Among the more active housing markets last month, Forsyth County houses had the highest price, a median of $480,000. The most homes — 1,538 — were sold in Fulton County. Gwinnett had the hottest market, with homes listed only an average of 15 days before a sale, according to Re/Max Around Atlanta.
Demand is fueled by a growing economy and the addition of good-paying jobs. Moreover, low interest rates make homebuying more inviting by minimizing monthly mortgage payments.
Despite the run-up in Atlanta-area prices, the region is still relatively affordable compared to many other metro areas, said Cory Hopkins, managing editor of economic research for Zillow, the Seattle-based home-listing company.
“First-time buyers are at a bit of a disadvantage in this market, unable to rely on the proceeds from a prior home sale to help pad their down-payment,” he said.
Wage growth has been relatively strong by historical standards, but is still on average less than 5% per year, according to the Atlanta Federal Reserve.
Home prices are rising a lot faster.
Meanwhile, inventory — that is, the number of homes listed for sale — has kept shrinking.
Experts chalk up the lack of listings to a number of factors, starting with the massive surplus left by the burst of the housing bubble in 2007. The ensuing recession put many builders out of business and convinced the survivors to be cautious about new construction.
Building has never recovered to pre-bubble levels, even though the region’s population has continued to grow.
Even when builders wanted to take advantage of the rising prices, many have found the process to be slow going because of various legal and zoning restrictions.
“Across Georgia and in greater Atlanta, there are local laws mandating minimum lot sizes, minimum square footage requirements, and building setbacks,” said Erica Smith Ewing, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning, nonprofit law firm. “These laws all make housing more expensive.”
The group is currently suing the city of Doraville for its housing code enforcement practices and the city of Calhoun for its building code requirements.
Metro Atlanta home sales, October 2021
Median home price: $349,000
Price compared to Oct., 2020: up 20.3%
Number of home sales: 8,509
Number of home sales, compared to Oct., 2020: down 13.4%
Metro Atlanta median home price milestones
July 2000: $150,000
May 2015: $200,000
June 2018: $250,000
March 2021: $300,000
Median sales price, most active counties
Source: Re/Max, Re/Max Around Atlanta