From the Record:
Fueled by a stronger job market, housing sales activity is picking up steam, with existing home sales up 6.1 percent nationwide in March, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.
A separate report, from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said that home prices nationwide were also on the rise — up 5.4 percent in the 12 months ending in February. But prices were up only 2.6 percent in the Middle Atlantic region, which includes New Jersey.
That story was reflected in Bergen and Passaic counties, which saw little price improvement but an increase in sales activity.
“After a quiet start to the year, sales activity picked up greatly throughout the country in March,” said NAR economist Lawrence Yun. “The combination of low interest rates and the ongoing stability in the job market is improving buyer confidence and finally releasing some of the sizable pent-up demand that accumulated in recent years.”
Existing-home sales nationwide in March were at an annual level of 5.19 million.
“As we continue to see improvement and strengthening in the labor market, we’re seeing better household formation numbers,” said Anika Khan, an economist with Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C. “Jobs are the key to housing demand.”
In March, the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent nationally, and 6.5 percent in New Jersey.
In Bergen County, the number of single-family home sales rose 12.6 percent in March compared to a year earlier. Single-family sales were up 22 percent in Passaic, though town house and condo sales dropped in both counties, according to the New Jersey Realtors.
But home values were up only slightly in the region, compared to March 2014. Single-family prices ticked up 1.7 percent in Bergen in March, to a median $437,500, and were flat in Passaic, at a median $285,000.
“Sales seem to be definitely on the rise, especially in the $500,000 range,” said Robert Funabishi, an agent with Terrie O’Connor Realtors in Saddle River. “My listing in Park Ridge had 30 showings in four days and [the owners] took an offer above the asking price. There’s a lot of pent-up demand out there from 2014, so it appears that anything that’s priced well and is clean is getting a lot of attention.”
Beth Freed, an agent with Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Ridgewood, said the inventory of homes for sale remains tight.
“It would be really great if more homeowners decided to come on the market,” she said. “There are plenty of buyers out there.”