Pittsburgh region's home sales jump 14.7 percent in year

| Friday, March 23, 2012

Home sales in the five-county Pittsburgh region jumped 14.7 percent in February compared with a year ago, rising above 1,300 during the month for the first time in three years.

And for the first time since 2009, the average selling price in the region declined slightly, the result of weaker prices for newly built homes, a small part of the market.

There were 1,311 new and existing homes sold last month compared with 1,143 a year ago, according to RealSTATs, a South Side-based real estate information company. This year, February had one more selling day because of leap year.

"We expect an increase in all sales this year," said George Hackett, president of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services in Pittsburgh.

He is optimistic that the local and national housing market will experience a robust year. And Pittsburgh will continue to see sales and prices outpace other areas of the nation, Hackett said.

All five counties had double-digit increases, with Allegheny County leading with 762 homes sold compared with 691 a year ago. Westmoreland County had sales of 199 homes versus 160 a year ago, followed by Washington County with 131 compared with 108. Beaver County had 111 sales against 92, and Butler County had 108 compared with 92, the report stated.

Sales of existing homes alone were up 15.9 percent, with 1,219 compared with 1,052 a year ago. New homes sales totaled 92 in February, up one from last year.

Ryan Homes, a unit of NVR Inc., led with 26 sales, down from 29 a year ago, followed by Heartland Homes with 15 sales, an increase of 8, and Maronda Homes with 14 sales, up one from last year. S&A Homes Inc. had two sales, and 35 other builders recorded one each, RealSTATs found.

The average price for all sales declined to $140,480, down 1.8 percent from $143,115 a year ago.

The average price decline was experienced only in new home sales, which represents about 7 percent of the market.

New home sales averaged $285,911, down 6.9 percent from the $307,171 a year ago. Existing house prices averaged $129,504, up 0.4 percent from $128,924 last year.

"The last time the average price declined was in the third quarter of 2009," said Daniel Murrer, RealSTATs vice president. New home sales represent "a smaller number of sales involved, and one or two sales could have a major affect on the average price."

The median price of all sales continued to rise, up 6.7 percent to $112,500 compared with $105,000 a year ago. The median price is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less.

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