What can $100,000 or less get you for a home in South Jersey these days?
Answers vary, but they have one common theme - a lot more than five years ago.
Two bedrooms, a brick fireplace, hardwood floors and a horseshoe driveway - but also an "as is" caveat - are available in Vineland, according to one listing on Realtor.com.
A renovated three-bedroom, single-family home with a finished sunroom is listed in Pleasantville, but it is subject to short-sale approval and is missing copper piping.
And then there is the condominium market, where $100,000 can buy a move-in-ready home with a community pool in some areas.
The drop in home values in the region since the recession has opened up a previously rare phenomenon in New Jersey - a $100,000 listing.
"In 2005, you couldn't touch anything in that price range (of single-family homes)," said Jane Jannarone, co-owner and broker of record at Exit Uptown Realty in Vineland. "So the market did open up a little more inventory in that $100,000 range. … Most first-time home buyers are around $120,000 and $130,000 - a difference that brings them into a three-bedroom home or one that doesn't need as much work."
The $100,000 benchmark - on the lowest end of home prices - is easier to reach now with condominiums and is attainable in some single-family houses in pockets of South Jersey, local real estate agents said.
This may be encouraging to first-time home buyers, but it comes with some warnings, particularly among single-family homes that would require significant renovations or short-sale conditions.
The first-time home buyer "is an important segment of the market. We have the highest percentage of people between 25 and 34 living at home (than) we ever had historically, and that's a huge demographic coming into the market, buying exactly what we're talking about," said Anthony D'Alicandro, owner of Coldwell Banker Casa Bella Realtors in Linwood.
In the first quarter of 2013, the median home in Atlantic County sold for $201,000, 27 percent less than the same period five years ago, according to National Association of Realtor data. The median means half sold for more, half for less.
In Cape May County, the median sale was $307,100, a 13 percent drop from that same period five years ago. In Cumberland County, the median was $128,900, a 46 percent decline.
These differences can put a $100,000 sale price closer to reality. But be prepared for some major limitations on location, size and condition.
"Certain locations, you're not going to get anything," said Fernando Paduani, a Realtor and sales agent for Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Shore in Northfield. "Are you an investor buying with cash, are you a first-time homeowner looking for a one-bedroom, two-bedroom? Location is also a big factor."
For example, potential buyers can find single-family homes in Pleasantville in that price range, he said. In Egg Harbor Township, that price can be found for a single-family home, but it would likely be a fixer-upper or have other problems.
"There's a range. There are some homes that are move-in ready. But you have to decide because we're on the lower spectrum - you have to choose between location vs. the home," Paduani said.
Among condominiums, which are generally less expensive than single-family homes, D'Alicandro said, a $100,0000 condominium today could have sold for $150,000 five years ago.
In April in Atlantic County, the average and median prices of a condominium sold was $100,000 or less in Absecon, Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, Northfield and Pleasantville, according to regional Multiple Listing Service data.
"Condos in general were even more greatly corrected than the rest of the general market because of the issues with financing," D'Alicandro said.
Financing requirements on condo associations can make it difficult to sell a condo when a certain percentage of owners are behind on condo fees - unless paying all cash.
"That forced prices down because the only available purchasers were people who had the ability to pay all cash. Subsequently, prices corrected even more in the condo market than the rest of the general market," he said. "Now, we're slowly starting to see that financing restored again, and there have been a number of associations that are back on that FHA list."
Carlo Losco, president of Balsley Losco Real Estate in Northfield, said investors had made up a chunk of single-family home purchasers in the lower price range, in which many are foreclosures or short sales or sold through estates.
"We had some foreclosure homes, very blighted. For instance, in Northfield we just sold a pair of homes for between $50,000 and $60,000 - they were in the 50-year-plus age range, and they were total rehabs, almost borderline knockdowns," he said.
In the lower prices ranges, investors were initially drawn to bargains, but D'Alicandro said he was starting to see more buyers who planned to live in the homes themselves.
"We're just on the verge of seeing it shift to more owner-occupants than investors because owner-occupants are willing to pay more. Investors are more about the math and where the return is," he said. "For the owner-occupant who will be there for five or more years, it's more about the homes."
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