Metro Atlanta home prices post biggest increase of the year

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Fueled by strong job growth and low mortgage rates, the metro Atlanta housing market last month recorded its biggest jump in home prices since January.

The median price of a home sold in the region in August hit $250,308 — up 6.5% from the same month a year ago, according to Remax.

At least in part, the price increase reflects the interplay between supply and demand. In general, the number of home listings in a balanced, healthy market should be the equivalent of the average number of homes sold over a six-month period. But Atlanta listings have been tilted in favor of sellers for several years, forcing buyers — especially first-timers seeking modest prices — to bid against each other.

The result has been a steady increase in prices.

Last month, listings in Atlanta represented just 2.7 months of sales — compared to an already paltry three months supply a year ago, according to Remax.

Atlanta home prices were rising the seventh fastest among the nation's 20 largest metro areas, according to Tuesday's S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller report, the much-watched national housing analysis issued monthly.

The fastest growth was in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Charlotte and Tampa.

Taken together, the various reports seem to show many of the nation's markets at the inflection point, according to Zillow economist Matthew Speakman.

"The latest home sales and building data offer further proof that the recent bout of housing malaise may be nearing an end," he said.

In Atlanta, that pickup is already visible in the unusually large number of pending sales — that is, deals that have been reached but aren't yet final.

Typically, contracts between buyers and sellers convert to closing within two months. But many sellers have been taken aback by how quickly their asking prices have been met and find themselves hesitating, said Bruce Ailion, president of the Cobb Association of Realtors.

"Every day, we hear from a seller who says, 'I put my home on the market thinking it would take a month or two to sell but it sold in a week,'" Ailion said. "Now, they are scrambling to find a home."

In the region's core counties, the highest priced deals and the briskest sales were in Fulton, where there were 1,643 sales and a median price of was $315,000, according to Remax.

Cobb had the second-highest prices, a median of $275,000. Gwinnett had the second-most sales: 1,239.

Decatur was the largest local market showing a decline in price — its first drop in years, according to Bill Adams, president of Adams Realtors.

The most recent average price there was $664,907 — a dip of 4%, he said. "This time last year, I expected that Decatur would top $700,000. Instead, prices have flattened and have fallen slightly."

Adams said he isn't yet sure what that means, whether it is "just a statistical anomaly or the beginning of a trend."

The most rapid growth of intown values were in Sylvan Hills and Pine Lake, where prices were up 34% over the past year.

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