Lehigh Valley Commands One of America’s Hottest ZIP Codes
By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on August 26, 2021
The Lehigh Valley now commands one of America’s hottest ZIP codes.
A recent report from Realtor.com, a website of the National Association of Realtors, identifies 18018 in Bethlehem, Pa., as the nation’s No. 12 hottest ZIP code in 2021, ranking higher than other sought-after neighborhoods in cities ranging from Charlotte to Denver.
The ZIP code, which includes and surrounds historic Bethlehem, scored well on metrics that aim to quantify fast-selling homes in high demand locations. Market demand was measured by unique viewers per property on Realtor.com, and the pace of the market was measured by the number of days a listing remained active.
The report reinforces and amplifies the Lehigh Valley’s reputation as a desirable place to live and the highly competitive housing market that has developed in the region, said George Lewis, Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Research at Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).
“The Lehigh Valley’s housing market is on the national radar because of the region’s strong economy, beautiful neighborhoods and vibrant cultural and recreational opportunities,” Lewis said. “Quality of life is key in our efforts to attract and retain companies.”
A strong quality of life draws talent – professionals and skilled workers that companies need to succeed. Access to talent is a key factor in company decisions on where to move or expand, prompting LVEDC to partner with other community organizations , including the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors, in the “Made Possible in Lehigh Valley” campaign.
The Lehigh Valley, which the Census shows as among Pennsylvania’s fastest growing regions, owes much of its growth to migration – people moving here from other parts of the country or from overseas.
That trend may have been exacerbated during the pandemic with the rise of remote work and desire to leave more densely populated cities. A recent CBRE report analyzing U.S. Postal data suggests most people who relocated during the pandemic moved within 100 miles, putting the Lehigh Valley in the crosshairs of the Big Apple. People moving to the Lehigh Valley from the New York City metropolitan region increased by nearly 14% from 2019 to 2020, according to the CBRE report. Another report by Ownerly, a real estate analytics company, ranked the Lehigh Valley among the nation’s Top 15 places to work remotely.
Remote working factored into Realtor.com’s explanation of why certain neighborhoods, which were concentrated in the Northeast, were so hot.
“The need to work from home, along with new hybrid work arrangements, continues to put pressure on markets with spacious homes and outdoor features,” the report says. “Buyers looking in the hottest ZIP codes get more space for their money.”
Bethlehem’s 18018 ZIP code straddles the county border between Lehigh and Northampton and goes from the Lehigh River north toward Route 22 and the Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course. Recognizable landmarks in the ZIP code include Moravian University and historic Main Street.
The ZIP code contains a district – featuring 18th century structures built by Bethlehem’s Moravian founders – that is in the running to become a World Heritage site, a prestigious list of icons including the likes of Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge.
More than a million people visit the 18018 ZIP code each year for festivals such as Musikfest and Celtic Classic. Its diverse neighborhoods there include stately mansions, chic apartments, rowhomes and suburban-style houses.
Ekom Umo, who grew up in a much bigger city in Nigeria, was among those who bought a home in that ZIP code after graduating from Lehigh University with an electrical engineering degree.
“I wanted a place where I had access to the city, but far enough that I didn’t have to deal with the issues of the city. I love the Bethlehem feel, the small town, but big city-type atmosphere,” she said. “I walk down Main Street and run into familiar faces all the time. There are also a lot of activities to do in this area from hiking to painting, and I get to enjoy it all. I never feel swamped or concerned that I cannot do what I would like to do because of traffic.”
Many others are finding the Lehigh Valley as well. In July, Lehigh Valley homes spent an average of just 13 days on the market – a new record – with a median price of $275,000, according to the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors.
The Lehigh Valley’s housing market has been growing over the last decade. Inventory increased by 5.5% since 2010 — which places the two counties within the top 25% in the country, according to the 2020 Census. Meanwhile vacancy rates were 5.1% in Northampton and 4.6% in Lehigh – about half of the nationwide vacancy rate of 9.7%.
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