Saturday, April 29, 2006

Price Reduced! 4/18 - 4/29

Welcome to another edition of Price Reduced!

For all the newcomers to this blog, Price Reduced! takes a look at a handful of significant price reductions across Northern NJ. The purpose of this exercise is to serve as proof that the Northern New Jersey real estate market has long since been overvalued and has started the long hard decline back to the mean. These listings are in no way an endorsement by myself, nor do I believe they are a bargain or a value. Even reduced, I still believe these homes are still grossly overpriced.

I'm going to break this down into three lists this week:


MLS# 2256708 - Branchburg, NJ
Previous Price $1,400,000
List Price $1,079,000 (Price Reduced 22.9%)

MLS# 2257218 - Orange, NJ
Previous Price $1,990,000
List Price $1,649,000 (Price Reduced 17.1%)

MLS# 2256689 - Franklin Lakes, NJ
Previous Price $2,900,000
List Price $2,499,000 (Price Reduced 13.8%)

MLS# 2257604 - Wayne, NJ
Previous Price $1,499,000
List Price $1,299,900 (Price Reduced 13.3%)

MLS# 2237189 - Bernardsville, NJ
Previous Price $3,950,000
List Price $3,495,000 (Price Reduced 11.5%)

MLS# 2209416 - Upper Saddle River, NJ
Previous Price $1,299,000
List Price $1,149,000 (Price Reduced 11.5%)

$500K - 1M

MLS# 2261831 - Scotch Plains, NJ
Previous Price $1,100,000
List Price $849,900 (Price Reduced 22.7%)

MLS# 2262422 - Westfield, NJ
Previous Price $1,199,000
List Price $999,000 (Price Reduced 16.7%)

MLS# 2241465 - Mountain Lakes, NJ
Previous Price $1,195,000
List Price $995,000 (Price Reduced 16.7%)

MLS# 2259301 - Verona, NJ
Original List Price $1,295,000
Previous Price $1,195,000
List Price $999,000 (Price Reduced 16.4%, 22.9% off OLP)

MLS# 2252471 - Midland Park, NJ
Original List Price $750,000
Previous Price $734,700
List Price $649,000 (Price Reduced 11.7%, 13.5% off OLP)

MLS# 2247088 - Wyckoff, NJ
Previous Price $789,000
List Price $699,000 (Price Reduced 11.4)

Sub 500k

MLS# 2268518 - Livingston, NJ
Previous Price $599,000
List Price $479,000 (Price Reduced 20%)

MLS# 2264899 - Newton, NJ
Previous Price $299,000
List Price $250,000 (Price Reduced 16.6%)

MLS# 2249970 - Lebanon, NJ
Previous Price $449,900
List Price $379,000 (Price Reduced 15.8%)

MLS# 2268096 - Maplewood, NJ
Previous Price $379,000
List Price $320,000 (Price Reduced 15.6%)

MLS# 2231166 - Clifton, NJ
Original List Price $479,000
Previous Price $439,900
List Price $380,000 (Price Reduced 13.6%, 20.7% off OLP)

MLS# 2251894 - Chatham, NJ
Original List Price $599,900
Previous Price $479,900
List Price $425,000 (Price Reduced 11.4%, 29.2% off OLP)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Extreme New Jersey

Something a bit on the positive side to start the weekend. From the NY Times:

Is It a Miracle, or Just Reality?

THE Turner family, who left town on a much-needed vacation a week ago, is about to get a look at its new three-story elevator-equipped and wheelchair-accessible home.

The television cameras for the ABC reality show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" will be rolling Sunday morning for the full ritual hoopla, moving aside an enormous trailer parked in front of the house for "the reveal," the moment when 54-year-old Beverly Turner and her nine adopted special-needs children get to see a place scrupulously planned to be perfect for them in every detail.

The Turners' old house, at 79 Harrison Place, a boarded-up two-story wood-frame structure that caught fire last fall, was still standing when they left, on the very same 50-by-124-foot lot where the new house, with its stone foundation, expansive bay windows and custom features was built — in four days.
Then, the "Extreme" people told the builders they had something "extra-special" in mind, Mr. Morris recounted. "They said they wanted us to do the biggest and highest house ever built for the show, and they wanted an elevator so the children can go all over the house," he said.
A special two-hour episode of "Extreme Makeover" featuring the Irvington project is tentatively scheduled to appear on Sunday, May 21, at 8 p.m., as the season finale.

New Jersey Housing Party Is Over

I just want to thank Record/Herald journalist Prashant Gopal for being one of the few North Jersey journalists to cover the real estate market in a fair and balanced manner. Hats off to Mr. Gopal for his effort.

From the Record/Herald News:

Housing expert says party's over

The once-sizzling New Jersey real estate market is showing signs of going flat, according to an expert who presented his findings Thursday at the Atlantic Builders Convention.

It appears to be shifting from a buyers' market to a sellers' market, with home listings outnumbering home sales by 2-to-1 in the first quarter of this year, said Jeffrey Otteau, who owns the Otteau Appraisal Group in East Brunswick.

The clear message to sellers is that the party is over," Otteau said after the talk to a standing-room only crowd of builders. "The days of increasing asking and selling prices have passed."

In Bergen County, there was a five-month inventory of homes in the first quarter, meaning it would take that long to sell all the homes on the market at the current pace, Otteau's report said. By comparison, there was a three-month inventory in the first quarter of 2005, he said.

But Otteau said a housing crash is highly unlikely in New Jersey because of constraints on new construction, increasing numbers of aging baby boomers looking for second homes and the state's relatively strong economy.

"We aren't looking at a market that is going to crash," he told the builders. "We are absolutely looking at a market that is going to adjust."
The average number of Bergen County home sales dropped by 11 percent compared with the first quarter of last year, and the average number of listings increased 84 percent, according to Otteau's report. In Passaic County, where there was a six-month supply on the market in the first quarter, the number of sales dropped 15 percent, and listings were up 65 percent.

Statewide, the average number of sales dropped by 12 percent and the average number of listings jumped by 65 percent in the first quarter, compared with the same period last year, he told the crowd.
Appearing on the panel with Otteau was Joseph J. Seneca, a Rutgers economics professor and head of the state Council of Economic Advisers, who said the New Jersey job market is not growing at a robust pace, which could hurt the housing market.
(emphasis added)

Caveat Emptor!

Caution Urged For NJ Builders

From the Record/Herald, by Prashant Gopal:

Build with caution

It's a time of transition for New Jersey home builders.

The real estate market appears to be cooling from the peak levels of 2004 and 2005, as cautious buyers are less willing to bid up prices. Vacant land is disappearing. And New Jersey's environmental regulations make it difficult to build on what land is available.

Builders are responding by finding ways to boost both new home supplies and demand. Some developers are focusing on housing for senior citizens, many of whom might otherwise retire outside the state. And builders are redeveloping former industrial zones in urban areas.

Still, developers should prepare for the possibility of a market pullback, said Patrick O'Keefe, CEO for the New Jersey Builders Association

"Builders are advised ... to manage their levels of activity with an eye toward the future, rather than assume the trends of the past," O'Keefe said.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cendant CEO Doesn't Believe The Realtors

From Inman:

Cendant may consider other options if spin-off plans fizzle
Company expects real estate business to be flat in '06

If Cendant Corp. plans for spinning off its massive real estate franchise and company-owned brokerage business as a separate publicly traded company fall flat, the company might consider other options, CEO and chairman Henry Silverman said today during a discussion of the company's first-quarter earnings.

He did not rule out the potential for a private sale of the company's real estate segment, which re-branded this year as Realogy, or other business segments that the company plans to spin-off as separate companies. Silverman, who will serve as chairman and CEO for the first 18 months of the spin-off real estate company, prefaced the comment with a statement that there is no plan at this time to sell off the real estate business.

He also said that Cendant's real estate business should be roughly flat this year, with some improvement expected in the second half of the year.
In its first-quarter earnings announcement, Cendant announced that transaction volume dropped 10 percent for its franchise business and 6 percent for company-owned business compared to first-quarter 2005, and total revenue for franchise and company-owned business dropped slightly while earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, fell 25 percent compared to first-quarter 2005. The first quarter is typically slow for the real estate industry, with most profits coming during the second and third quarters of the year, Silverman said.
While the National Association of Realtors released existing-home sales data this week that showed an improving market from February to March, Silverman said he is unconvinced that the market is getting better at this time. "I'm not sure the (association) data is terribly relevant. They typically sample only 20 percent of MLSs and then they adjust those numbers with a number of variables. I think that with 30 percent of the market -- as we believe we have at least on price and size in terms of dollar volume -- statistically you could argue we are the market."

He added, "So our results are more likely to be accurate as to the market than whatever (the association) is projecting or ... has reported."


For those who don't know who Cendant is, I'll give you a hint... They own Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA Real Estate, and Sotheby's International Realty.

It's rather suprising that the CEO of Cendant doesn't put much weight on the National Association of Realtors numbers.. They only 20% of the market and adjusting "those numbers with a number of variables"? I can see why he wouldnt. I wonder just who gets to pick which markets are sampled?

Caveat Emptor!

Jobless Claims Rise, Jersey A Big Contributor

From the AP:

Jobless claims rise by most in 6 weeks

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose to the highest level since early March, the government reported Thursday.

The Labor Department said that 315,000 newly laid off workers applied for jobless benefits last week, an increase of 11,000 from the previous week. The claims total was the highest since 319,000 laid off workers applied for benefits the week ending March 11.

Private economists had been forecasting a much smaller rise of around 2,000 applications last week. Even with the bigger increase, claims remained at a level indicating a relatively strong labor market.

The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out weekly volatility, edged up slightly to 308,500 last week, compared to 305,750 the previous week. It was the highest level in three weeks.
There were two states reporting an increase in layoffs of more than 1,000 for the week of April 15.

Georgia said that layoffs increased by 2,024, a rise that was blamed on higher unemployment in the textile industry.
New Jersey officials reported an increase in layoffs of 1,625 with the rise blamed on increasing numbers of pink slips in transportation, warehousing and service industries.

The Initial Claims Report can be found here:


While the weekly increase in New Jersey layoffs is interesting. I wouldn't read too far into the number. For some insight into these numbers, take a look at the New Jersey WARN Notices for this year. Those can be found here:

NJ WARN Notices

Caveat Emptor!

"Extreme Oversupply" Of Homes In New Jersey

From the Wall Street Journal (courtesy of the Post Gazette):

Housing strength shifts to new markets

A look at inventories of unsold homes, prices and employment trends points to generally positive signs in Houston, Dallas and Atlanta -- cities that have seen only modest home-price gains in recent years.

Metropolitan areas whose housing markets look less healthy, at least in the short term, include Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. All of them have growing inventories of homes and relatively weak job growth. As a result, houses that a year or two ago might have sold in hours now are languishing on the market for months, and some sellers are cutting prices.

To produce a snapshot of residential real-estate prospects for 18 major metro areas, The Wall Street Journal examined inventories of homes for sale at the end of the first quarter from a variety of local sources; pricing trends based on surveys of real-estate agents by Daniel Oppenheim, an analyst at Banc of America Securities in New York; and projections of job creation by Moody's, a research firm in West Chester, Pa. Inventory data provide a broad picture of the overall supply of housing, while job trends are the biggest driver of demand. The pricing data show how markets are adjusting to recent shifts in supply and demand.
In New Jersey, a market highly dependent on people who commute to other states, prices are likely to be flat to slightly higher this year, down from the double-digit pace of recent years, says Jeffrey G. Otteau, president of Otteau Appraisal Group in East Brunswick, N.J. Next year, he thinks prices could fall 5 percent or so in the state.

"We think that we're going to be in a flat holding pattern for the next several years," Mr. Otteau says, though at the top end of the market, there is "an extreme oversupply" of houses. In Spring Lake, N.J., known for expensive homes, there is a three-year supply of homes at the current rate of sales, and Upper Saddle River has a 21-month supply, Mr. Otteau estimates. He blames the state's loss of high-paying jobs in such industries as telecommunications and pharmaceuticals.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Six Percent, We Hardly Knew Ye

From the AP & Bankrate:

Weekly Home Mortgage Rates

Average mortgage rates for single-family homes in the 10 largest metropolitan areas as of Apr. 26 as compiled by The rates are for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages for 80 percent of the value of the house. A point is a one-time fee equaling one percent of mortgage.

Apr. 26 Prev. Wk
Boston 6.61 + 0.28 6.59 + 0.21
Chicago 6.80 + 0.08 6.71 + 0.09
Dallas 6.66 + 0.48 6.56 + 0.53
Detroit 6.72 + 0.03 6.65 + 0.03
Houston 6.61 + 0.56 6.53 + 0.61
Los Angeles 6.69 + 0.53 6.63 + 0.53
New York 6.62 + 0.19 6.52 + 0.23
Philadelphia 6.50 + 0.65 6.44 + 0.64
San Francisco 6.72 + 0.28 6.63 + 0.33
DC Metro 6.51 + 0.72 6.44 + 0.91
National Avg 6.64 + 0.38 6.57 + 0.41's national average for a 5-year adjustable mortgage, based on a 30-year loan for 80 percent of the value of a single-family house.

Apr. 26 Prev. Wk
Average 6.31 +0.38 6.19 +0.39

We sure seem to be pushing through the sixes in rapid fashion. A few months back I thought there was a possibility of hitting 7% on a 30Y fixed come Winter. Now I'm thinking we might just hit 7% by Summer..

Caveat Emptor!

Northern New Jersey Residential Inventory Update

Single Family Homes, Condo, Coop
(Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, Warren Counties)

4/19 - 15,126
4/26 - 15,648 (3.5% Weekly Increase)

Single Family Homes, Condo, Coop
(Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic Counties)

4/19 - 7,429
4/26 - 7,622 (2.6% Weekly Increase)

Single Family Homes, Condo, Coop
(Hudson County)

4/19 - 2,263
4/26 - 2,259 (0.2% Weekly Decrease)

Don't let the twitching fool you, housing is dead

From CNN Money:

New home sales soar

With rising mortgage rates driving up the cost of financing home purchases, most economists have been looking for the real estate market to cool off in 2006 after several years of record sales.

But economist Bob Brusca said last month's drop in new home prices is a sign that the market for new homes isn't nearly as strong as the jump in sales would suggest.

He noted that the report showed an unusual drop in prices from both February and a year earlier, which could be a sign that home builders are cutting prices to move a large supply of new homes now on the market.

"New homes sales sprang back top life like a zombie in a cheap horror flick," Brusca said. "And like that zombie, housing really is dead. Don't let all that twitching fool you."

He said that many of the new homes sold in March were probably built in a stronger real estate market.

And unlike existing homes, where sellers can live until they get an acceptable price, "builders can't live in these houses unless they have a lot of family," he said. "By and large they must finance them at rising interest costs."
Meanwhile, average prices fell 7.1 percent from February to $279,100, after topping $300,000 for the first time in the February revised figures. The median price, which reflects the point at which half the homes sell for more and half sell for less, also fell 6.5 percent to $224,200.

And while month-to-month declines in home prices are not unusual, more significantly, prices also fell from a year earlier: a 2.2 percent decline in median prices and a 3.6 percent fall in average prices over that time. (emphasis added -grim)

New Residential Sales

Census released the New Residential Sales data for March 2006. The report can be found here:


Sales of new one-family houses in March 2006 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,213,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 13.8 percent (±14.9%)* above the revised February rate of 1,066,000, but is 7.2 percent (±12.8%)* below the March 2005 estimate of 1,307,000.

The median sales price of new houses sold in March 2006 was $224,200; the average sales price was $279,100. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of March was 555,000. This represents a supply of 5.5 months at the current sales rate.

New Home Sales were down 7.2% Nationwide with the Northeast leading the decline at -15.2%.

Median sales price was down 6.5% in March versus February. The March median sales price ($224,200) is down 8.1% from the peak of $243,900 set in October. Median prices are down 2.2% on a year over year basis. Inventory was up 2.7% in March.

Caveat Emptor!

Mortgage Applications Fall Again, Is The Spring Bounce Over?

From Reuters:

U.S. mortgage applications decrease last week-MBA

U.S. mortgage applications fell for a third consecutive week, with demand for home purchase loans falling to its lowest since November 2003 despite a drop in interest rates, an industry trade group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity for the week ended April 21 fell 3.7 percent to 548.6, its lowest level this year. It was 569.6 in the previous week.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted purchase mortgage index fell 4.4 percent to 389.4 from the previous week's 407.4, its lowest level since the week ended Nov. 7, 2003 when it touched 375.4.

The group's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications decreased 2.4 percent to 1,489.4 compared with 1,526.1 the previous week.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Do Toxic Loans Lead To Foreclosure?

From RealtyTimes:

Foreclosure Numbers at New Highs: Are Toxic Loans To Blame?

You have to wonder: Are we seeing more foreclosures than last year as toxic mortgages mature? These are "nontraditional loans," a sterile description for mortgages with ridiculously low monthly costs at first (but higher costs later) as well as mortgages that feature limited documentation and overly-large initial loan balances.
We asked Rick Sharga, Realty Trac's vice president of marketing, about the impact of toxic loans on the rising number of foreclosures and here's what he had to say:

Question: Are toxic loans linked to the rise of foreclosures?

Answer: While we haven't seen any report that definitively links the two, it's logical to surmise that higher risk loans will default at a higher rate than more traditional loans. And the fact that a larger percentage of home loans fall into the high risk category than at any time in recent memory makes the possibility of a spike in foreclosures more likely.

Question: Have toxic loans begun to impact the marketplace?

Answer: It's hard to assign the increase in the number of properties in default and foreclosure specifically to high risk loans, but they're almost certainly a contributing factor. As large numbers of ARMs reset this year and next -- we've seen numbers as high as $300 million in loans this year and $1 billion in 2007 resetting -- we'll be better able to gauge the impact on national foreclosure rates.

Question: Will we see a further increase in foreclosure levels?

Answer: We anticipate that foreclosures will increase throughout 2006 for several reasons.

First, the number of properties in foreclosure has been below historic averages for several years, and the market appears to be moving back toward more "normal" levels.

Second, increasing interest rates are driving up monthly payments for homeowners with ARMs, and will significantly increase monthly payments for people with 3/1 or 5/1 ARMs due to reset.

Third, house values appear to be cooling off, which gives homeowners less equity to leverage in the event that they find themselves in a financial bind -- and limits the opportunity to sell a property at a profit for homeowners in default.
Question: Any general industry comments?

Answer: One of the trends we're following is the number of properties that actually end up becoming REOs (bank repossessions). Over the past year, even as the general numbers of properties entering foreclosures has increased, the number of homes that actually end up as REOs has consistently stayed below 20 percent of the inventory. That relatively low number suggests that the market has been strong enough to allow owners to either re-finance, work out new terms with lenders, or sell the properties before they're foreclosed on. It's a statistic we'll be watching closely, as we believe that a spike in the percentage would be a red flag.

At A Glance: Edison, NJ

Listings As of 4/25
Total Active Listings: 111
Up To $500,000: 64
$500,001 - $1,000,000: 39
$1,000,001 And Up: 8

Listing Activity Since 4/1
32 Added
4 Back on Market
21 Price Reductions
9 Under Contract
12 Sold
5 Expired
3 Withdrawn
0 Temporarily Withdrawn

March Sales Activity
Up To $500,000: 9
$500,001 - $1,000,000: 3
$1,000,001 And Up: 0
Sales Prices were on average 6.2% below Original List Prices
(Activity data from GSMLS)

Existing Home Sales And Consumer Confidence

From Bloomberg:
Sales of Previously Owned U.S. Homes Rise 0.3% to 6.92 Mln Rate

Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. unexpectedly rose last month at the same time the number of houses on the market increased, signaling that the slowdown in housing is likely to be gradual.

Purchases increased 0.3 percent in March to an annual rate of 6.92 million, compared with 6.90 million in February, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. Compared with the same month last year, existing home sales fell 0.7 percent.

The number of unsold homes at the end of the month represented 5.5 months' worth at the current sales pace, the highest since 1998. The economy will have to rely more on the labor market and business spending for strength as housing slows after five record years, economists said. While borrowing costs that kept rising this month are putting home ownership out of reach for more people, job growth may support housing.

``We expect to see the continuing moderate downtrend in existing home sales,'' Ellen Zentner, an economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York, said before the report. ``It provides the backdrop for our expectation of slowing consumer spending in the second half.''

From the NAR:
NAR Existing Home Sales (PDF)

Also from Bloomberg:
U.S. April Consumer Confidence Index Rises to 109.6 From 107.5

Consumer confidence in the U.S. economy unexpectedly rose in April to the highest in four years, as an improving labor market helped Americans overcome concerns about near-record gasoline prices.

The Conference Board's confidence index rose to 109.6, the highest since May 2002, from 107.5 in March, the New York-based business group said today. The April reading exceeded the highest estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Increased optimism suggests there's less of a danger that consumer spending and the economy will be bogged down by rising energy costs and interest rates. Wage gains and the lowest unemployment rate in four years will keep buoying spirits and lift retail sales, economists said.

Homeowner Speaks Out Against Highlands

From the Express Times:

Highlands Act takes property's value

The Highlands Act is effectively confiscating the value of my property, and I strenuously object. The sanctity of private property is a cherished American principle. It is at the heart of the famous "American Dream" -- the house, the home -- unquestionably owned and controlled by the family which has earned it, paid for it and protected it. The concept of private property is so universally held by Americans that those unfamiliar with the Highlands Act (because they have not been affected by it) are incredulous when they hear about it. People find it impossible to believe they have lost the rights to their private property. I in no way accept a limitation on my property (67 acres, two historic houses and barn) which would prohibit me from building a new house on open acres. I bought the property in 1964, in full faith that once I had paid for it, I actually owned it. The Highlands Act clearly discriminates against landowners. Many of its "rules" are so extreme as to be ludicrous. If I refuse to allow a DEP representative to enter my property, I can be fined $10,000? Surely, I'm dreaming. The fact that the Highlands Act takes 370 pages to explain itself indicates how scattershot its aim. Its many prohibitions and penalties appear random, disproportionate, capricious. I believe a strong legal case can be and will eventually be made against it. I respectfully urge New Jerseyans to consider its potential for damage and to do all within their power to have it reconsidered. I shall do all within my power to overturn it and, of course, it will be a significant issue when I next vote.

"Age-restricted housing is the use du jour"

From the Express Times:

Board has concerns about condo plan

The planning board will hear tonight from a Monmouth County developer who wants to build 150 age-restricted condominiums near the intersection of town's two busiest highways.

B.A.S. Development's plan would create three three-story buildings on Mountain Avenue near Route 57. Town council in November granted the company's request to allow age-restricted housing on the 12-acre commercially zoned site.
The complex would be the second age-restricted development in this part of town. The planning board last year gave approval for a Sussex County developer to build 124 age-restricted apartments nearby on Route 57.
Many municipal officials prefer age-restricted housing because it does not add to public education costs and older residents drive less, Mayor Michael Lavery said. He does not sit on the planning board.

"If commercial hasn't gone there in 20 years, maybe it's time to look at something else. Age-restricted housing is the use du jour," he said.

Secaucus Housing

From the Jersey Journal:

Secaucus balks at more affordable housing

Hundreds or even thousands of housing units priced for low- and moderate-income families should be built in Secaucus, according to an affordable housing advocacy group.

The Fair Share Housing Center of Cherry Hill contends municipal boundaries don't apply when it comes to development in the Meadowlands District - and that Secaucus has enough vacant land so that it could "accept a substantial percentage" of the affordable housing it says will be required by the Xanadu project.
"All of the land within the Meadowlands District is required to be considered for the purpose of the development of affordable housing. It does not appear that this has been done," wrote the advocacy group's associate director, Kevin D. Walsh, in a formal complaint.

Because other towns in the Meadowlands District don't have as much vacant land, Walsh wrote, Secaucus could pick up those obligations.

But Bill Snyder, executive director of the Secaucus Housing Authority and administrator of the Secaucus Affordable Housing Board, doesn't agree.

"We are the only community in the Meadowlands who has developed anything for affordable housing - it's not fair," he said.

"The constitutional obligation should rest with each municipality. East Rutherford should take responsibility for East Rutherford and Secaucus should take responsibility for Secaucus," Snyder said.

Affordable housing already built in Secaucus includes 12 condominiums at Riverside Court, 20 low-income rental apartments at Patriot Commons and 75 senior citizens' rental units in Kroll Heights, Snyder said.

NJ Economy Off-Track

From the Asbury Park Press:

N.J.'s economy seen off track

New Jersey's economy, once envied for its highly skilled work force and its cutting-edge research, has veered off course, business leaders said Monday.
To reverse the trend, chamber officials said the state needs to focus on six areas. They are:

Government reform. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Jersey state and local officials have the third highest average salary nationwide, putting a strain on taxpayers. The chamber called for the state to adopt wide-ranging ethical reforms and look at eliminating layers of government.

Economic development. New Jersey has the third-highest cost of doing business nationwide, according to The chamber called for the state to create incentive programs for existing businesses, particularly small businesses.

Education. New Jersey has the highest cost per pupil from kindergarten to 12th grade nationwide, according to the Census Bureau. The chamber called for the state to better analyze schools' performance and publicize the results through a state Web site. And it wants the state to recruit science and math teachers, even if it means paying them more.

Environment. New Jersey has among the most stringent environmental regulations nationwide, some of which change often, chamber officials said. The chamber wants the state to base new environmental laws on widely accepted scientific findings and apply federal standards where it can.

Health care. New Jersey has the nation's fifth highest cost of family health insurance coverage for workers covered by their employer — $10,168, according to a 2003 study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Chamber officials said the state should reform the insurance market so insurers can provide more options for small employers.

Transportation. New Jersey workers' average commute of 29.4 minutes is the third longest in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Chamber officials encouraged Gov. Corzine to increase the gasoline tax to pay for transportation projects. Corzine instead wants to refinance bonds, which chamber officials said only will add to the state's debt.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Highlands Backfiring Or Working As Planned?

From the Daily Record:

Highlands law letting builders in front door

The nearly two-year-old law designed to protect the water supply from North Jersey's Highlands seems to have had an unintended consequence -- spurring development in half the environmentally sensitive region.

A Daily Record analysis of new residential building permits issued over the last 38 months found that development in towns in the part of the Highlands designated a "preservation area" and subject to strict state regulation has declined compared with the rate before the law. But in the other half of the region, called the "planning area," the rate of development has risen faster than North Jersey or the state as a whole.

"The whole point of the Highlands Act was to try to slow things down," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Unfortunately, in the planning area, it has accelerated development."

Tittel attributes the increase to the deliberate decision by the DEP to draw the map delineating the preservation area to exclude some 50 projects.

"There was a lot of science used to draw up the Highlands preservation area, then political science was used to protect some politically connected developers," he said. "We're seeing the results of those bad decisions now and it's having a negative impact on the Highlands."
Post said the act continues to show how unfair it is in the development occurring on land in the planning area, while it has slowed and will stop in the preservation area, where her land is located.

"People that owned land in sections of the planning area are experiencing windfall gains," she said. "There has been an arbitrary redistribution of wealth in this act. And that redistribution had a lot of political payback in it."

At A Glance: Washington Boro, Warren County, NJ

Listings As of 4/24
Total Active Listings: 59
Up To $500,000: 59
$500,001 - $1,000,000: 0
$1,000,001 And Up: 0

Listing Activity Since 4/1
17 Added
5 Back on Market
14 Price Reductions
12 Under Contract
7 Sold
0 Expired
1 Withdrawn
1 Temporarily Withdrawn

March Sales Activity
Up To $500,000: 6
$500,001 - $1,000,000: 0
$1,000,001 And Up: 0
Sales Prices were on average 14.2% below Original List Prices
(Activity data from GSMLS)

We're back!

I'm sure everyone was wondering why there were no updates in the past 24 hours. Blogger was having some issues, and they seem to have been resolved at this point. Keep your fingers crossed.

Caveat Emptor!

Thousands in N.J. to be affected by flood insurance overhaul

From the Star Ledger:
Repeatedly flooded properties targeted

Concerned about the solvency of the National Flood Insurance Program, federal lawmakers are poised to slap new restrictions on some of New Jersey's most valuable real estate: thousands of flood-prone homes that sit along barrier islands and rivers.

Legislation likely to be introduced in the coming weeks will target "repetitive-loss" structures across the country, congressional officials said. Possible solutions include buying and demolishing homes that flood repeatedly, stripping them of insurance coverage or greatly raising premiums.

Congress, which today returns from a two-week break, has been forced to remake the controversial flood insurance program in the wake of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The devastating storms plunged the program into a $20 billion-plus deficit and few experts believe the program can recover without a massive overhaul.
In New Jersey, which has one of the nation's worst records on repetitive claims, legislative changes would affect 7,376 structures. The state's 7,376 flood-prone buildings represent less than 4 percent of the 200,000 properties covered by the program but account for more than 50 percent of the claims paid since 1978, amounting to $334.2 million, according to federal data.
Critics of coastal development argue a decade-long building boom has put billions of dollars worth of real estate in harm's way. They say New Jersey is overdue for a destructive, catastrophically expensive storm, and they point to the flood insurance program as being responsible.

"These spikes in repetitive damage are created by flood insurance itself," said Tim Dillingham of the American Littoral Society, a coastal environmental group based on Sandy Hook. "It pays people to rebuild in the same spot. It's crazy."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Weekend Open Discussion

Judging from the site traffic this afternoon, it seems many of you have started your weekend early. It's only appropriate that I start this discussion early as well. Have a great weekend!

Observations about your local areas, comments on news stories or the New Jersey housing bubble, Open House reports, etc. If you have any questions you wanted to ask earlier in the week but never posted them up, let's have them.

For readers that have never commented, there is a small link on the bottom of each new message that reads "# Comments". Go ahead and give that a click, you might be missing out on a world of information you didn't know about. While you are there, introduce yourselves to everyone.

For new readers that have only read the messages displayed on the main page, take a look through the archives, a substantial amount of information has been put online in the past 6 months. The archives can be found at the bottom of the right hand menu and are categorized by month.

As always, anything goes!

Rebuttal Published

From the Daily Record:

Blogger's identity was never a secret

Most of the participants at the NNJBubble Web site know my "nom de plume," which is Grim.

I am also known as James Bednar, author and host of the Northern New Jersey Real Estate Bubble Blog (

A blog is simply an online diary, a Web site where visitors can read, discuss and contribute to issues of the day.

Blogging is, and always has been, about open and free communication.

Each day relevant news, statistics and information regarding New Jersey real estate is posted to the NNJBubble Web site.

Recently the blog has been the source of some disagreement concerning:

• The existence of a real estate bubble in New Jersey.

• The wisdom, or lack thereof, of real estate investment at this time.

• Possible media bias in reporting the condition of the New Jersey real estate market.

Additionally, accusations of a more personal nature have been made concerning the anonymity of the author of the Web site and selective editing of the content of the Web site.

The blog's position is that the existence of a real estate bubble in New Jersey is factual; real estate values have detached from traditional fundamentals and are currently being driven by pure speculation. Due to the speculative nature of the real estate market at this time, especially with regards to inflated prices, "What goes up must come down."

The position of the Web site is that now might not be the most advantageous time to acquire residential real estate.

In short, we believe the bubble will burst.

The above topics have been and are open to discussion, debate and opinion on NNJBubble.

The Web site attempts to foster open discussion on all sides of these issues, whether or not presented positions agree with the personal assessments of the author.

At NNJBubble we recognize the hazard of repeated reference to the same authority when voicing opinions. We do encourage reference to a variety of opinions when views are offered. In this way we attempt to monitor the fairness in the reporting of the real estate market in the state of New Jersey.

With respect to anonymity, the name James Bednar has always been associated with the handle "Grim." Both the handle and the name have appeared in print in various publications and online at Business Week, and the name James Bednar does appear on the NNJBubble Web site.

Given the above exposure of "James Bednar" and the handle "Grim," it is difficult to explain how one could draw the conclusion that the author attempts to be anonymous.

It is clearly not the case that statements made by Warren Boroson in a recent Daily Record column have been selectively edited or removed from the NNJBubble Web site.

Taking editorial liberties with the contributions of the participants of the Web site has never been the policy or practice of the author.

Any and all are welcome to search the site not only for their own comments, but also for the comments of others.

Accordingly, Boroson's comments are available on the Web site, in full and unedited, along with my greeting to him for having joined the discussion.

This is not the first time that the NNJBubble Web site has inspired controversy.

And it is certainly hoped that NNJBubble will continue to grow and attract many more participants to the debate.

But never have the arguments been conducted, nor will they be conducted in the future, with anything other than the character of cooperation.

With this proviso understood, we all await Boroson's return to our forum to further enliven the dialogue.

Also published was one of the emails:

Blogging story not accurate

A recent column by Warren Boroson concerning a blogger in northern New Jersey has several misstatements and needs to be rectified. First, he states that the blogger is anonymous, which is patently untrue. His name is on the main page of the blog, James Bednar. Secondly, Boroson accuses Bednar of deleting his comments. It is also not true to my knowledge. If something is deleted, it still remains as a "deleted by administrator" place mark. I myself frequent the blog daily because it provides a counterpoint to most of the real estate news you find out there, which up until recently has been only positively spun.

Jets HQ Plan

From the Star Ledger:
Housing, offices, hotel in game plan for Jets' site

As part of the Jets' new headquarters plan, more than 120 buildings for housing, hospitality and office space are to rise on a campus in Florham Park, according to a preliminary design submitted to the state.

Local officials are anxious to review the final plans but two deadlines have already been missed according to the timetable the developers submitted to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
"We're waiting and we're ready to go," borough planning board Chairman Sam McNulty said. "They said they wanted to get a shovel in the ground by June. But we haven't seen anything yet. We're ready to do whatever it takes to get the Jets project going."

The 260 acres of the former Exxon headquarters site where the redevelopment will take place would host 600,000 square feet of new office space, a 200-room hotel, a 15,000-square-foot day care center and up to 550 units of age-restricted housing.