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Home prices soaring in Hall County
Inventory thin for houses priced under $150,000
A small group of homes is being marketed on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Fair Street to buyers that meet federal Housing and Urban Development income limits. The inventory of homes priced at $150,000 and under in Hall County is disappearing, according to housing industry leaders. - photo by Carlos Galarza

The inventory of homes affordable to many families — those priced at $150,000 and under — are rapidly disappearing from Hall County and being supplanted with homes marketed at $200,000 and up.

That’s the assessment from numbers released this week in Market Watch by the Norton Agency and corroborated by a spokesperson for the Hall County Board of Realtors in Gainesville on Wednesday.

“There is such a pent-up demand for houses under $150,000 in all market places, but they just don’t exist anymore,” said Norton Agency principal Frank Norton Jr.

From August 2016 through July of this year, 471 houses were sold in Hall County that were priced at $150,000 or less, according to Market Watch.

However, had there been inventory, Norton confidently predicted that the number of homes sold in that price range would have easily doubled.

With buyers unable to find houses at the lower price range, they’ve been pushed into higher brackets, Market Watch numbers show. During the same one-year span, 984 houses were sold in the $150,001 to $250,000 range, and another 496 houses sold in the $250,001-$350,000 range.

The short supply of affordable homes is reflected in 13 other northeast Georgia counties tracked by Market Watch.

Natalya Jones, the association executive at the Hall County Board of Realtors said the local market is mirroring national median house prices of $225,000 to $250,000.

“I will say there is a huge shortage in those homes under $150,000,” Jones said.

The largest inventory of houses are in the $200,000 to $350,000 price range, according to Jones.

“It’s even starting to climb a little bit more,” Jones said. “I would say it’s in that $250,000 to $350,000 price range and we’re seeing it even a little higher than that.”

Some of the factors driving up the cost of homes, according to Norton, are government controls, codes, the cost of building materials, shortages of labor and expensive property.

Mike Roberson, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of North Georgia, also blames bureaucracy for the skyrocketing homebuilding costs.

“One of the facts I’ve read nationwide is that about 25 percent of the cost of a new home is due to regulations,” Roberson said. “One of the issues that builders have now is they have so many people governing the construction of a home.”

As an example, Roberson noted the push toward “green” buildings from local and state government. In the face of such green standards, Roberson said industry advocates are pushing for a 10-year or less return on investment for such requirements.

“Some of the things we’re doing now, it’s taking 20-30 years to see the payback for the cost,” Roberson said. “They are coming up with some really ridiculous codes and regulations.”

Norton said inventory is needed at all price levels, but indicated that addressing entry-level housing is critical. He said entry-level housing is now $200,000.

“I believe housing is very much tied to the growth of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, the growth of the manufacturing industries and the growth of the service sectors in this community,” Norton said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m one voice in the dark wilderness. We’re going to listen when someone wakes up and realizes that the cheapest house you can build in Hall County is $250,000.”