Housing is in high demand in central Pennsylvania as young families and retirees flock to the area’s spacious suburbs and livable cities. Read on for some handy home buying strategies to help you snag your slice of the action.
The Location You Want, The Home Buying Strategies You Need
Hoping to buy a house in Lancaster County or Harrisburg? You better look sharp. Housing in the area continues to be in high demand as more and more city folk look for greener pastures in the wake of the pandemic.
Areas around Harrisburg and throughout Lancaster County have been drawing increasing numbers of retirees and young families, attracted by the area’s smaller town feel, strong services sector, and relative affordability compared with the big metropolitan areas around New York, Philadelphia, and Washington.
That trend, already rising as Millennials in those cities seek out places to put down roots, has been supercharged by the pandemic-driven work-from-home boom, which makes moving to the area’s leafy suburbs and small cities a no-brainer for many families.
The result: housing stock in Lancaster County rose by 9% in the year to an average sale price of $287,500 in April, and strong demand looks set to continue despite the recent rate hike as housing stock in the area remains in short supply. Houses in the area now remain on the market for an average of just 13 days.
High Demand, Limited Supply
All of these factors make getting into this market very tough, with listing houses receiving multiple offers as soon as they list and many sellers receiving offers well over the asking price. In some cases, desperate buyers were willing to waive contingencies such as financing or home inspections to nail down a deal.
Many of the same trends are being felt further west in Harrisburg. While home prices have not risen as steeply, demand for housing in the area looks set to keep prices steady, with properties going for an average selling price of $210,000 in April.
Getting a foot in the door of the central Pennsylvania housing market is challenging, especially for would-be buyers without a lot of cash on hand. Let’s look at some strategies for getting the upper hand in a tight housing market.
Only bid on houses you are serious about wanting to buy. This may seem obvious, but it is important to take the emotion out of the decision, especially if it is going to involve serious financial sacrifices.
Some buyers now write escalation clauses into their offers, meaning they will increase their offering price to beat any competing offers up to a given limit.
Limiting the contingencies on your offer can make it more attractive to the seller. More sellers are willing to get the upper hand by not requiring that their offer be subject to certain conditions. These include:
- Passing a house inspection
- Meeting a certain appraisal value
- That the seller qualifies for the required financing
Work with your lender to see if it is possible to get your loan pre-underwritten. This will allow you to safely remove the financing contingency from your offer, reducing the time that the property will be in escrow — a tempting proposition for sellers.
Nothing beats an all-cash offer. Cash offers are becoming more common in the tightest property markets. While this may seem out of reach, some companies will lend you the money you need to make a truly unbeatable offer.
Run the Numbers
Strong financing is going to help with any house offer and may help you break into the most competitive markets.
Get the Low Down
Many lenders now offer up to 100% financing on mortgages, offering you extra leverage to get into desirable markets or to lock in a property now before prices rise further. Lenders also offer flexible down payment options on regular loans including 3%, 5%, and 10% down.
Did you know loved ones can also contribute to your down payment with a single tax-free gift of up to $16,000? Talk to relatives who might be able to help you make a down payment on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
There are low down and zero-down payment assistance programs available through the Federal Housing Authority, the USDA, state governments, and the Veterans Administration. Lenders also offer payment assistance programs for military families, first responders, and others.
Come Home to Central Pennsylvania With Home Buying Strategies
If you’re looking to buy a home in central Pennsylvania, it’s worth talking to someone who knows the lay of the land here. Belco Community Credit Union has been opening doors for its members here for decades.
Belco offers a wide variety of loans on great terms, and we’re here to guide you through the process from pre-qualification to final closing. We’re your trusted partner for mortgage lending.
Click below to learn more about our home loan options.