Page 36 - Network Magazine Winter 2019
P. 36

                               Looking Back to Look Ahead: 2018 Market Wrap Up and What to Expect in 2019
Consumers should expect home sales to flatten and home prices to continue to increase, though at a slower pace, according to a residential housing and economic forecast session at the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) 2018 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Novem- ber.
As Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, presented his 2019 housing and economic forecast, he was joined onstage by Lisa Sturtevant, President of Lisa Sturtevant & Associates, LLC, who discussed the importance of affordable housing in the U.S.
Much of Yun's presentation focused on recent declines in home sales, but in the context of long-term trends to illustrate the housing market's actual performance.
"Ninety percent of markets are experiencing price
gains while very few are experiencing consistent price declines," said Yun. "2017 was the best year for home sales in ten years, and 2018 is only down 1.5 percent year to date. Statistically, it is a mild twinge in the data and a very mild adjustment compared to the long-term growth we've been experiencing over the past few years."
In Lehigh and Northampton counties, year to date, home sales are up 0.1 percent, according to the Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® most recent market report released for October. The Median Sales Price is up 8.1 percent. The Lehigh Valley is known, as seen here, for following national housing trends. Carbon County, which is its own unique market, has been experiencing a stellar year, partly due to homebuyers looking for inventory not currently available in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area. In Carbon, home sales and home prices, year to date, are up 13.4 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
As to the possibility that we are currently experiencing a small bubble, Yun was quick to shut down any specula- tion. "The current market conditions are fundamentally
different than what we were experiencing before the recession ten years ago," said Yun. "Most states are reporting stable or strong market conditions, housing starts are under-producing instead of over-producing, and we are seeing historically low foreclosure levels, indicating that people are living within their means and not purchasing homes they cannot afford. This is a stronger, more stable market compared to the loosely regulated market leading up to the bust."
Yun’s words on foreclosure levels hold true for the Greater Lehigh Valley. According to October market statistics for Lehigh and Northampton counties, only
1.1 percent of the available market (23 properties) were labeled as lender-mediated. In Carbon County, lender- mediated properties came in at 0.6 percent (two proper- ties). Lender-mediated properties are those marked as foreclosed, REO, bank owned, pre-foreclosure or short sale.
Both panelists also discussed housing affordability. While the U.S. is experiencing historically normal levels of affordability, potential buyers may be staying out of the market because of perceived problems with affordability. "NAR research shows that a lower percentage of con- sumers think that now is a good time to buy, while more are indicating that it is a good time to sell," said Yun. "Problems could arise if the market is flooded with too many sellers and not enough buyers. Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case, as indicated by months' supply of inventory at below five months."
Again following the national trend but marching a
tad lower, the Months Supply of Inventory for Lehigh and Northampton counties in October came in at 3.0 months. In Carbon County, the Months Supply of Inven- tory was 6.1 months. Carbon has been a more balanced market between buyers and sellers throughout the year, while Lehigh and Northampton counties have seen more buyers than there are sellers.

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