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Survey finds improvements in N.J., housing climate

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The New Jersey housing market continues to strengthen, according to the New Jersey Association of Realtors, citing the lower inventory of unsold homes, higher median prices and the more rapid pace of home sales.

According to NJAR data through September, produced in conjunction with 10K Research and Marketing, the number of homes for sale in all markets is down 15.5 percent from last September, but closed sales in all markets throughout New Jersey have risen 21.8 percent.

For single-family homes statewide, the median sale price is up about 7 percent since last September – from $295,000 in 2012 to $315,000, according to NJAR. Single-family homes also are spending fewer days on the market, with that number down to 89 days in September 2013.

According to NJAR, similar trends are seen in the townhouse-condo and adult community markets in New Jersey. NJAR CEO Jarrod C. Grasso said the monthly statistics that NJAR now generates on the New Jersey housing market mean that "figuring out how the real estate market is faring is no longer a guessing game."

This is the second monthly report; NJAR launched its new report in September with data for August. Patrick O'Keefe, director of economic research at the accounting and consulting firm CohnReznick, said the report "gives us a much better feel for what the market conditions are than anything we've had prior to this."

He said the report shows that year to date, total sales are up 18.3 percent from the prior year. "That is significant: we are not back to where we were pre-recession but we see an acceleration in the gains."

He said a key reason inventory is down is "price reservation" on the part of would-be sellers: "Because prospective sellers recognize that they would still have to take a fairly severe discount in order to move the transaction, they are just not willing to list their homes."

O'Keefe said prices are improving more slowly in New Jersey than elsewhere due to the large overhang of foreclosed homes. Once that significant foreclosure inventory hits the market, he said, "they will clear very, very quickly — that has been the experience throughout the country — and the depressive effect will be eliminated in short order and we would see more buoyancy in prices."

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