By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Local experts say home values may soon stabilize
Home price index shows steep declines in Atlanta
Realtor and administrative assistant Brenda Hulsey, left, and realtor Sandy Carter look over house listings Tuesday inside an office at Don Carter Realty in Gainesville. Home prices are dropping in the nation’s largest cities, but local real estate experts say they could stabilize locally in the new year. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Local real estate experts say home prices in Hall County could see signs of stability in the new year after economic uncertainty and unemployment kept many potential home buyers on the sidelines in 2010.

Frank Norton Jr., president and co-owner of the Norton Agency, estimates the average home price in Hall County is $155,000; that figure was $245,000 two years ago.

A wave of foreclosures has brought prices down along with slow sales for pricier homes, such as those in the $700,000 range, he said.

"What we're seeing is average people with average credit and jobs are buying average houses," Norton said. "Higher priced houses are either sold at discount or being taken off the market because people don't want to take the discount."

"If the higher priced homes sell, it pulls up the average," he added.

Home prices for those under $200,000 have stabilized in the last six months, which likely will continue as Hall County accelerates into the new year, Norton said.

He predicts pricing will be less stable in major cities.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, fell 1.3 percent in October from September, with the steepest decline in Atlanta. Prices there fell 2.9 percent.

Home prices in Dallas, Texas, Portland, Ore., Charlotte, N.C., Tampa, Fla., and Denver have fallen for four straight months and are expected to decline through the next year.

Analysts say this year is on pace to finish as the worst for home sales in more than 10 years.

But while large cities have seen a significant slump, Norton said the news won't be so bleak for smaller markets.

"We expect Hall County, Forsyth and North Gwinnett will perform better than metro Atlanta," Norton said. "We haven't finished our year-end numbers but we have done fairly well in this marketplace because we are that average citizens' home buying market."

He said increases to home prices likely will be tied to the economy or additional stimulus funds.

Government tax credits gave the industry a boost this past spring but expired in April. In recent months, home prices have begun to dip again.

"If we can solidify jobs, there will be much more demand for housing," he said.

Doug Carter of Don Carter Realty in Gainesville said people who relocate to the area also are looking for a high quality of life. He said Lake Lanier, the arts community and other attractions should help keep the real estate market stable.

Carter added that lower home prices are good news for buyers.

"Even though the tax incentives aren't available, there are still great opportunities for people to purchase - some of the best people may see in their lifetimes and that's in all price points," Carter said.

Most experts expect price declines to continue through midyear with prices on average to lose another 5 or 10 percent. The worst price drops will come from cities with a struggling economy and the highest foreclosure rates, while those with better job growth will fare better.

Carter said he anticipates there are bright spots ahead for the local housing market.

"It will continue to take time for the market to come back, but we're through the worst of it and on an upward path," Carter said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.