For Stephanie Chase, there has been no better time to go house hunting than now.
Chase, a Carlisle resident and office manager who is married with two children, had been waiting out a market that seemed destined to finally hit bottom.
“I know (interest) rates kept going down, but I still had issues as far as being confident that it was the right time because the market was weak and I just didn’t want to get something only to find that I could have gotten a better deal if I waited say another month or two,” said Chase, who hopes to finalize a purchase in the borough next month.
Last week, industry experts including Howard “Hoddy” Hanna, CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, reported that home values have finally rebounded from an extended recession that saw record foreclosures and homeowners falling behind on their mortgage payments.
In Carlisle and Cumberland County, the market is stronger than it has been since 2007, Hanna said during a stop in Carlisle last week.
“It’s the first time we’ve seen real positive trends for a six-month period in the marketplace since the second quarter in 2007,” Hanna said.
Locally, the average sale price rose from $174,253 a year ago to $175,697 this year – a 1 percent increase, Hanna said. The figures are year-to-date through June.
According to Central Pennsylvania Multi-listings, 102 more homes sold in Cumberland County this year than last year during the first six months, which is a 10 percent increase.
The percent increase regionally is huge, especially when looking at trends, according to Hanna.
“Look, in 2007 the average sales price was down 2 percent, and then in 2008 it was down 4 to 5 percent,” he said. “In 2009, the average sales price was down 5 percent and in 2010 it was down 3 percent. So, this has been a big turnaround.”
Other markets cannot boast the same success, Hanna said.
“A lot of strong markets on the East Coast were not up in the first six months of this year,” said Hanna, who has about 130 offices in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York.
Nationwide, home values rose 0.2 percent year-over-year to a median $149,300 during the second quarter, the first annual increase since 2007, according to the real estate listing site Zillow.
Nationally, prices were up 2.1 percent from the first quarter.
However, even though June marked the fourth consecutive month of home value increases, overall home prices are still down almost 24 percent since April 2007, when Zillow began to track home values.
“It seems clear that the country has hit a bottom in home values,” Zillow’s chief economist Stan Humphries told CNN. “The housing recovery is holding together despite lower-than-expected job growth, indicating that it has some organic strength of its own.”
Still, Hanna said everyone has to be careful when looking at national trends.
“Real estate is like the weather. It’s hard to get one temperature for the whole country,” Hanna said. “You can’t compare what’s going on in Florida and in California to what’s going on here.”
In Central Pennsylvania, Howard Hanna’s year-to-date closed sales units are up 38 percent.
While Hanna said he is pleased to see sales volume up as much as it is this year, he said he is also impressed that the average price of homes sold in Central Pennsylvania is above what it was last year at this time.
“The increase in rental prices over the past three years and all-time low interest rates continue to encourage the first time buyer to purchase a home rather than rent,” Hanna said. “And, contrary to popular opinion, mortgage money is available.”