By John Schaffner

Martha Hayhurst, president of Harry Norman Realtors, disagrees with her boss, Warren Buffett, about when Atlanta will see a full recovery from the crisis in the real estate market. Buffett says it will take 8-10 years. She agrees with Forbes magazine that Atlanta will lead the recovery and it will happen quicker.

Hayhurst addressed the Oct. 8 breakfast meeting of the Buckhead Business Association and discussed what she described as the real estate hemorrhage that began in 2006 and has continued until the last few months in Atlanta.

She said the problem all began in late 2002 when politicians said “every person in America has a right to own a home. We all would agree to that. What they didn’t add was the caveat every American should own a home and they should have the ability to qualify and afford that home,” she added.

“We began a period that we will call now the unintended consequences,” she stated.

Hayhurst said that until the end of 2002, “we were doing approximately five million units a year nationwide. The average appreciation in Atlanta and the 22 surrounding counties was about 3 to 4 percent. In 2003, we started the journey into what I call real estate hell,” she stated. The market jumped from five million units a year to over seven million units. “Did we enjoy the ride during those years? Yes,” she told the group of over 100 attending the meeting.

Hayhurst was named president of Harry Norman, Realtors in June 2008 and of Jenny Pruitt & Associates in September 2008. She joined Harry Norman Realtors, which celebrates its 80th birthday next year, as vice president and managing broker of the Peachtree City office, which she opened in 2001.

Despite the bad real estate climate of the past few years, Hayhurst sees a positive turn occurring in the market.

“We get excited about the little things in life,” she stated. August 2009 versus August 2008, showed an increase of one more single family attached (condo) sale in Atlanta, 681 over 680, Hayhurst reported. At the end of August, there were 7,400 pending sales here for single family detached (homes). At the end of August 2008, there were a total of 5,760 pending sales.

There are 5,386 proposed closings for September and that would exceed September 2008 if all close.

Hayhurst said pending home sales have increased for seven straight months in the Atlanta market.

Atlanta has seen the 21st consecutive year-to-year monthly price decline for single family detached homes and 11th straight monthly decline for condos, Hayhurst added.

The problem is market inventory, she said. In August 1999, there was a four-month supply of local inventory. That rose to 11.3 months in August 2007 and 13.9 months in August 2008; it was 11.2 months in August 2009. Anything over a six-month supply is a buyer’s market, she explained. Also, there are almost 1 million foreclosures in the marketplace nationwide.

Hayhurst touted the importance of the federal government continuing the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, which has brought 1.2 million new home buyers into the market. She said 350,000 of those could not have bought a home without it. “We are lobbying fast and furiously to get that extended,” she added.