Improving the low-end homes market could help Atlanta

Measuring the health of a given metro's housing market is often more art than science. Because there are so many different factors and facets involved, it can be hard to compare one region's market to another. However, there are some indicators that most experts believe are especially representative. Some of these are obvious, such as selling price and for-sale inventory. Others, however, are a little more subtle.

In Atlanta, for instance, many real estate professionals have been paying especially close attention to the least expensive houses, which were hit particularly hard during the downturn. People looking for houses for sale in Atlanta will likely be happy to hear, then, that in the metro and across the country, prices for low-end housing have been steadily rising.

It is difficult for metros to recover from the housing collapse without demand picking up for their lower-tier homes.

"The bulk of the recovery is due to the changes in the bottom and middle tiers," said Stan Humphries, a national housing economist for a real estate analytics firm, according to Atlanta Black Star.

For Atlanta, this is particularly important. The region has some of the least expensive homes in the country, with the cutoff for the lowest tier set at $86,000. For a comparison, the same cutoff in San Francisco is $349,000, according to the source.

The recent news that national prices for low-end homes rose 1 percent from June to July, then, could be good news for cities such as Atlanta, where the sale of less expensive homes is expected to buoy the market in general.

This data supports other recently released information about Atlanta's slowly strengthening market. The most recent Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index shows that Atlanta home prices increased 2.6 percent between June and July. This news is certainly welcome, considering that the city's homes are still down nearly 10 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Trying to balance Atlanta's housing market gains with its still-incomplete recovery has proven tough for some analysts. A recent article from The Washington Post pointed out that, despite Atlanta's seemingly stubborn refusal to fully recover, there are positive signs mounting on the horizon. According to the source, the number of housing permits issued in the first seven months of 2012 was up 78 percent from the same period in 2011. This optimism on the part of builders - which hasn't yet been reflected in sales numbers - could be one reason why housing prices remain so low in the area. With bottom-tier home prices rising and building speeding up, now might be a good time to consider buying one of the homes for sale in Atlanta.