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A study by a national research firm showed some bright spots for Hall County in an otherwise dismal real estate market.
Metrostudy, a firm that conducts market research on real estate, showed that Hall was down just 1 percent in residential real estate closings for the third quarter of 2007 compared to the same period a year ago.
The same firm ranked two Hall County planned communities among the top in the region based on sales rankings.
The Village at Deaton Creek, which is owned by Del Webb/Pulte, had 301 annual sales of its 401 housing starts, according to the Metrostudy report. The Village at Deaton Creek was the top-ranked community based on sales in the entire metro Atlanta area.
Sterling on the Lake, developed by Newland Communities, was ranked 13th in the same survey.
"I don’t want to say ‘I told you so’ but I told everybody that Hall County was not as bad as every place else," said Frank Norton Jr., a Gainesville real estate executive who studies market trends. "We do not have the rampant speculation that is happening in other areas of Atlanta or the rest of the country."
The study showed some stark differences between Hall and some of its neighbors.
Jackson County, which has been a hotbed of activity in both the residential and commercial markets, had a 29 percent drop in residential closings in the third quarter of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006. Dawson County had a 34 percent drop, while Gwinnett was down 28 percent.
Actual numbers for Gwinnett, the largest single county in the north metro area, revealed a decline of 500 home closings.
The region north of Atlanta is faring much better than counties to the south. Spalding County was down 61 percent, Newton County down 51 percent and Douglas County, just west of Atlanta, had a 43 percent decline.
Norton said that Hall has the right key ingredients.
"Hall is an attractor of good quality housing, our county leadership is fairly cohesive in vision, we have a brand new hospital, improving roads and great school systems," Norton said. "We are better off than other areas of the city of Atlanta."
He said South Hall is currently faring better than North Hall.
"There is more available inventory and months of (housing) supply in North Hall," he said.
But he is quick to point out that overall, Hall is in much better condition than Forsyth County.
"In Hall, we still have multiple price-points of houses," he said. "In Forsyth, you have one and that’s high-priced and that’s not selling right now."
Norton believes the success of the Del Webb development at Deaton Creek will spawn copycats.
"We will see a plethora of retirement, age-restricted developments," he said.
Norton said Seasons on Lanier, the Levitt and Sons development on Browns Bridge Road, could be acquired by a suitor. The owners of the development have sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following debt problems.
"(A new owner) may have to rebrand it, because it’s a little tainted at the moment," Norton said. "They would have to show solidarity of ownership. I don’t believe that will sell itself out for two or three quarters."