Higher gasoline prices and a negative perception of the housing market contributed to a drop in the number of homes sold in York County during the first two months of the year.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 29, the number of homes sold in the county decreased 31 percent to 517 properties closed, compared with 752 houses settled during the same period last year, according to the Realtors Association of York and Adams Counties.

The median sale price dropped 3 percent from $164,900 to $160,000.

During the first two months of the year, nine homes were sold in the Southern School District -- a 79 percent decline compared to 2007 when 43 houses were sold.

At the same time, the median sale price in the district decreased 23 percent from $273,600 to $210,000.

Steve Snell, executive officer of the association, cautions that two months of data isn't enough to establish a strong local housing trend.

Still, the steep drop in the number of homes sold in Southern School District provides evidence that high gas prices have "significantly" slowed the migration of Maryland residents into the county, he said.

On Monday, the price for a gallon of regular gas was an average $3.356, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. At this time last year, regular gas was selling locally for an average $2.785 per gallon.

"The Maryland people have a significant impact on the market," Snell said. "I don't think, in the long run, higher gas prices will have much of an impact.


I think we will begin to accept them as the norm, and the economic outlook will improve."

Along with gas prices, overall weak consumer confidence has not aided the local housing market.

"People are not shying away from using the 'R' word," Snell said "I think we are in a time, that regardless of how you are registered, there is uncertainty of where the country is going, and people do pull back in times of uncertainty."

Erek Gass of Jack Gaughen Realtor in Shrewsbury said the recent downturn in the local housing market has much to do with the negative perception of the national housing market.

"What happens in San Francisco is not the same as what happens in Stewartstown," he said. "We are a much more stable place. I think people think twice about putting their homes on the market when they think that they are going to get less for it."

Rick Doyle, president of realty operations for Prudential Bob Yost Homesale Services, said he expects to soon see an increase in the number of homes sold across York County.

Pent-up demand from buyers who have waited to invest in a home will start to drive home sales, he said.

"For about 14 months, they have held back on buying a home, and they will only hold back so long," Doyle said. "We hit the bottom in sales in the fourth quarter of last year. We are starting to come back."