From the Press of Atlantic City:
Robert Szostak is worried about how cheaply he must price his four-bedroom home in Middle Township before it sells.
A few prospective buyers toured the home — with its big yard and year-round sunroom nestled in Pine Forest Court — during its six months on the market, but there were no offers.
The asking price was cut by $30,000 to $289,900, and the 60-year-old Cape May Court House resident may reduce it more as he looks to retire and move out of state.
“I don’t think I’ll sell this unless I put it down to $225,000. … People can’t afford anything,” he said.
What’s happening with Szostak’s home is an example of home-price trends in South Jersey, particularly in year-round areas not greatly influenced by vacation homes.
An analysis of state data by The Press of Atlantic City shows nearly half of the municipalities in the region saw home sale prices drop in 2014 from the year before.
And in five years, only about a dozen towns with significant sales volumes in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties saw a rise in average home sale prices, according to the analysis of New Jersey Division of Taxation data.
These factors are playing out as Szostak tries to sell his home in Middle Township, where the average sale price rose 2 percent in the past year but is still 21 percent lower than in 2009 — a difference of nearly $76,000.
“Middle-class homes are gone. Anything that’s about $200,000 to $300,000, nobody wants anymore,” Szostak said. “It seems to be they want anything under $200,000 or the half-a-million dollar properties.”
In Atlantic City and elsewhere in the county, the weight of steep property-tax increases, foreclosures and job losses tied to casino closings last year are weighing on prices, said Charlie Miltenberger, owner of Jersey Atlantic Realty in Atlantic City.
Short sales — which sell for less than the property’s mortgage — further dampen the market, he said.
“There was a lot of short-sale activity from 2008 onward, but it snowballed after the taxes went up in Atlantic City and the casino layoffs,” Miltenberger said. “They have to become very realistic, and they have to go by comparable sales, which reflect a depressed marketplace. … There are investors and home buyers out there, but they’re looking for bargains and realistically priced properties. It seems anything under $150,000 is moving. Once you increase the price, it slows down.”
The average price in Atlantic City dropped 12 percent last year from 2013; in Egg Harbor City, it fell 25 percent in a year, state figures show.