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In Berkeley Co., average new home price has shot up

July 26, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Buying a home in Berkeley County keeps getting costlier.

The average sale price of a home in 1994 was $93,000, said Gayle Perkins, executive officer of the Eastern Panhandle Board of Realtors. In 1997, the average price was $97,500, she said.

The average cost of a constructing a new house in Berkeley County jumped from $92,004 in 1993 to $111,476 in 1997, according to building permit records.

Real estate agents said one of the reasons for the upswing is more people are moving to Berkeley County from the metropolitan areas.

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"It's due to a lot of commuters," said Jackie Avey King, owner of King Street Realty. With their higher salaries, they are able to afford more expensive homes, she said.

Throughout Berkeley County, new subdivisions and homes are springing up where farmers once planted their crops.

More than 500 new homes a year have been constructed in the county over the past five years.

While the costs have generally been on the upswing, as recently as 1995, the market bottomed out and the average cost dropped to $79,856, King said. But the market - and prices - have been increasing ever since.

"This could be a banner year. Everyone is busy," King said.

Overall, the sale price of existing homes also has risen, Perkins said. Here's the figures:

- 1994, the average sale price of all homes was $93,000.
- 1995, the sale price dropped to $91,000.
- 1996, the sale price rose to $95,500.
- 1997, the price was $97,500.


Figures for 1993 were unavailable, she said.

"The market's been great," Perkins said. "As the demand increases, the price goes up," she said.

Ruth Pritchard, the office manager at Long and Foster in Martinsburg, said low interest rates and high public confidence in the economy have been big factors.

Real estate agent Tim Hafer said that while the cost of homes is going up, some sellers are finding their homes did not go up in price as much as they expected.

"Houses that sold for a certain price four or five years ago have not appreciated very much," Hafer said.

"That's why you see so many signs 'For Sale by Owner' because they do not think they'll be able to sell their home and pay the commission and still make the profit they expect," Hafer said.

While metropolitan residents moving in to Berkeley County can afford the rising costs, long-time Berkeley County families earning lower, local wages may not be able to afford the newer homes.

"They may not be able to afford the same house as those coming from the city," Hafer said.

"To a certain degree, I'm afraid a lot of people who were born and raised here and have local employment aren't going to be able to afford the houses being built here," King said.

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