Despite recent local reporting that the real estate market and lending institutions are in dire straits, the national statistics do not apply to this particular area of the country.
It is being broadly, and falsely believed, that the real estate market is "bottoming out" and that we may well be facing a major housing crisis. What the local media is failing to report is that, as suburbs of New York City, many New Jersey towns are statistically above the national averages.
Real estate is not strictly a commodity; it is made up of submarkets within markets all over the country. Each town, county and region and each price range within them is another. To look at what is happening in the real estate market in the nation is not a true picture of this region of the country.
We do not live in a statistical or a commodity. We live in a home. Shelter is a basic human need, and we as humans always will seek ways to possess it. The American dream will not evaporate because of a mortgage situation or any other short-lived reason. The mortgage industry has gone back to sensible lending practices.
In recent years in our area, the incredible rise of real estate prices made heads spin, and buyers began to talk in terms of investments instead of homes. Our expectation level of unorthodox, quick profits made some forget the other reasons to own a home – the warm fireplace to come home to, the neat row of hooks for soccer cleats or the porch where one can sit, relax and say "Hi" to our neighbors on a warm summer evening. Suddenly, it was expected to double our money on a place where we hang our proverbial hats.
Real estate can be a quick turnaround profit. But it always has been, and will continue to be, a stable long-term investment – and a darn good one. Even with this current real estate blip, residents of Monmouth County and many parts of Ocean County still have plenty to be chipper about.
Real estate historically goes up, comes down and then goes up again. Using Rumson as an example, the average closed home price in 1997, as reported by the Monmouth County Multiple Listing Service, was $ 521,510. In 2000 it was $ 819,027, and in 2006 it was $ 1,435,004. Today that number is $ 1,426,856. Although the price is slightly less, more homes have sold in Rumson to date than last year. This represents an overall increase of about 173.6 percent, or 17.3 percent per year.
Take a small town like Red Bank and the average home selling prices from 2004 through 2007. As reported by the Monmouth County MLS, in 2004, it was $ 346,630 and in 2005, it was $ 427,341. It was $ 440,924 in 2006, and this year it has been $ 477,086. This represents about a 37 percent increase, or 9.25 percent per year for the last few years. Not too shabby for an investment that also provided you with a roof over your family's head.
As far as the plethora of foreclosures that was expected to change the market dramatically, this appears to be a misunderstanding of numbers. The major foreclosure sources report a foreclosure action on property several times during the entire foreclosure action. Some properties are reported three and four times, which clearly distorts the actual numbers. In addition, many foreclosed homes are listed before the sheriff's sale and sell at market value. Leading New Jersey experts say we are experiencing far fewer foreclosures than other states – as few as 10 per county per month. It's not exactly a groundswell of real estate opportunity.
According to USA Today, there never has been a better time to buy a house. Interest rates are at an all-time low. If we all wait for the exact right time to buy a house, or for the market to reach its lowest point, many families would live in homes that they outgrow or would pay someone else's mortgage by renting.
Buying a house is like getting married or having a baby – a big decision – and rarely is the time "just right." However, people do it every day; we do not wait for the media to declare it safe, especially when many daily newspapers are losing readership and seek high-drama stories to keep reader attention. If the time is not right for you or your family, do not buy a house. However, if you are waiting for a "bottom" to drop out, it may never happen.
The situation is very different than it was in 1987. There was much higher staffing and, most importantly, home prices shot up as much as 30 percent in about a year, and then started to fall again the following year. That was fleeting equity. There is a lot of equity now in homes, except very recent purchases. Even then, if it is a trade-up, who cares? The house above you will be more attainable. Spread is key, not price.
Buyers will not wait forever. They have a continued interest in owning a home and a low interest rate. In the last month, I lost two income properties by not bidding high enough. I lost out to buyers who were willing to pay more. Food for thought.