WHY IT MATTERS
Home sales and values are important even to people who aren’t likely to sell or buy anytime soon. The state of the housing market contributes to the so-called “wealth effect” that helps drive the broader economy by making people more confident about purchases of all types.
Sales in metro Atlanta dropped from the year before in eight of the past nine months.
Month…..Total sales…..Year-over-year % change
Source: Atlanta Board of Realtors
The median sale price of metro Atlanta homes is up substantially from 2013
Month…..Median price…..Year-over-year % increase
Source: Atlanta Board of Realtors
The state of metro Atlanta’s housing market this spring depends on who you are.
It’s frustrating for buyers, who often have trouble finding the home they’re looking for. Inventory is low and sales volume is down, slipping 6.8 percent in April from the same month a year earlier, according to new numbers released Monday by the Atlanta Board of Realtors.
It’s great for sellers, who see constantly rising prices and homes that sometimes sell in hours. In April, the median price ticked up 11.1 percent from a year ago, to $210,000, the board reported.
And it’s stressful for real estate agents, who are short on listings and stuck between the two.
Both the year-over-year sales decrease and the higher prices can largely be attributed to the number of homes on the market. There are still too few for the number of people who want to buy.
That demand is pushing prices higher, while depressing sales by keeping people who want to buy a home from finding one that suits their needs.
But Todd Emerson, president of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, cautioned that the market is doing just what it needs to as metro Atlanta continues to recover from the depths of the housing crisis.
“There’s no reason to push the panic button,” he said. “We’re steadily climbing the ladder. We don’t want to get overzealous.”
The decrease in sales can be blamed, in part, on a large reduction in foreclosures, Emerson said. When there are fewer foreclosures, there are fewer cheap homes on the market. Emerson also said more people are choosing to sell their homes on their own, and those sales are not recorded through local multiple listing services, where the Atlanta board gets its data.
There’s more to it than that, said Madalyn Suits, a Realtor with The Suits Team at Keller Williams Realty Peachtree Road. Many people are still underwater, owing more on mortgages than their houses are worth, and the rising prices have not yet reached them, she said.
Suits also said with the number of homes on the market so low, people don’t want to list their homes until they know for sure they’ll have a place to go.
“It’s a true fear of the unknown for people to sell,” she said.
April sales still rose from March, a typical seasonal increase.
Diane Allers is listing her Brookhaven house this week, but only because she’s already found a home to move to. Allers decided several months ago that she wanted another bedroom and a garage; her 11- and 8-year-old sons were sharing a room. She found a larger home in her neighborhood through word-of-mouth, she said, and negotiated before the house was listed.
“We would definitely stay here if we had the cash to add on again,” Allers said of the house she’s lived in for 14 years. “My plan is hopefully it will be snatched up really quickly. I’m really hoping we find someone who falls in love with it.”
Suits said most of her listings are going in less than two weeks. Some sellers, seeing the pace of the market, are trying to price their homes higher than the going rate, she said. When the price is right, homes can go under contract in 24 hours with multiple offers.
“It’s a feeding frenzy,” she said.
That frenzy leads Realtors like Jan Phelps, also with Keller Williams Realty Peachtree Road, to declare that this season has been “excellent” for her so far. Many sellers are trying to make up for lost time, she said, and there is no lack of buyers.
“Spring is always the best,” she said. “I’m not just trying to be optimistic. I really am optimistic.”
Emerson, with the Atlanta Board of Realtors, said price increases are moderating, and will continue to do so through the summer. But the inventory problem will likely persist. The year-over-year decrease in sales and increase in prices are in line with what he expected, Emerson said.
“We just still don’t have the houses to sell,” he said.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution