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TUCKER - Habitat scales up homes' plans to match area

Volunteers for Atlanta Habitat for Humanity's latest project are dealing with something new Hardiplank, the stuff that usually wraps around more expensive housing.

"Once we got rolling, I found it easier to install than vinyl and more aesthetically pleasing to the eye," said Chris Louis, the site project manager for one of the houses in Habitat's seven-home subdivision, Spoon Court, off Pat Mell Road in Smyrna.

Using Hardiplank, a fiber cement siding, and making changes in the design of the houses represent a new phase for Atlanta Habitat, the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International.

The changes come as the nonprofit moves from its traditional building grounds blighted neighborhoods into other areas of the county, where it must face neighbors who may like the idea of building affordable homes for low-income families but don't necessarily want the houses nearby.

The design changes come nearly two years after Atlanta Habitat tried to rezone 34.5 acres on Hillcrest Road at Six Flags Parkway. Neighbors came out to oppose the request.

"In every misunderstanding, there is also truth," John Kerwood, executive director and president of Atlanta Habitat, said of the experience that brought nearly two dozen opponents to the zoning hearings.

"As we listened to people's concerns, the thing we kept hearing the most was 'the vinyl siding, the parking pads, they all look the same.' All these things tended to telegraph low-income housing. By the time we got to the Board of Commissioners, we came up with the concept," he said.

Habitat got the rezoning and was on its way to putting together a new plan for developing properties.

Factoring in aesthetics

The concept was to develop the neighborhoods in much the same way that a for-profit developer would taking into account the various styles and color schemes of the houses and how they relate to one another, the types and location of trees and landscaping in front of the homes, and the lighting for the neighborhoods.

The new homes are larger, going from about 1,150 square feet to about 1,400 square feet. They will have driveways rather than the parking pads that usually accompany Atlanta Habitat houses.

Architects for John Wieland Homes & Neighborhoods and Harrison Design Associates put together plans for the new houses that bear the distinctive Craftsman style, with low-pitched roofs, tapered columns and front porches.

Land Plus Associates put together streetscape plans for the designs by Harrison Associates. Designers for John Wieland developed streetscape plans. The three firms are working pro bono.

"We were able to create a house that is compatible with the surroundings," said Jay Kallos, an architect for John Wieland Homes & Neighborhoods.

Between 2000 and 2004, Atlanta Habitat constructed 100 homes, including the ones in three subdivisions: Beggs Court in Marietta, Claxton Commons in Mableton and Macedonia Station in Powder Springs.

But none has been as carefully planned as the subdivisions that Habitat will construct over the next four years.

"In the past, when we had a subdivision, when we built the first house, we had no clue to what the last house would look like," Kerwood said.

Funds raised for costs

By coordinating the new designs, color schemes and landscaping, Atlanta Habitat is creating variety for the eye.

"We changed the front porches and added changes to the roof to break down the roof mass," said Chad Goehring, an architect for Harrison Design Associates, who also is involved in Atlanta Habitat's fund-raising efforts.

Atlanta Habitat plans to construct 100 homes over the next four years based on the new concept. Spoon Court, which is under way, is the first of four planned subdivisions. Preliminary work on the 19 homes of Groover Park, just off Taylor Drive near Atlanta Road in Smyrna, has recently started.

By the end of next year, Atlanta Habitat hopes to begin construction on the Hillcrest property. The plans call for two neighborhoods, each with a separate entrance. One will have 19 homes; the other will have 32. A buffer will separate the two communities.

A Atlanta Habitat home just the "bricks and sticks" part and not the land costs usually costs about $40,000. But the new material, the larger size and design changes have added about $20,000 to the cost of constructing a house.

To pay for the new initiative, Atlanta Habitat has committed $4 million over the next four years from its ongoing fund-raising efforts. It has hired ByrneAllen Corp. to raise an additional $4 million from other sources.

Despite the added costs brought by the changes, Atlanta Habitat plans to continue selling homes to low-income buyers for about $90,000, Kerwood said.

Habitat home buyers are screened carefully before they are approved for no-interest, 20-year loans. They also must complete 300 hours of "sweat equity," helping to construct their houses and those of other would-be homeowners. Kerwood said the average mortgage payment, not including taxes and insurance, is about $375.

Changing with areas

The Hillcrest rezoning battle took place in a neighborhood that is also different for Atlanta Habitat.

When Atlanta Habitat began constructing homes in 1986, they were built in blighted neighborhoods. The homes were often infills, a single house or a few in a neighborhood.

But in 1998, it began constructing subdivisions in other parts of the county, partly because land on which to build was becoming scarce.

"As long as we were building houses in neighborhoods where the other houses were 30 or 40 years old, we really didn't have any problems," Kerwood said. "They were often the nicest houses on the block.

"As time went by and land became more scarce, we ended up building in communities where the housing stock was only 10 years old. Our houses were not necessarily the nicest."

And as metro Atlanta gets built out, the challenge for nonprofit builders is finding land while still maintaining the mandate to construct affordable homes for low-income families.

These new homes must fit in with their more expensive brethren.

"Probably [Atlanta's] whole streetscape idea is new for the Southeast region," said Carol Gregory, regional training manager and affiliate support manager for Habitat International's Southeast region.

"It's something almost every affiliate is starting to realize that they can't build the same house every time they build. So more and more, they are looking to how they can change the front elevation of the house."

'Small, little touches'

Randy Redner, executive director of Habitat for Humanity North Fulton, said his office is working on an 11-unit town house project in Roswell's historic center that is designed to fit in with its neighbors. The first four units are under construction.

Designers worked closely with the city's historic preservation board to maintain the look and feel of the area on Norcross Street, Redner said.

The design includes using smooth Hardiplank siding to mimic the planks used years ago. Discussions with the historic preservation board included the size of windows and their locations, how the units were oriented on Habitat's property and even the type of brick used in the detention ponds.

Habitat affiliates in metro Atlanta "have had to scale up," Redner said. "It's not the typical simple, decent house that you will see across the country. You have to build in the scale of your community."

"We can do small things architecturally to try to fit into the community. We have landscaping and sod in our yards. They are small, little touches that make a difference. I think John [Kerwood] is doing it on a larger scale," Redner said.

But all of that comes at a price. Nonprofit builders have to find the balance between affordable homes for low-income families and starter homes, he said.

"It's easy to add a little gingerbread there and there and there. All of a sudden, we are not affordable. We have added to the cost of the house," Redner said. "It's a delicate line that we walk. But it's a line that matters, and it's getting harder."

Design and zoning requirements also play a role in the price of a home. A city or county's minimum house size 1,800 square feet, for example can make it difficult or impossible for a housing nonprofit to construct a home in a neighborhood, he said.

"I don't think every family out there needs an 1,800-square-foot house. It's those kinds of things [that affect price]. So the bar has been raised, and it's a challenge to all of us," Redner said. "With zoning requirements and rapid growth, metro Atlanta is losing its edge as one of the most affordable places to live."

Posted by bkleinhe at 04:24 PM
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January 12, 2004
Ansley Park!
I have a client that is looking for a home to purchase in Ansley Park, but it needs to have over 4500 sq. ft., a nice back yard, and receives sun from the south. Price is not an issue. If you know anybody that is thinking of selling in that area, please have them contact me at 404-579-9307 or at I promise that I will reward you with something nice if the lead pans out. Thanks!!! - Nesa

Posted by at 06:29 PM
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I have a 5200 square ft. house for sale in Ansley Park. Sun does recieve the house from the south east we have a nice quiet back yard. I would love to talk to you more contact me at

Posted by anieta smith at April 14, 2004 09:19 AM


I get a ton of emails from perspective buyers concerning synthetic stucco in Georgia and the most frequent statement is "I have heard bad things about synthetic stucco". Even a lot of real estate agents tend to shy away from showing homes with synthetic stucco, but if you know the appropriate steps to take, a house with synthetic stucco can be ok.

The most important step to take for a buyer and a seller is to get a stucco inspection done. If you are a seller, do this before you put it on the market, this will also let you know how much work may need to be done or it will be a clean report that you can present to the buyer. If you are a buyer make sure that in your initial offer that you ask the seller for a current stucco report and that if the report is unsatisfactory to you that you have the right to walk away from the contract. BUT, MAKE SURE THAT YOU (BUYER) CHOOSE THE STUCCO INSPECTOR!

I almost got burned by this on one transaction, we asked the seller for a current stucco report, the seller did provide us with a 1 page summary report that stated that there was no moisture detected and that all windows and seals have been sealed properly and so on. After seeing that summary, my buyers and I were very happy that everything turned out great. However, we did a little bit more research about this particular inspector and found out that he did not have the appropriate equipment to do a detailed inspection. To make a long story short, if we did not catch this, my buyer could have ended up to pay about $4000 in repairs. Luckily, we did, and we had the seller pay for a second inspection done by our choice of inspector and had the seller pay for all of the repairs. To sum it up - beware if the seller gives you a one page stucco report.

A qualified inspector will give you about a 60 page report, with photos of the defects and a overview of what repairs need to be done. The inspector should also be a approved inspector through Moisture Warranty company. Moisture Warranty Company (MWC) is a company that is well known for their warranties and also provides list of stucco inspectors that have been approved. Check them out at A stucco inspection will cost in the range of $650 - $850 depending on the size of the house. One of my favorite stucco inspectors is Pro-Spect. Check them out at Pro- Spect will also come out a second time after the repairs have been made to reinspect for free.

After your recieve your stucco report back you have three options: 1) Walk away from the house. 2) ask the seller to repair the defects 3) Bite the bullet and you pay for the repairs. If you get the seller to repair the defects make sure that again you choose the company that does the repairs. Remember not every stucco company has the capabilities to repair the problems. Again, check with Moisture Warranty for a list of approved repair companies. A couple of my favorites are Achilles Construction and Craftmaster.

As a buyer you can also ask the seller for a one year stucco warranty through Moisture Warranty, the cost of a warranty is a good chunk of change...approximately $1000. But it is well worth it!!

If you are a seller make sure that these 3 things happen to help sell your home faster. 1) Have a stucco inspection done to your house prior to putting it on the market. 2) Offer buyers a 1 year moisture free warranty. 3) Make sure that your Realtor puts in the comment section on the MLS and flyers that you are offering a home warranty and that you have a current stucco report.

I know this may seem a bit overwhelming but if you have a good agent to guide you through you will have a solid house! But once you get into your house make sure that every 18 months you have a company that comes out to make sure all cracks are sealed! - Nesa Kleinheksel

Posted by at 12:00 AM
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October 23, 2003
Real estate buying and selling procedures

By Craig Levine
Several changes may be on the horizon for someone looking to buy or sell a home in Atlanta in the near future.

Financing a home, which affects, both, buyers and sellers, has gotten easier with more loan programs out there than ever before.

Lenders are offering "Zero Down", "Interest Only", and "Balloon" products that are flying off the shelf. No longer does a purchaser have to go to Guido to get a 10% interest rate B-C loan, but he or she may, in fact, qualify for a 7% FHA (liberal) loan.

The resources available to both banks and mortgage brokers (loan officers with the capability of working with several banks) allow a prospective home buyer to be approved within 7-10 days, and sometimes within minutes in their office.

Less paper work is required and the need to constantly supply documentation is gradually diminishing. Too many people have been put through the mortgage ringer and it's about time the process has gotten streamlined.

If you're buying a home, it's not going to be smooth sailing, once financing is secured, however.

A recent shake-up in the insurance industry will make it tougher for you to get, both, auto and homeowner's insurance (the latter, a necessity to close a loan) if you have marginal credit or have owned a home previously and have made a claim.

Insurance agents are migrating towards using credit scores to approve or deny policies and are utilizing "Clue Reports" to research previous claim histories in an effort to find the profitable clients.

Thinking of applying with State Farm for a homeowner's policy?

Consider other companies if you're not already a policy holder. According to a close agent friend, State Farm (the nation's largest insurance company) is not writing new home owner policies due to its losses over the last three years. That is big!

If you are selling a home with an agent or buy owner, don't waste your time with classifed ads. Homes without pictures are like meals without seasoning.

All marketing has shifted to the internet and roughly 3/4 of prospective buyers are primarily utilizing the net for their home search.

I used to spend hundreds of dollars each month on AJC classifieds. Now, I devote that investment into web site advertising and positioning. Fully, 85% of my business comes from the internet.

You want results, don't hire a realtor without a PERSONAL web site. I repeat, don't hire a realtor without a PERSONAL web site.

One other caveat to be aware of in this changing industry. If you've had an inspection and are negotiating through repairs, be careful with a repair allowance.

Sometimes, sellers don't have the funds available or time to do repairs prior to closing. A repair allowance works in lieu of physically addressing issues. Some lenders, though, are now requiring that either the seller or buyer provide written estimates for the repairs that will be handled after closing. Previously, all you needed to do was state a contractor and an amount to be paid at closing. Now, it's no written estimate on letterhead, no closing.

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