A new national survey says affordability is a growing concern across the country for people considering buying homes, but that’s not such a major problem these days in Rose Kelly’s corner of the market.

In a recent ad, the Galloway Township-based agent with Century 21 Frick Realtors featured five residential listings. Two were in Egg Harbor City, the others were in Galloway, Mullica and Egg Harbor townships.

The highest price for a home in her ad was $110,000 for a “lakefront townhouse” in Galloway. The lowest price was $54,000 for a one-bedroom place in Egg Harbor Township “in need of rehab.”

“There are so many homes in South Jersey at an affordable price, but they need updating or they’re sold as-is,” said Kelly, whose territory runs from Egg Harbor City and Mays Landing into Atlantic City. “You can get a lot of house for the money, but it depends on the condition and the area.”

In real estate, the location of a property and the shape it’s in are always important factors. But the National Association of Realtors’ latest survey of homeowners and renters found that the increasing price of homes across the country appears to be causing a widespread ripple of worry about whether this is a good time to stop renting and start owning.

NAR’s quarterly Housing Opportunities and Market Experience, or HOME, study reported last week that 78 percent of homeowners believe now is the right time to buy. In March, that figure was 82 percent.

Among renters, 60 percent called now a good time to buy a home. But last December, 68 percent of renters believed it was a good time to become a homeowner.

The chief economist for the NAR, Lawrence Yun, blamed much of that reluctance to buy on two factors: increasing prices and decreasing supplies of available homes around the country.

“This summer’s historically low mortgage rates injected some additional demand into the market, but the dearth of homes for sale continues to keep a lid on sales but not prices,” Yun said when the national group released its latest survey. “Given the stiff competition and limited homes available at the lower end of the market, it’s not surprising at all that those under the age of 34 ... are the least confident about it being a good time to buy.”

But buyers and sellers around much of South Jersey know very well that there’s no shortage of options available on the local market.

“A lot of homes are upside-down right now,” Kelly said, meaning the owners owe more on them than the houses are worth. “A lot of people haven’t been able to pay their mortgages because of casinos closing. The availability is definitely here. It is a buyer’s market.”

Over the first seven months of this year, the number of closed sales increased in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean counties, but prices were lower in three of those counties.

In Atlantic County, the number of single-family home sales climbed almost 23 percent from January through July over those same months in 2015, but the median price dropped more than 13 percent.

For single-family homes this year, the median sale price was $170,000; last year, it was $196,000. The median means that half of all sales were above that price and half were below it.

In Cape May County, single-family home sales dropped by more than 8 percent this year from last year. The median price for the first seven months was $275,000, down from $300,000 in 2015.

Kelly said agents have a lot of tools they can use to help people buy their first homes, starting with simple math.

“You can actually own a home for less than you pay in rent,” she tells customers, who probably don’t know all the programs available to encourage first-time buyers.

In rural areas of the county, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program lets first-timers wrap closing costs into their mortgages.

“A young couple just starting out, they can’t afford a $200,000 house, but they can come to the (settlement) table with no money down and no closing costs, which is very appealing to people,” Kelly said.

The Federal Housing Administration also offers a 203K loan that lets buyers add renovation costs to their mortgages and pay them off over time, too. Plus Kelly notes that the Atlantic County Improvement Authority offers another incentive: grants to first-time buyers who stay in their homes at least five years.

“Most people tend to want a move-in-condition home, but that’s hard to come by at the lower prices,” the agent added. “They almost always need a little bit of TLC or updating, but a lot of young people are willing to do that ... and they can do things in their own time.”

Contact: 609-272-7237

Twitter @PressBeach

Copy desk chief / comics blogger

Print Director

Press copy editor since 2006, copy desk chief since 2014. Masters in journalism from Temple University, 2006. My weekly comics blog, Wednesday Morning Quarterback, appears Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com.

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