The Dutchess county housing market surged again in the fourth quarter of 2019, closing a robust 2019 with a flourish. Sales activity was way up, with single-family home sales up almost 20% from last year’s fourth quarter, which made up for a lackluster start to 2019 – as you can see, even with the fourth-quarter surge, sales for the full year were basically flat. Quarterly sales were also up almost 13% for condos, finishing the year up almost 7%. Pricing for the quarter was a bit more mixed: single-family homes were down about 3% on average but up almost 4% at the median, while condos were up about 5% on both the average and the median. But for the year, pricing was up meaningfully, with single-family homes up almost 3% on average and over 4% at the median, and condos up over 4% on average and almost 3% at the median. Going forward, we believe that Dutchess is entering 2020 in good shape, and the strong economic fundamentals will drive a relatively robust spring market.
The Putnam housing market corrected a bit in a slow fourth quarter, after surges through much of the year. Single-family home sales were down about 3% for the quarter, with prices falling over 4% on average and almost 7% at the median. For the 2019 calendar year, though, Putnam’s market generally grew, with sales up over 2% from 2018. Full-year prices were more mixed, with the average falling almost 2% and the median rising almost 3%. We believe that this pricing divergence is mostly due to the effects of the 2018 Tax Reform cap on state and local taxes (i.e., the “SALT Cap”), which has had more of an impact on the average price by suppressing some high-end activity. Going forward, we expect a relatively robust spring market, with prices still below their seller-market highs, interest rates near historic lows, and a growing economy.
The Bronx housing market slowed down just a bit in the fourth quarter of 2019, with sales falling slightly and prices topping out after a robust run-up for most of the year. We believe that, like other high-priced markets throughout the region, the Bronx might be feeling the impact of the 2018 Tax Reform’s Cap on State and Local Taxes (i.e., the “SALT Cap”), particularly in the higher end of the market. Even with the suppressive effects of the SALT Cap, though, we believe that the housing fundamentals are strong, and expect a relatively robust 2020.
Pricing. Overall pricing was down slightly compared to the fourth quarter of last year, falling more than 1%. The individual property types were mixed: average prices were down 3% for single-family homes, up almost 2% for multi-families, down 2% for coops, and down 20% for condos. We caution not to read too much into the condo number since the Bronx condo market is a relatively thin slice of data. For the year, though, pricing was up 5% overall, and up for all property types other than condos.
Sales. Sales were down slightly, falling over 2% from last year’s fourth quarter and finishing the year down almost 6%. Previously, we have attributed slow sales to a lack of inventory, which has stifled sales growth by denying the Bronx enough “fuel for the fire.” But the Bronx market might also be hurt by the SALT Cap, which particularly impacts buyers in higher price ranges, who are more likely to itemize their taxes. And while some micro-markets in the Bronx are probably not affected, we note that the average price overall in the borough is about $500,000, which is about where home buyers are more likely to feel the pinch of the SALT Cap limitations on property and state income tax deductibility.
Inventory. Inventory was generally up, rising for all property types and down only slightly for condos. Inventory is still in the 5-6 month range for most property types, a level that usually indicates a seller’s market, but it’s definitely opening up a bit. That might start to push sales up in 2020.
Outlook. Going forward, we believe that Bronx sellers and homeowners continue to have reason to be optimistic about where the market is going. The fundamentals are very strong: the economy is growing, inventory is still low, interest rates are near historic lows, and demand is strong. We expect that even with the challenges of a slowdown in Manhattan and the pinch of the SALT Cap, the Bronx market will continue to see price appreciation and sales growth through the winter and the spring markets.
The Northern New Jersey housing market finished 2019 with a bit of a flourish, with sales and price increases in most of the county markets. We are still seeing some negative impact from the 2018 Tax Reform cap on state and local tax deductions (i.e., the “SALT Cap”), but outside of Hudson County, most of the suburban markets seem to be pricing in the partial loss of property tax deductibility. Going forward, we believe that strong housing fundamentals will continue to drive meaningful price appreciation and sales growth through a robust 2020.
Sales rose for the region and in most individual counties. Regional single-family sales rose 2.4% for the quarter, reversing a downward trend we had seen for most of the year. And the increase was pretty uniform throughout the region, with sales up in every almost every individual county. The exception was Hudson, which has been particularly impacted by both the SALT Cap and the decline in the Manhattan market resulting from the SALT Cap. Generally, the SALT Cap has suppressed buyer demand at the very highest end of the market, where home buyers who itemize their deductions are more likely to feel the pinch. This is hampering sales in the higher-end segments of every market, and thereby dampening average price appreciation, but the impact seems to be dissipating a bit outside of Hudson.
Prices were also up for the region and in most of the markets. For the region, the average price was up 2.1% for the fourth quarter and finished the year up 1.5%. Again, the trend was pretty uniform across the region, with average prices rising in every county outside of Hudson. We are now seeing pricing approaching higher levels than at any time since the height of the last seller’s market in the middle of the 2000-10 decade.
We still believe that this market is poised for significant growth. Inventory remains near or below the six-month level that usually denotes a seller’s market, but we expect that more homes will come on the market as prices increase. And the SALT Cap continues to have a suppressive effect in the high end, but will eventually get priced into the market and open up the high end a little more.
Going forward, we expect a rising market in 2020. The seller market fundamentals are very strong: the economy is growing, interest rates are near historic lows, inventory is relatively low, and homes are still priced below their last seller market highs. Accordingly, we expect that sales and prices will show some modest strength through the rest of the winter, leading into a traditionally robust spring market.
The Sussex County housing market showed continued signs of strength in the fourth quarter of 2019, with sharp increases in both sales and prices. Sales were up almost 3%, which continued a trend from the third quarter and helped moderate the significant sales declines in the early part of the year – sales were down almost 5% for the calendar year, but they were down much more sharply in the first six months. More significantly, we’re starting to see sustained strength in pricing: for the quarter, prices were up almost 7% on average and 8% at the median, finishing the calendar year up almost 5% on average and over 9% at the median. Indeed, the average price in Sussex is now higher than at any point since the height of the last seller’s market in the middle of the 2000s. Going forward, we believe that the seller market fundamentals are strong: a growing economy, prices well below historic highs, low-interest rates, and relatively low levels of inventory. So we expect to see continued appreciation and sales growth through 2020.
The Essex County housing market finished a strong year with a flourish, with increases in both sales and prices. Sales rose almost 2% for the quarter and finished the 2019 calendar year up almost 4%. And these continued increases in sales are finally having a meaningful impact on pricing, which was up for both the quarter and the year: prices were up 6% on average and almost 4% at the median for the quarter, and were up about 1.4% on both the average and median for the year. Going forward, we believe that the seller market fundamentals are strong: a growing economy, prices well below historic highs, low-interest rates, and low levels of inventory. Accordingly, we expect meaningful sales growth and appreciation through 2020.
The Hudson County housing market continued to struggle toward the end of 2019, fighting through the impact of the 2018 Tax Reform’s cap on state and local tax deductions (“SALT Cap”). The SALT Cap has had a disproportionate impact on higher-end home buyers, which has slowed down the Manhattan housing market and adjacent high-priced markets like the Hudson County “Gold Coast.” For the quarter, overall sales fell 8%, finishing the 2019 calendar year down over 5% and down for all property types. Average pricing was down a tick, mostly driven by a 6% decline in condos, offsetting a 3% increase for single-family homes and a 9% increase for multi-families. For the 2019 calendar year, overall pricing was up a little over 1%, the lowest year-on-year price increase since 2011, at the bottom of the market. That said, the average price of a Hudson County home is now at an all-time high, after a staggering nine-year run of sharp appreciation. Going forward, we expect that the SALT Cap’s impact will eventually get priced into the market, and believe that the seller market fundamentals are strong: a growing economy, low-interest rates, and relatively low levels of inventory. Accordingly, we expect to see the market stabilize in the first quarter and throughout 2020.
The Morris County housing market saved its 2019 year with a surge of activity in the fourth quarter. Sales were up over 12% from last year’s fourth quarter, which helped Morris finish the year basically flat in transactions – after being down sharply for most of the year. Quarterly prices were up from last year’s fourth quarter as well, rising a tick on average but up over 2% at the median. That helped drive positive price appreciation for the calendar year, with prices up over 1% on average and almost 3% at the median. Indeed, with the average price for the year just a shade under $500,000, we have now seen pricing come to its highest levels since the height of the seller’s market in 2005-06. Going forward, we believe the market is poised for both sales and price growth in 2020: the market fundamentals are strong, with prices still below historic highs, interest rates are low, and the economy is thriving.
The Passaic County seller’s market continued through the fourth quarter of 2019, finishing the year with a flourish. Prices keep going up, with the average price rising almost 8% for the quarter and over 4% for the rolling year, and the median price up almost 7% for the quarter and 4% for the year. Indeed, Passaic pricing is at its highest levels since the height of the seller’s market in the 2005-06 era. And while relatively low levels of inventory held back sales growth for the 2019 calendar year, we did see sales go up over 2% for the quarter. Going forward, we believe that the market fundamentals are strong, with prices still below historic highs, interest rates low, and the economy thriving, so we expect both sales and price growth through a robust 2020.
The Bergen County housing market finished the year with a solid increase in activity and modest rise in pricing. Single-family home sales were up over 4% from the fourth quarter of last year and finished the 2019 year up almost 3%. Moreover, single-family pricing was generally up, rising over 3% on average and 1% at the median for the quarter, and finishing the 2019 year up modestly. The condo market was more mixed, with prices down even while sales were up about 1% for the quarter and the year. Note, though, that condo prices in the fourth quarter of 2018 spiked dramatically, rising over 15% to an all-time high. So the baseline makes the price decrease a little misleading. In comparison, the average condo price is up over 11% from the fourth quarter of 2017, so the overall longer-term trend is solidly robust. Going forward, we believe that Bergen is set up for meaningful sales and price growth in 2020, with prices still lower than the height of the market, interest rates near historic lows, and a growing economy.