For the past two years, housing sales in Bucks County have sizzled in a few places while percolating throughout the remainder of the county, said Realtor Jackie Hillgrube of Coldwell Banker Hearthside in Newtown.
“What I’m seeing now is that there isn’t just one area that isn’t a seller’s market,” she said. ”We have a severe inventory shortage.”
The median home value is up 8.5% from January 2020 with houses selling in nearly half the time – in 36 days compared to 61 days last year, according to Coldwell Banker Hearthside Market Research.
You have to be fearless
Hillgrube, normally a seller’s agent, says she’s taken to knocking on doors and calling disenchanted sellers who took their homes off the market a year or so ago when they couldn’t get the price or conditions they were looking for.
“I have calls coming in from buyers but there’s absolutely no place for them to go. It’s booming,” said Hillgrube, who’s been a Realtor since 2004.
Sellers who a year ago needed to make their home look pristine to pique buyers’ interest are now able to get multiple offers for a home with just a solid coat of paint.
“As long as the roof is still up, the foundation isn’t cracked and the stove works, you go into multiple offers,” she said.
Hillgrube cautioned sellers from getting too greedy, though, as buyers are still savvy and will drive up the price of a desirable property on their own.
“They want it perfect but will settle for anything in a decent area,” she said.
Know what buyers want
Home buyers are flocking to the water, whether it’s a house in a river town such as Bristol Borough or New Hope or just a home with a pool, she said. Pool companies she knows of have a two-year waiting list.
“People want to be outdoors and Bucks County has been known for that,” she said.
Buyers are relocating from New York, Philadelphia, Connecticut and Princeton, lured by the easy access to major roadways such as I-95 and the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes. They’re looking for luxury homes that sell for $1 million or more.
“That’s probably the biggest change. Your luxury market, up to $2.5 million, is hot and will go into multiple offers,” she said.
Know what's hot
Bristol Borough has become a hot commodity of late.
“It’s a river town that got no respect. Today it’s a hidden gem,” she said. For example, the builder of a riverfront condo complex with units selling for $600,000 went bankrupt a few years ago. Now those units are virtually sold out.
“And New Hope is on fire because of the retail and destination players,” such as Chef Jose Garces’ Stella’s restaurant and the Bucks County Playhouse.
Hillgrube predicts that the hot market will soon translate to higher mortgage rates.
“The lack of inventory, the abundance of buyers and evolving steam in the economy is already causing an uptick in mortgage rates. When rates tick up just a decimal this adds more fuel to the buyer frenzy. Soon there will be nobody left on the sidelines. The world will be trying to buy a home,” she said. “There will be no sleep for realtors.”
To manage the market’s volatility, Hillgrube advises both buyers and sellers to deal with a Realtor who will keep them ahead of the fast changing conditions.
“If you have an intelligent selling agent, your home will go into multiple offers if you’ve set your price at market value or slightly above,” she said.
“For buyers, engage a Realtor who thinks out of the box, one who’s willing to knock on doors because there’s no inventory in this marketplace.”