The Northern New Jersey housing market surged ahead in the first quarter of 2017, starting the year with a dramatic increase in home sales coupled with modest-but-meaningful signs of price appreciation. With inventory levels continuing to fall throughout the region, we expect that sustained buyer demand will drive a robust seller’s market through the Spring and the rest of 2017.
Sales surged throughout the region. All the Northern New Jersey markets got off to a strong start to the year, with regional sales up almost 12% and transactions rising in every market in the region: up 1% in Bergen, 30% in Passaic, 8% in Morris, 12% in Essex, and 32% in Sussex. For the rolling year, sales were up over 9%, reaching sales levels we have not seen since the height of the last seller’s market. Indeed, regional sales are now up over 65% from the bottom of the market in 2011.
The number of available homes for sale continues to go down. We measure the “months of inventory” in a market by looking at the number of homes for sale, and then calculating how long it would take to sell them all given the current absorption rate. The industry considers anything fewer than six months to be a “tight” inventory that signals the potential of a seller’s market that would drive prices up — and we’ve now seen this market cross below that line for the second quarter in a row. Indeed, inventory was down from last year in every individual county in the Report: Bergen single-family homes down 21%, and condos down 34%; Passaic down 38%; Morris down 34%; Essex down 39%; and Sussex down 36%. If inventory continues to tighten, and demand stays strong, we are likely to see more upward pressure on pricing. With sales up and inventory down, prices are starting to show some “green shoots” of modest price appreciation. Basic economics of supply and demand would tell us that after five years of steadily increasing buyer demand, we would expect to see some meaningful price increases. And we’re beginning to see some promising signs: the regional average sales price was up almost 1% from last year’s first quarter, and the average price was up in almost every county in the report.
Going forward, we remain confident that rising demand and falling inventory will continue to drive price appreciation through the rest of 2017. Sales have now been increasing for five years, which has brought inventory to the seller’s market threshold in much of the region. The economic fundamentals are all good: homes are priced at 2004 levels (without even adjusting for inflation), interest rates are still near historic lows, and the regional economy is stable. Accordingly, we continue to believe the region is poised for a robust Spring market and a strong 2017.