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One year later, in downtown Decatur

I bought my downtown Decatur townhouse one year ago today. My purchasing power was amazing – VA Loan, 100% financing and a 4% APR.

Who was thinking that we would be seeing rates lower than that one year later? Not the Mortgage Bankers Association…but I digress.

I completed the renovations months ago, but it is still a work in progress – Decatur is a fantastic place to live (and walk to work), my real estate agency business at Keller Williams Realty Metro Atlanta is terrific, and life is extremely good – in a world of complaint, misery, woe and confusion,  I know what I know and I know that I am blessed…

My daughter is asleep upstairs, as I write at 700 this morning. She likes the fact that my townhouse is next to the dog park, and within walking distance of the Snoball Cafe’.

I am going to use my townhouse as an example for the rest of this post – an example of advice that I offer to my clients everyday.

I like to distinguish the fact that real estate purchases – primary residence purchases – are a lifestyle choice first and foremost, not a real estate investment. Last September, after shopping between Inman Park and Decatur, my first and foremost “lifestyle choice” was Inman Park. Between 1998 and 2004, I owned a 1908 Victorian on Euclid Avenue, and I genuinely love that neighborhood – wow, what a major difference since 2004 too!

My smaller and more expensive choices in Inman Park, Candler Park and other areas led me to conclude that my 1500 square feet fixer upper 2/2/1 in Decatur was a fantastic deal, as a well as a terrific lifestyle choice – ask around, Decatur is incredibly cool, and a relatively stable real estate submarket.

Decatur median sales prices

Which leads me to this advice: make the lifestyle choice that works for you and your family, then decide between the two extremes of real estate investing.

1. the distressed, the old, the dilapidated, the unloved, the boring – there are terrific fixer upper deals in wonderful, stable, solvent communities like the one that I chose to live in

2. the fresh, the gleaming and the amenity rich, the new inventories still available and built since 2007 – developer and post-developer deals abound across every submarket in Atlanta – they are throwing money at buyers and many of the folks involved in selling these units are well positioned to sell them out

I looked pretty hard at a brand new 1/1 at 870 Inman, but my fixer upper in Decatur trumped it because the counterbalance between my lifestyle choice and my real estate investment was better. Why? Well for many reasons, but as one example – my HOA fees in Decatur are about $100 less per month, and I still have a community pool, a guest suite for rent, a 12′x15′ walled and floored attic and public storage too. Hard to beat.

Here is a quick look at what I’ve done in Decatur…

This is what the hearth, the focal point of a “closed” den, looked like from 1972 until one year ago.

The Hearth October 27, 2010

This is what the hearth looked like in early January 2011 – yes, that is the world famous Sumo poet, Basho standing guard at the landing.

The Hearth, with Basho early January 2011

This is what the open den looks like now – in addition to the demolition of the hearth, we also demolished a closet and a breakfast nook that cramped my style.

My fixer upper has been a great lifestyle choice, will be a solid long term real estate investment, and has become a home for me, my family and my friends. In late 2011, real estate deals abound in the Intown Atlanta submarkets – if you are interested in finding one, then please call me if I can help you!


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