How to win a bidding war? – 9 tips from a f*cking idiot

Posted in Humor | 46 Comments

From Housingwire:

How to win a bidding war in today’s outrageous housing market

1. Offer Full Price or More. Money is a major factor in a seller’s decision, but not the only one. Holy shit – what are we paying this guy for this kind of insight. Surefire way to find yourself with the winner’s curse

2. Eliminate Seller Paid Closing Costs/Points. It is not full price if you then ask the seller to pay your closing costs. If you need to the closing costs covered, make sure your offer Nets the seller at least what a full price offer would. So basically, offer more money, no different than point 1 above.

3. Large earnest money up front. Show the seller you are committed and putting up risk to stand by your “word” (purchase agreement) to buy the home. Should more clearly indicate that what you are doing here is trading the potential loss of earnest money for a potential discount, there is a significant cost to this should the buyer find themselves in a position needing to walk away. Husband killed in a car accident a week before closing? Sorry lady, you are out of luck.

4. Cash is King. Go in with cash if possible to eliminate problems of appraisals and financing. Appraisals are a problem as prices are increasing. New regulations make it difficult for appraisers and banks to meet the market changes. How exactly does this help someone to win a bidding war? It’s idiotic to even mention this. If someone could afford the property without financing, why would they finance?

5. Closing date should match seller’s preferred date. Buyers agent should ask Seller’s agent what date the seller would like close on. Probably the only realistic suggestion in the bunch

6. Allow seller a couple extra days possession after closing this gives them time to move out and lowers their stress. (frowned on by attorneys.) Absolutely terrible idea, of course it’s frowned on by attorneys, because now if they decide they like the house and want to stay, you’ll need to go through the eviction process to kick them out. They could be in there for months, if not years, depending on the jurisdiction.

7. If buyer is financing, include a statement that the buyer will make up the price difference in cash if the home doesn’t appraise out for purchase price. (if buyer can do so) If buyer can’t pay cash, this will also relieve the concern of an appraisal problem. Oh, for f*ck’s sake, now we aren’t just going to risk getting the winner’s curse, we’re going to go ahead and guarantee it

8. If buyer is doing an inspection, have buyer provide a statement that they will not nit-pick any items to re-negotiate price, but only structural or mechanical failures. Inspections were intended to be a way for the buyer to make sure they were not purchasing a major problem. Too often this is now being used as a way to re-negotiate the price with the seller. Remove this potential concern for the seller. C’mon man, just all out with it, why not just suggest to eliminate the inspection contingency outright? Also, you’ve never heard of death by a thousand cuts? I assure you, those houses exist

9. If buyer is financing, have a well prepared Pre-Approval letter from the lender. Make sure it does not come across as a pre-qualification letter. Most buyer’s have no clue, if it’s got the bank’s logo up top, it’s official. Besides, pre-approval don’t mean shit if the deal can’t make it through underwriting anyway

Gold Coast rises again?

Posted in Housing Recovery, New Development, New Jersey Real Estate | 85 Comments

From the Jersey Journal:

Jersey City sees building boom

Jersey City is about to get a lot more crowded.

The city is expecting nearly 3,000 residential units to come online before the end of the year, while developers are expected to break ground on another 3,000 in the next 10 months.

The new additions will include a 950-foot condominium tower on Hudson Street that will be the tallest building in New Jersey, a 50-story high-rise outside the Grove Street PATH station and a 448-unit tower in Liberty Harbor North that will rise 44 stories.

And the changes aren’t only in the Downtown, where most of the new large-scale development has taken place for the last three decades. Hundreds of units are set to go online by the end of the year on Senate Place, just south of Canco Lofts, and at the Beacon.

Developers Eric and Paul Silverman have been building in Jersey City for over 30 years — before it was cool. The brothers’ new building, Charles and Co., a 99-unit Grove Street building with office and retail space, is opening this summer. Eric Silverman told The Jersey Journal the city’s newest boom is part of a global trend of more people choosing city living over suburbia.

More than that, he said, Jersey City is special.

“People have finally recognized that Jersey City has a lot of natural assets: good architecture, a good grid pattern, the multiple modes of transportation,” he said. “It has everything.”

The list of buildings opening or breaking ground in Jersey City this year changes so rapidly it’s hard to keep track.

All told, the city expects the new developments opening this year to contribute to an expected 8,000 increase in the city’s population. By next year, Mayor Steve Fulop says, the city will be the largest in the state.

Jersey City has seen building booms before, but Fulop said this one is different because it is “benefiting every neighborhood.”

Less lucrative tax abatements for Downtown residential buildings are allowing the city to grow its rateable base, he said, leading to more residents sharing the tax burden. And more lucrative tax deals for developers outside of Downtown, which was home to the city’s last building boom, are helping lure developers to build elsewhere in the city, he said.

Buy or rent, can’t win either way right now

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, National Real Estate | 107 Comments

From the Record:

Why your rent will rise again this year

Living in an apartment? Expect your rent to go up again.

Renting has gotten increasingly expensive in the past five years. The average U.S. rent has climbed 14 percent to $1,124 since 2010, according to commercial property tracker Reis Inc. That’s four percentage points faster than inflation, and more than double the rise in U.S. home prices in the same period.

Now, even with a surge in apartment construction, rents are projected to rise an additional 3.3 percent this year, to an average $1,161, according to Reis. While that’s slower than last year’s 3.6 percent increase, the broader upward trend isn’t going away.

“The only relief in sight is rents in the hottest markets are going to go up at a slower pace, but they’re still going to go up,” said Hessam Nadji, chief strategy officer at Marcus & Millichap, a commercial real estate services firm.

The main reason: More people than ever are apartment hunting.

Young people who have been living with their parents are increasingly finding jobs and moving out. Rising home prices are leading many longtime renters to stay put.

In addition, most of the new apartments coming on the market are aimed at affluent tenants and carry higher-than-average rents. That’s especially true in cities where new buildings are going up in urban core areas, which means builders need to recoup higher land and development costs.

During the last recession, many workers who lost their jobs moved in with relatives or took on roommates. About 32 percent of U.S. adults were living with roommates or adult family members in 2012, up from 27.4 percent in 2006, according to Zillow, an online real estate firm.

Stepped-up hiring has begun to reverse that trend. About 2.8 million more Americans have jobs than 12 months ago.

“The share of young adults with jobs has climbed in the past year, and that will help many of them move out of their parents’ homes,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at online real estate firm Trulia. “Most of them will be renters first.”

Developers added 238,000 apartments nationwide last year, a 14-year high, with an additional 210,000 expected this year, according to Marcus & Millichap.

In theory, more apartment construction should help bring down rents because landlords would compete for tenants. But 80 percent of new complexes, Nadji estimated, are high-end projects aimed at renters willing to pay a premium for amenities like gourmet kitchens and concierge service.

How much of a premium? The average rent for apartments completed last year was $1,721. That’s 46 percent higher than the average apartment rent for older units, according to Marcus & Millichap and data provider MPF Research.

“There’s very little new supply being added anywhere else,” said Nadji, “so that’s why there’s so much pressure on rents and very little choice for the average renter.”

Peak Brooklyn?

Posted in Demographics, Economics, NYC | 181 Comments

From Bloomberg:

Brooklyn Home Prices Jump 18% to Record as Buyers Compete

Home prices in Brooklyn jumped to a record in the first quarter as buyers clamoring to own real estate in New York’s most populous borough competed for the limited supply of listings on the market.

Condominiums, co-ops and one- to three-family homes sold for a median of $610,894 in the period, up 18 percent from a year earlier and the highest in 12 years of data-keeping, according to a report Thursday by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

The median price has reached a record six times in the past eight quarters.

Developers capitalizing on the borough’s growing cachet have focused on building rentals, drawing in new residents but leaving a void for those who wish to eventually put down roots and become homeowners. The 4,331 homes listed for sale in Brooklyn at the end of March was the second-lowest total for a first quarter in records dating to 2009, according to the firms.

“We’re not creating new housing stock that addresses the largest portion of housing demand,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel and a Bloomberg View contributor, said in an interview. “We’re seeing expanded emphasis on the upper end of the market through new development, but also pressure in the resale market as people are being priced out of Manhattan.”

The inventory shortage depressed the number of purchases in the quarter. Sales fell 4.1 percent from a year earlier to 1,507, according to the report.

In Greenpoint and Williamsburg, the median price of all residential properties purchased in the first quarter climbed 13 percent from a year earlier to $956,000, according to a separate report Thursday by brokerage Corcoran Group. Resale condos accounted for most of the sales in those neighborhoods.

Homes sold for a median of $700,000 in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights — an 18 percent jump. In the area that includes the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Bushwick, the median price rose 17 percent from a year earlier to $510,000, the brokerage said.

“There’s just an unbelievable demand, and it’s happening in just about every neighborhood,” said Frank Percesepe, a senior vice president at Corcoran Group who oversees Brooklyn sales. “Last year, we didn’t have much inventory at all so people got discouraged. Now, the inventory that’s out there, they’re fighting for it.”

Who can afford to live at the shore?

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Housing Recovery, Shore Real Estate | 3 Comments

From the Press of Atlantic City:

Jersey Shore real estate becomes less attainable for young, working families

When Daniel and Dana Smith bought their Ventnor Heights home in 2009, it was “a little rough around the edges.”

There was an oil tank in the backyard that needed to be removed. It needed new floors and carpeting. After Hurricane Sandy, they had to raise the 1950s cottage. But the property cost $165,000 and was within a few blocks of the beach, which was where the couple wanted to raise their three kids, Daniel, 7, Nora, 4, and Carter, 1, after they both grew up on Absecon Island.

Since moving in, Smith said he has seen several other young families buy homes in the Heights and live in the community year-round, particularly because of its affordability and proximity to the beach. Many of the families were either lifelong friends of the Smiths or have become regulars at impromptu Friday night barbecues.

But the Heights, which has maintained its affordability, is likely the exception in New Jersey’s shore communities, not the rule. Nowadays, if there are young families in beach towns throughout New Jersey, they are likely just visiting. As real estate in shore towns grows ever more expensive, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young families like the Smiths to call New Jersey’s shore communities home.

“If you drive around, look at new construction. No one is building working-class or middle-class construction anymore,” said Kevin Gillen, a senior research fellow at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Gillen studies the housing market at the Jersey Shore and found that in 2014, sales of shore houses and condos priced at $1 million or more reached all-time highs — even higher than during the peak years of the housing boom. Between the 2000 and 2010 Census, Brigantine lost 519 households with children under the age of 18. Ventnor lost about 300, and Ocean City lost nearly 400. During that time, Ocean City lost a total of 3,677 year-round residents, about 24 percent of its 2000 population.

In some communities, this trend has alarmed local officials, who are trying — with mixed results — to make their towns more welcoming to young residents.

But Gillen’s research shows that Sandy took the largest toll on older homes near the bayside in shore communities, which is typically where young families can afford to live. In their place, larger, luxury homes are being constructed.

NY – Worst place to be a landlord

Posted in Economics, NYC, New Jersey Real Estate | 38 Comments

From Realtytrac:

House Payments More Affordable Than Fair Market Rents in 76 Percent of U.S. Housing Markets According to County-Level Analysis

Markets with lowest returns on residential rental properties

Markets with the lowest potential annual gross rental yields for homes purchased in February 2015 were New York County/Manhattan, New York (2.34 percent), San Francisco County, California (3.20 percent), Kings County/Brooklyn, New York (3.63 percent), Marin County, California in the San Francisco metro area (3.84 percent), and Williamson County, Tennessee in the Nashville metro area (3.89 percent).

What stigma of foreclosure?

Posted in Foreclosures, Housing Recovery, Risky Lending | 56 Comments

From WSJ:

After Foreclosures, Home Buyers Are Back

The housing industry is slowly seeing the return of buyers like Rick LeBlanc, who lost his Michigan home to foreclosure during the financial crisis but now qualifies for a mortgage again.

Mr. LeBlanc, a 46-year-old residential-construction manager, fell behind on his $1,400 monthly mortgage payments in 2007 after suffering a 20% pay cut. He had tried to sell the property before moving to Florida for a new job. With no takers, he took on renters. But with $225,000 owed on the Highland, Mich., property, he and his wife eventually lost it to foreclosure in 2008.

In the years since, Mr. LeBlanc says he was turned down for car loans and credit cards. His credit ruined, he learned to live without debt and to pay for his family’s expenses with cash.

Then last year, with the foreclosure behind him, he found himself with a near-clean credit slate. The LeBlancs were able to purchase a four-bedroom ranch in St. Augustine Beach, Fla., after borrowing just under $300,000 with a 30-year mortgage carrying a fixed interest rate of about 4.4% from Directors Financial Group, a mortgage lender and broker.

More than five million American families lost their homes to foreclosure between 2007—the year when the crisis kicked up—through the end of last year. Foreclosures and most negative credit events stay on credit reports for up to seven years. For those who lost their homes in the early years of the crisis, credit scores are improving as the black marks drop away, improving their ability to borrow again. This could have widespread implications for the U.S. economy, including a boost in demand for mortgages in the coming years.

Fair Isaac Corp., which developed the widely used FICO credit scores, estimates that there were 910,000 consumers whose credit reports showed they had foreclosure proceedings begin on their homes between October 2007 and October 2008. Of those, some 264,400 had no evidence of the event on their credit reports by last October. That number will rise by up to 645,600 by the end of this year, according to FICO.

“The dark shadow of the foreclosure crisis is finally beginning to fade,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, a unit of Moody’s Corp. “That should be a positive for single-family housing and, by extension, for the broader economy.”

Will national home price growth slow in 2015?

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 63 Comments

From HousingWire:

Second look: Home price surge unlikely to last

CoreLogic’s (CLGX) report on Tuesday showed tepid monthly home price growth but a solid yearly growth of 5.6% for February.

While it seemed to suggest that price growth shifted into a higher gear at the start of 2015, analysts at Capital Economics say that with housing close to fair value and the Fed set to begin tightening policy later this year, they don’t expect such rapid monthly gains to be sustained for long.

“The 1.1% (monthly) rise in the CoreLogic house price index in February was unusually strong for this time of year,” writes Ed Stansfield, chief property economist for Capital Economics, in a client note. “Indeed, our own seasonal adjustment suggests that prices rose by an even stronger 1.3% (monthly), following January’s downwardly-revised 0.9% gain. This was close to a two-year high, and pushed the annual rate of price growth to 5.6%, up from 5.1% the previous month.” ?

Stansfield says that it’s not surprising that price pressures have increased at the start of this year. After all, the recent pick-up in home sales, along with the subdued number of homes coming onto the market, has caused supply conditions to tighten. In this context, and with real incomes and employment growing strongly, we expect house price inflation to accelerate to around 6.5% this year.

“However, the scale of the revision to last month’s data, which saw a 1.1% (non- seasonally adjusted) rise cut to just 0.6%m/m, mean that we are inclined to take the latest CoreLogic numbers with a pinch of salt,” he says.

The surge in price growth that they suggest is contrary to the moderation implied by the alternative Case-Shiller index.

“We suspect that the truth may lie somewhere in between,” Stansfield says.

He says with expectations of price growth muted, housing now close to fair value and the Fed set to begin raising interest rates later this year, this seems unlikely.

Low property taxes outside NJ? Think again

Posted in New Jersey Real Estate, Property Taxes | 116 Comments

Watch the rest of the country catch up in real time, from Wallethub:


Source: WalletHub

“I did not think it would be this hard. I truly didn’t. I had no idea.”

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 55 Comments

From the Star Ledger:

Federal jobs reports point to a rebounding labor market, though the unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent in March. But the percentage of jobless residents out of work 27 weeks or more remains historically high.

Nationally, about 30 percent of jobless residents have been unemployed at least 27 weeks.

The situation is much worse in New Jersey.

Of 302,000 unemployed residents in New Jersey in 2014, roughly 41 percent, or 125,000 people, have been out of work at least 27 weeks, according to federal labor data. Though down from a peak of about 51 percent in 2010, the data still mean New Jersey’s long-term jobless rate is among the highest in the nation.

Only New Mexico and Washington, D.C., posted higher rates in 2014. North Dakota, Iowa and Alaska, on the other hand, had the lowest long-term unemployment rates in the country last year.

Carl Van Horn, director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, said there are several reasons New Jersey’s long-term unemployment has remained higher than most states. He pointed to steep job losses in the financial and construction industries during the Great Recession, which hit New Jersey hard, and a slow recovery in those areas. He also noted some jobs, like many in the pharmaceutical industry, have left the state altogether.

“Those are what make New Jersey different but there are many things that make New Jersey the same,” Van Horn said, noting that the longer a person remains unemployed the more difficult it becomes to get a job.

Kerri Gatling, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, noted gains in employment in the private sector since 2010 and upward revisions to job growth estimates for 2013 and 2014. Gatling said that indicates steady improvement in the state’s economy despite the effects of Hurricane Sandy and casinos shuttering in Atlantic City.

“We have a ways to go here, and we will not be satisfied until everyone who wants a job, gets a job. But the employment situation is improving in the state,” Gatling said.

For 15 years, Kent said, he worked as director of information technology for a retail chain until he lost his job in June. His unemployment benefits, he said, ran out in December.

“I’ve been struggling since then,” the 42-year-old Hawthorne resident said. “I’ve had interviews. I’ve had a mix of either working via recruiters or directly with the company but the majority of them seem to have the same results: nobody even responds back to you.”

Kent said he and his wife think they soon will face foreclosure. He said he plans to continue working toward finding a job in New Jersey but if that doesn’t pan out he said they may move out of state to look for work.

“I’m never giving up. I have responsibilities,” Kent said, but, “I did not think it would be this hard. I truly didn’t. I had no idea.”

No Spring for Sussex

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Foreclosures, North Jersey Real Estate | 22 Comments

From the New Jersey Herald:

Foreclosures spur help for homeowners

Faced with a foreclosure rate among the highest in the country, Sussex County officials took the first steps in a program designed to bring help to homeowners before the bank calls about late payments.

The freeholders asked department Administrator Stephen Gruchacz to look at ways his department can take a proactive approach to the problem and suggested the Housing Partnership as a starting point since former Freeholder Sue Zellman was executive director at the Dover-based organization before her retirement. The Housing Partnership is a HUD-certified counseling agency for mortgage delinquency and default resolution.

Gruchacz said the department has also begun talks with several mortgage companies and banks seeking a way to include information along with the monthly mortgage statements and is looking at ways to involve the Federal Housing Administration, which provides mortgage insurance on homes, among other services.

Sheriff Mike Strada, whose office handles auctions of foreclosed properties, the final step in a lengthy foreclosure proceeding, said currently 450 foreclosures are in the department’s system, meaning a court has issued a writ of foreclosure and the property can now be sold.

By the time his department gets a court writ to sell at auction, “it’s taken two to five years to get through the system,” and, he said, “something like 99 percent are going back to the bank (at auction) because there isn’t a bid.”

Most of the properties have a higher mortgage than the market value of property, making it unlikely to attract a buyer looking for a bargain.

He said the latest numbers given to him during a staff meeting — pulled from — indicate New Jersey has the sixth highest rate of foreclosures among states and Sussex County has the highest foreclosure rate among New Jersey 21 counties.

Freeholder Rich Vohden, who has been following demographic trends in Sussex County since late 2013, uses the number of lis pendens, the formal notice from the lender that the borrower has fallen two payments behind, as his gauge.

Vohden said as of March 31, there were 9,131 lis pendens in Sussex County, an increase of 132 over the first of the month.

“I’m not being negative, I’m just reciting the facts,” he said. “I think it’s important we know where we are before we can decide how to go forward.”

He said the number of foreclosure proceedings “ties into all the other issues, such as the drop in home values, the drop in property valuation, even the loss of population.”

Fleeced: $350k Ranch Renovation

Posted in New Development, North Jersey Real Estate | 20 Comments

Where did the money go? I just don’t see it. Spent $350k and the showpiece was an Ikea kitchen? The money went into fancy light fixtures? I just don’t see it. Sorry, but sounds like you were fleeeeced – From the Star Ledger:

N.J. Home Makeover: Livingston ranch undergoes $350K gut renovation

Hayley and Scott Prochazka bought a ranch-style home in April of 2013 and started renovations in July of the same year — little remained untouched.

They had lived in a Short Hills cape for six years before deciding to move to Livingston, Hayley’s hometown. While the Prochazkas, both 35, waited for their new Essex County home to be renovated, they lived with Hayley’s parents in the same township. Post-renovation, they have a modern, airy abode for their family, which includes sons Braden, 6, and Cooper, 3, and Aubrey, their 10-month-old daughter.

“We just wanted it to be really open and bright,” she says of her 5,000-square-foot home, which was built in 1966. Many of the rooms were dark, so while no part of the house was completely demolished, mostly every room got completely made over, which required the removal of a few walls. The ceilings were also raised by a foot.

“We didn’t think we were ripping it down to the studs,” Hayley says, but that’s pretty much what happened.

The kitchen, already white, was whitened up some more, thanks to an Ikea cabinet installation. The eating space was also updated with an infusion of Bosch appliances, including two ovens and a refrigerator. Gray wall tile complements the fresh cabinets and kitchen island.

The gut renovation of the property took 13 months — they moved into the home in January of 2014, before the makeover was complete.

$350,000 to $400,000. The Prochazkas had planned to spend $150,000 but costs rose once they realized the extent of the renovation they desired.

Some of the most obvious showpieces of the house are the lighting fixtures, designed by Artemide and Estiluz. Scott works in commercial lighting, so his expertise came in handy in this arena, while some other pointers came from Hayley’s sister, an interior designer. The Prochazkas also went all out on the windows, replacing each and every one in the house.

Montclair council votes to change government to fascist dictatorship

Posted in New Development, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 83 Comments

From the Patch:

Montclair Debates ‘Redevelopment’ at Lackawanna Plaza

he plan to redevelop Lackawanna Plaza marches ahead, but what the final vision will end up looking like is still up for debate.

During a public workshop held on Monday, representatives from the municipal planning board discussed the Township Council’s recent designation of nine properties around Lackawanna Plaza as an “area in need of redevelopment,” and what that could mean for residents and business owners in the neighborhood.

Designating a property as an area in need of redevelopment allows a municipal government to take certain legal actions that they wouldn’t normally be allowed, including seizing properties through the use of eminent domain, as per New Jersey law.

According to Hoboken-based planning consultant Paul Grygiel, the designated properties – which are currently owned by Hampshire Real Estate Companies and Pinnacle Companies – are currently zoned as C-1 commercial, which allows for building heights of up to eight stories if incentives are provided.

One of the most vocal critics of the proposed redevelopment has been The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P), which has over 30 years remaining on its lease.

An attorney for A&P attended the Township Council’s March 10 meeting in protestation of the designation.

“We are particularly stressed over the use of crime statistics as the basis for the designation,” the attorney told council members. “We are further distressed when we read the public notice that reserves the right to use eminent domain. We think that we can work with you, but with the specter of eminent domain hanging over us as a tenant, it becomes very difficult.”

Low inventory due to underwater owners? Not quite.

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 135 Comments

One of the best pieces I’ve seen yet on the inventory issue. Brings up a host of topics that haven never really been brought to light. Too much to paste in so click the link for the details:

Why is housing inventory so low?

There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the consistently low housing inventory levels throughout the nation. Very little, however, has been written about the reasons why inventory levels are so low, especially following the economic disruption of 2008-2011.

Understanding the why can be helpful in predicting how these factors might influence longer-term supply levels and future appreciation potential. This knowledge might also shed light on why inventory might remain constrained over the long run.

Capital gains exclusion on primary residence

Step up in basis

Sustained low rate environment

Value disruption/reset in 08/09

Values not at peak levels across the country

Sense that values will continue to climb

Where would I go? Move up

Stunted new development

January Case Shiller

Posted in Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 148 Comments

From the Record:

North Jersey home prices rise, still less than national average

Home prices in the region ticked up 2.1 percent in the New York metropolitan area, including North Jersey, in the 12 months ended in January, the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index reported Tuesday. That was less than half the national increase of 4.5 percent.

The numbers point to a housing market that is still slowly recovering from the worst downturn since World War II. Home values are no higher than they were in 2004, both nationally and in the region. Single-family prices in the area are almost 19 percent below their peaks in mid-2006, while national values are about 17 percent below their peaks.

“Despite price gains, the housing market faces some difficulties,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Home prices [nationwide] are rising roughly twice as fast as wages, putting pressure on potential homebuyers and heightening the risk that any uptick in interest rates could be a major setback. Moreover, the new home sector is weak; residential construction is still below its pre-crisis peak.”

In Bergen County, the median price of a single-family home dropped 8.6 percent in January from a year earlier, to $425,000. In Passaic County, the median dropped 1.8 percent, to $275,000. Those numbers are from the New Jersey Realtors and reflect the mix of properties sold in the month; Case-Shiller does not track prices on a county-by-county basis.

New Jersey’s housing market faces several challenges, including the state’s employment market, which has not been creating jobs as fast as the nation as a whole. In addition, the state has one of the nation’s highest rates of properties in the foreclosure pipeline, because it slowed the eviction process after questions arose about mortgage industry abuses.