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Evidence indicates 'affordability' of housing in state

| Sunday, Oct. 6, 2002

Compared to the rest of the nation, the "affordability" of single-family housing in Pennsylvania appears to stand up pretty well, according to evidence presented by a real estate industry trade group.

As noted in a recent edition of the Pennsylvania Realtor, a publication of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, or PAR, the fact that housing is relatively affordable here is reason to believe the state won't anytime soon see a burst of the so-called "housing bubble," with prices due for a major fall because they may be artificially high.

"The most important evidence that a price bubble does not exist in Pennsylvania is the affordability of homes," said the association.

It cites the National Association of Realtors' Housing Affordability Index, which judges afforability on the basis of mortgage interest rates, the price of a home and the owner's income.

For the second quarter of 2002, Pennsylvania comes in at 154.5 on the index, almost 22 points above the 132.6 ranking for the nation as a whole.

That's good, because the higher the number on the index, the more affordable a median priced home is to a median income buyer.

Looking at the numbers, the index found the median home price in Pennsylvania was $123,500, compared to the U.S. median price of $157,700. The median income here was $47,536, compared to $52,429 for the U.S.

Based on the mortgage rate for the state during the period, 6.75 percent, the monthly payment for a homeowner in Pennsylvania would be $641, or about 16.2 percent of monthly income. That is better than the 18.9 percent for the median home buyer in the nation, who had to come up with $824 for the monthly payment, based on the national mortgage rate figure of 6.82 percent.

One troubling point about the state's 154.5 total on the index is that it dropped from 171.2 in the first quarter.

However, the association said that is still relatively high compared to recent values. The index ranking would have to fall to around 100 for there to be worry about a pricing bubble, the association maintained.

22-HOME DEVELOPMENT

Coldwell Banker Real Estate Pittsburgh will market The Woods at Sewickley, a 22-home development on Red Mud Hollow Road in Sewickley Hills, Allegheny County.

Home packages start at $700,000 and each lot will be at least one acre in size with a minimum of 150 feet of frontage.

Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2003. Builders are Barrington Homes, Londonbury Homes, Montour Homes, Pohl Construction Inc. and Scott Fetteroff Builders. Those interested in further information should contact Coldwell Banker's New Construction Division.

HANNA MARKETING CHESNIC MANOR

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services will market Chesnic Manor, a 16-unit townhome development in North Strabane Township, Washington County.

Each of the townhomes can be built with either two or three bedrooms and a two-car garage. Prices for the units begin at $169,900. Lane McFarland Builders is the developer of the community and the home builder. Those interested in further information may call Howard Hanna's South office.

MATRIX SIGNS LEASE

Matrix Solutions Inc., a software media company, signed a 3 1/2-year lease for 7,300 square feet of space in Building II of the Bill Few Financial Center, a three-story office building at 4900 Perry Highway in Ross Township.

Built in 1950 and renovated in 2001, the 18,000-square-foot building is now 66 percent leased, according to Carol Cavanaugh of Allegheny Commercial Real Estate Services, or ACRES, who represented both the landlord and tenant in the transaction.

Separately, Cavanaugh also handled negotiations for the seven-year lease that Dr. John A. Stuart signed for about 1,570 square feet at Stonewood East, Building 3000, in Wexford. Stuart, whose specialty is internal medicine, plans to take occupancy of the first floor space at the 25,000-square-foot office building in November. The structure, built in 2001, is now 95 percent leased.

Cavanaugh also represented Sally's Beauty, a 20-year-old Dallas-based beauty supply distributor, in negotiations on a five-year lease for 2,000 square feet of retail space at Northland Medical Center, 4721 McKnight Road, McCandless Township. McKnight Properties represented the landlord in this transaction.

The outlet is open at the 20,000-square-foot building, which is now 95 percent occupied.

LICENSE AGREEMENT

ASCC Inc., a Cranberry Township-based information, communication and technical services firm, has signed a license agreement with the Soffer Organization, a Pittsburgh-area based development company, to provide communications services to a number of projects developed and-or managed by Soffer and its Penn Center Realty Services unit, in the region.

Soffer developments involved include Penn Center East in Wilkins Township, Penn Center West in Robinson Township and the still-under-construction South Side Works in Pittsburgh.

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