From the Asbury Park Press:
Kristen Forma checks out real estate websites several times a day as she searches for a home for her family in Middletown.
She does research, finding out what other houses have sold for in various neighborhoods, to evaluate prices. One day, she visited seven houses.
But so far, she has not found what she’s looking for. “Either I am seeing gigantic houses or I am seeing things that are overpriced,” said Forma, who has a buyer for the family’s home in Montgomery in Somerset County, where she lives with her husband and two sons.
The housing market is in the midst of the spring selling season, one of the prime times when prospective home buyers walk up steps, check closets, inspect bathrooms and bedrooms.
But even with modest improvements to the state’s economy, the housing market in the Garden State remains in the weeds. “Sales are running less than last year,’’ said Jeffrey G. Otteau, president of Otteau Valuation Group in East Brunswick. “We have more houses on the market and prices are once again declining.” Still, there is a hint of some good news.
The median home price in New Jersey declined 6.6 percent in the first quarter as compared to the first quarter of 2010, according to the Otteau Valuation Group. In Monmouth County, the median home price fell 8 percent in the first quarter while Ocean County’s median home price saw a 10 percent decline, both over the same period last year, the firm said.
The pace of sales statewide during the quarter declined 18 percent statewide, compared with last year’s first quarter, which was boosted by the federal home buyers’ tax credit that expired last spring. But when compared with the first quarter of 2009, before the home buyers’ tax credit, there was a modest 2 percent increase, Otteau said in a market report.
“Although the sales are occurring at a slower pace than last year, it is clear evidence that the housing market has stabilized, that the pace of sales has stabilized,” Otteau said last week.
“While those things are starting to look better, from an economic perspective, given that we lost the tax credits we’re likely to see price declines in 2011,” Otteau said. His firm is projecting a 3 percent decline in New Jersey in 2011.
Rutgers economist Joseph Seneca said uncertainty in the job market plays a key role in the sale of homes, as does rising food and energy costs.
“These are not conditions that sort of align to generate great confidence to make a major purchase,” Seneca said.