Insights, Overviews, and Advice for this hot home market

There’s no doubt that the real estate market both nationally and locally has been flourishing for a number of years now. The usual rules of supply and demand have been pushing prices up and it seems like everyone is either looking to buy into the market or trying to profit from it. But what’s happening specifically here in the Lehigh Valley? We talked to a few experts from the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors, the local non-profit group which provides resources and data for real estate professionals while advocating for home buyers and home ownership in Lehigh Valley, Carbon County and Pocono regions.

 

A Seller’s Market

Justin Porembo is CEO of the group. He sees inventory as the biggest challenge in the real estate market presently. He says less houses that are up for sale, plus an uptick in interest in homeownership means this is a very competitive market. “Carbon County is seeing the best market in years.  Northampton County, the slate belt, the Upper Macungie, Central Lehigh area — inventory in these areas is very low. And coupled with that, we’re seeing multiple offers on each home, which is driving up price.” Porembo says sellers in these areas are enjoying sales around 95% of their list price, with Lehigh and Northampton at upwards of 97%. He adds that the positive economic recovery of the last few years has also had an impact for bargain hunters. “The foreclosure market has really dwindled, inventory there has decreased by nearly 50%. Coming out of the recession, we’re seeing that market correct itself.”

 

President of the group, Sean LaSalle, who is also a practicing broker with Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach in Macungie, says he believes the market will continue to be competitive. “I see an increase in available inventory of our 2017 lows of 2.2 months of supply, but not by much. I see values in the most popular price ranges rising between 4-7%. We will definitely continue to see low inventory and multiple offers. Younger buyers will still continue to look in more urban areas where they have easy access to the things that they like to do.”   

 

There’s no off season

Typically this time of year is when interest in real estate starts reawakening out of its winter slumber. The holidays are over, the harsh winter weather has passed and extended daylight makes it easier to tour homes. But not this year. “Individuals that were putting in offers since early fall are still looking at properties because there’s multiple offers on many properties,” explains Porembo. “There’s some stiff competition out there. But for eager buyers, we’re expecting a strong spring market and we’re hoping more sellers open to selling their home.”

 

LaSalle has some advice for buyers looking to step into the market. “The Greater Lehigh Valley real estate market is incredibly hot. Be prepared to compete against several other buyers. You have to go into these multiple offers with the mentality that your offer probably needs work. Consider creative ways that will make your offer more appealing to a seller when they have many offers to consider.”

 

But he also has some words of caution for sellers. “Just because the market is hot, and you may be the only home on the market when you do list it, buyers are still being picky. Make sure your home is priced right. Remove all the clutter. And make it available for showings.” Little things can make a big difference in your home’s appeal explains LaSalle. “Turn on all the lights before each showing and keep it clean and neat while it is being marketed. Your home is in the spotlight. Just like when you have a holiday get together, guests are coming over and are going to talk about your home when they leave.” But aside from all the housekeeping touches, LaSalle says there’s no time to procrastinate in this market. “If you are holding off on listing for a better market, DON’T. Get it on the market. there is a buyer out there right now for your home. And don’t wait till the “Spring Market.” The spring market has been here for some time.”

 

New Homes

Porembo says he’s noticed builder confidence coming around, but both he and LaSalle agree that new single family homes are at a shortage. “New homes,” says LaSalle, “ are in extreme shortage and are very much needed in the Greater Lehigh Valley. And especially with baby boomers looking to downsize into 55+ communities, we don’t have nearly enough. But not just for baby boomers, but also young professionals looking for new townhouses or condos. Buyers that are commuting to work and want to return home and not have to worry about maintenance. We are seeing some successful new 55+ developments in Center Valley as well as Upper Macungie’s Hidden Meadows, a planned unit development, which gives buyers the feel of living in a condo with no exterior maintenance to really worry about after a long days work.”

 

Location, Location, Location

Some areas LaSalle says will continue to be sought after include neighborhoods in the East Penn School District, Lower Macungie, Emmaus, Upper Milford, and Alburtis as well as Salisbury School District, Catasauqua School District, and Nazareth School District. But he suggestions broadening the search if you’re having difficulty finding something you want in these areas. Other areas to consider include Carbon County, which LaSalle says has more homes at more affordable prices. “You definitely get more bang for your buck compared to Lehigh and Northampton Counties. And the great news is that it is part of the Greater Lehigh Valley. Northwestern Lehigh and Northern Lehigh School districts are also areas to consider.”

 

First TIme Home Buyer Advice

With all this competition. House hunting can be daunting for a first time home buyer. LaSalle encourages prospective buyers to not be intimidated — but, to certainly be realistic. “Be ready to go. Have your pre-approval ready along with your checkbook. When you find that WOW home, you have to move quickly. Connect with your Realtor to really strategize on how to make your offer the best. If you need a ton of seller assist, consider asking Mom or Dad for gift money instead, as seller assist comes from the seller’s pocket and may make the difference in a seller accepting your offer or another buyers offer. You may only get one shot at a home. So make it your best shot.”

 

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