What you should know Atlanta about the Case-Shiller home price report


Atlanta’s home prices were up an average of 5.3 percent during the past year, slightly better than the gain in most large metro areas, according to a much-watched national survey released today.

Atlanta’s price hike beat the 5.1 percent average increase for the top 20 metropolitan areas, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller House Price Index, a calculation based on a three-month average.

For the most recent month, metro Atlanta prices were up 0.2 percent, compared to the 20-metro average of 0.1 percent.

However, when adjusted for seasonal patterns, Atlanta looked a lot stronger, rising 0.7 percent, according to Case-Shiller. That tied metro Atlanta for the third-fastest price hikes, behind only Tampa and Dallas.

Of course, averages can be misleading and the gains in Atlanta have been uneven.

Some parts of the metro area have barely limped out of the recession, said Debra Bradley, managing broker for Buckhead West Paces office of Coldwell Banker.

“Because every market is different,” she said. “What is typical in zip code 30305 in Buckhead is going to be different than what is typical in 30040 in Forsyth County, Cumming.”

However, Atlanta – like the larger, national picture – may be reaching an inflection point, argued David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Atlanta prices are still 2.6 percent below their pre-recession peaks, but the national index for prices has hit that mark, said Blitzer. “The new peak …. will be seen as marking a shift from the housing recovery to the hoped-for start of a new advance.”

The broad signals are flashing green, according to Blitzer. “Sales of existing and new homes are rising and housing starts at an annual rate of 1.3 million units are at a post-recession peak.”

The Case-Shiller index tracking national prices hit its previous high in July 2006. The Atlanta index did not crest until a year later.

Some places are still up strongly.

Among the 20 largest metro home markets, average prices in Seattle saw prices rise most rapidly: up 11.1 percent in the past year. Average prices in Portland, Ore. were close behind at 10.9 percent during the year. Denver saw a price hike of 8.7 percent.

Slowest growth was in New York, where average prices edged up 1.8 percent, Washington, D.C., where prices were 2.7 percent higher, and Cleveland, which was up 3.0 percent on the year.

Among the top 20 metros, Atlanta is tied for 12th-fastest growing, according to Case-Shiller.

Atlanta was one of the strongest markets during the housing bubble and burst more painfully than most, suffering an estimated quarter-million foreclosures.

Progress in Atlanta and nationally have been steady since the housing market hit bottom in 2012. The nation’s foreclosure rate has fallen to its lowest point since January of 2005, according to Black Knight, a financial services company.

Metro Atlanta foreclosures have likewise dropped, but much damage remains from the housing bubble and burst. In some areas, a high share of homes are still “underwater” – that is, worth less than the owner owes on the mortgage.

There are neighborhoods that have barely come back from the crash that followed the burst he housing bubble and the vicious recession. Some larger areas too remain burdened, especially on the south side of metro Atlanta: According to the most recent information, more than half of Clayton County’s homes are underwater, reported Zillow, a Seattle-based firm that collects and analyzes housing data.

Zillow offers a zip code-by-zip code check on the share of underwater homes.

Since hitting bottom in 2012, Atlanta prices have climbed more than 60 percent. That still leaves Atlanta prices – on average – just 2.6 percent below the peak of 2007.

Whatever the average may show, local experts caution against painting with a broad brush.

At the lower end of the price ladder prices, there is a shortage of homes for sale and prices are rising. But there is something of a surplus of homes for sale at the top end of the market.

“A couple months ago, we started to see some pretty serious price reductions across the board,” said Nancy Keenan, a Realtor with Keller Williams who handles mostly listings on the north side of town.

“Some people are behind the curve,” she said, of the higher priced homes. “They missed height of the market and now they are dropping, dropping, dropping.”


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