Expensive real estate prices around Washington D.C.'s Beltway area may get more competition from the small towns of Western Pennsylvania. Does spending $40,000 for a Victorian home excite you? Okay, you've got to invest another $50,000 to $60,000 to fix it up, but that means you spend about $100,000 for a large home. That's a real possibility, according to real estate agent Chrisia Simkovich of Northwood Realty in Latrobe, PA.
"I specialize in equestrian properties and homes in rural Western Pennsylvania," she said. "I see buyers who want to move out of the cities – whether D.C., Baltimore, or Pittsburgh – and to a home they can afford in a smaller, quiet town. Some 'city folk' want that horse property or farm they can call their own. I see a trend where homeowners are leaving the Pittsburgh area and Allegheny County to escape the taxes. They'd rather have a 1 hour to 2 hour commute to work in the city.
"Credit is also a motivating factor," she said. "People have seen they've extended their credit and so they can sell their metro home and scale down to whittle down their debt load. Smaller, energy-efficient homes are becoming more popular.
"Another trend I see is families who want to buy a home for a low price and spend the time and money to fix it up. I believe that's a trend that will stay around for the next few years. And why not? You can buy a large home with little money and enjoy the achievement of 'fixing' a property.
"The trend I don't see anymore is the construction of new upper end homes costing $400,000 and up. That was popular about 4 or 5 years ago, but now that has really leveled off. New home developers really need to include a lot of amenities to attract buyers.
"Right now, around Westmoreland and Fayette Counties, you can purchase a comfortable home for around $175,000 to $200,000."
I asked Chrisia what is one lesson she has learned during her 4 years working as a real estate agent.
"Put the client first, even if it means walking away from a deal. And I also work hard to provide personal service. I believe our job as real estate agents is to shoulder some of the stress buyers and sellers experience. If they need their house cleaned, and they're tight for time, I'll contact a few different cleaning services for them. I'll drive to their house if they need to sign documents instead of making them come to my office. If they need child care or help with their pets, I'll find a way to assist."
Perhaps another task she'll have is finding the least expensive places to purchase brass door knobs for those inexpensive Victorian fixer-uppers!