The plunge in Shore-area real estate values that’s been underway for almost two years is showing signs of abating, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

From the story:

Home prices in the area that includes Monmouth and Ocean counties were essentially flat in the first quarter of 2008, declining by 0.6 percent from the same period the year before, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

The median sale price for an existing single-family home in Monmouth, Ocean, Middlesex and Somerset counties was $361,200, down $2,300, from $363,500 in the same quarter in 2007, the association said. The median means that half the homes in the area sold for more and half sold for less.

Joel Naroff, chief economist for Commerce Bank, said the decline is “relatively modest, to say the least.”

According to Press business reporter David Willis, prices continued to drop across most of New Jersey, though the areas around Trenton and Atlantic City actually recorded price increases.

But in our area, ‘short sales’ — deals in which the house goes for less than the mortgage owed, often with an agreement that the lender will eat the loss — appear to be common. Willis quotes one real estate broker as saying that up to 20 percent of his transactions are now short sales.

Meantime, prospective buyers continue to be guarded.

Little Silver resident Bruce Jennings has had his four-bedroom house at 175 Riverview Ave. on the market since December. He started by asking $489,000. He has reduced it several times to its current price: $449,000.

Prospective buyers have attended open houses, but, so far, no serious offers have come in, he said.

“There seems to be people going around, kicking the tires, but since the market has been declining, they are offering very, very low numbers to try to “steal’ one as opposed to coming in with comparable sales,” said Jennings, a senior loan officer at Allstate Mortgage in West Long Branch.

The economy may be one reason his home has not sold yet, he said. “My house would be perfect for a young couple, or young couple and a child, but they don’t want to take on the financial obligation of a house right now because they are afraid of the economy.”

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