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Optimism in housing
Officials: Market here 'has really good product'
Real WEB 1
Real estate agent Kevin Duncan shows a house Wednesday. According to officials, the market in Forsyth County is holding strong. - photo by Autumn Vetter

There is much to celebrate in the Forsyth County real estate market as 2011 comes to a close, officials say.

According to Tim Hopkins, president of the Georgia 400 North Board of Realtors, the county’s real estate statistics reflect many strong points.

“We have seen several reasons for optimism in the Forsyth County real estate market,” he said.

Among those are inventory numbers, sales and home values. Hopkins noted that inventory at the end of November was down 27 percent from November 2010.

“We have even moved out of a buyer’s market in the lower price ranges, into a balanced market,” he said.

A balanced market, according to Hopkins, means there are six to seven months of inventory.

If there are fewer than six months, it’s a seller’s market. More than seven months means it’s a buyer’s market.

Hopkins noted that there is about three months of inventory for homes priced at less than $100,000.

There’s about five months of inventory for homes priced from $100,000 to $200,000, and about six months for homes in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.

Hopkins also noted that year-to-date sales have increased 19 percent over the same period in 2010.

In addition, the number of “distressed sales,” which include foreclosures and short sales, has fallen throughout 2011.

“They peaked in first quarter at 37 percent of the market,” Hopkins said. “They dropped to 32 percent in second quarter, and dropped again in third quarter to 30 percent.”

Home values likely will be the “last key indicator to rebound.” Hopkins said median home sale prices dropped 8 percent in third quarter 2011 compared to the same quarter in 2010.

However, median prices have increased from quarter to quarter throughout 2011 for the first time in several years.

“And we are much better than the greater Atlanta market, which dropped almost twice as much, at 15 percent [in third quarter 2011],” Hopkins said.

He added that Forsyth’s year-to-date median selling price is $221,000.

The level of Lake Lanier will play a role in the rebound of the total Forsyth housing market, Hopkins noted.

In recent weeks the lake has hovered around 1,058 feet above sea level, just about 7 feet from the historic low of 1,051 feet set in December 2007. The lake’s full pool level is 1,071 feet.

“Lake Lanier sales are a critical part … the current water levels are definitely hindering sales and will continue to do so until we get back closer to full pool,” Hopkins said.

James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, attributed the strong real estate market to the community.

“At the end of the day we have a very, very solid, real product,” McCoy said. “We have a strong school system, not just in the state, but one that is increasingly receiving national recognition, and that’s a big part of it.”

He also pointed to factors such as low taxes and amenities.

“We have a low tax rate and a very efficient government,” he said. “People get a lot for their money in this community.

“When you add everything together, we end up with the lowest taxes in metro Atlanta.”

As for 2012, Hopkins said he is “cautiously optimistic.”

“If the number of distressed sales continues to decrease and the sales at the lower price ranges can continue to be strong, then homeowners can begin to take advantage of historically low interest rates and resurrect the ‘move-up’ market,” he said.

“A growing family can sell the home they are outgrowing and buy a modestly larger home.”

McCoy agreed the real estate market likely will continue to improve locally.

“When you look at all the amenities that make life meaningful, Forsyth County is hard to beat … we just have a really good product.”