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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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.