Cobb's housing market cooling off, but prices not coming down

·3 min read

Sep. 9—A recent slowdown in home sales in Cobb County has yet to come with any increase in affordability, according to new data from the Georgia Multiple Listing Service.

The number of sales this summer dropped from last year by an average of 24.4%, with 881 homes sold in August. In June 2021, the county saw more than 1,300 homes change hands.

"The feeding frenzy has passed," said Jim Glover, managing broker of Atlanta Fine Homes' Cobb office.

By overall sales volume, Cobb's housing market looks to have cooled off as well. August saw about $400 million worth of property sold, down from more than $560 million per month at its peak last year.

Median prices, however, still remain well over what they were when the market was at its hottest, hovering around $400,000 today, compared with $355,000 a year ago. Observers say while recent interest rate hikes have likely helped rein in the market, a persistent lack of available homes continues to keep prices high.

"Home values are staying really healthy, but it's not the frenzy that it used to be," said Ellen Hill, a real estate agent with Atlanta Fine Homes. "If a property is priced correct, and it's in good condition and a desirable location, we're still seeing multiple offers, but it's a difference in two or three, versus 45."

The slowdown has continued for several months straight now in Cobb, but Hill said she sees that less as market contraction and more as a return to the traditional seasonal cycles of the market.

"Families have gone back to school, they're getting their kids back in class, and they're not paying attention to housing. The fall has never been a great time for a family to move," she added.

The relative steadiness of prices is at least in part due to a continued supply shortage. A recent study from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies found that while home construction is at a new high — topping 1 million new units per year for the first time in over a decade — inventory remains at an "all time low."

"It will take time for additional supply to catch up with demand and produce any meaningful improvement in affordability," the report argues.

Price inflation, combined with a jump in mortgage rates, has put home prices further out of reach, the Harvard researchers found. Interest rate increases in particular mean the savings and income needed to secure a mortgage have "skyrocketed."

Average 30-year mortgage rates hit 5.89% Thursday, a high not seen since 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported. According to the National Association of Realtors, the average monthly mortgage payment in Cobb is up to $1,708 from $1,161 a year ago.

"When the interest rate hiked, obviously it caused buyers to pause and to rethink things. Because it was one thing in their mind to overpay for a house — and pay significantly more than anybody ever has in that neighborhood — but money was so cheap a few months ago, that you could still justify it," said Hill.

Glover said one of the toughest homes to find in Cobb County is still an affordable starter home for first-time buyers.

"Anything under half a million always moves a lot faster than anything over half a million," he said. "In the $200,000 range, there's very little of that here in Marietta. There's some in Cobb County, unincorporated Cobb ... What makes Marietta unique is, anything within walking distance of the Square, there's people sitting in waiting on it. You get out into the suburbs into the subdivisions and all that, it's a little bit of a different story."