The Northern New Jersey housing market finished 2015 in a flourish, with sharp increases in sales and emerging signs of meaningful price appreciation. As 2016 begins, the region seems to be moving into a fully-realized seller’s market that will be characterized by declining inventory, increasing sales, and rising prices.
Sales were up over 8% for the region, rising in every county in the Report. Closings have now been trending up for about five years, ever since the market stabilized after the correction precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008-09. Although we are not yet at transactional levels that we saw during the last seller’s market of the mid-2000’s, the number of homes sold in 2015 was about 40% higher than at the bottom of the market.
Although prices were basically flat, they showed signs of emerging “green shoots.” The regional sales price was up less than 1%, but it did mark the third straight year of rising prices, even though the increases have been marginal. On the other hand, pricing is now about 8% higher than at the bottom of the market, so the trend is generally positive. Interestingly, pricing was stronger in the middle of the market, with mid-priced counties like Passaic generally faring a little better than higher-priced areas like Bergen or Morris.
Most importantly, we are starting to see a tightening of inventory. The industry measures the impact of inventory by calculating the “months of inventory” remaining on the market: i.e., the number of homes for sale divided by the average monthly transactions. So, for example, if we have 1,000 homes for sale and we close about 100 sales a month, we say that’s about 10 months of inventory. According to industry standards, six months worth of inventory signals a balanced market: any less, and we are likely to see too many buyers chasing too few homes, which will tend to lead to multiple offer situations, then bidding wars, and ultimately higher prices. Well, right now, we’re starting to see markets that are under 10 months of inventory, with some trending toward six months, signaling that we are moving into a tighter market.
Going forward, we believe that we are heading for a seller’s market. Sales have now been increasing for almost five years, and at some point that increased buyer demand is going to start driving down inventory and driving up pricing. The economic fundamentals are all good: homes are priced at 2004 levels (without even adjusting for inflation), interest rates are still near historic lows, and the regional economy is stable. Accordingly, we expect that the region will experience rising sales and prices through a robust spring market and throughout 2016.
Editor’s Note: We are delighted to present this comprehensive Report on the Northern New Jersey housing market for the first time. Although we have been providing reports to our clients on the Bergen, Passaic, and Morris County markets for several years, we are now expanding our focus to also cover Hudson, Essex, and Sussex Counties.