The Sussex County housing market surged yet again in the fourth quarter of 2016, with sales up sharply and an eyeopening spike in prices.
Sales. Sussex sales were up again in the fourth quarter, rising over 18% from the fourth quarter of last year. And for the year, sales increased almost 19%, finishing 2016 with the highest yearly transactional total in over 10 years, since the height of the last seller’s market. Indeed, Sussex sales are now up 113% from the bottom of the market in 2011. Essentially, Sussex buyer demand is as strong as we have ever seen it.
Prices. Sussex prices absolutely spiked, rising over 8% on average and almost 10% at the median compared to the fourth quarter of last year. Those kinds of surges are probably unsustainable statistical aberrations, particularly since the calendar year increases were much more modest, with prices up just 0.2% on average and 1.5% at the median. That said, for Sussex homeowners, price appreciation has been a long time coming, so unsustainable good news is still good news.
Inventory. The Sussex inventory of available homes for sale fell by 22%, dropping to just over 11 months. That’s a significant decline, but inventory is still significantly 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. But if inventory continues to go down, we would expect that to put some additional upward pressure on pricing.
Negotiability. The negotiability metrics were mixed. Homes took a little longer to sell, with the days-on-market rising by five days. But sellers were retaining a little more of their asking price, with listing retention jumping up to 95.4% for the quarter. As the market heats up, we would expect both these indicators to show that sellers are gaining negotiating leverage with buyers.
Going forward, we expect that Sussex is likely to see some meaningful and sustained price appreciation in 2017. With an improving economy, homes priced at relatively attractive 2004 levels (without adjusting for inflation), and near historically low interest rates, we expect buyer demand coupled with declining inventory to drive a rising market in 2017.