“It’s definitely a seller’s market again,” said Gilbert Carbon, associate broker of Century 21 Gold in Reading. “If properties are priced properly, they’re selling. There are no ifs, ands and buts about it.”
The overall region realized a 9.5 percent jump in closed sales, March over March. A 5.2 percent rise in pending sales and a 17.7 percent drop in new listings support Carbon’s opinion.
“The amount of people that are buying homes are outpacing the amount of people that are selling them,” said John Leonardis, broker with DLP Realty, Phillipsburg.
Meanwhile, the market is such that investment properties and new-home construction also appear to be on the upswing.
“We’re getting a lot of people that want to build,” said Kara Eder, owner of Pocono Properties Realty LLC, Blakeslee.
The Lehigh Valley (Lehigh and Northampton counties) saw a 13.7 percent bump in closed sales, March over March. An 11.5 percent fall in new listings undoubtedly contributed to a 4.6 percent year-to-date growth in average sales price.
“We have an upward spiral in the Lehigh Valley area because we are being flounced by the New Jersey, New York market in which there is tremendous escalation of prices there,” said Constance Glagola, broker with Realty World Benchmark Realty, Bethlehem. “People are moving west.”
Glagola sees new activity breaking in the foreclosure market, a potential subtle relief for the recent lack of inventory.
“We do have low inventory,” she said. “Now that [the foreclosure] market has pretty much eroded at this point in time, other houses are starting to sell. They will sell at a good price, a true retail price if they are in good condition.”
Glagola also sees brisk activity in the investment market.
“They are buying properties, fixing them up and reselling them or fixing them up and keeping them for themselves as investments,” she said. “We actually have a shortage of rental properties. We now have people on waiting lists waiting for nice rentals.”
Berks County also sees high demand for multiple-unit investment properties.
“That sector in the market has really picked up where investors are coming back to buy multi-units,” Carbon said. “In general, more and more people are representing a lot of people [who] can’t afford to buy, so they are renting.”
The county saw a 9.7 percent increase in closed sales last month, as well as a 22.4 percent drop in new listings and 13.1 percent drop in pending sales. Carbon sees fewer listings contributing to the brisk activity.
“Anything from $150,000 up to $225,000, that’s where you have the highest number of homes being sold,” he said. “Once you start getting over $225,000 to $250,000 in Berks County, the numbers just aren’t there.”
The numbers definitely affect the residential market.
“Not only are the [interest] rates creeping up, the prices of the individual homes are creeping up,” Carbon said. “… It’s taking some people out of the market.”
Carbon also sees activity extending into new construction.
Buyers also are optimistic in Warren County, which saw a 9.6 percent growth in closed sales and a 21.5 percent spike in pending sales. More sales and a 26.3 percent drop in new listings have contributed to fewer houses on the market.
“We are getting multiple offers on properties now,” Leonardis said. “Homes are selling at 97 percent of their asking price. Listing prices are up 1.6 percent, but actual sales prices are up 0.7 percent.”
Leonardis expects the continued low interest rates to strengthen the stable residential market.
“The important thing is we have to get more inventory on the market,” he said. “Sales will have to stop dropping because there is no inventory to buy.”
While low inventory may spark multiple offers and higher prices, the foreclosure market has prevented any significant price increase
“Right now, about 100 in every 575 homes are in foreclosure,” Leonardis said. “Even though prices are appreciating slightly, you’re still competing with homes that are in foreclosure.”
PRICES ON THE REBOUND
Pricing in Monroe County is coming back, according to Eder.
“Like the second-family homes, the vacation, the investment [property market] has been taking off,” she said. “Interest rates are still low, and people are still able to purchase homes. We’re low in inventory because we have been selling a lot last year and this year.”
Overall, Monroe saw a 15.5 percent drop in new listings, a 0.9 percent drop in pending sales and a 3.2 percent increase in closed sales, March over March.
Eder sees homes selling at $40,000 to $700,000 and sees brisk activity in new construction and rentals.
“We have 135 rentals on our program that we do short-term, weekend and weekly rentals,” she said. “We are going to be building a lot more. The selling market is phenomenal right now.”
Eder attributes demand to interest from people who have rented vacation homes in the past and the growing number of retirees relocating from the east to avoid taxation on their retirement accounts.
“Amenities help,” Eder said. “The more amenities and attractions the Poconos can provide, which they are putting out left and right, [the more it] draws more attention to us.”
TRANSITION TO SPRING
Schuylkill County saw a 13.1 percent jump in March closed sales, while, similar to other areas, saw a 7.8 percent drop in new listings. Nearby Carbon County saw a 13.6 percent fall in closed sales and a 52.7 percent decline in new listings comparing March over March.
One agent with offices in both counties sees the transition to a spring market.
“We are definitely seeing more activity,” said Kim Hillegas, broker with Charlotte Solt Real Estate, with offices in Tamaqua and Lehighton. “Prices are still not up to where they should be. However, we are seeing some multiple offers again [and] properties going under contract shortly after they are listed, which is all a good sign.”
Similar to other areas, sales prices show little appreciation.
“I thought five or six years ago, we would see average sales prices really rebound, and I can’t say that they are back where they were years ago,” Hillegas said. “Yet, I think they are going to continue the slow crawl in the right direction.”