The U.S. Census Bureau says the Lehigh Valley has 264,310 housing units, and if you’re in the market, you can find one at just about any type, size, condition or cost.
The housing stock of the Lehigh Valley is primarily made up of five different housing types. More than half of the region’s housing units (53%) are single-family detached homes. Approximately 56% of residences were built between 1950 and 2000, and one in four residences was built before 1940.
Homeowners in the Lehigh Valley make up the majority, while just under a third of residents are renters. About 7% of housing units in the Lehigh Valley are vacant, a rate that is consistent in both Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Just 8% of homeowners are under the age of 35, yet that demographic comprises nearly one-third of the renter population. For age groups above 35 years old, owners outnumber renters by more than 10%.
The majority of apartments in the Lehigh Valley cost between $500 and $1,500 per month. In 2016, single-family detached homes sold for significantly more than single-family attached and multi-family housing types, and mobile homes were the least expensive option. But affordability, for renters and owners, is one of the greatest housing issues in the Lehigh Valley. According to the LVPC’s 1LV report, 48% of people in a public opinion survey identified quality housing attainable for working families as the region’s top housing need.
Regional Housing Market Report
Regional housing sales have been climbing since 2011 – reaching nearly 8400 units in 2018. This trend has caused the median sales price to increase more than $10,000 over two years. Despite this increase, regional housing prices remained below their pre-recession peak through 2018.
Single-Family Detached housing continues to represent the largest portion of the housing in the region, but its market share declined 9% between 2016 and 2018. This change is due to recent growth in Single-Family Attached and Multi-Family construction that has resulted in a more diverse housing market for the region.
Single-Family Detached home prices have increased three times as much as the overall market, climbing by $29,000 between 2016 and 2018, while Single-Family Attached and Multi-Family home values both increased by $14,000 during the same period. These increases are contributing to housing becoming less attainable in the region.
Condominium values, however, have barely increased and the median sales price of Mobile Homes has declined between 2016 and 2018. These two sections of the housing market represent a very small amount of overall housing sales.
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In general, Northampton County homes have a higher median sales price than those in Lehigh County, with more school districts with median sales prices close to the regional average. However, the school districts of Lehigh County have a greater range of both high and low median sales prices.
The school districts with the lowest median sales value have remained consistent over the last several years. Many of these communities are more urban, with smaller and older houses.
Over the last two years, home values in the Nazareth Area School District have increased significantly, joining homes in the South Lehigh and Parkland districts as having the highest median sales prices in the region. Many of these communities are more suburban/rural and have larger and newer homes.
The Lehigh Valley rental market has grown steadily, as the number of renters has increased every year since 2012. As trends show a greater interest in urban living nationally, more people in the region are choosing renting over homeownership. In the Lehigh Valley, more than three-quarters of all apartments have rents that fall between $500 and $1,500 per month.
A New American Dream?
Homeownership remains the dominate method for residential living in the Lehigh Valley, where nearly 170,000 homes are owner-occupied. But that version of the American Dream has been undergoing a change recently, as the number of occupied rental units has climbed to nearly 79,000 – a 9% increase since 2012. Meanwhile, the number of homeowners decreased by more than 2%.