Forsyth balances family living, retiree destination

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It’s no secret that home sales in Forsyth County are climbing steadily, and for good reason.

A sought-after public school system, low property taxes and an accessible and convenient location off Ga. 400 and near Lake Lanier make it desirable for home buyers of all ages.

“Forsyth has so much to offer an active family,” said Tana Brewster, associate broker and real estate agent with Palmerhouse Properties.
“Many buyers are attracted to the huge appeal of our schools and their rankings. We have lower taxes than Fulton [County], tons of recreational and public parks and the beautiful Big Creek Greenway that offers several miles of trails for hiking, biking, running or walking.”

The Buckles family couldn’t be more pleased with their decision to move to Forsyth last summer.

“A friend of mine moved here and spoke highly of the schools,” said Andrea Buckles, who conducted her own housing research. “We are in a great location off Evans Road. We enjoy the shopping, the low property taxes and the parks.”

The Buckles family includes two children, ages 11 and 4, who are enjoying their respective schools. She and her husband appreciate the proximity to activities and entertainment in the metro Atlanta area.

The reasons for the notable growth Forsyth has experienced are strong and varied:

Retiree retreat

A noticeable trend in Forsyth is the ranch floorplan as seniors who want to avoid stairs seek out this type of home.

“Residents receive a tax break at age 65 in Forsyth County based on age only, income level doesn’t matter,” said Stacy Easley with Harry Norman Lake Lanier. “Once they file for exemption, the tax drop is significant, close to 75 percent.”

Bruce and Sharon Barnes of Illinois are hunting for a home in Forsyth to enter their retirement years. The couple is ready to move upon finding the perfect ranch-style home with plenty of storage space.

Easley has shown the Barnes homes in Forsyth during every season of Georgia weather.

“We are looking to move to warmer weather, and we like the shopping, available, housing and the tax breaks in Forsyth County,” said Bruce Barnes, 60.

He added that his wife likes the relaxed atmosphere and nearby mountains. Both are fans of the lake.

“Having a hospital nearby is a plus,” Barnes said. “As you get older, hospitals are one thing on the checklist. You want good medical facilities nearby.”

Family life

In addition to a top-notch school system, families often prefer to live in communities with standard amenities that include tennis courts, swimming pools, a clubhouse and playgrounds.

In January, 967 home sites were put before commissioners for approval.

The county has ample restaurants and shopping, along with access to Ga. 400 and Atlanta, the north Georgia mountains and Lanier.

Rentals

“For the last few years, investors have had a strong pool in the rental market,” Brewster said.

“With homes having increased in value and less foreclosures happening, rentals are fewer than in the previous couple of years. Many investors are now selling as the market has improved significantly in Forsyth.”

Lake Lanier

Sales are active again, but the lake is not as strong when compared to the county’s overall market.

“Lake Lanier is finally doing better than it has in several years,” Brewster said. “Most buyers are still trying to find a deal on the lake. However, it's hard to really find a newer home at an average price point.

“Luxury lake sales have seen a significant uptick in sales in 2015, with shorter days on the market.”

Great outdoors

Forsyth has added value via the significant investments the county in city of Cumming governments have made in outdoor spaces.

The Big Creek Greenway is a popular draw, but the county also offers places for outdoor activity and vibrant parks, well-designed facilities and fields.

The Cumming Aquatic Center offers year-round swimming opportunities.

Mixed use

On Feb. 5, officials broke ground on what is being billed as Forsyth’s first work-play-live community, Halcyon.

The $370 million mixed-use development will sit on 130 acres at McFarland and Ronald Reagan parkways, just off Ga. 400 in south Forsyth.
Plans call for 690 residential units that will include luxury rental apartments, restricted apartments, for-sale cottages, town homes and single-family homes.

Halcyon will appeal to anyone who wants a walkable community with access to jobs, retail, entertainment and the greenway without getting in a car, said Patrick Leonard, principal with RocaPoint Partners.

“In addition to the additional tax base, this village will serve as a gateway focal point into this growing section of Forsyth County,” he said. “The greenway will be expanded with a new trailhead, parking and bathrooms integrated into the community.”

Outlook

As the second-fastest growing county in Georgia and the seventh-fastest growing county nationwide, Forsyth’s home appreciation has increased by 16.2 percent year over year.

While buying in Forsyth is a hot trend at the moment, the county actually is struggling with a lack of available housing.

“Our inventory is incredibly low in Forsyth,” Brewster said. “We need more homes to support the buyers. We also need to educate people that their home values may have increased, and it might be the best time to sell before rates move up.”