Berks County’s residential and industrial real estate market continues to be brisk, but residential sales are down 4 percent compared to this time last year largely due to low inventory, real estate experts said Wednesday at the fourth annual Berks County Real Estate & Development Symposium held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Hotel.
The symposium, attended by about 140 people, is a program of Lehigh Valley Business.
“It is a seller’s market,” said Dave Mattes, Realtor with Re/Max of Reading in Wyomissing, one of the speakers.
“But it is very difficult for people to find homes,” Mattes said.
About 4,900 homes have been sold in Berks so far this year, compared to 5,117 at this time last year, he said.
Multi-family units are selling faster this year, staying on the market an average of 68 days compared to 109 in 2017, Mattes said.
“That’s a good sign,” he said.
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Berks has had a steady drop over the last seven years in the number of days a single-family home stays on the market, with homes on the market an average of 51 days this year compared to 116 days in 2011, Mattes said.
But inventory is low, with about 3.1 months-worth of homes available for sale this year compared to 12 to 14 months in 2011.
Lot sales are down 19 percent, with 209 sold this year, compared to 259 in 2017.
The average sales price of homes rose 2 percent this year, with the average home sales price of $181,976 compared to $177,544 in 2017.
“I think the average sales price will continue to rise,” he said.
Homes that sold between $100,000 and $200,000, the sweet spot in price in Berks, rose 3.2 percent, with 1,692 sold this year compared to 1,639 in 2017.
Homes that sold for $400,000 and above rose 21.1 percent, with 135 sold this year compared to 114 in 2017.
New construction of homes continues to be low this year, with only 200 new homes built so far in Berks, compared to several thousand built between 2000 and 2006.
Mattes predicted that closing sales on single-family homes will decrease slightly in 2019 to about 4,700 because of low inventory, but the average sales price will increase 2-3 percent to $186,500.
He projected sales multi-family units will remain flat at 205 and lots sales will decline at 110 units, and new construction of homes will remain flat at 200 units.
Bryan Cole, principal of NAI Keystone Commercial & Industrial in Wyomissing, noted the spate of commercial and industrial projects in Berks that have been completed, under development or “that haven’t been announced yet.”
Most of the commercial projects are being built for companies that are already in Berks, such as UGI Energy Services, Tower Health, Penn State Health St. Joseph and Penn National Gaming, he said.
With the relocation of UGI and Tower offices to the Knitting Mills commercial and retail complex under development in Wyomissing and West Reading, there will be vacated commercial space available, Cole said.
He noted the landscape of the northern part of the county has changed dramatically with the construction of more warehouses along Interstate 78 and other major highways.
Sites that are ready for development are becoming more in demand, Cole said.
One of those projects, Hamburg Logistics Park, three buildings encompassing three million square feet, is under construction on more than 150 acres of the former Perry Golf Course in Shoemakersville.
One of the buildings is 1.24 million square feet and is the largest spec building in the Pennsylvania, said Matt Clymer, senior vice president, MRP Industrial in West Chester, Chester County, which acquired the former Perry Golf Course and 15 acres of an adjacent farm in 2012.
The industrial park is expected to create at least 650 jobs, Clymer said.
As others the Lehigh Valley and other markets with land near major highways became tighter and more expensive, “Berks County really did present an opportunity for development that was unique,” Clymer said.
Not only did Routes 61 and 222 provide access to I-78 which a distribution facility would need, Berks also offered a robust labor market, Clymer said.