The first thing you notice driving into south central Pennsylvania are the good roads filled with fast-moving trucks. The second thing coming into view outside your car window is a vast expanse of green rolling hills and farms. And the third is the new homes and subdivisions popping up all over as big builders work to meet the steady and increasing demand for housing brought on by the search for affordable housing within reach of a large metropolitan region.
With unemployment among the lowest in the nation—about 4 percent—and the cities of Harrisburg, Pa., York, Pa., and Lancaster, Pa., regularly making nationwide lists of the “best places” to live and work, it's no wonder that housing is booming. If you couple that with increasingly expensive housing in the major metropolitan markets, such as in the south in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and to the east in Philadelphia, it becomes even more attractive.
“The job market here is very good,” says Jeff Kelly, a planner with the Cumberland County Planning Commission, just west of Harrisburg. “The land here is relatively inexpensive for building. It's an incentive for builders to come to the area.”
“For a lot of the bigger builders, it's getting a lot tougher for them to grow. They are really trying to create the satellite markets in a meaningful way,” says Stephen East, housing analyst with the Philadelphia-based Susquehanna Financial Group.
D.R. Horton is building an active adult community in the city of Lancaster known as Village Grande at Miller's Run. It includes 241 units of single family homes, priced from the low to high $200,000s. They are selling about four homes a month.
Ryan Homes is building in nearby Berks County, Pa., just north of Lancaster. Their projects include Brookfield Manor where there are 92 units priced in the $300,000s and an easy commute to King of Prussia, Pa., a hub of high-tech businesses.
“What is most attractive about the region is that it is offering people the same size house [that] they would get along Philadelphia's main line and [affluent] neighborhoods in Baltimore at half the price,” says Carlene Tyrrell, eastern research director for Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.
The region or the “smart market,” as many refer to it, generally consists of the counties of York, Adams, Cumberland, Perry, Dauphin, and to a lesser extent, Lancaster, Lebanon, and Berks, which is home of Reading, Pa., an old industrial city turned outlet haven.
The triangle has plenty to offer. Harrisburg, the state capital, effectively missed the recent recession because of its large government sector. The average household income in the region is between $80,000 and $91,000, according to Global Insight, a marketing research firm, and the average price of a home in Lancaster is $198,557; in York is $181,270; and in Harrisburg is $167,168, according to Global Insight's 1Q 2006.