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Pittsburgh area's home price rise reflects market strength, real estate experts say

| Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

An average annual increase of 3.3 percent in Pittsburgh-area home prices over the past decade demonstrates the strength of the local housing market, real estate experts said on Friday.

Compared with the housing price bubble and bust cycle nationally — which did not happen here — housing prices in the region kept their value and remained affordable, said Ron Croushore, CEO/owner of Prudential Preferred Realty.

A report released on Friday by RealStats, a South Side-based real estate information company, showed the average price of an existing home in the five-county region rose from $103,068 in 2000 to $154,194 in 2012.

RealStats said Allegheny and Washington counties had annual increases, but Beaver, Butler and Washington counties had some years in which the average declined.

Last year, the average price of $154,194 increased 5.3 percent over 2011's $146,378, the highest yearly increase since 2004 when prices were up 5.1 percent over 2003.

“Nationwide, communities are still struggling to recapture their housing prices, which declined because of the recession,” Croushore said.

Butler County, despite declines in 2005 and 2008, had the best annual average increase during the 12-year period at 4.3 percent, followed by Washington County's 4 percent average.

Allegheny County had an average yearly increase of 3 percent; Westmoreland County, 2.9 percent; and Beaver County, 2.5 percent, the report said.

Last year, with 24,611 existing house sales recorded, was the best since 2007 when 28,302 buyers closed on an existing house, RealStats said.

For Maureen States, owner of Neighborhood Realty Services in Point Breeze, prices have increased because the region has caught up with the “terrible years in the 1980s and early 1990s after the steel industry collapsed and families left the region, causing housing prices to hit bottom.”

“Housing prices could only go up as the region turned from a blue-collar town to a high-tech and medical white-collar community, and that helped increase housing prices,” States said.

For the region to repeat the strong performance of 2012, much will depend on how the city, suburban communities, the county and the school districts deal with increases in property assessments that go into effect in 2013 in Allegheny County, States said.

Croushore expects prices will continue to increase in 2013 amid a shortage of homes for sale.

“Unless we can convince homeowners who want to acquire a larger or higher-priced house to place their homes on the market, the lack of inventory will make those houses on the market more expensive,” Croushore said.

The average price in 2012 of an existing home in Allegheny County was $153,699. It was $113,455 in Beaver County, $220,786 in Butler, $162,526 in Washington, and $134,743 in Westmoreland, RealStats found.

Sam Spatter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7843 or sspatter@tribweb.com.

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