FORSYTH NEW HOME MARKET ROBUST

With the second largest market share of new home construction, more people are calling Forsyth County home. It is especially perfect for families looking for spacious homes and great schools, say a number of area home builders and experts in the real estate market.

Jim Parker, area president for Ryland Homes, one of the largest home builders in the area with eight active communities, said there has been an uptick in new home construction in the past few years in Forsyth County.

“We will close 500 homes in Atlanta this year and a large majority of those will be in Forsyth County,” he said. “South Forsyth is a hot spot for new homes and that is driven by the schools. Our target buyer is families with school-aged children and for a majority of them, mom and dad are working along the (Georgia) 400 corridor.”

Terry Russell, CEO of FrontDoor Communities LLC, agrees new home sales remain strong in the county’s southside.”It is like everywhere else in Atlanta. People may push further out to get something more affordable. South Forsyth’s prices are rising relatively rapidly, so we might see more of that push out,” he said.

FrontDoor’s Traditions is a 420-site community underway in South Forsyth. Even though it only recently opened for sales, it is already in demand, Russell said.

“We have 96 homes developed so far and we have over 1,100 people on the reservation list right now. Those are people who have expressed interest in buying in a relatively short period of time,” he said.

He attributes this interest to a sought after location at Georgia Highway 9 and Majors Road, a pent-up demand by homeowners in the area who want to move up into larger dwellings, and great local schools.

“They have put off buying a new home but their families have grown and we have the best school situation you can possibly have,” he added.
Parker said there aren’t a lot of mini-mansions being built in the area but the homes are still sizable for a family with most builders putting in two homes per acre, after roads, open spaces and amenities.”There is a healthy housing market in Forsyth County. We need more of them in Atlanta,” he said.

Sam Bass, vice president of sales and marketing for Acadia Homes and Neighborhoods LLC, said it is not just families moving into Forsyth County.

His company has two nearly sold out active adult neighborhoods for people 55 and older, both near Georgia Highway 20 on the south side of Lake Lanier.

“That market has been off the chain,” he said, adding at 120-unit Wellstone they are down to their last lots. At the slightly smaller Lanier Ridge, construction will wrap up this year and sales continue to remain strong. Both communities are ranch quads, meaning there are four, 2,100- to 2,300-square-foot units per building and the ownership is classified as condo ownership.

“The active adult buyer seems to be an active buyer for us,” he said, adding those buyers want to be close to amenities and enjoy the lower tax rate that Forsyth offers, compared to other metro counties, especially Fulton to its south.

Acadia is also building McKinley Crossing, a single family community of about 30 to 35 homes off exit 17 near Keith’s Bridge Road. These 2,300-square-foot to 3,200-square-foot homes target both the move up and move down clients, Bass said.

“There are a lot of people who are empty nesters who want a smaller home but aren’t ready for the active adult condo-type atmosphere yet,” he said.

On the west side of Cumming, Acadia is putting in infrastructure for another single family, age targeted community, Post Oak Glen. This will offer up 98 home sites and sales are expected to start later this year.

Bass believes house sizes have been scaled back versus what was being built pre-recession, not only because of construction and house costs but also because people want lower upkeep costs.

All of the builders agree while the house sizes themselves may be down, buyers seem to want to extend their living space outdoors.

“I think a lot of people are enjoying an extension of the home to the outside with backyard decking, screen porches, outdoor fireplaces and outdoor kitchens,” Bass said.

FrontDoor Communities has put a lot of focus on this within its Traditions community.

“The key for builders today, on the design side, is about the outdoor space as much as the indoor space,” Russell said, adding Traditions has land carved out for 12 parks and the community is across the street from Fowler Park, a county recreation facility, and is close to Big Creek Greenway Trail.

“FrontDoor is all about embracing healthy families and active lifestyles. Park systems, outdoor living and access to the park and trail are all part of a whole package that we think our buyers, especially young families, are looking for,” he said.

Tom Stocks, Realtor at Harry Norman, Realtors’ Forsyth County/Lake Lanier Office, said a lot of the new home buyers are coming to the area because of work relocation.

“Atlanta is one of the top four cities in the U.S. for relocations and what is driving people up north is you get more bang for your buck, pay less taxes and have great schools,” he said, adding there is also a lower crime rate in the area which provides a sense of safety.

He agrees most the action is along the south side of the county, along Georgia 400 between exits 13 and 15.

“There is a bulldozer on every piece of dirt in that area right now,” he said. “There are probably 15 new subdivisions within two to three miles of exit 13 of 400. They can’t seem to build them fast enough but for four or five years we had no new construction so we have no supply. And there is huge demand and that is driving he prices up. People want to live here and they are willing to pay.”

The pricing sweet spot for new homes seems to be in the mid to high $300,000s, which he said really means low $400,000s after the home is customized. But with the low interest rates, people are finding they can afford more home and they are taking advantage of it.

“You get a lot of house for the money. Forsyth County taxes are low and the infrastructure in the area is new and cutting edge. There are good amenities for home owners. Exit 14 has every store on the planet and you are 12 minutes from the Mall of Georgia and close to the North Georgia Premium Outlets and Lake Lanier,” he said.

All these new homes don’t seem to have a negative impact on the resell market, he added.

“It is not slowing down existing home sales because you have almost two different types of buyers,” he said. “Some people can’t wait three to four months for their home to be built, plus when you build new you can’t lock in your interest rate.”

So those who are ready to move in the next 45 days are going with an existing home, he added.

This article originally appeared in the October 31, 2014 version of the Atlanta Business Chronicle