According to Scott Askew, Owner at Engel & Volkers Intown Atlanta, E&V Brookhaven Atlanta, E & V North Atlanta, a lot of the changes can be directly traced to the 1996 Olympics the daunting task of building the venues needed, improving the condition of our major roadways, etc.”
He explained that the city is still benefiting from those projects, such as the building of Centennial Olympic Park, which led to a rapid revitalization of the Downtown area. The Olympic Village buildings are now used as residence housing for Georgia Tech and Georgia State University, and the Centennial Olympic Stadium has been redeveloped into the football stadium for Georgia State.
“But the biggest impact, at least where my industry is concerned, is that the Olympic Games put Atlanta on the map,” Askew said. “Many people don’t realize that the ‘96 Games were only the fourth time the Summer Olympic Games were held in the U.S., and Atlanta was the first—and, so far, only—host city in the southeastern part of our country.”
The exposure piqued corporate curiosity and led to today’s total of 16 Fortune 500 firms with headquarters in metro Atlanta, compared to just nine in 1990.
Peggy Hibbert, Associate Broker with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, agreed that the 1996 Olympics helped Atlanta’s potential to be recognized around the world. “Today, 60 percent of my listings sell to national and international buyers, and they bring with them a diversity of needs,” she said.
Hibbert noted that the vast improvements in technology have significantly impacted the real estate market since 1994, too. “With the internet, I can put an Intown property in front of buyers around the world,” she said, “and they can easily compare and contrast homes in various price ranges and neighborhoods to find the right match for their needs.”
For Julie Sadlier, Realtor with ReMax Metro Atlanta Cityside, the biggest change she has seen over the last 25 years in Atlanta real estate is that the city’s boundaries have been pushed and stretched to become more inclusive. “Twenty-five years ago, it was somewhat risky to go south of Ponce de Leon Avenue—seriously, that’s hard to believe, but true! The beautiful old neighborhoods were there, but only a few had the vison to see them come alive. Not until the Atlanta BeltLine became a reality did young people, and then developers, find the hope, time and energy to regentrify those areas.”
Jim Getzinger, Realtor, Founding Member of Compass Atlanta stated that the BeltLine has become “the waterfront” of Atlanta. “It’s so exciting to see how it’s transforming areas along the corridor. We’ve seen a big trend of people wanting to be closer to parks and have walkability to restaurants and shops. This has filled the Intown market and revitalized many neighborhoods.”
Hibbert added that 25 years ago, she’d only occasionally receive an inquiry from a perspective client who wanted to move from the suburbs to an Intown neighborhood. “Today I’m constantly having conversations with people who want to eliminate commuting from their lives, park their car and live within walking distance to the amenities that support their lifestyle,” she said, adding that the urban lifestyle is also a top priority for people moving to Atlanta from across the country and around the world.
The return of empty nesters to Intown housing is another of the big changes that Sadlier reported. “At every Sunday open house that I hold, I’m surprised to see couples that have raised their children who want to move out of the ‘burbs and live and play in Intown in their retirement years,” she said. “It’s great. The fabric of our Intown neighborhoods are filled with people who have come full circle.”
Getzinger said that he is also finding that more empty nesters are coming back to the city. “They want to return from the suburbs and be part of the action here.”
Over the years, Intown neighborhoods have experienced the normal cycle of older homeowners selling and younger families moving up, Hibbert said, but now the Baby Boomer generation is downsizing and returning to Intown while younger families want to stay here. “There’s more need for one-level living for the mature buyers,” Hibbert said. “And young families and singles need more affordable homes to be able to stay in the Intown neighborhoods.”
With the demand for urban living growing, there has been an accelerated need for alternate modes of transportation and affordable housing in Intown areas, including those areas that used to be set aside for warehousing and manufacturing, Askew explained. “A plethora of high-end condominiums have been, and are being, built, and that has rejuvenated Downtown and Midtown.”
He predicted that mixed use developments and the recent introduction by the city of zoning that will allow small Accessory Dwelling Units built in some of the backyards of Intown area homes (zoned R4 and R4A) will further an increase resident density, but should also increase the availability of moderately priced living quarters.
Sadlier said that, at the beginning of her Atlanta real estate career in 1978, condominiums were not very popular. “In fact, selling them was difficult at best. With the cost of Intown dirt becoming so expensive and the demand to live Intown so desirable, the condo market has become hot,” she said. “I myself now live in Historic Briar Hills Condos on Briarcliff Road.”
Her first house was in Virginia-Highland, a huge two-story brick built in the early 1900s. “It needed work, but my husband and I bought it for $80,000. Not long afterwards, we sold that house for twice the price and purchased a wonderful home on Orme Circle.” That house had been built by baseball legend Ty Cobb for his mother, she said.
“At the time, the house was worth about $130,000,” Sadlier said. “Its value now would be in the $700,000s, and the house I’d once purchased for $80,000, I dare to say it could be worth more than a million.”
Hibbert’s 25-plus year career of selling homes in the Intown market has given her several opportunities to sell the same home at least twice, and sometimes three times. “Before the great recession, the value of a home would appreciate steadily and enjoy a healthy bump in value when it was renovated,” she reported. “During and after the recession, values declined and then steadily rose to the previous value and beyond. For example, a fixer-upper property on Oakdale sold in 1988 for $320,000, underwent renovation and resold for $800,000 a few years later.” Last year, after another renovation and appreciation, it sold for $2.8 million, she said.
“As an Atlanta native, it’s quite pleasing to see the rebirth of many Intown areas that were true gems many years ago,” Askew said. “The next 25 years will flash before us and when we open our eyes in 2044, the Westside and Southern Triangle will be completely transformed into extremely desirable areas with housing in all price points. I project the entire ITP area will be transformed into a vibrant collection of communities united in the spirit of southern hospitality, pride, and cooperation. Hold on tight…great things are happening!”
Sadlier said that the incredible changes in Atlanta real estate were not a surprise to everyone. “When I started in real estate, my father—also a Realtor—used to tell me: “Someday, Julie, Atlanta, Georgia is going to be another New York City.” Back then, I rolled my eyes and howled, “Oh sure, Dad.” Well, look who’s laughing now!”