Activity in the Sussex County housing market surged yet again in the third quarter of 2017, with sales up sharply even while prices continued to struggle.
Sales. Sussex sales were up yet again in the third quarter, rising over 17% from last year and now up over 22% for the year. The 2749 closings represented the highest 12‑month total in over 10 years. Indeed, Sussex sales have now more than doubled from the bottom of the market in 2011.
Prices. Even with these sustained increases in buyer demand, though, prices continued to struggle. We saw some “green shoots” of price appreciation at the end of 2016, with the average price up almost 8% in the fourth quarter. But prices are now down every quarter in 2017, falling 2% in the first, 2% in the second, and now 3% in the third. As a result the rolling year price is basically flat, with the media down just a tick.
Inventory. The Sussex inventory of available homes for sale fell again, dropping 11% and now down to about 10 months. That’s a significant decline, but inventory is still higher than in other Northern New Jersey counties, which are all approaching the six‑month inventory line that usually signals the beginning of a seller’s market. If inventory continues to go down, we would expect that to put some additional upward pressure on pricing.
Negotiability. The negotiability metrics indicated that sellers were gaining negotiating leverage with buyers. The days‑on‑market fell sharply, dropping by almost a month and down now to about four months of market time. And sellers were retaining a lot more of their asking price, with listing retention jumping almost two percentage points and now up to almost 97%.
Going forward, we expect that Sussex is going to continue to see rising sales that will eventually drive meaningful price appreciation. With an improving economy, homes priced at attractive levels, and near‑historically low interest rates, we expect buyer demand coupled with declining inventory to drive a strong fall market and a robust 2018.