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.

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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Fall Starts With Great News About The Housing Market

The lazy days of summer may be over, and with it the summer real estate market, but members of The Holmquist Team are seeing every sign pointing to an active housing market nationally and right in our backyard, with houses selling quickly.

The real estate market is heating up and homes for sale are selling quicklyOn the national scene, The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch Chief Economist writes, “As the U.S. economy rounds the Labor Day turn, it appears that the long-depressed housing market is climbing out of the basement.”  He notes that, “For the first time in a number of years, the supply of both new and used homes available for sale has dropped below demand.” While all real estate is local, that’s a trend we definitely see in our area.

Speaking of our area, Jeffrey Otteau, an appraiser who has earned the reputation as one of the foremost experts on the New Jersey housing market, points out that July saw a 24 percent increase in home purchase contracts compared with a year ago. Equally important, inventory is down 17 percent.

“The combined effects of the decline in unsold inventory with the increase in purchase demand are rebalancing the dynamics of the housing market toward price stability in 2012,” writes Otteau in his latest studies.

Those of dealing with homes for sale in the Chester/Long Valley/Mount Olive area are actually seeing many of the same trends.  Fifty-two homes were sold in those three towns during July 2012, compared to 40 a year ago. We’re seeing bidding contests for well-staged, properly priced homes in our area.  As of July 31, there were 527 homes on the market in the four communities. A year ago, there were 607 homes for sale in those towns.

What does all this mean for you? Aside from the math and economics, it means if you’ve been waiting to buy or sell a home, it’s time to make your move. With interest rates rising, and the market stabilizing, demand up and inventory down, there is nothing to be gained by more waiting.

If you’re selling, talk to us about how your home fits into the current market. Homes that are well-staged and properly priced and marketed are selling, sometimes very quickly. Your Realtor will help you make decisions about pricing, staging, marketing and getting the best deal.

If you’re buying, you should speak with The Holmquist Team. Desirable homes are moving quickly and while prices are stabilizing, interest rates are not. They’re starting back up. If you see a home you like, you need to move carefully, but quickly, to make it yours.

And if you’d like to sell, but you owe too much on your home, The Holmquist Team is well-versed and experienced in short sales. Banks are moving more quickly now, and a good agent – teamed with a specialized attorney – can help you get out from under an oppressive mortgage.

It really is a good time to take another look at the housing market. People who move soon can be in a new home by the time the winter holidays arrive. One thing is clear, though: While temperatures are cooling off, it looks like the housing market is just warming up.  Call The Holmquist Team today.

Market Update: More Evidence of a Stabilizing Market

A national housing index based on the number of contracts signed by people buying houses rose to its highest level in two years last week, generating more assurances that the real estate market is stabilizing and the time to buy or sell a home is now. That national view reflects what The Holmquist Team has been seeing in Chester, Long Valley, Mount Olive and elsewhere.

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Yet another index is reporting that more homes are being sold, adding evidence to the fact that it’s becoming a good time to buy or sell a home.

Indicators that the housing market is settling down have been growing, so if you’ve been waiting for a better market to buy a house, it’s here.

The latest information from the National Association of Realtors says contract signings were up 5.9 percent in May compared to April and 13.3 percent above a year ago. These are measured in an index called Pending Home Sales, and measure the sale of residential properties. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, suggested looking at longer-term comparisons.

“The housing market is clearly superior this year compared with the past four years,” he said in NAR’s news release. “The latest increase in home contract signings marks 13 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. Actual closings for existing-home sales have been notably higher since the beginning of the year and we’re on track to see a 9 to 10 percent improvement in total sales for 2012.”

Take a look at these other bits of information:

  • Nationally and locally, mortgage rates remain at near or record lows. Don’t expect them to stay that way.
  • Both S&P/Case Shiller and the Federal Housing Finance Agency say house prices overall are stabilizing and, in fact, are rising in some places.
  • The National Association of Homebuilders monitors improving metro areas. Those that enjoy sustained improvement in employment, housing pricing and single-family home permits over six months make it into their index. Nationally, they started with 11 markets; now they’re up to 83 including one in South Jersey.

Locally, Holmquist Team agents are seeing modest improvements in the market both allegorically and through hard data. For instance, comparing Morris County from June 2011 to June 2012:

  • There were more sales (427 in 2011 vs. 290 in 2012),
  • Fewer homes available (3,949 in 2011 vs. 3,365 in 2012),  and
  • Fewer sellers for each buyer (meaning more buyers in the market) as illustrated by the 9:1 seller-to-buyer ratio in 2011 vs. the 7:1 ratio in 2012
  • There was a 9.2-month inventory of homes on the market in June 2011 vs. 6.9 in June this year.

Challenges remain, of course, on both sides of the sales equation. But those working with a reputable Realtor instead of going it alone will receive good counsel and discover that conditions have rarely been better to buy and are rapidly improving to sell. In fact, in some areas, there are inventory shortages of certain types of homes.

“The market,” of course, is the immediate area where you’re buying or selling a home. If you’ve been thinking about doing either, give us a call at The Holmquist Team. We knows these markets. Talk about all your concerns and fears. We will help you decide whether the time is right, how to accomplish your goals and how to get the best deal.

Summer Weather Puts Homes with Swimming Pools In the Spotlight

LONG VALLEY, N.J. — Summer temperatures are making backyard pools a hot topic among those buying and selling homes in our area. While a swimming pool may be a cool idea in many ways, agents with The Holmquist Team have found that it requires some extra attention on both sides of the sales equation.

A house with a pool is a great place to learn to swim, but requires more steps than other houses for sale or homes for sale.

A home with a swimming pool is a great place to learn to swim, cool off in private or entertain. But these homes for sale with a pool require some extra steps on both sides of the sales equation.

There are three kinds of homebuyers: (1) Those who absolutely don’t want a swimming pool in their backyard, (2) those who definitely do want a pool and (3) those who haven’t thought about it but are willing to when they see the right home. For buyers in the second two categories,  here are some things to think about when considering homes for sale with swimming pools:

  • Whether or not you’ll have to pay more for that house for sale with a pool depends on the neighborhood where you’re looking. A 2003 study in the Philadelphia area said pools added 8 percent to the price of a home, but a lot has happened in the housing market since then. Your Realtor will be able to counsel you about the impact of the pool on the home’s value.
  • Check out the condition of the swimming pool and its surface or liner and the age of the filter and other maintenance equipment.
  • Review the impact of the pool on the homeowner’s water and electricity costs. Again, your Realtor can help you compare bills for the home with a pool to homes in the neighborhood without a pool.
  • Check  with your insurance broker about the cost of insurance.
  • Does  the home comply with local safety and other
  • Bring in a reputable pool maintenance expert to look over the pool and equipment, and listen to what he or she has to say.
  • Think  about the investment in time as well as money: Are you ready to commit to the responsibilities of pool ownership, including maintenance and watching your kids…and possibly the neighbors’ kids?

For many people, a pool means a great place to throw a party and a private place to cool off and relax. For those folks, a home with a pool in the backyard can be a great buy.

But how do you attract that person to your home if you’re selling a home with a pool? Again, your Realtor’s expertise in target marketing will help you find that person. Here are some things for sellers to think about:

  • Reread everything buyers think about and get ready for the questions those tips create.
  • Dismiss  the idea that your home will bring many extra dollars (or lose many extra dollars) because of your beautiful pool.
  • As it is with the rest of your home, staging is all-important. Make your pool area looks like an idyllic summer retreat that nobody can resist.
  • Work with your pool maintenance team and your Realtor to be sure your pool is ready for the scrutiny a new buyer will give it. If it needs resurfacing or your filter needs replacing, either take care of it or be prepared to adjust your pricing accordingly.
  • Have  documents ready to show how well your pool is maintained and how little it costs to maintain it compared to how much you enjoy it.
  • Make  sure it’s sparkling clean. That means no discolored bottoms, no leaves floating in the pool.

Two final thoughts: First, if you’re thinking about putting your home on the market this fall or winter, take some photos of the pool with and without people. Second, think about your response if someone is interested in  your home only if you get rid of the swimming pool.

A swimming pool can make a home unique, but before jumping into a sale, make sure you work with The Holmquist Team or another real estate and other professionals to make sure you don’t find yourself in over your head.

Job opportunities may trigger a need to sell your home: Short sales and other solutions

Job opportunities beckoning from a distance are exciting, but in this house market, those selling a home consider their likelihood of success a major part of the decision whether or not to pursue one of those opportunities. An experienced Realtor can help you make that decision.

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A moving van may be in your future if a job opportunity beckons. First, though, you have to sell your home.

Recent figures released by the Otteau Valuation Group show some improvement in the real estate market since last year in MorrisCounty. For instance, last month, there were 483 homes sold in Morris County. A year ago, there were only 439 homes sold during May. Inventory is lower and there are fewer sellers for each buyer.

Those statistics don’t mean much if you’re living in a home you purchased at the top of the market that will never sell for a high enough sum to pay off the mortgage. That can mean a quick end to pursuing a dream job out of town.

That was the situation for Kathy and Bruce, who have a business and a home in Succasunna. They have a terrific opportunity waiting for them in Derby, Kan.  The couple knows they can’t sell their home for what they paid for it, and they are considering working with The Holmquist Team and attorney Marty Egan to use a short sell to sell their home.

“We have questions about the effect on our credit scores,” said Bruce, who will be meeting with us to discuss such issues.

The key for people like Kathy and Bruce is to find a Realtor and an attorney that they trust. They need advice from both, working as a team on your behalf, to decide whether they can sell their home through aggressive marketing, keep and rent the home, sell the home through a short sale or pursue another alternative.

All signs seem to be pointing to an economy that is slowly beginning to improve. That can mean the creation of new opportunities. If you’re thinking about pursuing them, if you want to get out from under an oppressive mortgage, or if you need to sell your home for any other reason, work with a Realtor to determine if selling your home will be a challenge.

For instance, if you purchased your home 30 years ago, you don’t have a mortgage and you want to sell it and move to an active-adult community somewhere, your home needs a relatively simple but professional marketing program by a Realtor who understands the current market.

But if your home is “under water,” meaning it isn’t worth what you owe on it, you may face special challenges, even if you are current with your mortgage. That’s when you need a Realtor and an attorney with extensive experience with distressed properties.

With interest rates low and the market coming to life, now really is the time to put your home on the market. If you need help determining how best to do that, please give us a call.