Despite rising mortgage rates, the Weichert Realtors office in Sparta, N.J. is entering its tenth consecutive year as the top selling branch company-wide. It is no small feat; Weichert has nearly 500 offices and franchise units across 43 states.
The milestone comes at the close of a tumultuous run in the local real estate market. The pandemic pushed mortgage rates down to about 3% in 2020 and 2021, locking new homeowners in at historically-low rates, and pushing existing homeowners to refinance.
Then in 2022, rates jumped to 5%. Now, they are hovering around 8%, and fewer local homeowners are willing to sell.
“A lot of folks who are kind of dipping their toe in the water of potentially selling probably have a very low mortgage rate or probably have a paid off home,” said realtor Marc Tremain. “And they are thinking about: ‘Well what’s the next thing for me, what’s the next step? Am I gonna go purchase a new home with an 8% mortgage? Am I gonna have to get a certain amount of equity so I can go make a cash purchase somewhere else?’”
Nowadays, the only people who are listing their homes locally are those who feel they need to, explained realtor Chrstine Tremain, who with Marc as “Team Tremain,” are on track to be the top-selling team at Sparta’s Weichert office this year. She said life events such as retirements, deaths and divorces are pushing individuals to sell.
“The convenience moves have completely been removed from the market,” added Christine. “We’re only seeing the ‘I have to move’ people.”
Local homes still fly off the market
And while it’s more expensive to buy a house now with rising interest rates, Sussex County homes listings are still selling quickly.
As of this October, the average Sussex County home was on the market for just 38 days, according to Andrew Millings, the managing broker at Sparta’s Weichert office. “That doesn’t mean that it’s available for 38 days,” he added. “You put your house on the market today, and it goes under contract tomorrow, it may take two or three weeks to officially mark the property as ‘under contract’”
“To give you some context, the average days on market is 38. In a normal market, that number is around 75 to 80 days,” said Millings. He has not seen a normal market in Sussex County since before the pandemic.
But who is racing to buy up these houses? Realtors say the demographic varies greatly; locals, city-dwellers, singles, families.
“I just had an open house...for one of our listings and the demographic was all over the map,” said Marc. “It was people from out of the area looking to come up to the country. It was young, non-homeowners looking to purchase their first home. It was an older person who was now single and looking for a more reasonable home to live in, but to stay in their same area.”
“It’s so hard to pin down a specific demographic that’s taking up the majority of the buyers right now,” he added. “There’s so many out there that I don’t think that you can really pin it down to one majority.”