"I've been doing residential real estate in the area for the last 15 years and I have never seen it quite this good," said Barbara Tulko, a Realtor based in Weehawken. "2000 has been my best year ever."
Recent increases in interest rates do not seem to have slowed interest in the market.
Part of the boom, real estate agents say, is occurring because people are looking to buy in areas they previously would not consider. Young professionals are now buying in Downtown Jersey City, Jersey City Heights and the west side of Hoboken.
"People said I was crazy when I moved my office out of Hoboken two years ago to begin focusing on other areas like the Heights, but I think that I have made 50 percent more because of it," said Tulko. "Now when I am in Weehawken with a folder and I see another broker, they'll follow me to see where I am going." She laughed. "It's that competitive."
Although everywhere one turns - from Newport and Paulus Hook in Jersey City to the West New York waterfront - new residential apartment buildings are being constructed, brokers insist that there is still more demand than there is supply.
"It's the same old story of not enough inventory," said Hoboken-based realtor Dan Voehringer. "We had six bidding wars in September alone."
Apartments are selling at $240 to $325 a square foot in Hoboken now, said Voehringer. Five years ago they went for $180 to $225 a square foot, he said.
The addition of light rail stations in downtown Jersey City and the expected construction of new stops in Hoboken, Weehawken and North Bergen have also helped elevate interest.
"It makes everyone feel closer to Manhattan," said Tulko, claiming that the largest impact has been on the Jersey City Heights area. "They are talking about making pedestrian access from the Heights down to the light rail station [at Ninth and Jackson streets in Hoboken]. That means that people will be able to be five minutes away from Hoboken. It's a good place for people who want to own their own homes but can't afford Hoboken." In Hoboken, developers say that they have seen a subtle shift in the sorts of apartments that most people are looking to buy today.
"We are building larger, family size units with three, four and five bedrooms and two car garages," said George Vallone, who owns a development company with Danny Gans called Hoboken Brownstone. "Our units have a nice finish that lends itself to the new generation in Hoboken now. What we are seeing is that people who have been here a little while are having kids and want to stay and families are moving into town with kids. I think that the combination of the two is swinging the market away from studio and one bedroom units to two, three and four and five bedrooms."
Vallone continued, "It's not like people are necessarily having five kids. But people want an extra room where they can be alone, study or watch TV."
To meet the demand, Hoboken Brownstone recently built almost 70 units in the southwestern section of the city. More than 50 percent of them were constructed for families with kids.
The only soft spot in the market seems to be just-built two bedroom apartments, brokers say.
"Most of the stuff that comes on line in new construction is predominantly 950 to 1,250-square-foot two bedroom apartments," said Voehringer, "so there is some liquidity there. You may see things on the market six or eight weeks, but in other places not so much."
As a result of the competition in the two-bedroom market, Voehringer says that developers are offering more and more "bells and whistles" on these units to try and entice buyers. For many developers, this has meant constructing apartments with marble bathtubs, fireplaces and gourmet kitchens.
But by and large, real estate brokers say that their phones have been ringing off the hook. And most say that they expect it to continue that way.
"Even if everything else slows down a bit, I don't see us slowing down around here," said Jersey City-based real estate agent Cathy Buquicchio. "We've got a hot commodity."