Activity in the Sussex County housing market surged yet again in the first quarter of 2017, with sales up sharply even while prices retreated slightly after a strong showing last year.
Sales. Sussex sales were up yet again in the first quarter, rising over 32% from last year. And for the year, sales increased over 19%, with almost 2,500 home sales representing the highest 12-month total in over 10 years. Indeed, Sussex sales are now up almost 120% from the bottom of the market in 2011, as a clear seller’s market begins to emerge.
Prices. In our last Report, we noted that the 8% spike in the average sales price in the fourth quarter was probably not sustainable. Well, that played out as we expected in the first quarter, with prices retreating almost 2% on average and an eye-popping 7% at the median. Again, though, don’t read too much into quarterly price changes. Instead, focus on the rolling year, which shows more meaningful, and sustainable, price appreciation levels of over 1% on average and almost 5% at the median.
Inventory. The Sussex inventory of available homes for sale fell dramatically by over 36%, dropping to just 9.2 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. But 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 some negotiating leverage with buyers. The days-on-market fell dramatically, dropping by 23 days and now down to just over five months of market time. And sellers were retaining a little more of their asking price, with listing retention jumping up to 96.5% for the quarter and over 95% for the year.
Going forward, we expect that Sussex is going to continue to see rising sales coupled with more consistent 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 robust Spring market and a strong 2017.