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.

Posted by & filed under Selling.

listing photosHave you seen your listing photos?  Now that your house is on the market for sale, have you checked out how it’s displayed?  You should.

Nothing in a listing gets me more upset than seeing how poorly a house is marketed.  It starts with the first look and that’s the front picture of a house.  You expect pictures on your listing.  The fact is that many homes go on the market without even 1 picture.  This is how the MLS displays it.

It is 8:44 am and 50% of the new single family homes listed in the New Jersey MLS do not have even 1 picture.  Let’s be fair because you first input the listing and then add pictures.  As a result, it does take a little while but less than 1 minute’s time to get even a few pictures posted.

So let’s wait a minute or two and come back to these.  It’s 5 minutes later and not one of those listings have pictures.  These are all single family homes.  So I ask you again – Have you seen your listing photos?  For homes without them, I’m sure you haven’t checked.  Rentals do worse.

Rental properties never have pictures sometimes.  I am not kidding.  The New Jersey MLS does the best it can.  The MLS will fine an agent and even take a front picture.  Because of the volume of properties in the NJMLS they limit this to single family homes.  You are out of luck if you listed a rental property.

I find this very embarrassing as a real estate professional.  There are times I must send a listing twice to a buyer – once without and then later with pictures.

Imagine how this affects consumers.  If you are searching for a home, would you spend time looking at a listing with zero pictures?  If you need to rent an apartment would you stay on a listing without pictures?  Because pictures are so important to consumers, properties without them are often dismissed by them.

As a result, your property doesn’t do as well in the price you get and in how long it takes.  There is no excuse for this.  Even if it’s a rental listing and the tenant won’t allow pictures, at least a front view should be posted.  A good agent gets creative by taking pictures of the bus stop, school, town etc.  Anything is better than nothing for at least search engine purposes.

I have no doubt this post will upset some agents.  It is, however, the truth.  So sellers check your listing.  No pictures?  Kick your agent in the pants and get some posted ASAP.  How good they are is a blog article coming soon.  Questions, comments?  Contact me.

Posted by & filed under Buying.


OK – here is some shameless promotion of my 2 new listings in Englewood 🙂  Both are both located in the Manor Area of Englewood.  This is the northwest corner of Englewood which borders Teaneck and Tenafly.  You will find Manor Road here so I guess that’s where the name comes from.

It is a beautiful suburban neighborhood.  Mature towering trees line the streets which are filled with an eclectic mix of housing styles.  As a result you see gracious turn of the century colonials next to modest cape cod homes as well as split levels.  As mixed as the housing styles are, it works.  This location is visually attractive and very popular.  The Manor Area runs pretty much from Tenafly Road west and from Dwight Morrow High School north.

New Listings


257 W Hudson is on the market for sale at $424,900.  This is a custom built home being sold by the original family with 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths.  Because it was custom built there are several features worth pointing out:

It’s big with nearly 2,000 square feet on the 1st and 2nd floors.  Heat is separate from air conditioning.  Since central air wasn’t common this is most definitely a custom feature.  So is the fact that there is a bathroom on every floor.  Because it’s really constructed like a 2 bedroom ranch with a 2nd floor, the basement is enormous.  This might look like a cape cod but it sure isn’t you’re typical cape.  Inside is a full sized living and dining room plus an eat in kitchen.New Listings

My 2nd listing is a simply gorgeous early 20th century home for rent at $2,950 per month.  Because it was built in the very early 20th century, there is beautiful detailing.  Coffered ceilings adorn the living room where you’ll also find a wood burning fireplace.  True wainscoting lines the dining room walls.   This is a really huge home.  You have 5 bedrooms located on 2 floors.  This works great for large families, mixed generations or group living.  Because 3 bedrooms are on the 2nd floor and 2 on the 3rd floor, it’s also ideal for other needs.  A small family has terrific guest quarters on the 3rd floor or 2 home offices or hobby rooms.

So there you have it.  2 new listings in the Manor area for you.  They couldn’t be more different but they couldn’t fit in better.  To see them just call me at 201-741-8490.


Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

commuting to workCommuting 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.  commuting to work

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 tcommuting to workhe river by ferry too.  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 ratesMortgage rates today won’t matter tomorrow.  This is very important to understand so let’s look at it carefully.

Do you know what the #1 mistake home buyers make when it comes to a mortgage?  They shop for rates.  This is a colossal mistake and often costs home buyers thousands of dollars.  It can also cost you heartache when you choose a banker who can’t close on time or makes the process a misery.


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 finished 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 indmortgage ratesustry 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 and 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 won’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.

sales report


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.

Van Saun ParkAmazing 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 smellVan Saun Parks 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.

WalkingVan Saun Park 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!  Van Saun Park

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

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.

203kI 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 coun203kter 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?