Athens is a great community that is driven by our wonderful university. As I have mentioned before, the university brings many different people to Athens which helps create a unique population here in town. Even though Athens is geographically small there are many different areas one can choose to live. Each one of these areas has its own advantages that may or may not appeal to different people. But the east side of Athens is an area of town that is often undervalued and under appreciated. And that can provide buyers in Athens an opportunity. We all know that the real estate market is recovering. In some areas it has fully recovered and other areas aren’t quite there but are progressing. Here in Athens, you hear a lot about 5 Points, Normaltown, and Oconee County. And we just don’t hear as much about the east side, but that doesn’t mean it is without value. In fact, the east side offers a lot of value and may offer more as time goes on. I am not referring to value with regards to its worth or price. But value in terms of what you get for what you pay. So this week let’s take a look at the growth and value on the eastside of Athens.
Athens’ east side of town is a fairly large area, but in general it begins once you cross the North Oconee River heading east. To the north, that begins on Oconee Street just past downtown, and to the south it begins where College Station road and The Loop intersect. The east side of town is primarily comprised of residential neighborhoods. For example, University Heights, Green Acres, Cedar Creek, and Falling Shoals just to name a few. However, the east side like most of Athens has plenty of student areas as well. The student housing areas are concentrated on Barnett Shoals between Lexington road and Gaines School, yet those are not the only student housing options. Nevertheless, the majority of east Athens is comprised of residential neighborhoods.
You don’t have to be a real estate agent to know that real estate seems to be more affordable on the east side of town. Over the years, that has generally been the case and there are reasons for the difference in price. One main reason maybe that Atlanta is located to the west of Athens. It is only natural that Athens would see more growth towards Atlanta than Augusta over the last 40 or 50 years. When I was in school the eastside had a lot less to offer than it does now. First of all, there were less amenities and fewer places to eat, but now the east side has two great grocery stores, several restaurants, and even a few places to grab a drink. These are all good things, but the biggest thing to happen on the east side of town has come very recently. And that is the opening of UGA’s new Veterinary Medical Center. Better amenities and the new vet school serve as two good examples of where the east side can offer convenience and good location. But what are the real estate costs?
In other areas of town, buyers often have to pay well over $250,000 just to get a house in need of work with no upgrades. On the eastside of town, buyers can pay much less and receive more. Falling Shoals serves as a good example of an east side value. Falling Shoals is a swim/tennis neighborhood with great amenities located about 10 mins from UGA.
That is much closer than many west side locations and Oconee neighborhoods. But the price tag is much lower. In Falling Shoals, resale homes with over 2,000 sq. ft. sell around $230k, and there are still a few new homes available that can be purchased around $250k. The price per square foot makes Falling Shoals a real value for many home buyers and families. A similar value is offered in some of the older neighborhoods as well. For instance, Green Acres and Cedar Creek are located closer in and still offer a good value per square foot. In Green Acres, a large house on a basement would probably sell close to $170,000. Meanwhile, a smaller brick house with no upgrades might be purchased below $130,000. At today’s interest rates, these prices make home ownership available to many more buyers. In my opinion, there may be real opportunity in other areas as well.
As I mentioned before, UGA recently opened its new Veterinary Medical Center on the corner of Barnett Shoals and College Station. This is a good thing for the whole area and UGA. But its impact on the east side could be fantastic. Essentially, the university now extends to the end of College Station road making all of the east side more convenient for vet students and professors. More importantly, University Heights is now situated between the vet school and UGA’s main campus. In case you didn’t know, University Heights is the neighborhood located off of College Station road between Research Drive and the vet school. I don’t have a crystal ball, but the vet school could increase prices in University Heights over time. The homes are older and many are rentals. But the location is close to campus, 5 points, and not far from downtown. And of course, it is right next to the vet school. Given that prices in University Heights range from $100k to $150k it provides more value and opportunity than many other areas in Athens. Granted, most east side homes will likely never have a price tag as high as some other locations. But that doesn’t mean it is a bad investment. In the end, it may offer the most bang for your buck in all of Athens.