Housing slump? Not in Atlantic City area

By
Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Casa Bella Realtors
Housing slump? Not in Atlantic City area
By KEVIN POST Business Editor, 609-272-7250
Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Atlantic City area is in a sweet spot of the nation's real estate market, according to first-quarter price and sales figures released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors.

Median home prices increased 4.8 percent in the Atlantic County market from the first quarter of last year, better than the 3.2 percent price rise for the Northeast region. Meanwhile, home prices dropped 7.7 percent nationwide for the period.

And New Jersey was one of just three states (besides Indiana and Alaska) where home sales increased from the year-ago period, rising 4 percent to 169,600 units sold in the first quarter. Nationwide, sales fell 22.2 percent and in the Northeast as a whole dropped 23.9 percent.

Lester Argus, president of the Atlantic City & County Board of Realtors, said the figures match what he's seeing in the area.

"All of the Realtors I've talked to are doing a lot more business than they were six months ago," Argus said. "My office (Argus Real Estate in Ventnor) itself is very busy. ... With interest rates as low as they are and prices the way they are, I think it's going to pick up even more.

 

For Ian Lazarus, president of the Cape May County Association of Realtors, the first-quarter figures suggested the declining home resale market has pretty much bottomed out.

"That's telling me the worst is probably behind us," Lazarus said. "I don't know if the market is done dropping, but I do know that we're closer to the bottom than the top."

He said price reductions lately have been yielding quick sales, and more buyers are waiting for a signal that prices have stopped falling.

"I'm now working with 15 to 20 buyers, and as soon as they feel the market has built in some kind of floor, they're going to buy," Lazarus said.

To the state Realtors association, the performances of New Jersey and the Atlantic City area prove its longtime contention that the depth of the housing slump depends on the region.

"It's worth saying again, all real estate is local," said Drew Fishman, state association president and broker with ReMax Atlantic in Northfield. "National trends don't necessarily translate to every market."

Lazarus, who is also president of the Landis Co. in Sea Isle City, said the inventory of homes available in that city has shrunk from 375 units a year ago to about 290 now, reducing choices. "People are saying, I want one like my friend got last year," he said. "Well, that's not there now."

Home prices dropped in two-thirds of the 149 metropolitan areas surveyed by the National Association of Realtors. The national median price - one at which half of homes sold for more and half for less - dropped to $196,300 from $212,600 the year before.

The Atlantic City metro area - all of Atlantic County - saw its median home price rise from $264,600 to $277,400 during the same period.

Home prices nationwide might be stronger than the survey suggests, according to NAR economist Lawrence Yun, because difficulties lining up jumbo mortgages may have held down sales of houses in the high end of the market.

Two other housing price surveys - from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight and Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index - track price changes at particular properties to make comparisons between quarters more accurate. Those surveys, which come out later this month, have indicated a weaker housing market.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported Tuesday that 36 professional forecasters it surveyed believe those home price indexes won't stop declining until the second quarter of 2009, and won't turn positive for the year until 2010.

To e-mail Kevin Post at The Press:  KPost@pressofac.com

E-mail Realtor Steven Mento at Prudential Fox and Roach:  duomento@gmail.com

Comments (1)

The Trumm Team Omaha Homes for Sale, Real Estate
Keller Williams Greater Omaha - Omaha, NE

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Jun 20, 2008 08:24 AM