Home prices leap on scarce listings

The pandemic might have stifled listings of homes for sale, but it hasn't cooled the ardor of would-be buyers. This Lithonia home had multiple offers. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
The pandemic might have stifled listings of homes for sale, but it hasn't cooled the ardor of would-be buyers. This Lithonia home had multiple offers. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Up 15% from a year ago

Metro Atlanta home prices rose again last month, continuing a steady increase that has only accelerated during the pandemic, according to a report Wednesday from Re/Max.

The median price of a home sold in the region last month was $289,900 — up 15% from the same month a year ago.

Despite the shutdowns of many businesses in March and the following six months of pandemic-wreaked havoc on the economy, the price of homes keeps rising. Uncertainty and the fear of strangers traipsing through the house has kept many homeowners from listing their homes for sale. Yet it has not dampened the desire of would-be buyers.

It’s a little like the start of the pandemic, when shoppers jammed markets, said broker Kristen Jones, owner of Re/Max Around Atlanta. “The low inventory is causing many buyers to feel like they might miss out later if they don’t buy now.”

Some buyers are so anxious they make offers when the listing is still in “coming soon” status on broker web sites, she said.

Even before the pandemic, the market was tilted toward sellers, with buyers competing for a relatively few number of available homes. But that mismatch has grown far more pronounced.

In September, inventory — that is, the number of homes listed for sale — was equal to the number of sales in 1.8 months. Inventory a year ago represented 3.6 months of sales. In a balanced market, experts say inventory ought to be at least six months of sales.

That shortfall in supply gives an advantage to those who want to sell their homes.

One sign of that, sellers are not giving much ground. A year ago, the median sales price was about $23,000 below the median list price. In September, the sales price was just $11,000 below what the seller had wanted, according to Re/Max.

During the month, Fulton had the most activity among core metro counties: 1,686 sales. The median price in Fulton was $369,900, second to $387,000 in Forsyth.

The buying surge comes despite the year’s economic trauma. While the economy is recovering, it is still millions of jobs shy of February’s level.

But economists say the losses are predominantly among lower paying jobs where the lion’s share of workers are renters.

Current trends show a mix of buyers, said Torrence Ford, the owner of Re/Max Premier. Seventy percent of the market is split between first-time buyers and investors, and the rest were people downsizing.

Number of homes sold*, September, by county and price

Fulton: 1,686

Gwinnett: 1,348

Cobb: 1,230

DeKalb: 966

Cherokee: 560

Forsyth: 455

Henry: 176

Clayton: 153

Median home prices, by county

Forsyth $387,000

Fulton $369,900

Cherokee $324,500

DeKalb $323,950

Cobb $320,000

Gwinnett $285,250

Henry $235,700

Clayton $160,000

*Source: Re/Max

In Other News