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Economy & Business

Pittsburgh Area Sees Strong Home Sales For 2nd Straight Year

Home sales in the Pittsburgh region jumped 7.2 percent last year compared to 2012. 

Barbara Kohl, chief operating officer of the West Penn Multi-List, said the numbers are “surprising” because the previous year also had “strong growth.”

“Everything clicked, consumer confidence came back, interest rates stayed low; the only problem is we don’t have enough inventory,” Kohl said.

Simply put, more houses sold in the 13-county region last year than 2012, buyers scooped them up more quickly and paid more for them. Last year 39,233 homes were purchased, compared to 36,588 in 2012, at an average price of $168,380 — up about $2,500, and they were sold more quickly — 85 days on average versus 93 the previous year.

She said it's definitely a sellers' market, and the strongest demand for houses comes from “second time mover uppers,” current owners looking for homes in the “$200,000 to $300,000 range.”

According to Kohl, the shortage of available homes for sale includes existing stock and new houses. 

“The inventory on new construction was low because for several years now the banks have been very skimpy on the money they’ve put forth to builders because of the economic crunch we had and the glut in new construction,” she said.

Allegheny County led the way in 2013 with a nearly 11 percent increase in homes sold with Beaver, Clarion, Fayette, Greene and Somerset counties also showing “notable growth,” according to Kohl.  She said there were strong sales in communities near Marcellus Shale drilling because “there aren’t enough rental properties” and so these industry workers are looking to buy.

While 2013 was a stronger year overall in residential real estate, last month’s numbers were off from December 2012: 15 fewer homes sold, with a $6,500 drop in the average price, and they were on the market 10 days longer.

So is December’s decline a portent for 2014? No, said Kohl, “I’m still very positive. If people are looking for an investment, what better investment for any extra money you might have is to buy a new home. It’s still the most solid investment you can have.”