Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

GW BridgeCommuting to work in New York is how 13% of Bergen County residents get to work.  13% does not sound like a lot until you consider that Bergen County has 939,151 residents.  This comes to 122,090 people traveling to work daily in New York City.  That’s 1 out of every 7 or 8 of us.

Bergen County is across the Hudson River from Manhattan.  Because we are so close to New York commuting is a big reason why our homes are in such great demand.  Moving over 122,000 people every day is done by bus, rail, car and ferry.  Let’s see what choices you have in commuting to work in New York.

You can drive of course.  Many people do.  We have 2 major and 4 local highways taking you to the Lincoln Tunnel or the George Washington Bridge.  We also have vast mass transit options too.  The biggest system is New Jersey Transit.

New Jersey Transit gets you to Manhattan by bus and train.  If you go to their website  you can plug in your address to get commuting information.  I think this is a very cool and useful feature.  Another bus only option is Coach USA.  Their website  is much simpler and less detailed.  Because we have so many bus options, bus commuting is available in nearly every one of our 70 locations.  Bus commute

During rush hours both systems use express bus routes with limited stops.  Other times are local routes with, it seems, stops at every corner.  How long it takes really depends on when you travel and where you are located.  Typically not more than 1 hour on the bus at most.

Towns along the Hudson River don’t have a train commute.  Nor do many on the western edge of the county like Franklin Lakes.  Trains run on 2 lines – the Pascack Valley Line and the Main Bergen Line  They take you to Secaucus or Hoboken where you get the PATH train across the river to Manhattan.

You can cross the river by ferry too.  Ferry service by New York Waterway is how a great many people south of the George Washington Bridge along the Hudson travel to work.  Buses also go through these towns but there’s something special about a ferry.  Buses are cheaper though.

To find out more information about what your commute will be like, call me at 201-741-8490.  For any home you consider, it’s essential you have accurate commuting information.




Posted by & filed under Buying.

mortgage rateMortgage rates today don’t matter tomorrow is very important to understand.  Let’s look at this carefully.

Do you know what the #1 mistake home buyers make when mortgage shopping?  Mortgage rates.  They simply don’t matter.  Because this is true a great many home buyers, in my opinion, make mistakes in choosing a mortgage.


Mortgage Rates – The #1 Mistake

Buying a home in Bergen County takes a good bit of time.

The contract is sent to the attorneys once it’s signed by the seller.  This begins the Attorney Review process.  No one processes a mortgage then.  Why?  Because it doesn’t make sense.  Would you process a mortgage without a firm, binding contract on a house?  Attorney Review creates that final contract.  So you wait for Attorney Review to end.  Next comes the home inspections.

Figure 3 weeks of time to schedule, inspect and conclude inspection issue negotiations.  Buyers wait until this is concluded to be sure they will still buy the house.  We are now 1 month past the day the contract was signed.  This is when the mortgage really gets processed.

Assuming you had a pre-approval, some work has already been done.  Consequently it only takes a few more weeks to get the mortgage commitment.  All of this totals 7 weeks.  Because almost all mortgages do not allow rates to be locked in without a commitment, you can’t do this for 7 weeks.

So why does an interest rate from 7 weeks ago matter today?  It doesn’t.  This is why I tell my home shopping buyers that mortgage rates today don’t matter tomorrow.  Yet every buyer stays focused on mortgage rates.  This is the #1 mistake they make with their mortgage.

Why Do Home Buyers Focus On Interest Rates?

Why do home buyers focus on interest rates?  Because they are taught to do so by powerful forces.  The mortgage indman using a calculatorustry markets itself through interest rates and how easy it is to get a mortgage.  The main emphasis is overwhelmingly on rates.  You are taught to compare banks by the rates they quote.  So you do.  However this is wrong because it’s never accurate.

Rates quoted in ads differ because banks include varying degrees of processing fees. One bank including all fees will have a higher rate than another bank eliminating some or all fees in their rate.  Here’s something else – rates fluctuate all day.  So if one bank quotes a rate from 10 am hmanuand another from 2 pm, the rates can be different.

Imagine all the games that can be played depending on what is or isn’t included in the quote.  You can’t possibly figure out which bank is best for you by only looking at interest rates.

Your Solution Is The APR

The APR is the annual percentage rate published as a percent.  It includes the cost of the mortgage plus fees and other charges.  A mortgage rate is only what it costs to borrow the money.  So the APR is a much better way to compare what a bank is charging you.  It shows you what the mortgage really costs.

Can you see now why banks want you to focus on interest rates?  Because rates alone don’t disclose the true cost of a mortgage.

On top of all this, how can you be sure the rate won’t be different when you can lock it in 7 weeks later?  You can’t.

When you are house hunting always remember:  Mortgage rates today don’t matter tomorrow.  Don’t be fooled.  If you want to compare rates, use the APR.

If you need the name of a good banker just call or text me at 201-741-8490.  There are several I can recommend who are ethical and come from fine banks.






Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Tenafly NJ


Doing research on this sales report for Tenafly homes confirmed what I’d observed.  New construction has been big and the number of sales is up.  Let’s take a look at how 2017 compares to 2016 town wide through August:

  • 27 more sales for a 22% increase (124 to 151)
  • 24% less time on the market (95.2 to 72.1 days)
  • 18% higher dollar volume ($133,140,350 to $157,121,988)
  • 3% lower average price ($1,073,713 to $1,040,543)
  • 2% lower median price ($895,000 to $877,500)
  • 29% more Under Contract homes (130 to 168)
  • 2% lower Under Contract listing price ($1,130,466 to $1,107,188)
  • New construction remained at 16% or every 6.25 sales.

What’s striking about this data is the huge increase in the number of sold homes.  We have been crying about the lack of inventory and it has seemed extremely low this year at times.  However, look at the increase in sales.  We also have lower prices for both average and median figures.

So I went back into the New Jersey MLS to compare the number of active listings for 2016 and 2017.  We had 254 in 2016 and 272 this year for a 7% increase.  How do we get 22% more sales with only 7% more houses to sell?  Because a greater number of homes coming on the market sold.  The pace of sales tells you this.

24% less time on the market equals torrid consumer demand.  No matter how you figure it, this is a tremendous increase in the demand for Tenafly homes.

Let’s look at how the market breaks down in 2017:

  • 10  under $500,000 (6.6%)
  • 114 are $500-1.5 million (75%)
  • 27  $1.5 million+ (18%)

Now let’s look at 2016:

  • 9 under $500,000 (7%)
  • 95 $500-1.5 million (75%)
  • 22 $1.5 million+ (17%)

As you can see, both years are very similar which shows stability and ongoing strength.  I ran a NJMLS comparative report for $500-1.5 million sales because that’s the bulk of the market.  This showed a 5% drop in average sales prices and a 4% drop for median prices.  There isn’t much of a difference between them.  As a result, we know price numbers did come down slightly.

The question is Why?

Data is great but you can’t always figure things out this way.  It’s not a mathematical problem because residential real estate is not just numbers.  People act emotionally.  It’s their home.  Consequently it’s a matter of knowledge, of interpretation.

While more sellers are selling their homes many of those homes are not updated.  Homes needing updating sell for less.  As a result, pricing figures came in lower.  Therefore this does not prove that values are coming down.

Why more homes on the market?  Because of Baby Boomers.  Although we have an inventory shortage because Boomers are staying put longer, this is a huge population.  As a result even a modest increase in Boomer homes for sale has a big effect.

Tenafly is and always will be one of the most coveted addresses in the New York metropolitan market.  What really happened is that the product mix changed.  More of the market is made up of homes that need updating.

In conclusion, here’s the key to it all:  More sales happening quicker.  If values were really dropping, you’d have fewer sales taking longer.

You can’t do this on a computer because nothing beats experience and the personal knowledge you gain by being in the market every day.

I hope you found this sales report for Tenafly homes valuable.  Contact me when you want to get into the market yourself or to just discuss your options.




Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

playground at Van SaunAmazing Van Saun Park is one of the jewels in the Bergen County Parks system.  Located in Paramus it has so much to offer you.  Van Saun is 146 acres of fun!

Last weekend I had a few hours free so I took my dog, Mickey, there.  Because no one was at the dog park we took a long walk.  The dog park there is excellent.  It has large and small dog sections and it’s always been very clean whenever I’ve been there.  Because there is no water available you need to bring some with you.

Walking through the park, you see so many people on a weekend.  Weekdays are busy too by the children’s playground and other areas.  The playground is terrific.  There are always tons of children and it looks like the UN has arrived.  You will see all of Bergen County’s diversity here which is great.  There is also a new ADA compliant section that has a water sprinkler area.

Parking is never a problem.  Even on Labor Day Weekend (I took Mickey on Labor Day mid afternoon) I was able to find a spot.  Because the park is so well designed the facilities everywhere are great.

Families fill the picnic tables barbecuing all over.  Great food smellcarousels are everywhere.  The park has hot ash containers for you once you’re done.  It seems they’ve thought of everything.  I also saw volley ball, soccer, catch, softball, bike riding and just relaxing in a hammock.

Mickey and I walked over to the carousel – that’s right, there is a real live carousel – and along the way saw the park’s Safari Train.  This train has been running since the early 1960’s.  I know parents who rode the train themselves as children and take their kids today.  Both the carousel and zoo tickets are $1.50 which isn’t bad.

Walkingwalking path through the park is fun.  There are beautiful paths where you feel like you’re in the middle of a nature preserve with streams and lush foliage.  It is so easy to come here and just relax.  In fact there is one section where General George Washington visited with his army.  This is Washington Spring.  Volunteers maintain this area as they do elsewhere in the park.

Even more family fun awaits you.  Pony rides from Ironside Farm are just north of the tennis courts.  That’s about a 5 minute walk north from the carousel.  Do you remember taking a pony ride?  I do.  It was so much fun.  I took Mickey over there and he could care less.  He had never seen a horse before so I was wondering what kind of reaction he would have.  Zero is the answer!  pony ride

The Bergen County Zoo is in Van Saun Park too.  It’s free for Bergen County residents and a nominal charge for others.  This is really a terrific learning experience for your children and they have many different special activities throughout the year.  Please click on the URL here for all the information and check back often.

If you’re wondering what to do this weekend, come to this park.  Amazing Van Saun Park is all of that and more.  Whether you’re by yourself or with others, you will be so glad you did.  I have been coming here nearly all my life and it’s never disappointed me.  I have to admit that it stirs up happy memories every time I do.  So come and make some of your own!


Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Here is my sold report for Bergenfield NJ homes using data from the New Jersey MLS.  Bergenfield is a very popular location because of it’s strong school district and affordability.  This report compares 2017 to 2016 through August.

Single Family Homes

  • 12 more sales for an 8% increase (157 to 169)
  • 37% less time on the market (86.6 to 64.8 days)
  • 25% higher dollar volume ($55,241,499 to $69,164,292)
  • 16% higher average price ($351,857 to $409,256)
  • 11% higher median price ($325,000 to $360,000)
  •  2% more Under Contract (187 to 191)
  • 13% higher Under Contract listing price ($354,413 to $401,493)

Bergenfield real estate is moving at a blistering pace.  Look at the time on the market – that’s fabulous.  We track absorption rates – that’s how long it takes to sell what’s on the market now – and it’s been 2-3 months almost all year long.  You can also see it in the higher listing price range of homes under contract.

Because 16% is a tremendous and unsustainable increase we have to look further to see what’s happening.  You start by looking at the median which is 11%.  A 5% differential statistically is huge.  This tells us something is going on and what’s going on is new construction.

The most expensive homes are usually new construction or very recently built homes.  As a result, if you have a large number of these they pull up the average sales figures.  Bergenfield has had an explosion of new construction.  Of the 169 sales, 18 were new or newer homes.  That’s roughly 11%.  No wonder the overall figures are so high.

By the way, this is a perfect example of why you can’t just Zillow your way to a home’s true value.  Nothing works like the New Jersey MLS data.  At any rate, let’s see what happens when we eliminate these new homes.  I’ll go up through $600,000 because the 1 home in between 600k and 650k was an office exclusive without much data.

Sold Report for Bergenfield Homes to $600,000

  • 7 more sales for a 5% increase (153 to 160)
  • 42% less time on the market (88.1 to 51.2 days)
  • 17% higher dollar volume ($44,889,499 to  $52,687,292)
  • 12% higher average price ($313,913 to $351,249)
  • 12% higher median price ($320,000 to $357,000)
  • 2% fewer Under Contract homes (176 to 172)
  • 7% higher Under Contract listing price ($329,280 to $353,102)

This makes much more sense.  The average and median prices are identical with a 12% rise.  Less homes under contract this year at up to $600,000 and only 2% more town wide speaks to the lack of inventory.  It might also be a bit of a pull back from the sharp increase in pricing.  There is yet another item to consider – distressed properties.

In 2016 there were 30 such homes but this year only 20.  That’s 1/3 less which is significant.  Distressed properties sell for less than market value and pull everything down with them.  It seems clear that part of the 12% rise in pricing has to do with the effect of distressed homes.  Of the 30 in 2016, half were foreclosures but only 5 of the 20 this year as best as I can tell.  The NJMLS has no separate category for these homes so I do a detailed search to the best extent possible.

This sold report for Bergenfield NJ homes shows that the market is doing very well.  Prices are up substantially, time on the market has been slashed and distressed properties are fewer by a good margin.




Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Now that we are through the summer it’s time to do a sold report for Bergen County homes.  Comparing 2017 to 2016 gives us a great view of the market trends so let’s get going.

Residential Sales

Single family homes dominate the residential real estate market so we begin here.  Let’s take a look at some numbers:

  • 224 more sales for a 3% increase (8,082 to 8,306)
  • 10% less time on the market (73.3 to 65.9 days)
  • 6% higher dollar volume of sales ($245,843,417 increase)
  • 3% higher average price ($503,232 to $519,259)
  • 4% higher median price ($409,000 to $425,000)
  • 2% more Under Contract homes (10,542 to 10,739)
  • 3% higher Under Contract listing price ($500,249 to $515,543)

Most of you are looking at the prices.  Prices are moderately higher so that’s great.  Modest increases are sustainable because they’re solid.  When you get aggressive increases it’s not healthy.  So we’re in a good position.  If you look carefully at this data from the New Jersey MLS you’ll see that higher priced homes sold well.  Higher dollar volume twice the higher average price together with a higher median price tells you this.  The future looks bright too.  Look at the Under Contract figures.  There are more of them at higher asking prices.  This shows rising house prices.

Multi Family Homes

Investors have been shopping too.  Income producing properties have been very popular and many people have been buying two family homes.  Because a two family home is less expensive and less scary for a first time investor they’ve been selling well.  Let’s look at two family statistics now:

  • 77 more sales for a 5% increase (1,413 to 1,490)
  • 10% less time on the market (89.5 to 80.4 days)
  • 10% higher dollar volume of sales ($469,426,334 to $514,578,003)
  • 4% higher average price ($332,220 to $345,354)
  • 6% higher median price ($310,000 to $330,000)
  • 4% more Under Contract homes (2,034 to 2,118)
  • 4% higher Under Contract listing price ($329,224 to $341,475)
  • PLEASE NOTE: NJMLS data is for 2-4 family homes but almost all are 2 family properties.

Consumer confidence is driving a lot of this in my opinion.  When people feel good about real estate, they not only buy single family homes.  They invest in real estate as well because they see the future positively.  Although Bergen County values are high the buyers I have dealt with aren’t looking for a good rate of return immediately.  Most have been 1st time investors who look long term.  As a result, the immediate return is not an issue for them.  If they get a small return it’s still better than what they get in a money market account.

Here’s another aspect of buying a 2 family:  You can refinance as your equity grows.  As a result, you get tax free income over the years paid for by your tenants.  2-4 family homes are also seen as savings for retirement when paid off or steams of retirement income.  For people thinking long term this is a great opportunity.  Because of all this multi family investment homes are extremely popular.

Unfortunately the New Jersey MLS lumps co-ops, condos and townhouses into the same category.  As a result, I will do a separate article on these properties.  There is simply too great a difference among them in both values and characteristics to place them together as one group.  It just won’t make sense.

Bergen County has 70 different towns.  This sold report for Bergen County homes is obviously a broad picture of the real estate market here.  As I’ve said before, real estate is very local so let me know what towns you’d like and I’ll get you the report you need.  Tell me what you want so I can send it to you right away.



Posted by & filed under Buying.

How to buy a fixer upper with a 203k loan may be the magic you need. 203k loan logo

Bedford Avenue in Teaneck is a great place to live.  Located off of Teaneck Road, it’s an amazing setting.  It ends at what looks like a forest but is actually the extension of Argonne Park.  The street is lined with gorgeous towering trees and deer often walk through the neighborhood.  People are friendly and help each other out.  Who would move from here?

Because Bedford is such a great neighborhood, many residents stay for decades.  As a result, sellers are often senior citizens.  Seniors are  usually on retirement incomes.  Because their incomes are limited, they can’t afford to update their homes.

homeI listed a home here recently.  It is well cared for but like many other senior owned houses, it hasn’t been updated for a long while.  Younger buyers see such homes as “needing work” and “fixer uppers”.  This creates a purchasing problem.

Buyers are cash poor these days.  Because of this, they have small down payments and can’t afford to fix up a house.  The mortgage industry has responded to this.  There are many low down payment mortgage options.  The 203k program is basically a construction loan.  203k loans allow construction costs in addition to the purchase price.  Here’s how it worked with my listing:

The purchase price is $275,000.  The buyer is paying $310,000 with a 203k loan.  $275,000 goes to the seller and $35,000 to fix up the house.  The buyer is using the 35k to renovate the bath, finish the basement and install new kitchen counmoving inter tops and appliances.

Everyone is happy.  The homeowner sells his home.  The FHA loans 310 on a house worth more.  The buyer buys an updated house with more value than he pays.  What’s the catch?

203k mortgages cost more.  They have extra fees and a slightly higher interest rate but they’re worth it.  They cost less than a traditional construction loan and you can do this with a small down payment.    Because the home is ultimately worth more it’s a win for the buyer.

This is how you get an updated home with 203k loans.  It takes more effort but it’s worth it.  Most mortgage bankers can not do 203k loans.  This is a certified specialty.   Contact Felicia Dori Festa to speak to a 203k certified banker.  I’ve worked with Felicia for years – she’s an outstanding banker and a super nice lady.

The bottom line is that how to buy a fixer upper with a 203k loan is exactly the magic you need.  It allows you to move into an updated home affordably.  What could be better?

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Food FairLabor Day events in Bergen County are a tradition here.  There are 3 major events to include in your weekend along with just relaxing with friends and family.  Of course there always the Jersey Shore but for those of us staying at home, we have plenty of fun opportunities.

Here are 3 major Labor Day Weekend activities for you –

You can enjoy a real Italian feast from Friday through Monday in Lodi at the Feast of Saint Joseph  Located on the Church grounds at 40 Spring Street, there is everything you’d expect at an Italian church feast.  Great food, rides for the kids, games for everyone and nightly music. Large crowds come every year because this is one of our most popular feasts.Glen Rock NJ

Runners love to compete. The Glen Rock Jaycees 5k Arboretum Run gives runners the chance to do exactly that every Labor Day.  In addition to the 5k run there are the Junior 1 Mile and Kid’s Run too.  You can still register to enter.  Registration goes through the 31st.  This run draws a large number of participants every year.  It’s so popular with runners that it’s celebrating it’s 30th year this September.

Rutherford’s 42nd Annual Street Fair is on Monday.  It is the oldest and biggest street fair in New Jersey.  I took my son every year when he street fairwas a little boy so I can tell you it’s a great fair.  You’ll see everything from fine antiques to crafts to White Elephant tables.  Food trucks, entertainment for children, music and more will be there.  Rutherford has wonderful restaurants and shops many of which will be open as well.  Parking might be a few blocks away but it’s well worth it.

Bergen County also has a tremendous park system.  You can play golf, swim, ride a horse,hike, picnic, take the kids to a playground or zoo and more.  The Bergen County Park system is huge.  Local town parks offer you other options too.

Get outside and enjoy the last weekend of summer.  There is a lot to do.  Weather should be perfect so check out the Labor Day events in Bergen County and have fun!

Posted by & filed under Selling.

surprised ladyOh good grief!  The oil tank is still in the ground?

You changed from oil to gas heat years ago.  Oil tanks didn’t matter back then.  Consequently you closed the thing off and left it in the ground.

It’s time to sell your house now.  That old oil tank you forgot about is unacceptable today.   As a result, you have a problem.

You can’t sell a house with an abandoned underground oil tank.  Here are some reasons why:

Almost all buyers use a mortgage.  Banks will refuse to mortgage.  Insurance companies will refuse to insure.  Even cash buyers run away.

Environmental damage is the big fear.  Underground tanks rust because they’re made of metal.  Leaks happen sometimes which contaminates the soil.  As a result, an expensive cleanup is required.

Buyers don’t want that responsibility nor does the bank or insurance company.  Because of this you can’t sell your home until the oil tank is removed.

What else can you do?  Hope for a cash buyer who doesn’t care?  Removing it is the only solution.  You really have no choice if you want to sell your home.

Licensed contractors remove underground oil tanks.  It’s done most of the time like this:

  1.  A backhoe digs out the tank.
  2. A special truck siphons out whatever remains inside.
  3. The backhoe pulls the tank out of the ground.
  4. Workmen inspect the tank for any obvious defects.
  5. The town inspector determines if everything is fine.
  6. The tank is hauled away.

Contractors remove tanks in a few hours. They charge around $2,000 (including permits) for the average home.  Homeowners lose much more if they don’t do this.  Because buyers see this as an intolerable negative, they cancel the contract.  The next offer you get is almost always lower.  You lose more than $2,000 as a result and the tank still has to come out.

Be proactive because buyers see excavated tanks as a positive.  This adds value to your home so you win.  Also you sell your home quicker because houses with tanks removed shine in the marketplace.

Contact me  any time If you need the name of an oil tank contractor or just have some questions.


Posted by & filed under Buying.

home shppingHow to look at a house is a skill you need to learn.  Before you click your way to another website, take a minute to read what I have for you now.

Just because no one told you how to look at a house doesn’t mean it isn’t something you need to know.  Consider this for a moment.

If you’re like most home buyers, you’re whipped on Sunday nights.  You went to 1 zillion open houses making sure you saw every house on your list.  Because you had 100 homes to see in 25 different towns, you didn’t spend much time in any of them.

That’s all right.  It only takes a few minutes to see a house.  Not exactly.

Open houses are great and not so great.  You see a lot of homes in a felooking at the roofw hours; sellers get a lot of buyers into their house.  If you’re starting out, it can be very helpful because you find out what you don’t like as well as what you do.

Here’s what’s wrong with open houses – it’s not a coordinated, logical search.  As a result, you really don’t understand the market as well as you should.  You also waste a lot of time going to homes that aren’t right for you.  Because you’ve been racing through homes, you’ve learned to look on a very surface level.

Oh sure, you might walk through a home you’re considering slowly but you’re still not looking at it correctly.  As a result, you can miss a lot.

Here are a few tips for you:

  1. The Roof.  Go across the street or to the back of a yard.  You have to be a distance away to see a roof.  Walk from side to side – look at the roof at an angle.  You can’t see swaying and shingle lifting when you look at it straight on.
  2. Don’t be so polite.  Walk into the rooms and across at an angle.  No house is perfect.  If there’s a shift you want to know about it now; not after you buy the house.  You can’t feel space you don’t walk into.  How about squeaky floors.  Viewing a room from the doorway is not the same as walking into it.
  3. Take time in the basement – look at the manufacturer names on the systems.  Did the owner invest in quality brands or not?  Behind those boxes along the wall does it look like there’s a water problem being covered up?
  4. Open kitchen cabinet doors and drawers.  Are the cabinets refaced?  When you pull out a drawer does it fall down or stay straight out?  Is the oven vent really going to the outside?

Agent showing buyerI spend a good amount of time teaching my buyers how to look at a house.  We are not home inspectors but I don’t want you to miss anything we should be able to see.  There are many issues a buyer can miss.  Learn how to look at a house properly.  Find an agent who will take the time to show you.  You can, of course, call me at 201-741-8490 to make an appointment to view homes.


Watch for future blog articles that go into more detail on what to look for when viewing homes.  I’ll be writing them this fall.