Posted by & filed under Buying.

money pitBuying the Money Pit

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

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

Your Home Search

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

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

The Problem

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

Guarding Against Disaster

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

The Holidays Have Begun

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

Model Train Shows

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

What’s A Home Inspection Like?

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

Begin Outside

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

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

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

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

The Basement

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

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

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

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

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

Living Areas

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

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

Attic

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

Main Floor

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

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

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

Garages

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

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

Additional Inspections

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

Your Home Inspection Is Done

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

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

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

Posted by & filed under Buying.

All Agents Are Not The Same

While buyers often research their attorney, few do so when finding an agent.  The truth is that all agents are not the same.  You need to find a great agent for yourself.

Because so much information is available on the internet, many buyers devalue agents.  Buyers feel that they have all the information.  They look at real estate agents as door openers, less informed and just out to make a commission.

To be fair, some agents are part timers.  As a result they can’t have the expertise and market knowledge required.  If it were up to me, only full time real estate agents would represent buyers and sellers.  Oh well.

Finding A Great Agent

CRSA great agent is a full time professional.  They invest in their business.  If they’ve been an agent for several years, they should have a website and advanced designations.  The top designation for a sales agent is the CRS.  Less than 4% of all Realtors have achieved this.  Buyers will want to look for the ABR designation too.

What are their reviews like?  Is there a common theme of caring professionalism?  Sometimes great agents don’t have a lot of reviews.  I don’t because I keep forgetting to send clients the required links.  And I haven’t asked my friends and relatives to recommend me………….

You may be surprised to know that new agents can be spectacular.  One of our new agents achieved the NJ State Circle of Excellence Award in her first year.  Fewer than 10% of all active agents achieve this award.

As a result, the number of years an agent is licensed or the number of reviews isn’t a reliable indication of ability.  ABR

A great agent should take the extra time to educate you.  If you go to the Buyers section of my website,you’ll see that I take a consultative approach.  This is because I want my customers to know what they’re doing in all aspects.

Excellent communication is essential.  If you and your agent don’t have good rapport, get someone else.

Choose Wisely

Because so many buyers think all agents are alike, they often choose unwisely.  You don’t need a charming “Yes Man” so to speak.  You need an agent who: is an expert on market values/trends, knows mortgages, can tell you about the towns/local information and can explain the process.

Circle of ExcellenceA great agent has integrity and truly cares.  Such a person has the strength and wisdom to guide you to a successful home purchase.

Do better than hire a charming smile.  Don’t overlook a newer agent.  Make sure the agent cares and is willing to do everything possible to make your real estate transaction a success.

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe, Buying.

When you’re shopping for a home, you need local information.  Here are 5 great websites for Bergen County –

Bergen County’s Website

There is a tremendous information on the County of Bergen’s own website.  You’ll be amazed at how much there is in this website.  Here are some examples for you from the website’s ribbon menu:

  • County Officials has the Superintendent of Elections  Because we are so diverse, there are voter forms in English, Spanish and Korean.
  • You’ll find links to every town’s website under County Officials too.
  •  Departments and Services has Parks  Everything is here from camping to golf to a zoo and more.
  • About Bergen County is great too.  History and demographics are here.  As a result, you’ll get a very good understanding of our area.

There’s a lot more in Bergen County’s website.  This will get you started

Commuting

Bergen County is serviced by 2 companies for commuting to New York City.  NJ Transit offers both bus and train commuting.  Coach USA is solely bus commuting.  Buses go to either the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal at 178th St or the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 41st Street.  Trains go to Penn Station in Manhattan.

There is also a Park & Ride option in some locations.  For example on Rte 17 in Ramsey, by the Garden State Parkway in Paramus and at the Lombardi gas station at the start of the Turnpike in Ridgefield.

Some towns, like Oradell, limit the train parking lots to only their residents.  As a result, just because you bought a home in a neighboring town does not mean you can park next to the train station in Oradell.  It can also be the case that a town charges for commuting parking.  Be sure to check out your commuting needs thoroughly.

Schools

Bergen County is renown for our public school systems.  House values here are based on 2 key factors – commuting/proximity to NYC and the school district.  While I know many people go to the Great Schools website, I’ve always found it to be very inadequate.  This is because the reviews are by parents.  You want a good independent source and we have one.

The State of NJ puts out a report on all of it’s school districts every 2 years.  As a result, you have an independent review using the same reporting parameters.  There is also another very watched report by NJ Monthly Magazine.  This bi-annual report ranking high schools in New Jersey comes out on news stands in August and sells out almost immediately even in this digital age.

Go to my website where I have comprehensive information on all Bergen County school districts including a link to the NJ bi-annual report and every school district’s website.

My Bergen

We have a lot of Bergen County focused magazines both in print and online.  A lot of them are highly social showing people at charitable events.  They also focus on style.  Not My Bergen.

I use the My Bergen website often because it has so much great information on what’s happening.  There’s a Kid’s section where you can find great events for your children.  No matter which Bergen County focused website, I’ve always found My Bergen to be the most informative and most comprehensive.  As a result, I recommend this as the go to website for Bergen County happenings.

BergenCountyHomes.com

My website has a ton of information for you.  I’ve written it specifically for people who haven’t bought or sold a home for the past several years because the process has changed quite a bit.  If you don’t understand the process of buying or selling a home, you will find it very stressful.  My goal is to eliminate the stress by educating you.  So go to Buyers or Sellers depending on what you need.  My blog has a lot of good informative articles that I’ve written for you.  Go to the Categories drop down menu to the left of the page so you can select what you wish.

So there you have it.  5 great websites for Bergen County to help you.  Call me if you’d like to talk about real estate or for any questions you might have at 201-741-8490

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under For Sale or Rent.

33 E Hudson Englewood RentalHere is a wonderful Englewood rental that is truly unique.  A cottage house that has been lovingly updated.  The new kitchen is truly beautiful.

Property Details

Custom designed with tons of storage, the new kitchen is both gorgeous and highly functional.  Wood cabinets, granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances are all here for you.  It opens onto a large room with sliding glass doors to a large deck.

The first level offers you a foyer, living room, dining room, kitchen opening to a large room, bedroom and updated full bath.  Upstairs are 2 smaller bedrooms and a new bath.  Downstairs you have a full unfinished basement for tons of storage and also a laundry area with a washer and dryer.

No parking problems with this home.  You can have several cars if you wish because there’s a 2 car garage and a long driveway.  As a result, guests can park several cars in your driveway as well as on the street.

Local Neighborhood 33 E Hudson

The local neighborhood has a lot to offer.  This is a fabulous commuting location because you are on top of NYC buses.  There is a great little business district 1 block away.  You have almost everything you need 1 block away.  Dutch Dry Cleaner, Spring Tree Bagel and Deli, Walgreens, Oprandy’s Wine & Liquor, Mr Tod’s PIes, Roman Inn Pizza and Subs, a men’s barbershop, lady’s salon and more.

Drop off dry cleaning, grab a bagel and coffee, jump on the bus and be in NYC 1 hour later!  This Englewood rental is simply an ideal spot for commuting to New York City for work.

Houses of worship are nearby.  Just up the street are 2 synagogues – Temple Sinai (Reformed) and the Orthodox Kesher Center.  A short 5-10 minute drive away are many Christian churches and a Mosque.

33 E Hudson Garage 33 E Hudson Ave is also on the Tenafly border.  As a result both Tenafly and Englewood are equally accessible to you.  Both towns have terrific business districts with wonderful local shopping and restaurants.  Tenafly has a movie theater while Englewood has the Bergen County Performing Arts Center with live entertainment.

Englewood NJ

The City of Englewood is one of the most popular locations in Bergen County.  It’s downtown is extensive with an urbane sophistication you will love.  Vibrant, proud and highly diverse this is a wonderful place to call home.  The magnificent turn of the century home, large East Hill Estates and modern condominium apartment development offers everyone the right choice in housing.

The eclectic kaleidoscope of cultures is on display when you go into the local Shoprite Supermarket.  This is a great town where there is always something for everyone.

Take a look at this cottage house rental.  Available at the end of the this year at $2,900 per month, you won’t want to miss this uniquely charming and quaint residence.  Add in a great yard (don’t worry – the landlord will have the grass cut) and an animal friendly landlord, this is a place you want to come home to every night.  Call me at 201-741-8490 for a private viewing.

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Buying, For Sale or Rent.

400 Lantana Ave

400 Lantana Ave

I just listed this gorgeous colonial at 400 Lantana Ave in Englewood today for $625,000.  This is a very special home because it has a simply spectacular setting.  It sits on a half acre property that borders a stream below where you watch ducks floating by, wild turkeys walking around and deer too.  The architect was brilliant because he positioned the house for the utmost in privacy.  You feel the serenity here the moment you get out of your car.  It truly is a beautiful natural setting with park like grounds.

House Details

The house is itself a wonderful home.  The owner made great improvements.  They redid both baths upstairs, finished the basement and completely redecorated.  Condition is great so you can move right in.  The size is terrific too at 2,667 square feet.  Add in 939 square feet of finished basement for over 3,600 square feet of living space.

There are some terrific features.  Two bedrooms have bonus rooms, a library is on the first floor, the basement has an amazing rec room, a separate laundry room and another room used as a play room that could also be a home office or a dark room.  The living room is big with a fireplace and wait till you see the banquet sized dining room.  Entertaining flow is excellent and charm is throughout.

Manor Area of Englewood

Location is the prestigious Manor Area of Englewood.  This is the northwest corner of town starting above Dwight Morrow High School to the Tenafly border west of Knickerbocker Road.  East of Knickerbocker Road it runs from St Nicholas north up to Tenafly Road.  You’ll find picturesque streets filled with homes of character here.  It’s a wonderful area that’s highly diverse and extremely popular.  Houses here are always in demand.

Sunday Open House

If you’d like to see this beautiful home, we are having a public open house this Sunday from 1-4 pm.  Because the present owner takes such very good care of the home, we ask that you remove shoes indoors.  The weather is supposed to cooperate so come on by.  I have 2 other agents with me to make sure no one has to wait long to see this magnificent home. You are going to love 400 Lantana Ave!

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Selling.

I know.  I’m not supposed to knock other agents and I won’t.  However there are things your listing agent shouldn’t do in my humble opinion yet I see it all the time.  So take a ride with me down the I Don’t Want This lane:

Photos

Did you know that a great many homes come on the market in the MLS system without pictures?  Some days as much as half of the newly listed homes have no pictures.  This can last for days.  Because pictures more than anything else are what captures a buyer, this is a huge mistake.  As a result, buyers looking in the internet skip by your home.

I get it.  It takes a few days to have professional pictures done.  While this is true, it’s also not impossible for a listing agent to at least take a photo of the front of your house.  Almost anything is better than nothing,   Well maybe not almost anything.

A group of agents I know every year have a contest.  It’s actually fun and very easy.  Who can find the worst picture of a listing?  IPhones and Galaxy 9’s are great but they can never replace a good digital SLR.  How about those pictures where the window looks like a light bulb in a dark room?  Or where the house is at a 45 degree angle?  Always have your agent get professional photographs.

Here’s another big mistake – file size.  Go online and look at some homes.  There are pictures you can sail through and there are pictures where you watch that little circle go round and round and round.  You’re selling a house.  You want the buyer to like your house.  Why do you irritate that buyer with file sizes that are too big to work?

Showings

Your agent tells you that your home is so special that we must have a 24-48 hour advance notice.  That stops all spontaneous showing requests and turns off agents.  I believe this is just fluff and puff to stroke a homeowner’s ego in order to get the listing.

Here is another mistake:  Your agent tells you that they will accompany all showings.  This is more fluff and puff because showings can never be scheduled perfectly.  Buyers can take more or less time than expected.  Having to be at any house at a specific time to satisfy a listing agent’s needs is too restrictive.  There are other instances where your agent is late.  While some homeowners do need a good deal of advance notice, this is rare.

We have electronic lockboxes.  This gives you full accountability.  Make your home accessible always.  You can’t sell it if you make it hard to get into.

Remarks

There are homes that are re-listed several times and the showing remarks never change.  There are homes that are on the market a long while with the same showing remarks.  IF you do it right, showing remarks should contain the right keywords to draw in your buyer.  They should also not be a repeat of the floor plan.  Remarks should paint an emotional picture to appeal to your buyer so that they can’t wait to see your home.

Here’s something else – why not change the remarks often to keep the listing fresh and draw out different buyer groups for a home?  For example, remarks can be written towards families or professionals or artists or empty nesters for the same house.

Check Your Listing

I see so many listings with horrible pictures, wrong file sizes, lousy remarks and, at times, incorrect information.  No kidding on this at all.  I just saw a home listed as a foreclosure when it was not.  Just a mistake but it was there.  Look at your home’s MLS listing from time to time.  Make sure what you see is what’s supposed to be there.  Don’t be a victim of things your listing agent shouldn’t do.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

The weather has turned colder than normal so here are some indoor weekend ideas in Bergen Co

Tenafly Street Fair

unty for you and your family to enjoy:

Tenafly Street Fair and Craft Show

Do you love crafts?  Love street fairs?  Come to Tenafly because the entire downtown business district will be one big open event.  Local stores will have amazing specials, tons of vendors, music, food, plenty of crafts and rides for the kids.  This highly popular event will run from 11 to 5 on Saturday and Sunday.

Cabaret

CabaretBergen County has several live theater groups and one of the best is The Players Guild of Leonia.  I have gone to their productions and can tell you that this is a terrific local live theater group.  They are doing Cabaret right now and tickets this weekend are still available.  Performances are tonight and Saturday night at 8 pm and 3 pm on Sunday.  Tickets are only $25 for most of us and $20 for students and seniors.

Tenafly Nature Center

tenafly nature centerNature Centers in Bergen County usually have a full schedule.  One of the best is the Tenafly Nature Center.  This weekend their Apple Cider Making Event continues on Saturday afternoon.  Because this is such a popular event it gets sold out quickly.  However there are still spots available Saturday afternoon.  This is a no miss family event; the weather will be warm enough by the afternoon too.  If you like you can go hiking on their trails afterward.

There is another event going on at the Tenafly Nature Center this weekend for young children (age 3-7).  Nature Story Time is on Saturday starting at 10 am for 30 minutes.

National Stamp Show

Do you collect stamps?  One of the major stamp shows in the US is happening this weekend at the stamp showMeadowlands Hilton.  NOJEX 2018 is one of the biggest philatelic events and there will be many outstanding award winning stamp collection exhibits.  If you’ve never been to a stamp show go to this one.  It’s rare to have a major national show in our own backyard.  Bring the kids too.  Stamp collecting is fun, doesn’t have to be expensive and teaches children so many positive things.

Fish Show

There is a huge aquatic show this weekend with an amazing floor show.  If you are into aquariums and exotic fish, come to the Aquatic Experience  at the Meadowlands Exposition Center (355 Plaza Dr, Secaucus NJ) starting today this weekend.  Floor show tickets are $15 adults, $10 age 6-21 and under 5 free.  If you have a youngster who is into aquariums, you might want to check out the Kids Aquarium Contest too.

You can also read my last week’s blog article for hayrides, pumpkin patches and apple picking.  Weekend events in the Bergen County area happen every week of the year.  I’ll always include events nearby too because locations such as Secaucus are literally on the border.  Check back to find out what’s happening when you need ideas for fun.

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

choosing a home inspectorChoosing a home inspector last minute is never a good idea.  Because there is so much at stake for you, it’s essential that you do things right when you’re buying a house.  Choosing a home inspector is one of the most important things you do so let’s do it right.

Understand the Process

Home inspections are done as soon as the Attorney Review process is concluded.  That’s because you don’t have a firm, binding contract on the house until then.  This really makes a lot of sense.  Why would you inspect a home before you have a solid contract to buy it?

10 Days to Get It Done

You typically have 10 days to get your inspections done.  Although this is enough time, many home buyers go into a meltdown.  Why?  Because they haven’t even begun to look for an inspector.

So here we go.  You scramble to find an inspector last minute.  High stress becomes part of your life because you only have 10 days to get it all done.  Choosing a home inspector last minute is no fun.  It’s also unnerving.  Since you’re doing this in a rush you can’t be sure you made the best choice.

Imagine how different this could be if you just got prepared early on.

Choosing A Home Inspector

Find your home inspector before you find your house.  As soon as you start seriously shopping for your home, get your ducks in order so you’re fully prepared.  Choosing a home inspector should be among your top priorities.  Ask friends who have recently purchased homes and ask your agent.  Do research through the web.

Once you’ve found several possibilities, call them.  Communication is important.  No matter how good an inspector may be, if you don’t communicate well then it won’t work.  Home inspectors explain the house, what they discover and how to maintain the house.  As a result, you must be able to communicate well with your inspector.

You might want to check out my blog article on the value of a home inspector.   Choosing a home inspector last minute is a risk you don’t want to take.  Call me at 201-741-8490 if you need help or have questions.