February 2023

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We have many exciting things to celebrate right now:

A new year, Happy 2023!

(Did anyone else think we’d be flying in cars like the Jetsons by now?)

A Birthday! This is our 18th year of publishing and we couldn’t be more excited to be part of this amazing supportive community! And of course, the month of love...Happy Valentine’s Day!

To say we LOVE this magazine, LOVE our advertisers and LOVE our readers is an understatement.

Thank you all so much,

“What a wonderful thought is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet” - Anne Frank

4 Our Town
Letter from the Publisher
same location l same unique gifts, clothing & home décor l same wonderful customer service & smiling faces 80 Seven Hills Blvd Dallas GA 30132 l 678-483-0283 l shopindigogoods.com l info@shopindigogoods.com Love Street @ Cedarcrest is NOW
10-7 Sunday 11-5
CONTENTS Note from the Publisher............................4 How ‘bout those Dawgs They did it again! in Talkin’ Sports................11 Cover Story: Welcome to Mount Paran Christian School...15 Community Spotlight Cobb Student headed to the Senate..............21 Travel Expert Heather Meliski gives you her Top Tips for your next Long-Haul Flight.....................................24 Real Estate Deborah Ratchford, keeps you updated on the 2023 Housing Market.....................................30 6 24 Travel Long-Haul Air Travel Tips In This Issue FEBRUARY 2023 Cover Story Mount Paran Christian School 30 11 Talkin’ Sports National Champs 21 15 Community Spotlight United States Youth Program Real Estate 2023 Market

Our Town is published and direct mailed monthly to prestigious homes in Cobb County. Opinions expressed by the editorial staff are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher. Our Town reserves the right to edit and or reject any editorial or advertising content. Our Town is not responsible for errors in advertising beyond the cost of the space or for the validity of claims made by advertisers. Entire contents copyright 2023 by Our Town. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden in any media without prior written permission from the publisher.


Tara Hill Hanover


Justin Hanover


Kimberly Watkins-Swenk


Jules Fandos


West Cobb

Sara Young sara@ourtownmonthly.com


Misty Flanders-White misty@ourtownmonthly.com


Heather Meliski

Deborah Ratchford

PO Box 813610

Smyrna, GA 30081-8610


info@ourtownmonthly.com www.ourtownmonthly.com

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“What I’ve learned is that all communities talk about wellness and socialization… but they don’t have the wellness center, greenspace, programming and staffing that Sterling Estates has. No one can match what Sterling provides for their residents. My parents are thriving at Sterling Estates… Bet yours will too” - Susan S.

Best of Cobb


Graphics and Design
Account Executive
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Demery & Lori McLinden Our Town is published and direct mailed monthly to prestigious homes in the West Cobb Area. Opinions expressed by the editorial staff are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher. Our Town reserves the right to edit and or reject any editorial or advertising content. Our Town is not responsible for errors in advertising beyond the cost of the space or for the validity of claims made by advertisers. Entire contents copyright 2018 by Our Town Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden in any media without prior written permission from the publisher. Our Town Monthly 109 Anderson Street Suite 109 Marietta, GA 30060 678-337-7844 Fax: 678-337-7825 info@ourtownmonthly.com www.ourtownmonthly.com Monthly F AMILY L IFESTYLE N EWS M AGAZINE Our Town in this issue
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Our Town PAGE 7
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8 Our Town
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At Varenita, residents can “age in place” comfortably and securely. One of the main benefits of choosing Varenita of West Cobb is that residents can stay in the same community and, in many cases, the same “living area” even as their health care requirements change. This means that once you or your loved one moves into our beautiful community, it’s home. No matter how much needs to change over time.


The perfect option for independent seniors who want support with daily tasks and personal care.

Varenita of West Cobb’s personalized assisted living care is designed for primarily independent seniors looking for a rich and rewarding lifestyle with an enhanced level of support. Guided by compassion and clinical expertise, our highly trained team members offer residents the gentle, individually focused support they need to flourish while retaining their independence.

Personalized Care for All Stages of Aging


This specialized program is ideal for those living with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early memory loss. Our industry-leading transitional care program is built around an inclusive “open campus” model. It is specifically designed for residents experiencing the early symptoms of memory loss or MCI but may not require the full attention or secure environment of a traditional memory program. Residents who are appropriate for transitional care continue to reside in the Assisted Living area of the community while receiving additional support with daily activities.


An enriching and supportive program designed for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.

Based on the latest research, Varenita’s memory care program offers a truly compassionate approach to care designed for those residents living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. This living option combines an engaging, secure memory care neighborhood with a stimulating, person-centered lifestyle often missing from other cognitive care programs.


Unlike many other senior living communities, Varenita offers comprehensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy services for all our residents without the hassel of having to leave the community.


Varenita offers residents and their families an impressive mix of delicious cuisine and rich dining experiences. Our accomplished chef and culinary team create an ever-changing menu of delicious entrees made with organic, locally sourced ingredients across three beautiful dining venues. These include vegetarian, gluten-free, and specially designed dishes for residents with specific dietary needs. In addition, we have a registered dietitian available to help with residents’ nutritional needs.


At Varenita, we offer an impressive mix of activities, classes, and events that foster engagement, stimulate the mind, and provide a rewarding sense of purpose.

• Arts & Crafts

• Daily Gardening

• Group Outings

• Move & Dance

• Animal Activities

• Cooking Classes

• Music & Song

• Live Concerts

• Exercise Classes

• Family Events

• Guest Speakers

Varenita of West Cobb | 1979 Mars Hill Road, Acworth, GA 30101 | 470-750-3500
10 Our Town Cross Court Solutions Denver, CO Director of Racquet Sports Trump National Bedminster, NJ Head Tennis Professional College of Charleston Division One Tennis Member Complete Player Developmental Programs for Juniors and Adults Private or Group Lessons Available Beginners to Advanced and Elite Skill Levels Singles and Doubles Strategy Smyrna Smyrna Smyrna L ITTLE L EAGUE Smyrna LITTLE LEAGUE Smyrna LITTLE LEAGUE Little League LITTLE LEAGUE New – 1 New – 2 New – 3 New – 4 New – 5 Join us for the Smyrna Little League Parade! March 18th, 8am Parade route starts at Campbell Middle School and will proceed up Atlanta Road through Smyrna Market Village, ending at Brinkley Park’s lower fields.


021’s football National Championship was the first for the Georgia Bulldogs in almost half of a century, dating back to the days of Vince Dooley, Herschel Walker and Buck Belue. It was an amazing 33-18 victory over the SEC rival Alabama Crimson Tide. To think that euphoria could be topped, after losing five players in the first round of the NFL draft alone and a record 15 overall, almost seemed silly.

Until 2022, that is!

Wow, what an incredible ride we just witnessed, a perfect 15-0 season culminated by the beatdown of all beatdowns, a 65-7 win over TCU. 58 points!?!?!?

It all began back in early September as UGA destroyed a top 15 Oregon team at Mercedes Benz Stadium, 49-3. It was 28-3 at the half and probably could have been worse. Considering the Ducks were viewed as one of the best teams out West and a solid opening test the sky once again appeared to be the limit for Kirby Smart’s squad, despite the mass exodus of guys like Travon Walker, Jordan Davis and Quay Walker.

The first real test surprisingly came in Missouri as the Bulldogs, who came into the game as the 30 point road favorite and a perfect 4-0, trailed 16-6 at the half. This should have been a route from the get go but it

wasn’t. In fact, Smart’s squad probably should have lost this game as they trailed by double digits with under 10 minutes to play. The Dawgs came back, as former Colquitt County High School star Daijun Edwards fought his way in from a yard out with four minutes remaining for the victory and the 5-0 start to the season.

After that surprising wake up call Smart’s squad would get back to its dominant ways in pounding Auburn, Vanderbilt and Florida by a combined score of 139-30. It was only that close because the Gators somehow managed to score 17 points in the third quarter, down in Jacksonville.

Stetson Bennett and company were 8-0 and headed for a showdown with the suddenly surging Tennessee Volunteers, in between the hedges. Many experts believed this was the year the Vols and their high flying fast paced offense would get over the hump. In the end, though, it was anything but as the Bulldog defense showed its mettle and dominated from start to finish in the 27-13 victory, that really wasn’t even that close.

At this point it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the team would make the top four and a playoff spot in the end. A 50-30 SEC Championship victory over LSU secured that and a date with number 4 Ohio State in the National Semifinal. The Chick Fil A Peach Bowl would be the Bowl and our hometown Mercedes Benz Stadium would be the venue.

The Buckeyes were a super talented team with blue chippers all over the field. Quarterback CJ Stroud is going to be taken very early in the NFL draft, if not first, and Marvin Harrison, Jr. will probably be better than his legendary father and become one of the greatest receivers on the planet in a few years. So, this game was not going to be easy and it certainly played out that way.

Ohio State led throughout the contest and seemed to be, many times, one play away from wrapping up the upset win. Frankly, they were the better team but better teams don’t always win and that would be the case on this day. Quarterback Stetson Bennett made the clutch throws, as he seemed to always have a knack for, and when the clock struck midnight, literally, Buckeye kicker Noah Ruggles missed a game winning 50-yard field goal attempt in the 42-41 Dawg victory. The ball left Ruggles’ foot at 11:59 and 57 seconds in 2022 and landed wide left six seconds later and into the new year.

Bennett would cement his legacy in the 58 point Championship game win over the Horned Frogs with one of the greatest performances anybody would ever have, throwing for four touchdowns and rushing for two more. The Pierce County High School graduate received only one FBS scholarship offer (Middle Tennessee State) and actually left the University a few years back before returning to the school and beating out 5* JT Daniels for the job in 2021. Back-to-Back became a reality. It really is the stuff dreams are made of!

Oh and by the way, Smart’s Dawgs are the betting favorites to win it all again next year.

Can you say Three-Peat?

Our Town PAGE 11
Talkin’ Sports Talkin’ Sports
Justin Hanover is a sports reporter/analyst who has worked in the business since 1996. His stops have included ESPN, CNN, 790 The Zone, 680 The Fan and the Atlanta Falcons. He has also done playby-play analysis and color commentary ranging from the high school level all the way through the professional level. Justin lives in Smyrna with his wife and three children.
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Where Faith and Intellect Grow as One

Mount Paran Christian School Provides Stellar Academics Through Intentional Biblical Worldview Immersion

Mount Paran Christian School is known for its stellar college-preparatory academics within small class sizes on a collegiate-style campus. But, what’s most important to faculty and administration, students, and families is that MPCS students are taught through a biblical worldview, resulting in graduates who crave deeper faith, embrace intellectual curiosity, are well prepared, live courageously, and pursue excellence.

As a covenantal Christian school, MPCS takes its mission to heart to prepare servant-leaders to honor God, love others, and walk in Truth. Learning takes a five-pronged approach based on the foundation that faith and intellect can, and should, grow as one.

focused on the liberal arts, with students being introduced to a breadth of topics, fields of study, resources, and ideas. Instruction is provided by well-trained experts. All faculty at MPCS are state certified and/or are advanced-degreed experts in their field.

Learning takes place within an immersive biblical worldview.

As St. Augustine said, “All truth is God’s truth.” Since the beginning, MPCS has wholeheartedly endorsed this ideal and the theological position that affirms there is and can be no separation of the sacred and the secular in life and learning. In other words, MPCS believes in the immersion of biblical understanding and truth in all they do and in all they study.

Head of School Dr. Tim Wiens says, “If all truth is God’s, then such truth exists in every field of study, in every course we teach, and in and through the content of all we examine in every classroom on campus, on the stage, on the sports court, and on the athletic field. Starting in the preschool, this philosophy extends to every room and space throughout each division, culminating with high school graduates who can articulately express, defend, and support the faith and the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Every child is known and loved. With intentionally small class sizes and a low student-to-teacher ratio, no student at Mount Paran Christian School gets lost in the crowd. Students are never just a number; they are known by faculty and staff and are prayed for daily. MPCS alumna Caroline Reilly ‘14 says, “The teachers, administrators, and staff at MPCS care about you: your success, your happiness, your future.”

Students receive broad exposure to ideas and opportunities. While MPCS offers an arts magnet program and the Project Lead the Way® (PLTW®) STEM certification, specialization is not the focus for the school. Instead, instruction is intentionally

1 2 3 1275 Stanley Road, Kennesaw, GA 30152 l 770.578.0182 www.facebook.com/MountParanChristianSchool

Parents are partners. There’s no “outsourcing” of your child’s education at MPCS. Families build a strong partnership with faculty and administration. Parents expect, and receive, honest feedback about their child, working in tandem to help each student set and reach their right-fit goals. A robust parent education program, ParentEd., provides regular opportunities to help parents develop the skills to guide their children in the Christian faith and in building a moral foundation. ParentEd. explores trends and topics influencing children and teens in today’s culture and offers resources and tips to overcome obstacles.

MPCS has a bias toward student success. Meeting each child’s unique learning needs — and then encouraging students to reach higher — is part of the foundation of instruction at MPCS. Students are exposed to STEAM from the outset, with engineering concepts introduced early, culminating with the potential for PLTW® certification in high school. Students as young as three-years-old are hands-on with technology, art, music, math, P.E., and Spanish. Directed studies, a gifted program, and the most AP/Honors classes of any private school in Cobb County are all part of the instructional opportunities at MPCS. The result of this focused effort on the individual is a 100-percent college acceptance rate.

4 5 mtparanschool.com

While each student at MPCS has his or her own unique experience, there is a common thread to their time at Mount Paran Christian School: success is achieved through the dedicated support of a close-knit school community. MPCS alumna Brooke Underwood ‘18 beautifully summarizes, “The experiences I had at Mount Paran Christian School are absolutely unparalleled, and I could not have wished for a better place to have been shaped into a daughter of Christ, a student, a performer, and a friend. When you walk onto the MPCS campus, you are stepping into a place where people love intentionally, learn ceaselessly, worship proudly, play passionately, and live fearlessly. You are becoming a part of a family.”
Our Town 17 ANNOUNCES HIGH SCHOOL COMING FALL ‘23 Enrolling NOW Kindergarten - 9th Grade 23-24 Tuition rates starting at: K-5th - $11,630 6th-8th - $12,280 9th - $14,500 For more information visit eastsidechristianschool.com 2450 Lower Roswell Rd, Marietta, GA 30068 770-971-2332 Bus service available from Smyrna. “Academic Excellence from a Biblical Worldview” Equipping the next generation of leaders with Excellence, Character and Faith Founded 1983 • Largest pediatric cardiology practice in Georgia • 50+ pediatric cardiologists • Advanced practice providers • Genetic counselors, nutritionist, and social worker • 20+ locations throughout Georgia • Patients are seen from before birth to age 21 • Pediatric heart programs and services • Physicians on call 24/7 for consultations • Appointments within 72 hours • All major insurances accepted • Inpatient services at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center Trust your child’s heart to a team committed to caring for children for over 30 years. FEBRUARY IS Heart Month Help us raise awareness for the most common birth defects.
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Cobb Student Selected for the United States Senate Youth Program

Jack Lakis has been selected as one of Georgia’s delegates to the 61st class of the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Each year, the State Departments of Education around the country engage young leaders in a highly competitive, merit-based selection process for this honor. Ultimately, only 2 students from each state are chosen as del egates.

Jack will receive a $10,000 scholarship and have the privilege of participating in Wash ington Week. Co-Sponsored by the Wil liam Randolph Hearst Foundation and the United States Senate, Washington Week allows students to observe the Federal Government and learn from our nation’s policy makers. The ex cursion will be held from March 4thMarch 11th and includes meetings with all members of the Senate, a Supreme Court Justice, the President of the Unit ed States, and leaders from several executive agencies.

He is the first Cobb County student in over a decade to be selected as a delegate and the first ever student from Harrison High School to do so.

Jack, a senior at Harrison High School, serves as the Student Body secretary. He also serves as the Georgia state lead in Project TEAL, an organization dedicated to promoting civic education and oversees curriculum, policy, and the group’s efforts to lobby at the Georgia General Assembly. Jack recently founded Atlanta’s chapter of the History Retold Project, promoting inclusive, civics-based classrooms. As a narrative media specialist for the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition and a staff writer for Vox Atlanta, Jack works to ensure that students’ voices are represented in the political sphere. At school, he founded Political Converse, an organization that supports student engagement with current events and government in a nonpartisan atmosphere. Jack plans to major in political science or international politics before continuing to law school. He hopes to become a Supreme Court clerk and one day serve as a Supreme Court justice.

Congratulations Jack! #ourtownproud Go Hoyas!

For more information please visit: www.ussenateyouth.org

Our Town 21
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Our Town 23
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Travel Tips for The Long-Haul

o you have plans for an international trip to another continent this year? If so, then you will want to prepare for your long-haul international flight to help make it the best experience possible.

Here are my top tips for your next long-haul flight:

Hydrate – flying dehydrates you so make sure to drink a ton of water. I generally bring a few large bottles of water onto the plane with me so I always have some on hand throughout the flight. I’m also a big fan of Liquid IVs and I typically add a couple of these to my water throughout the flight.

Get up and move – sitting too long can cause all kinds of issues – swelling, discomfort, and even blood clots - so make sure to get up and move

at least every hour or two. You can also do simple exercises – like raising and lowering your calves or ankle circles - in your seat to move your legs and ankles to keep the blood flowing.

Compression socks – they may not be fashionable but if you’re prone to your legs, feet, or ankles swelling on flights, they are definitely functional. I have a pair I travel with for any flight that is at least four hours long. My feet tend to swell when I fly and these help minimize the swelling and keep my legs from feeling achy. Compression socks will also reduce your risk for blood clots.

Bring your own entertainment – make sure to have shows or movies downloaded onto a device, books or e-books, and wireless noise-canceling headphones. Sometimes in-flight entertainment systems don’t work, so make sure you have enough to keep you entertained for the duration of the flight. Also, don’t forget a phone charger.

Sleep – I know it isn’t always easy to do, but sleeping on a long-haul flight is your best friend. You get some rest, it helps you fight jetlag, and you won’t be totally exhausted when you arrive at your destination. I’m a big fan of bringing a travel pillow, a wrap that also serves as a blanket, and eye shades. A lot of people also love ear plugs but I prefer sleeping with my Air Pods in with the noise cancelling turned on. I also prefer the window seat so I have something to lean on while I sleep.

Pack basic toiletries – make sure that you have a toothbrush, toothpaste, contact supplies/glasses, lip balm, and deodorant. A lot of people also like to bring moisturizer or hand cream and face wash/wipes. Being able to take ten minutes in the restroom to freshen up a few times throughout the flight will make all of the difference in how you feel when you land.

Dress comfortably and in layers – you’re going to be in the same clothes for hours and (hopefully) sleep in them as well, so make sure that you are comfortable. You can still look stylish and be comfy, so a great pair of leggings or joggers, a t-shirt, and a sweater or sweatshirt are perfect. Plus, if you get hot or cold you can add or remove layers throughout the flight. I also recommend slip-on shoes or bring a pair of flip flops for when you need to walk around the cabin. And please always wear socks if you take off your shoes – being barefoot on a plane is gross.

There you have it, my top tips for making your next long-haul flight a great one!

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Heather Meliski is a travel agent specializing in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe, Australia, the South Pacific, cruises, theme parks, and more. She lives in Smyrna with her husband two sons. Heather@yellowshoetravel.com FB @heatheryellowshoetravel IG @yellowshoetravelheather

Home is where the heart is at Dogwood Forest Acworth Assisted Living & Memory Care and so is the CARE. We love our residents like family and you can visit our website and hear from family members why they love us, too.


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First, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope it will be safe, happy, and prosperous for you. Now that 2023 is here, we are all keeping a watchful eye on the economy, which is still being pulled in all directions by high inflation, steep interest rates, ongoing uncertainties, and recession fears, to name a few. After two years of rather strong seller market sales there are indicators a correction is underway but it’s not changing that quickly. Mortgage rates are still at about twice as much as what they were a year ago. Monthly home prices are still increasing in some areas, despite a decline in total number of sales to make it harder for many home buyers to access affordable housing. Still, higher housing costs have taken a toll on home shoppers as mortgage applications are at their lowest level in a very long time. Because of this decline in housing sales, could the housing market be reaching the bottom already?

More Housing Inventory is always a Good Thing.

Low housing inventory has been a challenge since the 2008 housing crash, when the construction of new homes plummeted and, in many areas, came to a standstill. Many people feel like it still hasn’t fully recovered. Housing supply remains near historic lows which has held up demand compared to other downturns, consequently sustaining higher home prices. Prospective home buyers have been faced with two challenges, one is elevated mortgage rates and the second is limited housing inventory leading to sellers. Now that slowing sales is upon us, we are experiencing a slowdown in new construction which is jeopardizing the already limited housing supply. It would be a step in the right direction when an increase in Single-family new construction occurs.

Are there Many or Any Foreclosures on the Market?

It seems like there is a slow rise in foreclosures that resulted after the expiration of the Covid-19 foreclosure moratorium starting around

September, 2021. That’s a great situation for renovators and buyers looking for a project. But now foreclosures may have hit their peak because of the stronger seller market and the fact that people can still do a short sale for their hardship. We will continue to see below-normal foreclosure activity, since unemployment rates are still very low, and mortgage delinquency rates are lower than historical averages. Another key difference now compared to the last housing crash is that many homeowners, and even those struggling to make payments, have had a large increase in their home values in recent years which means they still have equity in their homes and are not in the red. The home values are up which is why we don’t see many foreclosures. This is good for homeowners but not for renovators.

When is the Best Time to Buy a Home in 2023?

Buying in any market is a highly personal decision. Because homes represent the largest single purchase most people will make in their life, it’s important to be in a solid financial position before diving in. It’s best to use an online mortgage calculator to get an idea of your monthly housing costs based on your down payment, interest rate and estimated taxes & insurance to get the most accurate total monthly payment. Trying to predict what might happen next year is not the best home buying strategy. If buyers are sitting on the sidelines today, in anticipation of lower prices tomorrow, they will end up disappointed. It is possible that some areas will see some decreasing pricing but not widespread. Don’t expect a national price decrease like what occurred in the housing crisis of 2008. Instead of waiting for much lower prices, it’s best to buy a home based on your current budget and needs for your family. If you find a home that you love in the area you love, and it also fits your budget, then chances are it might be right for you. In this case, you should buy now making it the time to call a reputable Real Estate Agent and Loan Officer.

Tips for Buying in Today’s Housing Market

It’s always best to start with a budget and stick to it. Even with a slight uptick in the number of homes for sale, buyers are still facing elevated prices and mortgage rates that are higher than they were last year heading into the Spring Market. Even though buyers are getting a bit more breathing room now, they should keep in mind that it’s still a seller’s market while they consider their options which is why anyone thinking of selling should get on the market now.

Great advice when Selling in Today’s Housing Market

The first step for a successful sale is to find an experienced and reputable listing agent who knows the area and comes highly recommended. A good agent will work closely with you to price your home competitively based on many local factors while fielding questions and professionally negotiate offers from prospective buyers.

Let’s make it a Great Year!

Call today for a “FREE” market analysis!

30 Our Town
It’s 2023: Welcome
to The Housing Market Forecast.
Deborah Ratchford Keller Williams Realty Cityside 678-570-4779 / Debratchford@kw.com
Deborah M Ratchford Keller Williams Cityside 3350 Atlanta Road Smyrna, GA 30080 C: 678-570-4779 O: 770-874-6205 Call the agent that knows the market and how to get over the asking price. Results Driven!!! Call today for your FREE market analysis! New Price on this Great Three Level Home! Walking distance to Downtown Woodstock barry.butler@rate.com / O 404.474.3974 C 770.365.7179 125 Townpark Drive Suite 300, Office 23 / Kennesaw, GA. 30144 Barry Butler Branch Manager/VP of Mortgage Lending NMLS ID: 658820 All information is believed to be accurate, but not warranted. Each Keller Williams Realty Office is individually owned and operated. Call about this New Guaranteed Rate Mortgage Buy Down Program that saves up to 2% on your interest rate. Deb is Results Driven! www.guaranteedrate.com/barrybutler itAgain! DebDid Our home would sell for WHAT?
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