The real estate market is white-hot in Northeast Pennsylvania, same as it is most places, local real estate agents say.
The market will likely not cool off anytime soon, leaving sellers in a strong position, buyers struggling to find affordable homes and agents scrambling to keep up, according to three veteran real estate professionals from Luzerne County.
“It’s crazy,” said Kellyann Kenny, an agent with Christian Saunders Real Estate.
Part of the craziness is the speed at which properties sell once they are put on the market.
“I’ve seen homes sell in a day,” Kenny said. “It’s very much a seller’s market.”
Not only do properties sell quickly, they also fetch unprecedented prices.
Within a day or two of being listed, houses sometimes sell for higher than the seller’s listing price, said real estate agent Joseph P Gilroy Jr., of Kingston, president-elect of the Luzerne County Association of Realtors.
Darren Snyder, a real estate agent in Wilkes-Barre, agreed the market is the most volatile he has seen in his career.
Local agents need to be ready to jump when properties are listed and offers roll in right away — and keep coming, Snyder said.
The combination of a market that shows no sign of slowing down and a relatively low cost of living has recently attracted interest in Northeast Pennsylvania from out-of-state buyers and even some out-of-state agents, Snyder said.
He urged local sellers and buyers to use local agents for real estate transactions.
They are the ones who know the quirks and nuances of the market here, Snyder said.
Going going gone
The average time it takes for a property to go from first listing to closing has decreased drastically, even as prices rose sharply, Gilroy and Snyder said.
The metric “average days on market” in Wilkes-Barre declined from 84 days in 2018 to 39 days in 2021, Snyder said.
In the same time period, the average selling price of a property in Wilkes-Barre increased from $66,769 to $108,204, he said.
It does not look like the seller’s market will slow down any time soon, no matter what happens with the regional, state and national economies, all three Luzerne County agents agreed.
The coronavirus pandemic added to the intensity of the real estate boom in the region, Kenny said.
Workers in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia who suddenly found their home doubled as their virtual office realized they do not need to live within a short drive of their brick and mortar office, she said.
Some of them purchased homes in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, while others are exploring that option, Kenny said.
It all comes down to money.
“They are renting a tiny apartment for $1,500 (per month),” Kenny said. “In our area you can buy a beautiful home for the same amount as a small apartment in the city.”
Not only are existing homes selling for record prices, but new construction continues on lots that were vacant until recently, Snyder said.
While some older residential neighborhoods are built out and do not have much capacity for growth, there is always the option to “build up,” especially in cities such as Wilkes-Barre, Snyder said.
There is room for more multi-story residential buildings in some of the region’s larger towns and cities, he said.
The trend toward downtown or center city living started before the pandemic and the recent real estate boom, but those factors added to the trend, Snyder said.
The state of the market is enticing people to switch career paths and pursue a real estate license, Kenny said.
Some of them will get a quick wake-up call to the reality of working in the highly competitive industry, she said.
“I think there are going to be more agents,” Kenny said. “Being a Realtor looks glamorous now. It’s harder than people think it is.”
The story is much the same in Lackawanna County, said Brittany Kinsman, chief executive officer of the Greater Scranton Board of Realtors.
“We are seeing similar situations to Luzerne County,” Kinsman said. “It is definitely a busy time.”
It is especially busy for properties in the mid-priced segment of the market, with middle-income couples and families buying and selling homes, she said.
“Properties in a certain price range are going pretty fast,” Kinsman said.
The average time a property stays on the market in the Scranton region has decreased significantly during the recent sales boom, she said.
At the same time, the number of real estate agents working the local market has increased, Kinsman said.
However, the boom cannot last forever. Some national real estate organizations predict the market will level off at some point, Kinsman said.
The question is when. It appears that will not happen in the near future in Northeast Pennsylvania.