Home prices in the Garden state have been falling for the past eight months…but new data shows an unexpectedly positive trend in the housing market.

Jeff Otteau, President of the Otteau Valuation Group, says new data shows housing demand in the Garden state exploded off the chart at the beginning of this year

“In January purchase contracts to buy a home in New Jersey rose by 31 percent compared to the prior January in 2011” he says, “the change is dramatic.”

Otteau adds we’ve still got a long way to go to get back to where we were before the recession began in 2008, but the numbers suggest “the housing market has now transitioned into the recovery phase that we’ve all been waiting for.”

He also points out available housing inventory is expected to rise this year – which could hold prices down – due to increased foreclosure actions coupled with previously discouraged sellers reentering the market.