Real estate company helps dozens of DeKalb renters become 1st-time homeowners

Located in the Stone Mountain area, this is one of the dozens of homes that Atlantica Properties sold to first-time homeowners in DeKalb County.
Located in the Stone Mountain area, this is one of the dozens of homes that Atlantica Properties sold to first-time homeowners in DeKalb County.

Credit: Atlantica Properties

Credit: Atlantica Properties

Roughly two years after purchasing 72 rental homes in DeKalb County, a real estate company said nearly all of them have been sold to first-time homeowners.

Atlantica Properties, based in Atlanta, bought the homes from the Housing Development Corporation of DeKalb County as part of an effort to increase homeownership rates in the county. Roughly 53% of all homes in DeKalb are owner-occupied, which is about 10% less than the state average, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Scattered throughout the Decatur, Stone Mountain and Tucker area, only four homes have yet to be sold. By transitioning renters into homeowners, the company aims to help people stabilize their monthly housing payments, co-founder Darion Dunn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We are trying to indirectly affect the rental market, which is getting out of hand and becoming unaffordable, Dunn said. “We’re coming in and saying here’s an alternative to renting, and it’s called homeownership. And a lot of folks don’t know that they have the ability to buy their home.”

The Housing Development Corporation of DeKalb County, a nonprofit arm of the Housing Authority of DeKalb County that addresses affordable housing, sold the 72 homes to the company in 2019 for $8 million. The nonprofit purchased the homes after the Great Recession but wanted to shift its focus to the nearly 2,000 affordable apartment units it manages, the organization previously told The AJC.

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Tenants at those homes were paying rents between $850 and $1,300 per month. When Dunn’s company bought them, he said they wanted to be landlords for as little time as possible.

“We actually wanted to take these 72 homes and convert them to owner-occupied units rather than responsible rented units,” he said.

Due to historically low mortgage rates, Dunn said most buyers were able to lock in monthly payments roughly equivalent to what they were paying in rent.

The company branded the homeownership project as OWN DeKalb. Dunn said Atlantica Properties is a “mission-driven” company which had to be careful not to drive up the price of the homes when selling. On multiple occasions, he said they had to turn down higher offers to meet that mission.

“If we were profit-focused, there was an opportunity to honestly make a lot more money off of this, but that really wasn’t our intent,” he said. Only a handful of the homes were purchased by landlords, with most going to former tenants or first-time homeowners.

This Decatur home is one of the dozens of houses that Atlantica Properties sold as part of its OWN DeKalb initiative.
This Decatur home is one of the dozens of houses that Atlantica Properties sold as part of its OWN DeKalb initiative.

Credit: Atlantica Properties

Credit: Atlantica Properties

The median price of the homes was $165,000, and their prices varied between $125,000 and $225,000. Dunn said his company is looking to repeat the effort and sell more former rental homes to individual buyers.

“We consider ourselves that kind of bridge where we can buy on that institutional level but then we’ll go through the long, arduous process of individual sales to get these homes back in the hands of the community,” he said.

Dunn, 42, was raised in southwest DeKalb along with his 41-year-old brother, Trenton. They partnered to found Atlantica Properties in 2010 and have managed properties across metro Atlanta.

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Dunn said his company is also developing 46 townhomes in Grove Park, which will include 10 affordable units. The company is partnering with the Atlanta Land Trust to offer those units at deed-restricted prices — 60% of the area median income.

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