Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe, Buying, Homeowner Tips.

drinking waterLead in drinking water in Bergen County and northern Hudson County has been found by Suez Water.  Because I’ve been asked about this lately, I thought writing an article would be helpful.

Suez Water

Suez Water is the water utility company servicing almost all of Bergen County and northern Hudson County.  On January 16th they published their findings in an article on their website and at a public press conference.  They tested 108 homes and found 16 (15%) with elevated levels of lead in the drinking water.  They also tested the water they were sending out and found no lead at all.

How Lead Gets Into Your Water

So how did this happen?  Suez came up with two reasons –

  1. Many homes built before 1986 used lead pipes to connect to the water main
  2. Many homes have lead solder and fixtures

Suez will test any home for lead in their drinking water for free.  Click here to find out how to get your home tested.

The Good News

You might not think of this as good news but if you own an affected home, you’re not alone.  This is not a NJ or Bergen County problem.  Homes built before 1986 number in the millions all over the US.

The good news is that you can do something about this.  Today you can buy NSF rated water filters that remove lead and other contaminants from water.  It’s up to you and your budget on the system you use.  You can do whole house systems or just a sink faucet filter.  While it’s several thousand dollars, you can replace that old lead water pipe in your lawn too.

More Information

The EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) has an entire section on lead in drinking water on their website.  New Jersey’s DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) has a section on lead in drinking water as well on their website.  Let’s not forget Suez Water either as another resource.

If you need more help, let me know.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

what can i afford in a houseWhat can I afford in a house is always the right question to ask.  Why?  Because what you can afford is more than a mortgage quote.

Affordability is Everything

Affordability is everything.  It is no fun to be house poor.  I bet you know these folks – they used to go out to dinner, to the movies etc.  But they just bought a house and now nothing’s left over once the mortgage is paid.   How did this happen?  They didn’t understand affordability.

What Can I Afford In A House

Let’s look at the total cost of owning a house –

  • Mortgage
  • Property Taxes
  • Homeowner Insurance
  • Utilities (Oil/Gas/Electric/Water)
  • Maintenance (Landscaping/Snow Removal/Regular Maintenance)

I’m not including a few other items that may or may not apply – a home warranty for houses with appliances/furnaces etc. that are more than 5 years old, a termite warranty and oil tank insurance.

gas and electric bills

I’m also assuming that you have a few month’s worth of mortgage payments in a separate account for emergencies such as a new roof, upgrades etc.  If not, you should budget in 3-6 month’s worth of mortgage payments for this.  I’d say at least $100 per month until you have this saved up.

Using a $500,000 purchase with a 5% down payment, here’s what we have –

  • $475,000 mortgage – $2,450 p/month
  • $12,000 property taxes – $1,000 p/month
  • Homeowner Insurance – $100 p/month
  • Heat, cooling, gas, electric – $300 p/month
  • Maintenance – $125 p/month

landscapingWhile your mortgage comes to $3,550 per month you have an additional $425 per month in expenses.  Many home buyers focus on just the mortgage payment and that’s how you can get into trouble.

So here’s the formula for what’s affordable – mortgage + carrying costs.  If that figure works for you, then the house is affordable.

To do this right, however, you must have accurate figures.  I’ve seen a lot of mortgages figured with ridiculously low homeowner insurance and property tax figures.  If you’d like help in getting the right figures to buy a home, just call or text me at 201-741-8490.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

two family homeMulti family homes for sale in Bergen County NJ are always very popular.  Serious investors, first time home buyers and just folks who want to begin a real estate portfolio all find multi family properties attractive.  While 1-4 family homes are residential over 4 units becomes commercial real estate.  Because I specialize in residential real estate, I’ll leave commercial to experts in that field.  I do know a great commercial agent so contact me for this if your interest is commercial.

The Multi Family Home Market Today

There are 208 multi family homes for sale in the New Jersey MLS right now.  They range in price from $145,000 up to $1,799,889.  Most are 2 families – 192 to be exact.  Since they are so popular, the ratio of for sale to under contract is always very strong.  Today it’s 192 for sale/134 under contract for a 1.6 to 1 ratio.

Low inventory + strong demand = higher prices.  It doesn’t look like this will change any time soon.  More first time buyers are purchasing these properties simply because it makes good economic sense.  I’ve always encouraged this with the goal to keep them as long term investments.  I wrote a blog article on buying a 2 family home a few years ago about this.

For those of you who took my advice back then, your investment would have grown by a whopping 16% according to the New Jersey MLS (comparing all 1-4 family sales in 2016 against 2018).  If you’re thinking about a multi family purchase, you really should read my article on buying a 2 family home.

What Buying A Multi Family Means to You

multi family home for sale

Investors look at multi family homes strictly for cash flow.  They analyze expenses vs income to calculate the cap rate.  They have a set goal because this is strictly a business investment.  Some will consider doing major work as long as “the numbers work” .

Owner occupiers see things differently.  Because they want a home and an investment, multi family homes are the answer.  They use these properties to build equity quicker than with a single family purchase.  They also see them as protection against future bumps in the road because at least some of the mortgage is covered every month.

Multi family homes for sale in Bergen County NJ are and will always be very popular.  If you want to kick some ideas around or explore a purchase, call me at 201-741-8490.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

There are cool things for kids in January happening in Bergen County.  You might think that because the holidays are behind us, there isn’t much available.  There is most definitely!

The Wizard of OzThe Wizard of Oz

This is the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. It is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made and it’s also one of the most beloved.  To celebrate it’s anniversary, there are special screenings in movie theaters throughout the US.  Imagine how much fun it will be to take your children to see The Wizard of Oz in a movie theater.  Dates are January 27, 29 and 30.  You order your tickets at your local theater online – just click here.

Tenafly Nature Center

It’s time for the annual scavenger hunt Tenafly Nature Centerat the Tenafly Nature Center.  Held next weekend on Saturday, January 12th, this is a fun family activity that teaches children about nature.  Because each family must work together, it teaches children team building skills as well.  There’s still time to register for this event – just click here.  This is great for young children because it’s only 1 hour long.  Young children need activities that aren’t much more than that after all.

Bergen Pac

bergen pacThe date is January 17th for American Girl Live.  Based upon the characters from the American Girl series of dolls, this is an all new original musical.

Bergen Pac also has a special series of events in it’s Kids Cabaret Series.  January’s event has been sold out for quite a while but tickets are available for all others.  This introduces young children to the performing arts.  You should know that they are making a stronger effort towards children with autism and disabilities.

CampgawCampgaw Mountain

is Bergen County’s own ski resort.  It is located in Mahwah and snow making should be in full force very shortly.  There is tubing ,down hill skiing and special programs for children.  Because Campgaw is part of Bergen County’s parks system, it’s more affordable.  Since we don’t have huge mountains here, it’s not extremely challenging.  As a result, it’s a great way to introduce children to skiing and to just have fun on the slopes.

Your Local Library

Your local library has ongoing programs for children. Library We forget what a treasure our local libraries are.  Children gain a love of reading, learn how to find answers with the help of the research librarian and even develop habits of discipline all in a friendly, positive environment.  Check your local library out to see what’s on their schedule for children. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

There are plenty of cool things for kids in January right here.  If I’ve missed any, let me know and I’ll add them in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

KwanzaaKwanzaa arrives this week.  Christmas is upon us and that means Kwanzaa is right behind,  It begins the day after Christmas and lasts 1 week.  You might ask “What is Kwanza?”  Here is the answer;

What is Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday.  It is an African American cultural festival which was created in the United States by Professor Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga in 1966.  It comes from the black nationalist and black power movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Professor Karenga was intimately involved in both as a major leading figure.  He created Kwanzaa because he wanted African Americans to connect with their cultural heritage.

The word originates from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” or first fruits.  Professor Karenga used Swahili because Swahili is the most widely spoken African language. First fruits come from the first harvest.  These celebrations go back thousands of years in Africa.  As a result, this speaks to his goal of uniting the community through their African heritage.  Kwanzaa expands every year and is celebrated in countries around the world.

kwanzaa

The Celebration

Kwanzaa is spelled with 7 letters because it has 7 principles or Nguzo Saba.  Since each day is focused on 1 of the 7 principles, it lasts 1 week.  A candle is lit each day and on the 7th gifts are exchanged.  The Kinara is the candle holder and it’s placed on a mat called the Mkeka.  Because each candle represents a specific principle, candles are lit in a specific order.  The black candle in the center is the first one lit.  There are 3 red candles to the left and 3 green to the right.

These are the 7 principles if Kwanzaa:

  • Umoja or Unity
  • Kujichagulia or Self-Determination
  • Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility
  • Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics
  • Nia or Purpose
  • Kuumba or Creativity
  • Imani or Faith

KwanzaaKwanza’s Meaning

Kwanzaa is a celebration of life principles as well as a gathering of the African community.  It is filled with symbolism.  This is why a bowl of fruit (Mazao), ears of corn (Muhindi) and a unity cup (Kikombe cha Umoja) are also placed around the Kinara.

You have a feast on the 6th day and people exchange gifts on the 7th day to end this holiday.  African themed decorations, music and dress should be part of the celebration too.  This is a time for people of African descent to come together as a community, commemorate the heritage of their ancestors and re-affirm the special life principles that make up their African culture.

Bergen County is highly diverse.  Because we are, life here is wonderfully entwined with a large variety of cultures, backgrounds and religions.  This is why I say we have something for everyone.  The African American community is part of our fabric of life.  If you know someone who is celebrating Kwanzaa great them with Have a Joyous Kwanzaa!

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

The December holidays are in full swing.  Hanukkah has begun tonight and Christmas is coming next.  Here are some Christmas events in Bergen County for you to enjoy –

Merry ChristmasChristmas Events

Bergen County’s Winter Wonderland is back again this year and it’s bigger and better than ever.  This event is located in Van Saun Park and is one of the most popular family activities of the season.

Young children will love Jack and the Beanstalk at the Bergen County Players in Oradell.  This musical production is simply terrific and runs through December 16th.  Because it’s aimed at young children, this play runs 1 hour in length which is ideal for youngsters.  The cast meets with the children afterward for pictures and autographs.

The Hermitage is a fabulous historical museum that hosts non stop holiday events every year.  Santa’s Workshop on December 16th is from 1 to 3 pm.  Santa and his elves welcome children in and pictures can be taken.  It’s a lot of fun.  There’s also Home for the Holidays Tours depicting what Christmas was like for a family in the 1930’s.  These tours run through January and

nutcracker

are held Wednesdays – Sundays at 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15.

Bergen Pac has several holiday specials.  The Vienna Boys Choir is on December 13th and A Christmas Carol is on December 15th and 16th.

The Nunnbetter Dance Theater  presents the Nutcracker once again on December 7th-9th at various times.

Santa Etc

Many towns had Christmas tree lightings around Thanksgiving this year when public menorahs were lighted.  There are some that still have Santa and holiday parades to come.  Check with your town and local Chamber of Commerce to see if anything is on the horizon.

There are also commercial establishments where you can meet Santa. Of course you have the malls but there’s also Abma’s Farm in Wyckoff (through the 16th) and

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Hanukkah lightingsHoliday Menorah Lighting

Hanukkah is 1 of the 2 major December holidays celebrated in Bergen County.  Christmas is the other followed by Kwanza and New Year’s Eve.  As a result many towns have both giant menorahs and Christmas trees in their town square or other public place.  Holiday menorah lighting usually includes a celebration too so it’s a lot of fun for all of us.

 

Here are menorah lightings in Bergen County –

  • Allendale is Dec 4th at 6 pm at the Borough Hall
  • Closter is Dec 9th at 7 pm at the Borough Hall
  • Cresskill is Dec 4th at the Cresskill Library
  • Demarest is Dec 2nd at 7 pm at the Duck Pond Gazebo
  • Englewood is Dec 2nd at 6 pm in front of City Hall
  • Fair Lawn is Dec 2nd at 7 pm at the City Hall
  • Franklin Lakes  is Dec 4th at the Borough Hall
  • Glen Rock  is Dec 6th at 6 pm at Kilroy’s Wonder Market
  • Hackensack is Dec 2nd at 5:30 pm at Bergen County Courthouse
  • Mahwah is Dec 3rd at 6 pm at the Mahwah Senior Center
  • Oradell is Dec 2nd at 6 pm on the Borough Hall front lawn
  • Paramus Dec 6th at 6 pm inside the Borough Hall
  • Ridgewood is Dec 2nd at 5:30 pm at Memorial Park
  • River Vale is Dec 5th at 6-9 pm at at the Community Center
  • Tenafly is Dec 3rd at 7 pm in Huyler Park
  • Tenafly Holiday Parade Dec 7th featuring Hanukkah among other holiday traditions
  • Wyckoff is Dec 2nd at 4:30 pm at the Wyckoff Town Hall

There may be towns I’ve missed in addition to these.  While I’ve spent a good deal of time looking up Menorah lightings, there may be some HanukkahI’ve not found.  Please contact me with any I’ve missed.

Also I found a great website that has everything you want to know about Hanukkah.  Because I’m not Jewish, this fun and informative website is a big help.  As a result, I better understand and appreciate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.  To quote Martha Stewart, that’s a good thing.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

money pitBuying the Money Pit

Buying the money pit is easy when you’re too emotional about a home purchase.  Home buyers can do this because no one buys a house they hate.  You find a home you love and go after it.  Notice the language I just used.  It is very telling.  You look at houses but you buy a home.

This is not only the biggest financial purchase most of us make, it’s also our biggest emotional buying decision.  As a result, you can easily get caught up with emotional needs.

Your Home Search

You begin your home search online and later go out to see houses.  You learn what you do and don’t like in a house.  This takes some time even though you’ve seen what seems like thousands of online listings.

Your focus is on value and condition but mostly it’s on what appeals to you.  Everything comes down to walking into a house, feeling at home and falling in love with it.  While you try to keep your eye on value and condition, emotions make the final determination.  money pit

The Problem

Emotions are stronger than you’d expect when it comes to buying a home.  Because we fall in love with the home we ultimately purchase, we’re not doing this on the basis of pure logic.  As a result, we are vulnerable to choosing unwisely.  This is the problem.  So what do we do about it?

Guarding Against Disaster

We have 3 safeguards to keep us on track – our agent, our bank appraiser and our home inspector.

A great home inspector is a safeguard against making a mistake.  A previous article in this series has good tips on finding the right inspector.  You may love it but if your home inspector finds more wrong than you can reasonably handle, walk away.  Listen to your inspector.

inspection reportBank appraisers value a house non-emotionally.  Their job is to make sure a home’s value justifies the mortgage loan.  This protects you when you get caught up in a bidding war or when you’re so in love with a house that you must have it no matter what.  Bank appraisers are a good dose of reality.

Great real estate agents guide customers to a good decision.  They keep you in the right perspective and give you the knowledge needed to  make the best decisions for yourself.

I hope this series of 10 articles has been a big help  If you have any questions or want to discuss your options in the market, call me at 201-741-8490.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

The Holidays Have Begun

Happy ThanksgivingThanksgiving is upon us and the holidays have begun.  In only 2 days we’ll be sitting down for a Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends.  Next comes Hanukkah starting at sundown on December 2nd followed by Christmas on December 25th.  Kwanza comes next on December 26th and then, of course, New Year’s Eve.  While this is a very busy time of the year, it’s also a time when model train shows open up all over Bergen County and the metropolitan area.

Model Train Shows

A big part of this time of year is definitely the holiday model train shows.  Let’s see what’s in Bergen County and within 1 hour’s drive nearby:

  1. The New York Society of Model Engineers 341 Hoboken Road in Carlstadt
  2.  David Cooper Model Railroad  201 Franklin Turnpike in Mahwah  train shows
  3. Garden State Model Railway Club 575 High Mountain Road in North Haledon
  4. The Model Railroad Club  295 Jefferson Ave in Union
  5. New York Botanical Garden  2900 Southern Boulevard in The Bronx

Holiday model train shows are open to the public every year during the December holidays.  It’s become an annual  tradition and, to be frank, a needed source of income for the clubs that host these shows.  Typically shows are open on weekends beginning with Thanksgiving Weekend.  Some begin a little earlier but most run through the end of December.

Tickets sometimes sell out quickly so don’t wait too long.  When my son was a little boy we went to the New model train showsYork Society of Model Engineers every year.  I remember putting him up on my shoulders so he could get a good view.  Taking your children to events like train shows gives you wonderful lifetime memories.

If you have a train set yourself, you get great ideas from these shows.  It’s not unusual to find one of the club members who is more than willing to help you out.  Enjoy the holiday season with your family at one of these model train shows.  It’s fun and you’re supporting a great tradition.

 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

What’s A Home Inspection Like?

You’ve found your new home and Attorney Review has concluded.  Next comes the home inspections.  While you’re waiting for your scheduled inspection time, you begin to wonder about this.  What’s a home inspection like?  What really happens?  Let’s take a look now.

Begin Outside

You meet your home inspector at the house.  He introduces himself, explains how the inspection will be conducted and starts outside.

A home’s exterior is more than the siding, roof and chimney.  Because of all the damage it can create, you must keep water away from a house.  As a result, gutters, downspouts and rainwater runoff management are concerns.

Walking around the home’s perimeter and grounds, he notes how trees and shrubs impact the roof and structure, the integrity of fencing, signs of an abandoned oil tank and evidence of wood destroying insects or other pests.

Decks, patios, walks and driveway are other areas he’ll check out.  Pretty much everything you see on the outside will be examined.  He’ll also give you his estimate of how long the roof will last.

The Basement

Basements tell us how well maintained a home is by their condition and the quality of equipment. As a result, this is a very important area.

Unfinished basements allow a thorough inspection of the foundation, framing, floor and ceiling area for wiring, leaks, water penetration and wood destroying insect activity.  Because a finished basement has this covered up, inspectors do the best they can.

Electrical panel box covers are removed to look at the condition and wiring.  Hot water heaters and furnaces are inspected and dated.  You are told how to maintain your furnace and other tips.   Inspectors teach you about this and how to take care of the furnace.

Existing sump pumps are also inspected; you will be told to get a battery backup if it’s not there. When the house has air conditioning, equipment for this can exist in the basement as well as the attic.  This is checked out of course.

Because a gas fueled house might have had oil heat in the past, your inspector will look for signs of oil service in the basement too.

Living Areas

Bathrooms are thoroughly tested for leaks, water pressure, water temperature. mold/mildew and general condition.  While GFCI outlets should be in bathrooms, it is an unfortunate fact that this is not always code required.

Inspectors open and close all windows and doors.  They check floors for damage.  Outlets are tested to see if they work and for polarity.  They look to make sure heat works in all rooms. Central air is checked by measuring the temperature at every register.

Attic

Home inspectors go into every part of the attic.  They examine the roof’s substructure to make sure it’s doing it’s job.  Ventilation is essential.  As a result, your inspector examines this very carefully.  He determines if the existing insulation is enough and installed correctly.  Attics have central air handlers sometimes.  This is examined for condition and installation. Moisture issues are another big concern  They happen due to poor ventilation and insulation.

Main Floor

Is there a fireplace?  Your inspector looks at both the inside and mantel area.  He tells you, if necessary, to get a Level 2 fireplace inspection.  Doors,windows and wall outlets are checked as before.  Kitchens are important and he goes over every inch.

Dishwashers are turned on.  Hoses checked.  Sinks run water for a while to see if anything is leaking.  Ovens, ranges, broilers, microwaves and garbage disposals are turned on.  So is any exhaust hood.  How is this vented?

He looks at installations.  Particular concerns are the oven and dishwasher installations.  Is there a GFCI switch by the sink?  Kitchens require this unlike, in some cases, not bathrooms.

Garages

Detached garages have their exterior and roof checked just like the house.  Because they’re outside and wood framed, termites are a greater concern as is moisture damage.  I don’t understand why but many have junk piled behind or around them.  This is not good of course and your inspector will note this.  Inside is also completely checked out of course.

Attached garages are likewise checked.  Moisture issues are not the same since they’re part of the house.  Still everything is looked at.  Inspectors open and close garage doors.  While manual operation is often the case with a 1 car garage, you should not see this in a 2 car garage.  Electric doors must have safety operation.  If not, he’ll note this too.

Additional Inspections

I wrote above that your home inspector may advise you to do a Level 2 chimney inspection.  You may wish to do this anyway.  I believe you must also do a tank sweep inspection.  Because I feel so strongly about this, I won’t sell anyone a house who doesn’t do this.  Read my article on tank sweeps so you understand it fully.

Your Home Inspection Is Done

The last item is the radon test.  A test canister is placed in the basement, picked up a few days later and sent to a lab.  Results arrive in 2-3 days.  The home inspection report is emailed to you, your attorney and, if you wish, your agent in 24-48 hours.  Expect to spend 2.5 hours at your inspection for most homes.

Personal property is not part of your home inspection.  Refrigerators, washers, dryers and window air conditioners are all personal property.

What’s a home inspection like is a question I hope I’ve answered for you fully here.  If you have any further questions, just let me know.