The optimism is being driven by a confluence of factors, including an improved economy, low inflation and interest rates at historic lows that lessens the cost to borrow money for housing, said James D. King, chief investment officer, BB&T Investment Advisors and senior vice president, BB&T Retirement & Institutional Service.
Residential housing sales in Berks are projected to increase 12 percent by the end of the year, bringing it to a total of 5,015 homes sold, compared to 4,476 sold in 2015, according to Dave Mattes, Realtor, the Dave Mattes Group and RE/MAX of Reading.
“We were really rocking and rolling” some months, Mattes said.
Home are selling faster and at higher prices compared to last year. Sales price averages are up 5 percent, with an average sales price through October of $172,851.
Mattes projected home sales to increase by 3 to 4 percent in 2017 with an average sales price of $178,900, also up 3 to 4 percent.
New construction is down, with only 191 homes built, a level last seen in 2010, and a far cry from the 1,185 homes built in 2002. Mattes expected new construction and lot sales to increase in 2017.
Pamela Shupp, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Economic Partnership, said 650 acres and 9.2 million square feet of space are expected to become available in the Berks marketplace in the next three years.
GREP is focusing on helping companies already in the region meet their expansion needs. It is also pursuing another strategy of reaching out to communities and school districts to see if they want development and then urging them to expedite development plans through the approval process.
Berks County has 70,000 acres in agricultural preservation.
“That is by choice and it is a quality of life issue,” Shupp said. “But it makes it difficult to provide opportunities to companies.”
While much development is occurring along the Interstate 78 corridor, “we need to provide opportunities elsewhere,” she said.
Many companies that want to expand also don’t won’t to have to relocate across the county, she said.
While “location, location, location” is important, Shupp said, “so is workforce, workforce, workforce.”
Shupp said Berks County is a key East Coast location and is ideally situated as part of the western portion of the Lehigh Valley and the southeastern and southcentral parts of the state.
She said half of the industrial site visits made this past year were from foreign companies.