The Morris County housing market got off to a strong start in 2017, with an increase in sales activity coupled with some promising signs for pricing.
Sales. Morris County sales were up solidly, rising almost 9% from the first quarter of last year. This continued a streak in which year-on-year sales have now gone up for 10 straight quarters, over two years of sustained buyer demand. Transactions were also up 10% for the year, and are now up almost 60% from the bottom of the market in 2011. So sales have been strong for several years now, indicating sustained levels of buyer demand.
Prices. These persistent levels of buyer demand are finally having some modest impact on pricing. For the first time in several years, the average price was up, rising a little over 1%. And even though the median was down 1%, and the yearlong price trend is negative, we believe that sustained buyer demand coupled with falling inventory is likely to drive pricing up through the rest of the year.
Inventory. Morris inventory fell again, dropping over 34% from last year’s first quarter and now down to just over six months worth of inventory . We measure “months of inventory” by calculating the number of months it would take to sell all the available homes at the current rate of absorption, and generally consider anything below six months to signal a seller’s market that would normally drive prices up. So the fact that Morris inventory is now close to that six-month mark indicates that we could be in for some meaningful price appreciation in 2017.
Negotiability. The negotiability indicators showed that sellers are starting to gain leverage with buyers. The days-on-market indicator was down by 15 days, falling over 10%, indicating that homes were selling more quickly. And the listing price retention rate continues to rise, now up to just about 97% for the quarter and the year, signaling that sellers are having more success getting buyers to meet their asking prices.
Going forward, we expect that Morris County’s sales activity will eventually have a more meaningful impact on pricing. With homes still at historically affordable prices, interest rates low, and a generally improving economy, we believe that reduced inventory, coupled with rising buyer demand, will drive price appreciation through a robust Spring market and the rest of 2017.