Homes are selling again – and fast
By Terri Akman

Kelly Gambino could not believe her luck. This past April, she not only sold her Mount Laurel home in a week, but she got $50,000 more than her asking price.

“We had an open house, and 26 couples came through. Within the first week we had seven offers,” she says of her home in the popular Hartford Woods section. “We thought we were pricing it at or below market because we did our homework and knew what houses were selling for. We obviously priced it right. We had a range of offers at asking price and above, and one offer that was way more than asking. We also didn’t want to move twice, and the buyers were in no hurry, which made it advantageous.”

She found herself on the other end of the equation when purchasing her new home in Haddonfield. “We were looking to downsize,” she says. “I went to Paul VI High School. I grew up in that area and wanted to move there. We put an offer on three or four houses. I would find out that a house came on the market, and by the time I would see it later that day, there was already an offer and it was sold. We put an offer on this house, but they had accepted somebody else’s offer first. Within 72 hours they had gotten five offers. We were disappointed to the point that I thought maybe we needed to step back and not pursue this. The next day they called back to say the buyer didn’t work out and we could have it if we still wanted it. We gave them just about listing price. It was kismet.”

In Marlton, Kendall Ellis shared a similar story. She put her house on the market at the end of February, and within five days had 20 people come through and a solid offer. “I got my asking price but I think it was priced well and it showed well,” says Ellis. “I was somewhat surprised and very happy. My neighborhood, Glen Eayre, is a really small, desirable area. The people who purchased my home have family in the neighborhood, which was a deciding factor for them. It was like going back to older times when people want to be near their family.”

shutterstock_50648911These women are not alone. Desirable homes like Ellis’ and Gambino’s, selling in the $350,000 to $600,000 range, are moving fast because they appeal to first-time home buyers and homeowners who are now upsizing from their starter homes.

“The market started to pick up in July of 2012 with a bump-up in activity, though the holidays were a little slow as is typical,” says Dave Lewis, owner of B.T. Edgar and Son Realtors in Moorestown.

“Nationwide, the real estate market is turning from a buyers’ market to a sellers’ market. South Jersey is just a little bit behind the curve – maybe six months – because we still have a lot of foreclosures and short sales that have to be cleaned up. Foreclosures and short sales keep the prices lower – why pay market value for a home when you can buy one at a discount because the home is a short sale or foreclosure? Also, unemployment rates in New Jersey are still a little higher than in the rest of the nation, so as we start to create more jobs, that’s going to help with buyer demand.”

“It’s obviously a great time to buy,” says Eugenia “Jean” Bonilla, first vice president of the New Jersey Association of Realtors. Experts cite several reasons for the uptick:

Home prices are lower. In Camden and Burlington Counties, median sales prices were down 4.4 percent for the first quarter of 2013, compared to a year ago. In Gloucester County, there was a negligible 0.3 percent drop. Yet that is quickly changing as the increasing demand has pushed home prices upward in just the last few months. “When I compare May 2012 to May 2013, the median settled price for Camden County is showing a difference of 2.37 percent,” says Bonilla. “In Burlington County we’re actually up 1.45 percent, and in Gloucester we’re up 1.65 percent. That difference in just a month since the first quarter is showing us that our market is doing quite well.”

There are fewer homes on the market – about a quarter less in Burlington County, 15 percent fewer in Camden County and 18 percent less in Gloucester County.

Interest rates are exceptionally low, although they are beginning to creep up slightly.

There’s pent-up demand due to the drop of new construction over the past few years.

Young adults who had moved back in with their parents because of an unsettled job market are now gaining confidence and buying starter homes.

Sales of single-family homes are outperforming condominiums and townhouses, says Bonilla. “We’re also seeing seniors now taking a leap and moving into the over-55 communities and/or downsizing,” she says. “Homes on the high end, $650,000 and over, aren’t selling as well because there is a lot of inventory out there and not as high a demand.”

“People have to be realistic when selling their homes,” says Gambino. “We all think our home is worth more than it is, but your house is worth what someone else will pay for it. A few years ago, at the high end of the market, a house in my neighborhood sold for $150,000 more than mine. Another one when the market was depressed sold for $100,000 less than mine. Be willing to price it accordingly, knowing that someone can always give you more than asking.”

Lewis believes the worst is behind us and the market will continue to rebound. “The bubble burst around July of 2006,” he says. “Prices today are back to those from before the bubble, which was around 2000 or 2001.”

August 2013
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