Microsoft’s Westside project has juiced area home values



Home values in Atlanta had been growing for several years, but Microsoft’s 2020 announcement of the project was an accelerant for the Westside.

During the year before the announcement, the median price of a home sold in the area was $140,000 — and a year later, it was $250,000, according to data compiled by Bill Adams, president of Adams Realtors, which specializes in city properties.

Now, it’s $347,000, he said. “I attribute that all to Microsoft.”

Several thousand homes in a radius around the Microsoft project were likely affected, he said.

Currently, many of the more expensive listings in the area — some for more than $600,000 — are large, new construction, four- and five-bedroom houses. Others are houses that have been largely renovated. And some of the lower-priced options — like one listed at $169,000 — could be destined to be torn down and replaced by a new, much more expensive house, he said.

During that same time, other areas of the city — especially on the south side of town — have also seen significant growth in housing values, but they didn’t soar like the area around the proposed project. During the past two years, the median price of Oakland City homes has jumped 60% while that of a house in Sylvan Hill climbed 42%, Adams said. “Those are areas not affected at all by Microsoft.”

The median price of a home sold last month in metro Atlanta was $360,000, according to John Ryan, chief marketing officer of Georgia Multiple Listing Service.

Gentrification has been a constant concern among longtime residents across Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods, many of which are historic. Like many inner-city neighborhoods with older homes, the area had many older residents, many of whom were Black.

After Microsoft’s purchase of the 90-acre site, the Atlanta City Council issued a moratorium banning new development around the Westside Park area in an attempt to preserve affordable housing.

When the Grove Park project was announced, it was impossible to ignore the plans, said Jasmine Hope, chairperson of Neighborhood Planning Unit-K, one of two planning groups representing neighborhoods near the project.

“Right when the announcement was made, I feel like our property taxes just skyrocketed,” she said.

But what happens to residential real estate now?

Experts say that the fuel provided by Microsoft’s project may be gone — at least for the moment — but the larger trends that have been washing through the housing market will almost certainly continue.

In recent years, prices of houses, townhomes and condos — as well as apartment rents — have been pushed upwards by a shortage of homes, an expanding economy and population growth that has been especially strong among young professionals. Moreover, many younger wannabe homebuyers also prefer intown to exurban choices.

If word of changed plans were to have an effect, it wouldn’t be until the news filtered through to sellers, buyers and listing agents, said Kristen Jones, broker and owner of Re/Max Around Atlanta.

“I don’t think we would see any impact on the market until 30 to 60 days after the announcement is official.”

But even if there is a change in Microsoft plans, it won’t likely undo the much larger factors that have been driving the market, she said. “I could see the closing or suspension of building something like this really impacting a small town outside of the metro Area, but Westside Atlanta has long been an up-and-coming, hot area of town.”

Staff writer Zachary Hansen contributed to this story.