The last couple decades have been marked by a dramatic population decline in rural communities, including those in Venango County. This has left a bloated housing stock, though in many cases, the vacant homes are not suited for occupancy.
Despite the many employment opportunities that exist, it has continued to be a challenge for those of us charged with promoting the area and increasing population, to compete with the reasons to leave our area.
Incentives to Buy
One important indicator of an area’s growth is the real estate market. We’ve talked to our Chamber’s Realtors and learned of the current situation here and the news is encouraging.
“This is the best market I have seen in 41 years,” said Bob Murray of Oil Region Realty remarks. He adds that there are several things assumed to be driving this uptick in home buying, including the low interest rate on mortgages.
Matt and Becky Bloom of Wilson Real Estate shared there are many incentives for buying at this time, including recent stimulus money sent out and a variety of attractive loans, that often are available with no down payment. A mortgage payment may be significantly lower than monthly rent.
Several realtors shared that there is a typical buying season, as people come out of winter and cabin fever, take advantage of summer and the chance to do home improvements, and then set out to make a move before school is back in session. All these factors were boosted by the pandemic. Quarantine inspired many to tackle overdue household projects, from cleaning out to remodeling, and led to many people evaluating the choice to move.
Technology Offers Options
Earlier this year, everything came to a screeching halt, including home showings. With the shutdown, all in-person meetings were prohibited. The typical home purchasing process involves the buyer exploring homes online or in a printed guide, meeting with a realtor, then scheduling visits. For many buyers and sellers, this method was disrupted, but for others, the existing technology provided a great solution.
Dana Shawgo of Shawgo Real Estate has been offering virtual home tours for several years, and occasionally has buyers ready to make a purchase without ever visiting a home before the sale. Having this technology in place was a tremendous advantage during the shutdown of COVID-19. “The virtual tours are part of most sales, providing buyers a convenient way to show their families a home and further explore details of a house, and are often part of the appraisal process,” Dana said.
One local realtor made a move of their own during the pandemic. Howard Hanna’s Rose Ochalek relocated her office (pictured above) to 3304 State Route 257. The shutdown provided the opportunity for their move, just in time for the reopening of real estate offices.
Rose echoes the comments of others in that the biggest challenge right now is lack of inventory. If you have been thinking of selling a property, this just may be the time.
Rose adds that even modest improvements, like a fresh coat of paint can increase the resale of a property, speed, and price. The Blooms concur that millennial buyers are typically looking for a move-in-ready home.
Bill Moon of Gates and Burns shares that there is a shortage of senior housing, especially one-floor living. Those who may be thinking about selling and have been delaying may want to consider listing soon. As the Mayor of Oil City, Bill adds: “Buyers moving into the area are eager to get more involved in the community.”
The current buying frenzy is difficult to attribute to any one specific category of buyer. Many families are choosing to upgrade or build, young professionals and renters are taking this time to own a place of their own, and there is a distinct migration of city dwellers seeking a life in rural communities.
Opportunity for Businesses
The housing boom provides an opportunity that all businesses should be paying attention to. With each home sale comes an opportunity to introduce buyers to your products and services.
Settling into a new home involves utility changes, construction/cleaning services and supplies, insurance, and new familiarity of the businesses in the neighborhood. It may also involve engaging new schools, health providers and government services.
Shawgo shares that he has buyers relocating from all over the country, who are excited to learn more about Venango County communities as they set up their new homes and lives here. Local realtors can provide the best introduction to your business and they frequently make referrals to those who they have a good relationship with.
As you plan your business strategies for the remainder of 2020 and beyond, it would be wise to pay attention to the opportunities around the vibrant housing market and those who may be new to town.
This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s September 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.