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Higher-priced homes drive record quarters in Harrisburg area

Experts say the higher home sales free up other inventory for first-time buyers

Higher-priced homes, namely those in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, have helped the Harrisburg-area housing market reach new heights this year.

The area’s housing market finished the third quarter with 2,755 home sales, up about 5 percent from last year, according to the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors.

That was the second straight record quarter for the Harrisburg area, the association said, citing electronic data from its Multiple Listing Services that dates back to 2003. There were 2,825 home sales in the second quarter.

Over the last two quarters, the MLS data shows that sales of homes in the $300,000 to $399,999 range were up significantly over last year. In the second quarter, there were 267 sales in that range compared with 185 last year, while third-quarter sales totaled 248 compared with 211 last year.

The uptick in higher-priced home sales is a good sign for the market, Realtors say, because it suggests more people are moving up to bigger homes, which frees up less expensive homes for other buyers, including new homeowners.

“With that $300,000 to $400,000 mark, that is definitely people who are moving up,” said Jodi Diego, the association’s current president, citing low-interest rates and rising income levels as the primary drivers.

The $200,000 to $299,999 price range has been fairly strong as well, according to the MLS data. That range saw 670 sales in the second quarter, up from 575 last year, while third-quarter sales totaled 644 compared with 568 last year.

That segment is likely split between move-up buyers and first-time homeowners, Diego said. Home construction has been rising to keep up with growing buyer demand, which would impact more homes in that price range.

Homes priced under $200,000 remain the most active segment of the overall housing market. That price range was fairly level in the third quarter with 1,724 sales compared with 1,706 last year.

By comparison, the highest part of the market — the over-$400,000 range — also has been holding steady. There were 139 sales in that segment in the third quarter compared with 140 last year.

Overall, the Harrisburg area is on pace to eclipse last year’s total of 9,145 home sales, which trailed only 2006 for highest annual total with 9,210 sales.

Homes also are moving more quickly, as average days on market continues to fall across the Harrisburg area. The average was 64 days per sale in the third quarter, down from 77 days a year ago. 

A few county highlights

By county, here is how the third quarter stacked up against the same period a year ago:

Cumberland County

  • Cumberland Valley School District led the way with 325 homes sales in the third quarter compared with 274 last year. But the median sale price dipped to $243,120 from $260,262 a year ago.
  • West Shore School District, which is split between Cumberland and York counties, posted 250 total sales, up from 209 last year. The median sale price increased to $169,200 from $157,500 last year.

Dauphin County

  • Central Dauphin School District led the way with 354 home sales, down slightly from last year. The median sale price increased to $170,000 from $165,450 last year.
  • Harrisburg City School District saw home sales increase to 124 from 107. But the median sale price dropped to $49,150 from $60,000 last year.

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