- Michael E. Kanell The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Ten years after the housing boom was reaching its peak, the market now looks “suspiciously similar” to the moment just before the disastrous burst of the bubble – but it’s really not the same, says a report issued today.
And while some metros in this country are seeing the same kind of double-digit price hikes that preceded the crash, Atlanta’s market shows more restraint, according to Realtor.com.
As the market neared its peak – 2006 nationally, 2007 in metro Atlanta – prices kept rising while many first-time buyers were being given loans that required little or no downpayment.
Worse, many lenders did not try very hard to assess whether borrowers would truly be able to afford to make the monthly payments. Many of them were unable to pay, setting off a wave of foreclosures that accelerated as the recession began.
Foreclosures in 2006 accounted for 5.5 percent of all metro Atlanta home sales, a figure that skyrocketed during the recession. Last year, foreclosures accounted for 6.6 percent of sales – but that number has been falling dramatically for years.
“As we compare today’s market dynamics to those of a decade ago, it’s important to remember rising prices didn’t cause the housing crash,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com. “It was rising prices stoked by subprime and low documentation mortgages, as well as people looking for short term gains.”
Home flipping – that is, a rapid turn from buying a home to selling it — now accounts for about one in 20 of all sales, she said. That is more than 40 percent lower than the rate of flipping in 2006.
The market is simply on a more solid footing than before the crash, she argued.
The biggest difference between the market now and pre-crash is that lending standards are tighter, she said: the median credit score for a home loan this year has been 734, compared to 700 in 2006.
Metro Atlanta’s median home price finished last year at $183,600 – 7.3 percent higher than a decade earlier, according to the California-based real estate company.
But compared to many regions, Atlanta’s home price increase in that time is pretty modest: 25 metro areas have had faster price appreciation. The largest bulge has been in metro Austin, where median prices are more than 63 percent above their pre-recession levels.
Prior to the recession, Atlanta was at or near the top in home construction, which meant the prices never soared as quickly as other areas. That also meant that post-recession, there was a surplus of housing, which tempered the rate of price hikes.