From the Record:
Home prices jumped 8.5 percent in the region and 8.3 percent nationwide from December 2011 to December 2012, as energized buyers chased a shrinking pool of properties, the property information company CoreLogic reported Tuesday.
The CoreLogic report is the latest evidence suggesting that home prices are generally rising nationwide. Low interest rates and an improving national job market are drawing buyers back into the marketplace, analysts say.
The price picture was mixed, however, with New Jersey as a whole posting a drop of 0.9 percent – one of only four states in the nation where home values declined even as inventories shrink. The state’s housing market recovery has been held back by its unemployment rate, which was 9.6 percent in December, compared with a national rate of 7.8 percent. In addition, foreclosures are ramping up in the Garden State, after being slowed down by questions over shoddy practices in the mortgage industry. When these foreclosed properties the market, they are likely to sell at a deep discount, putting downward pressure on nearby prices.
However, CoreLogic said prices were up in the metropolitan statistical area that includes New York City, Westchester and Bergen and Passaic counties. Bill Beckett of McSpirit & Beckett Real Estate in Tenafly said much of that increase is probably driven by New York City prices, while values in Bergen have been fairly flat.
Both Beckett and Nelson Chen of the Chen Agency in Fort Lee said they’ve seen a rise in demand from buyers.
“My schedule on Saturday was like 2006; I had appointments booked literally every half hour,” Chen said. “There’s a million people looking. But they’re still very picky.”
As buyers have begun to snap up more properties, inventory is dropping because homeowners are in no rush to put their properties on the market. The New Jersey Multiple Listing Service reports that the number of properties for sale in Bergen County dropped more than 25 percent from last January to January 2013.
Many homeowners are apparently waiting for prices to rebound.
“Once you have $400,000 in your head, it’s hard to put the house on the market for $319,000,” Beckett said.
And those who bought during the most recent boom years – roughly 2004 to 2007 – would not be able to sell without taking a loss. Prices in the region have returned to the levels of December 2003, and have dropped 24.5 percent below the peak levels of 2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index.
“I had a meeting with someone who bought in 2004, and the home is worth less now,” Chen said. So the homeowner decided not to sell, he said: “They’re not willing to take that loss.