Low inventory hurting sales, raising prices in Lehigh Valley housing market

Tight housing inventory is holding back the normal burst in home sale activity in the Lehigh Valley, and at the same time it’s leading to an increase in prices. 

According to the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors, closed sales dropped 33.6% to 432 listings while inventory slipped 27.5%, with only 498 units on the market in April in Lehigh and Northampton Counties 

“Housing inventory remains tight here in the Lehigh Valley and nationwide – if you can believe there were only 980,000 units (nationally) available for sale heading into April,” said GLVR CEO Justin Porembo. “The lack of existing inventory continues to impact home sales. Competition for available properties remains strong, especially in certain price categories, with multiple offers again dominating the market.” 

He noted that the median sales price for a home in the Lehigh Valley has gone up 12.5% to $315,000 

The homes that are available are selling according to the GLVR. The months’ supply of housing inventory dropped 20% to 0.8 months, with homes selling in 24 days on average. That’s an increase of 71.4% or 10 days 

In Carbon County, the median sales price increased to $231,000. Closed Sales remained steady at 59. Pending Sales dropped to 53. New Listings slipped to 70. I 

“I recently spent several days in Washington, D.C., attending the 2023 Realtors Legislative Meetings,” said GLVR President Howard Schaeffer. “A key takeaway from economists from the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders was that increasing interest rates will not fix the inventory problem.” 

He said new construction may be able to ease the housing price issue. 

“Housing prices are still rising because of limited housing options on the market. Homebuilding is the policy we need to bring that inflation down, not interest rate hikes. Nationally, we need to be building more than 1.1 million homes a year to have a meaningful impact on the lack of inventory. Leadership within our association looks forward to continuing the conversation regarding inventory and affordable housing with local organizations, builders, legislators, and other valuable parties.” 


Allentown housing market remains well off pandemic high

Residential real estate in the Allentown metro area is still far behind its blistering pace of last year when it comes to pending home sales as well as new and active listings, according to Redfin.

In its March report, the technology-powered real estate brokerage ranked Allentown as having the third-highest drop in pending sales in the country, -60.8%, among metro areas it analyzed.

Allentown trailed only Boise, Idaho, -78.8%, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, -66.3%. Rounding out the top five in pending sales decline were Honolulu, -56.6%; and Greensboro, North Carolina, -53.4%.

Not content with the third spot, Allentown had the biggest fall off among U.S. metro areas Redfin studied when it came to new listings, -57.1%, and active listings, -41.7%, in March.

Trailing the Allentown metro area in new listings decline were Boise, -55.2%; Stockton, California, -46.8%; Greensboro, -46.5%; and -Sacramento, 44.8%.

Rounding out the top five in active listings decline were Cincinnati, -34.8%; Greensboro, -34.3%; Lake County, Illinois, -29%; and Milwaukee, -28.3%.

Redfin said March pending home sales fell to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic nationwide as higher mortgage rates and a shortage of properties on the market squelched buyer demand.

New listings were also at their lowest level since COVID-19 hit, as homeowners stayed put.

And according to Redfin, the median U.S. home sale price fell 3.3% in March to $400,528, the largest year-over-year drop since 2012. That follows February’s 1.2% dip, which was the first annual decrease since 2012.

“After a volatile real estate market in 2022, we are anticipating a tempered spring market here in the Greater Lehigh Valley,” Howard Schaeffer, 2023 president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Association of Realtors, said in a release.

But he saw reason for optimism.

“The good news is, nationally, there has been an uptick in sales activity, and pending sales have continued to improve,” Schaeffer said. “Our region tends to lag behind the national trends. What is happening nationally is good news and a sign of what’s to come to the Lehigh Valley.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

PSECU offering first-time homebuyer program to boost home ownership

With soaring home prices, home ownership has become increasingly difficult, especially for first-time homebuyers. 

To help make home ownership more accessible. PSECU has launched a new program aimed at helping first time homebuyers. 

Under the program, qualified first-time homebuyers would be able to finance up to 100% of the purchase price with no down payment required. 

The program would not require private mortgage insurance and would offer low PSCEU-related closing costs. 

“The introduction of this program aligns with the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people’,” said Jose Pascual, head of mortgage at PSECU. “Beyond that, it speaks to PSECU’s roots – our founders believed in creating a financial institution that would help build better lives for their members. We know that home ownership puts people in control of an asset that can benefit them for a lifetime, and even generations. Our First-Time Homebuyer mortgage program offers people a chance to own their future by creating financial stability and opportunity.” 

According to Bankrate.com, in 2021, 34% of home purchases were made by first-time homebuyers. It’s no longer feasible for every homebuyer to be able to save and put down the traditional 20% for a home. In fact, the average down payment for first-time homebuyers in 2021 was only 6%-7%, it said. 

Additionally, borrowers who use this product will have the option of a fixed- or a 7/1 adjustable-rate mortgage with terms up to 30 years.  

PSECU will allow down payment assistance, as well as up to 3% seller assistance. The borrower is required to have 1% of the total loan amount in reserves. The maximum loan amount for the first-time homebuyer program is $726,200.  

At least one of the borrowers must take and complete a free homebuyer education course – PSECU mortgage consultants will provide links to qualified course options. 

“Considering the economic paradigm we find ourselves in today, we have designed a product that will help the First-Time Home buyers to overcome the largest barrier they face when buying their first home, the down payment,” said Pascual. “We’re confident our product is a stand-out in the world of first-time homebuyer options and we are excited about the possibilities and opportunities it provides for so many people and their families.” 


Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors see price increases, but more incentives

With higher mortgage rates keeping buyers cautious, the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors said that sales incentives are starting to return. 

The GLVR said that February data showed, however, that the slight decline in mortgage rates earlier this year convinced some buyers to come off the sidelines. 

Still, with rates ticking up again in recent weeks, buyers are again pulling back, causing sales activity to remain down heading into spring. 

“Mortgage interest rates have dipped slightly from their peak last fall, but affordability constraints continue to limit homebuyer activity overall,” said GLVR CEO Justin Porembo. “With buyer demand also down from peak levels, home price growth has continued to slow, although prices remain up from a year ago. This means sellers have been increasingly offering sales incentives in an attempt to attract buyers, which is actually something our Realtor members are happy to see return to the market – home inspections, and the like.” 

With inventory still not at sufficient, comfortable levels, the Median Sales Price increased 15.1% to $299,275. 

Overall, closed sales dipped 15.9% to 360 listings in February.  

Inventory slipped 2.4%, but that was a difference of just 12 listings, GLVR said. There were 489 units in February for Lehigh and Northampton counties.  

Months’ supply of inventory trended up 14.3% to 0.8 months.  

New Listings slipped 28.9% in February to 458. Pending sales were down 9.9% to 501. The Percentage of list price received tumbled 1.5% to 99.9%. 

Homes sold, on average, in 30 days, an increase of 25% or six days. 

In Carbon County, the median sales price increased to $232,500. Closed sales were down to 36. Pending Sales improved four listings, coming in at 62.  

New listings dipped to 53. Inventory was largely steady, decreasing just one listing. With 82 units, the months’ supply of inventory increased to 1.3 months. Days on Market decreased to 28 days compared to 36 days the previous February. 

“There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to when it’s the best time to buy a home, as everyone’s circumstances are different,” said GLVR President Howard Schaeffer. “But while rates are significantly higher than the previous year, they are still considered historically low.” 


January home sales drop across Pennsylvania

Housing sales in Pennsylvania were down dramatically at the start of the year. 

The state’s housing market saw a 27% decline in the number of sales in January, according to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors.  

The number of sales was just under 7,000, compared to 9,176 in December. 

Comparatively, the National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales across the country slipped 0.7% from December 2022 and 36.9% from the previous year. 

 “The real estate market traditionally has seen fewer sales in the winter months. Sales are down about 30% from the same time last year, however that’s due to a number of reasons,” said PAR President Al Perry. “We’ve continued to see a declining number of homes on the market and interest rates are around 6%.” 

PAR reports that the number of listings in January was 30,513, down 16.5% from last year. 

“The number of listings has continued to drop over the past several years and there are currently about 28,000 fewer homes on the market than in January 2020,” Perry said. 

Home prices remained relatively steady, Parry said. The median sales price of homes sold was $195,123 in January, up 2.5% year over year. 

“There’s still strong consumer interest in buying a home and strategically priced homes are selling fairly quickly,” he said. 

International business experts from Berks and across Pa. mobilize to assist business

International business experts from Berks County and additional Pennsylvania counties including York and Lancaster have committed to be part of the mobilization of Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors. 

The collective comprises a total of 25 international business experts serving all of Pennsylvania. They’ve conducted business in more than 60 countries and speak more than 20 languages. 

The mobilization of Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors (GBA), a private sector, B2B advisory board for regional and international companies seeking to expand exports, imports, foreign direct investment, and international partnerships was announced by the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC). 

GBA is led by program director Wilfred Muskens. The newly appointed Muskens is Honorary Consul in Philadelphia for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and former Deputy Secretary for the Office of International Business Development for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).  

“Global priorities have changed dramatically since COVID, the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and related supply chain disruptions, and no one knows this better than our collective that has done business in more than 60 countries and speaks more than 20 languages,” Muskens said in a statement. 

“What makes Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors truly unique – with nothing else like it in Pennsylvania – is that its members are almost entirely from the private sector, we receive zero government funding and focus exclusively on international trade and investment. We’ve also expanded our reach to include not only the greater Philadelphia area but the entire state of Pennsylvania.” 

Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors will offer international business support and global advisory services harnessing expertise from Pennsylvania businesses and universities that include Fulton Bank and Elizabethtown College among others. Other active partners include the Irish-American Business Chamber and Network, the German-American Chamber, and the Mid-Atlantic Eurasia Business Council. 

GBA will also work in close collaboration with other international organizations in PA, including the Commonwealth’s Office of International Business Development (Department of Community and Economic Development), the PA Department of Agriculture, World Trade Centers in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, World Affairs Councils, bilateral Chambers, Small Business Development Centers and more. Agriculture, finance, health care, life sciences, energy, tourism, logistics and higher education are among the industries to be served. 

Muskens said GBA’s goal is to be a complementary, B2B source of international information and expertise, leveraging but not replacing free and low-cost assistance from state, regional, and federal trade organizations. As well as offering GBA member services where appropriate and useful, GBA will refer companies to those organizations. 

“This exceptional partnership ensures that local businesses can draw on the region’s greatest international minds to build their presence in global markets, and international businesses get easy access to a full range of foreign investment support services,” said CCEDC Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Michael Grigalonis. 

“We’re excited to advance several projects that are already underway including an upcoming trade mission to Ireland, a partnership opportunity with India, a Dutch urban farming endeavor, support of a Canadian manufacturer and services for underrepresented communities including Hispanic-owned businesses.” 

In addition to individual country, cultural and language expertise, other areas of expertise range from strategic planning and market research to more tactical and transactional based services in areas such as international logistics, law, real estate, education and banking. Depending on a client’s individual needs as well as the nature and scope of work, free and fee-based services will also be offered. 

Pa. Housing prices drop, sales still down

Housing prices in Pennsylvania fell during the month of December, but sales were still down. 

The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors reports that the median existing home sales price of homes sold dropped 11% from the previous month to $193,792 in December, which is nearly the same as it was a year ago. 

“Looking at our year-end totals, the median sales price overall for 2022 was $208,185,” said PAR President Al Perry. “That’s about 8% higher than the median price for 2021 and 21% higher than 2020. Like most of the country, I think Pennsylvania is starting to see prices leveling off. Most experts have been predicting a more modest 2% to 3% increase in prices overall this year, which is a shift from the more aggressive price increases that we’ve been experiencing the past few years.” 

Home sales fell slightly to 9,176 in December, down from 9,663 in November.   

Sales were down 33% compared to the same period in 2022 as a result of low inventory. 

The number of listings dropped to the lowest level of the year in December to 28,801. 

“Listings are down 20% from the same time last year,” Perry said. “Overall, we’ve seen the average number of listings decline about 10,000 each year since 2020. The industry has underbuilt homes for more than a decade and as more millennials look to become homeowners, we’re seeing a lack of available homes that they can afford. That shortage of homes continues to keep prices up overall.”