Buying a Home in 2018
Trends and Happenings in Atlanta Real Estate
By Michelle Bourg
Congratulations! You’ve made the excellent decision to relocate toour exciting city, and you’re ready to start searching for your dream Atlanta home. But with any home purchase, there are numerous factors shaping your search that will have an impact on the home you ultimately choose. We’ve asked a panel of Atlanta real estate experts what trends they see affecting prospective homebuyers in 2018. Here are their responses:
Plenty of Construction, but a Tight Market
The most important thing for homebuyers entering the Atlanta market to know is that the city is continuing to experience a period of tight home inventory, creating a challenging climate for consumers. “This leads to a seller’s market and higher sales prices so long as demand remains high,” says Mike Wright, Vice President of Marketing and Communications with Harry Norman, Realtors. Jamie Walzer, Team Leader with the Nest Atlanta Real Estate Group, notes that the market sector most affected is homes under $500,000, and says that she expects offerings in that range to continue to move quickly with multiple offers while experiencing the most growth in price.
Anne Mabry, realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, agrees, noting that buyers in the $250,000 to $400,000 range are working harder to find new construction that meets their needs, often traveling outside the Perimeter (I-285) to find their ideal community. Fortunately, many employers are recognizing this, and establishing offices in these areas as they follow the work force.
On a more positive note, local experts believe that the situation is beginning to stabilize and may even improve soon. Bill Murray, President of the Atlanta Realtors Association and Senior Vice President and Managing Broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, says that “Prices should continue to rise at approximately the same rate: 5 to 6 percent,” although this rate may be higher in some popular neighborhoods. Says Wright, “We think that there will be a gradual increase in available inventory in 2018 and that will have a moderating effect on pricing, so average sales prices will continue to increase, but at a slower pace.”
Atlanta's Hottest Neighborhoods
Atlanta is clearly a hot market everywhere, but what are the neighborhoods that buyers are looking to make their own? Recently, construction of the Beltline—a multi-use paved trail system spanning 22 miles and connecting 45 different communities around the city—has created a path of revitalization attractive to Atlantans of every description. Murray and Wright agree that the Old Fourth Ward district just east of downtown will continue to be in demand, and Wright also cites the nearby Piedmont Park and Ansley Park neighborhoods, as well as Bellwood Quarry to the northwest and the West End area to the southwest. “The southwest side continues to gain momentum,” says Walzer. “We’ve seen tremendous growth in this area year over year.”
Similar revitalization projects have created high-demand neighborhoods all around the metro area. Wright points to the beneficial effect of downtown renewal in Chamblee, Sandy Springs, Marietta, Milton and Roswell, as well as the city of Decatur east of the city. Decatur’s strong growth has spilled over to surrounding areas, says Walzer: “White Oak Hills and Belvedere Park provide buyers the opportunity to be close to the city of Decatur without the prices…it still boasts affordable housing for the intown market.”
Some communities are so established that their popularity remains a constant. Wright and Murray both acknowledge the evergreen appeal of the tony Buckhead district, the genteel Chastain Park area, and Brookhaven, an old neighborhood that recently became an independent city and has significant appeal for young families.
It's All in the Details
Once Atlanta buyers zero in on their desired neighborhood, they’re mainly looking for traditional homes, and as might be expected, new construction is in high demand. But one significant trend here is the townhome. Murray says, “It is hard to find any area of Atlanta that does not have a strong number of new construction townhomes.” Mabry reports that her affluent townhome buyers have specific requirements, requesting kitchen-level garages, elevators and staggered spacing to avoid direct views into neighbor’s homes.
What Kind of Home?
Whatever style of home that buyers are seeking, one thing is clear when it comes to the features they demand in that home: square footage for its own sake is no longer paramount. More important to today’s buyer are how that space works for their lifestyle and the excellence of the details. “Quality of finishes and fixtures are leading the way,” says Murray, and as Wright describes it, “Lifestyle over square footage…open floor plans, high ceilings and efficient space planning. Nice finishes are considered more important.”
These finishes entail a range of things. Kitchens always generate detailed wish lists, and according to Mabry, those lists currently include islands without a cooktop, pendant lighting, soft-closing cabinets in white or light finishes, farmhouse-style sinks, and wooden pantry shelving. Other details in demand now are hand-scraped floors, his-and-her closets with designer organization, walk-in closets for secondary bedrooms and side-entry garages. One detail prospective owners are searching for is relatively new: the integration of technology into the home. Says Wright,“The ability to monitor and control household systems via smartphone is becoming an expectation, especially in new construction.”
Buyers are also interested in space outside the home, but again, it’s about utility as opposed to sheer size. “Outside living spaces are in high demand…covered porches with fireplaces and TVs,” says Murray. “Kitchens adjacent to the house and lawn or pool area are also getting a higher number of requests.” And as Millennials enter the market, their interest in sustainable living could change its future for some time to come. Walzer reports that her younger clients are interested in lot space to build a tiny home or include a garage with an in-law suite above, and that room to plant a garden or keep chickens is a growing trend.
Of course, many of the vast number of elements that make a place desirable are intangible, and “location, location, location” will always play a major role in any home purchase. School districts will always be crucially important for families. Atlanta is known for its traffic issues, unfortunately, and commute times are something that all experts agree is a major concern for buyers. As Murray puts it, “How long a drive to the office, school . . . to socialize, shop? The newest major concern is ‘Am I close to mass transit?’” Buyers are expressing a renewed interest in walking to these places, making the “live work play” concept loom large for the future.
As a newcomer to Atlanta, you’ll need to be prepared to do some homework and have patience as you search for your dream house, but don’t worry: it is out there. Once you’re settled in at last and enjoying your life at your new address, there will be no doubt that the search will have been worth it.