The Northern New Jersey housing market continued to surge in the second quarter of 2016, with sales up sharply throughout the region. But rising levels of buyer demand are not yet having any real impact on pricing, which was flat or down in each of the counties.
Sales were up over 13% 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, sales are up about 40% from the bottom of the market and are moving in a positive direction.
We are also seeing inventory continue to tighten. 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. 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. That’s where we are right now in Bergen and Morris, with both counties near the 6‑month threshold, and inventory in the other counties is tightening considerably.
Even with sales up and inventory down, though, average prices dropped throughout the region. We have been a little disappointed in the pricing this year, after what looked to be “green shoots” of price appreciation toward the end of 2015. Certainly, basic economics of supply and demand would tell us that after five years of steadily increasing buyer demand, we would expect to see some meaningful price increases. But appreciation still eludes us. It might be that the market is simply stronger in the lower‑end than the middle‑ or higher‑end, which is changing the mix of properties sold and skewing the averages. Or it could still just be a matter of time before falling inventory and rising demand starts impacting pricing.
Going forward, we still believe that we are heading for a seller’s market. Sales have now been increasing for almost five years, which has brought inventory to the seller’s market threshold in much of the region. 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 continue to believe that price appreciation is coming, and that the region will experience a robust summer market that continues throughout the rest of 2016.