Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Garage Theater

 

Live theater is alive and well in Bergen County.  No matter where you live from Ridgewood to Fort Lee or from Bergenfield to Mahwah, every Bergen County homeowner is within a 15 minute drive to a live local theater.

Teaneck has 2 major artistic entities – The Garage Theater Group and The Puffin Foundation.  The Garage Theater Group has been presenting live theater since 1993 and is located in the Fairleigh Dickinson University Becton Theater.  A strong focus of The Garage Theater Group is nurturing young actors.  Theater classes are offered for ages 6-18 during the school year plus there’s a summer camp.  Also offered are adult classes, individualized coaching and a dance class.

At the end of each play, the cast and director get together with the audience for an open forum discussion.  This is a uniquely special part of seeing a Garage Theater production and it’s a very enriching experience.  I’ve attended plays here which I’ve enjoyed tremendously.  It’s also quite inspiring to see how talented our young local actors are.

The next 2 productions are going to be a lot of fun and both are musicals:  Narnia from March 11-13 and Seussical from  June 3-12.  Tickets are affordable and I’m sure that both productions will sell out quickly.

If you own a Teaneck home, you’re only a hop, skip and a jump away but no matter where you live in Bergen County, the Garage Theater Group is conveniently located.  At the same time, The Garage Theater Group is a positive for Teaneck real estate.  Being able to tell Teaneck home buyers that we have live theater in town adds value to Teaneck homes.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

TenaflyTrees and nature have always been important in Tenafly NJ.  When I bought my Tenafly home I was amazed to learn how important trees are to the town.  Even the Tenafly Planning Board is focused on this.

A good example is Walnut Manor.  This is a development of homes built in the late 1950’s and very early 1960’s.  It’s across from the Stillman Elementary School off of Tenafly Road.  The Planning Board insisted that the builder plant fast growing maple trees at the building line.  He could not get his project approved without doing so.

The Planning Board specified fast growing maple trees because in only 7 years the area would have tall trees throughout.  As a result, Walnut Manor is has a beautiful ambiance with gorgeous trees lining it’s streets.

 

Tenafly has over 400 acres of municipal parks and open space.  Preserving natural woodland has always been highly important here.  Because it is, in 1972 a 4 year campaign was begun to save 194 East Hill acres from development.  Along with grant money were hundreds of donations from individual Tenafly residents.

Today that 194 acre purchase is part of the total 330 acre Lost Brook Preserve that so many Tenafly residents enjoy.  It borders the 52 acre Tenafly Nature Center for a spectacular nature preserve.

Following Tenafly’s tradition of preserving woodland and trees, the Tenafly Public Works Department is hosting a free tree planting this spring.  Every Tenafly homeowner can call 201-568-4134 to be put on the list of homes to be considered.  The DPW will check each home to see if there is enough room in the Borough right of way to plant a tree. If there is, the Public Works Department will come back in the spring and plant a tree there for free.

When you buy a Tenafly home, you’re buying more than Tenafly real estate.  You’re buying the Tenafly lifestyle and a big part of that is respect for trees and nature.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

The Spring Market is Delayed by Snow and Ice

With 7 severe snow storms in January (including a blizzard) and more in February, the Bergen County real estate market was side tracked for days at a time.  We’ve had record breaking snows and days when not only Bergen County but also New York City shut down with public transportation, schools and businesses closed.  I can’t remember any other time when New Jersey Transit suspended all bus service in the county.  By the end of January, many towns had already exhausted their annual budgets for snow removal.  It’s been quite a mess.

Surprisingly Bergen County homes did better than anyone would expect.

New Jersey MLS data shows that 10% fewer homes went under contract this January than last year and February seems to be following the same pattern.  However in 2010 the Home Buyer Tax Credit significantly fueled the housing market from January through April.  When you consider this, being down only 10% while losing weeks of time due to snow storms isn’t bad at all.

As we move into March and warmer weather, the Bergen County real estate market will stay on track and we’ll end the year with more transactions than we had in 2010.  Home buyers are active – we’re getting more people at our open houses, more calls and many more internet inquiries.  The signs are definitely here for a stronger market.  Despite having to climb over snow banks, the Bergen County real estate market now looks pretty good.

The spring market was delayed at the start of the year but it’s coming back strong in 2011.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Englewood, NJ, is a vibrant community in no small part because of the diversity of it’s population. A walk along Palisade Avenue through the Englewood business district is almost like a walk through the United Nations.  In fact, a large advantage of owning an Englewood home is the diversity of it’s people.  One of the largest enthnic groups in this area of Bergen County is the Korean community and this week’s club meeting at The Woman’s Club of Englewood featured a most special program – senior Korean women performing traditional Korean dances with Korean music including live drum music.

The Woman's Club of Englewood The dancers were extremely graceful and seemed to glow with happiness and  pride as they performed their dances.   What was quite impressive was to learn that their average age is 67.  Many different dances were performed some of which used beautiful, brightly colored fans and one used drums which was very exciting.

The Woman's Club of Englewood  After the program was a tea and dessert reception where the Korean dancers joined the club members which gave everyone a chance to meet one on one.  It’s not every day that you can meet the performing artists you’ve just seen.

The Woman’s Club of Englewood is a century old organization that is a progressive force in the Englewood community and an important philanthropic force as well granting hundreds of college scholarships over the years.   I have to say that as a guest of one of their members, I was extremely impressed by not only this special program of Korean dances but also by all the good works done by The Woman’s Club of Englewood.  Organizations such as this help to make Englewood the special place it is which only serves to make Englewood homes among the most sought after in the New York City area.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Credit Suisse Bank has a really neat way of looking at the local housing market – they send out a monthly questionaire to top real estate agents on over 40 housing markets in the US.  As one of the agents surveyed by Credit Suisse, I get the these reports and find them to be very valuable.

The Credit Suisse  “Monthly Survey of Real Estate Agents”  for the New York – Northern New Jersey area is really quite accurate. It found that January had an inventory build up which put pressure on pricing.  No doubt the 7 major snow storms we had then caused many buyers to stay home.  However, concerns over jobs and year end bonuses that were less than in the past also had an effect.  The sum total was pressure on pricing and homes on the market longer.

At the same time, agents were seeing signs of pent up demand, frustration with renting and fear of higher interest rates.  56% thought the activity level was more than expected, 31% saw it as what they expected and only 13% saw activity as less than expected.

Near term prices will soften a bit more but as the weather changes, so will the mood of many buyers.  Halfway through February, I can report that activity has definitely increased.  If you look at the activity ratios of a few towns, you’ll see they’re under or just over 5 to 1 which is great:

Tenafly is 4.3 to 1, Cresskill is 4.2 to1, Teaneck is 6 to 1,  Dumont is 4.3 to 1, Englewood is 4.8 to 1 , River Edge is 2.9 to 1 and Oradell is 3 to 1.

Buyers are snapping up the bargains that are now out there and are locking in interest rates as soon as they can.  Without snow and ice to slow things down, the real estate market will be very active this spring.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

How To Find A Home Inspector

Whether you’re buying a home in Cresskill, Tenafly, Teaneck, Englewood or anywhere else in Bergen County, you need to do a home inspection.  Once Attorney Review is completed and you have a firm purchase contract on your new home, often the next step is to do the home inspection.  How to find a home inspector is often a big concern.

This is because this is when you are normally told to find one.  As a result, you start to focus on finding a home inspector now.  And for most people they find a home inspector in a matter of minutes which really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Consider this:  Didn’t you spend a lot of time doing research on the market and looking at a variety of locations?   Let’s say the home you picked is in Bergenfield.  Didn’t you also spend time looking at homes in Englewood, Teaneck, Dumont, Bogota and perhaps further out in Bergen County like Fair Lawn and Waldwick where pricing is similar?

Amazingly enough, most people spend hardly any time at all in finding their home inspector.  Just a few minutes on the web and that’s it.  I tell my buyers to get ready early on.  Don’t wait until you’ve found your house to find the right professionals you need and that includes a home inspector.

The State of New Jersey licenses home inspectors.  If someone gives you a recommendation, you can go to the State of NJ Divison of Consumer Affairs to verify that the person recommended is licensed.  A great resource is the American Society of Home Inspectors and HUD has it’s own top 10 list of questions to ask the inspectors you investigate.  Another idea is to consult with your attorney and, of course, your real estate agent can suggest home inspectors too.

When you buy a house the home inspection is one of the major parts of the home buying process.  Spend the time to do the research you need to get the right home inspector for you.

I hope this article has helped teach you how to find a home inspector the right way.  Feel free to call me at 201-741-8490 for questions or recommendations.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

ice dams Take Advantage of The Coming Thaw to Avoid Gutter Ice Dams

Have a home in Bergen County?  If so, take   advantage of the coming thaw next week and get your gutters cleaned if you haven’t already.  We’ve just had a few warm days but the deep freeze is going to be with us for the week ahead but then the weather pattern’s changing and temperatures will be up for a short while.  After all, it’s still winter; snow and ice will be back soon.

Most of us don’t realize how much damage clogged gutters can do to a house.  Let’s face it – gutters aren’t the most glamorous part of anyone’s home but they’re sure one of the most important.

Damage From Ice Dams Is Serious

Gutters keep water away from your home which is critical to maintaining the structure.  When they become clogged with leaves and grit they can do tremendous damage to exterior walls, cause inside wall leaks, start foundation leaks and even help to create the perfect setting for ice dams which seriously damages your roof.  Having a gutter guard system doesn’t eliminate the need for cleaning because while these systems keep out leaves, grit can still build up.

Getting your gutters cleaned is one of the least expensive maintenance items and, if you know how, you can do this yourself.  I’m not that adventurous so I always hired someone to do it.  If you’re in Bergen County and need a recommendation, just let me know.Frozen Gutter Brick Wall

Take advantage of our milder temperatures next week, get your gutters cleaned and avoid thousands in repair bills.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

January is radon month for me because this is when I focus on telling people about it.  Allow me to explain why I do this.

When you are buying a home, part of the process involves a home inspection.  Home inspections are usually done in 3 sections – structural, wood destroying pests and radon.  It’s easy for most home buyers to understand why they need a structural and pest inspection.  Radon is something most know nothing about but it’s extremely important.

Radon is a gas that occurs when uranium and radium breaks down in the soil or in rock formations.  As a result, it’s a normal natural process.  When this gas is released, it can build up to dangerous levels in a house.  Dangerous levels cause lung cancer.  Few homeowners know if their home has a safe level.  As a result radon is a leading cause of lung cancer.

Not only is it dangerous, it’s clear and odorless.  Because of this you can’t tell if your home has acceptable levels. The only way to discover if you do is to test for it.  This does not always happen as it should.

Home buyers rarely re-test after they’ve moved in.  There are also many people who purchased their home before it became a known issue.  Most have never tested to see if their home is safe from this dangerous gas. As a result, there are many people living in homes without accurate information on their exposure to this gas.

The good news is that you can solve a radon problem through contacting a licensed radon mitigation contractor.  This often involves a simple ventilation system in your basement.  Contractors typically install it in one day.

Bergen County Executive, Kathleen Donovan, announced that there will be a limited number of free radon testing kits for Bergen County residents on a first come first served basis this month.  Just call the Bergen County Department of Health Services at 201-634-2803 or stop by Room 103A, 327 E. Ridgewood Ave in Paramus to pick up your free testing kit.  Do this today to protect yourself and your family!

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

You won’t find tremendous differences when you compare 2009 to 2010 residential sales.  Let’s take a look at what the facts show us.

The difference between 2009 and 2010 wasn’t much county wide.  According to the New Jersey MLS there were only 58 fewer units.  We had 7,315 in 2009  and 7,257 in 2010.  The average sales price didn’t move much either.  It rose by only 2% in 2010 to $500,710.  This is very positive because what we don’t need are wild variations from instability.  2010 turned out to be a solid year for Bergen County’s housing market.

The truth is that real estate here pretty much stabilized.  As we begin 2011 the residential sales market is poised to move forward.  Let’s check out a few towns to see how we’re doing on a local level:

Tenafly did very well.  Sales units in Tenafly were down by 8% but the average sold price rose 4%.  Teaneck also turned in a strong performance – units were down 14% and average sales prices were up 8%.  On paper Dumont didn’t do as well with 6% less sales and a 6% drop in the average sales price but a good number of short sales were to blame.  Cresskill has a large inventory of luxury homes so I kept it to $1 million sales.  Through $1 million, Cresskill had 19% fewer units at only 1% less in the average sales price.

Bergen County beat the “prevailing wisdom” because of our proximity to Manhattan, excellent schools, good commuting and diverse economy.  While Wall Street and the financial markets do employ many of us, there’s more to the Bergen County job picture than stocks, bonds and trades.

We have 4 major hospital centers in Englewood, Hackensack, Ridgewood and Teaneck.  These medical centers employ large staffs of doctors, nurses and all sorts of support systems.  We also have many Fortune 500 corporations employing thousands too.  Major corporate parks for these companies are found in Englewood Cliffs, Montvale and Park Ridge.  Bergen County is the most populous county in New Jersey and one of the largest in the US with over 900,000 residents.

With all these advantages, it’s no wonder that things are better here.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

My family is made up of a variety of religions and backgrounds.  Families like mine are so typical of  Bergen County and the USA in general.  The US is truly a melting pot of all sorts of backgrounds,religions, etc.  As a result, we always considered our patchwork quilt of people pretty normal.

The family I grew up in was 100% Armenian.  My grandparents and 2 aunts were born overseas. I never knew 1 aunt.  She died as a youngster in a cholera epidemic.  My father’s family was so poor that they could not afford good medical care for her.  That was common for new immigrants in the early 20th century.  People came her from all over the world with literally nothing but their belongings.

The United States represented not only freedom but safety and opportunity too.  My family worked hard, pulled themselves up and became highly successful.  Why?  Because the United States of America allowed the opportunity to do so.  They managed through the Great Depression and proudly volunteered during World War II.  Business success came post WWII.

We went out into American society, met new people, we married and became a collection of different cultures.  This makes us stronger and more vibrant.  We became Americans.  No matter what hit us, we always knew that the chance to improve is here where we live – America.

We celebrate all holidays in December and welcome the coming New Year with an upbeat attitude.  While the tough times our country is going through has touched us too, I still believe in the strength of the American spirit and everything our country stands for.

Ok, I realize this may be a bit corny but it’s true.  The American grit and can do attitude has gotten us through a lot.  To quote George C. Scott in the movie Patton – “Failure is un American.”  The heart of the American spirit is that we don’t quit.  We work together blending all our cultures into a stronger country.

We’ve all been through a time of enormous challenge.  While it’s not going to get better quickly, it will indeed get better.  We will all prevail and the United States will remain the best place on earth.

2011 is going to be an improvement over 2010.   As a real estate agent, I am convinced we’re past the worst and are getting better every day.  The increase in buyer calls to the office, internet inquiries and traffic at open houses has been tremendous since mid November.  I’ll bet all of you a dinner on me that by the end of 2011 you’ll see that this is true.

Real estate is one of the key components of our economy.  When real estate recovers, the economy recovers.  People buy homes when they feel confident in the future.  As a result, the increase in home buyer traffic is a clear sign that we are on the mend.

Now I’m on to Christmas with my family.  I will be back to talk to you again after the first.  Thanks for tuning in and God Bless the United States.  We will never stay down forever.  Barbara