Rising cost of metro real estate threatens affordable housing

ATLANTA — There are so few houses for sale here in metro Atlanta that home shoppers are going to extremes to court sellers, including paying way over asking price, even gifting beach vacations or thousands in cash with no strings attached.

“There’s a saying out right now, if you’d like to see a more expensive house I’ll show you the same house tomorrow,” said Cynthia Lippert with Ansley Real Estate. “The prices have been going up about 1% every month right now.”

Lippert’s been in real estate more than 30 years and she’s never seen such an extreme market. Low interest rates and an even lower inventory means buyers are pulling out all the stops to impress sellers, including paying over the appraised value of the home and gifts just to be considered.

The competitive environment is a shock to most of Lippert’s clients, including first-time home buyers Chris Stahelek and Emma Briggs.

“It’s been tough, you know, probably the last two months, looking at two houses a week, putting in multiple offers and just trying to keep our heads up, trying to stay on it,” Stahelek said.

The couple is shopping in north Fulton County, one of the hottest markets in the metro.

“It’s a little intimidating,” Briggs said. “Yeah it’s definitely different than anything we’ve experienced before.”


According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the metro’s median home price is $285,000, about $23,000 less than the national average.

Domonic Purviance with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said that’s attracting out of state buyers and investors. That added competition and low inventory means Atlanta area prices will keep climbing. Purviance is concerned about what this means for affordability.

“Affordability in Atlanta has declined significantly in the past year,” Purviance said. “If prices continue to rise at that rate you know it’s going to be a challenge for people to afford.”

Homeowner Antoinette Shumake has lived in her southeast Atlanta home for nearly a year, and calls access to an affordable home a “blessing.” She said it’s more than a roof over her head — it’s also a shot at generational wealth for her children.

“To be able to pass something along to them in the future, to be able to tell them that anything you put your mind to possibility wise and fight for, you’ll be able to get,” Shumake said.

Shumake purchased her home through Habitat for Humanity’s home buyer program.

Atlanta Habitat President and CEO Lisa Gordon said about 350 families are on their waiting list for affordable homes.

“We’re seeing an uptick in people wanting homes but for us with COVID we’ve had to slow down the number of homes we build,” Gordon said.

Habitat must be creative to keep their homes affordable. Their latest effort is a southeast Atlanta development called Browns Mill Village. The site was a vacant 30-acre site filled with trash. It will become a multi-income level development, including Atlanta Habitat homes. Three model homes are currently under construction.

“For us it just means we’ve got to work harder to keep it affordable, especially for those people who would not otherwise have an opportunity to get a house were it not for the habitat program,” Gordon said.

Whatever your budget, perseverance may be your most valuable tool if you’re shopping for a home.

“We just got to stay at it,” said home shopper Chris Stahelek. “It’s a grind. stay hopeful and eventually we’ll have something bounce our way.”