photo courtesy of Atlanta Magazine.
In the early 1970’s Atlanta’s metro population was around 2 million people. Before the Olympics in 1996 it had risen to roughly 3 million. After the Olympics in 1997, the population had increased to 4,458,253 in twelve months! The world got a glimpse of the sleeper city in the trees and it came storming the gates. For several years after, suburban counties such as Gwinnett and Fayette were named the fastest growing in the country. There was a huge building boom and what were once considered tiny country towns became part of the megaplex we now refer to as Atlanta. There was a mass migration from Northern states such as New York and Pennsylvania to the South. The population grew outward with homeowners purchasing farther and farther away from the city center. “Drive ’till you qualify” was the motto of many. Yet that was only part of the story.
photo courtesy of InPark Magazine
Something else began to happen after the Olympics. The city of Atlanta and close-in cities such as Decatur were rediscovered. Many who lived in the suburbs decided they had enough with the traffic and moved in. Renovators began to flip houses. Pricing Intown began to rise dramatically. Younger homeowners came in to restore neglected neighborhoods that had turned to mostly rentals. They saw the charm in the historic properties and added the modern flair they liked in the new construction homes. They supported the local schools by putting their children in them. In the late 1990’s the Atlanta Journal had a headline declaring Reverse White Flight. The face of the city had begun to change again.
Oakhurst neighborhood of Decatur. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
September 11, 2001 brought uncertainty to the entire nation. For the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta found itself in eerie silence as the flight ban took away the twinkling “stars” from the night sky. In general, the city recovered rather quickly once the planes began to fly again. Lower interest rates kept the housing market moving and Atlanta saw a boom through 2007. The population continued to rise and more and more neighborhoods found themselves in the center of rejuvenation. With this came the concern of Gentrification. Older residents and those in lower income brackets feared being priced out of Intown neighborhoods due to higher taxes. Businesses changed hands. What was once the neighborhood barber shop became a bakery for pet treats. It had never been easier to purchase a home. Jokes were made that if you could fog a mirror, you could buy. Homeowners reached beyond their means with loans that went up to 120% of value.
It was High Times until it wasn’t. Next month we’ll look at one of the darkest times in real estate history… the crash.