Home prices seen stabilizing

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


While home prices continued their decline in the third quarter of 2009, several North Jersey real estate agents said Tuesday that they see signs that values are stabilizing.

The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that home prices in the New York metropolitan area, which includes North Jersey, declined 13.9 percent, to a median of $449,700, from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009. But prices were up from the first half of the year, hinting that home prices may be leveling off.

“Prices have definitely stabilized,” said Tom Steimle, an agent with A.W. Van Winkle in Rutherford. He predicted that mortgage rates around 5 percent and the extension and expansion of the $8,000 federal homebuyers’ tax credit will continue to draw buyers into the market, keeping prices steady into the spring.

“Some towns are not experiencing the decline that others are,” said Gary Silberstein, a Coldwell Banker agent in Ridgewood. “If there’s a strong school system, New York City transportation and a town center, the prices are holding more steadily due to high demand.”

Bob Lindsay, a Coldwell Banker agent in Wayne, said prices have dropped at the low and high ends of the market, but are more stable in the middle.

“When you go through the listings in Paterson, the market is literally flooded with a huge oversupply of bank-owned and short-sale properties that have created incredible downward pressure [on prices],” he said. But in more suburban areas, the first-time homebuyers’ tax credit has helped to stabilize sales and prices, he said.

But Dick O’Connor, a real estate broker in Dumont, said he thinks prices have dropped even more than the NAR numbers say. He pegs the real decline at around 20 percent, largely because of the rising number of foreclosures and short sales on the market. In addition, he said, many would-be buyers are wary of taking on big mortgages because they’re nervous about their job situations.

“Unemployment — that’s the key,” O’Connor said.

Prices of condos and coops in the region declined by 8.2 percent from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of ’09.

Nationally, prices of existing single-family homes declined 11.2 percent to a median of $177,900, and the prices of condos declined 15.4 percent, to a median $178,000.

Fort Myers, Fla., experienced the biggest drop in the nation, plummeting 40 percent to $98,000 from a year ago. Las Vegas was close behind, with a 35 percent drop, to a median of $138,500.

Although prices are down, the number of sales rose during the quarter, boosted by the first-time buyers’ tax credit. Sales of condos, coops and single-family homes rose 5.9 percent nationwide, to an annual rate of 5.3 million. In New Jersey, the number of sales rose 8.5 percent, to an annual rate of 122,800. Both rates are still well below the 180,000-plus clocked during the peak of the housing boom in 2004-2005.