Aggie Shehadeh, owner of Castle Gate Realty in Lehighton, loves statistics. The statistics she compiles and posts on her firm's website is a good barometer of home sales in Carbon County.
She pointed out that most sales figures from other locations are for the Lehigh Valley region and includes Carbon County. As a result, home sales statistics include Allentown and Bethlehem, but don't provide an accurate snapshot of the local area where conomic conditions differ.
Despite tough times in real estate, Shehadeh says she and her staff are selling a fair share of homes each month. She admits, though, that the average sales prices are much lower than they've been the past six years in all but two Carbon County municipalities.
"It doesn't mean everybody's home value is going down," Shehadeh stressed. "Most people are buying at a lower price point."
She said this indicates that many higher end homes are losing value at an incredible rate.
According to her research for this year, only homes sold in Penn Forest Township and Lower Towamensing Township have higher average sales prices than the 2011 figures.
In Lehighton, the average sales price in 2011 was $112,972. So far this year, the average sales price has been $88,985.
In Nesquehoning, the 2011 average sales price was $81,164, while this year it is nearly $30,000 lower.
Jim Thorpe home sellers got an average of $130,352 last year, while this year the average sales prices has been $83,985 – a whopping $46,467 less.
Regarding the high-end homes, Shehadeh pointed out that presently in Carbon, there are 23 homes valued at $275,000 or more for sale, but none are under contract. Only one such home sold within the past 90 days.
On the other hand, of 171 homes presently for sale with a price tag under $100,000, 28 are under agreement. There were 58 such homes sold in the past 90 days.
Shehadeh said it's not just the economy that is deterring people from buying homes in what she calls the "stratosphere pricing" tier. She noted that in the Panther Valley and Jim Thorpe School Districts, re-assessment occurs immediately upon a house sale. She said this used to happen in the Lehighton and Palmerton districts, but has been discontinued.
This means if a house sells for $200,000 in Jim Thorpe borough, the real estate taxes on a $200,000 home are $5,362.
In Lansford, the annual real estate taxes on a $200,000 home are even higher – $9,052. The total real estate tax on the same valued home in Summit Hill would be $7,398.
She said this is why – with the exception of Penn Forest Township – that people are buying more homes in the school districts where reassessment is not occurring with the home sales.
Looking at the overall sales of Carbon County properties as researched by Shehadeh, so far this year 34 residential properties were sold each in Penn forest Township and Palmerton, 16 were sold in Nesquehoning, 14 each were sold in Franklin Township, Jim Thorpe, and Summit Hill, 13 were sold in Lehighton, and 12 were sold in Towamensing Township.
The National Association of Realtors says that nationally, existing home sales in June declined at the rate of 5.4 percent from the May rate. In June, there were an estimated 4.37 million residential sales, while in May, there had been an estimated 4.62 million sales. The June rate was still better than a year earlier when 4.18 million homes were sold.
Also nationally, the median existing home price was $189,400 in June, which was up 7.9 percent from a year ago.
The Northeastern part of the United States has been lagging nationally in home sales, according to the U.S. census. In July, there were 372,000 homes sold. Of this total, 30,000 were in the northeast, 56,000 were in the Midwest, 180,000 were in the south, and 106,000 were in the west.
Although home sales in Carbon County haven't kept pace in price or volume as many other areas in the country, Shehadeh said many realtors are still keeping busy.
"I now have six agents and I'm still fighting with them to take a day off," she said.
She added that she anticipates home sales to increase.
"This time of the year there will be more people who want to sell so they don't have to heat or insure a property over the weekend," she said.
She noted that it's important, though, to go with a local realtor who knows the area.
Shehadeh said she posts Carbon County statistics monthly on her firm's website: callcgr.com.