Jury out on home sales

By Trina Trice

The jury's still out on whether controversy surrounding the Clayton County Board of Education is causing large numbers of residents to flee to other counties.

But there is still cause for concern, according to local Realtors and real estate brokers.

David Barton, member of the Metro South Association of Realtors, has been a Realtor in the county for six years. He also works as a substitute teacher for the school system.

Barton hasn't yet seen the house market negatively affected by the school board.

"I think it's at the point people are cautious," Barton said. "The market's slow in general, anyway. But I do think people are realizing the potential of the devastation if Clayton County loses its accreditation. Who would want to buy a home (in Clayton County) then?"

More than 5,600 homes were sold last year, according to Rodney McDaniel, chief appraiser in the Tax Assessor's Office.

The slump in home sales is a phenomenon occurring throughout the country, said Joe T. Lane, broker of Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty Company in Jonesboro.

"We're in a recession in this area," Lane said. "A lot of people are unemployed."

Lane said about potential homeowners, "The one thing people look to is a good school system. It doesn't matter if they're black or white. If we don't get the school system (off of probation), it will affect prices and values of homes.

Shane Moody, president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, has heard from several chamber members that they are concerned about home sales.

Moody is getting both positive and negative feedback concerning his call for the resignations of four board members at a press conference June 12.

"People are having problems selling their homes under the threat of the school system losing accreditation," Moody said. "As a Clayton County resident, myself, I know if I wanted to sell my home I'd only get 70 percent of what it is worth?that's a hard thing to accept."

However, the average going price of sold homes in Clayton County is more than $127,000, $4,000 more than last year's average price, McDaniel said.

Although Moody believes the school board controversy has aided in the county's real estate slump, he said to homeowners, "Hang tough. As a registered voter of Clayton County, help the school board maintain accreditation and get off probation."

Sluggish home sales due to the economy will only get worse if the school system doesn't get off probation, say both Barton and Lane.

"We're hoping SACS won't come along and do us harm like the school board has already done," Barton said.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the school system on probation based on findings of a special review team that visited the school district to investigate allegations of board leadership micromanaging the day-to-day operations.

If the school board can't get off of probation before the year deadline set by SACS, "You can bet we'll have a problem," Lane said.

Loss of accreditation could mean the loss of HOPE scholarships for the graduating seniors, difficulty transferring credits from a county high school to one outside the county and problems with school board employees finding jobs in other counties, officials have said.