August home sales beset by low inventory, rising mortgage rates

Home sales in central Pennsylvania continued behind last year’s pace in August, as a new factor – mortgage interest rates nearing 8% – adds to the slowdown.

Greater Harrisburg

In the three counties covered by the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors, year-over-year house sales last month were down 22.1% in Cumberland County (358 to 279); 12.3% in Dauphin County (341 to 299); and 34.2% in Perry County (38 to 25).

Compared with July 2023, they were up 18.2 in Cumberland, up 22% in Dauphin and down 16.7% in Perry.

The median sold price in August was $308,000 in Cumberland County, an increase of 2.7% from a year ago.

Average days on market was 17, and average sold to original list price ratio was 100.7%.

In Dauphin County, the median sold price of $255,000 was 10.9% more than a year ago and 8.5% more than July 2023. Average days on market was 17, and average sold to OLP ratio was 99.6%, which is just under asking price.

Perry County’s median sold price of $242,000 is 19.5% above what it was 12 months ago and 9.5% higher than last month. Average days on market came to 22, while average sold to OLP ratio was 97.4%.

Wendell Hoover, 2023 president of the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors, said in an email that “the sellers’ market has continued,” as fewer homes are on the market as compared with last year, which has in turn led to fewer homes sold.

“Sales prices have continued to increase in comparison to last year,” he continued. “In talking to a lot of homeowners over the past few months, there are a good number that would like to sell but their low current interest rate is too hard to give up (compared with) today’s rates. So when interest rates do decrease, there may finally be an increase to the number of homes on the market.”


In York County, 515 homes sold in August, 18% more than in August 2022. In Adams County, 109 houses sold, 3% fewer than a year ago.

The median house price in Adams was $295,000, a 6% rise from a year ago. In York, the median home price was $275,000, a 10% jump.

Year to date, 719 houses have sold in Adams County, 14% fewer than a year ago through August. In York County, 3,561 settlements have been recorded in the first eight months of 2023, a 20% decrease.

The median sales price in Adams County through the first eight months was $281,000, about the same from this time last year. In York County, the median to date was $263,900, a 8% increase from 2022.

Reid Weinbrom, 2023 president of the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties, stated in a release: “The continuous shortage of available housing inventory, coupled with strong buyer demand, consistently impacts sales prices, leading many sellers to receive multiple offers shortly after listing their properties.”

Lancaster County

Year over year, Lancaster County home sales declined 14.9% in August, from 571 to 486. However, they were up 12.8% month over month, from 431 to 486.

Average sold to OLP ratio was 103.2%, significantly above asking price.

Jeff Peters, president-elect of the Lancaster County Association of Realtors, said in a statement:

“August saw the highest levels of new listings this summer with 511 homes coming to the market; that’s an increase of 12.3% compared to July. Pending homes fell a modest 1.8% from the previous month, and closed sales saw a 12.8% jump compared (with) July.”

He also pointed out that the county’s median sold price rose to a summer high of $330,000 – a 4.8% increase over August 2022. “The average days on market for a home to sell was consistent with June and July, at 16. A similar trend of ‘cash’ purchases accounted for just over 26% of all purchases in August. Even with a slight increase in new listings, buyers are still struggling to compete for properties. I believe we’ll continue to see an increased median sold price as we approach the fall market.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Lebanon VA facility named nation’s best

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Lebanon VA Medical Center (Lebanon VAMC) has again been named the top VA Medical Center in the United States for patient experience. 

It marks the third consecutive year the local Veterans healthcare system has received the prestigious national honor for patient and employee satisfaction. 

“It’s a great day when the actions, culture and outcomes of our staff are recognized and honored at a national level,” Lebanon VAMC CEO and Executive Director, Jeffrey A. Beiler II said in a statement. “The best in VA Overall Experience Award is like the Oscar, Emmy, or Grammy awards. It’s a reaffirmation for years of excellence and demonstrates great achievements are possible with excellent teamwork.”  

The local Veteran’s facility and its five associated community clinics received the award during the VA’s annual Customer Experience Symposium on Sept. 7-8 in Washington DC. The facility achieved the highest overall combined patient experience and employee experience scores of all complexity level 2 facilities in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). 

The facility scored in the top quintile in the Survey of Healthcare Providers (SHEP) Overall Rating of the Provider, SHEP Inpatient Overall Rating of the Hospital, Veterans Signals (V-signals) Trust scores, and the All-Employee Survey (AES) scores for the Best Places to Work. The Veteran Trust score is a record high level. 

One of 170 medical centers in the nation with the sole purpose of providing medical care to America’s veterans, Lebanon VAMC serves a nine-county area in South Central Pennsylvania covering Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, Schuylkill, and York counties. Lebanon VAMC also oversees community clinics located in Lancaster, Mechanicsburg, Pottsville, Wyomissing, York, and Fort Indiantown Gap.

UPMC expanding orthopaedics services in Central Pa.

UPMC Orthopaedic Care in Central Pennsylvania is expanding its services in the region to include a new fracture care program. 

The program offers services to diagnose and treat traumatic orthopaedic injuries ranging from simple breaks to complex fractures in patients of all ages.

Matthew Garner, M.D., an orthopaedic trauma surgeon and Central Pennsylvania native, has joined UPMC Orthopaedic Care in Central Pa. and will lead the new fracture care program. 

“As a native of Central Pa. with roots in the Lancaster and Altoona areas, I’m looking forward to continuing to practice in and care for the community that I call home,” Garner said in a statement. “My colleagues from UPMC Orthopaedic Care across Central Pa. are known for their exceptional quality and outcomes, and I’m looking forward to joining their ranks and bringing a new service to the region.”

Garner joins a team of specialists, physicians, and clinicians at UPMC Orthopaedic Care in Central Pa. who offer care across Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties.

“I am pleased to welcome Dr. Garner to the orthopaedics team, and we’re excited about his leadership in developing our new fracture care program,” said Kyle McGill, executive administrator, UPMC Orthopaedic Care, UPMC in Central Pa.

“Traumatic injuries are life-altering events. Dr. Garner understands each patient has specific needs and challenges, and builds a relationship with them, personalizing their care to ensure they have an exceptional experience. Their goals are his goals, and he does whatever he can to get them back to doing what they enjoy most in life.”

Garner received his medical degree from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his orthopaedic surgery residency at the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, and fellowship trainings at Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Wash., and Lindenhof Hospital, Bern, Switzerland.

Garner is board-certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and is a member of the American Medical Association, the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society, the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, and the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 

Central PA youth reentry programs gain federal funding

Nine youth reentry programs in Pennsylvania are receiving awards totaling more than $5 million in grant funding, Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Nancy Walker announced on Wednesday. 

The funding supports reentry programs that prepare young Pennsylvanians for employment or post-secondary education and aim to reduce the recidivism rate. 

The nine local workforce development boards (LWDBS) will work in partnership with the state’s juvenile justice system, PA CareerLink offices, community organizations, and academic programs to recruit, re-engage, and assist young adults ages 18-24 who were incarcerated or have interacted with Pennsylvania’s judicial system. 

Among the LWDBS and youth re-entry programs awarded funding were the Berks County Workforce Development Board ($800,000) and the South Central Workforce Development Board that includes Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lebanon, Perry, and York counties ($450,000). 

Walker said in a statement that youth reentry programs provide young people the tools and resources needed to gain lifelong skills and good-paying jobs and help local employers reach an untapped labor pool. 

The programs are expected to provide in-demand job training, re-entry support services, mentorship, higher education opportunities, and family-sustaining career pathways.

Central Pa. Coldwell Banker Realty president extends leadership position

Extending his leadership position as president of Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Del., Richard Fleischer is overseeing the daily operations of the company’s 11 offices which support approximately 850 affiliated agents in nine counties. 

Fleischer’s responsibilities also include overseeing 27 offices and 2,500 affiliated agents as president for Coldwell Banker Realty in the Mid-Atlantic region. 

Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania serves Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Franklin, and Perry counties. The company’s corporate offices are based in Conshohocken. 

“Rich is an outstanding leader with a strong history of supporting top-producing agents while also growing operations and sales volume,” said Marie Gayo, executive vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Region for Coldwell Banker Realty’s company-owned operations. 

“Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware is well positioned for continued growth under Rich’s leadership.” 

Fleischer previously served as the regional vice president of Coldwell Banker Realty in Florida, the state’s largest residential brokerage. He managed operations for the East Central region, overseeing 25 branch and satellite offices in the Orlando metro and on the Atlantic coast. Fleischer doubled the productivity of the sales offices, grew the region organically and increased profitability. 

Fleischer’s career with Coldwell Banker began in 2004 and he has held various leadership roles with the company. He has managed numerous teams and divisions in various real estate sectors throughout the U.S.

Central Pa. rents rise slightly but overall trend down from pandemic highs

Central Pennsylvania rents inched up slightly in November but are still less than they were a year ago, according to the newest report from Apartment List.

This drop from pandemic highs follows a national trend.

In the three-county Harrisburg metro area of Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties, median rents rose 0.4% from October to November while falling 0.9% over the previous 12 months.

The latest median rents in the region were $1,040 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,337 for a two-bedroom unit, the report said.

Rob Warnock, a senior research associate with Apartment List, wrote in an email, “Like most other parts of the country, central Pennsylvania has experienced a swift slowdown in rent growth during 2022. Prices today are slightly lower than they were one year ago, following dramatic increases the year before that.

“While it is a welcomed relief, rents are still up more than 30% since the start of the pandemic (March 2020), so the current market slowdown is not undoing much of the affordability concerns that have developed over the past couple years. The slowdown has been attributed to broader economic worries and lower consumer confidence, as people have been putting off big, expensive decisions like moving, buying a house or starting a family.”

Apartment List’s national rent index fell by 1% in November, the third straight monthly drop and the largest single monthly dip in the history of the index, which dates from 2017.

As Warnock noted, reasons for the cool down appear to be tied to economic factors, rather than just the typical seasonal trend.

Over the course of the year, rent growth continues to outpace pre-pandemic levels, but by smaller and smaller margins, the report said. Through November of 2022, rents are up 4.7%, “which is much closer to the … rates we saw in 2018 and 2019 than it is to the astronomical 18% growth that we saw at this point last year.”

Accompanying the slowdown in rent growth is a rise in unoccupied units. Nationally, the Apartment List vacancy index is 5.7% through November, after gradually climbing from a low of 4.1% last fall.

“Today’s vacancy rate still remains below the pre-pandemic norm but could get back to that benchmark as early as next spring, if the current rate of easing continues,” according to the report.

From April through August, vacancy ticked up 0.2 percentage points, from 5.1% to 5.3%. But from August through November, the index rose 0.6 percentage points, reaching the current 5.7%.

“After a prolonged period of skyrocketing rent growth, and with non-housing-related costs also getting more expensive as a result of broad-based inflation, it seems that some Americans are moving back in with family or roommates, or delaying striking out on their own,” Apartment List explained.

Meanwhile, new apartment construction is getting back on track after encountering delays during the pandemic. “This combination of slowing household formation and rising inventory,” the report noted, “is driving the recent shifts that we are seeing in both our rent growth and vacancy indexes.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Funding approved for RTP grants in Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry counties

More than $7 million in funding for 13 improvement projects in Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties has been approved by the Harrisburg Area Transportation Study (HATS). Funding was approved under HATS’ 2022 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) Implementation Grant Program.

Under the RTP, the status of transportation projects and programs is documented, long-term needs are identified, and projects are recommended to meet those needs. The long-range RTP establishes a framework and priorities for the expenditure of federal transportation funds over a 25-year period. It currently extends to 2045.

HATS staff and PennDOT District 8 will coordinate with awardees on the timing of the projects based on readiness and availability of matching funds, said HATS Coordinating Committee Chairman Jeff Haste.

“This important grant program helps municipalities to fund local transportation projects that otherwise may not fit existing sources,” said Haste. “It really fills a gap and helps implement the goals of the regional transportation plan.”

The following is a list of the 2022 grant awards:

Cumberland County

  • Camp Hill Borough: $88,000, Camp Hill Bypass Alternative Transportation Feasibility Analysis.
  • Lemoyne Borough: $938,560, Phase II Streetscape Improvements.
  • Silver Spring Township: $96,000, Carlisle Pike Alternative Transportation Corridor Study.
  • South Middleton Township: $434,596, Forge Road Bicycle Facilities Implementation Project.

Dauphin County

  • Hummelstown Borough: $48,000, Hummelstown Alternative Transportation Study.
  • Hummelstown Borough: $924,323, Hummelstown Borough Pedestrian Improvements.
  • Lower Paxton Township: $977,427, Union Deposit Road Corridor Improvements
  • Middletown Borough: $1,074,081, Emaus Street Streetscape Project.
  • Millerstown Borough: $56,000, Millerstown Borough Bike/Ped Feasibility Assessment.
  • Susquehanna Township: $30,000, Susquehanna Township Comprehensive Bike, Pedestrian, and Greenway Plan.

Perry County

  • Newport Borough: $520,000, Sidewalks and Curbs Reconstruction Phase 2.
  • Perry County: $1,000,000, County Covered Bridge Bundle Project 1.
  • Perry County: $869,428, County Covered Bridge Bundle Project 2.

A GIS-based story map of the awardees was developed by HATS to aid in meeting discussions and subsequent outreach and communication efforts.

HATS is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties and their 103 municipalities. It works with federal, state and local agencies and officials from throughout South-Central Pennsylvania, including the City of Harrisburg and Capital Area Transit, to meet the transportation needs of an area covering nearly 1,700 square miles.

HATS’ lead staff agency is the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC), located in Harrisburg.

Smart growth toolkit available to municipalities, public

The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission has launched an online “planning toolkit” with the goal of providing local governments with, and educating the public about, the techniques and policies promoting up-to-date smart growth principles.

The toolkit was developed after more than a year of research and preparation by the commission, a land use and transportation planning agency serving Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties and their 103 municipalities.

It received a $37,500 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development for the project.

The toolkit includes fact sheets and reference materials on environmental, subdivision, transportation and zoning topics, along with model ordinances to guide municipalities as they create their own. Under “environmental topics,” visitors to the site can find fact sheets on such subjects as agricultural resource protection, brownfield redevelopment, conservation easements and stormwater management. And “zoning topics” includes such topics as accessory dwelling units, affordable and attainable housing, short-term rentals and warehouse zoning.

Some of the model ordinances in the toolkit cover medical marijuana, riparian forest buffer protection, solar energy systems, stormwater, and subdivision and land development.

The commission’s executive director, Steve Deck, said in a release that the toolkit will be updated regularly.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

Harrisburg-area home prices rise by double digits in February 

With inventory still in short supply in the Harrisburg-area housing market, median sold prices in February jumped by double digits from the year before. 

Prices were up 16.7% – to $270,800 – in Cumberland County; 14.9% – to $193,550 – in Dauphin County; and 22.6% – to $189,900 – in Perry County. 

A little bit more inventory is arriving, but it’s not lasting long, said Sylvia Hess, 2022 president of the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors. 

What the market is experiencing isn’t a new listings issue but an active listings issue, she explained. 

In the current environment, agents might wait just a few days before lowering a list price if offers aren’t forthcoming, Hess said, where before that would have taken weeks. 

In some areas, pickings are very slim in certain price ranges. For example, as of March 16, there were just four single-family detached homes listed under $400,000 in Cumberland Valley School District, she said. 

“There’s still a lot of buyer frustration,” Hess said, and now interest rates are creeping up as well. 

As has been the case for a while, some purchasers are willing to forgo home inspections and other contingencies in order to get their offers accepted. 

Real estate agents wouldn’t counsel buyers to take that risk but that’s the reality of today’s market, Hess said. 

Ease of transaction is what sellers are looking for, she said, including purchases that can be made in cash rather than with a mortgage. 

Here is more data from the February report: 

  • In Cumberland County, closed sales were 196, the same number as a year ago. The average sold to original list price ratio was 100.5%, or just above asking price.
  • Closed sales in Dauphin County were 233, down from 236 in February 2021. The average sold to OLP ratio was 98.2%.
  • In Perry County, closed sales totaled 20, one fewer than the year before, and the average sold to OLP ratio was 94.7%.


Remote workers less likely to be burdened by housing costs, says study 

Workers employed in remote-friendly occupations are much less likely to struggle with housing affordability than those who aren’t, according to a new report. 

“The Remote Work Divide in Housing Cost Struggles,” from Apartment List, examines how the remote work revolution draws attention to this economic disparity. 

The report features national data as well as smaller, metropolitan breakdowns, including the Harrisburg region, a combined statistical area encompassing Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry, Lebanon, Adams and York counties. 

In that six-county area, 10% of workers in remote-friendly occupations live in cost-burdened households (spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs), compared with 19% of those whose jobs must be performed onsite. 

The situation is even more dire for renters as opposed to homeowners. Among renters, the cost burden rate is 35% for onsite workers and 19% for remote-friendly workers. 

There are also major disparities by race even among those in remote-friendly jobs. In the Harrisburg region among that category, 36% of Black employees and 8% of Hispanic workers are cost-burdened, compared with just 9% of white employees. 

The report, based mainly on the pre-pandemic Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey, was supplemented by an analysis of pandemic-era trends from other sources, including Apartment List’s rent growth estimates. 

“Right now, we are seeing historic price growth in both the rental and for-sale housing markets, leaving millions of families priced out, but even before the recent spikes there was a housing affordability crisis across the U.S.,” the report said. 

“The pandemic has spurred a remote work revolution, which is quickly altering the relationship between where Americans’ jobs are located and where they choose to live.” 

Housing situation drives wealth inequality 

Apartment List estimated that approximately a third of the U.S. workforce is employed in jobs that can be performed remotely. (Occupations are classified based on whether or not they’re compatible with remote work, regardless of whether the individual in the job was doing so remotely at the time of data collection.) 

The list of remote-friendly occupations includes software developers, accountants and office clerks, for example; among onsite occupations are retail salespeople, food service workers and construction workers. 

Nationally, 22.2% of employed adults who work in jobs that must be done onsite live in cost-burdened households, compared with 15.8% of those working in remote-friendly occupations, the report noted. So onsite workers are 41% more likely to be burdened by their housing costs. At the severely cost-burdened level, the chasm widens to 70%. 

The median worker in a remote-friendly job earns $59,000 a year, 64% more than the $36,000 median for onsite workers. However, the median monthly housing costs of remote-friendly workers is just 24% greater than that of onsite workers – $1,540 versus $1,242. As a result, workers in onsite occupations are significantly more likely to live in cost-burdened households than their remote-friendly counterparts. 

Onsite employees are also less likely to own homes. Nationwide, 35.8% of employed adults in onsite occupations live in renter households, compared with 29.2% of those in remote-friendly occupations. 

“Housing situation is a big driver of wealth inequality,” said Rob Warnock, senior research associate at Apartment List. 

The ability to work a remote job contributes to that. Because the job is “untethered from where they live,” it provides the opportunity to find a lower-cost living situation, he said. 

That’s a luxury an onsite worker doesn’t have, Warnock said, as proximity to work has to be considered in any housing search. 


Harrisburg home sales begin to cool, sellers’ market remains 

Home sales in the Harrisburg region cooled a bit in September, but activity remains strong. 

“Relatively speaking, in the big picture, it’s still a sellers’ market,” said Adrian Smith, president of the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors. 

September settlements totaled 783 in Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties, 10 fewer than a year ago. Last month’s figure is also 10.3% less than the 877 houses sold in August 2021. 

Smith said he’s not sure how much of the slowdown is due to buyer fatigue and how much is a reflection of low inventory. “It’s a mix of both.” 

In Cumberland, the median sold price for September was $255,000, up 12.7% from a year ago at this time but 3.8% less than the month prior. 

This pattern is repeated for the other two counties. Dauphin recorded a median sold price of $205,000 in September, 15.2% more than in September 2020 and 5.1% less than in August 2021. 

In Perry, the September 2021 median sold price of $217,450 is 20.8% more than the year before and 5.5% lower than the month before. 

The average days on market measurement shows that most inventory is moving quickly. For September, that number was 17 in Cumberland County, 21 in Dauphin County and 31 in Perry County (with its small sample size). 

A year ago, those figures were 29, 29 and 57, respectively. 

And the average sold to original-list-price ratio in September was at least 100% in the three counties, meaning many houses continue to fetch more than the asking price. 

Smith said the busiest segment of the market is homes priced at $300,000 and above. That category in September outpaced the previous two years. 

However, there’s not much available in the lower price ranges. 

Smith said he has seen first-time buyers lose out on homes they wanted because of offers that were $20,000 above the asking price.