Housing growth, business deals and technology were the hot topics at the annual Norton Agency Native Intelligence Forecast Tuesday Night, with housing prices still trying to recover while the demand for places to live in North Georgia increases thanks to growth in the jobs sector.
Frank Norton Jr began by presenting the top 10 events in the past 100 years that shaped North Georgia, including the 1936 tornado, the poultry industry, the 1996 Olympics, Lake Lanier's creation and rapid growth in both higher education and healthcare, and followed with their top 10 events that shaped 2017. The development boom in downtown Gainesville, Nestle Purina setting up shop in Hartwell, Georgia becoming the eighth most populous state with 10.42 million people living here and the state being named the number one state to do business with all took a place on the list.
But what about 2018? Norton introduced Tommy Howard, Kim Waters and John B. Drew, all with the Norton Agency, to discuss the forecast for business, housing, working, community and living in 2018.
Housing carried the conversation, with discussions about how the need for age restricted communities was still apparent in our area, while millennials and younger families were looking for lower priced homes, with the market for houses priced at $350,000 and $250,000 and lower are highly sought after, especially as jobs in the medical field and others are growing in the area.
When asked if North Georgia has seen the peak values for homes in the area, the answer wasn't so easy to pinpoint. "There are pockets where we have reached what we'd call peak values in '07, there are pockets in the $200,000 up to $300,000 price point, but very few, if you look in generalities, the luxury land markets is still not there. So in general, that answer would be no, but in very specific small areas, maybe yes," said Waters. "Especially in pockets of Forsyth County where we see so much demand and so little supply."
This gap could potentially filled by investors looking to restore homes and rent them. "Owning a rental home, or two or three, is a great opportunity for an investor," said Waters, also encouraging investors to look at fixing up homes to either sell or rent.
On the shore of Lake Lanier, Waters said the market was coming back around the $550,000 market and the $700,000 to $800,000 market. "Our strongest sales point of 500,000 and below, they're still not quite back to those price points. I looked at one last week, sold $1.2 million at the peak, recently sold again at $900,000, so we're still not quite back to peak values at the lake market either."
Of course, the potential of Amazon's HQ2 was under speculation, with Drew pointing out that with 85/985 expanding and a fulfillment center in Braselton, the need to fill is high and that creates tension in the race with 20 other cities for the second headquarters.
Following the panel, Norton gave his input on what he expected in the coming years, if not 2018. He thought North Georgia was in the right place at the right time, calling the region "bullish." He emphasized - or possibly warned - business leaders to strike a balance between their high tech lifestyles and business deals and not to forget the "high touch" of human interaction. "In the next 30 years, human interaction must remain on the very front of our cerebral cortex. Modern innovations like iPhones, iPads, texting, email, Snapchat, Facebook and hundreds of other technology flavors allow us to cocoon in a vortex of artificial reality, and they're not imbedded here yet," said Norton. "Human touch has become a lost art."
He closed by naming the "disrupters" in the community that are making waves, listing Gus Arrendale, Phillip Wilheit, Jim Walters, Ed Schrader and Carol Burrell, as difference makers in the region, followed by reminding the audience that times are changing and we must change with it. "If you're doing the same things you did them in the last century, you're doomed," he said. Lastly, he told the audience to not just think about what they think should be done over the next 90 years, but what big ideas they have and to start the conversation of what our community could be like.
Follow this link to read the 2018 Norton Native Intelligence Report in its entirety.