New statistics show a market that’s stabilizing, but has obstacles ahead

New statistics about the housing market in New Jersey, Morris County and in our backyard demonstrate that real estate market is still on a roller-coaster ride, albeit one that we see  getting better. For those with homes for sale in Morris County, the news is good.

The Otteau Valuation Group is arguably the most trusted observer of the New Jersey real estate market. The latest reports issued by the firm cover November and include mixed news.

  • First, the number of homes purchased during November was basically unchanged from a year ago. That’s actually pretty good, considering Superstorm Sandy brought things pretty much to a halt. In many places closings were put off until December or January on homes that weren’t badly damaged. Even with the slow-down, November marked the 13th consecutive month that sales have increased. Year-to-date activity is up 22 percent.
  • Also good: Unsold inventory declined 21 percent in November around New Jersey. That’s the lowest it’s been since 2005. It would take about 10.5 months to sell off all the current inventory, compared to 13.3 months a year ago. In Morris County, there’s about 7.6 months’ worth of inventory. That bodes well for those selling their homes.
  • Not so good: The housing market faces a litany of potential obstacles, starting with recovery from  Superstorm Sandy. While the storm will create jobs, it could also tie up resources and make building materials more expensive. Homes impacted by the hurricane may become unsellable or decreased in value. The good news is that Sandy will have less of an impact in Northwest New Jersey than in other parts of the state.
  • Also on the list of obstacles are things like the continuing “fiscal cliff” negotiations in Washington, D.C.; economic turmoil in Europe; tighter lending standards; and Middle East volatility – all things we have no control over around here.
  • Locally, inventory is down in our area. That means more competition for each home on the market and better opportunity for those selling. It can mean more of a challenge if you’re buying. So far, decreased inventory hasn’t translated into rising prices, although they’re stabilizing.  Sales in November were down everywhere in our area except the Chesters, which reflects the statewide trend triggered by Sandy and the storm immediately after Sandy. Here are some local statistics:
  • Chesters
    • Sales: 2011: 4; 2012: 9
    • Inventory: 2011: 89 homes; 2012: 70 homes
  • Mount Olive
    • Sales: 2011: 21 homes; 2012: 12 homes
    • Inventory: 2011: 164 homes; 2012: 145  homes
  • Long Valley and Washington Township
    • Sales: 2011: 12  homes; 2012: 10 homes
    • Inventory: 2011: 114 homes; 2012: 97 homes

It’s difficult to draw conclusions from figures and trends like this, but if you look at them in the larger context, it shows continued improvement in the market. Smart buyers and sellers will develop a strategy to get their best deal. To accomplish that, especially for sellers, we recommend consulting with your financial advisor, an attorney if you’re “underwater” with your mortgage and with a Realtor. Your Realtor can pull all the pieces together for you.

We’re experts in this area, and we’d be happy to help you with your real estate needs. Give us a call today at (908) 867-7109 or shoot me an email at kholmquist@comcast.net.

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Our Wish For Your Success in 2013 Comes Tempered With Reality

We hope you had a great holiday season and that 2013 holds lots of success for you. When it comes to real estate, however, our wishes for your success are tempered with the reality of our local markets .

Kelly Holmquist, the Holmquist Team; Morris County Realtor, Long Valley Realtor, Chester Realtor; short sales, foreclosures, selling homes, buying homes

Kelly Holmquist discusses real estate at a recent workshop

You’ll be hearing from the experts about how well the market is doing, and indeed, it is doing better. Zillow, for instance, last week talked about their expectation that homes in the United States will gain more than $1.3 trillion in cumulative value in 2012, the first annual increase since 2006. Zillow looked at 177 metros and said that more than 75 percent of them saw “historic affordability and sustained investor interest” keeping “demand at a boil.” That’s great –if you happen to be in one of the neighborhoods they looked at where homes are increasing in value.

But others are sounding caution. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics and a well-known commentator on the national real estate picture, is among those urging caution. He warns that increases in inventory could steal growth away and that our economy, while growing at 2% to 2.5% over the next year, is basically stable. He also predicts a tough economic climate in the first half of 2013, especially if Congress can’t agree on getting nation’s finances in order.

I’m with Zandi. We are seeing some improvement in the market here in Northwest New Jersey. We’re seeing some stabilization in prices and we’re seeing some good inventory coming on.

But we still have a lot of homes – as many as a quarter in some area towns – being sold short and more heading toward foreclosure. Those buyers who already are underwater are too deep to be saved by any slight increases in prices and the potential for tax increases could push them further into debt. Our economy is doing OK, but we’re not generating that many new jobs in the area.

It’s a time to be optimistic but act cautiously.

So does this mean you should give up on buying or selling your home? Absolutely not. We’re able to sell well-staged homes that are appropriately priced and in areas with good schools and transportation for a reasonable price in a reasonable amount of time. The key is your definition of reasonable.
That’s where a Realtor can help you. Realtors are experts at buying and selling homes in a particular market. They can help you understand what “reasonable” is for the neighborhood in which you’re listing or buying a home. They can tell you how to get the most out of the home you’re listing and how to get the best deal for the home you want to buy. It’s a time where a The real estate market is heating up and homes for sale are selling quicklyRealtor’s experience and expertise is a key part of the process.

Your first step if you want to sell your home or buy a new one is to learn what you can about the area in which you’re selling or buying and who the Realtors are who service those areas. Pick someone good and listen to their advice.

Buying and selling a home, even when done correctly, is never easy. While it’s not as challenging as it was a year or two ago, it’s still requires good counsel, homework, flexibility and patience.

It’s our wish that your real estate goals are all met during 2013…and our job to make that happens. If The Holmquist Team can be of assistance, please call us at (908) 867-7109 or email me at kholmquist@comcast.net.

More Housing Numbers: Confusion or Clarity?

A new set of numbers recently released says home prices in our area are stabilizing, but still need to adjust a bit. The problem is that numbers never tell the whole story.

The same study shows that across Morris County, home sales are up a bit and inventory is down, all good signs for our economy and for the housing market. The figures come from a monthly tally distributed by Jeffrey Otteau of Otteau Valuation Group, a highly respected property appraiser who is a recognized expert on New Jersey real estate.

Closer to home, Otteau reported that October home sales were up from September in the Chesters and inventory is down. Both communities report about a six-month supply of inventory, which puts them in the stable category. Home sales in Mount Olive and Long Valley were down in October, compared to September, but so was inventory. Mount Olive reports an 11.8-month inventory during October, which means prices there may continue to fall as the market stabilizes. Washington Township has a seven-month inventory supply, which means it has a shorter way to go to stability than Mount Olive.

Figures like these are ways of looking at the real estate market which, by all accounts is improving. If you put this information with longer term information and you begin to get a better picture. For instance, across Morris County, 299 homes were sold in October 2011, 383 homes were sold in October 2012.
But these figures are general. If you are interested in buying or selling a home, you have to look at what’s happening in your neighborhood or in the neighborhood where you’re buying. A town may report slow sales yet the street you’re interested may be selling well. And your house, if properly priced, staged and marketed, may create a bidding war…or not.

National news stories may be interesting, but every home, home seller and homebuyer is different. The best action is contacting a professional. Realtors can get information about each neighborhood. They can help determine a competitive price for your home, discuss its staging and marketing, and help you survive the challenge of selling it. Similarly, a Realtor can help you set an aggressive but fair offer for a home you’re interested in.

Numbers are always interesting, especially since they’ve become so encouraging. But reading the signals that will help sell a specific home takes more than reading a few articles. It’s a job for a professional. If you don’t have a Realtor, but have questions, feel free to give us a call. There’s never an obligation.

A Dozen Morris County People Talk With Realtor Kelly Holmquist, Attorney Marty Eagan About Avoiding Foreclosures

(We just issued the following release:)

The Holmquist Team, Kelly Holmquist, Morris County Realtor, houses for sale in Long Valley, houses for sale in Chester, houses for sale in Mount OliveCHESTER – The headlines may be shouting about an improving housing market, but for a dozen people at a workshop in Chester earlier this month, the topic of a quieter discussion is avoiding foreclosure. They heard two experts – Kelly Holmquist of The Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams-Towne Square Realtors and Morristown Real Estate Attorney Martin Eagan – talk about ways to do that.

Ms.Kelly Holmquist, the Holmquist Team; Morris County Realtor, Long Valley Realtor, Chester Realtor; short sales, foreclosures Holmquist and Mr. Eagan work together to help people sell homes short, meaning the bank agrees to allow a house to be sold for market value, even when that sum is less than what is owed to the bank.

“It’s a traditional sale,” explained Eagan. “You’re selling to a buyer. It’s not a foreclosure. It’s just the bank agrees to take less than you owe.”

As they have at several previous workshops, the duo explained to those around the table how a short sale works and the role of the attorney and the Realtor in the sale. The bank agrees to accept the lower price, but it does want market value. It’s a tight rope, said Eagan.

“We want to upsell it to the buyer and downsell it to the bank,” said Eagan. “Kelly’s great at that.”

Ms. Holmquist explained that the home will be appraised by the bank, which will set a target asking price. The house is then aggressively marketed like any other home. It must be listed on the MLS, for instance. And home sellers are encouraged to properly stage their homes so it sells quickly. When an offer is received, the bank has to approve the offer.  In fact, said Ms. Holmquist, the only difference between a short sale and regular sale is the negotiations are done by the attorney with the bank and others owed money from the proceeds of the sale.

“On the front side, everything appears to be a traditional sale,” said Ms. Holmquist. “It’s on the back side that it’s different.”

While past workshops have been attended by an array of people, many of them have been younger homeowners who can no longer afford their mortgages or who need to move for a better job, but can’t sell their depreciated homes. This group was a different, said Ms. Holmquist and Mr. Eagan. One couple, for instance, was collecting information for their daughter who is going through a divorce. Another couple is trying without success to sell a home owned by the woman’s mother, now in her 80s in assisted living and with no income. A third woman, in her 70s, had taken multiple mortgages to pay medical expenses. Although she’s never missed a mortgage payment, the failure of the real estate market and the devaluation of her savings now has created financial problems.

“All sorts of people are facing foreclosure or are so far underwater that they may never recover, even though they’re making their payments,” said Ms. Holmquist. “It’s not at all uncommon.”

In fact, she said, about 29 percent of the homes being sold in Long Valley and Mount Olive are short sales. In the Chesters, that number is about 9 percent.

“Working with an established team of an attorney and a Realtor to sell short offers a good way out for many people,” said Ms. Holmquist. “The improving real estate market improves their chances of selling short, but it’s still the best answer for some people.”

Ms. Holmquist said people with questions about short sales or any other facet of buying or selling real estate can call her office at (908) 867-7109 or by sending her an email at kholmquist@comcast.net.

Ms. Holmquist is the team leader for the Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, and one of the top-producing real estate teams in Morris County, N.J.  She has been in real estate since 1997, specializing in residential home sales. After working at other agencies, she founded The Holmquist Team in 2008. A Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), she holds a bachelor of science from PennStateUniversity. More information is at http://www.kellysellshouses.com or by calling (908) 867-7109.

Eagan heads an office that focuses on real estate and is one of New Jersey’s fastest growing specialty law firms. The firm has successfully represented thousands of individuals and business clients across the state in residential and commercial real estate transactions. More information is available at (973) 898-7300 or www.martyeagan.com.

Holmquist Team Makes Spaghetti for Hurricane Sandy Victims in Flanders, Long Valley

Thei video is from the spaghetti dinner we did at the Long Valley First Aid Squad for residents without light or power.

News Release: Realtor Kelly Holmquist Offers Three Bits Of Advice On Buying Or Selling a Storm-Damaged Home

LONG VALLEY, N.J. — As power is restored to Northwest Jersey homes and homeowners assess and recover from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, some will discover that they are buying or selling a house that has been damaged.  For those people, Morris County Realtor Kelly Holmquist, team leader for The Holmquist Team, part of Keller-Williams Towne-Square Realty, has some advice.

“We tell people to follow the same advice we always give our clients,” said Ms. Holmquist. “Make a realistic assessment of your situation and develop a well thought-out response.”

Noting that only a year ago people were digging out from a catastrophic blizzard and just 16 months ago that they were dealing with Hurricane Irene, Ms. Holmquist acknowledged that there are different levels of disaster.

“If a home has suffered catastrophic damage, that’s a special discussion and everyone’s first concern needs to be the safety and welfare of you and your family,” she said. “Most of the homes in this area, however, suffered damage ranging from minor to significant, but not catastrophic.”

For homes suffering from missing siding and roof shingles, damage from trees, and damp basements, Ms. Holmquist offered three suggestions for buyers and sellers:

  1. Be safe. No house is worth getting injured. Follow guidelines from local safety authorities and from FEMA. Make sure the home is safe. Check for structural damage, broken glass or flood waters. Treat all downed power lines as live and be certain no gas lines are leaking. Keep the power off until you’re certain the electrical system is safe. Listen to experts’ guidance about structural damage, appliances damaged by water or electrical surges, contaminated food and other flooding results. Keep in mind that wildlife may also seek shelter in the home, so watch for them. Check for local disaster assistance information on the web. Morris County homebuyers and sellers, for instance, can go to http://www.morrisoem.org or call (973) 829-8600. Check also your municipality’s website for information.
  2.  If needed, enlist the help of professionals, including your Realtor and your insurance agent. Your insurance agent may be able to help you recover some damages. Both professionals can recommend electricians, plumbers, engineers and others who can confirm that the home is safe and its systems are working properly.  Be careful of scam artists.
  3. Work with your Realtor to determine your next steps.

If you’re selling, decide together whether your home needs to come off the market while you make repairs and how that will impact the sale. You and your agent will need to discuss whether any changes in disclosure are necessary.

Buyers with their eye on that now-damaged perfect home will need to work with their agent to run down facts that will help decide if the home is still perfect. Your Realtor can help determine how best to move forward. If a contract is already is in place, your Realtor can help navigate negotiations.

 “Every case is different,” Ms. Holmquist said. “We have clients taking their homes off the market while being repaired and others who feel they can make their repairs quickly. We have some buyers who are asking about moving forward with a purchase on a damaged home for some extra consideration since they know they’ll be putting a lot of work into the home anyway. Like other situations in real estate, you have to put emotions aside to determine how to go forward.”

Ms. Holmquist said she and members of her team are available to answer questions without obligation. The team can be reached at http://www.theholmquistteam.net or by calling (908) 867-7109.

Dare We Say It? Has The Housing Market Recovered?

LONG VALLEY, N.J. – Shhhh. Don’t read this too loudly yet….but it appears that more and more experts believe that the housing market recovery is finally here. Those of us at The Holmquist Team don’t want to jinx things…but we agree.

Those experts are drawing that conclusion based on how well homes are sellingand a variety of other data.  For example:

home market recovering

More and more experts say statistics point to a recovered or recovering housing market. We agree.

  • Nationally, CNNMoney talked with 14 leading economists about home prices. Nine of them say home prices already have turned higher or will make that turn later this year.
  • According to the economists, housing started adding to economic growth in the Fourth Quarter. Housing always has been a key part of the economy, but has been a drag on financial markets since 2008.
  • Some of those economists say they believe that buyers who postponed housing purchases while the market was panting on the floor are now more comfortable with the economy and their own prospects. They have their checkbooks out and they’re jumping into the housing market.

“Economists have been encouraged by a variety of readings, including three straight months of increases in the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, a pick-up in sales of existing homes and home construction and a big jump in the price of new home sales,” writes Chris Isidore at CNNMoney. “Mortgage rates are also likely to remain near record lows thanks to the Federal Reserve’s purchase of $40 billion in mortgages a month for the foreseeable future.”

These figures coincide with what we’re seeing in the Morris County area.  Members of The Holmquist Team are seeing well-priced and well-staged homes sell fairly quickly. We’ve even seen bidding wars. We’re also seeing more homes coming on the market. And other Realtors tell us they’re seeing the same thing

Jeff Otteau, a well-known observer of the New Jersey real estate market, this week said that sales contracts for homes in New Jersey increased by 29 percent over the same period last year. It’s the eleventh consecutive month for such an increase.  What’s more, the sales pace this year is 10 percent higher than it was in 2010, when government tax credits were spurring on the market.  He adds that the number of homes for sale in New Jersey is at the lowest level since 2007.

Otteau attributes the strong market to lower home prices, lower mortgage rates and a “favorable rent-to-own comparison.”

Are we ready to declare the housing market recovered? I’m not sure. But I can tell you that we’re busier – and more successful — than ever and that if you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, now is the time.  Give us a call at (908) 867-7109 or take a look at our website,  http://www.theholmquistteam.net. It’s time.

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featured home

Our featured home is an end-unit condo with three bedrooms and two baths, priced in the low $200s.

Our featured home this week is a beautiful end-unit condominium in Budd Lake. With three bedrooms, two baths, an updated kitchen and finished basement, this is a great place for a young family. The bedrooms are large and the home is beautifully maintained. Priced in the low $200s, this home is in an FHA-approved neighborhood. Call our office at (908) 867-7109 or click here for more information.