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Hall housing market strong, but challenges lie ahead
Upswing in sales offset by gap in affordable housing for many
The bedroom of a mid-century modern ranch home in Gainesville on the market for $229,000.

The housing market can be a blessing and a curse. Homeowners know this. So, too, do those looking to buy, rent or lease.

For all the new construction going on locally, it’s still outpaced by demand.

And for the rising sales, and sales prices, in Hall County, there is shrinking inventory in critical price ranges.

Tommy Howard, chief operating officer of The Norton Agency real estate firm in Gainesville, said the year is “ahead of schedule” in terms of both sales and new construction.

A strong December has bled over into a robust first quarter, Howard said.

For example, there were 189 single-family homes under contract in February this year versus 157 in 2015, and 886 on the market last month versus 735 a year ago.

That puts the real estate market in midseason form heading into the peak spring sales season.

“I don’t see anything getting in the way of that,” Howard said.

But a shrinking inventory in the $150,000 price range presents challenges. Multiple offers and quick sales are common with homes priced here, with buyers paying full asking price.

An adequate supply of affordable housing, particularly in Gainesville, is and will continue to be an obstacle.

“We’re still playing catch-up,” Howard said.

Two families are moving into the Copper Glen subdivision in Gainesville, the proud owners of Habitat for Humanity of Hall County’s first neighborhood development.

The 42-acres subdivision will support 21 homes off Baker Road near Ga. 60/Candler Road, plus a walking trail and community garden.

It’s an important addition to the affordable housing stock, but only a dent in the long run.

At a dedication for the homes this past week, Ann Nixon, Habitat’s executive director, explained how affordable housing is crucial to improving the financial lives of families and the health of the regional economy.

From better performing students and employees, to safe and secure family lives, affordable housing can help secure benefits for an entire community, Nixon said.

Business leaders recognize the area’s built-in advantages, such as top-rated health care centers in Gainesville and Braselton, large retail centers in multiple cities and room to grow.

Howard said single-family homes are an important addition to the affordable housing supply. Neighborhood culture and community, access to services and retail, and more green space are important in all price ranges.

A bright spot is that homes over $200,000, and those priced above $250,000, are coming online, and new construction is likely after several recent rezonings for subdivisions across Hall County.

Joanna Clippinger, a broker with The Norton Agency, said Gainesville still has neighborhoods that are “in-town” but far enough away to seem outside the hustle.

With nearby parks, clean, quiet streets for walking and playing, and safe communities to raise children, Clippinger said Gainesville still offers buyers “a place where you can stay.”

While long-term forecast for the real estate market show signs of a slowdown, or rising prices and rents as inventory remains tight, Howard said he is optimistic about the near term.

“I believe the next six months should be a really strong market,” he said.

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