Town By Town: Interest in Limerick strong but listings are few
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Limerick's story can stand on its own, but what is happening to residential real estate in this Montgomery County township offers considerable insight into the housing market beyond its borders, too.
"I study numbers," says Thomas McCouch of Keller Williams Realty Group in Limerick, "and, if you are honest with data collection, the numbers don't lie."
What the numbers tell McCouch and other agents is that, in the words of Renee Bartlett of Weichert Realtors in Collegeville, "there is a listing crisis." Not enough houses are for sale to meet the demand.
"If it is priced right, it sells immediately," says Bob Raynor of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors in Collegeville.
McCouch says prices range from $160,000 for a condo to $600,000 for a single, with "$400,000 to $600,000 being the best-selling range."
Why is Limerick attractive to buyers?
"There is such a varied selection," including condos, townhouses and singles, Raynor says. Many of those developments are right off Route 422, he adds, meaning just a few minutes to get to the highway instead of 20.
Developments such as Waterford Greene, for example, feature different levels of housing "so people can move up and move down without moving out," Raynor says.
The Spring-Ford Area School District is a huge draw, local market observers say. The district has rebuilt most of its schools in recent years - evidence easily visible from 422 because of their blue metal roofs, Raynor says.
Limerick's building boom began in the 1990s and early 2000s, says Jonathan Sukonik of Sukonik Builders, which has been in the township for the last 10 to 12 years.
"It was a natural growth area," he says, "and we followed it west with Route 422 over the last 25 years."
Sukonik is building singles in Oak Creek off Ridge Pike and Neiffer Road to sell for $369,900 to $449,900, and is "dotting I's and crossing T's" on Mountain View Estates on Sunset Road, which will feature one-acre lots.
Though many builders didn't make it through the housing downturn, "we continued to sell product and maintained a reasonable pace," Sukonik says.
Marshal Granor recalls that Granor Price Homes declined to build in Limerick because "my father and grandfather had a strong aversion to the 422 corridor because of the [Limerick nuclear plant] cooling towers."
"We watched as others built there and did quite well," Granor says, and he persuaded his family to build Riverwalk in nearby Royersford.
Lean supply remains at the forefront of conversations about the spring real estate market in most communities in the eight-county Philadelphia region.
Thus "it is, by far, a sellers' market," says McCouch, who partners with Terese Brittingham in selling real estate.
McCouch's market statistics for Limerick show 44 houses listed in March 2014, 26 under agreement, and 11 sales closed in the month.
Average days on market have fallen by nearly 20 from March 2013, he says, another sign of short supply and high demand.
Everything considered, Raynor says that although things are better here than they were during the prolonged downturn, the number of buyers in the market remains on the low side and the rebound of early 2013 isn't as strong this year.
McCouch concurs, citing Montgomery County as a whole, with listings down 9 percent from the same time in 2013 and a sales drop of 4 percent.
"There was a lot of pent-up demand" in early 2013 that isn't evident now, he says.
Lack of competition among sellers for buyers (who still perceive it as their market) means, McCouch says, there is only a 6 percent gap, on average, between asking and sale prices.
"We are getting close," he says, quickly adding, however, that close doesn't mean windfall because "multiple bids are bringing the sale price closer to asking."
Buyers asking for seller assists also result in higher sale prices, he says.
Properly priced listings are selling like hotcakes, says Bartlett, who adds that even in winter, she was handling 20 to 25 prospects at her open houses.
She says she is seeing fewer foreclosure sales but an increase in investors and a number of cash transactions, both of which surprise her.
Investors and cash sales were more common in the downturn, as professionals looked for bargains to flip, agents say.
Bartlett believes many cash buyers were holding off acquiring houses in the last couple years because of market uncertainty.
Tight credit also plays a role in the market, McCouch says, but in a way beneficial not only to real estate agents but, and more important, sellers.
"No one is showing up to look without being preapproved for a mortgage, which means that I don't have to waste my time, and all the buyers that the sellers are dealing with are qualified ones," he says.
"More people are paying attention to mortgage guidelines, and the market is now operating on quality vs. quantity," McCouch says. "We are dealing with 10 buyers rather than 20, with only 10 of those 20 being qualified."
Limerick Twp. By the Numbers
Population: 18,074 (2010)
Median income: $79,683 (2009)
Area: 22.8 square miles
Homes for sale: 20
Settlements in last three months: 33
Median days on market: 44
Median sale price (all homes): $225,000
Housing stock: 5,442 units, a substantial inventory of new homes
School district: Spring-Ford Area
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Tom McCouch, Keller Williams Realty Group; Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach HomExpert Report