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ATLANTA -- Mixed signals are going out to customers in Metro Atlanta's housing market.

Home prices in the metro area have taken a nosedive, off more than 17 percent since last year, marking one of the biggest price drops in the nation.

However, some communities in surrounding areas have shown some growth in home prices.

In Southwest Atlanta, one of the hardest-hit areas, the situation is tied to foreclosures, sales of distressed properties and the upkeep of vacant homes.

"The driving force is definitely the way the banks are pricing the foreclosed properties that they list for sale," said Jean-Claude Martin, a broker with Palmer House Properties."Everybody else suffers. Everybody else suffers."

"This house next door an investor just bought, the roof is caving in on the front," said real estate investor Zach Mitchell."The landscaping was never maintained, so when we drive around and see my house I have for sale, and you then see the house next door with deferred maintenance, they don't want to pay the price I want."

In other areas, like Chamblee, it is a different situation entirely.

According to research service Zillow.com, home prices in Chamblee have gone up more than 11 percent since last year. Other nearby areas are alse seeing increases. Homes in Druid Hills are up 15 percent, and prices in Decatur are upnine percent.

There are big differences in these communities, but it's still not easy to sell a house.

"We are not seeing the level of foreclosures at all right now," said Keller Williams realtor Susan Eshback."We are seeing some short sales, but the foreclosures, low, low inventory to no inventory."

"It's been challenging," said Chamblee homeowner Shawn Cooper. "We've been on the market since January. We dropped the price a couple of times, but we are still on the market."

Homeowners on Atlanta's south side can be proactive. They are able to demand that banks clean up vacant properties and to request that they sell foreclosed properties at a competitive rate so that home values throughout distressed neighborhoods do not suffer.

If necessary, homeowners are able to get help from the city's code enforcement office to help enforce laws.

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