With the high cost of home ownership in Columbia County, are more apartments needed?
The county commission recently shot down zoning for a proposed apartment complex. But some say that because not everyone can afford a good home in the affluent county it could benefit from a good stock of high-end apartments.
Others contend that enough apartments are planned, with 1,879 units possible in the next 10 years, and that there's no shortage of homes either.
"I think we have adequate inventory in all price ranges," said real estate agent Larry Miller, of Century 21, referring to the county's stock of homes.
"Sometimes you have to adjust your pocketbook to your expectations. You may not be able to get the exact home you want, but maybe it's buy now, get into the market and as time goes by move up to something a little closer to what you had hoped to have," he said.
Bill Coleman, an attorney who represented the firm that unsuccessfully asked for the apartment zoning off Wheeler Road, told commissioners that there's a need for upscale apartments.
"There's some young people who can't afford a nice home (in Columbia County)," he said.
Figures from the county's tax assessors' office shows a wide range of home prices in the past year, with sales ranging as high as $1.4 million for a lot in The Summit subdivision to $76,441 for a 925-square-foot home built after 2005.
In the past, officials have said the average household in Columbia County was valued at about $100,000. Latest figures show the average Columbia County house sold in the past year for $163,590.
Columbia County has 35,200 homes, about one home for every three residents in the county of nearly 107,000.
With assessments rising, Columbia County homes are only becoming more valuable.
This year, the county's tax digest grew by 15.65 percent, 52 percent of that from new growth, and the remainder from reassessments.
Ultimately, that allows homeowners to attempt selling their home for more. And sales aren't slowing down.
In the past year 3,041 houses or mobile homes sold, said Columbia County Chief Appraiser Debbie Robertson.
Just last year, the county also had 1,500 new homes added to its tax base.
Some figures, though, show that not everyone is able to pay for a home in the county.
Since 2005, a total of 1,052 home foreclosures have occurred in the county, said Columbia County Clerk of Court Cindy Mason. Of that total, 413 occurred in 2005, 426 were in 2006 and there have been 213 so far this year.
"So it seems to be about the same (each year)," Ms. Mason said.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
COLUMBIA COUNTY HOMES BY THE NUMBERS
$163,590: Average overall sales price for past year
$187,891: Average sales price for homes circa 2005 or newer
$158,412: Average sales price for homes 2004 and older
$12,000: Lowest sale of home in past year
$795,000: Highest sale of a home older than 2004
$76,441: Lowest sale price on a home circa 2005 or newer
$1.4 million: Highest sale on a home circa 2005 or newer
1,052: Number of home foreclosures in county since 2005
Sources: Columbia County's Tax Assessors office, Clerk of Court office