September’s warm weather kept activity strong for homebuyers in the Greater Lehigh Valley. Homes sold sat 13 fewer days on market as homebuyers jumped on the limited inventory, purchasing 93 more homes – a 5.5 percent jump – than last September.
That continued high demand has left its mark. Low inventory undoubtedly contributed to fewer days on market, multiple bids and higher average sales prices as buyers pounced on the limited inventory available.
Meanwhile, nearly every month this year has posted an increase in sales when compared to 2016.
“The demand for homes is much greater than the inventory that we currently have,” said Bill Sands, broker with Sands & Co. Real Estate, Wyomissing. “Inventory is very, very low.”
That trend stretches across the region.
“In Carbon, our inventory is at a record low,” said Cass Chies, president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors and broker with RE/MAX Diamond 1st, Palmerton.
Brad Patt, senior vice president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors, Allentown, also noted the continued light supply of homes.
“Overall, we’re seeing a very strong real estate market in the Valley,” he said.
Factors contributing to the low inventory include an increase in the number of units sold, hesitation of potential sellers to list and continuing demand.
In the Greater Lehigh Valley, September activity also led to an 8.4 percent growth in pending sales and 2.7 percent jump in new listings. Average sales price inched upward, growing 0.5 percent from $167,350 last September to $168,107 last month.
Northampton and Lehigh counties saw a 3.5 percent drop in closed sales and a 12.5 percent increase in pending sales.
“Our supply of inventory has dropped from about five month’s supply, which is a ‘normal’ market to 2.5, which is clearly a seller’s market,” said Patt. “Due to that light supply, we’re seeing price increases.”
Year-to-date average sales price grew 3.7 percent, up from $206,995 last year to $214,607 last month.
Patt attributes strength in the residential market to strong buyer demand, higher consumer confidence because of job and wage growth and continued low interest rates.
“We’re seeing the supply consumed and prices beginning to increase relative to that low supply,” he said. “If they are well priced and well staged, we’re seeing multiple offers very frequently. Those multiple offers are typically going up to and often over asking price, which is driving up the overall average sale price.”
Berks County also saw growth in prices.
“The median price has escalated from $155,000 in 2016 to $164,000, but it’s been virtually the same number of units that have sold,” Sands said. “Offers are coming in at or above list price, thus the increase in the median sales price. It’s an artificial inflation of the property value.
“Now we’re seeing anywhere from 2 ½ to 3 percent normal inflationary increases in property values. What we’re seeing is really stimulated by this pent-up demand for inventory, so when something hits, buyers are all converging on the same property.”
Berks saw a 6.3 percent growth in closed sales and a 19.9 percent jump in pending sales, September over September. Fortunately, new listings also grew 6.9 percent
“Would-be property sellers want to first scout the market to see if their new dream home is out there before putting a home on the market,” he said. “We have several people in our client portfolio that want to list their homes that are searching for that ideal home first, and they are not finding it. … It becomes a Catch-22.”
INFLUX OF BUYERS
Closed sales skyrocketed 75 percent in Carbon County, September over September. Pending sales and new listings also increased, 36.7 and 7.6 percent, respectively.
“We’re also seeing quite a bit of a move-up in Carbon,” Chies said. “We’re seeing a move from some of the [Lehigh] Valley coming up here because of the lack of inventory. We’re also seeing your New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia buyers again because they can get more for their money. …
“My hope is that we just continue to have a healthy market and we don’t have a recession again. As long as the banks follow all the guidelines and the buyers stay educated, make the right choices and do not overspend, we should continue to see a healthy market.”
SELLERS IN GOOD POSITION
One real estate agent sees a healthy residential market in Monroe County.
“It’s been busy,” said Sandi Meisse, associate broker with RE/MAX Results, Sciota. “Inventory is down, so sellers are in a good position right now to put their houses on the market and get them sold. The interest rates are still wonderful and things are moving along. Prices are edging up a little bit, not tremendously yet.”
The Poconos saw 7.1 percent growth in the number of closed sales in September while pending sales dropped 5.8 percent and new listings fell 3.6 percent.
“Investors are still out there looking for homes to flip,” Meisse said. “That inventory is getting very scarce.”
Meisse also sees a little more activity in the second- and vacation-home markets than in recent years.
WAITING TO LIST
Warren County, New Jersey, also saw a little more activity, finishing September with 12 percent growth in the number of homes sold.
“In Warren County, unit [sales] year-to-date are up 16.43 percent,” said Stephen Filson, broker of record at RE/MAX Skylands Real Estate, Hackettstown. “Days on the market are down 13.91 percent and the sales price is down 2.92. As you go east, as you go into more desirable areas in towns that people wish to live in, you’re seeing a small appreciation, maybe 2 percent.”
Filson describes the county’s market as stable, with potential sellers holding out for higher values.
“The truth is we’re just seeing stability in Warren County and the surrounding areas,” he said. “Most sellers are still hesitant to put their homes on the market because their values are still not up to where they were in the peak of 2006 or 2007. They are slowly coming around but they are probably still 10 percent below those peak levels on average.”
GONE IN DAYS
Real estate in Schuylkill County saw mixed activity. While closed sales rose 31.7 percent in September, the county saw no change in pending sales and a 1.5 percent drop in new listings.
“Inventory is very low,” said Pat Stefanek, associate broker with Gene Durigan Real Estate, Tamaqua. According to Stefanek, around 55 homes listed in Tamaqua School District today pale in comparison to its average 75 to 80 homes.
“It seems like it’s turning around again. Everything is starting to move,” she said. “The investors, the cheaper properties are in demand, but the market is moving very well. As soon as you put something on, they are being sold. In 30 to 90 days, they are gone.”