A home for sale, in Natick, Mass. A shortage of listings in metro Atlanta has driven up prices. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Photo: Steven Senne
Photo: Steven Senne

For metro Atlanta sellers, home season starts on high note

Home sellers can rejoice: Atlanta’s spring buying season started in March with a jump from last year in the price of homes sold.

The median price of a home sold last month was $220,000 – up 10.6 percent from the same month a year ago — with the number of sales increasingly modestly, according to a report issued Friday by Re/Max of Georgia.

But from the buyer viewpoint, the figures are less rosy.

Prices are being relentlessly driven higher by a low number of homes for sale. That means buyers must either stretch to cover costs or accept more modest options in home size, quality and location. It also means reduced time-on-market and more competition for desirable homes.

Re/Max considers a six month supply to represent a market in balance. Some experts say seven is better.

But Re/Max says the supply last month represented just 2.1 months of sales. That compares to last year’s 3.0 months of supply – which, at the time, was considered abysmally low.

“There continues to be a growing increase in demand in the area, as greater Atlanta is now below the national average for months supply,” said John Rainey, vice president of Re/Max Georgia.

Perhaps more ominously, double-digit price hikes that dramatically outpace gains in household incomes are often viewed as hints that a market is overheating or a “bubble” is forming. And the end to a bubble can be ugly in the extreme. The massive housing bubble that burst in 2006 and 2007 led to a nearly unprecedented financial crisis and a painful recession.

The Re/Max report, which covers 11 counties, shows the number of sales during the month rose 3.1 percent from March of last year.

Gwinnett led the region with the most home sales during the month. DeKalb had the largest proportional increase. The two months tied for the largest increase in median price. But Fulton, as usual, had the highest median price.

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