REAL ESTATE

Hunterdon County’s Real Estate Market Conditions for January of 2024

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Utilizing my extensive knowledge of Hunterdon County, this Market Report covers the current dynamics of our local real estate market. Through my monthly market updates, I navigate you through the economic climate and trends influencing our community’s property landscape. The report goes beyond conventional data, offering hyper-local statistics not easily accessible elsewhere. By the conclusion of the report, you will not only be abreast of the developments in the Hunterdon County market but also comprehend the underlying reasons. This understanding empowers you to stay well-informed and make judicious decisions when engaging in real estate transactions in 2024.

You can also find a version of the report covering Somerset County here.

 

91 Under Contract Listings       $509,187 K Average List Price        37 Average Days on Market

“Interest rates have now dropped below 7 percent”

The continuing strong economic indicators in employment and inflation, particularly following recent decreases in interest rates, are causing optimism about the possibility of the Federal Reserve deciding to pause future rate hikes and perhaps even cut them in the future. Also, there exists a potential “flash point” where, if interest rates decrease sufficiently, sellers may become more open to purchasing another property and listing their current one to “right size”. This usually would create two transactions. Although we haven’t reached that point yet, it appears we are moving in the correct direction.

The Hunterdon County market is currently witnessing a reduction in housing inventory of about 10 % as compared to the previous year.

In a broader sense, the market shows signs of returning to a more typical state. Fewer offers exceed the asking price, and bids now include contingencies such as mortgage approval, home sale, and inspection. The inventory of newly listed properties has decreased compared to the previous month (some of this is a normal seasonal slowdown), contributing to an overall decline in total inventory. Nevertheless, the demand continues to outpace supply, keeping prices rising only slightly or at more normal rates in our region. However, in higher price brackets, there appears to be pressure on prices as those market segments move toward a balanced or even buyer-oriented market.

The answer lies within this analysis for those contemplating buying or selling. Presently, the market strongly favors sellers due to the fast-moving inventory, which is helping to maintain price stability in our locality. However, there is a gradual shift toward a buyer’s market in the higher price ranges. Over the past years, prices have experienced significant increases—nearly 12% in 2020, 18% in 2021, and 9% in 2022, and are forecasted to be 6% in 2023. While modest growth was anticipated for early 2024, homes priced at $800K and above are seeing increased inventory, impacting their supply and demand dynamics. Conversely, prices below this threshold continue to rise, although the rate of increase has decelerated. This year is expected to render about another five to six percent price increase. In future years, increases will be more moderate but still show positive growth.

 

Market Statistics for Hunterdon County:

  • Last month, the market saw a decrease in new inventory, with 42 new listings, compared to 80 in the previous month. And this only slightly decreased from the 44 new listings seen in the same month in 2022.
  • As of the beginning of this month, the available inventory has decreased to 176 units, up from 225 units last month. And this is still higher than the 194 units available in the same month last year.
  • The number of units that went “under contract” last month was 91, a decrease from the previous month’s 118 and a decrease from the 84 units in the same month last year.
  • Over the past month, the average number of days on the market has dropped a bit to 37, indicating a slowing buyer demand.
  • Currently, the overall month’s supply of inventory stands at just under 2.0 months, indicating it is still a strong seller’s market. This trend holds for properties priced under $800K.

The present market conditions exhibit an optimal supply and demand curve that favors our sellers. Therefore, waiting until later in 2024 to sell may not be a wise strategy. The current market is most likely near its peak, and it’s unlikely to witness any significant price increases or sustain the high price points for much longer. It’s advisable to take advantage of the current market situation and list your property for sale now.

 

New Jersey Residential Real Estate Market Forecast

The winter seasons of 2023 brought about solid listings and sales despite not being as strong as the previous year, which was above average (called a unicorn year). This was attributed to the increased move to the West (urban flight), pent-up demand, challenging mortgage rates, and sellers entering the market as COVID-19 concerns waned.

Although inventory levels remain low, new listings are selling quickly, resulting in strong sales and prices for sellers. However, the most significant uncertainty in 2024 is finding a more suitable home and an affordable mortgage.

On the buyer side,  the recent drop in interest rates offers an advantage vs. just a month ago. Trade-up buyers are experiencing similar effects.

The higher interest rates resulted in many first-time buyers being priced out of the market and most trade-up buyers being reluctant to make a move. The recent reduction in rates offers new optimism in this area. If possible, it is an excellent time to purchase a home as the terms have stabilized due to the lack of competition, and refinancing is always an option as interest rates decrease further in the future.

 

Hunterdon County Real Estate Market Inventory Breakdown By Price For Last Month:

December December Total
Hunterdon County New Under Active Months’
Listings Contract Listings Supply
Condos/Town Houses * 5 32 20 1
Over 55 Communities * 0 3 3 1
$000K to $199K 1 8 9 1
$200K to $299K 8 15 18 1
$300K to $399K 1 12 13 1
$400K to $499K 5 20 18 1
$500K to $599K 7 10 26 3
$600K to $699K 4 8 12 2
$700K to $799K 4 7 7 1
$800K to $899K 2 4 16 4
$900K to $999K 2 3 9 3
$1,000K and Up 8 4 48 12
Totals for December 42 91 176 2
Average Price $784,750 $509,187 -35.1%
Average DOM 37
* Included in $ breakdowns
  • 60% of sales in houses< $500,000
  • 27% of sales in the $500,000 to the $800,000 range
  • 13% percent of total sales (or 10 in total) in houses >$800,000

Hunterdon County Real Estate Market Inventory Breakdown By Municipality For Last Month:

Hunterdon County Active Listings Under Contract Last Month Months’ Supply
Alexandria Twp. 11 2 6
Bethlehem Twp. 6 2 3
Bloomsbury Boro. 3 0
Califon Boro. 2 1 2
Clinton Town 5 5 1
Clinton Twp. 9 9 1
Delaware Twp. 12 0
East Amwell Twp. 8 2 4
Flemington Boro. 1 2 1
Franklin Twp. 6 2 3
Frenchtown Boro. 5 0
Glen Gardner Boro. 1 1 1
Hampton Boro 2 3 1
High Bridge Boro. 4 5 1
Holland twp. 6 1 6
Kingwood Twp. 10 4 3
Lambertville City 6 2 3
Lebanon Boro. 0 2 0
Lebanon Twp. 8 7 1
Milford Boro. 1 0
RaritanTwp. 19 15 1
Readington Twp. 18 14 1
Stockton Boro. 1 0
Tewksbury Twp. 12 3 4
Union Twp. 12 8 2
West Amwell Twp. 8 1 8
Totals 176 91 2

Five areas had no sales last month:

  • Bloomsbury
  • Delaware Two.
  • Frenchtown
  • Milford
  • Stockton

 

Eleven areas reported 1 or 2 sales each last month:

  • Alexandria
  • Bethlehem Twp.
  • Califon
  • E Amwell
  • Flemington
  • Franklin Twp.
  • Glen Gardner
  • High Bridge
  • Lambertville
  • Lebanon Boro
  • Milford
  • W. Amwell

Hotspots:

  • Clinton/Clinton Twp. – 14 Sales
  • Raritan – 15 Sales
  • Readington -14 Sales
  • Tewksbury – 8 Sales

Last month, nearly 56% of the sales were attributed to the hotspot areas. The average price for new listings entering the market was $784,750, while the average price for units going under contract was $509,187, representing a 35% difference.

Note:

If you want to obtain a competitive price for your property based on its location and uniqueness, you can contact me at (908) 304-4660. By leveraging Coldwell Banker’s big data technology and Artificial Intelligence capabilities, you can gain a unique advantage in the market. I can demonstrate the latest age and earnings breakdown for your area, including where people are moving from and how to market directly to those specific areas and demographics. This approach will maximize the selling price while reducing the time on the market. Accurately priced and marketed homes tend to sell faster with the assistance of a seasoned real estate industry veteran and a local area expert.

 

“Why” is it happening…

 

New Jersey’s Economic Drivers:

New Jersey Home Sales and Inventory levels:

Contrary to what you see on the news, the market in our area remains strong.  While the network news is correct for some areas in the country (mostly those with heavy new development sales), my report focuses only on our two counties in NJ which consists primarily of resales. Our only new construction is primarily on the high end of the market.

  • The pace of sales across NJ continued to slow in late 2023.
  • Statewide, the YTD inventory number was about 18 less.
  • Sales have now declined for 30 consecutive months on a YOY basis.
  • There are early signs of some pullback in pricing at the higher price tiers, but the lower tiers are still seeing price increases, just not as aggressive as in the past.
  • First-time buyers are cooling down considerably due to higher pricing (price resistance), inventory shortages, and interest rates.
  • Potential sellers find it challenging to locate suitable housing and are hesitant to list until they do. They are also dismayed by higher interest rates than they currently have in place on their current homes and, for the most part, are not willing to make a move unless they have an urgent issue, such as a job transfer.
  • Current mortgages show that nearly 71% are under 4%, and 90% are under 5%.
  • The current month’s supply of inventory in Hunterdon County remains just under two months, and in Somerset County, it is around 1.5 months due to the rapid sales of new listings, which is called velocity. However, the market remains active.
  • Hunterdon and Somerset County have considerably less inventory than a year ago. The unsold inventory in New Jersey has steadily decreased since reaching a peak of over 20,000, and it is down to about 10,700 today.
  • Inventory reductions have occurred in all price ranges, with the under $400,000 market experiencing the most significant impact with 26% fewer homes and the $400K to $600K price tier seeing a decrease of 13%. The $600K to $1,000K price tier decreased by about 10%.
  • New housing development has not kept up with population growth and is now focused on the rental market.

 

Interest Rates:

  • Interest rates peaked at 7.8% in the last week of August, which was a 21-year high. At the end of December, they had fallen to 6.67%
  • The economy is adjusting, and the average interest rates for a 30-year conventional mortgage have climbed slightly to just over 6.6%, while a fifteen-year conventional mortgage is around the 6% mark.
  • It was anticipated that rates would drop as inflation improved but not come anywhere near the rates we saw just two years back as those were artificially bought down to create demand.
  • Many buyers are considering attractive ARM rates and other buy-down plans as alternatives.
  • Additional activity to ease or temper the amount of mortgage-backed securities that the Fed buys each month is now being seen, negatively affecting rates in the future.
  • Based on the current rates, first-time buyer mortgage applications have dropped, but restructuring debt and paying down high-interest items remain active.
  • The Fed’s efforts to slow things down have resulted in the above.
  • The Fed did not raise the rate in December.

 

National Job Front:

  • Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 216,000 in December, and unemployment remained at 3.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Employment continued growing in government, health care, social assistance, and construction.
  • At the same time, job gains for October and November were revised downward by over 71,000 jobs. This gets little exposure on the network news channels but is not a strong indicator of the market.
  • A large portion of the new jobs was part-time, indicating that people are finding “side hustles” to help account for inflation.
  • It’s important to note that natural job growth of about 175K per month is included in this number.
  • The analysts also state that many new jobs were lost as small businesses failed and those people reentered the labor force.
  • The labor force participation rate dropped to 62.5 percent. This rate is calculated by dividing the sum of all workers employed or actively looking for a job by the working-age population. It also fluctuates due to people taking a second job to meet ends.
  • Many people are resigning to pursue new career paths due to perceived health risks, the desire for more remote work, and a better work-life balance. New technology-based jobs are affecting this trend.
  • For those under $50K, there is even some incentive not to work and collect benefits, contributing to the current unemployment rate.
  • There are an estimated 8.9 million job openings, while about 5.3 million people remain unemployed. This means 1.7 jobs are available for every job seeker, increasing wages.
  • The lower end of the job market has benefited the most from this trend, with higher starting pay rates competing for the lack of workforce. Jobs starting in the mid to upper $20 per hour are already being offered.

  

New Jersey Job Front:

  • The unemployment rate increased in NJ for November; it was 4.7%, a little above the national rate.
  • NJ has added about 57,000 YTD through November as compared to 124,000 the prior year.
  • Revisions to prior months showed a slowdown starting in June and July.
  • Job losses are still prevalent in industries such as construction, food services, and accommodations, with retail and wholesale trade also experiencing a downturn in some states. Even health care, social assistance, and manufacturing are shedding workers.
  • NJ was hit harder than most states in the early months of the pandemic, but it has made a remarkable recovery since then.

Rental Market Trends:

  • Rental prices in New Jersey have continued to increase in 2023, with a year-over-year average of over 3.6%, and are currently averaging just over $2,200 per unit. However, recent data shows a slight decrease in these prices.
  • The vacancy rate in central New Jersey is currently at 3.8%, indicating a limited rental supply and leading to a rise in rental prices.
  • The rental market typically includes low-end buyers who opt to rent due to a shortage of available inventory. However, the recent constraints in the mortgage market have also contributed to the increase in this sector.
  • NJ is on track to add 30K new apartment units in 2023.

New Jersey Foreclosures:

  • The delinquency rate in NJ has decreased, which is a positive development.
  • NJ’s current foreclosure rate remains low at 1.2%.
  • Nationally, $11 trillion in equity is needed to protect homeowners during a potential recession.
  • The average FICO score of mortgage holders is over 750, higher than during the 2008 financial crisis.
  • A slowdown and recession could still cause job losses and put mortgages at risk.
  • Only 18% of mortgages in forbearance are at risk due to unresolved forbearance issues.
  • A housing bust is not predicted to occur since there is a lot of positive equity in houses, thanks to recent appreciations.

Real Estate Market Recap

Forecast:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a bump in new cases recently and seems to be all but over, but the economy is now facing a slowdown, with the GDP trending down for the last two quarters.
  • Supply chain shortages have affected inflation, and concerns remain that undersupply could cause further price increases.
  • The consumer price index (which rose in November continues to cause havoc on auto, finished goods, and energy pricing and is the enemy of long-term interest rates.
  • Mortgage rates have dropped a bit and are now back to 6.67% + as the Fed is tapering its current level of investment in mortgage-backed securities.
  • The local inventory supply has decreased from the previous month’s levels (some of this is seasonal), and the housing affordability index has improved slightly. Still, mortgage payments are now nearing 25% of gross ( which causes a slowdown in spending in other sectors).
  • Due to COVID-19 and recent unrest in NYC, interest in living in more suburban counties such as Hunterdon and Somerset has disappeared.
  • Many people have found that working from home (in total or part) is a reality, and we will see less commuting and traveling in general as things start to open up again.
  • Retailing and using vacant industrial space will transform to meet the new altered demands and lifestyles.
  • The local market will have to adapt to the new suburban renaissance of where people will be working and what they need to adapt.
  • The lingering question has been, “Can we keep this momentum up with low to slightly rising inventory?” as predictions for slower sales and price increases in the balance of 2023 have already been made. Current forecasts are for about a 5% increase in 2023.
  • Depending on their location and price points, local property values saw at least 18%+ appreciation in 2021 and another 12% in 2020, with the 2022 appreciation coming in at 9% and 2023 at around 5%. The prediction for 2024 is slightly lower than that of 2023.
  • Days on the market in our area have held, showing buyers are becoming seasonally less active.
  • But change is resulting in a back towards a more normalized environment if inventory continues coming onto the market and the first-time buyer fatigue that we have seen continues.
  • Younger (millennial) buyers are coming of age in the pipeline for at least the next four to five years, which will continue to put more demand on the first-time buyer market, usually under $400K.

This is substantial information, and the situation is evolving daily. Nevertheless, it appears to be moving in a positive direction for now. If you require further clarification or have any concerns about how this could impact your circumstances, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (908) 304-4660. I’m always available to chat and assist you in gaining a better understanding.

Note:  Presented as a public service by Joe Peters of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Although reasonable care has been taken to provide this information, it is advised that you seek the guidance of a professional sales agent and avoid making any decisions solely based on my views, gathered trends, and statistics. I am not responsible for any consequences that may result from using this data.

 

Housing Market Forecast for the Rest of 2023 [INFOGRAPHIC]

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