SWAINTON - “In six months so far this year, we have seen the transaction totals that would equal a year’s normal results,” County Clerk Rita Rothberg told Cape May County Chamber of Commerce members, at a July 15 meeting, at the Avalon Links Restaurant.
Rothberg noted that the last year and a half have been unlike anything the county has experienced since before the real estate bubble that ushered in the 2008 recession.
“I see the trends, but I cannot explain them,” Rothberg added.
She said that the frenzied activity is continuing, even with inventories of available properties at near-record lows.
"When a property comes on the market, it causes a shark swarm,” Rothberg said.
She confirmed her comments with statistics on transaction totals recorded at the County Clerk’s Office. In 2018, the full-year count for new mortgages was 8,577. In the first six months of 2021, new mortgages are already at 8,724. In 2020, new mortgages hit 12,581, a total not seen since the 2005 to 2007 build-up to the 2008 economic collapse.
Many experts argue that this is not another housing bubble. Instead, they see it as an adjustment of the market to new realities of work and school.
Rothberg said she does not have the data that would illuminate what is happening with housing values. She said they are continuing to climb, a conclusion she can draw from the way the transfer fees continue to rise.
In 2020, the real estate transfer (RTF) revenue hit $5.6 million, up 27% over the total for the prior pre-Covid year. In 2021, the RTF revenue is already at $3.6 million in six months.
Real estate company data adds to the story.
Redfin shows year-over-year increases in the county median home price of 18.2%. Zillow has an even higher year-over-year increase of 21% across the county.
The trend remains the same in fundamentally different county markets.
Redfin has the median sale price for May in Stone Harbor at $$2.5 million, up 18% over May 2020, which, in turn, was up 120% over May 2019. A look at Rio Grande shows a June 2020 to June 2021 increase of 24%, with median days on the market at 10 days.
Stone Harbor Tax Assessor Margaret Slavin has described the market in simple terms when reporting to Borough Council.
“It's just crazy,” she said.
The market is calming somewhat now due to low inventory, tighter credit, and fewer pandemic-related factors. As the economic recovery takes shape, the level of flexibility that people must work remotely will also play into the market.
Rothberg said things are still going “up and up,” in terms of the statistics she sees.
How much longer will it continue? She admits she does not know. She was not trying to predict the future, but was sharing some data and insights into the last 18 months of frenzied activity.
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