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Tips and Observations You Will Need to Live in Metro Atlanta

8/19/2016

 

 

  

 

 

Tips and Observations You Will Need to Live in Metro Atlanta

 

 

Metro Atlanta is unlike any other metropolitan area. Up until the last 5-8 years, there was actually very limited housing (condos, apartments, high rises, etc.) in Atlanta proper. That’s been changing a lot in recent years. However, downtown Atlanta is just one of many living options for the metro area.

 

Where our RE/MAX Greater Atlanta office is based, in Cobb County on the eastern side, we have some excellent school districts and award-winning schools like Lassiter High School and Sprayberry High School.  Just north of Cobb, in Cherokee County, you will find an area that is one of the fastest-growing in the entire state. To the east, Gwinnett County continues to compete with other counties with its many amenities, shopping, restaurants and eclectic areas.

 

But what about those you-have-to-live-there-to-know tips? Well, just for our blog readers, here are some of those tips and observations. Feel free to share these with anyone you know who is considering a move to Atlanta or who has recently relocated here.  Some of these are meant to be funny (while still being true).

 

  1. Never use a Waffle House as an anchor landmark for knowing where you are—or how to get back to where you want to be. That’s because, by one count on the internet, there are a whopping 132 Waffle House locations. Two busy metro Atlanta intersections that we know of actually have two Waffle Houses on opposite sides of the street!
  2. Be prepared for streets and highways to change names frequently. For instance, did you know Highway 92 in Woodstock becomes Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell and later becomes Jimmy Carter Blvd. much farther east in the Gwinnett area?
  3. Be prepared for roads to have official names, unofficial names or dual names. Highway 120 that goes west out of downtown Marietta toward Paulding County is a prime example. Its signs refer to Highway 120, but it is also known as Marietta Highway in one direction and Dallas Highway in the other direction.
  4. Interstate 285, also fondly known of as “The Perimeter,” will, more often than not, have directional signs that make no sense to you when getting on the interstate. You may be getting on 285 and thinking to yourself, okay, I need to go south to get to X. As you approach ramps to enter 285, your options will be east and west. You’re in a moving vehicle with traffic behind you and you now have 1.5 seconds to decide which direction you need. (We like to keep you on your toes here in Atlanta!)
  5. If you are in Cobb County and seeking directions from someone, do not be surprised if the words “the Big Chicken” come into the conversation. This is the famed KFC franchise location at the corner of Cobb Parkway and Roswell Road. You will know it when you see it –it towers some 25-30 feet high and looks like a huge, well, chicken!
  6. Even if you come from a bigger city like Chicago, New York or LA, you will be stupefied at how bad rush hour can get in the lesser-sized Atlanta. You will also be unimpressed by the limited transit system.
  7. If the weather forecast even hints at the possibility of ice or snow, you will need to go into full prepper mode ASAP. Otherwise, you will arrive at your local grocery store only to find empty shelves in areas like bread, milk, lunch meat and water. Go by the assumption that your work and the childrens’ schools will be closed, until you hear otherwise…regardless of whether 1 inch or 5 inches accumulates.
  8. If it’s raining at rush hour and your route includes an interstate, you may as well double whatever your typical commute time may be to work/home. Seriously.
  9. There will be a language barrier at times. We have many different Southern dialects within the same region—some are charming and easy to understand, others not so much. The term “y’all” will sneak into your language…and that’s okay.
  10. Complete strangers, if they are Southerners, will say hello to you when you pass them on a trail or just taking a walk in your neighborhood. It is Georgia after all, and we are big on hospitality!
  11. College sports are far bigger here than professional sports. Even if one didn’t attend the University of Georgia, there’s a good chance at being a die-hard UGA Bulldog fan. Perhaps it’s because our professional teams, with the exception of a year or two here or there, generally have just average win-loss records.
  12. Food, especially comfort food, is very important to Southerners. It’s almost considered a separate food group. Oh, and it’s sweet tea, not iced tea, if you don’t want to appear like a tourist.

 

So, there you have it, a few helpful tips to understand the area, the culture and the roadways. It’s by no means an all-inclusive list, but it highlights some important areas. Know someone who could use this take on Atlanta life? Pass it along or share the link on your social media.

The Rio Summer Olympics Are a Reminder to Seize the Day

8/11/2016

The Rio Summer Olympics Are a Reminder to Seize the Day

 

Watch even a small portion of the Rio Summer Olympics and you will find examples of perseverance, overcoming setbacks of all kinds and amazing personal stories. No matter their circumstances, these athletes from around the globe arrived at the games with smiles on their faces and gratitude in their hearts. In some countries, athletes had very limited training facilities. In many countries (including some U.S. athletes), affording the coaching, training, equipment and travel was a definite hardship.

Despite the setbacks, these athletes know this is their time to shine and proudly represent their countries. They are a wonderful example of carpe diem – seize the day. The trick is to take that example and make it a reminder you can apply to other areas of your life—fitness, career, living space, family, etc.

Being hesitant or overwhelmed at the possibility of buying a home is one common area that may require extra motivation. The metro Atlanta real estate market, the improved jobs outlook and extremely good mortgage rates, make this an excellent time to seize the day with buying a home.

Check out some of our other blog entries by paging down on the RE/MAX Greater Atlanta blog page and you’ll find some helpful topics to move your home-buying process along. Things like tips for creating your must-have features list for your next home, details on how to know if you can afford to buy a home, and many other topics.

Don’t see what you need? Need a referral to talk to a professional about a mortgage pre-qualification? Call RE/MAX Greater Atlanta today at 770-973-9700 and we’ll be happy to answer your questions!

 

How to Create the Best Must-Have List Before Beginning a Home Search

8/5/2016

 

How to Create the Best Must-Have List Before Beginning a Home Search

 

The Atlanta real estate market offers a rich variety of home styles, locations and price points. As a home buyer, if you don’t vastly narrow down your search parameters, you will find the process overwhelming and extremely time-consuming.

So here are some tips on how to create an effective must-have list of features. Share this list with your Realtor before you begin your home search and it will not only help the process go more quickly, but you will buy the home that best fits your needs and wishes.

We’ll start with real estate features that are absolute must-haves, as these are often the easiest. This list includes proximity to work, whether you wish to be in certain school districts, and a price point (which is best based on having already completed a mortgage pre-qualification).

Answering these three questions has already weeded out 75 percent of the homes listed in the Atlanta real estate market. Now it’s time to dig deeper…

Take about 10 minutes to jot down everything you want in your dream home. Then assess this list for how much each item is an absolute necessity in your life. Central vacuum is nice, but you can easily live without it. A large backyard, however, for your two active children and two large dogs, is much more important. So why would you want to look at homes on tiny lots that are crammed together in a neighborhood?

Be sure you include the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms. For most people, a one bathroom house is not going to work and adding a bathroom can be expensive and next to impossible, depending on the home’s floorplan.  With regard to bedrooms, is a guest room really a necessity? It is if you regularly have family or friends from out of town, but it’s not if it will only get used two weekends a year.

It’s also important to realize that some items are really more of a “would be nice to have” feature. These should never be deal breakers, especially when most can be easily changed on your own once you move into a home. This would include things like a fenced yard, hardwood floors throughout, a built-in outdoor kitchen/barbeque area in the backyard, an extra storage shed, ceiling fans or specific paint colors.

Now that you have narrowed down your must-haves list, consider putting them in order of priority. This makes you really assess the list again. If you work from home, a home office would need to be pretty high on that list and more important than something like a swimming pool or living in a golf community. If you or anyone in your family has mobility issues, then a home with several levels and stairs is probably a poor match.

By laser focusing on what your family needs to live comfortably day-to-day, you will be that much clearer on what you want and your Realtor will be given a better picture to work with as well. You will also be more likely to recognize the correct home when you see it. With the shortage of listings in the metro Atlanta real estate market, it’s unlikely you will have the opportunity to go back to a home you saw six weeks ago because you’ve reconsidered. More likely than not, that home is already under contract. A clear list helps you focus on what’s really important and which features are just lovely bonuses. This list could also be the difference between staying in your home for some time and wanting to move again in three years because your home is not functioning for your family’s needs.

Best of luck on your metro Atlanta home search. And, as always, RE/MAX Greater Atlanta is here to answer your questions. Give us a call at 770-973-9700.

Georgia Sales Tax Holiday Set for July 29-31, 2016

7/22/2016

 

The Georgia Sales Tax Holiday is coming up soon.  The more you have to buy, the greater the need to take advantage of these tax-free dates. A long list of school supply items are included, with the restriction that the item be within the $20 per item price limit. It includes expected items such as backpacks, lunch boxes, paper, pens, pencils and markers. You may not know that it also covers blank CDs and DVDs, computer supplies, ink cartridges, organizers and most books found in the children’s section at the bookstore.

While the tax holiday is especially for families getting children ready to go back to school, it can be a benefit to any household. That’s because it includes a tax exemption for personal computers and accessories $1,500 and under, including printers, routers, scanners and hard drives (as long as these items are for noncommercial use).

Feeling a need to refresh or expand your wardrobe? Clothing is tax-exempt up to $100 per item. In addition to the standard fare of pants, shirts, jeans, skirts, etc, the approved list of items includes formal clothing, ties, belts, shoes, coats and sleepwear. It also includes exemptions for the youngest members of your household, as baby clothes are diapers will also be tax-exempt July 29-31, 2016 in Georgia.

So plan ahead and take advantage of this rare chance to avoid paying Georgia sales tax!

 

6 Regional Events and Activities to Close Out Summer 2016

7/15/2016

6 Regional Events and Activities to Close Out Summer 2016

With Cobb and Cherokee County schools going back the first of August as well as Fulton County schools returning August 8, time is running short to squeeze in that last bit of family fun before the back to school routine begins.

At RE/MAX Greater Atlanta, we want to make sure you make the most of these remaining weeks. Here’s a list of some fun activities and events going on between now and early August.

  1. Chattanooga, TN – about an hour and a half north of metro Atlanta, Chattanooga may surprise you with all the activities. The New York Times named it a Top 45 Destination to Travel. Their aquarium is amazing and has been named the top aquarium for visitor satisfaction. Also in the downtown area is a children’s museum, Hunter Art Museum, a 24/7 bike share system, a free electric bus shuttle system, and multiple ways to cruise the Tennessee River, from duck rides to riverboat cruises. Check out www.ChattanoogaFun.com for more details.

 

  1. 61st Annual Water Festival in Beaufort, SC. – This 10-day event is being held July 15-24, 2016. It includes a variety of events like an arts & crafts festival, concerts, shrimp boat tours, an air show, and a parade of boats on the final day. More info at www.bftfestival.com.

 

  1. Macon Music Festival – Save the date for Saturday, July 30th, if you’re a music lover. The event includes daytime family activities and a long list of evening music. Dozens of bands will perform at 12 different venues. Check out www.braggjam.org.

 

  1. Charlotte, NC and the Carowinds Amusement Park – one of the best kept secrets in the Southeast. This large amusement park has been around for decades and now include the Carolina Harbor Waterpark—all for the same admission price! The park offers 13 roller coasters, Planet Snoopy area and a Dinosaurs Alive section. www.carowinds.com

 

  1. Atlanta Ice Cream Festival – you had us at ice cream! This one day event is being held Saturday, July 23rd from 11 am to 6 pm at Piedmont Park. Now in its sixth year, check the site for a complete schedule of a varied list of activities. www.atlantaicecreamfestival.com

 

  1. Marietta International Film Festival – being held the first weekend of August. It features 72 films at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre in downtown Marietta. Visit www.marietta-film-festival.org for a list of films and viewing times.

And there you have it. We have scoured the internet to find these activities and hope you will be able to squeeze a few of these in before the start of the new school year.

Are You Financially Ready to Buy a Home in Metro Atlanta?

7/7/2016

 

Are You Financially Ready to Buy a Home in Metro Atlanta?

 

 The Atlanta housing market is currently making it more financially savvy to buy a home than continuing to rent. In Atlanta proper, a one bedroom apartment has a median rent price of $1,330, while a two bedroom costs a whopping $1,650. Think it’s much cheaper to rent outside Fulton County? Think again! In Alpharetta, median rental prices are $1,220 (only $110 less than Atlanta) and $1,460, respectively, with rents in Alpharetta increasing by 6.4% in the past year alone. Did you get a 6.4 % raise this year? Very unlikely!

 

Marietta fares better and, according to Apartment List, came in sixth in metro Atlanta for rental costs. A two bedroom in Marietta costs $980, while one bedrooms go for $850. While these numbers are much better than Atlanta or Alpharetta, rents in Marietta have jumped nearly 7% in the past year. As people are getting priced out of being closer to downtown, Marietta is a viable next option, with its close proximity to Atlanta. What this means for Marietta renters is  annual rental jumps will continue to be in the high single digits, if not hitting double digits.

 

According to an analysis of U.S. Census data, rents have increased more than THREE times as fast as incomes over the last five decades. With the annual increases we’ve discussed above, we can see how this could be possible.

 

A fixed rate mortgage, however, does not have these surprise increases. You are also paying on something that you could eventually own and that, historically, will go up in value over time. Many a first-time homeowner has walked away with a sizeable check after selling that first home. This money then helps pay down other debt or becomes a substantial down payment on the next home.

 

And with the metro Atlanta real estate market, it is completely possible to have a mortgage payment of less than $1,000 a month. So look at your budget and see if it’s time to stop being part of the 36% of Americans who are renters and consider being a homeowner. Your first steps should be to check your credit report/score and then get with a mortgage professional for a pre-approval. That’s when you will learn how much home you can afford and what interest rate you will receive based on your credit rating.

 

Want to find out if your dream of home-ownership can become a reality? Call RE/MAX Greater Atlanta today at 770-973-9700. We can connect you with our preferred mortgage lender to get you pre-approved and set you up to look at houses within the budget you are comfortable with—remember, you don’t have to buy a home as high as what you qualify for. What is the maximum mortgage payment you are comfortable with?

 

Let us amaze you today with what you can find on the market in your price range. We know if you do, you make the switch from renter to homeowner!

 

 

Happy Father�s Day to All Metro Atlanta Fathers!

6/17/2016

 

Happy Father’s Day to All Metro Atlanta Fathers!

 

This Sunday is Father’s Day, so RE/MAX Greater Atlanta wanted to take a moment to wish all fathers in metro Atlanta a wonderful weekend with your families. There are plenty of amazing events being held throughout metro Atlanta this weekend to make it a fun day.

 

For instance, the Georgia Aquarium on Sunday, June 19, is offering Dads half off their general admission ticket with purchase of one full price adult, child or senior admission. Be sure to check out their traveling art exhibit, Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea, which will only be on display a limited time. There’s also a Father’s Day vintage car show being held at Stone Mountain Park this weekend.

 

On Sunday only, fathers can get into Zoo Atlanta free with the purchase of any full-price child’s or adult’s general admission ticket. The same is true at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta.

 

Numerous concerts, farmers markets and other events are going on this weekend throughout metro Atlanta. So make it a fun Father’s Day weekend, everyone!

Preparing Home for Vacation Absence

6/15/2016

Preparing Your Home for Your Vacation Absence

 

 

Summer is a prime time for family vacations and travel for events such as weddings and family reunions. While you’re taking care of all those last minute trip details, don’t forget about your home. It needs to be prepped for your absence as well.

If you and your family plan to be gone more than a few days, it’s a good idea to let a trusted neighbor know your out-of-town plans. Give this person your exact dates as well as any necessary contact information—cell number, destination, email, etc. Leave a key to your front door with a neighbor in case entry is needed for things like a water leak, foul odor, plant watering, etc. Have this person check the exterior of your home regularly for any signs of forced entry through a window or a door.

Purchase a few inexpensive timers for various lights inside and outside your home. Setting one for a television or a radio is also a good idea. If electricity goes out in your area during your absence, you may need a friend, family member or neighbor to reset these as they will no longer come on at the appropriate times.

Lock your garage door, all windows and all doors. Unplug automatic garage door openers. If your neighborhood does not have a restriction on vehicles parked in the driveway, leave a car parked outside. Barring that, ask a neighbor to park in your driveway on occasion to give the home the appearance of being lived in.

Place valuables in your home in a locked safe or safety deposit box. If you plan to be on vacation or out of town a week or more, purge your refrigerator of all perishables to avoid an unpleasant science experiment after you return.

Back up computers of essential data, turn off and unplug. Make a quick run through the house and double-check that everything is turned off—faucets, irons, ceiling fans, stoves, etc. Unplug non-essential appliances like televisions, alarm clocks and other electronics. Set your thermostat so the air conditioning only comes on a few times a day. During your final walk-through, be sure to give all plants a healthy dose of water.

If you plan to be gone for an extended period of time in the summer, say more than 10 days, arrange to have someone cut the grass. This often gets overlooked by people going out of town, but you want your home to appear well-kept, even during your absence. You’ll have the added bonus of a nice-looking lawn upon your return.                                                

Arrange for the proper pet care, whether it’s boarding the animals, having a pet or house sitter or ultimately taking them with you. Make your neighbor aware of these plans so he or she doesn’t panic that the family dog is missing.

Temporarily stop mail delivery (and newspapers, if you’re a subscriber). This can conveniently be done online now, if necessary.

And finally, don’t forget to go over any security system issues with the neighbor who has a key to your home. Otherwise, an unpleasant situation could arise with your alarm going off nonstop or, worse, your neighbor getting arrested by the local authorities.

Take these quick and easy steps above to help with a worry-free vacation!

9 Lesser Known Metro Atlanta Activities To Do This Summer

6/3/2016

 9 Lesser Known Metro Atlanta Activities To Do This Summer

Looking for something off the beaten track to do this summer? Whether you’re just looking for something different to do or would like to go somewhere a bit less crowded, check out these ideas to experience something new in metro Atlanta.

  1. Historic Trolley Tour in Marietta (toursaroundatlanta.com) – Features a one-hour, fully-narrated tour to experience Marietta’s rich heritage, from the vibrant Downtown Square, past historic Antebellum homes, to the battlefields at Kennesaw Mountain. The web site also has information on an Atlanta trolley tour and a Ghosts of Marietta tour.

 

  1. Tellus Museum (tellusmuseum.org) – This 120,000 square-foot museum is filled with exhibits that strive to ignite a passion for science. Kids can perform hands-on experiments with light, sound, magnets and more. The museum includes four main galleries and a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory with a state-of-the-art, 20-inch telescope. It’s located just off Exit 293 on I-75 in Cartersville and is open daily from 10 to 5.

 

  1. Gibbs Gardens (gibbsgardens.com) – Located in Cherokee County/Ball Ground, this 220 acres of natural beauty changes with the season. This summer, view more than 500 varieties of daylilies, 150 varieties of hydrangea plants and dozens of types of tropical waterlilies. In the fall, Gibbs Gardens has a Waterlily Festival as well as a Japanese Arts & Culture Festival.

 

  1. Pettite Creek Farms (http://pettitcreekfarm.com/) – Located at 337 Cassville Road in Cartersville/Bartow County, this 80-acre farm offers a picnic area, pony rides, a walking tour to feed the animals, Farmland Petting Zoo and hay rides.

 

  1. World’s Largest Inflatable Water Slide in Acworth (acworthslide.com) – open daily through July 31st and weekends in August through Labor Day. The 175' long waterslide is located at Dallas Landing Park on the beach in Acworth. The 36-foot high slide can be seen from across the lake. Options to ride once, for an hour or for the day.

 

  1. Skyzone Indoor Trampoline Park (skyzone.com/Kennesaw) – Opened in 2013, Skyzone offers open jump, a SkySlam court, SkyRobics fitness classes, Ultimate Dodgeball (when available) and Foam Zone. The Kennesaw location is at 1650 Airport Road NW.

 

  1. Aviation Wing of the Marietta Museum of History (mariettahistory.org) – This 15-acre campus features a growing collection of aircraft. Located 4.5 miles west of I-75, this museum highlights the impact the aviation industry has had on local culture. Visitors can see how aviation catapulted this fairly typical, small, Southern agricultural community into the industrial age and how Cobb County impacted global events.

 

  1. Yellow River Game Ranch (yellowrivergameranch.com) – This is a great destination to encounter, feed and pet animals. It features a mile-long trail on 24 wooded acres where visitors will see buffalo, deer, black bears, sheep, goats and other wildlife. It’s located on Highway 78, 2 1/2 miles east of Stone Mountain.

 

  1. Southern Railway Museum (srmduluth.org) – Ride in restored cabooses and learn about the famous trains that made history! Museum features about 90 different cars, including Pullman cars, classic steam locomotives and antique diesel-electric trains. Learn about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad through arts and crafts, special exhibits and scavenger hunts. SRM is located at 3595 Buford Highway in Duluth.

Free Things to Do in Metro Atlanta

5/20/2016

Free Things to Do in Metro Atlanta

 

Whether you need to plan a staycation or just want to do something with your family without spending a lot of money,

this extensive list of freebies should give you some fun ideas.

 

  1. Take a stroll. There are dozens of parks in metro Atlanta. Master-planned communities like Towne Lake have also done a great job of having sidewalks throughout.
  2. Enjoy a free outdoor concert. Cities like Woodstock, Duluth and Marietta have such events in the summer.
  3. Visit Piedmont Park.
  4. Catch a flick at one of the free movie in the park events. Woodstock, Cumming, Dawsonville and Canton are just a handful of the cities hosting free movie events.
  5. Go for a hike. Many locations in North Georgia, Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area or Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (this one features 17 miles of trails as well as a great deal of information on the Civil War).
  6. Visit the Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center in Johns Creek. This 46-acre nature center has two acres of walking trails, scenic creeks, native plants, animal life and farmstead buildings from the 1800s. Provides ongoing heritage and scout programs. Park grounds and trails are open daily 8 am until dusk. Free admission.
  7. Hang out at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. This site also hosts free events throughout the year.
  8. Take your dog to a dog park. What a fun change of pace for the dog as well as a good way to get exercise.
  9. Go to a farmer’s market. The biggest one is located south of Atlanta proper, but is the largest in the region –Atlanta State Farmers Market just off I-75 in Forest Park. You can also check out the one held on Saturdays near Marietta Square in downtown Marietta. Roswell has one Saturdays from 8 am to noon. Just Google Roswell Farmers and Artisans Market. The Woodstock Farmers Market is also held on Saturdays. Other, smaller farmers’ markets pop up regularly.
  10. Many of the metro Atlanta festivals are also free. Things like Art in the Park at Piedmont Park, a handful of festivals that are held every summer in downtown Kennesaw and craft and art festivals held year-round in Marietta on Marietta Square.
  11. Ride, bike or skate the Silver Comet Trail. It has numerous entry points on its 61-mile path.
  12. Visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. See the Civil Rights Hall of Fame, tour the Visitor Center, visit Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King preached, see Dr. King’s tomb, the Eternal Flame and tour Dr. King’s boyhood home.
  13. Take a free tour of the CNN Center. Advance reservations required.
  14. Tour the Marietta Fire Museum. The museum celebrates the work that Marietta firefighters ta have done for almost 200 years. It features fire trucks (including an original 1874 Silsby Steamer – one of only three in the whole world), “Wall of Flame” photos, helmets and uniforms from around the world and other unique firefighting displays.
  15. Visit the Dunwoody Nature Center.
  16. Check out the Atlanta Beltline, a revitalized former railway corridor that’s now a multi-use trail. Ride bikes, walk, enjoy multiple art installations, and stop at parks along the way.
  17. Summer reading programs, crafts and other events may be closer than you think…at your local library. Some libraries do a better job than others so check around a few in your area,
  18. Go to a…cemetery? That’s right, but not just any cemetery. Historic Oakland Cemetery is one of the most famous in Georgia. Such Georgia notables as Margaret Mitchell and Bobby Jones are buried there. The gorgeous mausoleums are something to see as are the amazing views of the city of Atlanta, set against landscaping that rivals a botanical garden.

 

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