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Atlanta’s Luxury Buyers Want Simpler Elegance, Broker Says


Ms. McDonald, 48, was the official broker of the Atlanta Falcons football team from 2013-2016 and now works with some of the team’s executives. Ms. McDonald appears on HGTV as one of the network’s real estate experts on shows like “Design to Sell,” ...

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Johns Creek, Georgia, is the next hub for luxury properties, according to Ms

McDonald. Composite: ferrantraite / Getty Images; Engel & Völkers Johns Creek, Georgia, is the next hub for luxury properties, according to Ms

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SAN FRANCISCO THE INSIDERS
Atlanta’s Luxury Buyers Want Simpler Elegance, Broker Says Collette McDonald, former broker to the Atlanta Falcons, loves the city’s condos but warns of their uncertain investment potential
BY Lucy Cohen Blatter  |  ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON February 5, 2018
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Born in Wisconsin, Collette McDonald moved to Atlanta over 20 years ago and has since become one of the Georgia capital’s top brokers

Ms

McDonald, 48, was the official broker of the Atlanta Falcons football team from 2013-2016 and now works with some of the team’s executives

Ms

McDonald appears on HGTV as one of the network’s real estate experts on shows like "Design to Sell," "My First Place," and "Bang For The Buck." We caught up with her to discuss Atlanta’s established and promising high-end neighborhoods, the city’s affordable luxury and more

More: Bi-Coastal Design Duo on Why London, New York and Los Angeles are Safe Bets Mansion Global: Describe your dream property

Collette McDonald: Instead of spending $10 million on one, I’d spend it in many places

I’d want a condo in a high-rise building in central Buckhead, in an area that’s like Rodeo Drive, which used to be called Million-Dollar Mile

I’d want anything over the 20th floor

You can get a 3,000-square-foot flat for $1.5 million to $2.5 million there

It’s not really a great investment, though; that’s the thing I advise people on

The best investment in Atlanta is land, because we have such sprawl

But there are beautiful lakes around here, too, which are great for a second home location

MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away? CM: You always have those

There was a traditional home I fell in love with that was on a cul de sac

It had been renovated from the studs out

There was astroturf around the pool, an outdoor kitchen, the bathrooms and kitchen were all redone

The only reason I didn’t purchase it was because I knew the neighbor was a little crazy

I didn’t purchase it, but I took the house that I was living in, and completely renovated it to be exactly the same

More: Canada’s High Prices Are Organic, Spurred on by Local Buyers, Says Royal LePage Chief MG: What does luxury mean to you? CM: To me, it means simple perfection

You don’t have to think about anything

When you walk in it just feels perfect

High-end finishes are important, obviously, but we’re seeing a much more simple style of luxury

In Atlanta, we’re seeing custom builders making homes with simple lines—almost industrial-style

They’re simple and well thought-out

In Atlanta, specifically, the luxury threshold is really anything over $1 million

MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties? CM: You need to look at luxury into different sects

When it comes to luxury for a family, Johns Creek, about 20 miles from financial and business center of Buckhead, has big, traditional subdivisions

Then there are downsizers, who are coming back inside the city

Buckhead has always been high end, 60% of the city’s luxury real estate is there

The city of Brookhaven, which became a city less than five years ago, offers a huge opportunity, for low-, mid- and high-density

In low density areas, luxury is coming, and you’re seeing lots are half an acre

People are knocking down houses and building multi-million dollar homes there

It’s great for transportation, too, because there are metro lines there

You don’t have the estates like you do in Buckhead, but you have high quality homes with smaller square footage

More: Architect Annabelle Selldorf Says a Home’s Outside Matters as Much as Its Inside MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now? CM: People are not tearing down houses as much

Instead we’re seeing more high-end renovations, because the older houses offer great floor plans

And people don’t necessarily want more square footage

More square footage not done well is actually a detriment

If done well, it can get more price per square foot

I recently sold a house in Dunwoody [a suburb of Atlanta] at a loss, which people thought was too big

MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why? CM: Luxury in Silicon Valley is interesting

You’re seeing smaller square footage, and simpler homes that are more technology smart

It’ll be interesting to see how that resonates in two decades when we look at those properties

I always look to the West Coast, because I think they trend in a different way than we do in the south

We have the technology revolution going on, and it rules the way we live today

More: Concierge Auctions President on the Importance of Treating Real Estate As a Serious Investment MG: What’s your favorite part of your home? CM: The kitchen/family room/dining room combination, which overlooks the pool

Two sides of my house are all glass, so I can see outside and it all flows together

I have no artwork, because my artwork is my landscaping and my exterior

Light makes people happy, and the more windows, the better

Even if you have only 8-foot ceilings, it makes a difference

MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why? CM: Modern farmhouse—understated, high end, quality

MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home? CM: Besides my kids, my dog

It’s also important to have secret spaces to hold valuables

People don’t realize that

More: Wealthy Millennials Are Changing the World, Says Sotheby’s International Realty’s Marketing Chief MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now? CM: It’s always going to be a kitchen

It’s got to be a central point, a place where people want to hang out, even if they don’t use it to cook

The second spot is the master bathroom

It has to be luxury and spa-like

Third would be outdoor space—that it is functional for entertaining

MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice? CM: In Atlanta and elsewhere, it’s all about location

You can fix everything else

When you ignore that is when you run into problems

Buy for your home’s location

MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market? CM: For us, it’s Fortune 500 companies relocating in Atlanta

That will impact our luxury market

We’re starting to compete with L.A

for the movie productions

Fortune 500 companies and entertainment are feeding our luxury market

People are renting out their homes to movie studios, too

And while celebrities aren’t buying here yet, they’re definitely living here

More: Click to Read More Luxury Real Estate Professionals Share Their Insights MG: What is the best area now for investing in luxury properties? CM: Just outside the midtown area, because that’s great for [vacation rentals like] VRBO

Companies like Equifax will rent high-end properties for their executives for a couple of years

They want areas in Atlanta that are safe and near business centers

MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why? CM: Prime resale here in Atlanta because it would be in a better location

MG: What area currently has the best resale value? CM: Buckhead and Brookhaven, which abut each other.
GEORGIA US NA INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
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