By Kathy Dean
In our September issue, INtown published a big cover story called “On The Rise” about the resurgence of the condo and townhome market. In less than a month, we’ve seen more evidence of the trend with the announcement of another condo tower in Midtown, new townhomes in the Old Fourth Ward and the sell out of a new townhome community in Virginia-Highland.
Located at the intersection of Crescent Avenue and 13th Street, Trillist has proposed 43-story SLS Atlanta Hotel & Residences, which would contain 214 hotel rooms and 66 condo units. In the Old Fourth Ward, the Studioplex on Auburn Avenue will expand with 19 new townhomes over retail shops.
Meanwhile, Dorsey Alston and Walnut Meadows Real Estate Development have announced that all 40 of the townhomes in its Virginia Park development in Virginia-Highland have been sold. The average home price: $532,000.
“There’s no question that the Intown condo market is hot,” said Jennifer Kjellgren, Founder/Broker of Intown Expert Realty. She shared some quick stats for the past six months: Downtown has seen more than 100 condo/townhome sales, and there’s now less than a three-month inventory. Over 850 condos/townhomes have sold in Buckhead, also leaving about a three-month inventory. In Midtown, there have been roughly 550 condo sales, with less than one-month supply remaining. Even smaller buildings in the more neighborhood-y settings, like Morningside, Virginia-Highland, Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park, have seen the same activity. Well over 250 condos have sold in those areas, leaving less than a month’s worth of inventory.
With more and more businesses moving into the Midtown and Buckhead areas, condos allow residents the convenience of walking or using public transit to get to work in 10 minutes or less. Car services, like Zip Car and Uber, let city dwellers ditch their autos and still live and work comfortably in Atlanta. Since developers are building retail space into their projects, residents have neighborhood stores, restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques that create small, self-sustaining communities within a few blocks.
“I’d say the number one amenity drawing homebuyers to Atlanta condos and townhomes is the walkability factor,” said Bill Golden, a Realtor at RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside. “Location is more important than ever as traffic continues to grow. Most of the condos and some townhomes are in more walkable, urban environments than single-family homes. Many of my clients get very excited at the idea of being able to walk to restaurants, bars, shops, nightlife and even grocery stores. And proximity to the Atlanta BeltLine and other trails, parks and green spaces is becoming increasingly important.”
Of course, financial considerations are another huge factor in the increased popularity of condos and townhomes. Many consumers have been priced out of the market for Intown single-family detached residences.
“Millennials are starting to buy homes and Intown detached housing doesn’t always fit in their budgets,” reported Chris Aiken, Intown Expert Realty agent. “They’re not interested in being house poor; they want to travel and use their money elsewhere.”
Townhomes and condos tend to distribute maintenance responsibilities and costs across a greater number of owners, keeping costs more manageable. For example, in a townhome community where four homes share a common roof, the cost of replacing the roof is distributed over the four units.
“The benefits certainly include the peace of mind that comes with the fixed maintenance costs that condos and townhomes afford. Busy singles and retirees who travel really love the idea of a lock-and-leave situation where they don’t feel tied down to taking care of a home,” Golden explained.
While purchase and maintenance costs are important factors for many homebuyers, others look to condos and townhomes for Intown luxury. Kjellgren pointed out that there’s a great inventory and selection available for buyers in the $1 million and up price range. She noted that while this segment of the market is seeing movement, it’s not as dynamic as the entry- to mid-levels.
“In the Intown markets, 1010 Midtown, Viewpoint, Metropolis and Plaza Midtown are some of the buildings that have experienced the most movement,” she reported. “The inventory in these buildings is at a minimum. Some condos sell in a day or two, while others may take months to sell, but the average time on the market is still very low, at about a month.”
All four of the buildings are located in Midtown, the premier condo destination since the late 1990s. Kjellgren said that the Midtown Alliance’s Blueprint Midtown 1, rolled out in the late 90s, is a major contributor to the area’s popularity. It began a trend of holding developers accountable to building standards, such as no parking lots in front and ground-level retail, that aimed to provide a walkable lifestyle.
Ansley at Piedmont, another luxury project, is located directly across from Piedmont Park and just a few hundred yards from the Atlanta Beltline. The seven townhomes, listed at $1.4 to $1.6 million, draw a lot of interest.
“Our buyers are looking for the lock-and-leave lifestyle without sacrificing the space and feel of a home,” said Jim Getzinger of The Getzinger Group, Atlanta Fine Homes, Sotheby’s International Realty, Intown Office. “Ansley at Piedmont was designed by Monte Hewett Homes to provide homes with those great outdoor spaces not normally found in condos and townhomes. Each one features accordion doors that open to a private rear courtyard that connects the unit to their carriage house with a finished guest suite above.”
No matter the price range, condo and townhome residents find other benefits as well. Many communities boast a higher level of safety and security. Most new developments have highly restricted access, including onsite security and/or 24-hour concierge services, as well as fire sprinkler systems and other safety features built into the building and individual units.
Townhomes and condos also fit into the trend toward less living space. Today’s consumers are taking a close look at how they live in their homes. Many homeowners realize that they tend to use only a portion of their homes, yet they’re paying high costs in utilities, property taxes and maintenance for large houses. By downsizing, they can use what they save to travel, fund their retirement or buy a second home in a destination location, like the mountains or beach.
“People are looking to right size their lives, and condos provide that ability. With the rise of tiny houses, condos and townhomes provide something similar with a different look and feel. The reduced maintenance, increased social ability and simplification of life all make condos attractive,” explained J Dunn, Intown Expert Realty agent. “After all, it’s a lifestyle that the homebuyers are purchasing.”