Evaluating the Georgia Land Market

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Evaluating the Georgia Land Market

Bart Waldon

Across the expanse of northern Georgia mountains down through fertile southern valleys facilitating bountiful national agricultual output, over 27 million rural yet privately held acres trade between landowners annually. And data shows sales velocity and associated land valuations growing at an astonishing clip. A 2022 Georgia land market report compiled by the University of Georgia analyzing over 7,400 transactions found average prices per acre for rural property has appreciated over 22% year-over-year midway through the year with no signs of abating. 

And in the hottest zones like Carroll and Hall counties encompassing surging Atlanta suburbs, per acre sales eclipsed $20k – nearly doubling over the same duration. Yet even though market conditions favor sellers presently as developers seek inventory for swelling metro populations, other factors like zoning, imperfect parcel shapes or easement restrictions can complicate deals or force concessions minimizing optimal sales outcomes if not strategically negotiated. This article examines methodologies for land owners accurately evaluating offerings against upside potential their rural acreage holds exploring all deal structures before transferring deeds.

Overview of the Georgia Land Market

Let's look at some real numbers on Georgia land prices. According to statewide data from the Georgia Association of Realtors, the median price per acre for vacant land hit $5,171 in the third quarter of 2022. That's a 10.7% jump from just a year earlier in 2021. But that statewide figure doesn't really tell the full story. Prices per acre can swing wildly depending on where you are in Georgia. In the hot Atlanta metro area, land goes for a premium compared to rural spots.

What drives these major differences in value across the state? 

Location is huge - land in or near cities costs more. 

Zoning matters too - commercially zoned parcels bring higher sale prices than plain old agricultural properties. 

Access is key - remote rural land with no utilities or roads doesn't fetch top dollar. 

Amenities make a difference – expect waterfront sites along a river or lake to demand more. For timber land, mature pine trees ready for harvesting add value as well.

Georgia Land Market Trends

Zooming out beyond just current prices, it's clear Georgia land values have been climbing over the last 10 years. Appreciation has been pretty steady across most parts of the state. Let's look at a few noteworthy trends:

The Atlanta metro region has exploded in population since 2010, adding over 650,000 new residents. That growth has fueled demand for vacant residential land, pushing prices up. Down along the Georgia coast, home prices have spiked more than 25% annually in some areas like the Golden Isles. Even rural Georgia has seen appreciation, though more modest compared to the cities. Strong farming incomes from crops like cotton and peanuts have helped maintain farmland values. And with remote work taking off, properties with water access or mountain views are in high demand as desirable lifestyle locations.

Factors Impacting the Georgia Land Market

In evaluating the Georgia land market, it's important to be aware of the factors that impact real estate cycles and price fluctuations:

  • Interest rates - As with the broader housing market, changes to mortgage rates and lending conditions influence demand. Rising interest rates tend to dampen prices.
  • Construction costs - Surging materials and labor costs make new development more expensive, supporting higher land prices.
  • Infrastructure investment - Transportation improvements, new highways, widening projects all enhance land desirability and values.
  • Tax incentives - Programs like Georgia's Rural Zone Tax Credits stimulate development in rural areas.
  • Oil/gas prices - Higher commuting costs can influence demand further out from metro hubs.
  • Out-of-state buyers - Georgia remains a popular destination for relocations, bringing new buyers.

Tips for Evaluating Land Parcels

When looking at an individual vacant land parcel in Georgia, keep these tips in mind:

  • Research recent comparable sales in the immediate area to gauge fair market value. Local real estate agents can provide comp data.
  • Verify zoning designation and any development restrictions through the county planning office.
  • Evaluate access to roads and utility connections. Be wary of landlocked parcels.
  • Inspect the property thoroughly, especially for wetlands or flood zones which can limit building.
  • For wooded land, consult a forester to assess timber quality and value. Mineral rights are also worth investigating.
  • Gauge potential increase in property taxes if land is developed. Budget for development costs.
  • Seek professional help from inspectors, surveyors, attorneys to avoid pitfalls.
  • Be prepared to negotiate if recent comps suggest list price is too high.

The Outlook for Georgia Land

In the near term, the Georgia land market appears poised for continued price growth but at a slowing pace. Moderating home price increases and rising mortgage rates may dampen demand somewhat. Ongoing population and job growth, especially around Atlanta, will sustain values. Rural markets should hold steady, with recreation land seeing solid interest. For savvy buyers, opportunities remain to acquire Georgia land at reasonable valuations by thoroughly researching the market conditions in targeted locales. With proper due diligence, vacant land can be a smart long term investment in the Peach State.

Best Places to Buy Land in Georgia

With its diverse geography and mix of rural farmland and metropolitan areas, Georgia offers many promising locations to purchase vacant land. Here are some of the top regions and cities to consider:

North Georgia Mountains

The Appalachian foothills of North Georgia provide stunning scenery and outdoor recreation. Popular spots include:

  • Ellijay - Ellijay is a quaint mountain town with beautiful riverfront properties and lots nestled in the hills. Zoning allows for cabins and mountain homes.
  • Blairsville - The Blairsville area offers cooler mountain temperatures and good value on wooded, sloping parcels. Lot sizes range from 1-50 acres.
  • Helen - A charming Bavarian-style village, Helen appeals to buyers looking for vacation homes or rentals near tubing, fishing and hiking.

Atlanta Metro

The sprawling metro Atlanta region continues to experience high demand for land as the population expands. Target these growth corridors:

  • West Georgia - The west side has new home developments popping up on former farmland in cities like Villa Rica, Temple and Carrollton.
  • South Atlanta suburbs - Locations like Fayetteville, Peachtree City and Tyrone offer family-friendly communities with good schools.
  • Paulding County - Paulding offers affordable lots for single family homes near Dallas and Hiram. The area has seen rapid growth.

Coastal Georgia

Marshfront, oceanfront or inland lots are popular along the 100-mile coastline:

  • St. Simons Island - This upscale coastal community has new subdivisions with amenities like golf, tennis and pools. Big lots start around $200k.
  • Brunswick - Located near scenic marshland, Brunswick has residential land available near I-95 for reasonable prices.
  • Richmond Hill - Close to Savannah but more affordable, Richmond Hill has planned communities off I-95. Half acre lots start around $50k.

For prospective buyers, researching recent sales activity and zoning laws is key to finding suitable land parcels in Georgia's most coveted areas.

Is it Wise to Invest in Georgia Land?

On the surface, Georgia seems to offer some nice advantages that could make land investment appealing. But there are also potential risks when buying vacant property in the state that need careful evaluation.

Factors Favoring Georgia Land Investment

For starters, Georgia has been one of the fastest growing states - it gained over 1 million new residents since 2010. That steady influx of people supports demand and helps prop up land values. The tax situation is another plus. Property taxes are low, and retirees get a break with no state income tax on retirement income. Job growth in the big cities, along with ongoing infrastructure projects, further stimulates real estate markets statewide. Georgia is a popular tourism destination too, which creates demand for vacation homes and short-term rentals. While prices fluctuate, the Georgia market has avoided major booms and busts seen elsewhere, with mostly steady appreciation over time.

Potential Risks to Consider

However, there are a few concerns to factor when looking at buying land in Georgia. Rising mortgage rates could reduce buyer demand, slowing price growth for land. If remote work declines after COVID, some rural and outer suburban markets could see weaker demand. Hurricanes sometimes impact coastal property values. Inland flooding occurs too after heavy storms. While property taxes are low now, they could potentially spike if vacant land is developed down the road. And in rural areas, it often takes over 12 months to sell remote land parcels.

For real estate investors, Georgia offers promising opportunities but also risks to weigh. Doing diligent location-specific research is key before buying land.

Final Words

Whether you're looking to buy land for a home, business, investment or development, Georgia offers a lot of possibilities across different markets. The last few years saw sharp run-ups in prices, but now we seem to be entering a period of slower, more stable growth. Ongoing population gains, especially around Atlanta, should keep demand healthy. But shifting factors like higher mortgage rates and construction costs could temper price increases moving forward. For savvy buyers, good deals on land are still out there if you target more rural counties outside the hottest markets. And don't be afraid to negotiate, particularly if comps suggest the listing price is too ambitious. If you do your homework and get expert help evaluating properties, land can absolutely be a smart, long-term investment play in many parts of Georgia.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What regions of Georgia have seen the biggest land price increases in recent years?

No question about it - metro Atlanta and the Georgia coast have experienced the steepest rise in land values lately. Cities like Atlanta, Savannah, and Brunswick have all seen double-digit percentage price jumps annually.

Are rural counties in Georgia a good option for affordable land?

Absolutely. In general, rural counties have lower priced land compared to the hot urban markets. Areas in southwestern, southeastern and central Georgia tend to have some of the most reasonably priced rural land in the state.

Does Georgia have property disclosure requirements for land sales?

Yes, sellers in Georgia are required by law to complete a property disclosure form listing any known defects or issues. This disclosure from the seller helps buyers identify potential problems ahead of purchasing a property.

What trends may negatively impact the Georgia land market going forward?

Some things that could potentially dampen demand for Georgia land are rising mortgage rates, slowing population growth, recession risks, and less remote work post-pandemic. All bear watching in terms of reducing buyer interest.

Are timber rights an important consideration when buying wooded land in Georgia?

For sure, it's crucial to confirm who retains timber rights when purchasing wooded land. Most rural Georgia properties have commercially valuable pine timber. Timber harvesting can dramatically impact the land's value, so it's key to understand timber rights.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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