Home sales sag, but prices up 9.9 percent from last year

Metro Atlanta home prices are up 9.9 percent from a year ago, even as the number of sales has slipped.

The strong rise in prices is a sign of the continued imbalance in housing, with demand continuing to out-pace supply.

The median price of a home sold in May was $248,445, compared to $226,000 during the same month a year ago, according to a report issued Monday by Re/Max of Georgia.

“The local housing market is not going to slow down anytime soon,” said John Rainey, company vice president.

The growing economy, job market and the popularity of metro Atlanta as a destination — especially for foot-loose millennials — are creating more demand than new construction can meet, he said. "We need new home construction to pick up the pace before our local marketplace can even begin to normalize."

At the same time, home prices are increasing far faster than incomes.

Annual average wage increases in metro Atlanta were only about 1 percent in the past year, according to calculations by Glassdoor, although the past few months have seen hikes of a little more than 3 percent, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

There were 9,396 homes sold during the month. That is down 2.5 percent from a year ago.

Overall, there are still many affordable homes in metro Atlanta. But inventory – that is, the number of homes for sale – is especially sparse at the lower end of the market, where many potential first-time buyers are looking.

In a healthy, balanced market, experts say the number of homes listed for sale should be equal to the number of sales over at least six months. In May, the number of homes listed for sale was equal to the number of sales over 2.1 months – a 22 percent drop from a year ago.

That means that many wannabe homeowners find themselves in bidding wars for homes in desirable areas. That is, of course, good for those who are selling, but for buyers it means higher prices.

“Home sales in the region have declined, year-over-year, but it’s simply because our inventory is not meeting demand,” Rainey said.

As with previous months, the hottest county for home sales in the region's core was Gwinnett, where there were 1,235 sales, followed by Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton. But in all five counties, the number of sales was down in May from a year ago.

The highest median prices were in Fulton, which includes Buckhead and several affluent suburban areas to the north.

The data is collected from a 28-county area by the First Multiple Listing Service and provided to Re/Max.

Average time a home is on market

Cobb: 31 days

DeKalb: 31 days

Gwinnett: 33 days

Fulton: 41 days

Clayton: 48 days

Source: Re/Max Georgia, First Multiple Listing Service

Median sales price, May

Fulton: $382,000

DeKalb: $310,000

Cobb: $299,000

Gwinnett: $251,500

Clayton: $141,000

Source: Re/Max Georgia, First Multiple Listing Service