Atlanta housing market running out of steam after pandemic price surge

Credit: contrib

Credit: contrib

Metro Atlanta home prices barely budged for a fourth straight month in September after soaring earlier in the pandemic.

But the number of “for sale” signs remains historically low, representing a continued challenge for prospective home buyers and suggesting prices won’t be heading lower any time soon.

The median sales price for the region’s 28 counties last month was $335,500 — up 17% from a year ago, but just 0.1% higher than in August, according to Re/Max.

Sales activity also was muted. The number of homes sold slid, as it has each month since spring, dipping 11% in September from the same month a year earlier, based on the real estate company’s data.

“The market is beginning to shift slightly. Buyers may be pulling back. They’re either priced out or deciding to wait it out,” said Cynthia Lippert, president of the Atlanta Realtors Association.

Even the city of Atlanta, where homes are at a premium, sees a similar trend, said Bill Adams, president of intown Adams Realtors.

Prices were up an average of 17% during the past year, but edged up just 0.3% last month, he said.

Some of the ebb is seasonal, said Kristen Jones, owner of Re/Max Around Atlanta. “Historically speaking, it is typical.”

Interest in buying tends to peak in spring with many families hoping to move before the start of the school year. As the temperatures dip in late summer, so does buyer interest.

But that didn’t happen last year, when the pandemic scrambled the calendar and bidding wars heated up through the summer and fall as buyers sought spacious, socially distanced digs. Prices continued to rise sharply through May.

One challenge that hasn’t gone away for house hunters: a shortage of homes on the market.

“In my 22 years in real estate, I have never seen the month’s supply of inventory this low,” said Jones.

The number of homes listed for sale last month was 18% below a year earlier, according to Re/Max.

Jones, like many brokers, blames the lack of supply on “a vicious cycle of would-be sellers worried they will have nowhere to go if they sell,” a reluctance that only makes the problem worse.

And while demand has crested for the moment, most experts see a continued long-term need, which means little chance that prices will fall.

“Atlanta is such a transient town — there are always people moving in who need housing,” said John Ryan, marketing officer of Georgia Multiple Listing Service. “There’s just not enough available housing to meet the demand.”

Forsyth County had the highest-priced market last month, with median sales price last month of $477,588, followed by two other suburban counties, Fayette at $440,000 and Cherokee at $390,000. However, the most active markets with the most sales were in Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb.

Metro Atlanta housing market, September

Median sales price: $335,500

Price, compared to August: 0.1%

Price, compared to a year ago: 16.5%

Number of sales, compared to August: -10.7%

Number of sales, compared to a year ago: -10.2%

Listings, compared to a year ago: -17.6%

Source: Re/Max

Counties, by highest median sales price in September

Forsyth: $477,588

Fayette: $440,000

Cherokee: $390,000

Fulton: $385,000

Cobb: $369,000

Gwinnett: $352,500

DeKalb: $338,500

Coweta: $335,000

Henry: $307,000

Clayton: $213,000

Counties, by number of home sales in September

Fulton: 1,634

Gwinnett: 1,351

Cobb: 1,042

DeKalb: 896

Cherokee: 473

Forsyth: 418

Clayton: 145

Henry: 133

Fayette: 47

Coweta: 32

Source: Re/Max Around Atlanta