Southern New Jersey is defying the nationwide problem of tight housing inventory.
A study of existing home sales by the National Association of Realtors says inventory constraints have continued to pressure home prices, but local Realtors are saying there is no shortage of homes, just a shortage of good quality.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there is more demand than supply in the current market.
"Buyer traffic is 25 percent above a year ago, when we were already seeing notable gains in shopping activity," he said in a statement. "In the same timeframe, housing inventories have trended much lower, which is continuing to pressure home prices."
"There is actually an overabundance," said Kathy Richards, sales associate at Atlantic Realty Management in Egg Harbor Township. "There is an awful lot of inventory. The market is good, and a lot of people are looking."
But what is lacking is quality supply, said Larry DePalma, of DePalma Realty in Millville.
"The nice listings get sucked up quickly," he said. But the listings that are short sales or "as-is" are staying on the market much longer.
A nice house, for example, may have been sold for about $240,000 in 2006, and a homeowner will try to sell for $259,000, he said.
"The real struggle is to get them where the market is," Richards said of sellers.
And getting a good house is not easy. Many of the homes available are from sellers under water - owing more than the house is worth - or delinquent on their loan accounts. These homes often are not kept in good condition, DePalma said.
Neglected landscaping, paint or carpet often are obstacles to closing a sale, he said. Recently, he was able to close on a house in east Vineland that was bought for $240,000 in 2006, and the owner sold it for about $215,000.
During the past six months, market activity has increased, said Jennifer Truxton, a broker at Truxton Realty in Millville.
"There is a lot of inventory, but there is a shortage" of what is considered a "nice house," she said.
DePalma said distressed or bank-owned properties are harder to sell, because they are left as-is for awhile.
"Those will only sell to an investor," because a buyer can't close on them without a certificate of occupancy, which is unlikely to be given, he said.
A lot of people are coming into the market now because of record low interest rates, and many are coming in for the first time. This trend is happening a lot quicker nationally, DePalma said.
NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif., said homes are selling much faster.
"We are going to see it later," DePalma said. "New Jersey is one of those states that has a lot of inventory of nonforeclosed properties, or distressed properties that are not on the market. I'm busier now with short sales."
Richards said her agency manages rental properties for owners moved out of the state, and the real shortage is in rental space. Many people still are being displaced from their homes for financial reasons and are seeking a rental, she said.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast were unchanged at an annual rate of 630,000 in March and were 7 percent above March 2012. The median price in the Northeast was $237,000, up 3 percent from a year ago, according to NAR.
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