Metro Atlanta Home Prices Rise 6%

The median metro Atlanta home price last month was $222,130 — up 6% from a year before, according to Remax of Georgia.

The most active city in the region was Atlanta, where there were 477 homes sold, Remax said, while Marietta placed second with 281 sales. The highest median price was in Cumming: $315,000.

It was "a remarkably strong fall season," said Jeanette Schneider, senior vice president of Remax Georgia. "December capped off what has been a very strong year for the housing market in Atlanta.

"We end the year on a positive note and this sets us up for a great start moving into the new year," she said.

The market's apparent health, however, is not balanced: Transactions actually fell slightly from 2015. Perhaps more crucially, the number of homes listed for sale — inventory — was down 9% from a year earlier.

The shortage of listings pushes prices higher a little faster than they might rise otherwise. And those increases undermine the affordability of Atlanta area market, especially for first-time homebuyers.

In the past year, the number of starter homes in metro Atlanta slipped 1.4%, according to Trulia, a San Francisco-based online housing data firm.

During that time, a typical starter home's price rose 7.5% to $80,000 — an increase that outpaced improvements in wages and salaries, Trulia said.

The median buyer of a starter home needed more than 20% of his or her income to make the purchase, Trulia said. That compares to 2012, when a starter home required just 13.8% of the buyer's income.

With inventories limited and interest rates up, the pace of price increases this year will likely slow, according to projections by real estate companies like Zillow and Redfin.

"Home prices cannot rise faster than incomes and inflation indefinitely," said David Blitzer, chairman of the Case-Shiller index committee in a statement issued with last month's report from the company.

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