The jobless rate has dropped, the economic outlook is brightening, and, in response, sales are picking up in the Atlanta condo market.
The first half of the last decade saw an explosive increase in the construction and renovation of condos and lofts in Atlanta. Homebuyers were dazzled with options that included high-rise luxury condominiums and expansive Intown lofts located in upscale and up-trending areas throughout the city.
As with most areas of real estate, condo construction and sales came to a near halt when the economy slowed. New construction remains at a standstill, but just last month, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported a steady, albeit slow, increase in the sales of existing condos and lofts.
“In Fulton County, the supply of new construction condos from January to February 2012 has decreased .8 percent, and the number of new construction condos sold in Fulton County increased 6 percent from January to February 2012,” said Leslie Williamson, executive vice president of marketing at Coldwell Banker NRT Development Advisors.
More importantly, there’s a real expectation that those sales will continue its upswing. According to Williamson, low mortgage rates and attractive pricing are leading the trend, and the positive news about the economy has been a strong prompter. She said that people are now feeling that they’re in a better position to buy, and qualified buyers are taking advantage of market conditions to purchase homes.
Allan Altman of The Altman Group and associate broker with The Marketing Directors has seen the same activity on the real estate scene. “Honestly, with the current velocity of sales and no new construction underway, I would not be surprised to see a shortage in the condo market in the next three to five years, which will cause prices to go up,” he predicted.
Why are Intown condos the hot properties to own? Altman started with the obvious answers: price and location. Condo communities are typically live/work/play neighborhoods where residents can walk to nearby parks, shops and restaurants, as well as many of the city’s most popular recreation and entertainment spots.
But it really comes back to money. “I know everyone gets tired of hearing that it’s really price and low interest rates, but it’s true that many folks are downsizing their expenses,” Altman said. “And most first time home buyers are looking for affordable, newer properties that are low maintenance.”
Williamson included the condo lifestyle as another good reason for the current surge in sales. “Many communities offer residents amenities that are out of reach for the average homeowner, like a pool, fitness center and spectacular city view.”
She went on to say that one of the biggest benefits to living in a condo neighborhood is that other people handle the maintenance, from cutting the grass and maintaining the grounds to fixing the roof and repairing the furnace.
Altman echoed the statement. “Everyone is working twice as hard to keep their jobs, so they have less time for yard work and upkeep on single-family homes,” he said. “A condo, especially in this market, fits the bill nicely.”
There are four prime Intown condo/loft communities that still have properties available for purchase.
Among the best features of the Brownstones at Edgewood (atlbrownstones.com), according to Altman, is the value. “Over 3,000 square feet at less than $250,000 for a fee simple town home. Four years ago, these homes were listed in the high $300s,” he said. “Also, there’s the quality of the construction and the incredible location – and the added bonus of being zoned live/work. Homeowners can run their businesses out of the first floor storefront or make it a home office, gym or bedroom.”
Located at 1270 Memorial Drive in Atlanta, the Brownstones at Edgewood offer unique three- and four-bedroom private townhomes with huge, open floor plans and gated access, from the $249s to $300s. Amenities include state-of-the-art technology, gourmet kitchens, spa baths, two-car garages and luxury finishes. Forty percent of the homes there are already sold.
Oakland Park (oaklandparkatlanta.com), at the corner of Memorial and Park Avenues, is another exciting Atlanta condo neighborhood, and one that promotes a healthy lifestyle. The first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building in Atlanta, Oakland Park boasts an eco-friendly design for people who are aware of their carbon footprint, Altman said. “Price and location are also attractive. The condos are convenient to downtown and I-20, and are walking distance to many restaurants.”
The one- and two-bedroom homes of Oakland Park have a big plus: expansive and untouchable views of the Atlanta skyline. The stunning city views will never be blocked since the condos border Grant Park and the historic Oakland Cemetery. And there’s more, including controlled access building and parking, a rooftop sun deck with barbeque and a fitness center.
The spacious floor plans feature 10-foot ceilings and operable glass windows, large walk-in closets, bamboo wood floors and granite countertops. The solid, precast concrete construction of Oakland Park keeps the homes quiet and energy-efficient. Prices range from $99,000 to the $200s, and over 50 percent are no longer available.
Located on Boulevard in Cabbagetown, The Stacks at Fulton Cotton Mill (stackslofts.com) boast an impressive history. The Fulton Cotton Mill industrial complex was built between 1895 and 1922. In the late 1990s, it was converted into apartments. Recently, Buildings F and H were converted again into 165 New York-style lofts with a square footage range from 655 to 1,700. The lofts are priced from the $160s to $300s, and less than 30 percent remain available.
“There are no other lofts like The Stacks in Atlanta, with its authentic brick walls 2 to 4 feet thick, loft-style ceilings up to 20 feet, and industrial windows,” Williamson said. “People buy at The Stacks because of its history, location and lifestyle.”
The Stacks at Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts retain many of its historical features – exposed brickwork and timber, huge windows and concrete floors – but has been updated with luxuries and conveniences for a modern lifestyle like wi-fi hot spots, controlled-access entry, gated parking, fitness center and swimming pool.
“Tribute Lofts (tributelofts.com) offers homeowners a fabulous location, right on Freedom Parkway, with beautiful skyline views,” said Williamson. “Now that spring is here, homeowners enjoy the rooftop sky pad featuring a pool, sundeck, grill and fire pit with views of the city.”
Other amenities include large balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, authentic Italian cabinetry and GE CleanSteel appliances. The mixed-use community on the corner of Boulevard and Freedom Parkway has a variety of floor plans available, from 800 to almost 2,000 square feet, and priced from the $180s to the $220s. Interested buyers need to act fast, as there are only four homes left.
Altman and Williamson had good advice for homeowners considering purchasing a condo or loft. Both agents suggested that potential buyers contact the condo homeowners’ association (HOA) and learn about the monthly association fee and what expenses it covers. Also, it’s important to find out how stable the association is; for example, is there enough reserve capital to cover unforeseen expenses?
Another critical point for some buyers, Altman added, is that the condo development is FHA approved. “Ninety percent of buyers need the added flexibility of FHA financing, and a lot of condo complexes, for one reason or another, are not FHA approved.”
He also made it clear that buying a condo is different than purchasing a standard single family home, so prospective buyers should contact an agent with a solid background in selling condos in the Georgia market.
Williamson agreed. “Consult a real estate professional to give you direction on location, price and affordability, as well as guide you through the condo purchase process. And, keep in mind that the new condo supply is being absorbed quickly, so if you want a new construction condo, I suggest you buy now.”