A Snapshot of the Upper Valley’s Real Estate Market
With spring around the corner, many people are thinking about real estate. Spring traditionally is when homes are listed for sale, and in this area, most rental property leases expire in the summer months. While buying, selling or renting is a personal decision, the impact of the housing market touches all areas of the local economy. Here’s what the experts are seeing this season.
Now is the time to buy…. or sell
The home ownership market in the Upper Valley is strong, driven by the area’s low unemployment rate. There are advantages for both buyers and sellers, although this is a particularly great time for selling a home.
“The spring 2018 market is particularly challenging for buyers as there is a large gap between inventory and buyers,” said Carol Robert, the owner and principal broker of Housing Solutions Real Estate in Lebanon.
Although sellers have the upper hand, there are still great advantages to buying a home in the Upper Valley right now, according to Andrew Winter, executive director of Twin Pines Housing Trust in White River Junction.
“Buying a home is a huge financial commitment, but historically it’s been one of the best ways that people can develop personal wealth,” Winter said, noting that owning a home can reduce a person’s federal tax burden. In addition, he said, interest rates near historic lows make buying now even more financially advantageous.
With tax changes and interest rate adjustments likely on the horizon, the advantages of home ownership might shift in coming years, Winter said.
However, homeowners in the Upper Valley can buy now and feel secure in the fact that they will be able to sell their homes when they want to, given the area’s low unemployment rate (currently at about 1.9 percent).
“With that strong demand for employment, this has been a good market to buy a home in and to be able to count on being able to resell the home when you want to move,” Winter said.
The rental market is squeezed
When it comes to finding rentals, it’s fair to say that options are limited throughout most Upper Valley towns.
“We’re seeing relatively low vacancy rates and relatively high rents,” Winter said. “There is strong demand across the market.”
Lynne LaBombard, an associate broker at Housing Solutions, said that the Upper Valley rental market has hovered around 3 percent vacancy for the past three years, despite the addition of thousands of rental units into the market. The national rate for rental vacancy is just under 7 percent.
The low availability of rental units might motivate long-term residents to buy, but demand for rental properties remains high because of the many students and recent graduates in the area who only envision themselves living in the Upper Valley temporarily.
“This scenario makes renting a benefit over buying because it allows the student to leave upon graduation unencumbered by the sale of property,” LaBombard said.
Housing impacts employment and growth
With employers trying to attract talent to the Upper Valley, housing availability is a major issue for area businesses.
“We’re hearing from employers that they have trouble attracting (workers) to the Upper Valley because it’s so hard to get higher quality housing that is in good shape and near employment opportunities,” Winter said.
In addition, limited public transit in the Upper Valley means that people are less likely to live outside the core towns of Lebanon, Hanover and White River Junction, LaBombard said.
The Upper Valley Housing Coalition, which worked to promote adequate housing for the area’s workforce, closed last year. Now, Vital Communities, a nonprofit focused on regional development, is hoping to take on the issue of accessible, affordable housing.
“Ensuring our communities have adequate housing for our workforce is clearly one of those critical issues, and it is closely tied to the bigger picture of our region’s health, economy, transportation, and so many other issues,” Vital Communities Executive Director Tom Roberts said.
This spring, Vital Communities and Twin Pines Housing Trust will host the Spring Business Leaders Housing Breakfast to invite the business community to brainstorm on this issue.
Overall, many believe that having more available housing options will allow Upper Valley employers to attract quality workers and be able to build their businesses.
“Without an adequate inventory of affordable housing for our workforce, employers need to dig deeper to recruit their employees,” which is costly and time consuming, LaBombard said. “Something’s got to give.”
— Kelly Burch