Agents: Brisk pace for middle-class housing in region

With housing prices up and home inventory low, Lycoming County real estate agents say it’s a sellers market right now.

“It is definitely a strong sellers market,” said Bob Boob, 1st Choice Realty, Jersey Shore. “Housing stock remains low. If you are a buyer looking at a certain price range, you don’t have much time to consider things. And that’s difficult.”

Boob said it can be hard to find good homes priced under $150,000.

At the same time, interest rates for home loans are extremely low – about 3.75 percent for 30-year mortgages – and that makes things favorable for buyers.

“It is a sellers market,” said Deb Williams, of Re/max West Branch, Williamsport. “For homes under $150,000, we are getting multiple offers, as long as it’s a decent home and in a good location. That’s not so great for a buyer, but it’s good for a seller.”

The higher-priced homes – $300,000 or higher – are having a harder time selling, she added.

“From our perspective, we have seen a significant reduction in the overall inventory due to sales activity we saw at the end of the year and that we are continuing to see now,” said Brent Fish, president of Fish Real Estate, Williamsport. “We have had a very busy January which isn’t typical. We are representing a lot of good, quality buyers who have a hard time finding property. The market is leaning toward the seller.”

Fish said there’s every reason to be optimistic that conditions will be favorable for the housing market.

But he and other realtors are concerned about available residential housing stock.

Chris Pardee, of Weikert, Realtors-Premier, Williamsport noted that the number of houses sold has remained stable across Lycoming County for the past few years.

With growths in population spurred in part by a burgeoning natural gas industry, the demand for homes could go up.

The good news is that the prices of homes being sold have gone up from about $138,000 in 2010 to more than $146,000 last year.

Williams noted that the spike in rental prices helped push more people toward home purchases.

“The key is sellers have to price their house right,” she added.

Pardee said overall it’s a great time to put a house on the market.

“Interest rates are down. Buyers are in a position to take advantage of favorable conditions,” he said.

And Pardee said he’s even seeing the higher priced homes selling pretty well too.

“The gas companies are providing some good jobs,” Boob said. “That is helping the housing market. People have money to buy homes. If you looked at the Jersey Shore market before the gas companies arrived and now, it’s like night and day.

“In Jersey Shore it was a good real estate year. We had a better year than we did in 2011.”

Pardee noted that Jersey Shore, along with Hughesville and other eastern parts of Lycoming County are one of the better markets right now.

“If our national economy starts to climb out of the hole were in, our market will follow,” Fish said. “I think we are sitting in a good position.”

Fish said he looks forward to a good 2013, especially in the upcoming months of April through July when sales tend to be strongest.

“I think we will continue to see a strong market if January is any indication,” he said.

Banks, which in recent years often rejected potential home buyers, have opened the door to increased lending too.

Williams said low interest rates will a big say in a strong housing market.

“If interest rates go up to 6 percent, it will be bad,” she said. “I was fearful after the election that rates would go up. The banks are still a little tight. Buyers have to go through a lot of hoops.”