The objective of this market report is to utilize my local expertise to provide a clear understanding of the real estate market in Hunterdon County. My monthly market update will guide you through the economic conditions and trends that impact our local markets. The update also provides hyper-local statistics that are not readily available elsewhere. By the end of the report, you will not only know what is happening in the Hunterdon County market but also understand the reasons behind it. This will enable you to stay informed and make informed decisions when buying or selling a home in 2023.
You can also find a version of the report covering Somerset County here.
“What’s” Happening in Hunterdon County’s Real Estate Market?
Based on inflation fears and stronger economic indicators, interest rate hikes have slightly increased since last month. However, home loan rates have improved since reaching their peak in 2022, and inventory in Hunterdon and Somerset counties has slightly decreased. Additionally, sellers have become more reasonable in their pricing and are willing to negotiate, making it an excellent opportunity for potential home buyers to re-enter the market.
The market has returned to a more normal state, with fewer offers above the asking price, and bids now contain contingencies such as mortgage, home sale, and inspection. Newly listed inventory has decreased from the previous month, and the total inventory is also down. However, demand still surpasses supply, which has kept prices stable in our area, except for the upper price points, where prices are not increasing as they were earlier in the year.
You’ll find the answer here if you’re wondering whether to buy or sell. The market still strongly favors sellers due to fast-moving inventory, which has kept prices stable in our area. The prices rose nearly 12% in 2020, 18% in 2021, and 8% in 2022. However, we don’t expect significant growth in early 2023, and the higher-priced homes may experience a pullback in value in the new calendar year.
Market Statistics for Hunterdon County:
- New Inventory: Seventy new listings came on the market last month, up from 52 in the prior month but down from 113 in the same month in 2022.
- Total Inventory: At the beginning of this month, our available inventory is one hundred fifty-four units, down from 166 last month and 201 the same month in 2022.
- Sales: Ninety-nine units went “under contract” last month, up from 94 in the prior month and down from 128 in the same month in 2022.
- Days on Market: The average days on the market have increased from 69 to 56 days over the past month, showing a nice increase in buyer demand.
- Month’s supply: We are still sitting with just over 1.5 months’ inventory supply, representing a strong seller’s market. And, until you get above $700K, this remains the case.
This represents an optimum supply and demand curve for our sellers. If you will be selling later in 2023, waiting is not a good strategy. The market is at its strongest now as we will most likely not see many further increases in pricing and probably pullback in the higher price points!
New Jersey Residential Real Estate Market Forecast
The fall season of 2022 brought about solid listings and sales, despite not being as strong as the previous year, which was anything but average. This was attributed to the increased move to the west (urban flight), pent-up demand, declining 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 for sellers. However, the most significant uncertainty in 2023 is finding a more suitable home and an affordable mortgage.
On the buyer side, it is estimated that the median-priced house’s purchase will require a $30-35k increase in annual income compared to just a year ago due to rising mortgage rates as a percentage of their income. This has resulted in many first-time buyers being priced out of the market. Nonetheless, 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 in the future.
Due to fewer listings and the fast sales pace, there have been fewer open houses and attendees in 2022.
Hunterdon County Real Estate Market Inventory Breakdown By Price For Last Month:
|Condos/Town Houses *||17||28||20||1|
|Over 55 Communities *||1||3||1||0|
|$000K to $199K||7||11||14||1|
|$200K to $299K||11||9||18||2|
|$300K to $399K||14||15||25||2|
|$400K to $499K||14||20||23||1|
|$500K to $599K||3||11||14||1|
|$600K to $699K||5||13||11||1|
|$700K to $799K||5||6||12||2|
|$800K to $899K||3||7||11||2|
|$900K to $999K||1||3||1||0|
|$1,000K and Up||7||4||25||6|
|Totals for February||70||99||154||2|
|* Included in $ breakdowns|
- 56% of sales in houses > $500,000
- 30% of sales in $500,000 to $n the800,00K range
- 14% percent of total sales (or 23 in total) in houses >$800,000
Hunterdon County Real Estate Market Inventory Breakdown By Municipality For Last Month:
|Hunterdon County||Active Listings||Under Contract Last Month||Months’ Supply|
|East Amwell Twp.||5||5||1|
|Glen Gardner Boro.||3||5||1|
|High Bridge Boro.||9||4||2|
|West Amwell Twp.||3||3||1|
Four areas had no sales last month:
- Delaware Twp.
Five areas reported 1 or 2 sales each last month:
- Lebanon Twp.
- Clinton/Clinton Twp. – 11 Sales
- Raritan – 13 Sales
- Readington -12 Sales
Last month, 36% of the sales were attributed to the hotspot areas. The average price for new listings entering the market was around $557,700, while the average price for units going under contract was $531,465, representing a 5% decrease.
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:
- The rebound that started in June 2020 has continued through the fall of 2022 and is slowing to a more normal to declining pace in early 2023, making it look more like the pre-pandemic market (but when you have been going at 85 MPH, returning to 65 MPH seems like it has slowed down considerably).
- We have seen signs of first-time buyers cooling down due to higher pricing (price fatigue), inventory shortages, and the rising interest rate factors pushing many of them out of the market.
- Many possible sellers are experiencing difficulty in finding other suitable housing themselves and now adjusting to the higher interest levels. They get in their own way in not want to list until they can find and justify it.
- The current month’s supply of inventory in Hunterdon and Somerset County is still way under two months, and this is due to the rapid sales of the fewer new listings as they come on the market, which is called velocity. The market does still remain active.
- Hunterdon and Somerset County have slightly less inventory than they had a year ago.
- Unsold inventory in N.J. has slowly but steadily decreased state-wide since peaking in July at over 20,000 to just under 13,000 today.
- Decreases in inventory have occurred in many price points, with the under $400,000 market seeing the most considerable impact with 10% fewer homes and the $400K to $600K price tier seeing a decrease of 1%.
- New housing has not kept up with our population growth.
- Interest rates have improved nicely from their peak in 2022.
- The economy is adjusting, and average Interest rates have climbed a bit for now to just under 6.5% for a 30-year conventional mortgage. A fifteen-year conventional mortgage rests around the 5.75% mark. Many buyers are considering attractive ARM rates as well as other buy-down plans as alternatives.
- Also, we are now seeing additional activity to ease (or temper) the amount of mortgage-backed securities that the Fed buys each month, which will negatively affect rates going forward. In effect, the rates have also moved up due to this.
- Based on the current rates, we are still seeing a drop in first-time buyer mortgage apps but are still active in restructuring debt and paying down high-interest items.
- The fed’s efforts to slow things down have resulted in the above. If inflation continues to rise, so will interest rates.
National Job Front:
- Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 311,000 in February, and the unemployment rate rose to 3.6%. The number of unemployed persons rose slightly to 5.9 million in February.
- We have to keep in mind that we have natural job growth of about 175K per month, which this number includes.
- The labor force participation rate increased by 0.1 percentage points over the month to 62.5 percent. Note: This number is calculated by dividing the sum of all workers who are employed or actively looking for a job by the working-age population.
- Also, we are seeing many resignations as the workforce repurposes itself. These are due to people switching careers due to the desire to pursue new career paths, perceived health risks in their current jobs, the desire for more remote work, and better work-life balance. New technology-based jobs are now affecting this trend.
- In the under $50K earners, there is even some incentive not to work and collect benefits for an advantage over wages.
- And as a result, we currently have about 5.9 million unemployed, while there are an estimated 12 million job openings at this point. That is two jobs available for every job seeker driving wages up.
- The lower end of the job market has benefited the most from this phenomenon as we see higher starting pay rates competing for the lack of workforce. We are already seeing jobs starting in the mid to upper $20 per hour ranges being offered.
New Jersey Job Front:
- The NJ unemployment numbers are the same as the U.S. at 3.4% for the last month reported, which was December. NJ has now fully recovered all of the jobs lost in the initial months of the pandemic.
- Construction, food services, and accommodations are again the leaders in job losses, though more states are now citing pain in retail and wholesale trade. Health care, social assistance, and manufacturing are shedding workers, too.
- N.J. was hit early and hard by the pandemic, with almost twice the national rate of job losses. So, where it is currently is quite remarkable.
- But, the job losses will undoubtedly impact the lower end of the buyer’s market in 2022.
Rental Market Trends:
- Rental prices in New Jersey rose again through 2022, averaging 4+% higher year-over-year, and are averaging just over $2,100 per unit (showing recent decreases).
- The central N.J. vacancy rate now stands at 3.3%, resulting which is a minimal rental supply and driving up rental prices.
- The rental market sector usually reflects some low-end buyers now renting due to inventory constraints. This sector has now risen due to mortgage constraints as well.
New Jersey Foreclosures:
- This is a bright spot for NJ.
- The delinquency rate in NJ has decreased again.
- Current foreclosures in NJ are at 1.5%, which is good news.
- On a national basis, there is sufficient equity ($11 Trillion) to protect most homeowners should we encounter a recession (which seems inevitable).
- And we have an average FICO score of mortgage holders of over 750 vs. the under 700 number we saw with the last bust in 2008.
- Yet, a slowdown and recession could cost jobs and put more mortgages at risk in the future.
- Only 18% of mortgages in forbearance are at risk nationwide due to forbearance issues not being resolved. So, a housing bust is not predicted to be anywhere on the horizon.
- However, this effect will be nowhere near the last housing crisis since the is a lot of positive equity in houses today as many homeowners have more equity due to the past several year’s appreciations.
Real Estate Market Recap
- The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic now seems to be almost under control (let’s hope).
- The economy is not facing a slowdown, with the GDP trending down for the last two quarters.
- Supply chain shortages have been affecting inflation. Even now, there are some concerns that we may be oversupplied, which could suddenly reverse, causing massive price reductions and possible lay-offs.
- Inflation (recently rising) is continuing to cause havoc on auto, finished goods, and energy pricing. And, as said, it is the enemy of long-term interest rates.
- The continued invasion of Europe has shed some doubt on market predictability. In effect, we have never seen a pandemic followed by a war. The near future is somewhat unpredictable.
- Mortgages have ceased to drop and are now back up to 6.5% as the fed is tapering its current level of investment in mortgage-backed securities.
- Inventory supply has now started to pull back as a result of strong sales as we move further into 2023.
- The housing affordability index is rising, with mortgage payments nearing 30% of gross.
- Due to COVID-19 and recent unrest in NYC, we have started to see more interest in living in more suburban counties such as Hunterdon and Somerset. That has all but disappeared.
- Also, many people have found that working from home (either in total or part) is a reality, and we will see less commuting and traveling in general as things start to open up once again.
- What were once “bedroom” communities are changing to” live, work, play & learn” communities bringing lots of change to our local economies.
- It is only a matter of time before we see more jobs (or remote capabilities) following workers into our suburban areas.
- Job opportunities will surely follow the workforce and housing, then follow jobs. It seems out of logical sequence but will sort itself out as we progress.
- Retailing and using vacant industrial space will transform to meet the new altered demands and lifestyles.
- More attention is now given to houses with pools and backyard spas and less open areas, which lend themselves to working and studying at home.
- And the local market will have to adapt to the new suburban renaissance of where people will be working and what they will need to adapt to this.
- The lingering question has been, “Can we keep this momentum up with low to falling inventory?”. This seems to have waned as predictions for slower sales and price increases in the balance of 2023.
- Also, what will be the continued effect of inflation on the economy? It is already affecting mortgage rates. And retail sales are not advancing faster than inflation. This is very concerning.
- Depending on their location and price points, local property values saw at least 18%+ appreciation in 2021 and another 12% in 2020. The 2022 appreciation forecast came in at 9%, and 2023 could face some possible pullback in the higher price points and little growth in the lower ones.
- Days on the market in our area pulled back, showing buyers are becoming more active.
- But change is resulting in a back towards a more normalized environment if inventory continues coming onto the market and the first-time buyer fatigue that we have seen continues.
- We still have many younger (millennial) buyers 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.
Wow. That is a lot to digest. And it is changing daily but seems to be heading in the right direction for now. For clarity and understanding, I am always available if you want to talk and better understand how this might affect your particular situation. You can contact me at (908) 304-4660.
Note: Joe Peters of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage presents this information as a public service. While reasonable precautions have been taken in providing this data, it is recommended that you seek guidance from a professional sales agent and refrain from taking any action solely based on my opinions, gathered trends, and statistics. I am not liable for any consequences that may arise from utilizing this information.
You can ask me a question or request a monthly newsletter copy here.