Notably, this year the city realty transfer taxes increase from 4 percent to 4.5 percent on Feb. 1. The several million dollars that’s expected to generate annually will support an affordable housing trust fund that the City Council recently approved. “Buyers will need to have plenty of savings on hand or will need to find other ways to decrease their closing costs,” Tkacik says.
A busier market?
Howard Hanna agent Lynne Bingham doesn’t think the low inventory situation will last long.
“My team has a good 11 listings waiting to hit the market for pre-spring,” she says. “I’m noticing an upswing in new construction, both suburban and urban. The influx of young professionals is definitely helping with the newer rental market. I think it’s fair to say that there will be some transitioning to new homebuyers, once the newcomers have spent a year or two here, secured their position at work and have a better feel for their next chapter.”
Harry O’Brien, with Carlson & Associates Real Estate Services, also thinks the Pittsburgh market will widen in 2018 to include “great parts of the city that may not have been fully appreciated until now.”
“Some are old, established neighborhoods,” says O’Brien, whose listings include 4 Center Ave. in Aspinwall, for $375,000. “Some are vibrant places that are coming into their own, and some are just seeing the spark of rejuvenation. There are wonderful, solid homes. … You just need patience and you will find the one for you.”
O’Brien doesn’t like to use the word “trendy” to describe a neighborhood. This city is a lot of things — welcoming, intelligent, filled with people who love being here,” he says. “I do not believe we need any adjectives, just that ‘Pittsburgh’ may well be the only description needed.”
Even though city neighborhoods are popular, homes in the North Hills continue to increase in value, says Dave Tumpa with Northwood Realty Services. Comparing 2017 to 2016, he says, there were about 2.5 percent fewer homes sold in northern Allegheny County school districts, but “they sold for about 4.8 percent more money and in a shorter amount of time.”
“What does this mean for 2018? With the increased transfer tax in the City of Pittsburgh, and city police officers now being allowed to live outside of city limits, we expect even a bigger shortage of homes in the north of Pittsburgh this year and unfortunate bidding wars for today’s buyers,” says Tumpa.
Sellers should find a trustworthy realtor to evaluate the home’s condition and market conditions, then plan when to list, he says. Buyers should have finances in order and be ready to pounce when a home comes on the market.
“If a buyer waits for the weekend or an open house,” Tumpa says, “more than likely the home will already be gone.”