By Shandra Hill Smith
As the housing industry continues to bounce back, the luxury segment, too, should see some movement, though there are reports of properties staying on the market anywhere from three to 12 months. Low interest rates, say professionals catering to the luxury shopper, are adding up to increased interest on the part of buyers.
“It truly is a great time to buy a home,” says Ken Covers, a realtor with Fourteen West Realtors in Atlanta (www.14west.com). “People are shopping. They’re very cautious in their selections and are doing their homework.”
Covers defines the luxury market in Buckhead and Intown as starting at $2 million.
He refers to First Multiple Listing Service (FMLS) data for 2010 indicating that in Buckhead – by early August – of properties priced from $2 million (155 available) and above $3 million (79 of the 155 available) 18 had sold.
Looking at Buckhead and Sandy Springs, the luxury market, according to Neal Heery, consists of properties priced at $1 million and more. Heery, founding partner of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty (www.HeeryBrothers.com), points to FMLS data showing that from Jan. 1 to Aug. 1, $1 million homes in those areas in particular have stayed on the market for 129 days. But the outlook is bright, he believes.
“I think anybody who can purchase should,” says Heery. “These are the opportunity times.” He’s expecting sales to double last year’s numbers for him and his brother, George T. Heery Jr., also a founding partner.
Donna Boynton, realtor, Harry Norman, Realtors Intown (www.donna.boynton.harrynorman.com), is also optimistic. “Attractive interest rates, coupled with realistic pricing, will hopefully keep the market active for the remaining months,” says Boynton.
Covers agrees. “I continue to see the buyers being very price sensitive for the remaining months of this year and into next.”
The luxury buyer, he finds, is on the hunt for details “with current technology throughout, as well as the property being very current with its style and finishes without being trendy,” he adds.
Featured listings for Covers include a more than $2.5 million five-bedroom, five-bath (with two additional half baths) home in Morningside at 1725 Merton Road in Atlanta. The property has a master suite that features a separate sitting area with fireplace; an outdoor kitchen and separate pool house, home gym and media room, along with other amenities.
On HeeryBrothers.com, a six-bedroom home at 725 Londonberry Road in Atlanta lists for a little more than $1.5 million. The property, with bathrooms to include six full and one partial, features a chef-quality kitchen and fireside keeping room and basement with walkout garage.
Boynton has a $1.4 million new construction property at 1070 Canter Road in Atlanta that includes five bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths. Located in the Sarah Smith school district, it will include a finished terrace level.
For buyers looking to close a deal before year’s end, Covers advises that you be realistic about expectations. Sellers, he suggests, should price accordingly.
“Sales are driven by the price so making sure you have the right price is important,” says Boynton. “Price your home based on recent sales – preferably the last three months. Prices from a year ago or even six months probably aren’t valid.”
Sell low – and fast. That’s the advice Bill Murray gives to those hoping to sell and “move up” to a larger property before the close of 2010.
“If you’re moving up in your purchase, sell your house for a deal, buy a house for a better deal at higher pricing,” advises Murray, managing broker in the Buckhead office of Prudential Georgia Realty (www.buckheadrealestatenews.com). “When prices start to rise, and the housing market recovers, your equity is going to be much stronger in that higher priced house than in the current house.” His office lists a $1.5 million gated French Country home near Sarah Smith Elementary School at 4459 E. Brookhaven Dr. The Brookhaven property features four bedrooms, four baths and two half baths, finished basement, a private patio, gardens and pool.
Murray also encourages swifter action on the part of banks when it comes to foreclosures, which he says is impacting the luxury market.
“Luxury foreclosures are vacant properties and they’re going down every week that they sit vacant,” Murray says. “I think foreclosures are going to affect all markets, particularly the luxury market, until the banks get their hands on how to handle the volume of foreclosures they have.”
Additionally, both buyers and sellers can’t go wrong with an appraisal, professionals say.
Also, sellers in particular should “take the time to prepare [the] home for listing,” Boynton urges. “The little things like fresh paint, caulking and de-cluttering will help to make a good first impression.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.