Pending sales — in which there’s a contract between buyer and seller — have been rising. Those deals are not counted as final until they are complete, but most are eventually completed. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Metro Atlanta home prices rose 5.9% in September - Re/Max

Median price tops $250,000 as hunt for lower-priced homes picks up

Metro Atlanta home prices continued their vigorous climb last month, rising 5.9% from September of 2018, according to a report from a national real estate company.

The median sales price of a home sold in the region last month was $253,000, $14,000 higher than a year earlier, with most of the action coming from buyers looking for modestly priced houses, according to Re/Max.

However, the overall pace of the increase notched back slightly from August when the median home price was up 6.5% from a year earlier.

While the number of sales the past few months has been lower than a year ago, sales picked up through the summer.

“Greater Atlanta is slowly moving toward a more balanced housing market,” said Jeff LaGrange, vice president of Re/Max.

The number of home sales in September was 3.5% below a year ago. But June’s sales were 12.1% below the levels of a year earlier.

In general, higher prices the past several years have been driven by a scarcity of homes for sale: Supply has not been sufficient, so buyers have often bid against each other and pushed up prices.

Home listings in a balanced, healthy market typically represent at least six months of sales. But last month, listings in Atlanta represented just 3.1 months of sales – down from what was already a meager 3.6 months supply a year ago, according to Re/Max.

But housing is really many markets – different locations and different price tiers.

In the city of Atlanta, for example, average home prices in Ansley Park are above $1.3 million, according to data collected by Adams Realtors, which specializes in city property. Morningside’s average is slightly lower, but still above $1 million.

In contrast, East Point’s average is about $171,000 and Oakland City’s is $186,000.

Demand for luxury homes is a lot less intense than the needs of first-time home buyers. And with a short supply of modestly priced homes in nice neighborhoods, prices at the lower end are increasing much faster than the overall market.

At the upper end of the market, there are dramatically more homes listed for sale than there are people interested in making a purchase, LaGrange said. “The luxury market currently favors buyers.”

In the overall market, the data on tentative deals seem to foreshadow a continued pick-up in final sales. Pending sales – where buyers and sellers have a tentative deal – are not counted as final sales because some of them fall through.

But most pending sales are completed, so if pending sales rise, it’s usually a sign that the completed sales number will rise, too.

In September, pending sales in metro Atlanta were nearly 15% higher than a year ago. In July and August, pending sales were 7% above levels of a year earlier. In contrast, pending sales had been down last fall and winter, and that was reflected in dropping sales through most of the spring and summer.

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