Regional Activity

Housing Market Profiles

Reading, Pennsylvania

The Reading metropolitan area consists of Berks County and is a source of affordable housing and employment opportunities for the surrounding areas. The Reading metropolitan area population increased very slowly during the 1990s, averaging 955 persons annually, or 0.6 percent. Berks County’s suburbs are becoming a bedroom community for those employed in Montgomery, Chester, and Lancaster Counties. The fastest growing townships are located in the southern part of the county.

Employment in the Reading area includes a diversified mix of agriculture, manufacturing, and services industries. For example Berks County is the second largest producer of mushrooms in the state. The area’s traditional industries, iron and metal fabrication and textile and apparel manufacturing, continue to decline and have been replaced by industries that produce batteries, specialty steel, candies, and snack foods. Since the early 1990s services have grown steadily, offsetting losses in other sectors. Reading Hospital and Medical Center, the area’s largest employer, employs more than 3,800.

From 1990 to 2000 nonfarm wage and salary employment increased steadily by 1.1 percent annually, and service-producing employment likewise increased by an average of 1,910 jobs annually. At the same time manufacturing employment declined 290 annually, or 0.7 percent. From 2000 to the present nonfarm employment in the area declined by more than 4,000 jobs. Service-producing industries are growing more slowly, and manufacturing employment is declining even more rapidly. Approximately 7,400 jobs have been lost since 2000 as a result of plant closings at Dana Corporation, where truck bodies were manufactured; Agere Systems, Inc., which manufactures telecommunications equipment; and two textile mills. During the 12 months ending June 2003 nonfarm wage and salary employment declined 0.8 percent, or 1,400 jobs, compared with the 12 months ending June 2002.

Despite the sluggish economy employment gains are expected with this fall’s opening of Cabela’s outdoor supply superstore at the intersection of Interstate 78 and Route 61 in Tilden Township. The 225,000-square-foot retail facility is expected to attract approximately 6 million visitors a year to shop for hunting, fishing, and outdoor clothing and equipment in an educational and entertainment venue.

The Reading area has also followed the strong national trends in housing production. Single-family building permit activity in the metropolitan area has increased steadily over the past 13 years, averaging 1,650 homes annually. The townships of Spring, Exeter, and Amity, where new homes have been built, have grown the most since 1997. Multifamily activity increased significantly during the latter part of the 1990s with an annual average of 130 units from 1990 to 1996 and doubling to 260 units from 1997 to 2002. A 242-unit luxury rental development is currently under construction in Muhlenberg Township in which units are absorbed as they are completed; the entire project will be completed by late 2004. The garden apartment’s two-bedroom, two-bath units rent for $1,020 plus utilities.

The sales market is strong in both Berks County and in the city of Reading. According to the Reading-Berks Association of REALTORS® home sales in Berks County increased from an annual average of 4,225 homes during from 1996 through 1999 to an average of 4,950 homes per year since 2000. Sales of existing homes for the first half of 2003 have increased 2 percent compared with the same period in 2002. Home sales in the city of Reading have increased approximately 10 percent a year, rising from 550 in 1996 to 940 in 2002. As Berks County increasingly serves as a bedroom community for Lancaster and the Philadelphia suburbs, home prices have also risen. As of June 2003 the median home price in Berks County was $123,000, an increase of 4 percent annually from the 1997 median price of $98,900.

Berks County’s rental market is currently balanced. As of the 2000 Census the rental vacancy rate in Berks County was 6.3 percent; in Reading, it was 9.1 percent. Since 2000 vacancies have risen slightly as lower interest rates have allowed a larger segment of the rental market to become first-time homebuyers. Gross rents average approximately $650 for one-bedroom apartments, $725 for two-bedroom apartments, and $900 for three-bedroom apartments.

During the 1980s former textile mills and industrial buildings in the city of Reading were converted into rental units; since then apartment development has been limited. Located within a short drive of the suburbs Reading’s downtown is an active area that includes restaurants, nightclubs, entertainment facilities, and a civic center and attracts as many as 10,000 people on weekends. Several banks are located in the downtown area, and Sovereign Bank plans to relocate its headquarters to a new office building at Fifth and Penn Streets.

Previous Profile Units Authorized Tables

Home | Table of Contents | Summary | National Data
Regional Activity | Historical Data | Subscription Form