COVID-19 threw the country for a loop and New Jersey got hit hard. Not a shock given that it’s the most densely populated state in the country. But resilience is key to surviving any trauma, and it’s how people recover from tragedy that counts. Real estate, for many, was part of that recovery process.
As people hunkered down for most of March and April, more space and fresh air became not just a desire, but an urgent need. Apartment dwellers (from New York and New Jersey) fled their cramped quarters seeking single family homes with more room and outdoor space. Others upsized to larger housing, believing working from home is going to be a more permanent way of life. Most homes sales were first-time home buyers, speeding up what might have been a one-two year time frame. For renters it was more temporary; they just wanted to get through a summer with no camp or vacations and see what the next year will bring.
The result? A complete housing boom! There was simply not enough inventory to meet demand, causing multiple offers and bidding wars. Homes sold within days of being listed, resulting in higher home prices. The most desirable homes went first, and then even homes that were lingering on the market sold. There are plenty of buyers out there still looking; there are still not enough homes to go around.
So what should you do? Take advantage.
Sellers: if selling is in your near future, do it now. Take advantage of the demand, sell quickly, and at maximum market value. But don’t overprice your home. List at market value, not more. Buyers are still savvy.
Buyers: keep looking and don’t give up, but keep your wits about you. Don’t overpay and don’t settle. But do consider moving some “must haves” to your “nice to have” list, be open to widening your home search to different neighborhoods, and if you can’t find what you want, consider renting to meet your immediate needs. Also revisit your purchasing power; if you got pre-approved for a mortgage months ago, you may have more buying power now with interest rates so low.
For homeowners not looking to move—refinance! With low rates, you have many options: lower your monthly payment and save; change your 30-year mortgage to a 20-year to pay it off sooner; or keep your monthly payment the same with a cash-out refinance, and do home improvements and renovations.
Most important, in a market that is more challenging than ever, work with a real estate professional. Find someone local, knowledgeable and with a lot of experience.
Linda Stamker is a real estate agent with V&N Realty.