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I have been a real estate agent for almost a decade.  But until recent, I lived in the home I owned I purchased PRIOR to becoming an agent, back when the process was more mysterious to me than it is now.  In the past few years, it is no secret that home prices in Atlanta have tanked, crashed, bottomed out.  SO, I decided to take the advice I give my clients – buy a home NOW!  Interest rates are incredibly low, so are home prices – buying a home has never been more affordable and has never made more sense.

First I had to convince my husband that this was a good idea.  We love our home in a charming little neighborhood called ChanningValley, where the neighbors know one another, kids play in the quaint neighborhood park, and there are active garden and book clubs.  Our home is a ‘50s ranch that I renovated into a cute little cottage that is the perfect size for two people.  So why would we move?  Well, I told my husband, we can rent out our home in Channing Valley, make money every month from it – and use that money to leverage ourselves into a home that is even better for us.

Once I showed him what we could purchase in today’s market, and once we found an architect’s dream home – he was convinced.  And it has been the best process in the world for me.  I have a much clearer idea of EXACTLY what my clients go through in the home buying process.

First, there is the difficulty in deciding which neighborhood to live in.  I have a better idea of all the “neighborhoods” in Atlanta and their individual characteristics than my clients do, of course – unless you are a Realtor, you do not intimately know a large number of neighborhoods.  Part of my job is to help a client decide which neighborhood is best for them.  My husband and I knew this much: that we did not want to move more than five miles from his work.  (He works right across from the High Museum of Art).  Since as a Realtor my work is all over the metro area (as far North as Forsyth County, as far South as Peachtree City, as far East as Stone Mountain, and as far West as Douglasville), location was not as key to me.  My office is my car and it goes everywhere.

But even with that focus on my husband’s place of business, it was much more difficult to decide on a neighborhood than I imagined – there are so many that we love (Virginia Highland, Morningside, Ansley Park, Garden Hills… the list goes on, but all closer in).  And the number of available properties is staggering.  While with clients, I can generally know in very short order which home would be perfect for them by listening to their needs, wants, likes, dislikes, when it is a personal decision it is a lot more difficult.

This definitely helped me become more aware of my value in guiding clients in choosing a neighborhood.  A third party unbiased view is very helpful.  Ultimately, of course, it can be and must be the client’s choice, but a good Realtor familiar with the neighborhoods can be an invaluable asset.

What I learned from my own experience with this also, however, is that the “right” home might not be in your favorite neighborhood.  The home my husband and I ended up buying is farther out than we thought we’d be willing to move, and not in the “historical” intown neighborhoods that we so love.  We initially thought we had to live inAnsleyPark.  But when we got down to considering practicalities and our budget, a larger home a little farther out on a larger lot made a lot more sense for our lifestyle.

So, keep your mind open!  But also keep in mind that you cannot look “everywhere”.  It’s very important to be limited in geographic scope.  Consider traffic patterns – if you work downtown, you probably don’t want to spend an hour and a half every day in traffic.  Look for something closer in.  But if your Realtor suggests a neighborhood you did not think of, consider it!  If the home you love is in a neighborhood you were not considering, consider it!  It may be the perfect neighborhood for you.