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Rebound in institutional housing sales has limited impact in N.J., report finds

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A national report showing a rising number of homes sold to institutional investors, including many cash-only purchases, is not playing out as much in New Jersey because sales are often delayed by a slower foreclosure process here, according to an expert.

RealtyTrac reported today that 14 percent of all homes in September were sold to institutional investors. That's up from 9 percent one year ago, and represents the highest level since the real estate information company began tracking such totals in January 2011.

In New Jersey, only 3 percent of homes sold in September were to institutional investors.

Patrick O'Keefe, director of economic research at CohnReznick, in Roseland, noted institutional investors tend to hunt for homes at discounted prices after foreclosure.

But O'Keefe said New Jersey has fewer sales of this kind, because it is known as a judicial foreclosure state, where all foreclosures go through a court-approved process — a system inherently longer because it contains more procedural hurdles to protect homeowners.

"These units are just not available on the market yet, and when they get there, the people who have this investment profile will be the first in line to pick it up," O'Keefe said.

O'Keefe said New Jersey has the second-highest proportion of homes nationwide that are either in foreclosure or close to it. He said the bigger backlog here also explains why price appreciation tends to be slower in New Jersey.

New Jersey's median sales price rose 5.5 percent in September to $290,000, up from $275,000 one year ago. The national average rose 6 percent, while many states in the South are posting double-digit gains.

Institutional investors also are snapping up more homes in markets where the median price sells for less than $200,000, such as Jacksonville, Atlanta, St. Louis, Charlotte and Dallas. Many southern states are non-judicial in their foreclosure proceedings.

The RealtyTrac report also showed that 49 percent of transactions in September were cash sales, the highest since March 2012. New Jersey fared closer to the national average there, posting 48 percent cash sales in September.

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