The sales prices in Clayton last year were up a robust 9 percent from the year before – a stronger increase than the other core counties.
However, Gwinnett had the most active market: during 2017, the county had 12,158 homes sold, according to Re/Max.
As healthy as it all sounds, the market has a problem that has continued to worsen: inventory – that is, the number of homes listed for sale. One of the reasons that prices have been steadily climbing is that the balance has shifted to sellers – there are more buyers looking than homes listed for sale.
Inventory is measured by the number of months of sales it would take to soak up the listings. In a healthy, balanced market, inventory generally represents six or seven months of sales.
That number has been a problem for a while. It already didn't look good in 2016 – it was about half what experts say is healthy.
And it got a lot worse last year, dropping 12 percent to was 3.0 months, said Re/Max.
That is, if you have a home to sell, pretty good news. But it means many buyers will be competing against each other and that prices will keep rising.
The buyer-seller balance does differ by area and even by neighborhood.
The fundamentals of the metro Atlanta economy have been solid. What worries economists is that the increases have been consistently outpacing the rise in wages for most Atlantans. Which means that residents will spend more of their income on housing, buy much more modest homes or – as Rainey suggested – move farther away to find less costly options.
And experts say the overall market depends on first-time homebuyers. If they are priced out of the market, that makes it harder for the previous wave of first-timers to sell their own homes and “move up.”
The trend is not likely to change soon, Rainey predicted. “Inventory will continue to impact the market until we see a rise in new home construction – particularly entry-level houses that meet Atlanta’s rising demand for affordable housing.”
The balance, of course, could get worse if Amazon chooses Atlanta for its new headquarters and tens of thousands of newcomers arrive in need of housing.
Median price of homes sold during 2017
Source: Re/Max Georgia
Number of homes sold, by county during 2017:
Source: Re/Max Georgia
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