Posted by & filed under Buying.

radon and rainRadon and rain aren’t always a good combination.  Rain may or may not affect radon levels.  Because of this, you can have an issue during your home inspection.  You will also want to know about this as a homeowner.  Let me explain what just happened during a home inspection on a listing of mine.

What Is Radon

Let’s start with what is radon?  An expert in the field is Radata.  Radata is a company that’s been in the radon testing and mitigation business since 1984.  Here is their definition of radon:

“Radon is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas formed by the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water.  The radon outdoors is diluted by fresh air, but radon can penetrate any type of building, become trapped and can increase to high levels.”

Radon causes lung cancer.  The National Cancer Institute has an entire section on radon.  Since radon causes cancer, every home inspection should include a radon test.  If the test shows a level of 4 pico curies or less, this is considered an acceptable level.  Radon is not just in Bergen County – it occurs all over the US.

Radon and Rain

Radon fluctuates.  It’s not at the same level every day of the year.  Weather has a direct impact on radon levels in your home as well as other things.  The best explanation I found on this comes from a Littleton Colorado radon company website.  They explain how radon and rain sometimes don’t mix.  Light rain has no effect but downpours do.  I just dealt with this issue on a listing.

My homeowner has lived in the house for 20 years.  When they did their purchase home inspection, radon test results were 2.9 pico curies.  Their buyer did home inspections 1 week ago when we had days of heavy downpours.  Radon test results came back with an unacceptable 4.3 pico curies.

Susana G. Manna, Esq., is an outstanding attorney in Closter NJ.  With Susana’s help, I was able to convince the buyer and their agent to re-test the house.  Because of the heavy rain conditions which I argued invalidated the results, I was able to have the home inspector re-test with no additional cost to the buyer.  We just got the results of the 2nd test – 2.8 pico curies.

Radon Testing

What is important to take away from this is that radon testing can be affected by weather.  Talk to your home inspector about this.  He is the expert – not me.  You want to live in a healthy environment so always make a radon test part of your inspection.  If you own a home, why not test periodically?

If you have any questions or need advice, you can always contact me.  Also, if you want to call Susana G. Manna, Esq, her phone number is 201-750-7564.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

What’s happening this weekend is a question I get frequently.  Let’s see what’s happening this weekend in Bergen County and nearby that’s fun.  Weather predictions are for great weather – sunny all weekend with moderate temperatures.  So here goes:

a streetcar named desireA Streetcar Named Desire

The Bergen County Players begins it’s run of the most famous Tennesee Williams play, A Streetcar Name Desire.   Award winning, acclaimed and offered to the public countless times since it was first presented on Broadway, it opens this Saturday night and tickets are still available.  This is such an intimate theater that no matter where you sit, the view is great.  Tickets are only $21 or $17 each depending on the performance.

Bogota Golf and Sports Centermini golf

There is something for everyone here – batting cages, a driving range and mini golf are all open at this family oriented facility year round.  Call up the Bogota Golf and Sports Center to see if their winter special on driving range pricing is still going on.  Whether or not, this is a place where everyone can find something fun to  do.

Spring Campfire at The Tenafly Nature Center

Have you ever had a s’more that didn’t come out of a micro wave oven?   You are in for a treat because this Saturday night is the Tenafly Nature Center’s Spring Campfire event.  You will indeed roast marshmallows over an open fire and make yourself delicious, gooey s’mores while listening to all roasting marshmallowssorts of fun stories by an open fire.  So make a reservation and have fun!

Wayne Valley Spring Craft Fair

A really big crafts fair is coming this Sunday to the Wayne Valley High School at 551 Valley Road in Wayne NJ.  Sponsored by the Wayne PTO and promoted by PJ”s Promotions, this annual fundraiser is a major crafts event in our general area.  Over 100 exhibitors will be there at this highly popular show which runs from 10 to 5 pm.  Admission is $3 and there’s also food – breakfast, lunch and a bake sale.  This show has been going on annually for over 20 years according to PJ’s write up.

Bergen County Parks

Year round we have great parks to do all sorts of outdoor activities in.  Weather looks good so take a walk or hike, bring kids to the playgrounds, use a bike path, visit the zoo or just hang out in the sun.  There are so many wonderful County Parks all over Bergen County to enjoy.  Because we are transitioning over from winter to spring, some parts of the County website aren’t working.  Call or text me at 201-741-8490 if you need help in finding a County Park that’s near you.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

is is still a seller's marketIs it still a seller’s market in Bergen County?  The answer is that it depends.

Analyzing The Market

Because residential real estate is seasonal, it’s necessary to compare month to month.  While it’s also instructive to look at annual data, you can spot trends comparing month to month.

Over half of all single family homes are sold to families with school aged children.  As a result, it’s a seasonal market and most closings occur between June and mid August.  This is why the first quarter of each year gives you the picture for the year ahead.

Where We Are So Far

Where we are is recovered.  Mortgage rate increases began in late summer and culminated at 4.94% by November.  This upset home buyers and stalled the market.  However, rates then tumbled down and by January had dropped to 4.35%.

Home buyers came back and came back with a sense of urgency.  They see now as an opportunity to grab lower rates before they go up for good later in the year.  As a result, they’re out in force.

Comparing 2019 to 2018, January closings were flat while February was up 7%.  This makes a lot of sense because sales today originated 2-3 months before.  February closings originated when rates were lower.

Under Contract figures also demonstrate recovery.  January rose 5% and February 9%.  Because it typically takes 7-10 days to get a home Under Contract, this data originated when rates increasingly dropped.

The Year Ahead

The year ahead will have challenges for buyers and sellers alike.  Today the NJMLS has 1,987 homes fully available for sale (2,318 – 331 with accepted offers).  This is about 1,000 less than you’d expect.  With so few for sale there will be less closings this year.

Millennials make up the biggest group of home buyers.  They see homes as a lifestyle, not as an investment and are fed up with renting.  While millennials want to take advantage of low rates, they will still wait to get what they want.   As a result the days of ferocious bidding wars are pretty much over and appreciation will be moderate.

Is it still a seller’s market in Bergen County?  Yes but to a limited degree.  Low inventory will maintain appreciation albeit at a moderate level.  Buyers win with low mortgage rates keeping homes affordable for the spring market.  So there’s positives for both sides.  The bottom line?  Another good year for home sales in Bergen County.

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How do you know which town is right for you?  You can change the house, knock it down and build new, expand it or just keep it.  What you can not change is the land or where the house is located.  As a result, buying a home involves choosing a town.  You need to figure out which town is right for you.

70 Bergen County Towns

Bergen County has 70 different towns.  We have small hamlets, urban neighborhoods and country areas with horses.  Prices go from around $150,000 to just under $30 million.  Styles range from antique colonials to modern grand scale mansions.  While having so many choices is great, it can also be overwhelming.  Let’s figure out which town is right for you now.

Doing The Right Financials

Begin with an identified budget.  I know you do this online but online pre-approvals are often quite preliminary.  How come?  Because online systems usually lack accurate property tax and home insurance costs for a local area.

As a result, you don’t have a budget you can safely rely on.  A great banker is also an advisor.  He/She will listen to your needs and together you create a budget that is right for you.  Rick Casatelli in my office does this brilliantly.

Identifying Your Needs

Over half of all home buyers are families with children.  As a result, schools are very important to them.  I have an entire section on Bergen County’s schools to help you.

Getting to work is the other top consideration for most home buyers.  Do you drive to work?  If so you need a town that’s accessible to highways.  Do you use public transportation?  Use New Jersey Transit’s website  Put in a home’s address and they’ll tell you how to commute.

Relatives can be another consideration if they live here.  Is it important to be near them?  Bergen County is big – it can take just under 1 hour to go from one end to the other.

Your Choices

Once you’ve identified a budget and locations that work for you, then together with your agent you’ll find the right towns.  Once you do, you’ll find the right house too!

If you want my help, just contact me today

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Happy St Patrick's DayGet ready to wear green because it’s time for the Bergen County St Patrick’s Day Parade!  It’s the 38th year this popular parade is being held in, of course, Bergenfield.  The parade will begin at 2 pm and end at 4 pm or there about.  An annual tradition, it brings out thousands of people rain or shine every year and this Sunday will be no different.

The 2019 Grand Marshal is Patsy McLoughlin because of her contributions to Irish culture and Irish dance.  Patsy is the owner of McLoughlin School of Irish Dance.  For over 50 years her school has promoted Irish dance and she’s been a force in Bergen County’s Irish community.  This is a very well deserved honor.

The day begins with The Flag Raising Ceremony at 1 pm at the Roy Brown Middle School on Washington Ave.  The Parade then takes off from there at 2 pm.

Bergen County’s St Patrick’s Day Parade features Irish dancing by both children and adults, at least 3 bagpipe bands, antique cars, live music and more.  It really is a lot of fun.  Irish dance

Bergen County has a proud and strong Irish community.  Because there are so many people of Irish descent in Bergenfield the parade has always been held here.  Statewide, 10% of New Jersey residents have an Irish heritage according to Wikipedia.

So come on out this Sunday, March 10th, and enjoy the Bergen County St Patrick’s Day Parade.  Afterwards have a meal at one of our great local Irish restaurants – Tommy Fox’s Public House in Bergenfield or Biddy O’Malley’s in Englewood or Northvale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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negotiating mistakesNegotiating mistakes that lose the house for a buyer are heartbreaking.  Imagine what it’s like to think you have finally found your new home only to learn you haven’t.  This just happened on my listing in Fair Lawn.  I want to tell you this story so it never happens to you.

Timing

There is an adage in real estate – time loses deals.  This is especially true today because there aren’t enough homes for sale.  As a result, the market favors the seller, not the buyer.

If you are competing against other home buyers for a house, is it a good idea to take a few days to get a contract to a seller?  Or is it better to act quickly?

While I realize this may seem obvious, timing is important for more reasons than you may expect.  When you are in a seller’s market, you must be completely prepared to act immediately.  It’s a race and you want to win.

Homeowners are impressed when a buyer looks at their house and delivers a sales contract within hours.  Timing an offer so quickly displays decisive action.  It definitely gives you a leg up.

Taking your time does the opposite.  It creates doubt in a homeowner’s mind because they rightly wonder if you are sincerely interested.  This is always a mistake.

Negotiating Mistakes in Fair Lawn

What happened in Fair Lawn is that a young couple who fell in love with my listing lost it.  They lost it for the most unacceptable of reasons.  It took several days to send in the final contract offer.

We negotiated price and terms concluding mid-day on a Friday.  I told the buyer’s agent that I will get the contract signed as soon as I could once I received it.  The answer was “I’ll get it to you  on Monday.”

I was shocked by this.  Why would the buyer wait?  The logical deduction was to keep shopping over the weekend.  At least that’s how this delay was interpreted by the seller.  It was also interpreted as a lack of commitment.  As a result, the buyer lost credibility with the seller.

By the time the buyer’s contract arrived on Monday, my listing had been shown 41 times (36 at Sunday’s open house) and a better offer arrived.  It was of course accepted.

Don’t let this happen to you.  Avoid negotiating mistakes.  When you find the house you want, move quickly and aggressively.  Impress the seller and leave the others behind.

If you want to discuss this further, just call or text me at 201-741-8490.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

0-34 Morlot Ave

A Special Fair Lawn Home For Sale

Pristine condition is what you’ll find in this beautiful family home.  It is a rare combination of traditional elegance and modern space.  You step inside to be greeted by an elegant formal living room.  This leads to the open floor plan kitchen and dining room space.  Because you have a unique combination of 2 distinct styles, this is indeed a very special home.

Custom Kitchen with Hi End Materials

Kitchens are the heart of any home.  This one is so beautiful that it truly is nothing like you’ve ever seen.  Magnificent walls of custom cherry cabinetry, gorgeous Italian tile, beautiful granite counter tops and a large center island are all here for you.  There is even a full sized Avanti wine refrigerator.  0-34 Morlot Ave

Light pours in through the sliding glass doors that lead to the deck outside.  As a result, even overcast days are bright inside. This magnificent room is highly functional.

While this is a modern floor plan, you are not overwhelmed by the wide open space.  Additionally the center island perfectly separates the kitchen and dining areas.

Because this room is created out of natural materials, it is both modern and warm.  Moreover the traditional part of this level is as charming as the kitchen area is dramatic.  As a result, 0-34 Morlot Ave captures your heart immediately.

0-34 morlotDetailed House Features

0-34 Morlot Ave is offered at $459,000 and has separate hot water heat and central air conditioning.  Taxes are $9,699 and lot size is 65 x 102.  There is a 1 car attached garage with an automatic door.  Bathrooms are updated and the outside deck is made of composite material.

There are 2 nice bedrooms on the main floor.  Upstairs is a 3rd bedroom plus walk in attic storage.  Additionally there is a generous sized rec room in the basement with a dry bar.  This is a terrific space set up for 2 uses – home theater and relaxing with friends.

In conclusion, this is a great family home with good space and pristine condition.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Veronica's RoomBergen County Players presents Veronica’s Room starting this weekend.  It is a play written by Ira Levin that opens this Saturday night, February 16th, with an 8 pm curtain.  Performances run through March 9th on weekends.  Tickets are priced at $21 for Fridays and Saturdays.  Sundays are $17.

Ira Levin

Ira Levin is a novelist and a playwright.  Because his novels were so well received and filled with suspense, many were turned into movies.  You might recognize some or all of these examples:  Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, The Boys from Brazil, Sliver and Deathtrap.  Deathtrap remains the longest running comedy thriller on Broadway.  Mr. Levin won many awards for his writing so it’s no wonder that play goers are eager to see Veronica’s Room.

Veronica’s Room

Veronica’s Room is like so many of Ira Levin’s works.  It is filled with suspense, adult themes and plot twists.  It includes everything from false identities to murder.  Programs identify the characters as Man, Woman, etc.  This is because to do otherwise can reveal the plot and spoil your experience.  I thought this was an interesting fact.  Since Veronica’s room is adult in it’s theme and language, it’s not appropriate for children.

Bergen County Players

Bergen County Players is a local live theater group that I have written about often.  They put on terrific plays year round.  Ticket prices are moderate as you saw above.  Parking is on the street or in a nearby municipal lot.  It was once an old fire house and today is a fully equipped and recently renovated theater.  Productions began in the 1950’s so there is a long history here.  I love the fact that they also produce plays for children.  It’s great fun to introduce a child to live theater here.  Children love it and especially because after a performance, they get to meet the characters.

Go to Veronica’s Room.  You get to see an Ira Levin play and support local live theater at the same time.

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Hackensack CondoHackensack Condo By The Train

I just listed a 1 bedroom Hackensack condo by the train for $139,000.  New Jersey Transit trains go to Penn Station in Manhattan from here.  The entire trip takes about 30 minutes so this is a fabulous commute.  The building is located only a 5-7 minute walk to the train station

While this condo is on the 1st floor, it’s not on ground level because it’s 1 story above.  Maintenance is $259.29 and property taxes are $3,710.  The building has an elevator plus covered and outside parking spaces.  There is a coin operated laundry room a few doors away from this unit.  The floor plan is open.  It really is one large space with a separate bedroom. Hackensack condo

Sunlight flows in through the sliding glass doors.  They open onto a nice balcony which the current tenant enjoys in warmer weather.  Ceiling height is good too.

Location

This Hackensack condo is in a location that is upgrading.  There are several other buildings on the street and nearby new construction for more condo and rental buildings.  Years ago this was a more industrial type area.  Investment in Hackensack can be seen throughout the city.

Hackensack is one of 5 cities in Bergen County.  We define a city as having 25,000 people or more.  Because we are literally on top of Manhattan, Bergen County gets a lot of home buyers from New York City.  By NYC standards our cities are suburbs.  They do appear this way to be sure.  In NYC there are apartment buildings with more than 25,000 people so our cities certainly don’t look like what they’re used to.

Hackensack CondoBuy It For What You’d Rent It

Hackensack condos are in big demand because they are more affordable than Fort Lee.  Both locations have hi rise buildings and many garden and mid rise buildings.

One bedroom units are also very popular because they often cost the same as renting.  This is true here too.

This condo would rent for at least $1,200 per month.  Mortgage cost is $669.50 at 4.5% with a 5% down payment.  Add maintenance ($259.29) and taxes ($310) for a total of $1,238.79 monthly.  Insurance costs would be comparable so I didn’t factor that in.

This comfortable and bright Hackensack condo is a great start to home ownership and possibly a great investment too.  If you want to take a look, contact me today.

 

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

where is real estate goingWhere is real estate going is a question that comes up at the beginning of every year.  No one has a perfect crystal ball but looking at the dynamics of the market gives us a pretty good idea.

Mortgages

Mortgage rates rose in 2018 and will again in 2019.  We began 2018 at 3.85% and rose to 5% by early fall.  As rates go up, affordability goes down.  This resulted in a steeper 3rd quarter decline than the year before.

Rates started falling throughout the fall and were back down to mid 4% by December and have been holding there since.  Once people got through the holidays, buyers came back in a major way 2 weeks ago.  Bankers tell me that rates should stay in this range for the next few months.

The Market

Stability is the word to use.  While you need to look at a town specifically to really know what’s happening, overall the stabilization that began in 2017 continued.

The number of sales rose 1% from 12,624 to 12,700.  Days on market reduced by about 5 days – from 66 to 60.8.  That’s 4% fewer days but I’m sure you’ll agree selling a house 5 days quicker really isn’t dramatic.  Prices were pretty flat too.  The average sales price in Bergen County rose 2% from $511,282 to $523,087.

Inventory

Inventory is the number of available homes for sale.  If you’ve been looking for a home, you know the inventory stinks.  There isn’t a lot to look at.  Since the 14% rise between 2015 and 2016, inventory levels have been flat.  We have sales of 12,257 in 2016, 12,624 in 2017 and 12,700 in 2018.  This is just 4% more sales since 2016 (appreciation was only 5%).

Demand has increased tremendously since 2016.  You see that by the sharp decline in how long a home stays for sale.  Days on market dropped 17%.  Homes sold nearly 2 weeks quicker and that’s huge.

The Bottom Line

Today there are only 2,178 Bergen County homes for sale in the New Jersey MLS.  This is another low inventory year.  Mortgage rates while good are nearly 1% higher than at the start of 2018.  As a result the market will remain stabilized because higher rates + prices up a bit mean homes today cost more.  2019 seems like a repeat of 2018 and that’s good.

So where is real estate going in Bergen County?  Its going to continue it’s positive, stable trend.  This is a general view of the market; where you live or want to buy might be different.  Contact me if you’d like to know about any particular area or neighborhood.