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.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

finding the best schoolFinding the best school for you is a major home buyer concern.  When I’m showing homes I always get questions about the school district.  Because most home buyers are young families, school is important.

Bergen County has a well deserved reputation for having great public schools.  As a result, we are a very popular destination for young home buying families.  Finding the best school for you is not impossible but it’s also not a simple task.

  • I can’t advise you; no real estate agent can do this.
  • Buyers often believe it if it’s in the internet
  • Reliable data and websites can be hard to find
  • Data isn’t everything
  • School tours are often not allowed

These are the challenges.  Let’s look at them carefully.

Because of anti-discrimination law and concerns, I can not discuss school districts.  Buyers tell me that they find this frustrating.  They rely on me for information and guidance after all.  What I can do is guide them to what I feel is reliable information.

If it’s in the internet nearly everyone believes it.  Let’s be honest – do any of us truly research what’s on the web?  Wefinding the best school go to Wikipedia, for example, and believe it’s true.  Not everything is.  There are websites out there that I’ve found ranking/rating schools using parent reviews.  How reliable and accurate is that?  Not at all.  As a result, it’s easy to be fooled and hard to find reliable data.

Speaking of data, it’s not everything.  Just because a school scores higher than another does not mean it’s the right school for you.  Sometimes high scoring districts are not as nurturing as a lower scoring school.  Also, what outreach does a school have?  A client of mine decided on a town because one coordinated with robotics classes at Bergen County Academies and another did not.  The one that did not scored much higher.

School districts used to give tours during the school day for prospective parents.  Today almost every district does not.  The reason given to me has been lack of time and security issues.  As a result, this experience is no longer available.  I think this is a shame but there’s nothing anyone can do about this.

So I am not allowed to sayfinding the best school anything.  You can’t believe every website and article you see on the web.  It’s tough to find reliable data.  Schools don’t give tours.  However, finding the best school for you is still something I can help you with.

Go to my website section on schools.  You’ll find the link to the State of New Jersey’s Performance Report on every NJ school district.  Scroll down further where I have a link to every Bergen County school.  There is a breakdown to show you which schools make up a regional high school.

The US Department of Education has a school data site – The National Center for Education Statistics  You can get to the district you want by just filling in the town name, State (NJ) and county (Bergen).  Just remember for regionalized districts, you need to put in the regional high school separately.  Also, River Edge and Oradell have both their middle and high schools together as the Riverdell School District.

Of all the school ranking websites, the best one I’ve found is www.niche.com  So many of the other popular choices are based on parent ratings which I feel is an unreliable method.  New Jersey Monthly Magazine has a highly watched bi-annual ranking of high schools. The most recent was done in 2016.  There is also the US News & World Report high school rankings at https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools

Finding the best school for you is a lot easier using all of the above.  Be sure to remember that the best school for you is not always the highest scoring district.

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Halloween eventsYou see it driving or walking through town.  Ghosts and goblins appear everywhere.  Spiders and monsters adorn front doors and shrubs.  Halloween events are nearly ready.  We have only 2 more weeks till the Big Day.  Because there is so much going on for Halloween, you have many fun options.  Let’s take a look so you can enjoy it to the fullest.

Children love Halloween.  They dress up in costumes, go trick or treating and generally have a blast.  As a result, start with their school.  If you are not sure of what’s happening there, call the school to find out.

Next comes your town.  Check out your town’s website and call the recreation department.  If you don’t know your town’s site address, the Bergen County government website  has every town’s website on it.  Just click here to get yours.

After this, you might also look at your neighborhood.  SoHalloween eventsme neighborhoods have Halloween events themselves.  For example, there are Halloween block parties.  If you don’t know what website to use for this, I can give you some ideas.  Contact me through my site or call me at 201-741-8490.

Because Halloween has become such a big holiday, you’ll find Halloween events throughout Bergen County.  Here are some for you:

Allendale has the John Fell House, a wonderful 18th home that is now a cultural center.  For Halloween there is a production bringing to life Edgar Allen stories. at 7 pm on October 20 to 21 and a Hallow’s Eve Tea on the 28th at 12 noon.

Bergenfield has a Food and Fright Festival at 3 pm on October 31st with a costume parade at 5.  A local restaurant food crawl runs thHalloween eventsrough Nov 5th.

Fort Lee’s Business Alliance hosts it’s popular Fall-O-Ween Spectacular on Saturday, Oct 28th from 2 to 4 pm.

Glen Rock is where you’ll find Porch Light Productions.  This award winning live theater group has a Halloween themed play, Trapped, on October 27-29th.

Glen Rock also has it’s Haunted House event at the Central School put on by 5th graders on Friday Oct 20th and Saturday Oct 21st from 6-9 pm.  This is a great annual event in town.

Paramus is where you’ll Van Saun County Park and Zoo Boo on October 27 and 28 at the Bergen County Zoo there.  Because it’s so popular it sells out quickly so act on this ASAP.

Tenafly’s Nature Center has special Haunted Forest Tours which also sell out quickly.  Right now October 28th is available but this can change.

Ridgewood’s Historical Society is hosting it’s annual spooky and educational Cemetery Walk on October 20th with 3 tours from 6 – 7:30 pm.

Wyckoff’s Family YMCA is again doing it’s Monster Mash event October 24th at 6:30 to 8 pm.  Scroll down it’s page to find the information.

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Pumpkin PatchHalloween is nearly here.  Temperatures are still mild and the air is crisp.  It’s the right time to go to a pumpkin patch this weekend.  Go out to a patch and have fun bringing home your pumpkin.

Because you might not know where to go, I have some good ideas here for you right in Bergen County.  We have 4 good spots for you to enjoy here.  It’s a good idea to check these out to see which one has what you want.  Petting zoos are featured in several.  This is a great idea if you have children.  Most offer other fresh produce, home backed goods and cider.  Some have hayrides too.

Here are what we have in pumpkin patch options for you –pumpkin patch

  1. Abna’s Farm is located at 711 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff.  This is a large commercial farm that’s open year round.  Because they are usually closed on Sundays according to their website, it’s best to plan on going other times.
  2. Demarest Farms is probably the best known if for nothing else than it’s delicious home made fruit pies and it’s ongoing battle with Hillsdale about parking.   Located at 244 Wierimus Road in Hillsdale, you have to try their home made cider donuts while you’re there.
  3. Secor Farms at 85 Airmont Road in Mahwah is another terrific option.  Like the others, you’ll find a petting zoo, home made pies and donuts, fresh produce and a glorious pumpkin patch.
  4. Ward’s Pumpkin Patch is more than just pumpkins.  It’s easy to miss because it’s right off of Route 17 in Ridgewood.  This is an extremely family friendly farm.  As a result, there are ongoing activities for little ones.  Because it’s more intimate and child focused, this is a very good option for young families located at 552 Route 17 North in Ridgewood.
pumpkin patch

Because Bergen County is so well developed, we forget that working farms exist here.  Many sold out recently and are now commercial developments but these 4 family farms are still operating.  There is also a very special option – the Abram Demaree Homestead in Closter. Pumpkins are here too.

This is located at the corner of Old Hook and Schraalenburgh Roads.  Because it’s both a historic house and working farm with a country stand, it’s pretty unique.  The house sells a variety of goods from antiques to candles.

Go to a pumpkin patch this weekend.  Enjoy being outdoors with your friends and family.  It’s not far from home and a lot of fun too!  Should you wish to go further out, you can always call me at 201-741-8490 for more ideas.

 

Posted by & filed under Homeowner Tips.

get your house ready for winterIt’s fall in Bergen County.  One day it’s cool, one day it’s warm as we move toward winter. Trees are ablaze with color as leaves swirl in the wind while they tumble to the ground.  This is one of the most beautiful times of the year.  Sunlight takes on a special glow as the days grow noticeably shorter.  Because this is such a bucolic season, we often forget to get your house ready for winter now.

Winter seems so far away right now but snow comes before you know it.  December is only a few weeks away.  January and February can be the biggest snow months of the year.  Winter is only a month or two away.  Let’s get your house ready for winter now before it’s freezing cold.

Begin By Sealing

Caulk is your friend.  So is silicone.  Walk around your home both inside and out.  Seal up cracks and openings you see.  Weather strip windows and doors.  Seal visible cracks, wall switches and electrical outlets.  Hire someone if you don’t have the time because a few hundred here saves you thousands later.

Check Your Insulation

Insulate your attic.  Attic insulation saves heating costs and helps to avoid ice dams and roof decay.  Because ice dams can cause thousands of dollars in repairs you need to be sure your attic is well insulated.

Service Your Furnace

Keep your furnace running as efficiently as possible by having it serviced before the heating system starts.  Because furnace breakdowns happen with the 1st cold snap, make sure you get this done now.  It’s no fun freezing for hours in January while waiting for help because your furnace broke down.

Service and/or Buy Snow Removal Equipment

Remember last winter?  The scenes of empty store shelves because shovels and snow blowers sold out before you got there after work?  Or how your neighbor howled when his snow blower wouldn’t start?  Furthermore the middle of a storm is no time to set up snow plowing service.  Do that now too.

Clean and Check Gutters & Downspouts

Clogged, leaking and broken gutters and downspouts create havoc.  Thousands and thousands and thousands of havoc.  Get the gutters cleaned as often as you need to and make sure everything is fine.

Service Your Fireplace

Fireplace dampers can leak.  When they do, heat literally escapes out the chimney.  Because of this, have your damper checked along with the rest of the fireplace and chimney.  Safety alone demands that the chimney be regularly cleaned.

Invest in a Programmable Thermostat

Everyone knows that programmable thermostats save significant heating costs.  You don’t have to spend hundreds on remote operated digitized units.  A simple programmable thermostat will do the trick.

If you get your house ready for winter now you’ll avoid expensive problems and the stress of catching up in the future.  If you need any help at all, call me at 201-741-8490.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

horrible mortgageHere is yet another horrible mortgage story. This time the agent is more at fault than anyone else.

I have a listing in Bergenfield NJ. Bergenfield is a great town. It’s a town of affordable homes with a terrific school district and strong community spirit.There is also a good bus commute to NYC (extremely important around here) and a nice business district too. Because Bergenfield has so much to offer, it’s very popular with home buyers.

We listed the house with a clear notice that pre qualifications will not be honored. Because pre qualifications are non verified they’re worthless. As a result, this is unacceptable to me whether I’m a listing agent or representing a buyer. What’s the point? It doesn’t work. Let me tell you why.

Sellers take their home off the market only to learn that their buyer pulls out because they can’t get a mortgage or it takes delay after delay while a buyer tries to find a mortgage. Buyers go into contract on a house with no idea what the mortgage will really cost. Talk about a disaster waiting to happen!

Unfortunately this happens all the time. I call these horrible people horrible mortgageMr Happy Banker because he tells you happy fairy tales or shoots rockets into the sky on TV. It’s all a big lie. The truth is that you need to sit down with a banker, bring in all that pain in the neck documentation and get it done right. There is no substitute.

We received several offers and one used Mr Happy Banker. I could not believe what I was reading while reviewing it. The offer and pre approval were for a conventional mortgage with a 3% down payment.

Conventional loans accept 5% as a minimum down payment. The offer is not possible with only 3%. It got worse.

The so called pre approval was really a pre qualification because nothing was verified. I Google searched their bank. It’s not a bank because it’s an LLC. I dug deep into their website and saw they call themselves a mortgage company.

There are programs that allow less but for very specialized borrowers like VA loans. This buyer is not that. She is a typical home buyer. So I called her agent who told me she recommended the LLC and that her pre approval was good enough for now. I asked her to please get the buyer correctly pre approved and come back to me with your best and highest offer as I am asking this of all offers.

They raised their offer a little bit. Nothing else changed. The seller is very sophisticated and he understands finance. He told me he would not accept such an offer at any price because “that thing will blow up and never close”.

Buyers go to LLC’s rather than a legitimate bank because they don’t qualify with a Chase, Wells Fargo or Weichert Financial. They pay higher rates and fees when all they have to do is save up a little more or fix their credit etc. Buyers go to these places sometimes because they just don’t know better. I blame the agent who is not doing the best for her customer.

This buyer is going to have a very hard time. I wish I could help her but she’s someone else’s customer. She is also responsible for what happens to her. This is another horrible mortgage story.