Capital region home sales are strong, but slowing

Home sales in the Harrisburg region rose almost 25% in September from the year before, as the industry continues its robust recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown.

For the third quarter as a whole, residential settlements were up 15.5% from 2019. That’s according to school district data from the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors, which covers Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties.

The fervor of buyers hasn’t abated at all, said Realtors’ Association President Jordan Piscioneri. However, the pace of new listings, which was not keeping up with demand to begin with, is starting to slow, he said, a typical situation as the weather gets colder.

That’s producing an environment where houses for sale often get inundated with offers and go under contract more quickly than normal. It almost sounds trite now to share the anecdote of a new listing being bombarded with 10-15 offers in two days, but it’s happening, Piscioneri said.

Average days on the market for closed listings is down in most of the 23 school districts in the three-county region, in some cases by a lot. In Cumberland County’s East Pennsboro Area, for example, average days on the market in September fell from 36 to 16.

Since the pandemic shutdown lifted in May, it’s been a tough market for buyers, he said.

Even if someone is willing to go $20,000 above the asking price, Piscioneri said, another buyer may come along who’s willing to pay $30,000 – and waive contingencies such as a home inspection and appraisal. So while the seller and the winner of the bidding war are happy, the potential buyers who lost out “are feeling that pain,” he said.

“It seems as though each transaction comes with challenges.”

Overall, the sellers’ market is producing rising home values, which helps with equity, Piscioneri said.

In Cumberland County, the median price for a house sold in September was $226,250, up 7.8% from the year before. It was $178,000 in Dauphin County, an increase of 7.2%. In Perry County, with a much smaller sample size, it climbed 20.1% to $180,000.

Piscioneri said the shortage of homes on the market is a national issue, because there’s a deficit of housing stock in general. There’s not enough new residential construction, he said, including in the affordable range. Some current homeowners are also reluctant to put their properties up for sale because they worry about being able to find a house to move into, he said.

In a balanced market, Piscioneri advises buyers approved for a $200,000 mortgage to look at a more expensive house, to see if the asking price will drop. But now he tells that buyer to look at homes that start lower, so there’s room to increase the offer.

Piscioneri also wouldn’t normally recommend purchasing a home without an inspection. However, in this climate of fierce competition, some buyers are willing to do that.

“You must be able to handle the risk,” he said, such as any costs that might arise.

Some more highlights from the Realtors’ association report:

  • Home sales totaled 789 in September: 368 in Cumberland County, 370 in Dauphin County and 51 in Perry County. The increase over last year was 26.5%, 19.4% and 64.5%, respectively.
  • In the third quarter, settled units rose from 2,204 in 2019 to 2,545 in 2020
  • Pending sales, a sign of future activity, climbed 10.2% in Cumberland and Dauphin.
  • Among Cumberland’s nine school districts, Camp Hill showed the biggest percentage jump in September sales, from 27 to 48 (nearly 78%). There’s also one, Cumberland Valley, with median and average sale prices of more than $300,000.
  • In Dauphin, Harrisburg City reported the largest percentage boost in settlements, from 164 to 205 (25%). Among the county’s 10 school districts, Derry Township owns the highest average sales price, at $336,597.

New leadership named for Harrisburg realtor association

Jordan Piscioneri of Camp Hill-based Century 21 Realty Services and Kelly Spasic of Help-U-Sell Detwiler Realty in South Middleton Township. (Photo: Submitted)

The Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors (GHAR) have installed a new president for its board and foundation for 2020.

Jordan Piscioneri of Camp Hill-based Century 21 Realty Services was appointed the new president of the board of directors during a ceremony Jan. 1. Former board president Michelle Gueci of Hampden Township-based Keller Williams of Central PA led the ceremony.

Piscioneri, a Realtor for the last 12 years, has served in several positions for the GHAR, including vice president and secretary/treasurer. He has also served as state director for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors and was chairman of the finance and management issues committees.

The other 2020 board of director officers include Adrian Smith of Keller Williams Realty in Harrisburg serving as vice president and Cathie Heika of RE/MAX Realty Associates in Camp Hill as secretary/treasurer.

In a separate ceremony, Kelly Spasic with Help-U-Sell Detwiler Realty in South Middleton Township was installed as president of the GHAR Foundation, which was created to financially support nonprofit charitable organizations with housing- and shelter-related focuses. Spasic takes over for former Foundation president Isabel Warrell of NextHome Capital Realty in Camp Hill.

The GHAR is a trade association of more than 1,900 real estate professionals in Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry counties and is affiliated with the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.