Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I have been so fortunate to get listings this year in great condition and in super nice areas. This latest listing is a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home on a .48 acre lot in the Mountain Park-Trickum-Parkview school cluster in Gwinnett County. It has a bedroom and full bath on the main level. It's a slab foundation but has tons of space in the large 2-car garage with separate storage room.

The back yard is HUGE and level, surrounded by azaleas and shade trees. Really a slice of Heaven! The large brick paito is perfect for afternoon iced tea or a big cook out. Priced at $189,500, this is the best value for a 2-story home in this school district. Be sure to take the virtual tour linked above at

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Oldies Radio Station in Atlanta!

I know this doesn't have much to do with Gwinnett County and real estate, but I was so excited to find out today that Oldies Radio in Atlanta is back on 106.7 FM. I'm sure the country radio fans were disappointed to loose their station, and I know just how they feel. It's been over a year without oldies in Atlanta!

As a child of the 1950's and 60's, the old rock and roll music still makes me roll the windows down and dance in my car at stop lights! My older sister and I attended almost every concert that came through Atlanta in the 1960's, and our parents would drop us off at the old Municipal Auditorium and pick us up after the concert (even on school nights, which is amazing). Most concert seating was not reserved, so as soon as the doors opened, hundreds of teenagers would run down the aisles to get the best seats. Between 1964 and 1966 alone we saw the Beatles, Peter and Gordon (twice), Chad and Jeremy, Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, Billy Joe Royal, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Paul Revere and The Raiders (6 times!), Herman's Hermits, The Animals, Mamas & Papas, The Turtles, and Iron Butterfly.

I continued to attend great concerts throughout college and after moving back to Atlanta. Many years later, we attended the Oldies concerts at the old Fulton County stadium (before it was moved to the Omni (?) - but the acoustics were terrible there). Over the years, we attended smaller free outdoor summer concerts sponsored by Fox 97 (my favorite was Johnny Rivers, who is better than ever).

If you are an oldies fan, tune in to 106.7 FM

If you were a big fan of Fox 97 and Randy and Spiff in the morning, check out Spiff's blog: I'm hoping that we'll get some of the old Fox 97 gang back together on oldies radio in Atlanta.

Happily Stuck in 1968.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Power Of A Household Budget

I've become a Budget Geek.

Like so many people who grew up during the boom years after WWII, I never learned to do much financial planning. I managed to save for two years to purchase my first home at age 30, but beyond the down payment and closing costs, there never was a budget. If I had money in the bank, I spent it. If I didn't, I charged it or postponed vacations or purchases. It never occurred to me not to give myself everything I desired if I could swing it. Sound familiar?

In working with home buyers for the last twenty+ years, I've encountered the same attitude in first time home buyers as well as seasoned buyers. The lender tells us we can qualify for $XXX,XXX, and instills in us the confidence that the loan and monthly mortgage payment will be a piece of cake!

The lender really doesn't know (or care) anything about our real lives, our personal interests and obligations - not the kind that show up as debts on the credit report, but things like tithing to church, contributions to charity, children's extracurricular activities, hobbies, vacations, out of pocket health expenses, etc., etc.

Other things the lender doesn't consider are daily costs of living and maintaining a home. It's not just the rising cost of adjustable rate mortgages that have strapped homeowners, it's the rising cost of everything else, like utilities, food, insurance, and gasoline. The costs to maintain a home are unavoidable. When it's time to paint, or replace a water heater or roof, it must be done.

This is why it is important to create a realistic budget before planning your home purchase. That way, no matter what your lender tells you you can afford, you'll know what is realistic for you for a long term commitment to a home.

If you haven't already done so, take the time to track your expenses over the last 12 months. To come up with averages, add all the expenses for one category and divide by 12 for a monthly average. For annual, semi-annual, or quarterly expenses like car insurance or dues, take the 12 month total and divide by 12. That's the amount that you should budget every month so that the money will be available in reserve when the bill comes due. If you haven't kept a record of clothing purchases, "fun money" like movies, DVDs and eating out, you may need to estimate your monthly expenses just to get started.

Next, create a monthly budget using your real numbers from the last 12 months and your estimates of unrecorded purchases. Don't worry about any money that comes out of your check before you get it, like IRA contributions, health insurance, income tax. Just budget your "take home" money.

My strongest advice is BE HONEST. This is your budget, and it won't do you any good to lie to yourself. If you have a partner, you need to create this budget together. There are several great software programs that are an enormous help in planning and in tracking expenses. Just search Budget Software on the Internet. I use YNAB.

Your budget may include categories like Mortgage/Rent, Home Maintenance, Utilities, Phone and Internet, Cell Phones, Groceries, Pet Care, Cleaning and Paper Products, Health Care, Car Payment(s), Car Insurance, Car Maintenance, Gasoline and Car Washes, Car Tag, Credit Card Payments, Restaurants, Clothes, Cosmetics & Hair Care, Church, Charities, Vacation, Short Term Savings, Fun Money.

Don't ignore the "small change" items, because they add up. Most people are surprised at how much they spend on fast food and incidental items each month. That's money that can go toward paying off debts and into emergency savings.

Budgets always need tweaking after the first month or two, but you should have a realistic idea of how you've been spending your money. If you are buying your first home, or are moving up to a larger home, your budget will increase. Suze Orman recommends saving that estimated increase for six months before making a home purchase. In other words, if your new monthly payment will increase by about $300, and you'll need $200 more for utilities, and another $200 a month for maintenance, make sure these extra expenses will fit into your current budget. If not, is there something else that you are willing and able to give up?

I believe that home ownership can mean great personal satisfaction and the best investment you'll ever make. If you get started with a budget based on your real life and priorities, you'll be able to move forward with confidence in your decision to buy your first or your next home.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

New Listing in Brookwood High School Cluster

I'm pleased to present this stunning home in the Brookwood High School cluster in Lilburn, GA. Built in 1999, it is located on a quiet cul-de-sac street in Brookwood Corners, convenient to schools, shopping, and Ronald Reagan Park and Dog Park.
Some of the special features include a 2-story foyer, banquet size dining room, formal living room, 2-story family room, spacious kitchen with center island, hardwood floors, and all kitchen appliances included. Also on the main level is a home office which could also be an exercise room, playroom, library, or extra guest space.
Upstairs is a HUGE master bedroom suite with sitting room and luxurious bath, three secondary bedrooms, and a large hall bath.
The back yard is private and wooded. NEW PRICE, July 22nd: $238,900! Take the tour by clicking on the title above or going to !