Anyone who has shopped for a house in this red-hot market can tell you, there aren’t many to choose from.
The bidding wars and sky-high prices that have been the norm for the past two years were driven largely by the low inventory of homes for sale.
But the latest figures for new home listings show a 41% gain in new listings from February to March. Statewide, 9,281 homes hit the market in March, versus 6,566 new listings in February, according to the most recent data available from New Jersey Realtors.
The biggest increases were in Middlesex, Bergen and Monmouth counties. The smallest increases in new listings month over month were in Hunterdon, Salem and Essex counties, according to New Jersey Realtors.
Despite the month-over-month gains, the stock of houses for sale in New Jersey is still woefully low.
New listings were down 10.5% from a year ago. And if the trend of 9,200 new listings were to continue for the rest of the year, coupled with the number of current listings, that would put new listings for the year statewide at about 105,000.
“It sounds like a lot but it isn’t,” said Robert White president of New Jersey Realtors and a broker with Coldwell Banker in Spring Lake.
In 2018 there were 131,000 new listings and in 2019 there were 128,000. Inventory was already dropping before the pandemic and has slipped since.
“In a better market there would’ve been closer to 20,000 new listings,” White said.
In Middlesex County, which saw the largest increase month over month at 37%, Realtor and Broker Christo Joe of LOVI Realty in Fords attributes the bump in inventory to the spring market.
“People who are renting apartments and their lease is up and they need to get into a house … and people with school-aged children, it’s a good time for them to move,” he said.
But, he said, even their inventory is still low.
“Many people want to sell but they’re afraid they won’t get another property,” Joe said. “Everyone is waiting for more inventory but it’s still not happening.”
The impact is buyers grappling over the few homes that are available for sale, driving up prices.
“There are so many buyers and even with rising interest rates they’re still at the door waiting,” said White.
In his office, a newer agent wanted to price a townhome that was dated — all original finishes — at $429,000. They pulled comparables and White told her to price it at $469,000 and the seller would probably get $475,000 to $485,000. It sold after multiple offers for $525,000.
Even properties that need work are selling.
“Buyers have no choice,” White said. “We’re telling them if they can get 50% to 60% of their wishlist they’re doing good. People don’t have large demands anymore. They’re just happy to have the house and lock in the interest rates.”