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Zillow data describes the new rules of real estate

The Case-Shiller Index tells us that metro Atlanta home values are up 44 percent from March 2012 — which is still down 12 percent from a July 2007 peak. The average sales price of metro area homes was $243,000 in January, according to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. As we move into the season of buying and selling, which happens around late March in Atlanta, areas with low inventory and high demand could have a rosy outlook — or it could all totally backfire.

Real estate has been a sensitive topic over the past five years, and according to at least two experts, the rules have changed. In their new book, they offer tools to help you navigate with knowledge. “Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate,” by Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries (Grand Central Publishing, $28), translates years of data on the housing market into usable information for buyers and sellers. If you don’t know, Zillow is the (almost) 10-year-old real estate website of which Rascoff is CEO and Humphries is chief economist.

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Humphries and Rascoff encourage potential buyers and sellers to take some of the pain out of real estate dealings by focusing on data instead of emotions. So they share what the statistics have to say about everything from pricing your home correctly to owning seaside properties. They rely on data to demonstrate the impact a local Starbucks or a high LGBT population can have on your home values. They even suggest (based on data points) that homeownership may not be the key to the American dream. Gasp!

Families searching for an affordable home in a quality school district will want to read the chapter on school parity scores. The scores, calculated with ratings data from GreatSchools.org, show the relationship between home values and school quality. Here’s a non-surprise: Georgia is among the five states with the least school parity, meaning if you buy a home in the bottom 10 percent of home values statewide, there is a good chance the schools are also at the very bottom rung.

If you’re thinking about buying a foreclosure, these guys have news for you. The real “discount” on foreclosed properties is probably a lot less than you think, as in single digits, not double. Sellers hoping to beef up their profits by doing some remodeling should check out the infographic breakdown of which projects are likely to yield the greatest return. Here’s a hint: It ain’t the kitchen, y’all.

Reading some of their conclusions may be sobering, but then so is the sound of bubbles popping. And guess what? We may be headed that way again with that low inventory, high demand business I mentioned above.

On at least one data point, Atlanta is in the clear. According to the Zillosophers, in most major cities, a house on a named street has a higher value than one on a numbered street. Atlanta, however, is the only metropolis where there is absolutely nothing in a name … or a number.


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