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Simon Says: Home ownership in CSRA varies from state to national levels

Dr. Simon Medcalfe, AU Economics Professor

Buying a house is one of the largest purchases most people will make in their lifetime. In Georgia, 63 percent of all housing is owner-occupied; in Columbia County, it is 80 percent, and 53 percent in Richmond County.

Evidence suggests that homeowners are more satisfied with their homes and neighborhoods and have more stable neighborhoods. It is therefore an interesting research question to understand the determinants of homeownership.

Fortunately, Vanessa Wimberly, an undergraduate student in the Hull College of Business at Augusta University, has studied this question and presented her findings at the Phi Kappa Phi Student Research and Fine Arts Conference last month. Analyzing data from all counties in Georgia, Vanessa found homeownership increased with the age and income of the population.

Rural counties had higher homeownership, probably because of the lack of competing rental properties. A higher county population with some college education decreased homeownership, which illustrates one negative element of owning a home: Homeownership decreases mobility, and college-educated adults may move more frequently for work than non-college-educated workers.

Other research suggests homeownership may limit lower-income people from escaping distressed neighborhoods. In comparison to research at the national level, population changes and racial/ethnic demographics did not affect homeownership levels in Georgia.

Another Hull College of Business student at the conference, Amar Parmar, examined the Augusta housing market to see if it differs from the national housing market. The graph above certainly suggests that house prices are lower in Augusta than in the rest of the United States and that there is less variation in the price.

Amar was interested in determining what economic factors influenced house prices and if there was a difference in these factors between the United States and Augusta markets. He found that monetary policy (interest rates set by the Federal Reserve) was important for the national market, but not for Augusta. In Augusta, local earnings were much more important.

What these two undergraduates’ research studies show is that there are important differences worth understanding between the local housing markets compared to the national market.

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