The importance of caring-before and after.


Hi everybody! It’s your neighborhood Realtor here, Janet Hitzel! I hope everyone is ready for spring. Trees are budding, daffodils blooming, and Forsythia coming alive!! Those signs of spring also bring other signs; For sale signs!

We are in a unusual market; Inventory is low, making demand high, but rates are historically low. That makes it a great time to sell AND a great time to buy. If you have been on the fence about buying or selling your home, now is the time!

Now for the story: I recently viewed a home with a client. The home seemed under-priced, so I was anxious to see the inside of the home. It was listed during the winter holidays, which can be a slower time of the year. It is located in a hugely popular subdivision, in a cul-de-sac, with updated Kitchen and Master bath, and a swimming pool. All for under market value. Why would anyone list their home for less than market value!? you ask? I thought, ” well, it did look dated from the pictures.” The paint colors were from the early 2000’s-golds and warm neutrals. As I entered the home I immediately noticed the home had been completely painted-top to bottom, AFTER it had been photographed and marketed. All natural wood was painted white and the walls changed from yellows and browns to beautiful shades of gray. The home looked completely different than the online photos. The online marketing pictures showed the house before it had been painted/updated. Someone is getting the bargain of the century on this home, because the agent had not cared enough to take new photos of the new improvements, and re-market the home. Below shows a likeness of what we saw. Doesn’t the top pic look much better?


Staging Matters!

A great Realtor, like myself (wink, wink!) will provide you a stager when you list your home. They will tell you what to move, what to put where and what colors to paint. They are a hugely valuable asset to a Real Estate team and I just adore my stagers, because they make everyone more money! A nicely staged home will get you the most money, in the least amount of time, when priced right. Below are some fun photos of before and afters that pack some punch.




Professional Photography matters!

Nothing like bad online photos to lower the offer.


idlegatekitchen foyer

It does matter who you choose to list your home with. Choose an agent, like me, that will work hard for you. Choose one that will market your home through social media, MLS, word of mouth, through other brokers and brokerages! You will need professional photography, sometimes drones and digital dollhouse floorplan models, upscale for sale signs. You will need staging. I provide professional photography, and utilize drones and matterport when needed. A stager will offer valuable advice, and I provide that service as well. Your homes marketing materials should be good quality and use quality ink. Providing a home warranty is very appealing to a potential buyer, giving them additional piece of mind. Choose an agent like to, who will care about getting your home sold! 678-825-7382.

If you have questions, feel free to email me at




Spotlight on Doublegate in Johns Creek

I love Doublegate subdivision, located in the heart of Johns Creek, GA-Not just because people tend to take loving care of their homes, and not because the homes have a bit of have a bit of property to them: I love Doublegate because it has great residents, who come together to help families in need and celebrate happy times as well. For instance, when one families residence was affected by fire, the neighborhood quickly came together to supply clothing, food and comfort to the family. It continued for the months that the family was displaced. Like I said, it is a great neighborhood!

cropped-img_00972.jpgThis gorgeous subdivision is located off State Bridge or Buice Roads. It has 6 beautiful Tennis courts with night lighting and an undefeated Swim Team which call the large and clean pool home. The HOA/Swim and Tennis Association has regular events held at the pool like end of the school year social and a kids Triathlon.

Take a look for yourself here:

There are 417 homes in Doublegate. As of this writing, there are 9 homes for sale. That’s just 2% of the homes for sale! What exactly does that mean?  Residents like it here.

Doublegate residents like the schools and proximity to every kind of shopping you can think of from home stores like Home Depot to a variety of grocery stores like Whole Foods, Kroger, Publix, Sprouts and Trader Joe’s. We have the Johns Creek Symphony for culture. Nearby Northpoint Mall and Avalon offer great shopping. Avalon also offers a world class movie theatre complete with really comfy reclining chairs. Teens can be found at Medlock shopping center, where they can go to movies, get frozen yogurt, get ice cream or pizza. Waffle House and Starbucks are here as well. What more could a teen want?!

Doublegate residents attend nationally ranked High School –Johns Creek High School, which ranks #12 in Georgia and #374 in the USA, according to US News and World Report’s ranking of USA public High Schools. Yep, ranked pretty high. The median price of a home in Doublegate is approximately $511,000, as of this July. Average days on market for July was just 36 days!! 

Now is a great time to buy and sell real estate. If you or someone you know is thinking about real estate, I am happy to answer any and all questions!! My cell is (678)825-7382 and email is

Do you really need a Realtor? A cautionary tale.

FSBORecently, I visited a For Sale By Owner in Johns Creek. The home is gorgeous, updated, and priced right, in a premier school district. The owners, a lovely couple, were adamant that they were going to save on real estate agent commission and sell their most valuable asset themselves. Every week I checked in with the owners to find out how things were going. The owners were very frustrated. People who came to see their home were either unqualified and just shopping, or would say they loved it-were going to make an offer, but never did. We affectionately call them Looky-Lous. Then there were the people who made appointments but never showed up. An agent won’t put them in a car because they can’t get a mortgage, so they prey on For Sale By Owners.

The owners couldn’t understand why they weren’t getting as much traffic as the home that was listed with a professional real estate agent was getting. I explained that professional Real estate agents use the home to market on social media, web ads, print ads, postcards, open houses, etc. Our audience is wide and large. We use tools that the average home owner does not have access to. We use professional Real estate photographers, professional stagers, drones, 3d doll house imaging of floor plans, supply home warranties,etc. But our real value comes in negotiation.

After 5 weeks on the market, I called this owner to check in and see if I could help her sell her home. She was exasperated. She had an offer the evening before. The home was listed at $460,000. She sold it to an investor for $420,000. $40,000 under asking price!!!! I asked if the deal was signed and she said yes. Had she hired an agent, she would have paid $27,000 in commission. So, she left $13,000 on the table.  The home should have sold for close to ask. The owner explained she got tired of showing her home, dealing with people who never showed, she was frustrated with dealing with people who were not qualified. For Sale By Owner: 0     Investor:1

Next story: The owner of a gorgeous townhome in Johns Creek was also selling her home For Sale By Owner. When I viewed her home, she was so excited to sell her home by herself. She was confident that she could get top dollar. The home was beautifully staged but priced a bit below market. It was a deal for the buyer.

I checked in the seller every week for three weeks. In the third week, the seller was also tired and exasperated. She explained that she and her husband got an offer from an investor. This always strikes fear in the heart of a real estate agent. Investors are a savvy lot, they want everything for .10 cents on the dollar, and have no emotional attachment to the property. So while you are trying to save on agent commission, they are also trying to save the commission you are saving. They offered well below asking and got it.

For Sale By Owners:0     Investors:2

The other interesting angle is the For Sale By Owner that cooperates with agents if they bring a buyer. In essence, the Seller is paying a buyer agent to negotiate against them!! This always works in favor of the buyer agent. Buyer agents are professional negotiators and are no match for amateurs. They get an amazing deal for their client, and you lose.

Moral of the story:



My best tips for getting your home ready to sell!


In this competitive market, it’s time to up your game.
You think you know the basics when it comes to getting your home ready to sell: remove any clutter or personal effects, fix what’s broken, and stage your rooms. But 2016 buyers are a picky lot, and they can fall in — or out — of love with a home for any number of reasons, some so subtle and slight that the buyers themselves aren’t fully aware of their logic, or lack of it.

If you really want to make your home attention grabbing for all the right reasons, it’s time to up your game with these tips:

1. Set the mood  with good lighting

Do swap out your bright white light bulbs for a soft and flattering wattage that gives off a cozy, yet welcoming feel and hides any tiny imperfections. Opt for bulbs that emit yellow-toned and red-toned hues. Reveal bulbs are good choices.

2. Make your windows sparkle

It seems obvious, but most homeowners overlook this one. Have your windows professionally washed, or devote an afternoon to washing them yourself from both inside and out. Even on cloudy days, clean windows will let in more light and make your rooms sparkle — and today’s picky buyers will definitely notice if it isn’t done.

3. Pay attention to details

Small details can make your home look dated without you even realizing it. Freshen up rooms with new switch plates and outlet covers if yours are grubby from fingerprints or yellowed from aging. At the very least, scrub them clean. Polish handles and hardware and use (my favorite) a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove minor spots and scuffs on walls.

4. Make up your beds beautifully

Create the impression that your home is your castle; your bedroom is a retreat. Make up your bed using neutrals and be sure all the beds are  made everytime your home is shown. Here is an idea of how to make your bed look gorgeous:


4. Make it welcoming

You’ve got the curb appeal, but what about “walking up to the door” appeal? Invest in a new doormat and take the time to scrub down your front door since it’s probably covered with dust, dirt, oils and Pollen. Better yet, repaint it and add some new house numbers and a new porch light.


5. Don’t forget your side yard

Turn that dead space into a selling point by creating a potting station or kitchen garden, or even set up breakfast nook with a table and chairs.

6. Get creative with color

Go ahead paint two adjacent rooms the same color to give the appearance of an open floor plan. Paint your walls to match your drapery (or buy drapery to match the walls). This will give a high end custom feel, as well as open the space. Use the same colors and patterns in the master bedroom and bath to create an “ en suite” feel.

7. Update your own furniture

Empty rooms do not show well. “Stage” a spare bedroom with a futon or  air mattress and bed frame. Create a living room arrangement by throwing matching slipcovers over clashing chairs and sofas. It’s all about presentation.

8. Brighten up trim

Walls aren’t the only things that need a fresh coat of paint. Dirty and dinged up door and window frames will drag down the prettiest of rooms. Repainting wood-toned trim white will also make your space brighter and updated.

9. Employ scents

Bake a fresh batch of cookies to create a homey feel (or fake it with a scented candle). Use soothing, spa-like scents like vanilla and lavender in bathrooms and bedrooms.  Stay away from overpowering scents.

10. Make your space look bigger

Hang floor-length curtains above your windows to give the illusion of higher ceilings. Lay down a striped rug to make your floor seem more expansive. Use a clear shower curtain to open up a small bathroom.

11. Fake a closet organization system and get the pantry in order

Yes, buyers will look in your closet! Make your storage look custom with DIY shelves, hangers, and bins that you can get from Home Depot or Lowes. Organize clothes by color for added impact. A small bit of organizing in the pantry lets buyers know you have enough room to store everything!



12. Dress up your laundry area

Whether it’s a separate room or a corner of your basement, make your laundry area look welcoming by adding a folding surface, bins, and baskets for storage, and a designer element like a fun rug or cool wallpaper on one wall.

13. Tidy up the garage!

Install overhead or wall shelves or hooks to store bikes and sporting equipment. Create a workshop area in one corner — show buyers it’s more than just a place for cars.

14. Prepare for snoopers

Buyers will open your fridge, peek in your medicine cabinet, and check under your sinks. Make these areas so tidy Mr. Clean would be proud. Be sure to hide all medications that are narcotics-you would not want someone to be tempted to take these.



15. The power of Feng Shui

Many of its teachings can help make your rooms more attractive: avoid having the backs of furniture facing entryways, close the toilet lid, and don’t place anchor pieces like beds or sofas against a window, make sure your address is visible from the street, your entrance way should be free of trees or bushes that block the walkway.


1595 Dawn Valley Trail, Cumming, GA 30040


Welcome home to this Thorngate beauty! This 5 bedroom, 3.5 bath home has an abundance of natural light. In addition to 4 bedrooms upstairs and a bonus room on the main floor, there is a formal living and dining room. The fireside great room is bright and has 2 story ceilings. The laundry is cleverly placed on the second floor. The master bath is renovated as well as the teen/in-law suite bath. The deck is new and awaiting your grill and patio furniture. The yard is fenced and there is room for a playset or a game of football. Active swim/tennis community. Professionally landscaped.

Tell all your friends about this gorgeous home. All this and more offered at just $329,900. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the low Forsyth county taxes. Thorngate is a U.S. Army Corps of Eng conservation community with over 18 acres. Contact me at 678 825 7382.

Tour the listing with more photos here!

Buying a home: Buyer’s guide

Here are the steps you will go through to get you into your new home. You will definitely need a great Realtor, like Janet Hitzel, to help you through the complex process of buying a home!


Congratulations! You have decided to buy a home! What’s the next step?!?! Well, I have you covered. Hopefully, I am your Real Estate agent. If not, call me at 678 825 7382 and I will take excellent care of you!

Now for the deets:

1. Start with your credit. Three major credit agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are the major reporters and can give you a report . This will give you a good idea of how the banks will view your credit. Do you need to fix things in order to get your loan? Your realtor can steer you to a talented mortgage broker who will give specifics on what you should do or not do. Should you pay off that collection? Not always.
Your credit score is a number calculated from a formula created by Fair Isaac based on the information in your credit report. You have three different credit scores, one for each of your credit reports.
A low credit score may hurt your chances for getting the best interest rate, or getting financing at all. So get a copy of your reports and know your credit scores. Try Fair Isaac’s Check into getting your free yearly credit reports. will get you what you need.
Errors are very common. If you find errors, contact the agencies directly to correct them as soon as possible because it can take two or three months to resolve. If the report is accurate but shows past problems, be prepared to explain them to a loan officer.

2. Determine your budget. How much house you can afford. There are online calculators that are great. Speak with a loan officer and ask to be pre-approved by the lender. They will look at your income, debt and credit to determine the kind of loan that you can get.
Figure you can afford to spend about two-and-a-half times your gross annual salary. If you have significant credit card debt or other financial obligations like alimony or even an expensive hobby, then you may have to plan on spending less.
A great rule of thumb is all your monthly home payments should not exceed 36% of your gross monthly income.
The size of your down payment will also determine how much you can afford.

3. Get your down payment in line. You’ll need to come up with the cash for your down payment and closing costs. Generally, Lenders like to see 20% of the home’s price as a down payment, but each person’s financial background is different. Veterans need to come up with significantly less. If you can put down more than that, the lender may be willing to approve a bigger loan. If you have less, you’ll need to find loans that can accommodate you.
Various private and public agencies provide low down payment mortgages through banks and mortgage companies. If you qualify, it’s possible to pay as little as 3% up front.
Keep in mind, a down payment under 20% will probably require you to pay for private mortgage insurance(PMI). PMI generally adds about 0.5% of the total loan amount to your mortgage payments yearly.
You also need to make sure you’ve got enough to cover fees and closing costs. These may include the appraisal fee, loan fees, attorney’s fees, inspection fees, and the cost of a title search. They can easily add up to more than $10,000 — and often run between 3-5% of the mortgage amount, depending on the property and services required.
If you do not have enough cash on hand, you still have options. First-time homebuyers can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty from an Individual Retirement Account. You can also receive a cash gift of up to $14,000 a year from each of your parents without triggering a gift tax, which can be a great way to come up with the extra money!
Check on whether your employer offers any help or incentives for homebuyers; some companies will help the down payment or have relationships to help you get a low-interest loan from selected lenders. You can also use a 401(k) or similar retirement plan for a loan from yourself.

4. Find a great REALTOR like Janet Hitzel, of Keller Williams! A knowledgeable REALTOR is a critical in helping you navigate the Real Estate process. The paperwork is cumbersome and the decision to buy a home is an expensive one. Get a realtor who has your best interest at heart. Someone like me, Janet Hitzel! (insert smiley emoticon!)
Signing an “exclusive buyer agent agreement” with your realtor holds them accountable to you-it also gives your realtor permission to negotiate your terms with the seller. Buyers agents usually split the commission with the seller’s agent at the close of sale.

5. Find your home. First, you need to figure out what city or neighborhood you want to live in. You should look for signs of economic vitality: low unemployment and good incomes. Starbucks and Whole Foods have amazing location departments. So when you see a Starbucks, take it as a good sign for the area.
Highly rated schools are so important for resale value so even if you don’t have school-age children, don’t overlook the school district’s importance. When it comes time to sell, you’ll find that a strong school system is a major advantage in helping your home retain or gain value.

6. Make an offer. Once you find the house you want, move quickly to make a fair offer. If you’re working with a Realtor like Janet Hitzel, then get advice from her on an initial offer.
This is where your Realtor earns their keep. Your realtor will supply you with comparable homes that have recently sold. If you love the home, offer close to ask to lock the deal up. Your realtor should educate you on whether you are in a buyer or sellers market.
Your realtor will help negotiate the final offer. You can always negotiate your terms and sweeten your offer.
Once you reach a mutually acceptable price, the seller’s agent will write up an Purchase and Sale Agreement .

7. You are in contract and have entered your Due Diligence period. This is when your Realtor is your best friend. You need to:
1. Get a mortgage
2. Get a home inspection
You will also make an earnest money deposit, which is a good faith deposit. It is generally 1% of the purchase price. The seller receives this money after the deal has closed. If decide to get out of the deal during due diligence, you receive your money back.

8. Secure your loan. You should decide whether to go with the fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage and whether to pay points. Expect to pay $50 to $75 for a credit check at this point, and another $150, on average to $300 for an appraisal of the home. Most other fees will be due at the closing.
You will need homeowners insurance. Keep in mind, your lender may very well require that you have homeowner’s insurance before they’ll approve your loan. The lender will also perform an appraisal. The home needs to appraise for your offer price, or other arrangements must be made.

9. Get an inspection: Your realtor should be able to help with recommendations for reliable home inspectors. An inspection costs about $300-700, on average, and up to $1,000 for a big job and takes two hours or more.
If the property has significant issues, you will want to negotiate with the seller. Again, your realtor is going to become your best ally. You will either want the seller to fix the problem before you move in, or deduct the cost of the repair from the final price.

10. Close the deal. About three days before the actual closing, you will receive a final Closing Disclosure Form from your lender that lists what you can expect to pay at closing.
Even though you will be represented by an attorney and your Realtor, Read it carefully!
The lender may also require you to establish an escrow account, which it can tap if you fall behind on your mortgage or property tax payments. Lenders can require deposits of up to two months’ worth of payments.
Now go hug your Realtor and get your keys! You are now a homeowner!!!!

A warm welcome to you! Front door upgrade!


Welcome to my blog about Real Estate in the Johns Creek area. As part of our New Year house upgrade, we decided to change our front door. When we bought the home 2 years ago, we knew we would have to do some work to it. As I was scouring the internet for fun and interesting articles on curb appeal, I came across an abundance of information on the importance of your front door. As a realtor, I know it is crucial for the front door to be looking its best. So, it got me thinking about my own front door. While it looked nice from a distance, the front and back pieces were starting to warp, and it was becoming harder to close tightly.


You can see the the veneer pulling away from the door.

Because I am a realtor, I also know the importance of ROI-return on investment. So I checked the Cost vs Value 2016 report. In the South Atlantic region, you recoup 98% of your investment in a steel front door. How awesome is that?!? So, I enlisted my resident hunky handyman, Sim, to change out the front door and install a steel one.


Resident hunky handyman, Sim

We painted the inside a creamy white to match the interior trim. We have black shutters on our home, and the old door was painted black on the exterior. We also have brass hardware. Black is our Feng Shui career color, and brass is making a huge comeback, so we opted to recreate the magic.

Stay tuned for the after photos!