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After a Few Slow Years, Westfield’s Housing Market is Hot Again

Jill D'Ambrosio

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 • 2:03pm

WESTFIELD, NJ – In real estate, the season for buying and selling homes typically kicks off in the early spring, heats up going into the summer and slows down by December and January. But the housing market in Westfield this year is still in high gear, according to some industry sources, as buyers continue to snap up available properties.

“The fall market is in full swing,” said Virginia Garcia, a residential realtor and new homes specialist at Coldwell Banker East in Westfield.  “It has been non-stop with listings, buyers and referrals coming in one after another.”

The Westfield housing market has had a remarkable year, improving over the last two seasons, sources say. Boosted by very low inventory, favorable interest rates and continued demand for its schools and vibrant downtown by young families migrating from places like Hoboken and Jersey City, Westfield homes have been highly desirable.

“Buyers are paying up for fear of losing the home to another buyer, and we are seeing more multiple bidding situations,” Garcia said.

Data provided by Coldwell Banker showed that total inventory of properties available for sale in Westfield in September was 113, a drop of almost 20 percent from September of 2012. This data also showed that September 2013 sale prices compared to list prices were 97.4 percent, meaning sellers were paid very close to their asking prices.

Homeowners Patrick and Meaghan Murphy, who moved from Jersey City to Westfield in June shortly before the birth of their third child, said they saw roughly 20 to 30 houses during their search before finding their new home on Orchard Street.

“This was the only home that we actually fell in love with and bid on,” said Murphy, who serves as deputy editor for SELF magazine in New York City. “We were in a so-called ‘bidding-war’ with several other families and somehow lucked out.”

Harvey Tekel, manager at Weichert Realtors in Westfield, noted that the spring and summer market was unusually busy in Westfield.

“A switch got pulled sometime in February,” he said. “All of a sudden the traffic increased dramatically.”

Westfield’s housing market seems to be part of a larger trend in the area. Tekel pointed to weekly statistics showing absorption rates across Union County. During the week of Sept. 2, the number of months of current inventory was 3.7, indicating low inventory level and, therefore, a seller’s market. By month’s end inventory rose to 5 months, indicating a more neutral market.

In addition, the number of average days on the market for properties in town was 61 in September, down from 75 for the same period a year ago. The number of average days on the market in August of this year, however, was 47, which illustrates many families’ eagerness to move and settle in before school begins.

Demand for new construction in Westfield has risen, as well. Available lots and tear-downs have become scarce, and the average list price for a newly constructed home stands at $1.2 million, according to Garcia.

In late September, Coldwell Banker announced that local developer Gialluisi Custom Homes will have seven new signature homes to be available for various delivery dates to meet demand from buyers. Prices for these luxury homes start at $1,059,000. Gialluisi has already built more than two dozen luxury homes in the area.

Susan Gallagher Brown, a residential realtor at Coldwell Banker, said these homes are particularly sought after by dual-income couples who prefer not to deal with lengthy or inconvenient renovations.

She noted that buyers from Jersey City, Hoboken and New York City like the blend of urban amenities and small-town feel that Westfield offers.

“They’re used to city living but they want to come to the suburbs to raise children,” Gallagher Brown said. “Walkability is a huge factor.”

In August, Stanley Bonczek moved with his wife and young daughter from Jersey City to a rental home on Downer Street. The family joined the Westfield Area YMCA the couple are getting involved at Lincoln School, where their daughter attends kindergarten.

The couple is looking at homes for sale online and would like to stay in town, but say that finding a good opportunity has been a challenge.

“We haven’t seen very much for sale, especially in our price range,” said Bonczek, who works in Linden. They plan to continue looking for a home in Westfield during the winter months in hopes of getting a jump on next year's spring market.

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