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New homes and new options in Gwinnett

by Belinda Sawyer

Bless her heart, Dorothy was right – there”s no place like home. And when it comes to buying a home, there”s no place like Gwinnett.

….there”s no place like Gwinnett ….there”s no place like Gwinnett

Although we don”t typically face the threat of tornados like the one the Kansas cutie had to deal with, the winds of change regularly blow our direction, affecting us literally and figuratively where we live.

One change that continues to evolve is the upward trend of property values. If you own a home here, you just might be sitting on a gold mine.

Another change, closely related to the first, is inevitable due to a simple law of physics – there is only so much land available in the county. While the explosive growth in recent years has been an obvious boon to the economy and the quality of life in Gwinnett, it is also influencing housing market trends like mixed-use land development and rising new home costs.

What”s the deal with the local real estate market? We did a little "home"work and spoke to some industry experts in the area to get a handle on the overall picture for 2006.

Here Comes the Neighborhood
According to a recent study, Atlanta is one of the nation”s better markets for real estate value, so if you are a homeowner in Gwinnett – way to go! House Prices in America (a joint project of National City Corporation, a financial holding company, and Global Insight, a financial information provider) looked at the 299 metropolitan areas that make up 80 percent of the single-family housing market. The median home price was compared to median income levels, population density, mortgage rates and the change in those same values over time.

The Atlanta area fared well, only slightly overvalued at two percent. To compare, Naples, Florida was considerably farther up the scale, ranked as the most overvalued at +84 percent. College Station, Texas was most undervalued at -23 percent. The study listed more than 30 cities where housing is overvalued by more than 50 percent, and warned that significant market corrections are likely in 61 extremely overvalued areas. In contrast, Atlanta”s ranking seems to signal a healthy and stable real estate market.

"This area is a magnet," said Paige Powers, team leader and managing broker for Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners in Buford. "We see people coming to this area from around the country, and it”s because we still have very affordable housing."

Dwindling Land, Rising Prices
That”s encouraging news in a market where prices seem to be continually on the rise. According to Smart Numbers, a firm that tracks real estate trends, housing prices in Gwinnett rose an average of eight percent in 2004 and numbers for 2005 show that trend continuing. The median resale price has been relatively flat, changing only a percentage point or two, but new home sales are a different story. In some areas of Norcross and Duluth, the median price for a new home jumped as much as 25 percent "There”s not much of a starter home market anymore, at least not as far