Editor’s note: This sponsored article was contributed by Paula Henao, principal of Paula Henao Real Estate Group Inc., as part of her firm’s annual partnership with Global Atlanta.

Paula Henao, left, helps newly arrived expatriates and longtime Atlantans make sense of the local market. Photo: Paula Henao Real Estate Group

Atlanta’s prominence as an international city was in full view at a recent real estate closing I attended.  The sellers were from Brazil, the seller’s agent Mexico, the lender Cuba and my buyer-clients and me Colombia. We commented about how much Atlanta’s demographics have changed in the last 20 years.

While unheard-of early in my tenure in Georgia, this scenario is becoming more common in the Atlanta real estate market, reflecting the ongoing influx of international companies, executives and families.

If Atlanta wants to continue its rapid pace of economic growth, it must better serve this new, diverse class of expatriate and immigrant professionals, understanding their tastes and needs to help integrate them into the life of the city and build wealth through homeownership.

That’s what my real estate practice at Paula Henao Real Estate Group at COMPASS seeks to accomplish. I joined Compass in 2022 and have truly embraced the company’s mission “To help everyone find their place in the world.”

Now, as in years past, some 80 percent of my clients are foreign-born, giving me deep insight into the international side of Atlanta’s burgeoning real estate market.

An economic magnet

The bona fides driving projections of Atlanta’s population growth from 6 million today to 8 million by 2050 are well documented.

The city was ranked the top place to live in the United States and No. 26 out of 172 cities in the world by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Livability Index 2022. Money Magazine ranked Atlanta as the best place to live in the U.S. based on its strong labor market, cost of living, economic opportunity, diversity and other factors.

Companies such as Capital One, Carvana, Honeywell, Instacart, Moderna and Walmart Global Tech all announced expansions in Atlanta last year, adding to Google, Microsoft, Rivian and Visa’s 2021 announcements.

Some of these moves will provide new opportunities for born-and-bred Georgians, but filling thousands of jobs could also necessitate more migration, especially from more expensive metros such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Today’s location-independent workers, particularly in the fast-growing tech sector, are empowered to choose where they want to live. Atlanta was the 12th most popular destination for relocating homebuyers in Q2 2022, thanks to its relative affordability, security and connectivity.

One of my clients, a homebuyer originally from Colombia, is a prime example. She recently returned to Atlanta from Cleveland after a 15-year hiatus. She and her husband were drawn back in part to reunite with family, but also thanks to the increasing cultural influence of Latin Americans in the city.

Investors introduce vitality and volatility

Beyond traditional homebuyers, institutional investors, technology platforms and hedge funds as well as international investors are eyeing Atlanta, purchasing a large proportion of Atlanta’s entry-level home market.

This has driven up prices in ways that displace locals or cause first-time homebuyers to delay purchases and stay in the rental market. It’s gotten so prevalent that Mayor Andre Dickens, in a bid to grow the city’s affordable housing stock, has called for limits on property investment in the city.

International investors, especially from Latin America, have benign motivations: They see Atlanta as an alternative to Miami or Orlando and as a hedge against global inflation and depreciation of their home countries’ currencies, while offering political stability, higher investment returns and the rule of law.

Still, their interest shows how Atlanta is at risk of becoming a victim of its own success. The region’s strong economy contributes to extreme real estate liquidity and reduced inventory. These factors have caused housing prices to climb exponentially and rental rates to increase, resulting in higher real and perceived returns, creating a cycle of even further demand.

Investor interest shows how Atlanta is at risk of becoming a victim of its own success.

Paula henao

These real estate pressures may not be noticeably impacting Atlanta’s job market yet, but they will. Displaced locals have been forced to move outside of the city due to the high cost of housing, lengthening commutes and further contributing to traffic congestion, eventually discouraging people from seeking work in the city.

Over time, this could mean that what has made the city a desirable place to live – its growing number of businesses, jobs and talented professionals – could soon be a deterrent.

What’s next (and how I can help)

As the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates, we have seen a temporary market shift. Inventories (for now) are rising, and properties are staying on the market longer, toning down some of the frenzy that saw sellers gain most of the leverage in recent years.

But when the only constant is change, understanding the volatile blend of macroeconomic dynamics and local factors is crucial, and this is what differentiates Paula Henao Real Estate Group at COMPASS as we advise buyers, sellers and investors.

As a Certified Residential Specialist with an “At Home With Diversity” specialization, I’m well-versed in international relocations and aiding foreign-born clients. I understand the nuances of the Atlanta market and can assist families and individuals relocating here for corporate jobs or diplomatic roles stemming from 70-plus consulates and honorary consulates here.

Over the past 14 years, I have assisted more than 1,000 clients hailing from Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, United Kingdom and Venezuela. Some 15 percent were relocating to Atlanta for work-related reasons, another 15 percent were relocating out, and the rest were changing locations within the metro area.

Many have relied upon my skills as a negotiator and certification as a Real Estate Negotiation Expert (RENE), which are crucial for helping international clients who may be less familiar with the Atlanta market.

Being a licensed residential general contractor and holding a bachelor’s degree in architecture are key when helping clients evaluate a home’s value and investment potential.

And my steadfast involvement with groups like the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, Global Atlanta and the Atlanta Council on International Relations show how committed I remain to welcoming the world to a city that has embraced my family.

Visit www.paulahenaorealestategroup.com to contact me or to learn more about our services.