'Big Boom' in First-Time Home Buying Expected in Pittsburgh Region

Jan 5, 2015

In this Monday, May 6, 2013, file photo, for sale signs are placed outside of homes in Mt. Lebanon.
Credit AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

The housing market in the 13-county Pittsburgh region is showing “steady progress’ going into 2015, according to Tom Hosack, president of the West Penn Multi-List.

“We project the market will be up, probably the high single digits (percentage increase) and we think that steady increase is exactly what we need. When things jump at some point you have to pay the piper. So we want just steady growth,” Hosack says, not volatility.

He says there’s a pretty good balance right now in the number of people who want to sell their homes and the number of buyers, but there are some price ranges where supply versus demand is a “bit tight.”

“The most in demand is probably the $100,000 to $200,000, but the area that probably is the tightest is the high, maybe call it the 175,000 to 250,000, what I would call the ‘first move-up buyer.’ “

For the first 11 months of 2014, the average sale price of a home rose 2.3 percent to $173,042 and the houses sold three days more quickly — on the market for an average of 82 days. But the number of houses sold decreased by 3 percent, down to 35,712.  

“The main thing was the tightening of credit,” Hosack said. “But we’re seeing a little bit of loosening now, and that’s why we think 2015 is going to be a much better year because the first-time home buyer market is going to be much more prevalent in our market.”

For the last five years, Hosack said, the market has been strong in some of the 13 counties and weak in others, but that is changing. 

“We seem to see a lot more consistency in the overall market and not the disparity," he said. "It’s much more homogenous as a group that everything seems to be stabilizing  in a fairly upward projection.”

According to Hosack, it’s easier to project the Pittsburgh housing market because it’s stable. He bases those projections on median sale price and median income in the market, “and what percentage of median income has to go into home costs, we have one of the lowest; it’s about 17 to 18 percent, national average is about 30 percent which means if credit is available, it’s very, very affordable for first-time buyers to buy in the market. With the changes in credit, we think we’ll see a big boom in first-time home buying.”