REAL ESTATE

Somerset County’s Real Estate Market Conditions for March of 2024 for SCBP

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Utilizing my extensive knowledge of Somerset 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. This 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 “What” is happening in the Somerset County market but also comprehend “Why” it is happening. 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 Hunterdon County here.

 

203 Under Contract Listings      $679K Average List Price       34 Average Days on Market

“We will probably not see the Fed drop rates in the near future!”

The continuing strong economic indicators in employment and inflation, particularly following recent increases in interest rates, are causing concern 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 do decrease sufficiently, sellers may become more open to purchasing another property and listing their current one in order to “right size”. This usually would create two transactions. Although we haven’t reached that point yet, it appears we should be moving in the correct direction (based on the January jobs report, it now looks as if the fed will not be lower rated in the foreseeable future).

The Somerset County market is currently witnessing a small reduction in housing inventory 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, 9% in 2022, and 7% in 2023. While modest growth was anticipated for early 2024, homes priced at $1,000K 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 Somerset County:

  • Last month, the market saw an increase in new inventory, with 154 new listings, compared to 114 in the previous month. This increased from the 131 new listings in the same month in 2023.
  • As of the beginning of this month, the available inventory has increased to 267 units from 228 units last month. And, this is still lower than the 377 units available in the same month last year.
  • The number of units that went “under contract” last month was 203, which is an increase from the previous month’s 175 and a decrease from the 233 units in the same month last year.
  • Over the past month, the average number of days on the market has dropped to 34 days.
  • Currently, the month’s supply of inventory stands at just over 1.3 months, indicating a strong seller’s market. This trend holds true for properties priced under $900K.

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 2023/4 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 rise in interest rates offers a disadvantage vs. just a few months 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 increase in rates offers little 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.

 

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

February February Total
Somerset County New Under Active Months’
Listings Contract Listings Supply
Condos/Town Houses * 50 73 81 1
Over 55 Communities* 10 11 22 2
$000K to $199K 0 2 5 2
$200K to $299K 10 6 17 3
$300K to $399K 19 34 31 1
$400K to $499K 26 39 45 1
$500K to $599K 20 32 28 1
$600K to $699K 15 17 19 1
$700K to $799K 11 24 15 1
$800K to $899K 5 16 10 1
$900K to $999K 14 6 19 3
$1,000K and Up 34 27 78 3
Totals for February 154 203 267 1
Average Price $835,241 $679,207 -18.7%
Average Days on Market 34
* Included in $ breakdowns
  • 40% of sales in houses > $500,000
  • 47% of sales in the $500,000 to the $1,00,000 range
  • 13% percent of total sales (or 10 in total) in houses >$1,000,000

Somerset County Real Estate Market Inventory Breakdown By Municipality For Last Month

Active Listings Under Contract Month’s Supply
Bedminster Twp 14 7 2
Bernards Twp 23 18 1
Bernardsville 16 11 1
Bound Brook 5 2 3
Branchburg Twp 11 7 2
Bridgewater Twp 34 23 1
Far Hills Boro 6 2 3
Franklin Twp 40 50 1
Green Brook 3 12 0
Hillsborough 25 27 1
Manville Boro 15 6 3
Millstone Boro 1 0
Montgomery Twp 19 13 1
North Plainfield 12 9 1
Peapack Gladstone 4 3 1
Raritan Boro 2 0
Rocky Hill Boro 0 0
Somerville Boro 9 1 9
South Bound Brook 2 2 1
Warren Twp 20 7 3
Watchung Boro 6 3 2
Totals 267 203 1

Three areas had no sales last month:

  • Millstone
  • Peapack/Gladstone
  • Raritan Boro

Four areas had 1 or 2 sales each last month:

  • Bound Brook
  • Far Hills
  • Somerville
  • S Bound Brook

Hotspots:

  • Bernards/Bernards Twp. – 29 Sales
  • Bridgewater – 23 Sales
  • Franklin Twp. – 50 Sales
  • Hillsborough – 27 Sales
  • Warren/Watchung – 10 Sales

These hotspot areas equaled 68% of the sales last month. The average new listing coming on the market last month neared $835,241. The average unit price going “under contract” was $679,207 (19% less).

 

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 declined by 18% in 2023.
  • In January we saw an 8% decline and February is forecasted at 7% (as compared to the same month in the prior year)/
  • Locally we saw no decline in February in Hunterdon and about an 11% decline in Somerset.
  • Sales have now declined for 32 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 life event or job transfer.
  • Current mortgages show that nearly 70% of all mortgages 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 1.3 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 10,800 today.
  • Inventory reductions have occurred in all price ranges, with the under $400,000 market experiencing the most significant impact with 22% fewer homes and the $400K to $600K price tier seeing a decrease of 1%. The $600K to $1,000K price tier 1ncreased.
  • 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%. At the end of January they we hovering just under 7% again.
  • The economy is adjusting, and the average interest rates for a 30-year conventional mortgage have climbed slightly to just under 7%, while a fifteen-year conventional mortgage is around the 6.3% 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 creative 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 January and as a result of the January jobs report are not expected to drop rates in the foreseeable future.

 

National Job Front:

  • Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 275,000 in February, and unemployment remained at 3.9 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 January were revised down by over 124000 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 remained at 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 9 million job openings, while about 6.1 million people remain unemployed. This means 1.5 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:

  • State wide we saw a decrease in new jobs of 46% in 2023.
  • The unemployment rate increased in NJ for December; it was 4.8%, quite a bit above the national rate.
  • NJ has added about 69,000 YTD through December as compared to 128,000 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.
  • It should be noted that the NJ jobs numbers run a month behind the national numbers.

Rental Market Trends:

  • Rental prices in New Jersey have continued to increase in 2023, with a year-over-year average of over 3%, 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 4%, 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 was 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.
  • Supply chain shortages have affected inflation, and concerns remain that undersupply could cause further price increases.
  • The consumer price index, which rose .3% in January, continues to cause havoc on auto, finished goods, and energy pricing and is the enemy of long-term interest rates.
  • Mortgage rates had dropped a bit but are now back to about 7% + 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 at an all-time high % 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 2023 have already been made. Current forecasts are for about a 7% increase in 2023. The new year sees more normalized increases (based on price points) of under 5%.
  • 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 7%. The prediction for 2024 is slightly lower than that of 2023.
  • Days on the market in our area have dropped, showing buyers are becoming seasonally more active.
  • But change is resulting in a trend 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.
  • In a nutshell, 2024 will probably look a lot like 2023 unless we see major shifts in the factors affecting inventory and rates.

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.

 

If you have any questions or would just like to talk out your situation, please call 908-304-4660

 

Home Prices Forecast To Climb over the Next 5 Years [INFOGRAPHIC]

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