Athens Area Real Estate: 2015 in Review  

Well here we are at the end of another year, and pretty soon 2015 will be over and in the books.  As I get older, I find the old sayings are often very true.  For instance, people often say, “The older you get the faster time seems to move”, and I totally agree.  Maybe it happens because we get busy or maybe we just get accustomed to time.  Regardless, it seems to move faster and faster every year.  Just 5 years ago, I was single with no children.  Now I am married with 3 kids, a dog, and two car payments.  And of course, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but how in the hell did this happen?  Honestly, my 29 year old self would be blown away if he knew how fast his next 5 years would go.  It really does move fast, but it is a lot of fun as well.

I always enjoy looking back at the year.  And the end of the year is always full of TV shows and specials that review what has happened over the past year.  In addition, you can also always find a good amount of best and worst list too.  With that in mind, why not take a look back with regards to real estate in the area.

5 Points Clockeditededited
5 Points Athens, GA

Overall, you could say 2015 was a great year in Athens with the exception of Georgia football.  But that’s a subject for another post.  And you can rest assured I will write that one as well.  This year we saw the real estate market continue to thrive throughout most of the area.  Centrally located areas like 5 Points and Normaltown have become competitive markets.  As I mentioned before, both areas are seeing a lot of renovations and flips.  In Normaltown, you may see prices around $175 to $180 PSF at the top of market.  While some parts of 5 Points may achieve values over $200 PSF.  These prices are of course great for sellers, but can pose challenges for buyers.  I am glad to see this appreciation, but we need to be cautiously optimistic.  Location is

Normal Hardware On Prince Ave
Normal Hardware On Prince Ave

the driving factor for Normaltown and 5 Points and that is not going away.  But the current low interest rates have also played a major role in this market.  While I do not expect rates to go up drastically they will probably tick up a little bit over the next year.  No one has a crystal ball of course, but these two areas will surely remain popular in the years to come.


The Eastside of Athens has also experienced some appreciation, but overall the prices on the Eastside still provide a good value for a buyer.  Without a doubt, there are some areas on the eastside that need to improve.  But many neighborhoods are doing very well, and the Vet School is just another positive for the area going forward.   Moving a little further out is also a good option for buyers.  The west side of Athens has also seen some appreciation, and great older neighborhoods like Kingswood and High Ridge are still doing well.  Lastly, Oconee County continues to grow and reap the benefits of more space and good schools.  Oconee remains a fantastic option for families, but there is still a large supply of buildable lots in the county. As a result, appreciation may move a little slower in this area.  In general, Athens residential real estate had a good year in 2015.  But what about commercial and investment real estate?

Epps Bridge Centre

When it comes to commercial real estate in the Athens area, it’s impossible not to talk about Atlanta Highway & Epps Bridge Parkway.  Most people in the area consider the Epps Bridge corridor to be growing and Atlanta Highway to be declining.  The growth on Epps is great for the area and Oconee County will benefit from the taxes.  However, much of the growth on Epps came at a cost to the Atlanta Highway corridor.  Basically, many big box retailers moved from one road to the other.  While the Epps Bridge area has grown significantly over the last couple of years, we should not be so quick to dismiss Atlanta Highway.  I think this will be a temporary setback for Atlanta Highway because the area has too much traffic not to attract more business.  In fact, there are some projects underway that will bring more customers, and other plans are in the works as well.  In reality, both of these roads are positioned for success. It’s important for everyone to understand that Athens and Oconee are not in competition.  They need each other to be successful, and if we are not smart with growth we may turn ourselves into a congested Atlanta suburb lacking in charm and character.   That being said, downtown Athens is another market to watch when it comes to commercial real estate.  And in 2015, we saw  a lot of changes to the area.

GA Theatre Downtown Athens

Downtown represents the heart of Athens.  It hasn’t always been this way, but in the 90’s we saw more restaurants, shops, and bars come into the district.  Since then it is been a huge asset to Athens and one of the areas that helps make Athens unique.  Nowadays, it seems to be the most popular area for development.  There are so many things going on downtown it is hard to keep up with at times.  Commercial real estate has done well and overall rental rates are up.  However, this is not always a good thing for everyone.  I am happy to see any business small or large be successful in downtown.  But I never want to see Athens lose its local and small town feel.  Recently, we have seen some larger stores like J. Crew and Urban Outfitters come into downtown.  This is good for real estate, but I hope we are able to keep our small local stores as well.  And maybe one day we might see some form of a grocery store for all these new residents in the area.

The Standard in Downtown Athens

Lastly, you can’t talk about Athens real estate and not discuss student housing or investment property.  And it seems all the students want to live downtown, and developers are rushing to fill the need.  Recently, we saw “The Standard” become the first truly high end student housing development in the area.  It has been tremendously successful, and now “The Mark” is underway on the old Armstrong Dobbs site.  ‘The Mark” will be another high end development, but will also include commercial space some of which will be used for offices.  These are just two examples, but there are many more student housing properties that are either already developed or on the way. Only time will tell if there is enough demand for all this housing.  Nevertheless, the new developments downtown currently achieve a very high rental rate.  This has had a positive impact on some other student properties or investment real estate.  For example, Athens has a good bit of cottages or small houses that are dedicated to students. Many of these locations have seen rents go up over the past year.  It is only natural that investors and property managers would try to grow rents.  But the high rental rates downtown seem to have created a “perceived value” at some of the other more affordable locations.  Subsequently, I have seen many investors get back into the market purchasing more properties as a long term investment plan.

In general, 2015 was a good year across the board for real estate in Athens.  However, we are not too far removed from the lows of the mortgage crisis.  Therefore, our gains in real estate may seem a little bigger than they are in reality.  Nevertheless, you should feel good about the current state of the Athens market.  Let’s just hope 2016 keeps us on the same track despite outside factors like the election, interest rates, and health care costs.  Happy New Year!

If you have any questions or real estate needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit our real estate brokerage, 5 Market Realty.

Ecstatic in Athens: UGA Gets Smart

Erk Russel
Erk Russell Coaching at UGA

Well by now everyone has heard the news and it is finally official. Kirby Smart is the new head coach at the University of Georgia.  The rumor circulated for far too long and then the hiring was reported days before the announcement.  I have to admit I was a little nervous that it might blow up somehow.  Being a Georgia fan my whole life, I can recall some other coaching hires that did not go so smoothly.  After Dooley retired, things got a little crazy.  Dick Sheridan, the coach at NC State, had apparently taken the job.  But news got out early, and the next thing you knew he was staying at NC State.  The obvious choice for many was Erk Russell, but he decided to stay in Statesboro for reasons not really known.  Or possibly for rumors that I will not share here today.  Finally, the job went to Coach Goff.  Who is often the subject of criticism, but personally I always liked Coach Goff.  UGA always had skill players in his day, but they remained weak on the line of scrimmage which ultimately cost Georgia too many games.

In the 90s, Coach Goff was fired, and Glen Mason was announced as the new head coach.  Mason later flipped on his decision and went back to Kansas for family reasons.  Nevertheless, UGA bounced back, and made a good hire in Jim

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2000 file photo, Georgia football coach Jim Donnan speaks during the team's preseason media day in Athens, Ga. A prosecutor said former University of Georgia football coach Donnan lured his friends into a fraudulent investment scheme because he was blinded by the enormous amount of money he could make. Prosecutor Pete Peterman made that assertion Wednesday in his closing argument in Donnan's trial on charges including wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. (AP Photo/Athens Daily News, Dot Paul, File) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT
Former UGA Head Coach Jim Donnan

Donnan.  Coach Donnan did a good job of elevating the overall talent and level of players here at UGA.  In the end, he was fired as well which led us to Coach Richt.  As you know, Coach Richt was fired on Sunday after the Tech game.  Have you noticed a trend yet?  I hope so.  My point is that most coaches ultimately get fired.  Only a select few get to walk away on their own terms.  And in many cases those departures are still forced.

The firing of Coach Rich has been somewhat controversial in Athens.  Truthfully, to say “somewhat” is an understatement.  I can appreciate people’s feelings about Coach Richt and his departure.  The man always led UGA with class while tirelessly working to help the young men he brought to Athens.  He is a great man and a great coach, but I still feel his time needed to end here at UGA. I am sorry to those that disagree.  In most cases, I have found that many of the people so ardent that Richt should have stayed don’t really know football.  But they know Mark Richt the man.  Mark Richt is a man to admire in many ways, and I really don’t think any can argue that point.  The fact is that Mark Richt lost his job due to 7 years of under achievement.  Call him a victim of his own success, but since 2007 his teams have consistently underachieved.  2012 seems like an aberration and don’t forget that season included a stereotypical ASS kicking from South Carolina.  10 Wins is not what it used to be plain and simple. And if UGA cannot win the SEC East in its current state then change is needed. Ultimately, I think too many dawg fans grew tired of watching their team getricht01wmm embarrassed in big moments on national television.  Regardless, I am not interested in criticizing Richt any further.  But here is the deal folks.  He is not the coach at UGA anymore.  He is the coach at Miami, and it’s time to get over it.  Wish him well, but the past is past, and all Georgia fans need to get excited about the future.

Ok, no more Richt talk.  Only smart things to say from now on.  Did you see what I did there?  Smart’s last name will surely be used in “word play” by many dawg fans in the coming years.  There is really no way to know if this is a good hire, a great hire, or the dreaded bad hire.  Only time will tell, but I am so excited I just about can’t stand it.  I had no idea how ready I was to see something change, but I was apparently desperate for it.  I think it is great that Kirby went to Georgia and is part of our Bulldog family.  But that is not why he was hired.  He was hired because of his resume. First of all, he is a great coach and recruiter.  He’s coached on both sides of the ball, in the NFL, and at the top program in college football since 2008. The ties to Georgia are just a happy coincidence.  Winning is a habit for some people.  And when you work hard, and do the little things well you tend to have success.  Alabama does the little things well.  They don’t shoot themselves in the foot too often, and they are tough on the line of scrimmage.  This is what Coach Smart has been a part of for years, and he is in the habit of winning.  Furthermore, I have no doubt that Coach Smart will bring a new energy to the program, and a much needed toughness.  But we all need to be realistic as well.  Coach Smart has his work cut out for him.  There is still plenty of talent here at UGA, but not as much as in the past.  Coach Donnan made a good point on 960 the Ref this week.  He asked the question, “who had better players in the program when they took over the job”. Did Coach Donnan have more than Smart?  Did Coach Richt have more than Smart?  The answer to both is yes.  Both Donnan and Richt had more talent on the team than Smart.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  There is talent on the team just not as much as other times in the past.  For example, UGA has a QB problem, a lack of depth on the O-line and at receiver. Inconsistent kicking along with an injured running back.  So if you think Jacob Eason and Coach Smart can turn it around in 1 year you might be dreaming.  I think Georgia will win next year, but it may be very similar to this year.  An unimpressive 9 and 3, but I think 2017 could be a truly great year.  This all depends on recruiting of course.  But if you look back to Richt and Donnan, they didn’t really have big success until year 2.  I think that will be the same for Smart.   Generally, I just want Georgia fans to get on the same page and have realistic expectations for next fall.  Kirby will get Georgia heading in the right direction, but he is probably not going to win every game next year. Nevertheless, I think he will win them all one year.  So get excited and get behind your team.  Go Dawgs!

If you have any comments or real estate needs in the Athens area, please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit my real estate brokerage firm, 5 Market Realty.

UGA’s Impact on Athens Real Estate

This blog hasn’t been up for very long, but if you have read even a couple articles you should be able to tell how much I love the city of Athens, UGA, and especially Georgia Football.  While this blog is officially dedicated to Athens real estate, it is already apparent that Georgia athletics will always be a major topic for many posts. Arch For me, it is impossible to live or work in Athens and not care about the university and its future.   Here in Athens, we are so fortunate to have this great university right in the heart of our town. Small college towns are often unique and vibrant communities throughout the entire country.  I am of course somewhat bias, but I don’t think there are any better than Athens, GA.  The university brings so much to our town it is hard to really quantify.  It impacts our entire economy, and therefore it also impacts our real estate and its value.  With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to explore and discuss some of the ways UGA impacts Athens real estate.

First of all, the university brings stability to our local economy.  UGA has an enrollment of around 35,000 students.  That doesn’t include all the staff, and professors employed by the university which makes it an incredible employer and engine to the area.  The university isn’t exactly the kind of employer that is going to pack up and leave either.  If the University of Georgia goes out of business we will likely have bigger problems in the world than a lack of jobs.  So it brings people and jobs, but how does that effect Athens real estate.  Well obviously, it has a positive impact.  There are so many ways that UGA influences the real estate market that it is hard to cover entirely.  Maybe the best approach is to discuss UGA’s impact on residential, investment, and commercial real estate throughout the area.

Residential property is generally any property where people reside.  This could include your house, a condo, or an apartment complex. But for the purposes of this discussion we will classify residential property as a house in a residential neighborhood.  In previous posts, I have discussed residential markets in Normaltown and 5 Points.  Both areas of town are seeing a good bit of renovation and growth in value.  The driving factor behind this is location, and what makes their location desirable is their proximity to the university.  On the other side of Athens, the university has a similar impact on the east side of town.  As I mentioned earlier, the east side provides buyers with a different type of value.  Basically, more bang for your buck.  In addition, the east side is now DSC04143editedhome to the Veterinary Medical Center which is yet another example of the university impacting the area.  UGA is the heartbeat of Athens.  So many things center on it like employment, education, and entertainment.  It is only natural that people would want to reside in close proximity.  This creates a demand which in turn can increase property value.  Nevertheless, residential neighborhoods that are located a little further out benefit as well.  Just look to the growth in Oconee.  The Watkinsville area has become a very desirable place to live thanks to the new homes and good schools.  Many of the people that purchase homes in Oconee either work for UGA or have businesses that benefit from the school.  So whatever the value of your home is today just be glad it is in proximity to UGA because if not it would likely be worth less.

In many cases, commercial and investment property can be thrown into the same category.  Commercial real estate involves properties that are used for business purposes like retail stores, restaurants, or office space.  Almost every business owner in the area has to have a commercial space to operate their business.  For example, Athens is blessed with a unique downtown filled with bars, shops, and restaurants.  Downtown Athens is located right next to UGA’s north campus which is a major reason the downtown area does so well.  Every restaurant Welcome-to-Downtown-Athensdowntown depends on students, professors, and parents to make money.  Every retail space downtown needs students to shop in their store.  Every bar owner needs students to hang out in their bar to be successful.  If you think about it, without UGA downtown Athens would likely have a lot of vacant space.  In fact, how do think local retailers feel about Georgia football?  If they are smart they want Georgia football to succeed.  The better UGA does in sports the more people come to visit.  Consider a restaurant owner or bar owner during the football season.  They need that business to thrive, and without Georgia football many local businesses may not be here. But downtown is just one example of UGA’s impact on commercial real estate.   Go a little further out, and look at the Alps road area or the development around College Station.  Those are more examples of thriving commercial locations thanks to UGA.  So remember the next time you are eating in your favorite restaurant that it is probably still in business thanks to the university.

While most commercial properties are often investment properties, many residential properties are used for investment as well. When it comes to rental or investment property the correlation with UGA is fairly evident.  The student population provides a huge rental market in the area, and many people purchase residential properties to rent as an investment.   This market can be a little tricky from time to time because rental properties and their income are more sensitive to outside factors.  For instance, a property’s income will change over the years based on its age and the overall supply of housing.  In the end, the same old rule applies.  The better the location the more likely a property will have a higher return and higher value.

Here at 5 Market we are no different.  We work with residential, commercial, and investment properties that all benefit from UGA.  Truthfully, this information should be fairly evident to most people.  But sometimes we all need a reminder of how lucky we are here in Athens.  So be thankful to UGA, and be excited a new coach is coming.  Because even Georgia football is important to our real estate.

If you have any questions or real estate needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit my real estate brokerage firm, 5 Market Realty.