The housing market is a topsy-turvy world where mortgages are upside down, owners are encouraged to lose money on their homes and Realtors find themselves searching for the bottom.
Data provided by the real estate information company Trendgraphix Inc. — compiled for several local ZIP codes in the Dunwoody, Buckhead, Brookhaven and Sandy Springs area from January to June — show there were significantly more homes for sale than were actually selling.
Some months are better than others.
In the 30342 ZIP code of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, the number of homes sold from January to June fluctuated each month. The period began with 14 detached homes sold in January and ended with 17 sold in June, with 22 sold in May. Attached homes for that ZIP code ended in June with 13 homes sold after starting with nine attached homes sold in January.
Attached homes are apartments, duplexes and condos; detached homes are stand alone houses.
In Sandy Springs, there were 15 attached home sales in the 30350 ZIP code in March and 119 attached homes for sale. By June, the number of attached homes for sale had dropped to 114, with eight homes sold. The sale of detached homes in the ZIP code started off with three homes sold in January and 19 in May and 15 in June.
In the 30319 ZIP code in Brookhaven, sales surged from 29 detached homes sold in May to 56 in June, with 288 still on the market. Attached homes for that same zip code were still sluggish, starting with 10 homes sold in January and 10 sold in June.
Dunwoody also saw a June uptick in sales; the 30338 ZIP code saw a steady increase in sales from January to June for detached homes. The period started with eight detached homes sold in January and ended with 28 sold in June. Attached homes didn’t do as well, starting in January with seven sold and selling eight in June.
Georgia Institute of Technology professor Dan Immergluck, a faculty member with the school’s department of city and regional planning, said the metro Atlanta housing market is “just kind of bouncing around” at the bottom and that it will stay that way “for a long time.”
He said the impact of high gas prices has caused more residents to move closer to the city, but said that hasn’t translated into a substantial increase in home values in the inner parts of the metro region.
“I think for folks who are within a 30-minute commute of downtown Atlanta, they’re in better shape than folks who are beyond 45 minutes,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think the market will experience any more dramatic declines in values.
Local Realtors echoed Immergluck’s assessment.
“Honestly I think we’re kind of bumping along the bottom,” said Realtor Angie Ponsell, who works for Keller Williams First Atlanta and sells in Sandy Springs. “The good news is in the entire metro area, we’re the lowest for distressed sales. Distressed sales are what are bringing all the prices down.”
Ponsell said 66 percent of the houses in Sandy Springs still need to lower their asking price to attract a potential homebuyer.
Contributing to the uncertainty of the market is information that can be confusing. For example, in an August Yahoo.com report, Atlanta was rated as one of the nation’s “sickest” housing markets. But Atlanta did not make a March 2011 Forbes.com list of America’s emptiest cities, which measures the number of vacancies.
Dac Carver, vice president and managing broker of Beacham & Company, Realtors in Buckhead, takes the glass-half-full view, citing data provided by his company that claims metro Atlanta’s second quarter was the best for single-family home sales in four years. The Beacham report said home sales in Buckhead are up 13 percent from 2010.
“We’ve sold everything,” Carver said. “We’ve had the best quarter in four years and the inventory is at a point where we need to replenish. … The news media keeps telling people we’re in a horrible real-estate market, when in reality we’re not.”
Judy Soden, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker in Sandy Springs, said the inventory is low because few people are willing to put their homes on the market.
“The problem right now is it’s a stalemate,” Soden said. “People are afraid. People don’t have jobs. People can’t sell their houses, either they’re underwater (with their mortgages) or they say, ‘I’m not going to sell for that.’ It’s just a vicious cycle right now.”
E.J. Mueller, who is trying to sell his Buckhead home on Kingsboro Road for $650,000, said he isn’t willing to settle for less. But he said he’s fortunate because he can afford not to settle. He’s had his home on the market for 3 1/2 months, but said he will soon take it off the market.
Most of the local Realtors said that homeowners need lower expectations when attempting to sell homes. Mueller said his agent told him that, but the homeowner said he didn’t listen.
“Their agenda is different than the seller’s agenda,” he said. “Generally, you know their agenda is to sell to make commissions. Our agenda as a homeowner is to sell to hopefully not lose any money.”
Penny Finfer, who recently reduced her asking price on her home located on Cherry Bluff Drive in Sandy Springs by $30,000, according to the current real estate listing, said her family is giving up on the current real estate market.
She said they’ve tried to sell the house on and off for two years; it’s currently priced at $419,777.
“We’re taking the ‘For Sale’ sign off,” Finfer said. “We know it’s ridiculous to try and sell it at this time of the year.”