Atlanta homes considered unaffordable for average buyer, Fed data says

For the first time in at least a decade, the Federal Reserve Bank designated owning a home in Atlanta unaffordable for the average buyer.

The bank uses a tool known as the Home Ownership Affordability Monitor Index, or HOAM, that measures the ability of a median-income household to afford the yearly typical costs associated with owning a median-price home in the market. The Housing and Urban Development standard for affordability is about 30% of a household's income before tax.

But according to that data now, most people in Atlanta have been priced out.

Real estate expert and Buckhead investor Stefan Walsh says Atlanta's housing market is pretty good for him, but terrible for the average buyer.

"If you’re going for a $200,000 house that’s inside the Perimeter, in really good shape, in a great part of town. Then no, this is not an affordable market for you to buy in," Walsh said.

For example, he just sold one house in Buford where 90 groups dropped in during a four-hour open house.

"On one house, 20 different people wanted to buy it and actually sent an offer for it," he said. "It’s ridiculous."

Walsh says the core of the market boom comes down to the dynamics of supply and demand. 

"There’s almost nothing available for sale compared to how many buyers are out there, which is just supply and demand. That’s why the prices are going up," he said.

According to the Federal Reserve data, the median price for a house in Atlanta was $350,000. That's not something you can afford on the median income in the city - which is $73,000.

The metro Atlanta counties designated unaffordable are Fulton, Gwinnett, Dawson counties with DeKalb considered the most expensive with a rating of 86.5. Carroll County comes in at the most affordable with the index score of 121.3.

Walsh's advice if you want to buy a house and not break the bank is to be prepared for a drive outside the city.

"You might need to move further out, you might need to lower your expectations. Yes, it’s increase in price but if you want to buy a house, there is still houses to buy," he said.

And if you're trying to sell, now is the time.

"If you have a house you want to sell, it’s going to be easy to sell it. For the most part. As long as it’s priced well, you have the advantage that the buyer definitely doesn’t, you’ll probably have multiple offers, as long as you have a good agent," he said.

Walsh says both buyers and sellers should keep in mind two things: the agent you choose will make all the difference, and money talks.