In the Marketplace: Home sales in Clifton and Palisades Park
BY DONNA ROLANDO
SPECIAL TO OPEN HOUSE
The numbers say it all in Palisades Park where a spike in first-quarter home sales for 2012 seems to be heralding a robust spring-buying season.
"It looks like springtime is picking up for Bergen County. We're seeing a lot of activity," said Dr. Ruth Miron-Schleider, broker/owner of Miron Properties, Tenafly. This is bound to be supported with plenty of open houses allowing buyers to get to know each town, she predicted.
Palisades Park is among those towns showing signs of bouncing back from the 2008 real estate meltdown that swept the nation.
For the first quarter, she reports, a total of 18 homes - including condo/townhouses, single-family homes and multi-family dwellings - have already sold, tying the entire year of 2007 for sales and leading Miron to "feel optimistic."
Though small in size at just over one square mile, Palisades Park is big on potential for buyers, said Miron-Schleider.
Proximity to several major highways and the George Washington Bridge to Manhattan is a strong selling point for the town, which draws a young population with a median age of 36.
Another selling point she identified is a downtown that's vibrant with a variety of stores, businesses, boutiques and restaurants, including some with an international flavor like Most Meson Madrid, a hot spot for traditional Spanish food. A culturally diversified city just shy of 20,000 residents, Palisades Park is also known for Broad Avenue, which is a mecca for Korean-American life, she said.
Despite these magnets for buyers, however, Palisades Park was not immune to the real estate collapse. Single-family homes have dipped significantly in price since 2007 (before the meltdown) when 18 homes sold at an average price of $532,000, representing 90 percent of the asking price.
Although more homes sold in 2011 - a total of 21 - Miron-Schleider called the fall in the average sold price, which was $398,000 and covered just 86 percent of the listing price, "dramatic."
Moving ahead to 2012, she reports the sale of just one single-family home, and its price was $469,000.
Also dramatic was the decline in average sold price for multi-family homes, which went from $754,000 for 37 homes sold in 2007 to $548,000 for 12 homes sold in 2011. An encouraging sign is that five multi-family homes have already sold this year priced at $308,000 to $610,000.
A less severe price drop was seen for condos, cooperatives, duplexes and townhouses, a category that realized 150 sales in 2007 at an average price of $539,000. On all counts, this beat out 2011 with its 71 sales and average sold price of $491,000. But first quarter 2012 delivered a "good healthy sign," she said, with 12 units sold, 20 under contract and prices ranging from $135,000 to $630,000.
Buyers today can find 19 single-family homes on the market at various price points from $299,900 for a three-bedroom colonial to $599,000 for a five-bedroom colonial. The market also features 35 multi-family homes from $299,000 to $2.9 million, as well as 85 condo/townhouses from $139,900 to $689,000.
In Clifton, the price break of the last five years combined with "very low interest rates" is proving to be the recipe for a bustling real estate season, said Ellen Weiner, sales associate with Weichert Realtors, Clifton.
"With spring, I feel the more serious buyers come out because they want [everything] in place for the school year for their children in September. Seeing homes in better weather is always a great incentive," she said.
Sellers also recognize, said Weiner, that this is the best time of year to bring attention to their active listings with the return of serious buyers and the flurry of open houses to greet them.
"Without a doubt, there will be many more open houses in Clifton and sellers are also realizing this and know now is the time to put their homes on the market," said Weiner. "Whether the seller is looking to downsize or upgrade, they will at one point be on the buyer side and they will be looking in the same manner, meaning to find the best-priced homes."
It's not uncommon, she said, for many of these buyers to stay in Clifton due to the convenience of highways and public transportation, along with the popular programs the city has to offer.
"Clifton has the best malls; great restaurants; wonderful parks to sit, play or relax in; and aside from having great programs for children, it also appeals to the senior population offering them many wonderful programs to take advantage of," said Weiner.
The biggest change since the collapse of the real estate market in 2008, she said, is the "overall feeling that things are turning around" with interest rates at 50-year lows.
Last year, Clifton saw the sale of roughly 342 single-family homes ranging from $98,000 to $550,000 and close to 51 condos/townhouses priced from $117,000 to $348,000.
On average, it took 92 days to sell a home in 2011, and homes fell just 5 percent short of their asking price, according to Weiner.
Today's market has an inventory of 366 single-family homes available at prices from $84,900 to $769,000. Buyers can also find 94 multi-family homes priced at $209,000 to $575,000. Or they might take their pick of 144 condo/ townhouses at $97,800 to $2.8 million.