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Home sales flat in October; November looks promising

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Activity in the Greater Lehigh Valley residential real estate market remained brisk despite a modest 0.2 percent increase in homes closed last month when compared to October 2016.

Homes sold on average 17 days quicker across the region. Pending sales jumped 11.7 percent, suggesting solid activity throughout the rest of 2017.

“The market is showing signs it’s trying to slow down,” said Conrad Vanino, broker with Century 21 Park Road, Wyomissing. “The market is still holding firm through October, anyway.”

The Poconos and Lehigh Valley also had an October slowdown.

“We are seeing the same, what we consider to be a brief pause in the market,” said Thomas R. Wilkins, CEO with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate/Wilkins & Associates, Stroudsburg. “We do believe it’s temporary. We are still ahead of last year, but there does appear to be a pause in the business, the closed sales.”

Charles Haley, associate broker with Howard Hanna The Frederick Group, Allentown, said there was a lull last month, but it was short-lived.

“The buyers went away,” said. “They weren’t looking at houses. Now all of a sudden, we’re into November and the pace has picked up again.”

SALES BUMP IN BERKS

The pace of homes sold in Berks County remained brisk with a 6.4 percent increase in closed sales and 12.6 percent jump in pending sales in October compared to last October.

Vanino expects continuing buyer activity despite the seasonal slowdown.

“I have half-a-dozen people looking for a particular type of property,” he said. “They looked at everything that’s on the market and they are just sitting back, waiting for other things to come on the market to see if they can find something more in line with what they want.”

Although persistent low inventory and predicted rise in interest rates trouble potential buyers, Vanino expects them to remain active into the winter.

STRONG 2018

The Pocono marketplace posted a 1.7 decline in closed sales, 14.6 percent drop in pending sales and 18.3 percent fewer new listings, October over October.

“For the first time in a real long time, we’re starting to get a little bit of an inventory problem,” Wilkins said. “It’s the end of the year. We have sold everything on the shelves and we will replace that inventory January, February, March.”

Wilkins expects to end the year ahead of last year’s numbers, a trend he expects to continue.

“We think the market is going to be strong in 2018,” he said. “If it’s a good winter selling-season, we’ll be set for 2018. If the economy stays strong, our second-home, vacation market buyer will remain strong.”

GOOD WINTER AHEAD

Closings should remain strong in the Lehigh Valley (Lehigh and Northampton counties) through 2017 with a 22.5 percent growth in October in pending sales. Despite a 5.8 percent drop in October closed sales and 3.6 percent fewer listings, activity remains brisk.

“[Buyers] are getting ready to make their move and doing so,” Haley said. “Nice houses are competitive. People are even bidding them up and they are selling in 30 days or less. Some of the higher-end homes are starting to sell, too, which has been a long time coming.”

Haley sees a strong job market helping activity.

“I’m seeing properties selling again and starting to appreciate in price,” he said. “There’s a strange thing going on this time that didn’t happen when we went through the past recession. The buyers are really picky and they are willing to pay more for a good property. I think there’s a good future for real estate right now. …

“If interest rates remain the same and the weather is good, we should have a good winter into spring.”

‘WAITING FOR THAT GREAT HOME’

Good weather kept buyers moving in Carbon County. While the county saw no change year over year in the number of closed sales or days on market, pending sales jumped 48.7 percent compared to last October.

“We don’t have nearly as many listings on the market, but we still have a pretty significant number of buyers,” said Kristen Obert, associate broker with Hugh Dugan Real Estate, Palmerton. “Good listings, we are selling really fast with multiple offers. …

“We’re still seeing a good volume of buyers because the [interest] rates have really stayed low compared to what we had initially anticipated at the beginning of this year,” she said. “Buyers are still actively looking and really want to. … There are still buyers waiting for that great home to come up.”

Obert expects sluggishness at the beginning of the year but hopes more inventory will bring more activity in spring.

DEPENDS ON THE PRICE RANGE

Schuylkill County also saw brisk activity in October with a 3 percent boost in closed sales and 26.5 percent increase in pending sales. Although the county saw 9.4 percent growth in new listings, one real estate agent sees inventory’s effects on the market.

“There are not as many listings,” said Bud Yacobowsky, broker/owner of Red E Realty, Pottsville. “Inventory is down about 15 percent compared to last year. Prices are slightly higher because there’s not as much inventory. … You’re starting to see multiple offers in certain price ranges.”

Yacobowsky sees homes priced from $130,000 to $180,000 in high demand.

BUSY AUTUMN

Warren County, N.J., saw a 19.6 percent jump in closed sales October over October. Brisk activity also led to a 12.9 increase in pending sales and a 13.8 percent jump in new listings.

“We’re having an extremely busy fall market,” said Carrie Perrucci, broker with Weichert Realtors, Phillipsburg. “If the house is a salable property that is priced right, it’s only staying on the market a very short period, and those homes are also receiving multiple offers.”

Similar to other areas, low inventory spurred buyers to act quickly, a trend Perrucci expects will continue.

“It’s just a matter of getting sellers to put their homes on the market. …,” she said. “I do think though those that list now prior to the spring market will continue to receive offers on their homes because people want to get into a home before the first of the year.”

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