October home prices slipped in Atlanta from September, but they are still 6% above last year’s levels, according to Re/Max. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

Atlanta home prices take usual October fall, but up 6% in a year

The median price of a home in metro Atlanta dropped slightly last month, to just under $250,000, but was still higher than a year earlier, according to a report from Re/Max.

A decline in the price of homes is typical in the fall. In October, it was $249,000 compared with $252,000 in September and $235,000 in October of last year.

Despite the seasonal slippage, the median price has risen every year in the Atlanta market since hitting bottom in 2012.

In October of 2014, the median price of a home sold in metro Atlanta was  $179,000, according to Re/Max.

The market is being driven by fundamentals, said Jeff LaGrange, a Re/Max vice president. “Georgia’s strong economy and low unemployment continue to bolster the local housing market.”

The state’s economic growth has brought thousands of young professionals to Atlanta, even while the increase in prices has made ownership out of reach for many of them.

The Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark rate three times this year, pulling down mortgage rates. Those cuts have helped the housing market because lower rates make homes a bit more affordable by making monthly payments on the mortgage smaller.

The average 30-year, fixed rate mortgage now is 3.66%, compared to 4.83% a year ago, according to a survey by Freddie Mac, the huge lender.

There were 7,754 home sales in October, slightly fewer than in September, and up incrementally from a year ago, according to Re/Max.

But supply – the number of homes listed for sale – continues to hamper the overall market. Listings last month were equal to three months of sales, a bit less than half of what experts say is needed for a balanced market, meaning buyers and sellers have equal negotiating power.

The region-wide averages continue to mask the dramatic differences between the price tiers in the market.

Lower priced homes that might be affordable to first-time buyers with modest means are in the highest demand, but the shortest supply. Their prices are generally increasing the fastest. In contrast, listings of high-priced homes are plentiful, and those sellers are often compelled to accept less than they want.

Among the core counties of the metro area, Fulton continues to report the highest median sales price: $298,000. Clayton County, which was hardest hit by the housing crash and recession, had the lowest median: $141,000.

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