The metro Atlanta area saw a housing boom that was more pronounced in the suburbs than in urban areas.
For instance, data from Zillow showed that in Sept. 2020, homes in suburban zip codes typically went under contract in 16 days, 11 days faster than homes in urban zip codes.
Channel 2′s Jorge Estevez took a closer look at this trend and found a long-time city dweller who offered insight as to why some people are leaving the city during the pandemic.
“A lot of the reasons we came down here for, the pandemic has removed from us, at least temporarily,” Midtown Atlanta resident Greg Guhl said.
Guhl moved into a Midtown high rise 17 years ago.
“At that time, I remember talking to my friends. We looked forward to having enough people on sidewalks where we could get a taxi pretty quickly,” he said.
Since then, Midtown residents gained public transportation and enjoyed festivals, street parties and close proximity to Piedmont Park, the Botanical Gardens and popular museums.
Then 2020 hit.
“It’s hard to think about that, but it is a neighborhood and now at least for the pandemic, a lot of that’s been removed. And yes, you stay inside and the walls do get closed in pretty quickly,” Guhl said.
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To make matters worse, street racing has become a bigger problem during the pandemic, according to law enforcement.
“[Before the pandemic] I would see it in the neighborhood once or twice a year. Now we’re seeing it literally every single week,” said Guhl. “The coronavirus doesn’t make it okay to go out and create a problem for other people,” he said.
While Guhl decided to stick out the pandemic in Midtown and wait for better days, housing data shows that many are heading to the suburbs.
“The suburban market in Atlanta is incredibly hot right now,” said Zillow senior economist Jeff Tucker.
While both urban and suburban housing markets have seen a lot of activity during the pandemic, homes in the suburbs are selling faster and for more money.
Zillow data showed that in Oct. 2020, the median listing price for homes in the Atlanta suburbs was almost 6% higher compared to the median price in an urban area.
Tucker also noted that people are thinking ahead, and many young buyers are taking advantage of low mortgage rates.
“A lot of former renters are coming out trying to buy their first home, whether it’s a townhome in the city, or a big detached home in the suburbs,” Tucker explained. “There’s just a whole lot of people in their 30s trying to buy their first homes right now.
In addition, the pandemic has shifted buyers’ priorities from location to square footage.
“A lot of us are working from home. So we need space for a home office, as well as bedrooms for the kids. Maybe they’re all on Zoom calls for their school for a while. So a lot of people have a lot more reasons to consider a bigger home at the moment,” he said.
However, Tucker said that rising home prices and economic hardship resulting from the pandemic will likely set many back on the road to homeownership, especially low-wage workers, young people and people of color.
“It’s very hard to predict how people’s kind of location choices end up changing. Over the last several years, we’ve actually seen the suburbs getting more diverse, looking much less white than they had been in the 70s and 80s,” Tucker said. “It’s really anybody’s guess, whether this be events of the pandemic sort of turned back the trend, or maybe accelerated it.”
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