The Morris County housing market sagged a bit in the fourth quarter, with only a modest increase in sales and basically flat prices. For the year, sales were up slightly, but we are still not seeing any meaningful price appreciation.
Sales. Morris County sales were essentially flat for the fourth quarter, rising 1.5% and finishing the year up 7.6%. This did mark the fifth straight quarter of year-on-year sales growth, and the market closed over 5,500 sales for the calendar year for the first time since the height of the seller’s market, so things are moving in the right direction. But compared to the other northern New Jersey county markets, Morris’s 2015 performance was relatively tepid.
Prices. Similarly, Morris pricing continued the trend of bouncing around a bit. For the quarter, the average price was up a tick and the median was down slightly. And for the year, the average was up and the median flat. That’s what we’ve basically seen over the last few years: prices up one quarter, down the next, the average up but the median down, etc. We’re not getting any clear read on where pricing in Morris is going, except that we remain confident if buyer demand continues to grow it will eventually start pushing prices up.
Negotiability. The negotiability indicators – the amount of time sold homes were on the market, and the rate at which sellers were able to retain their full asking price – were basically flat. The days-on-market rose slightly in the quarter and for the year, indicating that homes were taking just a little longer to sell. But sellers were getting slightly closer to the asking price, with the listing retention rate up a bit for both the quarter and the year. Again, like with sales and prices, the results were basically “meh” – no clear trend, no major movement one way or the other.
Going forward, despite the relatively lackluster results in 2015, we still believe Morris County is poised for serious growth. With homes still at historically affordable prices, interest rates low, and a generally improving economy, we expect that buyer demand will strengthen and drive more meaningful price appreciation in a robust spring market and throughout 2016.