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Home sales up sharply in Pittsburgh region

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 12:34 p.m.
A Keller Williams sale sign sits in front of this house on Brighton Road, Wednesday. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Sales of new and existing homes “exploded” in the Pittsburgh region in October because of falling mortgage interest rates and buyers motivated by possible tax law changes, experts said on Wednesday.

Sales were up 28.5 percent from October 2011, said RealStats, a South Side-based real estate information company.

“The region's home sales exploded as builders doubled their output for the month in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, and buyers gobbled up ... more homes,” said Daniel A. Murrer, RealStates vice president.

Allegheny County recorded 124 new house sales in October, compared with 61 a year ago, while Westmoreland had 33 sales compared with 14.

There were 2,546 houses sold in October, compared with 1,982 a year ago, with 241 of them new houses, up 66.2 percent over the 145 for October 2011.

There were 2,305 existing houses sold, a 25.5 percent increase over the 1,837 from the same month last year.

The National Association of Realtors said the inventory of existing homes nationally is at a 10-year low. At the current rate, inventories represent a 5.4-month supply, the leanest supply since 2006.

Average rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.31 percent, lowest on records dating back to 1971, according mortgage buyer Freddie Mac, down from the 3.34 percent last week, the previous record low. Lower rates have resulted in home sales and new construction to rise, providing a much needed boost to the economy, it said.

“There are three factors why I believe October was a strong month,” said Howard Hoddy Hanna III, chairman and CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, the region's largest agency.

First, prices nationally are rising and that helps provide a momentum to the local market as well, he said. Even the Case-Shiller Index of 20 major cities the past four or five months has shown an increase in prices.

Second, mortgage interest rates are so low.

And third, in anticipation of the election and its results, plus the possibility of the tax law changing, many homeowners decided to sell or others to buy, he said.

“And the good weather of October didn't hurt,” he said.

George Hackett, president, Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services and president of the West Penn Multi-List Inc., said, “This has been a positive year locally for housing ... and October was just a continuation of the good months we've had practically all year.

“This is a sellers' market and although our inventory of houses is low, houses placed on the market, if they are priced rightand with mortgage rates low, they tend to sell.”

The average price of an existing house locally was $155,938, up 5.2 percent over $148,182, while the average price of a new house reached $305,203, up 2.6 percent over $297,364, RealStats said.

The median price of existing houses — half of sales were above and half below the price — was $125,000, a 6.9 percent increase over $116,900 a year ago.

NVR Inc., parent company of Ryan Homes, led with 64 new home sales, with Heartland Homes Inc. at 35 and Maronda Homes with 33. Both NVR and Heartland increased their sales by 11 over 2011 totals.

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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