By John F. Schaffner

“I am very bullish on Atlanta….I am bullish on Buckhead,” J. Lewis Glenn, president and CEO of Harry Norman Realtors, told the Buckhead Business Association earlier this month during a speech about the state of the local real estate market.

“There is nothing to indicate there will be a slowdown,” in the local real estate market, he told some 70 Buckhead area business people during the BBA’s weekly breakfast meeting at Anthony’s restaurant on Piedmont Road. “Atlanta is a great place to do residential real estate and 2007 looks great.”

“Real estate is a local, local, local business,” the Atlanta native told the group. “If you look around Atlanta and Buckhead there are so many positives going on.”

He said mortgage rates drive the market, as the do with almost all businesses, and they remain good.

The ARC, Glenn said, is predicting 68,000 new people will be coming to the Atlanta region in the next 10 years. “What is on the drawing board in Atlanta is powerful.” He explained that people want to move to Atlanta because of our cost of living, cultural diversity, housing alternatives, etc. Atlanta leads the country in gaining 25-34 year old college educated people, he added.

“I don’t think that any of us can realize what Buckhead is going to look like in the next five to 10 years.” He said a lot of the stores that are in Buckhead have been there for 50 years. “They just went from men’s stores to hardware stores to bars.” He saluted the Buckhead Business Association, Sam Massell and the Buckhead Coalition and Robin Loudermilk and the Buckhead Alliance for turning the corner for the Buckhead Village.

Ben Carter will change the face of the Buckhead Village, he predicted. “He has purchased seven acres between Pharr Road and East Paces Ferry and a lot of those shops are going to be coming down,” to be replaced by new retail, commercial and condominiums “that will change the face and make us more along the line of worldwide cities. I am excited about that and the fact it will bring people back into Buckhead,” because of the quality of life, convenience, cultural activities, etc.

But Glenn warned there must be care given to having a price mix in residential opportunities. “We need a good cross section.”

The president of the 77-year-old real estate company said he sees opportunities for the international markets, with all the immigrants who are coming here seeking a slice of American life. He sees opportunities in the second home market because of Atlanta’s proximity to lakes and the mountains. He sees opportunities in the condominium developments, but cautions a watchful eye on the inventory. He said the present residential inventory is 7.7 months, which he classified as very healthy. Glenn also sees opportunities with the emerging generational groups and tremendous opportunities with the development of the Beltline.

He listed the challenges as mortgage fraud, foreclosures, water and air quality, education, transportation, property taxes (“raise the flag”) and safety and security.

Glenn told the group, “I am convinced today that, as the great song writer Bob Dillan wrote back in the 1960s, ‘the times they are a changing.’ I think we are in the midst of one of the greatest social, economic and technological explosions that we have ever seen. We may have seen more change in our industry in the past five years than we saw in the previous 20 years.

“We are all in the service industry today, regardless of our business or our title,” he explained. “The consumer is more demanding than at any time in the past. They want information when it fits into their schedule, whether or not it fits into our schedule. They want incredible customer service not just for the transaction but also after the transaction has been completed. The consumer wants information 24-7.”

He said that 77 percent of homebuyers today are going to the Internet to get their information.

Glenn said he believes the trends driving the real estate industry today are economic and legal issues, technology and communication advancements, consumer and demographic trends, and global and worldwide issues. “We are not just Atlanta, Georgia, we are a global community in 2007.”