Chances are if you bought a home within the past decade in the Lehigh Valley, it’s worth a lot more than what you initially paid for.
The median sales price of a home in Northampton and Lehigh counties jumped an average of 28% or $50,225 in the past 10 years, according to the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors Group. The group tracks properties across Northampton County and Lehigh County, as well as neighboring Carbon County.
Mallory Siegfried, director of communications, attributed the overall hike partially to the overall growth and large development in the region. The close proximity to major entertainment facilities, such as Coca-Cola Park and the PPL Center in Allentown, has made the region more attractive to buyers.
“From businesses and warehouses to residential housing developments and the large entertainment facilities, our area has only become more valuable over time,” Siegfried told lehighvalleylive.com. “And we don’t expect that to slow down, even for a second.”
Currently, the property value boon can be attributed to a region that’s also deeply rooted in the national housing inventory crisis. A lack of inventory across the Lehigh Valley is leading to significant bidding wars with sellers receiving on average 101.3% of their listing prices. The low inventory -- with levels shrinking in May 46.1% to 667 units -- led to the lowest Days on Market recorded since the group’s inception in 1995 of just 15 days.
Compounding the inventory crunch, the coronavirus pandemic brought a wave of individuals and families from neighboring states, such as New Jersey and New York, looking to leave behind high-occupancy locations in search of more rural living. Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York workers found the Lehigh Valley to be a “perfectly positioned” go-between to work remotely -- something the Realtors group expects will continue post-pandemic.
“The Lehigh Valley is prime real estate for those working in New York City or New Jersey -- or elsewhere near our eastern boarder -- who no longer have to commute or who no longer have to commute as often,” Siegfried said. “They now have the option to escape the city a bit, they can have a decent yard for their children or pets, they can still be near a slew of amenities and entertainment options, but also not be that far from their office should they have to go in.”
When it began
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, from 2010 to 2015, 19 Northampton County towns were already starting to see some increases in median home values while another 19 Northampton County towns saw a decrease in their median home values, according to the group’s data.
The largest property value increases in the five-year span were found in Glendon Borough, which saw about a 155% overall increase; Upper Mount Bethel Township, which saw about a 37% overall increase; and Tatamy, which saw an overall estimated 26% increase.
The towns with the largest decreases in median home values during that five-year span were in Chapman Borough, which saw about a 70% overall decrease (from 2011 to 2015 since no 2010 sales data were reported); West Easton, which saw about a 25% decrease; and Plainfield Township, which saw about a 28% decrease.
But Siegfried said some of these ups and downs could be skewed, given the size of the municipality.
Glendon, for example, had one sale in that five-year span and its largest amount of sales was seven in 2016. The borough totals 0.6 square miles next to West Easton on the other side of the Lehigh River and near Interstate 78.
“Because the borough offers such a small sample of sales – just 38 across 10 years – a single sale with a higher price can skew the overall data,” Siegfried noted.
The same argument can be made with West Easton, which saw about a 25% decrease from 2010 to 2015, and Chapman Borough, which showed about a 70% decrease from 2011 to 2015. West Easton had 48 sales in that five-year span while Chapman had a total of 12 sales from the 2011 to 2015 data and 21 sales across the past decade. This is compared with Tatamy, which had 64 sales between 2010 to 2015 and 145 sales throughout the past decade.
The boom in Tatamy, however, can be attributed to the overall landscape of that borough.
Tatamy saw significant changes in commercial and residential development with the creation of the Charles Chrin Interchange on Route 33, which opened in 2015. The interchange, built on what was once farmland in northern Palmer Township and Tatamy, transformed the Chrin Commerce Centre into a commercial hotspot with its close proximity to Interstates 78 and 80.
More than a dozen warehouses since then have gone up at the center. The largest ones are a 1.1-million-square-foot warehouse that opened in 2016 for Amazon fulfillment and a 1-million-square-foot warehouse that opened in 2018 for UPS.
In Lehigh County, from 2010 to 2015, seven towns had an increase in median home values while 18 towns had a drop in median home values.
The largest increases were shown in Lower Milford Township, which saw about a 29% overall increase and Alburtis, which saw about a 21% overall increase. The largest decreases were in Lowhill Township, which saw about a 27% overall decrease and Coplay, which saw about a 22% overall decrease, according to the Realtor group’s data.
Tim Tepes, president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors and co-owner of Northampton Borough-based Assist 2 Sell Buyers & Sellers Realty, said Lower Milford Township and Alburtis both had some major, newer subdivisions with larger lots, leading to higher priced homes. That resulted in the increased property value for those municipalities within the five-year span, he said.
Coplay, which had the approximate 22% decrease, is a small, close-knit community that was largely completed in the 1990s. About 30 building lots remain and no new construction has been on the books in years, Tepes said.
“All sales in Coplay are resales,” he added. “The homes in Coplay are well-built, but because the town is an older community, many of the homes need major updating. The age and lack of new construction can account for the price decrease seen in this community.”
Lowhill Township, which saw the approximate 27% overall decrease, is significantly rural, featuring mostly open space and older farmland. The township has stayed this way for years, with no major subdivisions built and very little new construction, Tepes pointed out.
“Because of these factors, home prices in this township have remained relatively stagnant,” he said.
Northampton County municipalities began to see extreme median value hikes in the past five years, spanning 2016 to 2020, according to the Realtors group data.
The majority of towns had increases with just two towns showing decreases. The largest overall increases were again in Tatamy, which saw about 148%; Glendon, which saw about 105%; and Bath, which saw about 98%.
Chapman Borough (no sales data available for 2019) again saw an overall decrease from 2016 to 2020 of about 36% and Upper Nazareth Township, saw an overall decrease of about 9% in that five-year span.
The Tatamy hike again can be attributed to the Charles Chrin Interchange on Route 33 in 2015. Upper Nazareth completed its major subdivision, Eagles Landing, about two to three years ago, Tepes said.
“Prices were booming and then things leveled off as the homes were sold and the project ended,” Tepes said of Upper Nazareth.
Tepes believes the township’s age 55-and-over cottage community, Heritage Village by Morningstar Senior Living Inc., might be playing a role in the overall decreased median value data. That project was completed in Upper Nazareth about two years ago.
“The housing option costs were not nearly as high as the larger, single-family development of Eagles Landing,” Tepes said. “The subdivision completion and lighter prices in the 55-plus community made it appear as though prices in Upper Nazareth had decreased, but the overall health of the community is clear and remains.”
In Lehigh County, all municipalities across the board showed an increase in median property values from 2016 to 2020 with no decreased values.
The highest increases were in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, which saw about a 90% increase in overall median sales; Washington Township, Lehigh County, which saw about a 65% increase in overall median sales; and Lower Milford Township, again, which saw about a 62% overall increase in median sales.
Future financial boon
The majority of homeowners across the Lehigh Valley are experiencing a real estate boon in their investments from 2010 to 2020 with no signs of the hike abating into mid-2021, the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors says.
In looking at the overall past decade, the largest median price increases for Northampton County continues to be in Glendon Borough, in which the median home priced at $103,500 in 2010 rose about 129% to $237,500 2020; in Tatamy, in which the median home priced at $155,000 in 2010 rose about 195% to $457,498 2020; and Upper Mount Bethel Township, in which the median home priced at $147,250 in 2010 rose about 85% to $272,000 in 2020.
In Lehigh County, the largest median price increases from 2010 to 2020 were in Lower Milford Township, in which the median home priced at $275,000 in 2010 rose about 82% to about $500,000 in 2020; Washington Township, in which the median home priced at $189,000 in 2010 rose about 55% to about $292,750 in 2020; and Macungie, in which the median home priced at $167,500 in 2010 rose about 55% to about $260,250 in 2020.
Chapman Borough saw a slight decrease in overall median sales value (with no sales data available for 2010, 2015 or 2019) at about 17% when calculating 2011-2014; 2016-2018; and 2020 data. So did Upper Nazareth Township again, decreasing by about 7% in median value from $305,000 in 2010 to $282,500 in 2020. There were no decreases at all in median sales prices overall from 2010 to 2020 in Lehigh County.
In Northampton County, the towns that saw the smallest increases in value, however, were Allen Township, which increased about 5%; Plainfield Township, which increased about 12%; and Pen Argyl, which increased about 14% -- from 2010 to 2020
Plainfield Township, similar to Lowhill Township, remains rural with its open land and older farms, Tepes said, noting the small increase in median value is mainly due to the lack of any major subdivisions or newer construction projects.
In Lehigh County, the towns that saw the smallest increases in value, were in Hanover Township, which increased about 0.13%; Lowhill Township, which increased about 3%; and North Whitehall Township, which increased about 8% -- from 2010 to 2020.
What did all the roller coaster movement throughout the past decade mean for Lehigh Valley homeowners? Big gains for some, even without accounting for the wild market changes since the coronavirus pandemic began.
For sellers, the median time these listings stay on the market -- year-to-date as of May 2021 -- has dropped by 22 days, and these houses are now selling in 20 days, according to the latest market report by the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors.
Tepes expects even notoriously “sleepy areas,” such as Wind Gap in the Slate Belt, to start waking up with land available to build on.
North Catasauqua hasn’t had a new subdivision in a while, but Tepes expects that to soon change when the Willow Brook Golf Course is transformed into a residential community, known as the Estates at Willow Brook. The price of homes in that development is expected to start at $450,000, he said.
He described East Allen Township as another “noteworthy, up-and-comer” with an age 55-and-over subdivision on the books. That new community is expected to have homes starting at $500,000, Tepes said.
Palmer and Forks townships will be the towns to watch in the future, with a growth path already created by the Route 33 and Interstate 78 corridors.
“New housing developments and commercial opportunities are springing up all over these two municipalities,” Tepes said.
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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at email@example.com.