From the NY Times:
REAL ESTATE optimists have been picking up blips on the radar in Bergen County lately, most recently this one: 24 of 68 “attached manor” condominiums with prices starting at $1.25 million sold in a single weekend — before they went up, and before a sales office had time to open.
The preview sales event for the gated development Saddle River Grand, for which ground was broken in Saddle River in September, was held last month at a gated complex in Montvale built by the same developer, Woodmont Properties.
The Enclave at Montvale is smaller — 34 “villa estates” — but 18 months after opening, it has only three units left, said Woodmont’s president, Lewis Zlotnick.
Gabe Pasquale, a longtime marketing consultant in Bergen County as well as in Rockland County, N. Y., said there was pent-up demand for opulence — particularly among “very affluent empty nesters.”
“These are retired or semiretired captains of industry, older couples that are very ingratiated in their communities, with strong ties to Manhattan,” Mr. Pasquale said. “They do not want to leave the towns in which they already live in Bergen County, or the conveniences or the luxuries. But they do want more of a seamless lifestyle — no maintenance, no hiring groundskeepers and pool maintenance companies.”
The developments are not age-restricted, but they were specifically designed to appeal to an “affluent baby boomer niche,” Mr. Zlotnick said.
Certainly, this notion is not new in Bergen County, or the rest of northern New Jersey.
The Bellaire, a 34-unit gated town-house community, overlooking the Alpine Country Club Golf Course, went on the market five years ago with prices starting at $1.6 million and rising to $3 million. But the finished product — in all its 24-foot domed-ceiling, mahogany-paneled glory — arrived at the same time as crises began detonating on Wall Street.
Units sold very slowly, and only a handful of contracts were signed in 2009, the year of the national real estate crash. Now, two units are listed as resales, one at $1.95 million and the other at $3.398 million, according to the broker, Michele Kolsky-Assatly of Coldwell Banker.
High-end sales have been on the upswing in Bergen County in 2011.
Seven percent of total sales in Bergen involved houses sold for $1 million to $1.25 million, according to Jeffrey Otteau, the president of the Otteau Valuation Group of New Brunswick, which analyzes sales data for the industry. That is the highest percentage of sales in that category of any county, Mr. Otteau said; Morris and Hudson counties each had only 3.3 percent of total sales in that niche.
In the few towns where sales price averages about $1 million — Saddle River, for instance — values have increased by 2.5 percent this year while prices continued to decline statewide, the analyst said.
Affluent towns also have few foreclosures in process, and prices won’t be affected when the state’s big backlog of foreclosed properties eventually hits the market, Mr. Otteau noted.
Still, he suggested, a niche is just a niche: “The phenomenon of ultraluxury, 4,000-to-5,000-square-foot ‘downsizers’ selling well is particular to only a very few communities in northern New Jersey.”
Mr. Pasquale, who worked with several large development firms before starting his own consulting business, said he thought the wealthiest buyers were leading the pack on the way to overall market recovery.
“Many of these buyers are savvy entrepreneurs with strong connections to the financial markets,” he said. “I think they are leaders in buyer sentiment.”