Real estate sales in rural Pennsylvania are booming

With their daughter Abby ready to graduate from college, Kevin and Cathy Glikes of Robinson, Pa., Went out to buy a second home.

What they found for sale online was a comfortable three bedroom, 2 ½ bath condominium at Seven Springs Mountain Resort which Cathy Glikes, 58, said she and her husband, 63, quickly fell for lover.

“When we saw our house, it was right at home,” said Cathy Glikes, a retired preschool teacher. “It’s a nice getaway away from the big city. It was just the right time.

Now is the right time for many others to relocate to rural Pennsylvania – even Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Texas – according to a new report from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. But with the move, there have been traffic jams on winding country roads and concerns about the speed of broadband, garbage collection and other municipal services that may be lacking in small towns.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, an advisory group to the General Assembly, found that the number of home sales and median home prices had skyrocketed in five rural Pennsylvania counties at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – from March to December 2020 – compared to the same period in 2019.

The study looked at Monroe, Pike, Wayne, Susquehanna and Somerset counties, where the Glikes bought their condo about two months ago.

Along with an increasing number of property transfers, median house prices have skyrocketed.

In Somerset County, for example, the median price of homes before the pandemic was $ 49,000, according to the study, which was based on state taxes and records from county appraisers.

At the height of the pandemic, the median home price exploded 200% to $ 150,000. Actual selling prices were sometimes much higher: the Glikes, for example, paid $ 316,523 for their condo.

Most of the newcomers to Somerset County from out of state came from urban areas, where rates of COVID-19 were higher than in rural areas when the pandemic hit.

Wayne, Forest and Pike counties had the highest percentage increases in residential property transfers when comparing the March to December periods in 2019 and 2020, each registering an increase of over 40%.

Even Fayette County, which was not part of the study, saw an 11.6% increase in residential property sales between 2019 and 2020, despite a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases that nearly overwhelmed the city. Uniontown Hospital of WVU Medicine in December 2020.

Armstrong, Philadelphia and Washington counties saw the largest percentage decline in property transfers during this period, each with a drop of more than 19%.

“The people of the big cities want to escape,” said Patricia A. Peifer, recorder for Somerset County. The office collects a 2% real estate transfer tax which is distributed among the state, local municipalities and school districts. “Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, Indian Lake – we’ve seen a big increase. “

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According to the study, businesses and schools have been closed due to COVID-19. But the influx of newcomers to rural areas has also raised concerns about the speed of broadband, garbage collection and other municipal services, according to State Senator Lisa Baker, a Republican from Luzerne County. .

“Business closures, job restructuring and health problems have caused more people to relocate,” she said at a press conference in Harrisburg on Wednesday when the report was released. “Traffic congestion – something we only saw during the seasonal summer months – is now becoming a concern all year round.”

At the press conference, State Senator Gene Yaw, a Lycoming County Republican who chairs the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, said these issues were the reason rural representatives of the state had to continue to press for funds to resolve the problems associated with the increase in population.

Some businesses are capitalizing on the trend, Baker added: A supermarket in its district reported a 20% increase in sales due to higher sales of residential homes, while truck drivers report “oversized delivery numbers. “.

Rural schools are also reaping the rewards of rising property sales. School property tax revenue rose 21% to $ 1.2 million between January 1, 2019 and October 15, 2021, in Somerset County.

The increase came just in time for the Rockwood Area School District, which has 650 K-12 students.

Real estate transfer tax revenue – which accounts for 30-40% of the district’s budget – increased 140% to $ 333,348 for 2020-2021, from $ 138,523 for 2019-2020, Superintendent Mark Bower said. . The bonus has been found to be useful in covering an 83% increase in the district’s cost of educating 55 students attending charter cyber schools, which cost $ 746,732 for the past year.

Seven Springs set a record real estate sales of $ 46 million for the year ending Sept. 30, more than double the sales of $ 16 million from the previous year, said Alex Moser, chief marketing officer and communications of the complex.

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Home sales were also very strong in neighboring Hidden Valley, which rose 126% to $ 32.7 million for the year ending September 1, 2021, from $ 14.4 million for the same. period in 2019.

“As they come into the market, they come out of the market,” Moser said. “It’s amazing. People saw the value of getting out of town.

Although the report suggests COVID-19 concerns were the root of the real estate boom in rural Pennsylvania, Cathy Glikes said it was not a factor in her family’s decision to ” buy their condo.

In fact, none of them ski in a community built around a mountain ski resort and they do not intend to rent their unit for part of the year as some owners do to offset expenses. related to the possession of a second home.

Instead, she and her husband enjoy the peace of the countryside, especially in a location with nearby restaurants within the resort and plenty of outdoor activities. And she loves the amenities in her home, which include an open-plan kitchen and a fireplace.

“We love Seven Springs,” she said, adding that it’s just over an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh. ” There’s always something to do.

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