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Report shows slow start to residential real estate market continues

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A slow start to this year's housing sales market in the Lehigh Valley continued in February, though some agents see growth as spring approaches, which is typically more active.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors recently released its February data, which showed prices increased 8.2 percent to $188,250. Inventory dropped 9.2 percent to 1,053 units, leading to a month’s supply of inventory that dropped 8.7 percent to 2.1 months.

With fewer homes for sale, buyers have fewer options.

“We don’t have a lot of supply and inventory,” said GLVR President Carl Billera. “Whatever is out there is selling and selling quickly.”

Gail Hoover, a Realtor with RE/MAX Central Center Valley office, said when people go looking for homes, there isn’t much to choose from.

“We are certainly down in inventory,” Hoover said.

She is hopeful the market will improve in the spring. Possible sellers are in preparation mode.

“Right now, I always call this ‘the lining up of the ducks,’ period,” Hoover said.

Hoover, an agent for 30 years, said the first three months of the year is often the time when people looking to buy or sell their home come into the office to see what they qualify for and prepare themselves.

In February, homes lasted an average 53 days on the market. In January, they lasted on average 60 days, Billera said.

“That also tells me buyers are out there looking,” Billera said.

Weather also is a factor, as people tend to hunker down when conditions are cold and snowy, according to Billera, a broker and managing partner for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Valley Partners in Emmaus.

Comparing data from February 2018, the latest report showed that pending sales were up 4.5 percent to 647 and new listings dropped 6.3 percent to 696. Furthermore, closed sales dropped from 453 to 418, a 7.7 percent decrease.

In Carbon County, new listings increased from 68 to 79, an increase of 16.2 percent. Also, pending sales increased from 49 to 63, an increase of 28.6 percent.

With these increasing numbers, Billera said that could indicate that people might be more willing to move a little bit further outside the valley.

Hoover said she has had some buyers say they would be willing to commute from Carbon County into the Lehigh Valley to work, so they are looking at homes in that area.

“Employment is strong here so I think we will have a strong real estate market this year,” Hoover said. “It all has to do with the economy. Prices are still very affordable. I think we have the makings of a good market on both sides, seller and buyer.”

The National Association of Realtors recently reported that national existing home sales were down slightly during January 2019 and that pending sales were up in year-over-year comparisons.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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