Realtors on 'dramatic shift' in Elmira-Corning housing market and what to expect in 2022

Jeff Murray
Elmira Star-Gazette

If you're planning to buy a house in the Elmira-Corning area, be ready to do some hard looking and pay top dollar.

On the other hand, if you are selling your home, market conditions are currently in your favor, and real estate experts predict that will continue into 2022.

Initially, the COVID-19 pandemic nearly brought the real estate market to a halt, as real estate agents were unable to work out of their offices or show homes for sale in person.

But once pandemic restrictions started to ease, the market came roaring back and then some, to the point that the inventory of available homes can't keep up with the demand.

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"As it loosened up things changed quite rapidly over the last year. We have seen a market that I have never experienced before in my 50 years," said Arthur Ambrose, associate broker with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in Elmira.

"What we have seen in the past year is a dramatic shift in two areas," Ambrose said. "One is buyers are out in full force, and as a result, the inventory of homes has been reduced substantially. We are probably at our lowest inventory of single-family homes throughout Chemung, Steuben, and Schuyler counties that I have ever seen."

Numbers tell the story: Elmira real estate market recovers

Like most areas of the country, the real estate business in the Southern Tier absorbed a major blow in the early days of the pandemic.

But the industry made a dramatic comeback over the past year. 

As a result of increased demand, homes are selling for a higher price and housing inventory is low across the United States, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The median sale price for October was up 13% compared to October 2020, the association said.

“Home sales remain resilient, despite low inventory and increasing affordability challenges,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors.

In Chemung County and southeastern Steuben County, the number of new listings over the first 10 months of the year increased by nearly 6% between 2020 and 2021, according to the Elmira-Corning Association of Realtors.

Many residential properties, such as this house on West Second Street in the City of Elmira, are getting offers as soon as they go on the market.

Listed homes are getting sold much more quickly and often attract multiple offers as soon as the "for sale" signs are posted, Ambrose said.

The number of pending home sales jumped more than 18% and closed sales rose nearly 20% from January through October 2021 compared to the same time frame last year.

At the same time, the number of available homes for sale dwindled and prices climbed.

In October 2020, there were 484 homes listed for sale in the Elmira-Corning market. In October 2021, there were 328 available homes, a drop of more than 32%, according to the local association.

The median sale price went from more than $141,000 in October of last year to nearly $157,000 this October, up more than 11%.

"The market has been very busy since late 2020 when it essentially returned to business," said Lisa Lilley, president of the Elmira-Corning Association of Realtors. "The shutdown gave people a new appreciation of 'home' and spurred many to consider moving to have space for a home office, etc."

Seller's market to continue, for now

Real estate agents don't expect the surge in demand for homes, and the resulting shortage in available listings, to abate any time soon, at least not for the first several months of 2022.

Experts agree the current trend isn't sustainable over the long run, although they disagree over the market forces that will eventually cool down demand and balance it with supply.

"Home sales will notch lower by 2% in 2022, principally because of higher mortgage rates," Yun from the National Association of Realtors said. "Home sales will not crash because of job gains, investor demand, and the work-from-home reshuffle in residential locational choice.  

"Inventory will finally increase due to more home construction, the ending of the mortgage forbearance program, and the rise in COVID-related deaths among the elderly," he said.

Ambrose also sees demand for homes slowing down by spring or early summer next year, but for different reasons.

"There will come a time when prices have to be affordable. Prices have climbed rapidly but income has not risen at the same percentage," Ambrose said. "If prices continue to go up, sales will fall. There won't be as many buyers. I do not see this (current) trend continuing for another year or more locally."

Markets are already seeing some adjustments, Lilley said, but she doesn't think that's been driven by higher prices.

"High buyer demand was the market story for most of 2021, but we are starting to see the market normalize with fewer multiple offers per property and a return to typical activities such as buyer inspections," she said.

"I would disagree with the view that the market will slow because of affordability issues," Lilley added. "For most buyers, the near-record low mortgage rates have helped to mitigate price increases."

The biggest stumbling block is still a shortage of available homes for sale, Lilley said, but she believes that situation will also right itself in 2022.

"This is a great place to live and the trend of people seeking to live here will continue," she said. "The biggest market headwind continues to be homes listed for sale. We are hopeful that more homes will come into the market in the next year to meet ongoing buyer demand."

For more information on home sales in the Elmira-Corning area, go to

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