2014: Steady as she grows for residential real estate

Residential home sales increased by 4.4 percent in the Greater Lehigh Valley when compared to 2013. The jump was a robust 20 percent when compared to sales in 2012. (File photo)

The housing recovery has stabilized.

The housing recovery has stabilized.

Residential home sales in 2014 rose by 4.4 percent throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley, with 659 more homes sold last year when compared to 2013.

Realtors expect continued modest growth again this year, as the industry clearly has left far behind the depressed activity during the first part of the decade. In fact, the 15,665 homes sold in the region in 2014 are a substantial 20 percent higher than total sales just two years earlier, in 2012.

“The markets are recovering at a slow, gradual pace,” said Vicki Venezia, president of the Reading-Berks Association of Realtors and real estate agent with Re/MAX of Reading, Wyomissing. “It looks like housing will continue to excel, due to declining mortgage rates and the increase in available jobs.

“This is a good sign that the ongoing housing recovery will keep moving forward in 2015.”

The Poconos, in particular, saw a surge in sales last year, with 441 more homes sold for a 21.7 percent increase.

“In 2014, we had a lot of investors,” said Nicole Murray, president of the Pocono Mountains Association of Realtors and real estate agent with Better Homes & Gardens/Wilkins Real Estate, East Stroudsburg. “It’s continued to increase with people coming into the marketplace. I see that as a sign of the economy stabilizing.”

Closed sales in Berks County grew 6 percent from 3,749 in 2013 to 3,977 last year. Average sales prices remained relatively unchanged, although houses sold stayed on the market 15.5 percent fewer days, 109, compared to 129 in 2013.

“As I reflect back on 2014, I saw our market changing,” Venezia said. “We lost many first-time homebuyers that would normally buy a house because they’re weighed down by their student loans.

“Young buyers were unable to take advantage of low mortgage rates and stable prices. Lending standards were too tight for many first-timers to make the grade.”

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