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Strong home sales, new construction trending in local real estate market
Kathline Collins, of Collins Property Group, opens up a home Friday on Ponderosa Lane in North Hall County.

The trend lines in the real estate market are also positive across much of Georgia and the nation.

After a lull in July, the result of a natural down cycle that comes when school is out of session and families are on vacation, the local real estate market is showing signs of renewed strength.

The number of homes for sale have been increasing since May, with a major spike in August. Sales prices in September were the highest they have been all year in the county.

Last month, across all price points, 150 single-family home sales were closed while an additional 154 went under contract, according to statistics provided by the Hall County Board of Realtors.

The average sales price was $252,000. There were still nearly 1,100 homes on the market by month’s end.

The dominant price point for sales in the local market, however, remains under $150,000, meaning good, affordable housing remains for new buyers.

The average listing price for homes on the market right now is over $400,000, but that figure is skewed by mansion and million-dollar estates around Lake Lanier, said Tommy Howard, a broker with the Norton Agency and president of the Hall County Board of Realtors.

Moreover, because the average sales price is much lower, there is greater balance between a buyer’s and seller’s market.

Still, after years of a buyer’s market resulting from the housing bubble’s burst, sellers are now in a position to pounce, Howard said.

Within the Gainesville city limits, Howard said older, established neighborhoods with good schools and mid-range price points remain a hot market for both buyers and sellers.

“Longstreet Hills has always been a desirable neighborhood, and I think it always will be,” he added.

Howard said interest rates, which stand at around 4.25 percent or 4.5 percent on average, are likely to trickle up next year, but “we don’t see anything drastic” happening.

While interest rates could creep above 5 percent in the New Year, Howard said this is actually a reflection of an improving market.

“I would call it a natural adjustment,” he said. “I don’t think that should scare anybody.”

Buyers can also take advantage of the fact that bulk investors are no longer gobbling up properties as they were at the height of the recession and in the early years of recovery.

However, obstacles remain, according to a recent report from the Georgia Association of Realtors.

“The departure of investors from the scene should benefit first-time homebuyers, but student debt and sluggish wage growth have slowed that transition,” the report states. “The economy is growing, but it’s growing at a slower pace than desired.”

Howard said groundbreakings across the county are additional positive signs for the market.

“We’re also starting to see new construction come back into the market,” he added.

And this local trend is mirrored in many places across the country, according to the Georgia Realtors report.

“One of the more encouraging aspects of this renewed recovery is that new construction of single-family homes reached six-year highs in August, according to the U.S. Commerce Department,” the report reads. “Consumers are also finding more listings in their search results than they have in years. Inventory is rising in many neighborhoods as higher prices have motivated more sellers to list.”

Kathline Collins, an associate broker with Keller Williams Realty in Gainesville, who also operates the Collins Property Management Group, said positive signs in the local market can be seen from the south part of the county to the north.

Collins began noticing a growth in new construction many months ago, and that trend has not slowed.

Current activity among homebuilders might foreshadow what’s to come next year in the local real estate market, as products likely will be put up for sale in early to late spring.

It also foretells of growth in the commercial sector, Howard said, adding that “retail follows rooftops.”

Howard said he expects sales to remain strong locally until the holiday season arrives in late November, then pick up again in the first quarter of 2015.

Of course, not all signs of new construction are welcome in place like Hall County and Gainesville, where the desire to grow is countered by an equal desire to maintain the current quality of life afforded in a place that has, for the most part, escaped Atlanta sprawl thus far.

For example, West Ahaluna, LLC, a local developer with ties to America’s Home Place, is asking Gainesville to annex about 70 acres and rezone another 32 acres so that it can proceed with building a 219-lot upscale subdivision off Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville, near the shores of Lake Lanier.

Dozens of residents in the area who will be impacted have united and vowed to continue their fight against the development as it’s currently proposed. They say the development is too dense and that environmental impacts, among other concerns, have not been adequately addressed.