NJ Market Continues to Lag

From the Record:

Region’s home price increase is weakest in U.S.

Home prices in the New York metropolitan area inched up in July, but the increase was the weakest in the nation, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices reported today.

Nationally, prices rose by about 5 percent in the 12 months ending in July, the Case-Shiller index said. The area’s home values have been rising at a slower rate than national averages for several years, partly because the region continues to deal with flat incomes and a backlog of distressed properties after the foreclosure crisis.

Home prices in the region are equal to the levels of November 2004, and about 14.8 below their peaks during the housing boom in mid-2006. Nationally, values are equal to the levels of June 2005, and about 7.6 percent below their peaks.
Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist, said that the recent rise in home values is linked to higher incomes nationwide. The Census Bureau recently reported that in 2015, median household incomes in the U.S. rose at a healthy 3.9 percent.

But in New Jersey, the Census said, household incomes barely budged, moving up only 0.3 percent – the weakest performance in the nation. That may be one reason why home values have been essentially flat in this region.

Case-Shiller does not break out home values by county. But according to the New Jersey Realtors, single-family home prices dipped 1 percent in Bergen County, to a median $490,000, over the 12 months ending in July. In Passaic, prices dropped 2.4 percent to a median $294,750. Those prices reflect the mix of properties sold during the month, while Case-Shiller tracks the value of the same properties over time.

Posted in Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 46 Comments

Clever ruse to build two homes on one lot?

From the Star Ledger:

Owners want ‘Watcher’ house razed; lawyer says stalker ‘can see it come down’

Owners of “The Watcher” house, who bought the $1.3 million dwelling but never moved in because of threatening letters from a stalker, now are seeking permission to tear it down and build two new homes on the property.

Derek and Maria Broaddus, who own the home on the Boulevard that was targeted by somebody calling himself “The Watcher,” have applied for permission from the township planning board to raze the home and replace it with two others, Mayor Andrew Skibitsky confirmed Sunday.

A hearing on the application will be at the Oct. 5 planning board meeting, the Broadduses’ lawyer said. He said another lawyer is handling the planning board application.

Levitt said the Broadduses are seeking a “de minimis variance,” for creating two lots, requiring an exception of a few feet for a side-yard setback on one side.

The couple, who have three children, bought the six-bedroom, home in June 2014 and started making thousands of dollars in renovations, but never moved in. Within a week after the purchase, the couple received the first to three threatening letters in which the writer claimed to be watching the house and waiting for the new owners to bring him “young blood,” an apparently reference to children.”

After trying unsuccessfully to sell the house, the Broaddus in 2015 filed suit against the previous owners, John and Andrea Woods, claiming they had also received a letter from “The Watcher” just prior to the closing but never disclosed it. News outlets around the world reported on the suit, which is now in court.

Posted in Humor, New Jersey Real Estate | 113 Comments

We have no idea where people are going.

From Zillow:

The Elusive Truth on Domestic Migration: Comparing Data Sources on U.S. Cross-County Migration

Mark Twain is famous for saying that a man with one watch always knows what time it is while a man with two never does. Unfortunately, when it comes to regional migration within the United States – one of the most important factors influencing local demand for everything from homes to schools and roads – there are at least three, sometimes dramatically different though all semi-official, data sources.

There are small differences in precisely what they measure and how they measure it, making drawing definitive conclusions about regional migration within the United States difficult to pin down. This already complex task has become even more difficult with the addition of various unofficial data sources on online search patterns, which are often referenced as a leading indicator of regional migration.

In two recent analyses we looked at the metro areas that are most attractive for home buyers and renters on Zillow looking to move from one part of the country to another. For housing markets, demand shocks – the increase in housing demand because of new residents moving into an area from elsewhere in the country (or the world) – are an important driver of price trends.

It has become increasingly popular to draw conclusions about national migration patterns based on online search trends, but it’s something Zillow has historically shied away from. Consumers’ online search behaviors often reflect aspirations or curiosities as much as any kind of actionable intent. Put another way: A Zillow user might look at homes in Seattle from their couch in New York not because they actually intend to move to the Pacific Northwest, but simply because they’ve always wondered what it’s like there or because they are viewing the home of a friend or relative. So while online search data certainly does contain some real, forward-looking signals, depending on the source, the signal is unlikely to be strong enough to merit extrapolating real-life trends without first modeling the relationship between the search data and some more authoritative truth.

On average, between 2011 and 2014 for the typical county for which we have data, the IRS estimates of net cross-county migration were off from Census official estimates by 417 people, a median absolute percentage error rate of almost 60 percent (table 1). For 17 percent of counties, the signs of the estimates were different, meaning one data source suggested the county experienced a net population inflow while the other suggested the county experienced a net population outflow. The error rates were higher when comparing official population estimates with estimates from the American Community Survey.

When comparing net household migration in the ACS to net taxpayer migration in the IRS data, the median absolute error rate between 2011 and 2014 was 1,050 households/taxpayers and in 40 percent of counties, the sign of the change in the two data sources was different.

The divergences between the trends implied by various data sources on internal movements in the United States suggest users should be cautious in drawing definitive conclusions from any single data source. Official data sources based on surveys and administrative records – much less online search data which are even noisier – can point to sharply different trends.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, National Real Estate | 9 Comments

Renters making headway? Nah.

From Real Estate Weekly:

Study: NYC renter income growing faster than rental rates

While the rent may too damn high, it seems renters in New York City have grown more resilient.

According to the US Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey, the household income of New York City renters outpaced median gross rent between 2014 and 2015. During the period, the median renter household income grew 4.8 percent to $43,261, which is just below the record of $43,563 set in 2008. When compared to the previous survey period, the year-on-year increase in median renter income was the highest over the past decade.

Meanwhile, the growth in median gross rent in New York City was more moderate, increasing by just 3.1 percent from $1,278 to $1,317.

The jump in renter income in New York City was part of a nationwide trend. According to the study, the median household income of renters grew in 21 of the 25 most populous metropolitan areas in the country.

However, income growth was not limited to renters. The study found that the median income for both renters and buyers in New York City grew by 5.1 percent to $55,752.

In spite of the growth in income, the economics of renting in New York is more equal for some than for others.

The study, which measured income inequality through its Gini index, found that New York was one of five states that had higher income inequality than the US average. The other states that scored higher than the US rate were California, Connecticut, Florida and Louisiana. The District of Columbia also posted figures higher than the US average.

The gap between renter income and median rent may grow wider. According to Douglas Elliman’s August market report, rental rates are going down as the luxury end of the market gets weaker.

The median rent in Manhattan was at $3,399, one dollar less than the figure from the previous year. Meanwhile, the median rent in Brooklyn dropped 1.9 percent to $2,895.

In an interview with Real Estate Weekly, Jonathan Miller, the head of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, said that he expects the decline to persist over the coming months.

“The rent is sideways because, if you look under the hood, the upper end of the market showed flat prices and the low rent market showed really strong growth.ˮ

Posted in Economics, NYC | 77 Comments

Welcome back old friend!

From the WSJ, Hat Tip Moose:

Freddie Mac Starts Pilot Program With Looser Standards

Mortgage-finance giant Freddie Mac and two nonbank lenders are loosening income and documentation requirements for mortgage applicants in a new pilot program.

The changes announced Monday are designed to help boost mortgage originations among first-time buyers, applicants with low-to-moderate incomes and those who live in underserved areas.

The moves come nearly a decade after the start of the mortgage meltdown, as many consumers remain shut out of the housing market largely because they can’t meet the underwriting criteria that most lenders require. Under the Freddie program, applicants will be able use the income of people who will live with them but aren’t going to be on the mortgage to qualify.

In addition, income from second jobs that borrowers have held for a relatively short period will be factored in. The pilot also doesn’t require bank statements that would show a paper trail of how some borrowers save for their down payments.

Many of the pilot’s features are similar to what Fannie Mae currently allows on some mortgages it purchases but are new for Freddie Mac, which is among the largest purchasers of mortgages in the country. Freddie Mac says it purchases one in every four mortgages originated by lenders in the U.S.

In addition, borrowers who will be living with family or other individuals for at least 12 months after they purchase the home will be able to use those non-borrowers’ income to get approved for the mortgage. The income will be factored in to help improve the borrowers’ debt to income ratio, a key figure that compares borrowers’ monthly debt obligations to their gross monthly income.

Paperwork requirements will also loosen up for some borrowers who don’t have bank statements to show how they have saved for their down payment.

Posted in Mortgages, National Real Estate, Risky Lending | 115 Comments

Christie the problem? Or all the governors before him?

From the Star Ledger:

Chris Christie’s state is an economic cripple

Newly-released 2015 Census data only further confirms the depth of New Jersey’s economic funk.

The state’s recovery is really struggling, people. Compared to other states, including our neighbors, we’ve had some of the weakest improvements in wages, poverty, median household and per capita income.

We have finally seen some jobs added after a lost decade, but they tend to be lower-paying. Meanwhile, the number of New Jerseyans living in deep poverty has risen by the thousands.

Thanks to our high cost of living and low wages, we also have the largest share of young adults living with their parents in the nation. New Jersey was one of just 8 states that actually saw growth in income inequality.

In short, the magical thinking that Gov. Chris Christie has relied on to steer the economy is simply not working. Like many Republicans, he clings to the notion that lower taxes are the key to economic growth, despite all the hard evidence to the contrary.

Christie has imposed more than $2 billion in business tax cuts during his time in office, not including an additional $660 million annually that kicks in at the end of 2016, when they are fully phased in. He also repeatedly vetoed a modest increase of taxes on the richest among us, despite the fiscal crisis.

The truth is that investors look not just at taxes, but at the quality of the infrastructure, the skills of the workforce, and even the performance of public schools.

Meanwhile, our structural problems remain: Bridges and roads in dreadful shape, that we can’t afford to fix; overcrowded buses and trains with obscenely expensive fares, high costs on energy and health care, and a fiscal crisis that cripples state government.

What would help? Both business and labor say the most pressing task is to rebuild the states crumbling infrastructure, where Christie’s failure has been dramatic. He promised a reliable funding source for transportation, then failed to produce it, throwing up his hands and blaming the Legislature.

No serious player disputes that we need a tax increase to cover these costs. The math is unforgiving. But Christie won’t agree to that unless a gas tax is paired to even larger tax cuts, despite the fiscal crisis. That rigid thinking is a triumph of ideology over evidence.

But this was never about the data. It’s about Christie’s national ambition. Our state’s recovery trails the rest of the nation because Christie won’t defy anti-tax dark lord Grover Norquist, and do what is best for this state.

Posted in Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 107 Comments

Feeling wealthy?

From Dow Jones:

Home Prices Help Lift U.S. Household Wealth to Record

The net worth of U.S. households set a record of $89.1 trillion in the second quarter, driven by a buoyant stock market and a steady resurgence of home prices.

Increases of nearly half a trillion dollars each in the value of U.S. stocks and the aggregate value of household real estate contributed to the record, according to the Federal Reserve’s quarterly report measuring the aggregate wealth of U.S. households and nonprofit organizations.

Household net worth is the sum of all assets, such as homes, stocks, bonds, vehicles and cash, minus all debts like mortgages, credit cards, student loans and auto loans.

The data underscores the U.S. economy’s round-trip over the past decade. Home prices peaked in 2006 and stocks peaked in 2007. Both crashed sharply as the U.S. plunged into the longest recession since the Great Depression, beginning in late 2007.

But prices have gradually rebounded in recent years. Stocks began to climb sharply in 2009 and by 2013 had reached a new peak, based on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The recovery in home prices started later and took longer, but now, in aggregate, American housing wealth is gradually approaching its precrisis peak.

“The winners in recent years aren’t the same people who lost out in the crash,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, before the report.

Posted in Economics, National Real Estate | 48 Comments

NJ economy “in deep trouble”

From the Record:

Census shows no big payday for N.J.

Years of economic malaise showed broad signs of lifting in 2015 across the United States as higher incomes and other beacons of rising prosperity helped reverse nearly a decade of woe following one of the worst recessions in history.

In a sign of the state’s continuing economic struggles, data released today by the Census Bureau showed that New Jersey lagged behind the rest of the country on a series of economic measures last year, including a 0.3 percent increase in median household income that ranked last among the 50 states.

The picture was much brighter in Bergen County, where the median rose 5.1 percent, to $89,023. But it fell 4.8 percent in Passaic County.

The state data, reflecting a period when New Jersey showed relatively strong job gains concentrated in lower-paying industries, also revealed some of the weakest improvements in the country in wages, poverty and per capita income.

Indeed, the report suggests that New Jersey may be turning the corner in its recovery, as even small improvements are better than the stagnant conditions of prior years. The state, with its broad economic base and relatively well-educated population, also remains among the wealthiest states, with a current median household income of $72,222, according to the report, known as the American Community Survey. Other economic reports, meanwhile, have shown rising employment and wage gains closer to national averages.

“If the numbers are for real, it suggests that the economy really is in a catch-up position,” said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “One year does not a trend make. But when your rankings are so low, you have to wonder, are we are in deep trouble?”

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 132 Comments

Another new low for foreclosures

From National Mortgage News:

Foreclosure Inventory at Lowest Level in Nine Years

The foreclosure inventory rate in July reached the lowest level recorded for any month since August 2007, according to data released by CoreLogic.

The national foreclosure inventory in July included roughly 355,000 homes, or 0.9% of all homes with a mortgage, down from 501,000, or 1.3%, in July 2015. That represents a 29.1% decline year-over-year, CoreLogic said Tuesday.

The decline stemmed from loan modifications, foreclosures and stronger housing and labor markets, according to CoreLogic chief economist Frank Nothaft.

Similarly, the number of completed foreclosures nationwide slipped 16.5% year-over-year to 34,000. That figure is also 71.2% lower than the peak of 118,000 recorded in September 2010.

“Importantly, judicial states like New Jersey and New York have continued to work through their large inventory of homes in foreclosure proceedings.”

Posted in Foreclosures, New Jersey Real Estate | 37 Comments

What did they really expect?

From HousingWire:

“Pervasive culture of waste and abuse” discovered in Nevada Hardest Hit Fund program

Thanks to what investigators are calling a “pervasive culture of waste and abuse,” millions of dollars from the federal government that were supposed to help struggling Nevada homeowners keep their homes instead went to pay for cars, holiday parties, employee bonuses, employee gifts, employee outings, staff lunches, and a number of other wasteful expenses, a scathing investigation by a federal watchdog found.

According to a new report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (also called SIGTARP), the state-designated contractor in charge of Nevada’s portion of the government’s Hardest Hit Fund wasted $8.2 million that was designated pay for the administration costs of the program, all while dramatically cutting the number of struggling homeowners that the program actually helped.

According to Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General For The Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Nevada Affordable Housing Assistance Corporation used the program as a “cash cow for every expense imaginable while all but stopping admitting new homeowners.”

Per SIGTARP data, Nevada’s acceptance rate for borrowers into the Hardest Hit Fund program plummeted by 94% from 2013 to 2015, while at the same time, the Nevada Affordable Housing Assistance Corporation used federal money on “wasteful expenses.”

According to the SIGTARP report, the number of homeowners admitted to the program plummeted from 2,111 in 2013 to 541 in 2014 and 117 in 2015.

But at the same time, the NAHAC continued to spend millions of dollars in administrative expenses.

“While Nevada homeowners continue to struggle to recover from the financial crisis, federal dollars designated to help them have been used on holiday parties, luxury office rent, employee gift cards, and other wasteful expenses—even a $500 car allowance for a Mercedes Benz,” Romero said. “That is the textbook definition of waste and abuse.”

“We found a pervasive culture of waste and abuse, coupled with a lack of performance,” Romero continued. “To allow this contractor to remain in this program puts millions of taxpayer dollars at significant risk and is a lost opportunity to give Nevada homeowners a fresh start to receive these funds.”

The SIGTARP investigation found that n 2015 the Nevada state agency kept nearly one TARP dollar for itself for every TARP dollar it provided to a homeowner.

For six months in 2015, NAHAC kept more in TARP money for itself than it distributed to homeowners.

Posted in Humor | 30 Comments

Looks like PA’s tax benefit is dead (good riddance)

From NJ Biz:

Editorial: Christie makes right call to nix Pa. tax deal

Gov. Chris Christie last week signaled he will end the income tax reciprocal agreement that New Jersey has shared with Pennsylvania for nearly 40 years.

To quickly recap: Under the agreement, Pennsylvania residents who work in New Jersey pay the Keystone State’s income taxes rather than the Garden State’s, and vice versa. That effectively costs New Jersey somewhere between $180 million and $250 million a year in forfeited collections, depending on which analysis you consider.

If you’re wondering why New Jersey has kept this on the books so long, the answer, of course, is South Jersey.

The powers that be lurking in Voorhees, West Deptford and so on have argued that many South Jerseyans hold lower-paying jobs in Pennsylvania, and the agreement benefits them, as they can pay New Jersey’s progressive income tax — a better deal than the flat 3.07 percent levied by Pennsylvania.

Effectively, that means New Jerseyans who don’t work in the Keystone State are subsidizing the small number of those that do — and, meanwhile, high-wage earners commuting in from eastern Pennsylvania avoid paying anything to New Jersey at all.

We sympathize with anyone struggling to scratch out a living in high-cost New Jersey, whether they live in Carneys Point or Kearny. But we can’t support the kind of tax inequality Pennsylvania is perpetuating, nor the audacity of its governor to say its state will suffer for New Jersey’s partisan problems. Pennsylvania’s time would be better spent getting its own horribly outdated tax code in order, and Democrats opposing Christie on this one ought to think about how more accurate income tax collections could be spent lightening the load on all income earners who live here.

Posted in Politics, South Jersey Real Estate | 53 Comments


From the NY Times:

Westfield, N.J., Where Small Town Meets Urban

Marci Bandelli thought she would never leave Brooklyn. Her husband, Stanford, who was born there, felt the same way. By 2001, with the addition of two children, the couple were outgrowing their rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn Heights and began looking in Park Slope.

Then the terrorist attacks happened on Sept. 11. Ms. Bandelli’s brother, Alan Kleinberg, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, died at the World Trade Center. And everything changed.

The appeal of Westfield for New York City transplants like the Bandellis is understandable, as this central Union County town offers characteristics typically associated with urban living — a bustling downtown, a vibrant cultural scene and good transportation options — along with many benefits of suburban living, like attractive homes, well-regarded schools and a sense of community.

“Westfield is big enough that there are a lot of ways to get connected, but small enough to feel like you can really get to know everyone in this town,” said Laura Brockway, 60, a Realtor with Keller Williams who has lived in Westfield for 32 years with her husband, Richard, raising their three sons there.

Lauren Mays, the mother of a 10-month-old daughter, has connected with many of her neighbors through the Westfield, N.J., Moms Facebook page. Though she and her husband, Tice Mays, who works in sales, had no children when they began looking to move to the suburbs from their Manhattan apartment in 2014, they sought a town with good schools.

The couple, both 35, visited towns in Westchester County and northern New Jersey, happening on an open house for a 1950s three-bedroom two-bath colonial in Westfield, which they wound up buying for $630,000.

“We love the downtown, we’re within walking distance of the elementary school, and the people are very friendly,” said Ms. Mays.
The couple, both 35, visited towns in Westchester County and northern New Jersey, happening on an open house for a 1950s three-bedroom two-bath colonial in Westfield, which they wound up buying for $630,000.

“We love the downtown, we’re within walking distance of the elementary school, and the people are very friendly,” said Ms. Mays.

Posted in New Jersey Real Estate | 34 Comments

Rising? Stalling? Falling? Yeah, all three.

From HousingWire:

CoreLogic: Home prices still up, but leveling off

Home prices increased in July year-over-year and month-over-month, according to the Home Price Index and HPI Forecast released by CoreLogic, a property information, analytics and data-enabled solutions provider.

Home prices in the U.S., including distressed sales, increased by 6% from last year, and 1.1% from June, according to the HPI.

“If mortgage rates continue to remain relatively low and job growth continues, as most forecasters expect, then home purchases are likely to rise in the coming year,” CoreLogic Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said. “The increased sales will support further price appreciation, and according to the CoreLogic Home Price Index, home prices are projected to rise about 5% over the next year.”

The HPI Forecast shows that home prices will increase by 5.4% annually from July this year to July 2017. The Forecast also predicts that home prices will rise yet again in August by 0.4%, a slowdown from current annual and monthly growth.

“The strongest home price gains continue to be in the western region,” CoreLogic President and CEO Anand Nallathambi said. “As evidence, the Denver, Portland and Seattle metropolitan areas all recorded double-digit appreciation over the past year.”

Posted in Economics, National Real Estate | 76 Comments

Purchase Mortgages highest since 2007, Credit still tight

From HousingWire:

Black Knight: Mortgage originations surge to highest level in three years

The purchase market is booming, fueling the overall mortgage market and helping set the highest first-lien mortgage originations volume in a single quarter since the second quarter of 2013, the latest Black Knight Financial Services Mortgage Monitor Report found, based on data as of the end of July 2016.

In the second quarter of 2016, purchase loan originations increased 52% ($102 billion) from the first quarter, reaching the highest level in terms of both volume and dollar amount since 2007.

This in turn helped bring in first-lien mortgage originations in the second quarter to $518 billion.

Black Knight Data and Analytics Executive Vice President Ben Graboske explained that a combination of continued purchase origination growth and refinance activity spurred by low interest rates drove the growth in first-lien mortgage originations in the quarter.

According to the most recent Freddie Mac mortgage rate report, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage sits at 3.46%.

Falling in line with recent industry reports, the Black Knight report also hit on today’s tight credit environment.

According to the report, two-thirds of Q2 purchase lending went to 740+ credit score borrowers, which is on par with last year, and the largest growth (13% year-over-year) was seen in moderate credit borrowers (700-739).

“Although the purchase lending credit box remains tight, there is increasing participation among ‘moderate’ credit borrowers as well,” said Graboske. “This segment has seen the highest rate of growth over the last three quarters, and now makes up 19% of all purchase originations.”

“On the other end of the spectrum, sub-700 score borrowers now account for only 15% of originations, with less than 5% going to borrowers with scores of 660 or below,” he said. “Both of these mark the lowest share of low credit purchase lending seen dating back to at least 2000.”

Posted in National Real Estate, Risky Lending | 52 Comments

Why are prices going up?

From National Mortgage News:

Home Prices and Homeownership Rates Are Out of Whack

Before the financial crisis, home prices and homeownership rates moved roughly in tandem. Expanded access to credit and a booming real estate market made homeownership easier for more Americans. When existing median home prices reached their precrisis peak is roughly when homeownership rates for both those under the age of 35 and for those ages 35 and older began to slip.

And they haven’t recovered since. Today, the homeownership rate for both groups is lower than it was more than 20 year ago. But the picture now is looking bleaker than it did before and even during the crisis. Home prices have returned to their precrisis peaks, but homeownership rates, which were already depressed because of the crisis, keep on slipping. Affordable housing is becoming scarcer across the country, but especially in popular markets such as the Pacific Northwest and California. And homebuilders have stopped building starter homes at the same rates they did before the crisis, instead turning to the more lucrative luxury home end of the business. Single-family starts are running at recession levels, and home sales are short of normal, according to economists.

“We do know that homeownership rates for young people are lower,” Danielle Hale, managing director of housing research at the National Association of Realtors, said. “They’re now lower than in the mid-1990s.”

But signs are cropping up that the tides may be finally shifting to get the home sales market back to where it once was. Citing mortgage application data, the Mortgage Bankers Association has noted that there’s greater demand year over year for loans under $150,000. Those loans are closely associated with first-time homebuyers, indicating that they are starting to return to the housing market.

But chances are that once they do return, they’ll be older thanks to the waiting game caused by the financial crisis. For the past two decades roughly, the median age of first-time homebuyers has hovered within a range from 30 to 32 years old. Looking ahead, first-time buyers may enter homeownership later in life.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, National Real Estate | 45 Comments