Midstate’s holiday real estate market among strongest in the nation

Michael Yoder//December 26, 2019

Midstate’s holiday real estate market among strongest in the nation

Michael Yoder//December 26, 2019

When sellers and shoppers think about the holiday season, a house is typically not highest on the list of presents to be purchased.

But real estate data shows this may not necessarily be the case for people looking to put roots down in Central Pennsylvania.

Industry experts point out there are many reasons to look for and sell a home between Thanksgiving and the beginning of January, including less competition among buyers and sellers, more time for discussions among interested parties and vacation days to devote towards house searches.

And when it comes to the Central Pennsylvania real estate market, holiday purchases of homes ranks near the top of any market in the country, according to sales data. Realtor.com recently ranked the top 10 real estate markets in the U.S., looking at sales in the 100 largest metros from Nov. 19, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018, and then compared the numbers with all property sales in those metros throughout the year.

The Harrisburg metro region ranked fifth on the list with 12.4% of its 2018 sales coming in the holiday stretch. Honolulu topped the list with 16.61% of all 2018 home sales coming during the holidays.

The website listed Harrisburg’s home affordability as one of the primary reasons for its ranking, citing its “Victorian-style homes and charming brick townhouses, as well as plenty of dining and shopping options” for properties in the $200,000 range.

Jennifer DeBernardis. (Photo: Submitted)

Jennifer DeBernardis of The DeBernardis Group out of Coldwell Banker in Hampden Township, Cumberland County, said she wasn’t surprised by Harrisburg’s high ranking. She said the region remains “one of the most stable” real estate markets in the country, with a high demand of people looking to move into the region and a lack of local individuals looking to move away.

DeBernardis said there’s been a huge deficit in inventories of homes for sale in the last two years in Central Pennsylvania, as the average number of homes for sale has stayed around 55% less inventory than the previous year in that time period. She said the numbers indicate an aggressive buyer’s market.

“What we’re seeing is shorter shelf life and homes are going quicker regardless of the time of year,” DeBernardis said. “And there’s just not the homes there to meet the demand.”

The lack of available housing in the region has been caused by several different factors, DeBernardis said, including increased costs in new home construction that has made some buyers hesitant to go down the new home path. She said many sense they can get much more resale value by purchasing an older home, so buyers are going the used route.

A growing number of commuters deciding to live in Central Pennsylvania has created a disruption in the market.

“You’re finding a lot of people who commute during the week, whether it be Baltimore, D.C., Philadelphia, and they raise their families in Central Pennsylvania,” DeBernardis said.

A site map of Legacy Park in Mechanicsburg. Site work for the mixed-use development got underway last year with building construction expected to begin in June. (Photo: Submitted) –

DeBarardis said she sees the midstate home inventory picking up for 2020 as some larger developments are being finished in Dauphin and Cumberland counties, as locals move into the new neighborhoods and put their preexisting homes up for sale.

She pointed to dozens of homes being built by East Lampeter Township-based EGStoltzfus in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County, and Clay Township’s Landmark Homes development of the 185-acre mixed-use project called Legacy Park in Mechanicsburg that consists of more than 700 residential and commercial units. DeBarardis said Cumberland County continues to be one of the fastest-growing counties in the country.

Even with increased development, DeBarardis said the midstate continues to remain “very stable” with its population numbers. Even if there are large increases or declines in population regionally or locally, she said, Central Pennsylvania’s population has stayed roughly the same and should continue that path going forward.

As far as the local holiday real estate market this year, DeBarardis said she was working on negotiating an offer on a property and had another deal ready to go just a few days before Christmas. She said last year she negotiated two offers on New Year’s Eve at about 8 p.m., part of $31 million in sales across 109 transactions last year that her team of two assistants and two buyer agents completed.

DeBernardis said she’s found in her seven years of selling homes that there really is no bad time of year for the real estate market. Buyers aren’t scared off about potentially moving in the middle of winter, she said, as they become more adept at educating themselves about the homes they’re buying before they get in them and strategically planning out the move.

With interest rates remaining strong for home buyers, she said, this year’s holiday season should be just as good as last year in the region.

“Everything is there for people to buy and sell homes,” DeBernardis said. “Interest rates are great. The products are great. The area is thriving. So just because it’s December doesn’t mean somebody’s not going to write an offer.”