitchen w/ stone countertops…walk-out deck great for entertaining… community includes a pool, clubhouse… area is extremely pet-friendly with a dog walk.

Can’t Afford Your Dream Home Right Now? Think Again. Our Partners Will Purchase It For You.

Perhaps you or someone you know would like nothing better than to purchase their dream home, but coming up with a down payment is preventing that dream.

Now, you don’t have to wait. Move into that dream home today and later, when you’re ready, you can purchase it.

Here’s how it works:

1. Apply online and get approved. If you have good enough credit to rent, you will likely qualify for the program.

2. After getting approved, I’ll work with you to find a home that you love. The only requirements are that the home must be located in an approved school district and it must be a single-family home or fee simple townhome.

3. Once you pick out your home, Home Partners purchases the home for you — with cash.

4. Once the home is purchased, you move in and pay rent to Home Partners. At any time — whether it’s five weeks in or five years in, it doesn’t matter — you have the option to purchase the home. Or, after one year of renting, you can walk away, no strings attached.

Contact me for more info. 404.295.8703.

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*The Lease with Right to Purchase program is offered and administered by an independent third party not affiliated with [insert brokerage company name]. [Brokerage company] and its representatives do not in any way represent or warrant any of the terms, conditions, or benefits of the Lease with a Right to Purchase Program. Applicant and property must meet certain eligibility requirements. Other terms and conditions apply. Please review all other terms and conditions of the program before proceeding.

4 Reasons To Consider Working With A Newer Real Estate Agent


Here in Georgia, and probably in many other states, you can tell how long a real estate agent has been in the business based on their license number. The higher the number, the newer the agent.

My number begins with a 3-5-8, which means my first full year of real estate is behind me and that I’m no longer a rookie agent. And now that I’ve gone through it, I’m here to tell you – the consumer – not to be afraid of working with a first-year real estate associate.

Here are four reasons why:

  1. Don’t Underestimate A New Agent’s Background

Many people who get into real estate, especially those in their 30s, 40s and 50s, often bring relevant experience to the job. In my Coldwell Banker office in Marietta (Ga.), I work with a former mortgage banker, a former construction supervisor and a former CEO. For them, making the transition to real estate has been relatively easy.

After working 25 years in college athletics in media relations and communications, I embarked on a new career in real estate in May of 2014. Previously I served as the head of sports communications at Kansas, Wake Forest, and most recently at Georgia Tech.

On one of my first real estate transactions last year I represented the buyer, a young couple purchasing their first home for just under $300,000. As I negotiated the contract, I was opposite a listing agent who had been in the real estate business for two decades.

As we began negotiating terms of the contract, I detected a condescending tone from the agent. To say that she tried to “bully” me would be a little strong, but clearly she was licking her chops in anticipation of teaching her rooking counterpart a painful lesson in contract negotiations.

You could almost sense her saying – as some here in the South like to say – “Bless his little heart….”

Sitting alone at my cubicle, I chuckled to myself.

Don’t get me wrong, the weight of dealing with my first contract and the pressure of finding my clients their dream home got my heart-rate going. I knew from real estate class and my training what terms like due diligence, special stipulations and fiduciary duties were, but I had not put those terms to real-world use yet.

First and foremost, Coldwell Banker provides its associates with the best training possible. By my first day on the job, I felt fully prepared for almost any transaction. Secondly, I’m blessed to have a broker with nearly 40 years of real estate experience – someone who would never let me make a huge negotiating or contracts mistake.

But what really gave me confidence to deal with a more seasoned agent was my quarter-century background in college athletics’ communications.

Sure, this was the first time I had ever negotiated a six-figure real estate contract, but I’ve done my share of negotiating.  Try convincing a tearful 19-year old quarterback who just threw a season-ending interception that he should face the media, or calming down a screaming reporter who is on deadline and can’t get an internet connection, or telling an ESPN producer that he won’t get the interview he wanted.

So, veteran agent, bring it on.

  1. Newer Agents Are Focused On You

Certainly, veteran real estate agents have been through the wars. They’ve been through the ups and downs, if not collapse, of real estate markets. There are tremendous veteran real estate agents that I truly look up to and lean on for advice.

A new agent, however, usually has a limited number of clients. Selling your home truly becomes their full-time job. They won’t pass you off to another member of their team or forget to communicate with you because they have a long list of clients. Selling your home is their top priority – if not their ONLY priority — and they’ll work like crazy to get you to the closing table.

  1. Newer Agents May Be Better More Tech-Savvy

Gone are the days when the consumer would find a home by looking in the classified ads. Close to 90 percent of searches for new homes begin on the internet.

Many new agents come armed with technological skills that help them market homes for sellers, find the perfect home for buyers, and better communicate with Millennials. Many rookie agents already know how to manage a blog, a Facebook business page, Twitter and Instagram accounts. They understand how to use video and that Youtube is the world’s second-biggest search engine.

When I first got into real estate, I needed something to help differentiate myself from the other 30,000 agents in metro Atlanta. My background in marketing and digital media, I felt, might help level the playing field when competing with more experienced agents.

I made high-quality videos and professional photography a standard part of my listing package. I started a Facebook business page and created Twitter and Instagram accounts. Last fall I used Face Time on my iPhone to give a live tour of a home to a client from Boston who made an offer on the home without leaving Massachusetts.

Digital and social media can’t take the place of experience and true customer service, but it can be an important part of an agent’s portfolio.

  1. New Agents Are Hungry

In my first week as a real estate agent, a veteran agent stopped by my desk and asked me if I’d be interested in working with someone who was searching for a home in the low $100,000s. He had me at “Would you…”

My veteran colleague didn’t need the job – he had plenty on his plate and a portfolio of many million-dollar homes. I took the lead and ran with it.

At Coldwell Banker there is a philosophy that everyone, regardless of sale price, deserves a luxury experience. I couldn’t agree more.

Over the next three months I showed my new clients – a wonderful retired couple in their early 70s – more than 30 homes before they made an offer.  Often, I rented a car so that they wouldn’t have to squeeze into my little two-door vehicle.

By the time I added up the mileage, commission split with my broker, rental car fees and referral fee to the veteran agent, I lost money on the deal. However, that wonderful couple continues to be an advocate for me. More importantly, I gained a great deal of satisfaction by seeing how happy they were in a home they absolutely love.

New agents need the money, but they also crave the experience. Equally important, they need the clients who may refer them to additional business down the road.


I want to be clear about this. I am not suggesting that newer agents are better than veteran agents by any stretch (especially since I’m a veteran agent now!). There are many veteran agents who have not only accumulated decades of knowledge, but continue to work extremely hard and continue to adapt in the digital world. Consumers would be fortunate to work with any of them. Many of them work just a few feet from me at Coldwell Banker. In fact, rarely do I complete a transaction without absorbing some knowledge from agents who have forgotten more than I will ever know.

However, don’t discount a new agent simply because they are new. It may be one of the best decisions a home buyer or seller can make.

Lawrence Bar Closes Doors; Memories Go On


The fancy sign in the photo above is not the way I remember the Yacht Club, a longtime favorite bar in Lawrence, Kansas. That sign came along long after the decade I spent in one of America’s great college towns.

The Yacht Club closed its doors for good recently. And while I now live half a continent away, it makes me a little sad. It feels like someone broke into my home and stole all my scrapbooks — the memories remain but all physical evidence is now gone. (Editor’s note: For you Millennials, scrapbooks are actual books where actual printed photos were kept for the purpose of reminiscing).

There was probably not a more mis-named bar than the Yacht Club. It was located nowhere near a body of water. In fact, I think geographically — or geometrically — it was probably located equally distant to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. And the people who went to the Yacht Club… well, I doubt many of them owned yachts.

Going to the “YC” after almost every basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse between 1990 and 2000 are some of my fondest memories, although frankly many of those memories were lost with destroyed brain cells. Everyone would gather there — students, alumns, townies and those of us fortunate enough to work in the athletic department.

Even the Jayhawk players showed up. Hey, it was a different time.

We never got Roy Williams out there post-game, although we did try, and to his credit he made an appearance there when my going-away party was appropriately held there.

Facebook didn’t come around until 2004, four years after I left Lawrence. And for that, I’m quite thankful and I know many of my friends and former co-workers feel the same.

RIP, Yacht Club. It was a good run.