Hi and Happy New Year!  Let me start my first Lehigh Valley (LV) newsletter of 2012 with some good news.  The current inventory of homes for sale in the Valley is around 7 months, down from 12.5 months last year at this time.  This means our local market is moving in the direction of having a better balance between supply and demand.

While I don’t think Valley prices have hit bottom yet, I think we are very close!  Based on the Real Estate information I’ve seen recently, the 2012 predictions are for a 3-4% decline in home prices nationally compared to the 9% decline we experienced last year.  The LV average sales price was $182,000 for November, down approximately 12% from $200,000 last November.

Nationally, home sales were up a little over 12% while Lehigh Valley sales were up a little over 13% (seasonally adjusted).  Realtors are being told that more foreclosures will hit our local market in the 2nd quarter of 2012.  Since these distressed sales usually sell below market value, it remains to be seen if this might be a wildcard
effecting local sales.  If you or anyone you know has any real estate needs or questions, please contact me and my team of LV Home Experts.

GET SURPRISING INSIGHTS INTO THE MIND OF A HOME BUYER BY WATCHING THIS MONTH’S VIDEO:

Interest Rates
Mortgage rates continued to push historic lows in November, dropping another .08 points, to 3.99% for a 30-year fixed mortgage.  “Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages have been at or below 4 percent for the last eight weeks and now are almost 0.9 percentage points below where they were at the beginning of the year, which means that today’s home buyers are paying over $1,200 less per year on a $200,000 loan,” said Frank Nothaft, Vice President of Freddie Mac.

Home Sales
Sales among existing homes rose in November by a seasonally adjusted 4%, to 4.42 million units up from 4.25 million in October, and are 12.2 percent above last year at this time.  Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR said, “Sales reached the highest mark in 10 months and are 34 percent above the cyclical low point in mid-2010 – a genuine sustained sales recovery appears to be developing.”

Home Price
While median home prices in November rose to $164,200 from $162,500 in October, they are down 3.5% from a year ago.  David Stiff, chief economist at Fiserv, stated, “Housing affordability has improved dramatically because of declines in both prices and mortgage interest rates.  The monthly mortgage payment for a median-priced single-family home is now $700, compared to $1,140 in 2006—a decline of nearly 40%.” (Based on 2011 Q2 figures)

Inventory
With increased levels of sales, the inventory of homes on the market continued to decrease, falling by 5.8% in November to 2.58 million homes available for sale, or an equivalent of a seven month supply at the current sales pace.  This positive sign of increasing sales and lower inventories are keeping the housing market on track for stabilizing home prices and a stronger housing sector.

Buyer/Seller Tip
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to sell your home, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Although the traditional home-buying season starts in the spring, here are some reasons why listing your home now, rather than waiting, could prove to be a smart decision.

On average, the number of home sales in January drops almost by half from the previous year’s peak.  A house that is priced right and staged well will stand out even more with less competition.

Lenders, home inspectors, movers, and other vendors also see a seasonal dip in transactions.  This could mean a quicker, easier, and possibly cheaper time to buy, sell, and move.

Even if you’re not ready quite yet, now is a great time to start the conversation with your local real estate agent.  He or she can give you pointers on which repairs and preparations to tackle first, and which ones may not be necessary, saving you time and money.  Starting now can help you capture the most buyers by busy season.

Contact Barb Bottitta for any and all of your Lehigh Valley area questions, as well as real estate needs, as I am always happy to help in any way that I can!  You can also connect with me on my Facebook Page.