Feb.21 – It may be freezing outside, but two real estate agents said Mercer County’s home sales are brand new – if you can even find one for sale in the preferred price range.
“I’ve been in the real estate business since 1990 and I’ve never seen the local market the way I do now,” said realtor Nancy Schlegel, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ Hermitage and Greenville branch manager.
According to the Greater Mercer County Board of Realtors, the average price of homes for sale in Mercer County is $ 129,000.
To be sure, local real estate agents say that’s just asking price. That doesn’t mean that this is the real price of a home.
But that number falls below the $ 125,000 to $ 200,000 price tag for high-demand homes, local agents said.
“I typically have 20 to 30 homes selling at these prices,” said Pamela Hrabosky, associate broker at Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. “Now I only have two.”
Sales are so brisk that she regularly advises buyers not to lower their bids.
“The houses are selling so quickly that there is no chance of offering some of them an open house,” said Hrabosky.
No question about it, this is a sellers’ market, said Schlegel.
“If a house has been on the market for more than a month now, then something is going on,” Schlegel said. “Usually it tells me there is something wrong with the condition, price or location.”
With a $ 125,000 home in Mercer County, you get a three bedroom, 2 to 2 1/2 bathroom home, and possibly a finished basement. As with any real estate business, location can change costs dramatically.
“Good luck getting a home in Hermitage for $ 125,000 with all of this,” said Hrabosky. “If you can get one for that price, it means it needs work.”
Along with the price, the style of the house can cause even more bottlenecks.
“Young buyers are not interested in two-story houses,” said Hrabosky. “Ranch houses sell like hot cakes.”
And a small number of homes for sale in the targeted price range has fueled prices.
“I would say that local property prices have risen by 15 percent in the past year,” said Schlegel.
Local homes with a fair price tag of $ 300,000 for stickers in a posh development with three or four bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and a large lot are all the rage, she said.
“These are usually on the market for less than a week,” said Schlegel. “You go very quickly.”
This is uncharted territory for many local agents. Home values surfaced in the early 1980s as local industrial giant after local slamming its doors, like Westinghouse Electric Corp. in Sharon and Chicago Bridge and Iron in Greenville. This resulted in a deluge of houses for sale that coincided with many losing their jobs or moving away. The market has improved – but it wasn’t like it is today.
So what has changed? A combination of factors, said the two real estate agents.
Mortgage loans have a maturity of just over 2 percent – a historically low interest rate. And the COVID-19 pandemic has rocked potential sellers.
“People want to be careful, so they stay in the house they are in,” Schlegel said.
The pandemic also depressed home sales in Pennsylvania. In mid-March, real estate agents were not allowed to work in person. House demonstrations and open houses stalled. That led to a backlog.
When real estate agents were allowed to return to their homes in May, sales skyrocketed.
“The phone rang,” said Hrabosky. “People were desperate.”
Schlegel said she had the same experience.
She said the Hermitage and Greenville offices were at the top of sales nationwide last year among the 1,300+ offices Berkshire Hathaway has nationwide.
Another national trend is also at work. People are fleeing from congested cities and expensive suburbs.
In the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Wexford and Cranberry Township, where homes are in high demand, the average price range is between $ 500,000 and $ 600,000, Schlegel said.
“You can get this type of home here for $ 300,000 and pay less tax,” she said.
In addition, the pandemic has shown employers and workers that workers don’t have to be in an office all day. Teleworking has opened the local housing market to many.
Both women agree that Mercer County has another major draw – itself.
“We have a slower lifestyle here with great parks and lots to do outdoors,” said Hrabosky. “We have a lot of things that you can’t get anywhere else.”
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