The Bergen County housing market slowed a bit in the fourth quarter, but still finished the year with meaningful price appreciation and remarkably low inventory levels.
Sales. Home sales were down slightly, falling over 4% from the fourth quarter of 2016, which marked the first quarterly decrease in sales in over three years. And for the year, sales were basically flat. That said, the near‑7,000 single‑family sales in 2017 was the highest number of transactions since the height of the last seller’s market over 10 years ago. What’s holding sales back right now is not a lack of demand, but a lack of inventory. If we start seeing more homes hit the market, we’ll see sales go up sharply.
Prices. Single‑family home prices were relatively flat after a torrid third quarter, falling just a tick on average and up about 2% at the median. Over the year, though, we are seeing the impact of declining inventory and strong demand, with prices up about 4% on average and at the median.
Negotiability. All the negotiability indicators are also signaling a rising seller’s market. Inventory continued to tighten in the fourth quarter, with the months of inventory falling almost 5% and now down to well under four months. Anything fewer than six months starts to signal a seller’s market, and we are now way below that level. Similarly, homes are continuing to sell more quickly and for closer to the asking price. As inventory continues to tighten, we would expect to see sellers gain even more negotiating leverage.
Condos. Activity in the Bergen condo market was flat in the fourth quarter, and prices fell about 2%. For the year, sales were up about 5% and prices down just a tick. With inventory now down to about four months, though, we would expect to eventually see some meaningful price appreciation.
Going forward, we expect Bergen County will experience a robust 2018. With inventory tightening, a relatively strong economy, near‑historically‑low interest rates, and prices still at attractive 2004‑05 levels, we believe that sustained buyer demand will continue to drive meaningful price appreciation through the full year. And those rising prices will likely tempt more homeowners into the market, which will drive sales up to even higher levels.