Nationally and in metro Atlanta, a low number of homes for sale is fueling the price rise. In popular areas homes sell fast and sometimes generate bidding wars. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola/Files
Photo: STEVE DIPAOLA
Photo: STEVE DIPAOLA

Short supply still boosting metro Atlanta home prices

The metro Atlanta housing market rolled into the spring selling season with prices rising, according to a much-watched national survey released Tuesday.

However, the ongoing imbalance of supply and demand continues to skew the market, as a low number of homes for sale fuels the price runup.

This year's property sales outpace last year so, if you're looking to purchase a home, you should pounce because inventory is limited.

The S&P/Case-Shiller House Price Index showed Atlanta prices up 0.9 percent for the month of March, 5.5 percent higher than a year earlier. Atlanta had the 12th largest price gain among the 20 largest metro areas.

Nationally, prices are rising at the fastest pace in almost three years, and the low number of homes for sale is a key factor, said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices in the report.

“People are staying in their homes longer rather than selling and trading up,” he said.

The quickest rise in prices is in Seattle, where prices were up 12.3 percent in the past year through March, according to Case-Shiller.

Second-fastest is Portland, Ore., where prices are up 9.2 percent, and Dallas, where prices have risen 8.6 percent in a year.

In an email, Bill Banfield, an executive vice president of Quicken Loans, said the numbers prove there is “a strong appetite for home buying.” That demand will not abate soon, he said.

“This should quell the fears of those who voiced concerns over the effects of rising interest rates on housing.”

But Svenja Gudell, chief economist for Zillow, said the market has tilted dramatically.

Listings in desirable areas are quickly snapped up and buyers find themselves bidding against each other, she said.

“It’s undeniably a great time to be a home seller,” Gudell said.

Markets tend to rebalance eventually – but it takes time with housing, where the moving parts have so much inertia. Capital investment and a wave of building will be needed to smooth things out, she said, adding: “But for now and the foreseeable future, I’m not exactly holding my breath.”

Overall, Atlanta prices are 1.2 percent below the peak of mid-2007, according to Case Shiller’s methodology. But they have climbed 21.2 percent since hitting bottom in the spring of 2012.

According to Re/Max Georgia, Fulton County had the highest level of inventory among the region’s core counties: 3.0 months. That was 17 percent lower than a year ago. Cobb had only 2.0 months of inventory, but it hasn’t lost ground in the past year, according to Re/Max Georgia.

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