By Kathy Dean
Everyone knows that when it comes to real estate, the top three factors are “location, location, location!” With that in mind, Intown’s eastside communities have become prime targets for homebuyers who want to be close to Atlanta, but a little more breathing room.
The City of Decatur and its hip and happening Oakhurst community, Candler Park, Kirkwood and Lake Claire have become some of the metro’s most desired neighborhoods.
“The tag line for Decatur is ‘Where Mayberry Meets Berkeley,’ and it’s true,” explained Weslee Knapp, Broker and Owner of Keller Knapp, Inc. “What draws people here are the phenomenal schools, small community feel, location, strong retail with great dining experiences, MARTA access, pedestrian friendliness, wonderful community events and amazing parks and outdoor spaces.”
Knapp said Decatur has a natural scarcity of homes that constantly drives up demand because the city only covers about four square miles.
Kerry Lucasse, Team Leader of the Nest Atlanta Real Estate Group at eXp Realty, reported that, based on MLS research, the average Decatur single-family home sales price last quarter increased $70,000 from the same time last year, from $459,000 to $534,000. When comparing the second quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2008 (before the market crashed), the average sales price has risen by $168,000 from $366,000 to $534,000. Part of the dramatic increase in average sales price is due to the influx of new construction homes ranging in price from $650,000 to over $1 million.
While the real estate market in Decatur neighborhoods has been nothing short of incredible, it’s especially true in Oakhurst. “When I purchased a home in Oakhurst in 2001, very few people had ever heard of it,” Lucasse said. “Today, it’s often the first neighborhood that potential homebuyers add to their wish list!”
There’s no doubt that the Decatur school system is a major reason that there’s a huge influx of young families. Knapp pointed out that the new Drew Charter Middle and High School in nearby East Lake is a big draw, too, since parents know that their children are in a school program that goes from kindergarten through high school.
Tom Fulkerson, Managing Broker at RE/MAX Metro Atlanta, said, “Each neighborhood has its own ‘village’ and parks that draw residents. We’ve seen interest in Decatur neighborhoods increasing for at least 18 to19 months.”
The specific housing options range from existing older homes, renovated homes and new construction. “Downtown Decatur has lovely new condominium homes and existing townhomes that draw young singles, young married couples and empty nesters who want to downsize and not have the burden of property to maintain,” Fulkerson added.
For homeowners who prefer townhome or condo living, there are several historic buildings and newer developments that have popped up in recent years. Most are small communities with less than 30 units, nestled in a single-family neighborhood.
A large majority of the homebuyers, however, are attracted to the character and charm of the 1920s bungalows, with their big rocking chair front porches, high ceilings and period details. Since many of the bungalows are less than 2,000 square feet, larger families often have to consider new construction homes.
Savvy homebuyers also consider resale value when purchasing a home. In Decatur, that’s a consideration that can really pay off. “Earlier this year, we assisted a family in Oakhurst that was being transferred out of state,” Lucasse said. “Even though they only owned their 3 bedroom / 2 bath cottage for about 10 months, the home sold for $67,000 more than they paid for it.”
Oakhurst is something special, according to Lucasse. She said that there’s always something to do, from the Oakhurst Dog Park, the pool at McKoy Park, happy hour on the Universal Joint patio and Jazz on the Lawn on Thursday nights to neighborhood festivals and special events almost every month.
Probably the most highly sought after section of Oakhurst is the MAK Historic District. It features some of the most stunning homes in the area, from large Craftsman Bungalows to Four Square homes.
Kirkwood is a favorite neighborhood for homebuyers who want the character and charm of a historic home, but need something a bit more affordable. Homebuyers can typically find fully renovated 3-bedroom, 2-bath bungalows in Kirkwood in the mid $300s.
Many young professionals start their home search in Oakhurst, but due to the bidding wars and low inventory levels, they change their focus to Kirkwood. The neighborhood’s downtown district has taken shape over the last year, thanks to new businesses, restaurants and a dedicated neighborhood association.
“If I had to pick the next ‘hottest neighborhood in Atlanta,’ Kirkwood would be it,” claimed Lucasse. “Property values are up almost 15 percent from the same time last year, homes are being renovated everywhere you look, and more and more businesses and investors are drawn to this friendly, intown neighborhood.”
She added that the most popular section of Kirkwood is NOHO (North of Hosea Williams Drive). A majority of the homes there have already been renovated and residents are just steps away from the restaurants, Bessie Branham Park and residents on the eastern edge can walk or bike to Oakhurst Village.
The streets of Candler Park are lined with bungalows, English Tudors, cottages and new Craftsman style homes. Most of the historic homes have been renovated in the last 10 years and range in price from the low $300s to mid $700s, with the average sales price in the high $400s. Lucasse advised homebuyers looking for a new construction home to be prepared to spend at least $700K.
For those homebuyers who want to live in one of Atlanta’s most highly sought after neighborhoods, but can’t swing the price of a single family home, there are also some great condos and lofts available in the $100K to $225K price range.
Those who call Candler Park home range from yoga instructors to attorneys, but they all share a love of the hip neighborhood vibe, from the annual music and beer festivals to annual block parties and Sunday brunch at The Flying Biscuit. Many are also very active, so the bike trails, Freedom Park and easy access to the Atlanta Beltline are a big plus.
Lake Claire, east of Candler Park and north of Kirkwood, is another sought-after neighborhood of approximately 1,200 homes. The name is actually a shortened version of the intersection of Lakeshore and Claire Drives—there was never a lake, or even a pond, in the area.
Other neighborhoods, like Winnona Park, are also starting to experience exponential growth, with new construction homes selling in the mid $800s to low $900s.
Lucasse offered this tip to homebuyers: “It’s not uncommon for a home in Decatur to sell for $50K over the asking price. If you’re in the market for a home in any of these neighborhoods, be prepared for a bidding war. Make sure your real estate agent is local and knows how to package your offer so it stands out from the crowd.”