Posted by & filed under Buying, Homeowner Tips.

Get your house ready for winterGet your house ready for winter now.  Doing just a few basic maintenance items will avoid huge and expensive problems later on.

Your Furnace

Have a professional heating contractor clean and service your furnace.  A well maintained furnace usually lasts longer than it’s rating, is more energy efficient and doesn’t break down during the heating season.

PSEG has a great maintenance program for a standard gas furnace at $8.99 per month.  Go to PSEG’s website  and scroll down for the furnace only option.  There are also many heating contractors who offer maintenance programs too.

Have your furnace and hot water heater exhaust pipes checked too.  If something’s not right, carbon monoxide gas can back up and enter your home.

Gutters & Roof

Because gutters are a key part of water management, they are critical to your home’s health.  Make sure your gutters are clean and down spouts run as they should.  Speaking of down spouts, be sure that they discharge water away from your house.

Roofs take a beating in winter weather.  Call a roof repair company in to inspect your roof for problems.  Small repairs now avoid major leaks later.  roof shingle repair

Lawns & Bushes

Rake, mow, water and fertilize your lawn and shrubs as needed.  You can speak to your landscaper about fertilizer or go to a local nursery.  Also ask about pruning shrubs.

Tree Care & Power Lines

Trees need care too before the winter.  Click Here to read my blog article on this.  Even though it talks about spring time, it applies to the Fall too.

Power lines snap during winter storms because tree branches hit or fall on them.  Read this blog article that gives you advice on what to do.

Equipment

Make sure your snow blower, shovels etc. are in good working order.  When it’s no longer time to mow the lawn, get your lawn mower serviced and clean/put away your gardening tools.  Get a supply of ice melt too.

Sealing Your House

Weather proofing and sealing up your home is always a good idea both inside and out.  If you’ve lived in your home through at least 1 winter, you pretty much know where the problems are.  You can call in a contractor and also check out PSEG’s website on this.

downed power linesDon’t forget about insulation.  You may need to add some.  Call in a contractor if you’re not expert on this.  You need the right placement and the right type.

Get your house ready for winter now.  This avoids havoc and saves you thousands in unwanted repairs.  Need more help?  Need a contractor?  Call me at 201-741-8490.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

white picket fenceRush Hour Traffic and House Shopping

Rush hour traffic is not on your mind when you’re out looking at homes.  Sunday afternoons are filled with open houses during which you look at a host of homes for sale in just a few hours.

When you get more serious you’re out with an agent on Saturdays as well.  Summer is great because sunlight lasts longer making it possible to look after work too.  This entire time rush hour traffic is never on your mind.

Why?  Because you’re looking when it’s quiet and your focus is on a house.

New York City commuter traffic is famously awful as it is as every other major city.  Highways become clogged with cars.  Drivers also use local streets as alternate routes and for short cuts.  This is what you should check out in your home’s location.

Leonia NJ

leonia

Leonia NJ is next to the George Washington Bridge.  Without traffic you can be in NYC in 10-15 minutes.  At rush hour the town streets were filled with commuting drivers.  Residents became so fed up that Leonia fought back by making it illegal to use their local side streets for commuting.

Leonia’s situation is extreme but commuting does affect all of Bergen County.  As a result, it’s important to take rush hour traffic into consideration when buying a home.

Make sure that quiet street on Sunday afternoon isn’t a commuting shortcut on Monday Morning.  Go back at rush hour in the morning and afternoon to see what happens.

To be fair, Leonia is a great place to live.  Although next to the GW Bridge, it has maintained it’s decidedly small town ambiance and is filled with charming, picturesque streets.  It also has a terrific school district and a vibrant business district.

It’s perfectly OK to live on a busy street.  I grew up on one.  You buy a much better home on busy streets.  What’s not all right is being surprised that your street is busy after you move in.  So check out rush hour traffic along with everything else.

Posted by & filed under Selling.

cancelled contractQualifying Buyers for Homeowners

Qualifying buyers for homeowners is serious business.  What I am going to write now may be harsh but it needs to be said.

No home should be shown to anyone who is not able to buy it.  No contract should be written or accepted from a buyer who can’t get financing.  This is irresponsible and unprofessional behavior with horrible consequences for a seller.  It does happen unfortunately.

Recent Examples

Here is what I heard about recently:

A closing was cancelled 2 weeks before the sale because the buyer did not qualify for a mortgage.

A luxury home was shown to a buyer who is a fraud.  Another was in contract before the buyer was found to be financially incapable.

A cash buyer wasn’t.  He was getting a mortgage all along.  As a result the quick closing the seller expected never happened.

A buyer didn’t admit he needed a co-signer until after Attorney Review.

The Effect on a Seller

When a home loses a contract, it rarely gets as much again.  The home’s value has diminished in the public eye so offers that come in next are lower.

There is the cost of lost time because every day a home is on the market is a real cost to a seller.

There can also be legal expenses for a seller depending on how much work the attorney did.

Don’t dismiss the very significant cost of disappointment.  This to me is the worst cost of all.

Due Diligence

Both buyer and seller agents need to do their due diligence on every buyer and every contract.  Beware of these:

Pre-approvals are often not real.  It’s a semantic game some banks play.  They define meaningless pre-qualifications as pre-approvals.

It is a pain in the neck to obtain a real pre-approval so a “don’t rock the boat” mentality sets in.  Better to keep a buyer happy; work on it after you have them in contract.  As a result mistakes are made.

Agents can be intimidated by high price ranges and rely on what a luxury buyer tells them.  This is always unacceptable.

There are also frauds at the high end.  I guess some just like to look at high end homes and others have more malevolent intentions.  Either way you can’t let them in and you can’t write up an offer if you do not know for sure that they are legitimate buyers.

My Experiences

Here are some of my own recent experiences:

A man called me saying he wanted to buy a home at $5-7 million.  Searching on my own I discovered that he lived  in a 2nd floor apartment over a local store in Maine and was unemployed.  My buddy who does forensic searches found that he’s been calling up agents all over the US for years pretending to be a high end buyer.

Another buyer wanted to purchase around $2 million.  He had plenty of income but too much debt because he had so many investment properties.  No bank would loan him.

I had to tell a young couple that they could not get a mortgage.  These folks were “pre approved” by a website.

The Bottom Line

I meet buyers every year who have been “pre-approved” but can’t get a mortgage.  I also receive contracts on listings from unqualified buyers.  Because I’m so careful I’ve never had a homeowner lose a contract over financing.

Qualifying buyers for homeowners is indeed serious business.  Don’t accept any offer unless you are sure of your buyer’s credentials.  When you interview listing agents, quiz them about how they qualify buyers.

Call me at 201-741-8490 if you’d like to discuss this further or need help.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

The Westwood Craft and Antique Show is THIS SUNDAY.  If you’re in Bergen County and have nothing special to do all day, come to Westwood NJ.  Because it’s nearly the end of August, many folks are home after taking their children to college or picking their kids up from camp.  As a result, having something to do the weekend before Labor Day can be a challenge.  Here’s your solution.  Read this article on My Bergen with all the information on this show.

If you want to know what’s going on, a great resource is the My Bergen website.  I use this site often to find things to do and you’ll love it.  Every fall we have a lot of outdoor fairs and shows throughout Bergen County.  The Westwood Craft and Antique Show is a great way to start this off.

This show is so popular that it attracts a large crowd.  There’s something for everyone at this outdoor show and the weather will be perfect.  You will have fun just walking around,  looking at all the vendor tables.  A big plus is that you can learn a lot about antiques and crafts too.  Don’t forget to read the article – it tells you when you can get free appraisals.

The fall is a time of year when there are a lot of outdoor fairs in Bergen County.  If you follow my page on Facebook you’ll find that I’ll be posting about them.  So go to my Facebook business page if you want or just go to the My Bergen website.

While you’re at the Westwood Craft and Antique Fair you might also want to include something else nearby.  Book a tee time for a round of golf at the Valley Brook Golf Course in River Vale  There’s also 2 local parks where you’ll find walking trails, playgrounds and dog runs.  Check out Westvale Park where there is a great dog park separating large and small dogs and at Brookside Park you can even go fishing.  Westwood’s Borough Website has a page just for it’s parks so take a look.

No matter what you choose to do, there’s plenty of great options in Westwood NJ.  Plus there are several terrific restaurants and an open Trader Joe’s too!

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

hot dogs in bergen countyHot dogs in Bergen County

Hot dogs are popular in Bergen County.  Because they are so popular here we have many hot dog restaurants that are legendary.  Most span decades of gastronomic success and some have even been endorsed by celebrities.  Whether snow’s on the ground or the sun is baking at 90 degrees, we love our hot dog spots.

Some Local Spots to Try Out

I think the most well known is Hiram’s in Fort Lee.  There used to be 2 hot dog stands with a fierce rivalry between them – Hirams and Callahan’s.  They were next to each other when I grew up.  Callahan’s has relocated but Hiram’s is still here.  It’s a step back in time as are so many of these.  Hiram’s is as great as it’s always been.

Fort Lee property became so valuable that Callahan’s had to move when the lot was sold.  They’ve relocated to Norwood and nothing else has changed.  It’s still the same deep fried deliciousness that I hot dogs in bergen countyremember as a teenager.

The cutest hot dog stand ever is the Hot Dog Caboose.  It’s in a real train caboose and it’s painted that wonderful crimson red color.  Located in Midland Park it’s been the place to go for the southwest corner of Bergen County. They have outside tables when the weather permits as well.

Jolly Nick’s (201-501-0889) is a Dumont institution.  Have you ever eaten their chilli dog?  It’s amazing.  I also love their onion rings.  The original owner retired years ago; now his son does the cooking.  Small and cute Jolly Nick’s deserves a visit.

Johnny and Hanges opened on the day that Lou Gehrig announced his retirement in Yankee Stadium in 1939.  It’s modern reincarnation in Fair Lawn has maintained the original recipe for it’s famous chilli sauce.  It’s as popular today as it was nearly 80 years ago.

Highway Road Stands

If you’re driving on Route 17 South near Carlstadt and East Rutherford stop in at The Hot Dog House (201-935-5803).  This small family run establishment has been around for years with a loyal following.  Not open for dinner but try it for lunch.

hot dogs in bergen countyRoute 46 East in Lodi is where you’ll find Hank’s Franks (973-473-8589).  This is another local favorite that is famous for its big selection of homemade toppings as well as terriific sauerkraut.  Like The Hot Dog House these hot dog stands are what we used to call truck stops when I was growing up.  Truck stops always meant great food reasonably priced.

Not in Bergen County But….

You can’t talk about hot dogs without mentioning Rutt’s Hut.  Even though it’s located in neighboring Clifton many people here swear by it.  Famous and often voted #1 in northern New Jersey, you really have to experience it at least once.

I’m sure you’ll agree by now that hot dogs are very popular in Bergen County.  While you’re here go get a dog at any of these places – you won’t be disappointed.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

neighborhood brick colonialResearching the neighborhood and the location of the house you want to buy is very important.  Here’s a story about my family after we bought a home:

Fire sirens are loud.  Especially fire sirens on poles that blow every day at dinner time.  Even worse when you have 2 dogs who howl the entire time – that’s a full minute at dinner time in the kitchen.

This happened to us in Leonia NJ.  My father bought a home on a block that had only 3 houses.  Buying a Leonia home was a big deal for us.  We were moving up in life from a small 2 bedroom apartment.  My family consisted of 4 children and 2 adults.  We were so happy.  As a young girl I thought we moved into a palace it was so big – nearly 3,000 square feet of space.  Then we sat down to dinner and heard it.  It seemed to go on forever.

It was a warm fall evening.  The kind that mimics summer weather so our windows were open.  neighborhood walking the dogThis only made the sirens louder.  My sister wanted a dog.  Many people get dogs for their children after they move into a house and we were no different.  My parents decided on 2 collies so they could play together when we were in school.  Great idea but not at 7 pm.  The dogs howled at the siren for the entire minute.

Researching the neighborhood is indeed important.  Not doing so is a big home buyer mistake.  My parents didn’t know that a fire siren was on the corner 1 house away from us.  As you can see we found out.

Here’s some other examples for you:

You look at a home on a weekend and go to open houses on Sundays.  Unless you’re looking on a main drag, everything is quiet.  You don’t know that the bucolic environment on Sunday afternoon becomes a speedway at rush hour.

neighborhood Little League night gameThere’s a Little League ball field nearby.  It doesn’t matter on a beautiful weekend afternoon.  After all, you want an apple pie and Little League town to raise your family.  BUT did you know about night games with tons of cars driving though your street, parking everywhere?  How about those huge outdoor lights shining into your 2nd floor bedrooms till 11 pm?

Commuting’s a breeze.  You can drive down to the bus stop and pick up your car again at the end of the day.  You do but you also pick up a ticket for parking there all day.  Commuting is also taking a lot longer than you’d expected.

No one wants to be unhappily surprised after moving in. I tell all my buyers to go back during rush hour and I do my best to give them thorough location information.  Ultimately it is your responsibility.  Researching the neighborhood fully makes sure you don’t make a mistake.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

bergen county golfBergen County Golf

Bergen County golf is promoted by our County Government with 5 public courses and a 6th about to open.  There are special programs for youngsters through seniors plus annual tournaments too.  4 of the 5 courses are full 18 hole golf courses; one is a 9 hole.  The newest course about to open is another 18 hole course in Emerson NJ.

I wrote a blog article about this newest course last November.  The Bergen County Freeholders by unanimous vote decided to purchase the Emerson Golf Course in Emerson NJ.  It has been renamed as the Soldier Hill Golf Course and is being reconditioned now.  Hopefully it will be ready soon but they don’t have a date yet.  This brings the total of public golf courses to 6.  Emerson is an 18 hole course so we will soon have five public 18 hole courses in Bergen County.

Bergen County Public Golf Courses

The 5 current Bergen County golf courses run by the County are:  Darlington in Mahwah, Orchard Hills in Paramus, Overpeck in Teaneck , Rockleigh near Northvale in Rockleigh, and Valley Brook in River Vale.  Orchard Hills is the only 9 hole course.  Once Soldier Hill is open, there will be an 18 hole public golf course no more than a 15-20 minute drive from bergen county golf courseyour Bergen County home.

Semi Private Golf Clubs

We had several semi private golf courses in the past.  Because land value is so high here many have been sold.  The most recent is High Mountain Golf Club in Franklin Lakes.  It is now a 275 residence Toll Brothers luxury development.  Here are a few to consider –

Paramus Golf Course in Paramus

Old Tappan Golf Course  in Old Tappan

River Vale Country Club in River Vale

Driving Ranges

While Darlington does have a driving range, there are several commercial driving ranges here too.  Many are year round with heater boxes for colder months.  Driving ranges are vanishing too because land is so valuable.  Edgewater’s driving range had been in business for 19 years when it was sold for just over $30 million last July.  Here’s a list for you:

21 Golf in Palisades Park

Bogota Golf & Sports Center

Closter Golf Center

bergen county golfersGolf is clearly very popular here.  Bergen County states that roughly 10% of all residents play golf.  That’s a large number because we have 940,000 residents.  In addition to these 6 public and 3 semi public courses, there are multiple private clubs too.  As a result the game is big business both publicly, commercially and privately.  If you love golf, come to Bergen County.  It’s a perfect place to find a home and play the game of golf too.

 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

real estate attorneyWhy This is A Mistake

Hiring an attorney based on cost is a mistake.  If you needed brain surgery, would you run around looking for the cheapest brain surgeon?  You know, the guy who advertises he’ll beat everyone’s price?  I don’t think so.

So why look for the cheapest real estate attorney when you’re making the biggest purchase of your life?

Great real estate attorneys do so much more than review the sales contract.  They offer you a level of protection no one else can.

The Value of a Real Estate Attorney

Attorneys protect you.  I repeat.  Attorneys protect you.  Here are some ways they do:

  • They’re not focused on “keeping the deal together”
  • They don’t outsource their work
  • You are kept in the proper perspective
  • Attorneys have the skill and experience you need

Great real estate attorneys are focused on protecting your interests.  If they feel this can’t be done, they advise you to find another house.  This takes integrity.  It’s so much easier to keep things together and go on to the next client.

Attorneys may have legal assistants but they read every document to make sure it’s right.  Did you know some attorneys outsource work overseas to save costs?  You want an attorney who reads everything carefully.

Buying a home is emotional.  No one moves into a house they hate.  As a result it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important for you.  Attorneys keep things in perspective and alert you to issues that are critically important.

Lawyers have the legal skill to truly understand contracts, title policies, surveys and deeds.  I sure don’t.

Conclusion

Hiring an attorney based on cost is such a mistake.  You are spending hundreds of thousands on a house.  The difference is often only a few hundred dollars.  It can work both ways too.  Some excellent attorneys aren’t all that expensive.

Ask me for the names of some excellent attorneys and I’ll send you a list.  Call them up and talk to them.  You need to find someone you feel comfortable with.  You should also communicate well over the phone because most everything is done on the phone.  Then hire that real estate attorney and relax.  Your attorney has your back.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

shopping for mortgage ratesShopping for Mortgage Rates

I have written so many articles on why this is wrong.  Shopping for mortgage rates is exactly not the place to look.  This is marketing at it’s best because ad agencies have you convinced this is what to do.  While they have you focused on mortgage rates you miss the most important reasons to choose a bank and banker.

Did you know that there are dozens of 30 year mortgages?  That recently promoted paperless mortgages work for less than 5% of all home buyers?  That shopping online can lower your FICO score while a banker fully pre-approving you might not?  Do you know the difference between advertised, posted prices and quoted prices?  How about the difference between being a customer and being a client?  That a mortgage broker is not always a bank?  Why does it matter if a “bank” is a FDIC member?  OR if it has LLC at the end of it’s name?

Because advertising points you in the wrong direction, it’s so easy to make a mistake unknowingly.  The truth is :

  1. Rates today don’t matter for buying tomorrow
  2. Mortgage rates fluctuate minute by minute oftenshopping for mortgage rates
  3. There are major differences among financial resources
  4. This field is way too complicated to be left to an algorithm

It’s all wrong, wrong, wrong.  Who gets hurt?  You.  Who wins?  The mortgage bank.  Read my article on why mortgage rate shopping is a mistake.  This will protect you from all the hype so you do get the best mortgage loan for your needs.

Check Your Credit Report

It’s not always true that checking your credit report will lower your credit score.  It depends on how and why it’s pulled.  Since everyone is entitled to 1 free credit report every year, check yours today for mistakes.  Go to the FTC website to do this.  Credit scores are lowered by what’s called a hard pull but not by a soft pull.  Although Credit Karma only gives you a FICO score, they have a great article explaining this.

Because mistakes on credit reports do happen, take advantage of your free annual credit report.  If there is something wrong, you can fix it now before it hurts you later.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Homeowner Tips, Selling.

curb appealWhy This Is Important

It is so important to improve your home’s curb appeal when selling your house.  The moment your home comes into view it must sparkle in a home buyer’s eye.  I wrote an article recently on the importance of front doors.  In it I explain what happens when your front door has no zip.  Because curb appeal is so important, I’m following that article up with one today on curb appeal in general.

Start by Taking A Look

Pretend you are a home buyer.  Take a good, hard look at the front of your house.  Is there anything about it that’s inviting, welcoming?  Does it have sizzle?  Or does it look like other similar homes?  The point is that your home should stand out.  It should be a house that people notice and admire when they walk by.

Begin With A Cleanup

Begin with a general cleanup of the grounds around your entire house.  Make sure your walk and front steps are free of branches, leaves, etc.  Look at your gutters and improve your home's curb appealdownspouts.  Do they need to be power washed?  How about your front windows?

Here’s a tip – have your front windows cleaned professionally inside and out.  They’ll sparkle in the sun and let more light inside.

Touchups

Take a look at the window framing, roof fascia, front railings, garage door framing and the door itself.  If it’s weathered, has peeling paint et

 

c. give it a fresh coat of paint.  Doing so also sends the message that you maintain your home.

Flower Beds and Edging

Edge the grass along the walks for a crisp look.  Add mulch to your flower beds.  Plant colorful flowers like petunias, begonias, impatiens.  How about a colorful flower pot by the front door or flowers on each front step to one side?

Lighting, Mail Boxes and Numbers

curb appealIt might be time to paint that mailbox or shine it up with something like Never Dull.  Clean your front lights and make sure the light bulbs work.  Consider your home’s street number.  What does it look like?  Is it on the house?  It should be.

Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal To Win

Doing all of this gives you a crisp, clean look that adds value to your home.  Colorful plantings and sparkling windows adds the sizzle you need to get more buyers in the door.  As a result, your home sells quicker and for more.

This is also a win for home buyers because they get a house that has the great curb appeal of a well maintained exterior.  Put yourself ahead of the competition.  Improve your home’s curb appeal.

If you need help with this just contact me at your convenience.