Athens Area Real Estate: Market Outlook Mid-Year 2018

Well it looks like it has been six months since I last posted an article on this site.  For the most part, that is a good thing because we have been extremely busy this year, and I have not found much time to write or post to this blog.  Meanwhile, I am sure no one has really missed these articles riddled with my grammatical mistakes.  From what I can tell, people enjoy the posts on Georgia football much more than my thoughts on Athens real estate, but rest assured I will be ready to talk some Georgia football next month.   For now, let me focus on the real estate portion of this blog because I realized today that we are just about half way through 2018 which is an ideal time to look back at what has happened so far this year.

Overall our real estate market remains strong, and we have continued to see appreciation in many price points.  For example, the 5 Points area is still seeing $250 per square foot or more for remodeled homes.  The Normaltown area is trending just behind this price point and moving just as fast.  However, this is not a universal number you can apply to each home.  In most cases, anything below  $650,000 will still move well in the 5 Points area.  But we have seen the highest price point start to level off.  Right now, I would classify anything above $600,000 as our top price level in Athens.  While we are still seeing these homes sell, it appears the price appreciation at this level has finally cooled off.  I believe this to be a good thing in the long run.  As I have said many times on this blog, “trees do not grow to the sky”.  It is good to see the price values calm down in one area of the market.  Another contributing factor is the current pricing by sellers.  There are some properties on the market asking for a little too much money which is understandable given our market trend over the last two years.  This is typical of any market going as hard and as fast as Athens and Oconee.  Interest rates are ticking up, but demand remains high for home buyers therefore I don’t see our market tanking anytime soon.  In fact, I am relieved and encouraged to see a slight cool down in appreciation.

On the other hand, the condo market around town has been incredible with some of the biggest gains in value over the last 12 months.  Our company and myself deal with a lot of condo properties throughout the area.  It usually works out to be about 1/3 of my personal business year end and year out.  For example, inside of one-year condos in downtown Athens have gone from $240 per square foot to over $280 per square foot or more.   On the westside of town, condos at Woodlake have appreciated 8.5% in less than a year.   If you cross the river to the eastside on Barnett Shoals road the results are the same.  The Summit, The Woodlands, Brookwood Mill, and Drayton Square have all seen a big increase in value of the last year.  The condo market was hit hardest by the recession due to new banking regulations and fear amongst buyers.  Thankfully, the fear is gone, and lenders are now able to lend money on most condos in our area.  But the lending is not the same as a traditional home so be sure to work with a professional when buying or selling condo units.  A loan approval from a buyer doesn’t exactly mean that loan will work for a condo purchase.

Lastly, Athens-Clarke County has seen a large increase in property taxes all over town.  The amount will vary property to property, but overall the county saw an increase somewhere around 5 to 6%.  Tax values going up is inevitable when we are seeing properties appreciate this way, but I do think it can have a negative effect.  Obviously, the typical home owner is burdened with increased taxes and their mortgage payments will go up.  In some cases, this is easy to absorb, but in many cases, it becomes a real difficulty on families.   Another thing to consider is that many property owners in Athens are not local to the area.  We have a large amount of property investors or landlords living outside the county, the state, and even outside the country.  These increased costs will be noticed by property managers and landlords alike because they effect the bottom line.  And most of the time these landlords will pass through the increased cost to their tenants by raising the rent.  Many people in town are concerned with affordable housing, and this will do nothing to help that issue.  I don’t know our county’s budget needs off hand, but revenue going up doesn’t necessarily mean spending should as well.  With our increased tax revenues, it may be time for our elected officials and the county to consider reducing the millage rate used to calculate taxes on our property.  All things considered, we are still lucky to live and work here in the Classic City.  Hopefully, we can keep ourselves from messing it all up.  Thanks for reading, and I will try to share a post on a football topic next month.  Enjoy your summer.

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