Prices of homes see large dip

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LAWRENCEVILLE — Two years ago, Realtor Rodney Camren sold a home in a Lawrenceville neighborhood for $210,000.

A home with the same floor plan in the same neighborhood recently went for $92,000, Camren said.

It’s no surprise to him that home prices are dropping in the nation’s largest cities.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index released Tuesday fell 1.3 percent in October from September. All cities recorded monthly price declines. The last time that happened was in February 2009.

The metro Atlanta area recorded the largest decline, with prices falling 2.9 percent from a month earlier.

The 20-city index has risen 4.4 percent from its April 2009 bottom. But it remains 29.6 percent below its July 2006 peak.

This year is on pace to finish as the worst for home sales in more than a decade. High unemployment and tight credit have kept people from buying homes, despite some of the lowest mortgage rates in decades.

Government tax credits gave the ailing industry a boost this spring. But they expired in April, and in recent months, home prices have begun to dip again.

Millions of foreclosures are forcing home prices down. Many people are holding off on making purchases because they fear the market hasn’t bottomed out, analysts say.

Foreclosures likely will remain high for the next two years, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

In the metro Atlanta area, Gwinnett leads the rest of the counties in foreclosures and foreclosure notices, Camren said. As more foreclosures hit, he said he expects home prices to fall even more.

“The real estate market (now) is great for investors. If someone’s got money, this is the time to buy,” said Camren, who lives in Lawrenceville. “But lenders are so strict right now with financial restraints that unless you really have money and a lot of money for a down payment, you’re not going to get anything.”

Realtor Joshua Jarvis, who lives near Hamilton Mill, said the homes priced under $150,000 are selling.

“If that’s all we had on the market, we wouldn’t be talking about a housing crisis,” he said.

It’s the more expensive homes that have seen the biggest drops in price. Jarvis said there’s a neighborhood near Mill Creek with homes that were on the market for $500,000 to $700,000. The prices have now been slashed to $200,000 to $500,000 — but the homes still aren’t selling.

Unless interested homebuyers have near-perfect credit, it’s difficult to get a loan, Jarvis said.

But for those who can buy, Jarvis said he thinks Gwinnett is “the perfect community ready to go.” It’s got an award-winning school system and top-notch parks, and commerce is coming into the area.

“It should be a target for buyers,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.