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Augusta's luxury real estate market tough, not impossible

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Real estate agents have a mixed view on whether big homes are ready for a big comeback.

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PJ Furno (left) and Mark Jacobs specialize in luxury homes. They stand for a portrait in front of a house off Willow Creek Court in Evans.   SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
PJ Furno (left) and Mark Jacobs specialize in luxury homes. They stand for a portrait in front of a house off Willow Creek Court in Evans.

The luxury market definitely experienced a decline, said Keller Williams broker Mark Jacobs, but it has begun to pick up. His firm has already sold more homes so far this year than all of last year combined.

While it will take years to get back to pre-recession sales numbers, he said, complaining won’t make any progress.

“The market lately has been much better than last year,” Jacobs said. “It’s really all in your attitude: do you want an agent selling your house who can’t stop talking about how bad the market is?”

According to sales statistics provided by Meybohm, there were 21 high-end homes sold in the first quarter of the year, with a median sales prices of $584,672. The median list price was $595,000.

There were 38 luxury homes sold in 2011, according to the data, selling for a median price of $590,000 from a list price of $605,500.

The time that a house is on the market is an average of 308 days right now. In 2011, the average number of days a house was on the market was 230, higher than 224 days in 2010 and 211 days in 2009.

The majority of Jacobs’ luxury buyers are new to the area, moving for a job, retiring near family or coming to the area for attractions like golf or equestrian sports.

Buyers moving to the Augusta area put a premium on convenience and comfort, Jacobs said, making historic homes in the Summerville area not as attractive.

Sand Hills Real Estate broker Ross Snellings has nearly 20 years of experience working in Augusta real estate, and he said demand for the Hill area homes has declined over the past several years.

“Everything has changed,” he said. “There used to be people waiting on the sidelines to buy these homes.”

As early as 2005, Snellings saw home values begin to plummet and now he estimates most are selling for nearly half of what they would have sold for years ago.

Richmond County’s high-end real estate market has begun to pick up some speed, he said, but it is still not close to where it should be.

“It might just be an awfully long time before things level out,” he said. “I think people are beginning to make their peace with the new normal.”

David Burton, an associate broker at Sand Hills, is trying to sell his own home on Walton Way and said he never imagined how difficult it would be. He and his wife always planned to sell the house after their children moved out.

Though the six-bedroom home has historic charm and was completely renovated 11 years ago, it has stayed on the market for more than three years. The current asking price is $849,000.

“We always knew we would sell it, but unfortunately the market got away from us,” he said.

Buyers’ perceptions of what it takes to own a historic home has been a key factor in freezing interest in the Hill area, he said.

“There’s a perception that old homes are money pits,” he said. “They’re great fun, and so charming to live in.”

Burton said the market has changed over such a short time.

“There was a time not too long ago when there were no big old houses on the market,” he said. “As soon as one would go up for sale, it would get snapped up.”

Anne Marie McManus, the vice president and an agent with Meybohm Realtors in Augusta, said she believes not investing in the real estate market right now can be just as financially detrimental as overbuying.

With low interest rates and low price points, Augusta’s high-end market provides great chances for buyers to get more bang for their buck than in other cities.

“To not buy is just as foolish as buying over your head,” she said. “People are wanting value right now, and I see them getting it.”

McManus said she used to define the high-end or luxury market as homes selling for $1 million or more, but now those values have dropped to around $750,000.

Augusta’s economy is also traditionally more stable than other luxury markets such as Miami, which relies heavily on tourism, so home values have not been as drastically impacted with the economic decline.

“You need to be smart when you’re selling and smart when you’re buying,” she said. “Begin at the beginning, make good decisions, buy for the right reasons, have a good overall financial plan, and you can really live luxury in Augusta.”

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seenitB4
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seenitB4 04/28/12 - 05:39 am
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Real estate will come

Real estate will come back.....always a good investment.

raul
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raul 04/28/12 - 10:30 am
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"Sand Hills Real Estate

"Sand Hills Real Estate broker Ross Snellings has nearly 20 years of experience working in Augusta real estate, and he said demand for the Hill area homes has declined over the past several years."

I imagine that most potential buyers of these homes look at the high property taxes, poor public school system, increased crime in the Hill area, and maintenance of these homes versus a new home, low crime, good school system, etc., in areas outside of Richmond county. I think "living on the Hill" has lost some of its lustre. Beautiful, unique homes in that area, though.

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 04/28/12 - 11:02 am
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“We always knew we would sell

“We always knew we would sell it, but unfortunately the market got away from us,”...translation: We held on to it too long, thinking we'd get more money!

“There’s a perception that old homes are money pits,” he said. “They’re great fun, and so charming to live in.”...Translation: C'mon, somebody, anybody, PLEASE buy my house!! It's been on the market for 3 stinkin' years and NOTHING!! I mean, it's "great fun" and "charming"! I'm ready to sell...that's realtor talk for "I'll go even lower on my price!".

“To not buy is just as foolish as buying over your head,” she said. “People are wanting value right now, and I see them getting it.”...translation: PLEASE, PLEASE buy now!! We need the money because there are too many realtors and not enough sales!!

I agree with seenit, real estate really is a solid investment, over the long haul. Land is better than land with a house on it, because you have to keep the house maintained. I do hope the market makes a turnaround because that will benefit all homeowners.

Fools_and_sages
360
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Fools_and_sages 04/28/12 - 12:02 pm
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Actually, if you look at
Unpublished

Actually, if you look at housing price stats over the last century, the only time owning a home generated individual household wealth was the last 20 years. House values held relatively steady from the end of World War II until the late mid-to-late 1990s, when they skyrocketed. There was a small boom in both the 70s and 80s, but those consisted of about a 20-30% increase in prices that corrected itself quickly. The boom of the late 90s into the 2000s was unprecedented, with house values increasing by over 200%. Here is a link where you can read some facts.

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/08/chart-day-housing-prices-wwii

rmwardsr
525
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rmwardsr 04/28/12 - 01:00 pm
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Just my oinion: I like the

Just my oinion: I like the way you think!

rmwardsr
525
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rmwardsr 04/28/12 - 01:03 pm
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On another note: I have

On another note: I have always wanted to live in the lap of luxury, so I married a rich fat woman....(Get it, she has quite a lap!)

daviddunagan
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daviddunagan 04/28/12 - 04:29 pm
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Raul- actually crime is down

Raul- actually crime is down on "the hill". As far as school system, you should check out Lake Forest Hills and Richmond Academy's International Baccalaureate (IB) and advanced placement (AP) programs. Yes, old houses require upkeep but you might be surprised how appealing a historic house is that has been restored. Respectively, Summerville Neighborhood Assoc.

Pu239
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Pu239 04/28/12 - 05:26 pm
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All of those Million dollar
Unpublished

All of those Million dollar homes in the city limits of Hephzibah that Joe Isuzu is always screaming about must have diluted the market....

raul
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raul 04/28/12 - 06:00 pm
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@daviddunagan. Thanks for

@daviddunagan. Thanks for your input. I'm glad the crime issue is better. I know at one time breakins and burglaries were a problem. The educational prgrams you mentioned are excellent, but I would imagine limited in the number of slots avaiable. As I stated, I have always admired the unique houses in most parts of Summerville. Do you agree with Mr. Snellings comments as to decline in demand of hill homes?

countyman
20129
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countyman 04/28/12 - 07:10 pm
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The demand for the higher end

The demand for the higher end real estate declined in every city across the united states. Condo projects were scrapped, and some neighborhooods stopped construction in the middle of the recession... I bet Westlake in Martinez or Jones Creek in Evans had problems over the last few years too. Once the economy improves, things will go back to normal.. Places like Summerville, Forest Hills, and Olde Town are trendy and don't have the same atmosphere as suburban gated communities...

Raul.. What area in the CSRA outside of RC has a low crime rate compared to Summerville??

It's definitely not Aiken, Evans, and especially North Augusta or Martinez.. The comment you made about burglaries and break-ins being a problem in the past.. Property crime tends to happen in nice neighborhooods regularly... Aiken, Evans, Martinez all have those non violent crimes, but also VIOLENT crime(homicide, shootings, etc) unlike Summerville..

Can you please name all of good schools in the good public school system outside of RC??

I won't even mentioned Davidson(best school in the state by far), but after May 3rd(IB authorization visit) Lake Forest elementary might be the first IB offical world school(IB PYP Candidate School at the moment) in the CSRA.. AP classes are nice in high school, but ARC is the only IB program in the entire metro area...

daviddunagan
331
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daviddunagan 04/28/12 - 09:52 pm
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Raul- I think Ross and Anne

Raul- I think Ross and Anne Marie we're referring to the higher end market because that was the subject of the article. As far as overall demand I'm unaware that we have been affected any more than any other neighborhood. Regarding crime our biggest challenge is bike thefts. As chairman of crime watch committee for the past four (4) years it has become evident to me that people simply walk up the hill from Cherry Tree Crossing and steal a bike if the opportunity presents itself. Rarely ever is there a violent crime. We do hope to to deter these petty thefts in the future. Stay tuned.

Greengolf
70
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Greengolf 04/29/12 - 12:27 pm
1
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Much better prom parties in

Much better prom parties in Co County though!

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