Atlanta Business Journal Constitution-
Lots dwindle as recovery speeds city’s market by Nicole Bradford
It seems like ages since passersby in Dunwoody would glumly note the would-be subdivisions where builders had stopped in their tracks, the tall weeds silently attesting to the nation’s real estate woes.
It was, in fact, less than five years ago. Now those same subdivisions — at least the ones that aren’t already there — are nearing build-out.
Dunwoody, with its high-performing schools and near-perfect location, was not unlike the rest of the country, with three or four years of stagnating prices and far fewer buyers than product available.
That was then. It has been a solid year,Keller Williams associate broker M.J. Thomas said, since business has picked back up, and experts here dare say it’s a seller’s market now.
“We don’t have a lot of land, but what there is is being built on,” said Thomas, who has specialized in the Perimeter area for about 15 years.
“Right now, we only have 182 listings active,” she said, “versus 265 listings a year ago. We’ve turned into a seller’s market.”
One telltale sign of such a market is two or more offers made on one property at the same time.
“We are in multiple offers,” she said. “If you price it right, you will sell it within the first two to three weeks, and yes, we are seeing a lot of multiple offers.”
Spring is the busiest time in the market, said Robin Blass, who has been the top selling agent in the Coldwell Banker Dunwoody office since 1992.
“But this spring is going to be the busiest in years,” she said.
Since Jan. 1, more than 125 detached homes and more than 55 attached condos or townhouses have sold in the Dunwoody area, she said. There are currently more than 120 detached homes and more than 50 attached homes under contract to close over the next few months, she added.
With inventories extremely low and precious few empty lots for building, some existing homes are being sold as “teardowns,” demolishing the structure to take advantage of rising land prices.
“The best way to look at whether an existing home is a teardown is to see if building a home on the property will make financial sense and keep the buyer within his or her price range,” Blass said.
“Teardowns are where we are going,” said Bill Gant, president of Bill Gant Homes.
Though there are newcomers, Gant said an awful lot of sales in Dunwoody are current residents who are switching houses. One target market for builders is empty nesters.
“We have a population that is older, with a classic home with a master upstairs, and they want out of that,” he said. “They want the master on the first floor. We did three subdivisions aimed directly at that person.”
A second group of buyers, he said, can only be described as the children of the first group — affluent 30- and 40-somethings drawn to the area’s short commute and schools.”
When the housing industry contracted, everything contracted, he said.
“If it was worth $600,000 in 2008, it was worth $550,000 in 2011 or 2012, and it was probably the land that did that,” he said. “Land prices are coming back. We talk about a shortage of lots in Dunwoody, but there’s also a national shortage of lots. Prices have increased dramatically in the last six months. What is today a $500,000 [home] is going to be $600,000 and so on. We are on the edge of a significant increase in prices.”
With buyers on a waiting list, a public-private development partnership in the Georgetown area is on the edge of beginning construction, city officials said. The oft-discussed Project Renaissance, a multi-use, two-phase effort between the city and John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods Inc., is the silver lining of a recession that sent the original property — slated for high-density townhouses — into foreclosure.
When the city purchased the land from the bank, discussions centered on the fact that Dunwoody was, as City Manager Warren Hutmacher puts it, “under-parked.”
“The opportunity for the city was that we could increase our parks and green space, and this was the chance to provide that,” he said.
The design calls for a blend of homes, multi-use trails, shops and parks. Phase I, which encompasses 16 acres and 70 single-family home sites, is set to have the parks component complete by November. Construction is expected to begin on the homes in May.
Across the street on the site of the former hospital is Phase II, which will likely see construction in 2015, Hutmacher said. Phase II will include about 35 high-end homes.
“We want to make our investment into the area, and we want to come away with some parks and green space for the city and allow the private sector to take over from there,” he said. “This will be a catalyst to make significant quality-of-life improvements in this area of town.”
It has been more than 23 years since Keller Williams agent Thomas moved to Dunwoody.
“That was pre-cellphone,” she said. “We lived farther out, and it had been taking too long to get to and from work. One Friday, it turned into a two-hour drive home for my husband. When he finally came through the door, he said, ‘That’s it. I can’t do this any more.’ ”
Like many commuters seeking less time sitting on the freeways, they moved to Dunwoody.
“It just made sense,” she said. “You can’t beat the location.”
Median sales price
Dunwoody median sales prices for homes have risen 10 percent over the past year.
- $330,000 in February 2013
- $300,000 in February 2012