It’s hard not to notice the super high density Cambridge Crossings when wriving through Clifton on the Garden State Parkway or on Route 46. This development has always been a touchy subject for Clifton residents (no need to get into that here). It was built a few years back and if I recall, did sell rather quickly. The place isn’t so bad actually, as long as you don’t mind the density, however definately not my style at all.
I’ve always kept an eye on the Clifton listings, and recently, have noticed an explosion in the number of Townhomes for sale in this development, it seems as if the entire place is for sale. Looking through GSMLS/NJMLS/Realtor.com, I nearly ran out of fingers and toes counting all the homes for sale in that development, it seems like the entire place is looking to cash out while prices are high, and why not, some of those owners are looking to double their investment, not bad if you ask me. But who are the greater fools that are buying? (If you are reading this blog, I really hope you aren’t planning on being a fool anytime soon).
Lets take a look at a few representative homes in this development:
Prices seem to be ranging from the high fours to the high fives depending on the model.. Reasonable? No, not really, but then again the market is in mania, so people are paying mania prices.. But what did the owners pay?
Taking a look at the tax records for that area (George Russell Way, Whiteweld Terrace, Devonshire Drive, etc), lets look at some representative sample sales prices (These are not of the homes listed):
2 George Russell Way $190k
18 George Russell Way $190k
22 George Russell Way $186k
36 George Russell Way $230k
42 George Russell Way $190k
57 George Russell Way $196k
59 George Russell Way $228k
5 Devonshire Drive $186k
39 Devonshire Drive $228k
40 Devonshire Drive $228k
48 Devonshire Drive $229k
I’m sure you are all getting the point here, the average price paid for any of these units is $186-$230 thousand. So what are they selling for?
Double? More than double? Who is paying these prices and why? It’s no doubt that these listings are piling up and just sitting, are there no greater fools in Northern NJ that will buy these homes? 500? 600? Now, granted, I would love to be the guy who sells a unit for $550k who bought it 4 years ago at $200. I could have sat on the deck drinking margaritas for the past 5 years bringing home over 50 thousand a year in profit when I sold. Sorry folks, that boat (and the margaritas that were on it) have long since departed the dock, and the next few years aren’t going to be the same pleasure cruise. So to those looking to buy, do you really think these homes will hold their values? I really hope you don’t think they’ll be selling for a million in the next five years.
P.S. http://www.taxrecords.com is an excellent site for Northern NJ folks looking for quick and easy access to tax & sales information. I’m only a user and have no vested interest in them.
Now, I really only used these homes as an example of the housing bubble in our area, not because these are better, or worse, deals than any other homes for sale in Northern NJ. Everything is overpriced.
Why am I saying overpriced? After all, real estate is supposed to be a good investment right? So isn’t this just an example of that?
Yes, and no. It’s a great example of it, if you had bought in 1999 and sold last week. But what if you buy now? What can you expect to achieve?
Lets just use a hypothetical example here, say you purchased a unit for $220,000 in 1999, and sold for $550,000 in 2005. You would have made an approximate 17% return a year on your investment. Not bad at all, in fact, there haven’t been many investments at all that have done that well since 1999, congrats.
So why can’t it be sustained? Because that appreciation isn’t backed by anything, it’s been pure speculation. Did you get a 17% raise every year for the past 5 years? Did your rent go up 17% a year for the past 5 years? So again, why can’t it be sustained? Well lets keep the appreciation going until 2010. That hypothetical townhome will be worth 1.2 million in 5 more years, not a bad investment at all, lets keep rolling, 2.7 million in 2015. By 2020, you’ll be retiring with 6.9 million. Everyone in America will be a millionaire! And all you had to do was sit on your butt for a few years.
Realistic? No. Possible? No. Anyone who thinks so is going to be in for a rude awakening soon.
My estimate, at this point in time, given what I’ve seen and know, is that housing prices in Northern NJ will fall upwards of 40% in the next 5 years. No, I didn’t screw up on the math, you read right, 40%.
There are going to be alot of ‘greater fools’ that owe double what their home is worth on a mortgage. Don’t kid yourself, it can happen, and it will.