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What’s next for Metro Atlanta’s top 4 markets?

by Peter Thomas Ricci

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Marietta, Cumming, Lawrenceville and the city of Atlanta are among the most active housing markets in the Metro Atlanta area, and a new RE/MAX of Georgia report has provided some very interesting insights in how those markets are performing in 2016.

Below, we have focused on three elements of that report, which all spotlight a different area of the marketplace.

Home Sales

Surprisingly, all four local housing markets saw home sales decline – some by a considerable degree:

Market Home Sales – Sept. 2015 Home Sales – Sept. 2016 YOY Change
Atlanta 513 392 -121%
Marietta 335 248 -87%
Cumming 256 246 -10%
Lawrenceville 284 229 -55%

There are a number of explanations for September’s lackluster sales numbers. For one, housing inventory remain historically low – RE/MAX recorded just a 3.7-months supply, an 8-percent decline from a year ago – and the lower an inventory falls, the more pressure it places on home sales.

Additionally, the mighty summer buying season is long gone, so September’s decline could be a simple matter of the market cooling off as kids return to school and prospective homebuyers take a breather; after all, before the zany housing markets of the bubble (and post-bubble) years, housing traditionally slowed during the early autumn months.

Median Sales Price

Although home sales declined, the median sales price continued to increase:

Market Median Sales Price – Sept. 2015 Median Sales Price – Sept. 2016 YOY Change
Atlanta $292,000 $315,000 7%
Marietta $256,500 $276,250 7%
Cumming $282,950 $310,000 9%
Lawrenceville $177,250 $192,500 8%

Rising home prices are obviously a good thing for current homeowners and future home sellers, and are a great talking point when discussing the market with prospective clients; there is, however, a considerable downside to such aggressive price hikes, and it involves first-time and lower-income homebuyers.

Wages are rising slowly in most Metro Atlanta counties. Indeed, since the downturn, most counties have seen small, single-digit increases in worker wages. Yet, at the same time, home prices in those same counties have taken flight, and as a result, homes have become less affordable for buyers.

And though homes in Cumming, Marietta, Lawrenceville and Atlanta remain more affordable than homes in Boston, Los Angeles and other expensive metro areas, consider this – Paulding County is now the only area where homes remain cheaper than their historical averages; in all other counties, it now requires more wages to buy than used to be the case. Slowly but surely, Metro Atlanta is losing its legendary affordability.

Time on Market

Finally, homes are selling faster in all four markets:

Market Days on market – Sept. 2015 Days on market – Sept. 2016 YOY Change
Atlanta 52 46 -6%
Marietta 38 35 -3%
Cumming 51 50 -1%
Lawrenceville 43 33 -10%

Given that inventory continues to decline, it only makes sense that days on market would fall as well. And though quicker sale times are good for sellers (they encourage multiple offers and, often, higher returns), they also inconvenience buyers with less cash on hand, aka first-time buyers.

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