Forsyth Rising: Families, Retirees Flocking to Buy

by Jennifer Morrell


From a highly regarded public school system to low taxes and a geographically sound location off GA 400 and on Lake Lanier, Forsyth County and Cumming are drawing homebuyers of all ages.

“Forsyth County still has open land for development,” says Meg Thompson, associate broker with Solid Source Realty and chair of the Professional Women in Building, Atlanta Chapter.

North Forsyth is more of a new construction, single-family detached market offering affordable housing options, Thompson says. This area is where consumers find smaller square footage, slab foundations, smaller lots, higher density and less amenities – but achievable price points for first-time buyers or transitional buyers who are starting over.

“South Forsyth’s prices are back to pre-recession levels, which are passed on in the lot costs and higher home prices to homebuyers,” Thompson says. “These are predominantly spacious and luxurious homes for families.”

Such two-story, single-family detached homes would have four or five bedrooms and 3.5 or 4.5 baths, and range from the high-$300s to mid-$400s without basements, and from the mid-$500s to $700k with full, unfinished basements.

Home sales in Forsyth County are steadily climbing, and the reasons behind that growth include:

Retiree retreat – An extreme trend in Forsyth County now is the ranch floorplan. Not only are current retirees looking for this type of home, but also those entering retirement age are looking for that last home purchase for the long term.

“Residents receive a tax break at age 65 in Forsyth County based on age only; income level doesn’t matter,” says Stacy Easley with Harry Norman Lake Lanier. “Once they file for exemption, the tax drop is significant – close to 75 percent.”

Those retiring or approaching retirement are now able to find that ranch floorplan in the newer subdivisions or communities, and full senior communities are beginning to surface as well.

Thompson says townhome and active adult options are popular at lower price points. Two- or three-story townhomes with three- or four-bedrooms and 2.5 or three baths range from the $180s to high-$200s.

Family Life – Forsyth County has been recognized nationally for its school system. The schools are a draw for young families, who also enjoy the community standards – amenities like tennis courts, pools, a clubhouse and playgrounds. Last month, 967 home sites were put before commissioners for approval.

The county has ample restaurants and shopping, along with quick access to GA 400 and Atlanta, the North Georgia mountains and Lake Lanier.

“Lambert High School and South Forsyth High School were just rated No. 4 and No. 7 of the 20 Best Public High Schools in Georgia, which is a huge appeal for parents investing in not only real estate but their children’s education and future,” Thompson says.

Rentals – While multifamily homes are not a high priority in housing starts at the moment, the courthouse steps are still well attended with investors buying up foreclosures to serve as rentals. The rental market remains strong, although many who owned rentals during the Recession are now trying to sell those properties.

“Lots of people have re-entered the owner market, but there are still many who cannot get back into homeownership,” says Easley.

Lake Lanier – Sales of these properties have certainly rebounded since the Recession, when the area was heavily hit and had, only months before, endured a severe drought. Most of the lakefront properties are second homes and rentals, but sales activity is healthy again.

Great Outdoors – Forsyth County has added value via the significant investments made in outdoor spaces. Residents cheer the Big Creek Greenway, but the county also offers places for outdoor activity and vibrant parks, which feed the idea of Forsyth being a great place to move a family. A state-of-the-art aquatic center pairs nicely with a park and recreation system that includes multiple well-designed, top-notch facilities, fields and equipment.

Not slowing down

As the second-fastest growing county in Georgia and the seventh-fastest growing county nationwide, Forsyth’s home appreciation has increased by 16.2 percent, year over year. And soon, the county will contain a “city within a city.”

On Feb. 5, officials broke ground on the Forsyth County’s first work-play-live community, Halcyon. The $370 million mixed-use development will be positioned on 130 acres in the southern end of the county, offering 690 residential units that will include luxury rental apartments, restricted apartments, for-sale cottages, townhomes and single-family homes.

Halcyon will target all ages and demographics who want a walkable community with access to jobs, retail, entertainment and Big Creek Greenway without getting in their cars, says Patrick Leonard, principal with RocaPoint Partners.

“In addition to the additional tax base, this village will serve as a gateway focal point into this growing section of Forsyth County,” Leonard says. “The Greenway will be expanded with a new trailhead, parking and bathrooms integrated into the community.”

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