Existing home sales up throughout the region in March

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2012

By BRIAN IANIERI Press of Atlantic City Staff Writer

Beach-home seekers and unseasonably warm weather helped boost regional home sales in March from a year ago, even as sales declined nationally, according to Realtor sales figures and local real estate agents.

Existing single-family home and condo sales in Cape May County jumped 39 percent from a year ago to 269 homes in March, data tracked by the local Multiple Listing Service show.

In Atlantic County, shore towns such as Brigantine and Margate posted large volume increases as home resales throughout the county grew 9 percent to 214 in March.

“These are not investors. These are end-users, people buying for themselves to meet a vacation need or a retirement plan,” said Ada Krebs, senior sales associate at Weichert Realtors Brigantine Realty.

In March, the 57 homes sold in Cumberland County were up from 39 in the same month a year ago.

Realtors agreed that the region’s warm weather was a factor because its puts people in the mood to house hunt.

Nationwide, the pace of buying slowed 2.6 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.5 million homes, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

An increase in January and February purchases nationwide had raised optimism that home sales would continue their upward momentum, but that did not happen throughout the country in March.

Even with the first-quarter gains, the sales pace remains far below the 6 million per year that economists equate with healthy housing markets.

U.S. home prices, however, were up. The median price nationally of a house sold in March was $163,800, 2.5 percent higher than a year ago.

“I believe prices have largely already bottomed out in the Atlantic City region,” said Joel Naroff, president of Holland, Pa.-based Naroff Economic Advisors and the owner of a home in Margate. “Sales are beginning to pick up and that is a signal prices have reached a level where buyers now think there are real bargains out there.”

In Ocean City, most of the sales were condos — 72 in March, compared with 47 in the same month last year, MLS listings show.

“It hasn’t been this busy in a long time,” said Doug Grisbaum, co-broker of record at Berger Realty in Ocean City.

“I think the problem we had in the past, all they were looking for was an investment in Ocean City. Now people want to be here, to vacation here. They are not so much investors as users,” Grisbaum said.

At McCann Realtors, which has locations in Sea Isle City and Ocean City, sales associate Eric C. Axelson said the spring market locally has been strong among properties priced realistically.

Bidding wars have even arisen for some of those homes, he said.

“One property had seven bidders on it,” he said. “There’s inventory and the smart buyers are realizing this and they’re aggressive right now, which is good. We have a lot of inventory out there to work through. People are realizing the market has softened and getting their price points down to realistic levels.”

“The guy who has owned this property for 20 years can sell in a heartbeat. The guy who bought in 2007 at the height of the market and is trying to get it back, obviously the numbers don’t work,” Axelson said. “The biggest hurdle is people understanding the market has softened from the peak, but the peak was unrealistic and unsustainable.”

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