Agents say housing market looks good

It’s been a good summer thus far in the real estate market for people looking to buy homes.

The question is: Will it stay that way?

Some local real estate agents say moderately priced homes are moving right now. Deb Williams, broker/owner, Re/Max West Branch, Williamsport said homes priced from about $175,000 and below are selling.

“I don’t think the market is as strong as it was last summer,” she said. “A lot of people have left (the area).”

The gas drilling industry was a bigger presence in the area up until last year, and that’s lessened the demands for homes.

“Higher priced properties are taking longer to sell,” she said.

Crystal Colburn, a broker with Robin Real Estate, Hughesville said the demand for single family homes is high, even if the supply for such housing is low.

“We have had some new construction,” she said. “Ranch duplexes are selling like crazy.”

Homes under $200,000, Colburn noted, are easier to sell.

She also said vacation homes in Eagles Mere have been selling well.

“Overall, things are good,” she said. “It’s more of a buyers market. I think it will continue to stay steady over the next six months as long as rates don’t skyrocket.

Bob Boob, broker and owner of 1st Choice Realty, Jersey Shore, noted that interest rates for loans recently edged up from about 4.25 percent to 5.25 percent

A 1 percent rate change, he said, means $55 to $60 more per month on a house payment.

That translates to $20,000 more over the life of a loan, he added.

“Fortunately, the 4 to 5 percent range is still an affordable range,” he said. “For example, a $180,000 mortgage for 30 years at 4.5 percent is $912.04 a month.”

Boob said many banks make it tough for potential home buyers to secure loans.

“A big problem were are challenged with is the credit score issue with banks. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Banks are score driven, meaning the most important thing to them before they will even consider your loan is your credit score. It’s not the only factor, but it’s the number one factor to start with. Then the banks have tightened up on self-employed people. Banks want two years job history for W-2 employees. Banks want the buyer to have some reserve money in the bank after closing. Banks want no collection accounts. Banks want your income and debt ratios to be reasonable.”

Overall, buyers want homes that are well-maintained with nice yards. Homes with two or more baths updated kitchens, spacious rooms and dry basements are all selling points. Country homes, Boob said, are are still more popular than those in town or with less than half acre plots.

Realtors say they are not pessimistic about the local real estate market.

“Our local economy is decent,” Boob said. “Rates are still affordable. We have an awesome area to live in,” with North Central Pennsylvania being “a great place to raise a family.”

Williams said she sees adjusted market conditions.

Interest rate increases will have just a small effect on those looking to buy homes, she said.