Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Mob That Whacked Jersey

Great piece from the City Journal by Steven Malanga:

The Mob That Whacked Jersey

For more than a century and a half, New Jersey, nestled between New York City and Philadelphia, offered commuters like Thannikary affordable living in pleasant communities. Wall Street tycoons, middle managers fleeing high-priced Gotham once they’d married and had kids, and immigrants who settled first in New York but quickly discovered that they could pursue the American dream more easily across the Hudson—all flocked into the Garden State. Eventually, New Jersey’s congenial living attracted even corporations escaping New York’s rising crime and taxes. The state flourished.

But today Jersey is a cautionary example of how to cripple a thriving state. Increasingly muscular public-sector unions have won billions in outlandish benefits and wages from compliant officeholders. A powerful public education cartel has driven school spending skyward, making Jersey among the nation’s biggest education spenders, even as student achievement lags. Inept, often corrupt, politicians have squandered yet more billions wrung from suburban taxpayers, supposedly to uplift the poor in the state’s troubled cities, which have nevertheless continued to crumble despite the record spending. To fund this extravagance, the state has relentlessly raised taxes on both residents and businesses, while localities have jacked up property taxes furiously. Jersey’s cost advantage over its free-spending neighbors has vanished: it is now among the nation’s most heavily taxed places. And despite the extra levies, new governor Jon Corzine faces a $4.5 billion deficit and a stagnant economy during a national boom.

Unless Garden State leaders can stand up to entrenched interests—and the signs aren’t promising—the state may find itself permanently relegated to second-class economic status. New Jersey “could become the next California, with budget problems too big to solve without a lot of pain,” warns former Jersey City mayor Bret Schundler. “The old way of raising taxes to solve budget problems has been tried, and it’s done nothing but make things worse.”

PMI Market Risk Index & Real Estate Trends

The PMI Group released their quarterly Economic and Real Estate Trends Report this past week:

Economic and Real Estate Trends - Spring 2006

Included is their Market Risk Index. NJ still ranks up near the top with an approximate 50% chance of market decline.

Edison, NJ MSA - 51.6%
New York-Wayne-White Plains, NY-NJ MSA - 50.6%
Newark-Union, NJ-PA - 42.7%

To get a feel against how other bubble markets ranked in their index, Las Vegas-Paradise, NV came in at 45.7%, so it's clear we're amongst the riskiest of markets.

The report also contains an article on homeownership, I won't copy it all in here, but I'd like to take just one snippet that I found interesting..

I have my own story to tell in this regard. I’m one of the unlucky ones: in 1989, I bought a home in Los Angeles—right before the bottom fell out of the market. When I got a job in another city and sold seven years later, I lost my down payment and everything I’d put in since, and I even wrote a check to the bank for a little bit extra.
As the PMI Risk Index shows, some regions of the US face a significant probability of price declines. This is something to consider, particularly if you’re investing for the short term.

Caveat Emptor!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Would-be Flipper Flops

I'm sure many of you were following the diary of Alison Rogers, a determined woman who came to NJ to become a real estate flipper extraordinaire. The question I have is.. Can you even call yourself a flipper if you've never even flipped? Or are you just a flop?

Flipper says good-bye to Jersey

I've spent five months in New Jersey chasing my tail. I'm acutely aware that I could have written a book or learned French or picked up some marketable computer skills. But I had this dream that I could flip middle-class housing, and it was a pretty powerful dream: cash for distressed sellers, better housing for middle-class buyers, a decent living for me.

Alison, you were looking for the easy money. Don't try to justify it. Cash for distressed sellers, better housing for middle-class buyers? Who do you think you are kidding? You should have spent a day on this blog, we could have saved you a few dollars and alot of your time.

At the point where I'm ready to throw in the towel – starting down the path of getting my license in New York – there's one last swing I want to take: to speak at a sales meeting at my firm's South Orange office.

The office manager is incredibly eager to have me. He says that the office I'm based in is too upper-middle class (read: too rich and too white) and that the agents in his office will have the kind of properties I'm looking for.
I kept going because I am classy or stubborn or something, and then sat down. One of the agents in the back beckoned me over.

"What made you think you could find a house like that?"

"I went over it with my partners; we put together a business model; we expected to find six a year," I said.

"And how many have you found?"


"Didn't you wonder why? The reason is, if any of us found a house like that, we'd flip it ourselves. You're looking for something that is too good – and the people who own this company should know better."
I thanked him and went over to the next agent, who told me the same thing – the kind of house I wanted to flip would be a winning lottery ticket, and who wouldn't want to pick it up? And then again.

I made my excuses to my partners and then left, collapsing into sobs. I cried for three hours. First I wandered blindly for a few moments: Night, on foot, in suburban Jersey, with no Springsteen soundtrack isn't a beautiful thing. Then I got on a train home, the other passengers looking at me sideways, sympathetically, trying to figure out who died.

I was so upset I called my mother, who isn't the right person to call when you've just f---ed up a career, not because she doesn't have sympathy but because her tolerance for stupidity is small. I got home and had a fight with my husband for somehow not understanding me, and cried some more. Poor me. Poor poor pitiful. I felt conned. All the risks I had taken, and the money I had blown through, and for what? A dream that didn't exist; a mirage. And I had learned that it didn't exist because my firm's own agents had told me. Couldn't somebody have pointed this out five months ago?

Caveat Emptor!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Northern NJ March Residential Sales

I have a hard time believing that I'm the fastest and most open source of New Jersey Real Estate News and Statistics. You would think with all the money that the NAR and NJAR have coming through the doors that they might have whole departments of analysts and economists releasing accurate and unbiased information on a regular manner.

A layperson would never have even seen this information. While the NAR and NJAR likely do have groups of people analyzing this data (one can hope), their intention is not to provide it to the public. Take the New Jersey Association of Realtors for example. They release their market reports quarterly, and it takes them months past quarter end to release them. By the time those reports hit the internet they are already stale, old news.

With that rant, here it is, the Northern NJ Real Estate Bubble Blog March Sales Analysis Report. By the public, for the public.

The first graph plots the unadjusted sales data (closed sales) for the counties listed. The graph isn't yet complete and is missing some historical data for 2000, 2001, and 2002. Please note the lower bound of the x-axis. It's set to 1000, not to zero. I do this for a reason, it's to emphasize the seasonal nature of the Northern NJ market. Also, there is quite a bit of data on this graph, setting the x-axis to zero makes reading it very difficult

The second graph displays the same sales data (2000-2006) for the first three months of the year. Again, please not the x-axis, this time it does cross at zero.

For those who prefer the hard numbers:

Median Sales (2000-2005): 1976
Average Sales (2000-2005): 1906
2006 Sales: 1705 (13.7% below Median, 10.5% below Average)
(2006 Sales were 15.3% below 2005)

Median Sales (2000-2005): 1586
Average Sales (2000-2005): 1607
2006 Sales: 1395 (12.1% below Median, 13.2% below Average)
(2006 Sales were 11.6% below 2005)

Median Sales (2000-2005): 2060
Average Sales (2000-2005): 2087
2006 Sales: 2033 (1.3% below Median, 2.6% below Average)
(2006 Sales were 9.9% below 2005)

Caveat Emptor!

Citizens offer Corzine suggestions..

From the Star Ledger:

Governor's got mail, and it's oh so fiscally frank

"Go to hell. Quickly."

"Sweet Jesus! I can't believe I voted for you," said one Rutgers University student from New Brunswick, obviously reacting to Corzine's call for a $169 million reduction in aid for colleges and universities, the biggest cut in his budget proposal.

One West Paterson resident was angered about the tax increases. "I'm sorry for being a Democrat," he wrote.

Added a Mount Laurel taxpayer: "I voted for you. Are you crazy? Do you remember Jim Florio?"

One jobless former telecommunications worker from Lake Hiawatha said boosting the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent "will kill us and do away with jobs." Another Cinnaminson taxpayer said he is moving out of the state because "I can no longer afford to live here. Thanks to Florio and Corzine."

But not all of the electronic mail was downbeat.

A Basking Ridge resident found it "refreshing for a governor to run the state like a business. P.S. I'm a Republican." Corzine is former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, the worldwide securities and investment banking company.

This came from a registered Republican from North Arlington: "I applaud your efforts in your budget address."

Then there were cases in which the meaning was clear even if the message was not: "I think you are the supits goveror there is," said one misspelled missive from Haddonfield.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Look At Investment And Second Homes

Here is a great graph, coming to you hot off the presses at Calculated Risk. This graph is part of a series of articles on the NAR second home sales data, specifically, More on Second Homes. Calculated Risk is home to some of the best housing graphs on the web.

Using the NAR sales numbers, this graph shows vacation and second home sales for the last three years. Purchases of primary residences actually fell slightly in 2005, while vacation, and especially investment purchases, rose sharply. This appears to be evidence of significant speculation.

I only briefly took a look at the NAR data this afternoon, but didn't have a chance to post it up. When I saw this graph over at Calculated Risk, I knew that all I had to do was post it up. The graph speaks for itself.

Speculation? What speculation?

Northern New Jersey Residential Inventory Update

Time again for the Wednesday NJ Residential Inventory Report

Single Family Homes, Condo, Coop
(Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, Warren Counties)
3/29 - 14,018
4/4 - 14,470 (3.2% Weekly Increase)

Single Family Homes, Condo, Coop
(Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic Counties)
3/29 - 6,932
4/4 - 7,133 (2.9% Weekly Increase)

Single Family Homes, Condo, Coop
(Hudson County)
3/29 - 2,031
4/4 - 2,094 (3.1% Weekly Increase)

More on the New Jersey Economy

From the AP/Asbury Park Press:

N.J.'s economy looking cloudy
Few encouraging signs this year

New Jersey's economy slowed in the second half of 2005, and early 2006 offers few encouraging signs, according to reports released Tuesday.

In February, unemployment rose, housing permits declined and hours worked in manufacturing fell, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found.

Meanwhile, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported that most new jobs in 2005 were lower-paying, rising home prices stabilized, and reduced office vacancy rates may not be sustained.

However, the monthly forecast from the reserve bank projected moderate growth for the New Jersey economy through September, noting that initial unemployment claims decreased in February while payroll employment rose.

The findings affirm that New Jersey remains in the slowest expansion since World War II, said James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

"Our conclusion is that all the national statistics show that high-end corporate America is expanding quite briskly, but it is doing that expansion almost exclusively outside New Jersey," Hughes said.

"New Jersey has secured a reputation over the last four years of being a hostile place to do business."

From 2000 to 2005, the state lost 118,000 high-paying office and manufacturing jobs, while adding 113,000 low-paying service jobs, Hughes said, adding, "So, not a good trade-off."
"Declining sales activity coincides with a growing inventory of homes on the market and increased time required to sell them," the FDIC report said. "A slowdown in home sales and higher inventory levels could portend an easing in appreciation rates in 2006."

Caveat Emptor!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lowball! 3/26 - 4/4

Lowball! takes a look at home sales over the past week from a very different perspective. For those new to Lowball!, a lowball offer is when a buyer offers a significantly lower bid than asking in hopes that the seller accepts the offer. We take a list of home sales over the past week and pick out the sales that have the highest percentage difference between asking price and selling price.

The purpose of Lowball! is to show buyers that the market has changed and buyers now have considerably more leverage than sellers. Just a short time ago, Lowball! offers would have been laughed at and discarded, however, not any more. The fact that so many under-asking offers are being accepted is clear proof that the market is changing.The list does not contain all sales, I hand-pick the most interesting sales from the list. These listings might be the highest dollar drops, biggest percentage reductions, or sales in towns that are thought to still be 'hot'. Please note, even with double digit percentage reductions, these homes are still incredibly overpriced.

On to the list!

MLS# 2226668 - Ramsey, NJ
Original List Price $939,923
List Price $899,923
Sales Price $672,500 (25.3% Lowball, 28.5% off Original List)

MLS# 2098931 - Chester, NJ
List Price $2,400,000
Sales Price $1,875,000 (21.9% Lowball)

MLS# 2109205 - East Hanover, NJ
Original List Price $349,000
List Price $329,000
Sales Price $26,000 (19.7% Lowball, 24.1% off Original List)

MLS# 2235484 - Cedar Grove, NJ
List Price $1,825,000
Sales Price $1,500,000 (17.8% Lowball)

MLS# 2108126 - Newark, NJ
List Price $460,000
Sales Price $381,000 (17.2% Lowball)

MLS# 2098474 - Montville, NJ
List Price $1,294,800
Sales Price $990,000 (17.1% Lowball)

MLS# 2242989 - Florham Park, NJ
List Price $1,399,000
Sales Price $1,165,000 (16.7% Lowball)

MLS# 2226186 - Randolph, NJ
List Price $449,000
Sales Price $380,000 (15.4% Lowball)

MLS# 2210966 - Summit, NJ
Original List Price $1,295,000
List Price $1,195,000
Sales Price $1,025,000 (14.2% Lowball, 20.8% off Original List)

MLS# 2220533 - South Orange, NJ
List Price $1,100,000
Sales Price $945,000 (14.1% Lowball)

MLS# 2244095 - Green Twp, NJ
List Price $319,900
Sales Price $275,000 (14% Lowball)

MLS# 2239093 - Mahwah, NJ
List Price $1,625,000
Sales Price $1,410,000 (13.2% Lowball)

MLS# 2215829 - Ridgewood, NJ
List Price $2,200,000
Sales Price $1,925,000 (12.5% Lowball)

Caveat Emptor!

Readership Increasing Faster Than Housing Values

I want to thank all the readers and contributors for making this community a resounding success. Active involvement is key to a growing and thriving online community, and the last few months has seen more growth than I could have even imagined.

It took us 6 (very) long months to reach 100,000 hits, we celebrated that milestone at the end of January. While only two months have passed since then, we've managed to hit an even more impressive milestone, 250,000 hits, and growing every minute.

Big thanks go out to all the readers and especially all the contributors. I wouldn't be able to do it all by myself. All I can do is provide the information and the forum to discuss it. It's up to you, the readers and contributors, to turn it into an active community.

We're currently averaging more than 1,500 unique readers a day which result in more than 3,000 hits a day. On our peak days we see almost 2,000 unique visitors and 4,000 hits. (and those numbers don't even include hits on the comment pages). So while it may feel like a small community when you are reading the posted comments, believe me when I say there are alot of eyes on this blog.

I couldn't do it without the help of everyone here. The biggest motivating factor is knowing that people are reading this blog and that members are contributing.

So please, keep spreading the word! Email a friend, tell a co-worker, but please help get the word out.

Caveat Emptor!

Rich Dad Outlines Housing Market Bust

First, I must state that I don't particularly care for Mr. Kiyosaki. It's not that I don't like his books, or his approach towards investing, it's that I typically dislike authors of this genre. However, on occasion I make exception, and this is one of them.

From Yahoo Finance:

Booms, Busts, and Where Opportunities Occur

Over the years, I have read several books on the subject of booms and busts. Almost all of them cover the Tulip Mania in Holland, the South Seas Bubble, and, of course, the Great Depression. One of the better books -- "Can It Happen Again?" -- was written in 1982 by Nobel Laureate Hyman Minsky. In this book, he described the seven stages of a financial bubble. They are:

Stage 1: A financial shock wave
A crisis begins when a financial disturbance alters the current economic status quo. It could be a war, low interest rates, or new technology, as was the case in the dot-com boom.

Stage 2: Acceleration
Not all financial shocks turn into booms. What's required is fuel to get the fire going. After 9/11, I believe the fuel in the real estate market was a panic as the stock market crashed and interest rates fell. Billions of dollars flooded into the system from banks and the stock market, and the biggest real estate boom in history took place.

Stage 3: Euphoria
We have all missed booms. A wise investor knows to wait for the next boom, rather than jump in if they've missed the current one. But when acceleration turns to euphoria, the greater fools rush in.

By 2003, every fool was getting into real estate. The checkout girl at my local supermarket handed me her newly printed real estate agent business card. The housing market became the hot topic for discussion at parties. "Flipping" became the buzzword at PTA meetings. Homes became ATM machines as credit-card debtors took long-term loans to pay off short-term debt.

Mortgage companies advertised repeatedly, wooing people to borrow more money. Financial planners, tired of explaining to their clients why their retirement plans had lost money, jumped ship to become mortgage brokers. During this euphoric period, amateurs believed they were real estate geniuses. They would tell anyone who would listen about how much money they had made and how smart they were.

Stage 4: Financial distress
Insiders sell to outsiders. The greater fools are now streaming into the trap. The last fools are the ones who stood on the sidelines for years, watching the prices go up, terrified of jumping in. Finally, the euphoria and stories of friends and neighbors making a killing in the market gets to them. The latecomers, skeptics, amateurs, and the timid are finally overcome by greed and rush into the trap, cash in hand.

It's not long before reality and distress sets in. The greater fools realize that they're in trouble. Terror sets in, and they begin to sell. They begin to hate the asset they once loved, regardless of whether it's a stock, bond, mutual fund, real estate, or precious metals.

Stage 5: The market reverses, and the boom turns into a bust
The amateurs begin to realize that prices don't always go up. They may notice that the professionals have sold and are no longer buying. Buyers turn into sellers, and prices begin to drop, causing banks to tighten up.

Minsky refers to this period as "discredit." My rich dad said, "This is when God reminds you that you're not as smart as you thought you were." The easy money is gone, and losses start to accelerate. In real estate, the greater fool realizes he owes more on his property than it's worth. He's upside down financially.

Stage 6: The panic begins
Amateurs now hate their asset. They start to dump it as prices fall and banks stop lending. The panic accelerates. The boom is now officially a bust. At this time, controls might be installed to slow the fall, as is often the case with the stock market. If the tumble continues, people begin looking for a lender of last resort to save us all. Often, this is the central bank.

Stage 7: The White Knight rides in
Occasionally, the bust really explodes, and the government must step in -- as it did in the 1990s after the last real estate bust when it set up an agency known as the Resolution Trust Corporation, often referred to as the RTC.

(This list has been edited)

Caveat Emptor!

Chasing Jerseyans Away

This piece by Senator Anthony Bucco appears in this mornings Asbury Park Press:

Corzine budget will help chase New Jerseyans away

New Jersey is fast becoming unaffordable, and Gov. Corzine's budget plan will only hasten the process.

Forty-seven states enjoy surpluses in their treasuries. Yet, New Jersey has a $4.5 billion deficit. Two other states that have deficits, Louisiana and Mississippi, were hard hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. With their current deficits, these two states have not raised their property taxes.
To the citizens who still remain and would like to continue to call New Jersey home: Are you truly better off today than you were four years ago?

Our residents, especially senior citizens and young families, are being taxed out of their homes and communities. During the last four years, local property taxes have gone up 25 percent, and 33 state taxes have been raised, forcing New Jersey residents to send an additional $10 billion to Trenton.
This scenario may seem like fiction, or partisan fear-mongering, but recent trends show it's becoming reality. From July 1, 2004, to July 1, 2005, we had a record net loss of 57,000 taxpaying residents — an increase of more than 100 percent from 2002.

Overwhelmingly, residents are fleeing our high cost of living. These are people who pay far more in taxes than they are getting in services. Senior citizens and young families aside, this stampede of middle-class professionals leaving the state will endanger our long-term viability.
A 2005 New Jersey Business and Industry Association survey showed New Jersey's business-favorable ratings have fallen or stagnated for five consecutive years. Only 28 percent of the survey's respondents believe this is a good place for business expansion. That's down from 50 percent in 2001.

New Jersey also has one of the worst records in the nation when it comes to business tax policy. A recently published Tax Foundation report shows New Jersey is ranked 49th out of 50 states in the Tax Foundation's 2006 Business Tax Climate Index.
During the last four years, business owners and managers have seen their state tax bills increase $3.2 billion. This must stop if we want to grow jobs and improve the economic outlook for New Jersey families.

Caveat Emptor!

Monday, April 03, 2006

New Jersey Still Waiting The For Spring Market

The Otteau Report for February was released last Friday. The full text is as follows:

STILL! Waiting for the Spring Market

Although buying activity in February registered a 15% increase over January’s level, it is currently running well behind last years pace confirming the slowdown in the residential market is continuing into 2006. Year-to-date buying activity is currently running 14% less than last year’s pace while the inventory of unsold homes on the market is 61% higher than a year ago. By combining these indicators the resulting Market Swing of -75% indicates that the 2006 market has lost 75% of its strength as compared to last year at this time. While considerable demand still exists from the buying side of the housing equation, declining housing affordability will continue to dictate the “mood of the market”. From the seller’s perspective, more aggressive marketing and pricing strategies will be essential to restore the buyer’s ‘sense of urgency’ that was prevalent in 2005.

Caveat Emptor!

NAR: Pending Home Sales Drop

From the National Association of Realtors:

Pending Home Sales Leveling Out, Market Balancing

The Pending Home Sales Index,* based on contracts signed in February, slipped 0.8 percent to a level of 117.7 from an upwardly revised index of 118.6 in January, and is 5.2 percent below February 2005. January experienced a strong upward revision from a preliminarily reported index of 116.3 and was higher than the December reading of 117.6; additional data from the Northeast showed that region to be stronger than earlier believed.

The index is based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed and the transaction has not closed, but the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.
Regionally, the PHSI in the Northeast jumped 6.8 percent in February to 107.9 but was 1.2 percent below February 2005. In the Midwest, the index held even at 114.3 and was 6.0 percent below a year ago. The index in the South slipped 0.1 percent to 129.3 in February and was also 0.1 percent lower than February 2005. The index in the West fell 7.6 percent to a level of 110.9 in February and was 14.8 percent below a year ago.

Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)(PDF)

Caveat Emptor!

Lucent corporate HQ moves to France

From the Star Ledger:

Jerseyans likely to feel the pain on jobs, stock

New Jersey's economy took a one-two punch yesterday with the announcement that Lucent Technologies will be consumed by France's Alcatel and see the home office re-established in Paris.

Losing a big corporate headquarters means fewer high-paying jobs, reduced contracting opportunities for nearby small-business owners and an end to local decision-making about charitable contributions. Lucent employs more than 6,000 in New Jersey, while the yet-unnamed combined company plans to trim 8,800 jobs, or 10 percent of its global work force.
"You always hate to lose a corporate headquarters, but you have to wonder how long the New Jersey jobs would have lasted without this merger," said Joan Verplanck, chief executive of the state Chamber of Commerce. "Maybe they will keep what they have in New Jersey, and it will stabilize and grow. Lucent and Alcatel are both intelligent companies; they need highly trained, educated people, many of whom reside in New Jersey."

Rutgers University economist James Hughes called the Lucent-Alcatel deal "another step in the sustained erosion of New Jersey's high-technology sector that has been going on since 1990."

In a report last year for the state Commission on Science and Technology, Hughes and his Rutgers colleague Joseph Seneca found the state had 9,800 fewer high-tech jobs in 2004 than in 1990.
"When a corporate headquarters leaves, the major opportunities are no longer in New Jersey," she said. "The best and brightest will want to go to the corporate center."

Caveat Emptor!

Lehigh Valley Affordability

The Express Times provides us with our second piece today. Continuing with the affordability theme, here is:

Getting in on housing boom would bust me

I'm convinced that by the age of 30, I'll be living in a dilapidated mobile home somewhere in the country on a small lot of land with brown grass, a gravel driveway and neighbors who feud over who won the last NASCAR race.

Not that there's anything wrong with that lifestyle, but I had hoped for something a little different come the time I entered the next decade of my life.

At 27, the idea of a modest condominium or townhouse in one of the region's downtowns seems ideal.

I'm not looking for a huge loft with a kitchen that would make Emeril Lagasse jealous, a bathroom with a showerhead made out of precious metals that blasts out water with the force of a fire hose or hardwood floors culled from rare lumbers shipped in from South America.

One would think this would be relatively easy to acquire for someone who's worked steadily in a profession for about six years, is situated 70 miles from New York City and doesn't have the kind of debt that requires face-to-face encounters with credit lenders armed with Mace and baseball bats.

But almost three months after starting my first foray into house hunting, I've realized it's nearly impossible. The kind of condos and townhouses developers are pitching for Bethlehem, Phillipsburg and Easton aren't meant for the young professional who chooses to work in the region. These suckers are for commuters drawing big paychecks elsewhere or investors looking for huge monthly rent checks.
I've been smart with my money, but all of these are so far out of my price range that they might as well be mansions in Beverly Hills.

I guess my choices are limited. Continue renting, get a higher-paying job in New York City or settle for something small and far away from the little bit of action this region has to offer.

There's a nice mobile home in Lower Mount Bethel Township opening up for $35,000. It has green grass and a paved driveway.

It even has central air.

Hudson Affordability

From the Jersey Journal:

Home price surge worries longtime residents

Hudson County home prices are soaring - and while that might be good news for those who are selling, it's a cause for concern for residents who don't want to cash out, according to a new poll by The Jersey Journal/New Jersey City University.

Nearly two-thirds of residents surveyed in the poll said they probably couldn't afford to buy a home in the neighborhood they live in now; less than 30 percent were confident they could.

In addition, more than 70 percent of the respondents think real estate prices in their neighborhood are "too high." Just 5 percent say the prices are too low, and 14 percent say they're "about right."
In a March 2003 poll, 44 percent of the respondents said they have lived in the county for at least 20 years, and 64 percent said they expected to live in the county for at least another five years.

However, in the most recent poll, nearly 48 percent of the people said that the rising cost of living in the county may force them to leave.
"While residents have told us they enjoy living in Hudson and generally like being here, we see some concern over whether or not the cost of living, particularly the cost of housing and the spill-over effect it has on the cost of economic goods, may make it difficult for them to stay," Chadwick and Moran wrote.

Caveat Emptor!