Moving On Up

GaBiz Editor in Chief talks with Harry Norman Realtors CEO Jenni Bonura about Georgia’s housing market and how the state is positioned to accommodate growth.
Harry Norman, REALTORS

It’s no secret that Georgia is a top spot for doing business, both in big metropolitan areas and small towns. When companies look to expand their operations and put down roots, housing for employees is an important factor, as is quality of life and affordability. According to a November 2022 article by Forbes, Georgia ranks fifth in the nation for cost of living affordability, which means that residents have more disposable income to enjoy the other things the state has to offer. Harry Norman Realtors CEO Jenni Bonura, who leads more than 900 agents in 17 offices around the state, has been with the company for 20 years and has witnessed market highs and lows. Here, she shares how Georgia is positioned to both welcome new residents and pave the way for continued growth.  

Housing is a hot button topic. What are a few of the strengths and challenges of Georgia’s housing market? Georgia’s housing market continues to be highly desirable. Metro Atlanta is of particular interest for businesses because of the relative affordability compared to other large metro areas, the availability and diversity of talent that lives here and is cultivated here through various higher education institutions, and the pro-business ethos that led to Georgia’s No. 1 ranking as the best place to do business for nine consecutive years. Atlanta was recently named the No. 1 city in which to live by Money magazine and, as a resident and business operator, I heartily [agree]. Georgia continues to attract many businesses to both metro and rural areas so there is strength throughout our geography and Georgia ranks seventh for net migration. 

Current challenges include the impact of rising interest rates as well as expected longer-term supply limitations. It is a benefit to be in a location that is in demand, yet constraints on delivering on that demand are not expected to be short lived. 

Business is booming in Georgia, with companies choosing the state as a point of expansion. When they consider relocating a leadership team or asking employees to put down roots here, what are some top things to consider related to housing? Anyone considering a move here is interested in the real day-to-day experience. Essentially, they want to know if they can engage in the work and non-work activities they love with ease. The weather is always a draw and often allows for outdoor activities almost year-round, but our state also has depth and diversity in activities and interest across a broad spectrum. The Economist identified Atlanta as the No. 1 most livable city in the U.S., which speaks to quality of life and the scope of things to do. Of course, the cost of living is often at the top of the list and that is a strength especially compared to other major cities in the U.S. With 31 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Georgia and more than 200 Inc. 5000 start-ups, business has found a welcoming home in Georgia. 

Georgia has varied getaway opportunities, from mountains to lakes and beaches. What’s the current state of the second home market here? What do would-be buyers need to know?  As simple as it sounds, one of the questions most often asked by buyers interested in these areas is the availability and reliability of high-speed internet. Thankfully, our infrastructure and services throughout the state deliver a great experience. Combine an attractive infrastructure with businesses that provide greater flexibility in work location, and those are two primary drivers which have contributed to exponential growth in various locations throughout the state. We have seen explosive growth over the last three years primarily in the North Georgia mountains, specifically Blue Ridge, Blairsville, and Big Canoe. It is not limited there, as Lake Rabun and Lake Burton remain [top] destinations. On the coast, Savannah and its surrounds are growing in demand and the historic area has seen worldwide interest, which has led to record-breaking sales. 

There have been a number of big development announcements outside of the state’s biggest cities, such as Qcells nearly doubling its workforce in the Dalton area, Rivian bringing more than 7,500 jobs to Walton and Morgan counties, and Hyundai planning to bring more than 8,100 jobs to southeastern Georgia in the coming years. How are more rural communities positioned to accommodate workforce growth from a housing perspective?  Quite often there is a longer-term and coordinated effort to attract and support these opportunities before they ever come to fruition and are publicly announced. Infrastructure planning and expansion, residential and commercial development, legislative efforts, and many more components are underway to encourage growth and keep businesses coming to Georgia. There is a strong spirit of entrepreneurialism in Georgia so as opportunities abound, it also brings new entrants to appropriately serve the need. 

Give us a snapshot of the Georgia housing market overall. Overall, the housing market is still slightly favorable to sellers, primarily due to lack of inventory supply. While more houses are still coming on the market, we currently have roughly a three-month supply in the metro Atlanta area. Property values are still increasing year-over-year, and range anywhere from seven to 15 percent depending on area and price point.  

Sellers have realized strong equity positions because of the recent housing market over the last three years and, because we anticipate continued annual home price appreciation due to anticipated long-term demand, buyers should feel confident that their homes will continue to increase in value.