Apr. 9—As in the rest of the country, residential real estate in Cobb County took just a brief dip at the outset of the pandemic before shooting up, and up, and up, despite record unemployment and other markers of financial distress.
As vaccinations take off, spurring hope the country may soon return to normal, Cobb's red-hot real estate market shows no signs of slowing down.
In March, 1,160 homes were sold in Cobb at a median price of $347,900, spending only 23 days on the market, according to data from RE/MAX Around Atlanta.
In March of last year, 1,068 homes were sold in Cobb, at a median price of $300,000, spending 45 days on the market. Those numbers were largely unchanged from March 2019, with the exception of home values, which jumped from $280,000.
Real estate agents who spoke to the MDJ cited a number of factors, chief among them low interest rates.
"We were under 3% for a long time," said Galt Porter, chair of the Cobb Planning Commission and a Realtor at Maximum One Greater Atlanta. Interest rates have since crept up to about 3.25%, he said, "but that's still extremely low."
Historically, rates between 5% and 6% were considered great; he financed the purchase of his first house with a 13% interest rate, he said.
By comparison, 3% is "almost like free money, you know, and that makes people have a lot more buying power," he said.
The shift to work-from-home has also boosted home sales, with white collar workers wanting more space, said Lisa Scott, of RE/MAX Around Atlanta.
People working from home want more than just a home office, she said.
"They are homeschooling, exercising, working from home. They want to be outside."
People are also looking for homes with more rooms rather than more open space, so that parents or in-laws can join them.
"It might be because with COVID, people want to take care of their parents, they want to just make sure they have company," she said. "Also, if they're working from home, it's great to have parents watching the grand kids."
That isn't to say that the housing market in any one area within metro Atlanta is doing much better than any other. Despite the desire for space, homes in the city of Atlanta are also selling fast.
"Spectacular," Johnny Sinclair, a Realtor with Ansley Real Estate, said when asked about the Atlanta market. "All the real estate agents down there are having a great time. ... The vast majority of houses, if you list the house correctly, your house is going to sell for over asking price. If your house doesn't sell in a month, then there's something wrong with it."
"I think there might be some little pockets that are a little bit better than others, but everything is selling so fast that there's no place that's doing poorly," Porter said. "For instance, Mableton's hot right now. And flippers are coming in and buying houses."
Sinclair focuses on the Marietta market. His clients have given a number of reasons for moving to the city, among them Georgia's — or Marietta's — less stringent quarantine measures.
"I've had several buyers who've openly stated that they lived in areas where the pandemic responses were so strict ... that they just felt like they had to get out of there," he said, "and they wanted to come to a place where people were taking the pandemic seriously, but not draconian."
It wasn't just families from New York or California who said that, Sinclair said. One family from Decatur said the local response to the pandemic had been too strict for their liking.
"I really had people say that to me, like, 'I'm moving to Marietta because I want to get on with my life and I want a place where my kids can go to school and I can get out and walk around the neighborhood.' And the Square is still open for business."