Spring's real estate market was the Philadelphia area's best since the housing bubble burst in mid-2007, with significant increases in prices and sales volume in almost every county.
Between April 1 and June 30, the region's median price for a single-family home rose to $217,000, from $212,000 in the same period last year, according to an analysis of second-quarter sales for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services by Kevin Gillen, chief economist for Meyers Research and senior research fellow at Drexel University's Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation.
Sales volume rose 15 percent, to 18,325 from 15,961 in second quarter 2014, Gillen said, and the average time a house spent on the market dropped to 69 days from 95 days regionwide in the same period last year.
"People were back in the market, that's for sure," said S. Clark Kendus, of D. Patrick Welsh Real Estate in Swarthmore, Delaware County.
"Homes are flying off the market in days, especially if the price is right and everything that needs to be done has been done to the listing," said Frank Dolski, an agent with Coldwell Banker Hearthside Real Estate in Lahaska, Bucks County.
Using data from Trend Multiple Listing Service, Gillen's analysis covered the city and 10 counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery in Pennsylvania; Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Mercer, and Salem in New Jersey; and New Castle in Delaware. The analysis did not include sales of condominiums, which, though they are individually owned, are generally characterized in the industry as multifamily housing.
Regional price gains continued to lag those in Philadelphia itself, Gillen said. The city's second-quarter median price increased about 20.52 percent year over year, while for the region including the city the median increased 2.4 percent. Next highest was Chester County, with a 4.84 percent increase in median price.
(Median is the middle value: Half the homes sold for more, half for less.)
Median price dropped only in Camden County, analysis of the data showed.
Year over year, price appreciation or value - which compares a home's recent sale price with its previous sale - also favored the city over the suburbs, as measured by Gillen. Overall, the region saw a 2.1 percent bump. Price appreciation in Philadelphia was 5.2 percent; it was 1 percent in the other 10 counties. (Nationwide, price appreciation was 4.8 percent year over year.)
Boosts in Philadelphia were not limited to Center City and its bubbling adjacent neighborhoods.
"Northeast Philadelphia is experiencing the same run-up of prices, and even more if the home is updated and modernized," said Christopher J. Artur, of Artur Real Estate in Mayfair. "The real estate market has been in a great place for sellers."
Carol McCann, of Re/Max Millennium in Fox Chase, sells in both the city and the surrounding suburbs, "and I could definitely see that inventory was lower and homes were selling much faster and closer to asking price in the city."
"In areas in Northeast Philly, for example, if the homes were priced where they should be, [they] sold in less than 30 days," McCann said. "I listed four last week that went in less than 10 days."
Prices in the region dropped 23 percent in the real estate downturn between August 2007 and 2012. Since then prices have increased 9 percent, Gillen said.
The bump in spring-market median prices from 2014 to 2015 might not seem "very dramatic," he said, because sale prices "actually fell during some of the intervening months before rising in the second quarter."
"It is not that prices were still declining," Gillen said, "but rather that they've just been seesawing . . . ever since they stopped their post-bubble continuous decline three years ago."
Because all real estate is highly localized, it can be hard to find universal truths about the region's market. This time, however, agents, buyers and sellers generally agree the market showed improvement in the spring.
For example, Kendus' numbers show that the largest year-over-year increase in median sale price in Delaware County was 25.8 percent, to $415,000 from $330,000, for towns in the Rose Tree-Media School District.
Meanwhile, South Jersey - though still struggling with more than its share of distressed housing (bank repossessions, foreclosures, and short sales), also showed some strength.
Mike Lentz, of Keller Williams Real Estate in Sicklerville, said June median prices for Gloucester County dropped 23 percent between 2007 and 2013 - from $240,000 to $185,000. But the June 2015 median was $203,000, a 9.7 percent increase from the bottom in 2013, he said.
"We did see an extremely strong first and second quarter," said Val Nunnenkamp, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach in Marlton, with an uptick in prices of about 2 percent to 3 percent overall, and with higher-end homes in Haddonfield and Moorestown up 3 percent to 5 percent.
Though the third quarter has been seasonably slow thus far, "I think the fourth quarter may be a repeat of the second," Nunnenkamp said.
The region's for-sale inventory was lower in the second quarter than in the same 2014 period, Gillen found. The shortage of listings has been falling heavily on the first-time-buyer range of $120,000 to $345,000.
Still, Kathleen and Anthony Cieri were able to buy their first house - a three-bedroom, two-bath, fully renovated rowhouse with detached garage in Sellersville, Bucks County, that they closed on in June.
"It took less then a month to find what we wanted and in our price range," Kathleen Cieri said.
It took eight months for graphic artist Allison Paulmier and her carpenter-husband, Sebastian, to find their "cute 1,600-square-foot 1920s rowhouse" near the Allen Lane station in West Mount Airy. But that had nothing to do with a shortage of listings.
"We were looking further out in the Glenside/Wyndmoor area, but decided that we loved Philly too much to leave," Paulmier said. She also acknowledged that she "fell in love instantly with pretty much every house we saw," while her husband "spent the entirety of the tour pointing out everything wrong with the place."
They "ended up going slightly above our initial price point, but because Philly taxes are so low it balanced out the mortgage payments," Paulmier said.
First-time buyers Lye Choing and Nicole Florestina-Telan Choing spent two years searching for their two-story detached Colonial in Lansdale, Montgomery County.
A major stumbling block, she said, was "the limited supply of houses in our desired area, as well as not having a good Realtor." The couple was referred to agent Lyzel Buella, of Re/Max Services, "who helped us find our dream house."
In Middletown Township, Delaware County, Leslie K. Radowill sold her home of 24 years and downsized to one in Aston during the second quarter.
"The best part was selling my home so quickly," in just 17 days with seven offers, Radowill said.
Weichert Realtors agent Barbara M. Mastronardo, who sells in Delaware and Chester Counties and handled both transactions, said buyers and sellers appeared highly motivated, with an increase in value of 1 percent to 3 percent.
In Bucks County, "the number of homes closed was 12 percent higher at the end of the second quarter this year than it was last year," said Martin Millner, of Coldwell Banker Hearthside in Yardley.
"A home needs the right stuff," said Coldwell Banker Hearthside's Dolski, with buyers paying an average of 98 percent of list price.
"That's the new normal," Dolski said.
Robert Acuff of Re/Max Services in Blue Bell, a director of Trend MLS, said that overall "the market has been gaining strength. While prices are stable, volume has increased noticeably."
The consensus, Acuff said, is that prices will drift up in the 2 percent-to-3 percent range through the balance of the year - a healthy rate.
Noted Weichert Realtors regional vice president John Bilek: "We're seeing the market follow the cyclical 17-year pattern that we've seen over the past 80 years. We are two years into an eight- to 10-year run-up."
BY THE NUMBERS
One-year gain in median prices in Phila. in the second quarter of 2015.
One-year drop in median prices
in Camden County.
in Chester County.
One-year gain in number of houses sold in the Philadelphia area.EndText