Bethlehem Press

Saturday, April 21, 2018

LV house sales decline 6.7 percent in February

Thursday, April 12, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Business Showcase

House sales in the Lehigh Valley declined 6.7 percent in February after increasing 2.6 percent in January.

Closed sales for February were down 6.7 percent to 421 houses sold, compared to 451 houses sold in February 2017, according to the February report of the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors (GLVR).

Closed sales for January were up 2.6 percent to 442 houses sold, compared to 431 houses sold in January 2017.

For the year-to-date, closed sales are up 0.8 percent to 889 houses sold, compared to 882 houses sold year-to-date 2017.

Pending sales for February were up 1.1 percent to 646, compared to 639 in February 2017. Pending sales for January were up 12 percent to 605, compared to 540 in January 2017.

The tight housing market in the Valley continued, with new listings down in February 2018 by 12.2 percent to 721, compared to 821 in February 2017. New listings were down in January 2018 by 2 percent to 742, compared to 757 in January 2017.

Days on Market dropped by double digits in February by 23.8 percent to 48 days, compared to 63 days in February 2017. Days on Market also dropped by double digits in January by 20 percent to 48 days, compared to 60 days in January 2017.

Inventory declined again in February, down 30.1 percent to 1,497, compared to 2,141 in February 2017. Inventory also declined in January, down 27.9 percent to 1,551, compared to 2,152 in January 2017.

Months Supply dipped in February, down 34.4 percent to 2.1 months, compared to 3.2 months in February 2017. Months Supply also dipped in January, down 31.3 percent to 2.2 months, compared to 3.2 months in January 2017.

Average Sales Price continued its upward trend in February, up 2.1 percent to $212,530, compared to $208,197 in February 2017. The Average Sales Price also increased in January, up 17 percent to $227,565, compared to $194,421 in January 2017.

The Median Sales Price was also up in February, by 2.9 percent to $175,000, compared to $170,000 in February 2017. The Median Sales Price was also up in January, by 11.8 percent to $188,900, compared to $169,000 in January 2017.

The Percentage of List Price Received was up slightly in February, by 0.4 percent to 97.7 percent, compared to 97.3 percent in February 2017. The Percentage of List Price Received was also up in January, by 1.1 percent to 97.5 percent, compared to 96.4 percent in January 2017.

The Housing Affordability Index continued its decline in February, down 4.2 percent, and in January, down 9.2 percent, compared to 2017.

Market analysis

According to the GLVR report, the Lehigh Valley housing market is following national market trends for residential real estate, including lack of abundant inventory, steadily upward movement of home prices, and year-over-year declines in home sales.

“Sales declines are a natural result of there being fewer homes for sale, but higher prices often indicate higher demand leading to competitive bidding,” said GLVR CEO Justin Porembo. “The Lehigh Valley is poised for increased supply, especially as we head into the spring market, so there is hope that more sellers will take advantage of what appears to be a ready and willing buyer base.”

“For those who have their minds made up to buy a home in 2018, it will likely be a competitive ride,” said Sean LaSalle, 2018 President of GLVR. “As Justin said, the trend has widely been toward fewer days on market and fewer months of supply, indicating strong demand despite higher prices and low inventory. This could prove tricky for first-time home buyers, especially for those who are impacted by student loan-debt, content to rent, or among the more than 15 percent of adult children still living at home.”

THE GLVR report also noted that prevailing mortgage rates continued to rise in February. This has a notable impact on housing affordability and can leave consumers choosing between higher payments or lower-priced homes, stated the report.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with a 20 percent down payment that qualify for backing by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose to its highest level since January 2014. A 4.5 or 4.6 percent rate might not seem high to those with extensive real estate experience, but it is newly high for many potential first-time home buyers. Upward rate pressure is likely to continue as long as the economy fares well, according to the GLVR report.

“Even with an uptick in mortgage rates, now is an excellent time to buy a home,” LaSalle said. “First-time homebuyers shouldn’t wait, especially when we know interest rates and home values will continue to rise.”

Carbon County

In Carbon County, the Median Sales Price increased to $120,000. Inventory levels shrank 9.1 percent to 291 units. Months Supply of Inventory was down 22.1 percent to 5.3 months. Pending Sales climbed to 53, versus 35 the previous February, and there was an increase in New Listings, which hit 67.

GLVR

The Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors is a not-for-profit trade association representing more than 2,000 Realtors in Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties.

The association provides professional development and training resources, competitive market information, legislative advocacy, peer review and mediation processes for members, and a dispute resolution service for consumers.

The Association owns and operates the Greater Lehigh Valley Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and the Greater Lehigh Valley Real Estate Academy.

Information: GreaterLehighValleyRealtors.com