The housing market is a topsy-turvy world where mortgages are upside down, owners sometimes are encouraged to lose money on their homes and Realtors find themselves searching for the bottom.
Market data provided by the real estate information company Trendgraphix Inc. – compiled for several local ZIP codes in and around Buckhead – show there were significantly more homes for sale than actually were selling.
E.J. Mueller, who is trying to sell his 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.
Many local real estate agents say homeowners need to lower their expectations when attempting to sell their homes. Mueller said his agent told him that as well, 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.”
Not everyone agrees that sales in the Buckhead market are slow. Dac Carver, vice president and managing broker of Beacham & Co. 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 figures.
“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.”
Homes in the 30342 ZIP code of Buckhead and Sandy Springs saw fluctuations for home sales between January and June, starting the period with 14 detached homes sold in January and ending with 17 sold in June, with 22 sold in May. Attached homes for that ZIP code ended in June with 13 homes sold after a slower start in January, with nine homes sold.
Attached homes are apartments, duplexes and condos; detached homes are stand-alone houses.
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 but did not make a March 2011 Forbes.com list of America’s emptiest cities, which measures the number of vacancies.
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. Sales of attached homes in that ZIP code were still sluggish, starting with 10 homes sold in January and ending with 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 with seven sold in January and ending with eight sold 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 homes 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 prices to attract a potential homebuyer.
Judy Soden, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker in Sandy Springs, said the inventory is low because few people are willing to put their houses on the market in a dicey economy.
“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.”
Penny Finfer, who recently reduced the 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.”