Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe, Buying, Selling.

Bergen CountyTake a look at Bergen County. Whether you live here, are visiting or want to move here, there’s a lot to know about Bergen County. We begin with basic statistics:

People

  • 939,151 people live here.
  • The median age is 41.5 years
  • 52% are female and 48% are male
  • 54% are married, 30% are single, 16% are divorced or surviving spouses

We are the most populous county in New Jersey.  Because Bergen County is 233.1 square miles in size, it is also the most densely populated county.  4,030 people live here in each square mile.

Ethnic Makeup

  • 57% White
  • 19% Hispanic
  • 17% Asian
  • 7% Black

Diversity rules here and increases every year.  Because we are so highly diverse this is a dynamic multi faceted place.  Go to Wikipedia to find an amazing breakdown of the varied backgrounds living here.

Income

  • Median Household Income is $93,683
  • Average Household Income with Children is $113,680
  • Per Capital Income is $44,978

We are the 4th most affluent county of the 21 counties in New Jersey.

Employment

  • 24.1% Professional
  • 20% Service Industry
  • 19% Management
  • 16.6% Administrative Support
  • 6.6% Laborer

Public Recreation

  • 15 County Parks Totaling 7,968 Acres
  • 3 State Parks
  • Hundreds of Municipal Parks
  • 6 County Golf Courses
  • 6 County Dog Runs
  • 3 Camping Sites
  • 1 Downhill Skiing Site
  • 1 Swimming Lake
  • 2 Horseback Riding Facilities

When you look at all of these facts, a picture begins to emerge of what Bergen County is like.

This is one of the most affluent areas in the US (ranked the 18th most affluent US county) and also one of the most densely populated with nearly 1 million people.

We are highly educated and have a diverse and balanced employment profile.  Despite the large numbers of people living here, open space is important and there is a thriving parks system.

Because we are highly educated, we appreciate our local schools and parent involvement is high.  As a result, Bergen County is renown for its high scoring school districts.  In addition our county run school system is outstanding with its varied disciplined Academy System.

When you put all of this together with a location that is on top of Manhattan (we’re on the other side of the Hudson River from NYC), it is no wonder that Bergen County is one of the most sought after locations in the New York metropolitan area and that real estate here has always done better in holding its value.

I used NorthJersey.com the US Census and Wikipedia for this information as well as the County website..  Want a personal tour of Bergen County or have more questions?  Just let me know.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

winter activities Winter arrived this week in Bergen County.  It came with a major nor’easter that brought 5-7 inches of snow and freezing temperatures.  Because we had an unseasonably warm fall this is quite a change.  As a result, winter activities for kids is now a focus for families.  Bergen County has the solution because we have many options for you.

Campgaw Mountain is a terrific opportunity for winter fun.  You can ski, snowboard and tube there.  Located in Mahwah it’s no more than a half hour drive from anywhere in Bergen County.  Think of it as a winter sports vacation for the day.

Campgaw runs a wonderful learning program for children.  Cruisers gives you a specifically designed ski program for 4-6 year olds with an emphasis on fun first.  Mountain Masters handles children age 7 and older as well as adults.  This is a newly created program where you arewinter activities for kids grouped by ability.  Because Mountain Masters starts at the beginner level it’s ideal for older children who want to learn or improve on their skiing and snowboarding abilities.

Local nature centers have all sorts of winter activities for kids too. From hiking trails to indoor classes children have fun while learning about the natural world in winter.  The Tenafly Nature Center features a variety of programs while Flat Rock Brook Nature Center keeps it’s popular nature walks going throughout the winter.  The Closter Nature Center has after school programs starting at Pre K after school in January.  This begins next week.

Call your local library too. Here’s a great example:  The Ridgewood Public Library features fabulous programs for children as well as for for teens.  You will be amazed at all the free offerings from your local library.

The Y is another great resource for children in so many ways.  Go to the Bergen YMCA website where you’ll find what seems to be an endless stream of opportunities.

Bergen County is so lucky because we have several terrific live theater groups.  They give children the opportunity to take theater, dance and music classes.  The Saddle River Youth Theater and Bergen PAC offer extensive youth programs.

Check your local public school and town recreation department.  They have after school and vacation week programs.  Toddler classes such as Mommy and Me are very popular too.

Bergen County hosts a wide variety of winter activities for kids both outside and indoor.  Get involved in what we have and make winter a fun learning experience.

Because of the storm this week, I couldn’t contact a few other places.  Call me if you’d like those updates next week at 201-741-8490.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

The 2017 Bergen County real estate market had a unique combination of factors – zero increase in sales from the year before with price appreciation. In fact, much of what you’ll find is a mirror image of 2016.

Home sales are nearly identical – 6915 in 2017 and 6920 in 2016. I think you’ll agree that when you’re talking about nearly 7,000 units a difference of 5 is nothing.

Statistics has it at 9% fewer days on the market. This, at least, seems impressive. What it really comes to is 1 less week on the market for sale in 2017. Time on the market went from 72.2 days to 65.5 days. One less week out of 52 doesn’t truly sound like much, does it?

As a result, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the two years. They do seem to mirror each other.

Let’s look at home prices. The median sales price rose by 4% from $465,000 to $483,000. The average sales price also went up by 4% from $571,773 to $594,053. Clearly the market appreciated by 4%. This is indeed a positive change.

The Federal Open Market Committee meeting on December 13th estimated GDP growth for 2017 at 2.5% which is also what they project for 2018. Because of this, appreciation of 4% is strong. As a result, I can tell you that Bergen County homes performed very well in 2017.

Let’s see how the housing market performed by price range looking at the unit numbers:

Price Range                        2016                       2017

$0-$200,000                        163                         113

$200-300,000                      815                         672

$300-400,000                  1,635                     1,561

$400-500,000                  1,294                     1,322

$500-600,000                      903                         910

$600-700,000                      601                         701

$700-800,000                      423                         448

$800-900,000                      285                         305

$900,000-1 million        223                         243

$1-2 million                      492                         551

$2-3 million                      55                           70

$3 million +                       23                           19

2017 did better because of several things shown here.  9% fewer homes sold at $400,000 and less.  This is 34% of 2017 sales and 38% of 2016.  Because this is a sizeable chunk of both years, it has quite an effect.  Homes were selling much more at a higher point in 2017.  Every price range after (except for over $3 million) saw more sales that year than in 2016.

The result is that Bergen County homes commanded higher prices because the bottom evaporated by 5%.  Luxury sales at over $3 million are so few that they are statistically insignificant.

Consumer demand is what drives up prices.  There was no inventory growth because both years had nearly identical sales numbers.  This is not going to change so 2018.  As a result, our New Year should be another great one for Bergen County homeowners and challenging for buyers who are not properly prepared.

I believe that whether you are buying or selling a home, it is essential to be fully and properly prepared.  Buyers have a greater challenge in this because they have more competition from other buyers.  Sellers need to prepare as well because although low inventory tilts things in their favor, this is not an easy market for homeowners.  One mistake and you can lose value quickly and severely.  Call me at 201-741-8490 if you’d like to discuss this further or Bergen County real estate in general.

Note:  Data is sourced from the New Jersey MLS

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

home inspectorThe value of a good home inspector cannot be understated. Home inspectors give you much more than an evaluation of a house.  You learn how to care for your new home because this is also part of your inspection.

A great home inspector teaches you how to manage the maintenance of your house.  The information you get is extremely important.  A good example is how to maintain your furnace.  Hot air systems have filters.  Steam furnaces need water.  Hot water furnaces need other things.  Outside maintenance is important too.  Cleaning gutters, keeping shrubs and branches off the house, grading the property to keep water away are all essential items.

Home inspections are learning experiences as well as evaluations of condition.  As a result, I recommend to all my clients that they take notes to refer back to in the future.  They can always call me for help and good inspectors are always available.

The value of a good home inspector is financial too because you can unknowingly buy a huge condition problem along with the house.  Let me give you some recent examples.

A garage had dropped 1-1.5 inches.  If you looked at it, you would never know.  This garage had sheetrocked walls.  There were no cracks anywhere.  The garage door worked perfectly.  The door to the yard on the back wall worked perfectly.  Because neither I nor my buyers are engineers, we could not tell.  home inspector

Sung Y “Sean” Lee of Prime Choice Inspection LLC found it.  Termites had eaten away the bottom sill plate so the garage had dropped, Sean said, probably about 1 inch or slightly over 1 inch.  Because the garage was attached, it had a common wall to the house.  Obviously this was a problem.  On another inspection Sean found that there was a serious structural defect.

Again, it wasn’t something you or I would find.  This time it had to do with the foundation.  Because foundation problems often present with uneven floors, there was no indication.  The house had straight floors and walls, no cracks, no signs of shifting due to a foundation problem.  As a result, we had no idea but Sean found it and explained how to fix it.

Craig Sharf of Home Team Inspection Service found a problem in a fireplace chimney and urged my buyers to get a Level 2 chimney inspection done.  His suspected that the entire chimney needed to be rebuilt.  After the chimney specialist came and did the Level 2 inspection, he confirmed Craig’s suspicions.  In another home Craig advised the buyers to have the entire home re-wired because he found that it had the potential for an electrical fire.  Again, Craig was right – they called in an electrician who confirmed that the house was running on old knob and tube wiring.  Most definitely a major fire hazard.  home inspector

No home is perfect.  Craig found on a new high end home that the roofing substructure hadn’t been properly installed.  We had the builder come back and fix it.  We called Craig back to check it and after he determined everything was fine my buyers closed on the house.

Because my buyers used these great home inspectors they were able to avoid major problems.  As a result, they saved themselves from heartache and significant expense.  No doubt about it – the value of a good home inspector cannot be understated.

Posted by & filed under Selling.

You put your home on the market for sale. It’s both an exciting and an anxious time. Expectations are running high. The buyer traffic is great. Showings happen several times each week. Then the phone call comes. Your agent has received an offer. You listen in disbelief. The offer is extremely low. Emotions rise immediately – anger, hurt and disgust all at once. This is completely predictable and completely understandable. It is not, however, negotiation. Don’t get upset by a low ball offer because emotions can not help you. Negotiate because that’s the only way to win.

Negotiation is a process. It is essential to take emotions out of it. I know this is hard. You have every right to be upset but this is precisely how you’ll lose. It does not matter where a buyer starts. Where he ends is what counts for you.

Your job is to move the buyer up as much as possible. Then you decide if you want to sell your house. Slamming the door shut gets you nothing. Negotiation is messaging. Send back the message that you want to negotiate but not at that low ball level.

It’s easier than you’d imagine. Reply with a small reduction. Then see what the buyer does. A low ball offer can be many things.

A buyer may be testing you. He may trying to find out how firm you are. The buyer may also not understand the value your home represents. Sometimes misunderstandings exist. An example is thinking the roof is old when it’s age is 3 years. Acting emotionally rather than strategically gets you nowhere.

Your agent should discuss your reply and the buyer’s offer with the buyer’s agent. There are times a frank discussion between the agents clears the air and moves you toward a win.

As long as emotion does not rule, you have opportunity to get an offer that works for you. Here’s an example for you:

I had a listing in the low $300,000 range. The listing price was not above the market. The seller needed to move quickly so the house was aggressively priced. The offer came in at more than 10% under the asking price. It had a very quick closing date which was a term that meant a lot to my seller. We negotiated back and forth for a while. During negotiations I uncovered the buyer’s concerns and we methodically answered those concerns. With every answer, value was added to the house. Eventually we arrived at a sales price the seller accepted. It was within 5% of the asking price.

This never would have happened if the seller’s initial emotional reaction had set the tone. The answer to win is don’t get upset by a low ball offer. You never know where it will end up if you don’t negotiate it out.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Bread Boutique and CafeBread Boutique and Cafe opened up this week in Tenafly.  It is an adorable little place that is an added plus to the downtown scene.  The location is next to my office at 15 W Railroad Ave.  This can be a challenge for my diet because Bread features absolutely delicious baked goods.  It has other items too so I may be in trouble………

We watched the construction going on for several weeks.  Opening day came as no surprise because you could smell the baking through the wall out on the street.  This did add to the anticipation.  They celebrated their opening by not charging everyone who came for coffee.  I thought that was a very nice touch although I had no time to stop by.

Tenafly is a very nice community.  People enjoy going downtown and hanging out together.  While we have several restaurants, a boutique coffee shop has been missing.

Coffee is available with baked goods at Miller’s Bakery and Cafe Angelique.  Both are literally across the street and around the corner.  They are very good too but there really is no true boutique coffee shop.  As a result, Bread fills a void.Bread Boutique and Cafe

They have a great concept with Grab and Go areas.  You can get in and out quickly with a baked good, salad or something else.  This appeals to people like me.  I’m always on the go so waiting forever to get a salad isn’t the best situation for me.  I have no doubt many people will love this.

I know it’s colder but people were sitting outside having coffee.  There is seating inside too if you like.  The baked goods looked fabulous.  I did not have a lot of time so I got a salad and coffee.  It took only a few minutes; I did the Grab and Go Bread Boutique and Cafething.

This is a Kosher establishment.  As a result this is great for people who need a Kosher bakery and coffee shop.  Other folks come because what they have is excellent.

It is open Sunday through Friday and closed on Saturday because it’s Kosher.  Commuters love it because it opens at 6:30 am during the week.

I got a beet and goat cheese salad along with coffee.  It was excellent.  The salad was interesting because there were some grapefruit wedges along with the beets, cheese and greens.  It was a hit with me as was the coffee.

Give Bread Boutique and Cafe a try.  You will be so glad you did!

 

 

Posted by & filed under Selling.

FHA Mortgage LoanIs your buyer using a FHA mortgage loan?

FHA loans are very common.  They are also feared by sellers.  Because they are common and concerning to homeowners, I thought a blog article on this would be helpful.

Chances are your buyer will use this type of mortgage if your home sells for less than $500,000.  The median sales price is $485,000 in Bergen County.  This means half of the homes sold so far this year are above and half are under $485,000.  As a result, half of all home sales have a good chance of using a FHA mortgage.

So the answer is “very likely”.  There are 2 issues with FHA mortgages:  The buyer’s credentials and the FHA appraisal.

The Buyer’s Credentials

FHA mortgages have higher fees than those of a conventional loan.  The mortgage insurance fee stays with the loan it’s entire life.  Why would anyone use a loan that costs more?  Why would anyone use a loan that charges you mortgage insurance even when you no longer need it? If you have many questions to ask, just search “How do unsecured loans for bad credit work?

Because FHA loans allow a lower credit score, smaller down payment and a wider debt to income ratio.  FHA borrowers need the kinder terms of these loans to get a mortgage.  The don’t qualify for a conventional loan.

Should this be a worry for a seller?  Frankly, I don’t believe it matters.  Why?  Because your buyer does qualify to get a mortgage.  If your buyer has the credentials to qualify for a loan, then you have crossed the primary hurdle.

The FHA AppraisalFHA mortgage loan

Not all appraisers can do FHA loan appraisals.  An appraiser must be a licensed HUD approved appraiser to do a FHA mortgage loan appraisal.  FHA appraisals are different.  A conventional loan appraiser determines what the house is worth.  A FHA appraiser determines what the house is worth and inspects the home’s condition.

It is the home inspection aspect that frightens sellers.  This is because any condition items that the FHA appraiser finds to be a problem must be corrected or the loan won’t be funded.  You can’t close if the mortgage doesn’t happen.

Your house must meet the FHA guidelines for acceptable condition.  As a result, homes in poor condition are not candidates for FHA buyers.  Let me give you an example.

Real estate agents complain about FHA appraisers and peeling paint.  They howl all the time about it.  If you understand why then it makes sense.

An FHA appraiser comes to a house built in the 1960’s.  He sees a wall with peeling paint.  His appraisal report requires that the wall is painted before the loan is funded.  The seller has to get the wall painted so his buyer can get the FHA loan to buy the house.

The reason for this is simple – lead paint.  The Federal Government stipulates that any house built on or before 1978 might have lead paint present.  So peeling paint in a 1960’s house is a hazard.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Safety issues are another concern.  An example is a loose hand rail or broken pavement that’s a tripping hazard.  The bottom line is that the house has to be safe and in good condition.

The Bottom Line for Sellers

The bottom line for homeowners who are selling their home is that FHA loans are used by buyers who need more liberal qualifying terms.  This does not mean that the buyer will not get a mortgage.  Far from it.  It means that you have a buyer who is able to get a mortgage with a smaller  down payment (as low as 3.5%), lower credit score and a bit more debt.  For sellers with homes in average or better condition, there is not need to fear the FHA appraisal.

A FHA mortgage loan keeps more buyers in the game.  More buyers is always good for sellers because this increases their opportunity for a sale.  Call me at 201-741-8490 if you have questions or need the name of a good banker who is expert at FHA mortgage loans.

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Emerson Golf ClubThe Emerson Golf Club is going public this spring because Bergen County just bought it.  This is a fabulous purchase for Bergen County’s golf program.

Bergen County Freeholders approved the purchase on October 18th with a unanimous vote.  They allowed the Bergen County Improvement Authority to float notes for the $8.5 million purchase.  I believe the actual closing is this month.

The Emerson Golf Club is located on 135 acres in Oradell and Emerson.  The club is 54 years old having been created in 1963.  It is a 7,000 yard par 71 eighteen hole course with a front and back 9.  The front 9 is much longer but the back 9 is more challenging.  Golf Digest rated it as one of the best golf courses in New Jersey for 2008-2009.

This becomes the 6th public golf course in Bergen County.  It preserves open space and avoids over development.  Because it’s now a county golf course, it will be re-branded as part of the county golf system.  Here are the other 5 courses and their locations:

  1. Darlington is in Mahwah
  2. Orchard Hills is in Paramus
  3. Overpeck is in Teaneck
  4. Rockleigh is in RockleighEmerson Golf Club
  5. Valley Brook is in River Vale

Four are 18 hole courses.  Only Orchard Hills is but 9 holes.  As a result, adding a challenging 18 hole course will significantly improve Bergen County’s public golf program.  This has ocal golf enthusiasts very excited about this new acquisition as a result.

I think it’s great.  Open land is scarce in Bergen County.  Builders would buy it and construct hundreds of homes. While I should love that idea because I’m a real estate agent, I don’t.

Bergen County is the most populous county in New Jersey.  We have 939,151 residents so open space is very important.  It’s important Emerson Golf Clubbecause it is good for the environment and good for the soul.  Therefore this is a truly wonderful decision by our Freeholders.

The plan is to renovate the Emerson Golf Course over the winter because the course is to open in the spring. Keep your eye out for an opening announcement.  Golf is extremely popular here and we now have an even bigger and better program!

Contact me through my website if you want more information or have questions about  the Bergen County golf program.

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

safe drivingSafe driving in the fall in Bergen County is different than at other times of the year.  There are 3 reasons why.

A.  Falling leaves

B.  Sunlight

C.  Rain

Because it’s close to the end of October I thought it would be a good time to alert everyone on this.

Trees are beginning to lose their leaves in earnest and fall colors here are peaking.  Those beautiful leaves falling and swirling in the wind land on lawns, sidewalks and streets.  They gather up on street corners as moving cars blow them to the sides of most roads.  Idling cars at lights and stop signs don’t so they can sit on piles of them.  This is the problem.

Leaves are slippery.   People who move here may not be experienced driving on leaves.  Fall brings with it rain storms.  Wet leaves are quite slick. Cars skid on dry leaves but especially on wet leaves.  Accidents happen because of this.  Many new home buyers do not have experience with this.  As a result, they’re more likely to skid into an intersection or through a stop sign.

Did you buy a home here recently?  Did you move from a different climate?  Are you a new driver?  If you answered Yes to any of these questions, be especially careful driving now.  Safe driving in the fall in Bergen County is not hard.  It means that you have to be mindful of leaves on the ground.

Sunlight changes now too.  It gets darker sooner.  Sunlight is much more subdued around the end of the day in the fall. Because of this visibility now isn’t terrific.  In less than 2 weeks Time arrives.   As a result, rush hour is dark.  Most pedestrian fatalities happen during the dark hours according to NHTSA.

All of us who drive here need to be very careful at all times.  Safe driving in the fall in Bergen County means being careful of leaves on the road and pedestrians in the dark.  Because Halloween festivities happen soon please be especially careful as the ghosts and goblins arrive too.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

electionsElection Day is November 7th this year.  Bergen County elections are more significant than ever because many towns have combined elections to save money.  They do this by having both school board and government elections both in November.

Holding an election is expensive.  It doesn’t make economic sense to do it twice.  Here’s something else: Turnouts are notoriously small for school board elections held separately.  Towns save money and have more people voting in school elections.

School systems make up the largest part of a town’s budget.  It’s smart to position things so more people vote on school budgets and Board members.

Even if you have been going to the same place for years to vote it’s a good idea to check with your town clerk to see if anything has changed.  I remember one year when I lived in Tenafly going to the school 2 blocks from my house where I’d gone for over 10 years only to find out it was closed.  Tenafly had changed the voting location to the McCandless Room in the Borough complex.

Double check with a call to your town clerk and make sure you vote.  Each vote is indeed important.  In the game of politics, 1 vote counts as 2.  Did you know that?  This iselections because political parties figure that they’ve changed one vote against them into a vote for them thus it’s like 2 votes in their eyes.  You can’t complain about what happens if you don’t vote.

What if I can’t be sure I’ll make it to vote?  Absentee ballots fix that problem.  There are rules for this.  Your absentee ballot application request MUST be received by the Bergen County Clerk’s office no later than 7 days before the election.  Get it now to be safe.

It’s easy to get an absentee ballot.  You download it from the Bergen County Clerk’s website and print it out.  Town clerks have them too but it’s easier for most of us to just download and print it.  This is important:  Mail in ballots have to be received by the Bergen County Clerk before voting ends on Election Day.

Go to the Bergen County Clerk’s website where you’ll find everything you need to know.  The absentee ballot link is also at the bottom of the home page under Elections and Voting.  Look for “Vote by mail to find it.