Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Bergen County Zoo SignIf you’re in Bergen County next Saturday, come to the Bergen County Zoo and enjoy a special day there – it’s the zoo’s 50th anniversary.  To celebrate, the zoo is offering free admission to all Bergen County residents from 10 am to 1 pm on Saturday August 14th.  Non residents will have a small fee.

With over 500 animals, a train, carousel, and pony rides, the zoo is a favorite spot for families.  Over 250,000 people visit the zoo annually and there are educational programs and activities all throughout the year for adults as well as children. 

During the summer the zoo has 3 live animal shows daily in the amphitheater and a unique exhibit called the Budgie Encounter.  Summer months also host Zoo Camp for children from 5 to 15.  Zoo Camp is a popular one week program that is always sold out. 

Located at the north end of Van Saun Park, the zoo is bordered by Paramus and River Edge.  However, people from every town in Bergen County come to the zoo so it doesn’t matter if you live in Tenafly, Dumont, Cresskill or River Vale – no matter where you are here, the zoo is a “must go” location and, if you can’t go to the zoo, the Bergen County Zoo will come to you.  The zoo has special programs for schools, organizations and senior living facilities too.  You can even book a birthday party at the zoo!

So come join us on the 14th and help celebrate the Bergen County Zoo as it turns half a century old.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

african art

SMA African Art Museum

Tenafly and African Art

It is pretty well acknowledged that Bergen County has an extremely diverse and eclectic population.  This is because we are made up of many different cultures, races and religions.

Here in Tenafly, we are home to the SMA African Art Museum,  I bet you didn’t expect a museum about African art in a suburban town.  It is here however.  The SMA African Art Museum is a fabulous place to have some fun and celebrate Africa.

Owned and operated by the Society of African Missions SMA Fathers, the museum is located on Bliss Street in Tenafly. It houses collections of masks, prints, sculpture, and fabrics.  These collections reflect a multitude of African cultures. This museum is one of a very few in the United States devoted exclusively to African art.

Museum Events

We are very fortunate to have this resource, a wonderful African art museum, right here in Tenafly. Upcoming events include a Festival on September 11th.

The Festival will celebrate East African culture.  Everyone who comes will really enjoy it.  Bring the entire family.  It’s a great opportunity to have fun while you learn about a culture.

Other museum events include a concert featuring African musical instruments.  There are other concerts as well.  Because this is a small museum your experience here is very intimate.  In spite of the concerts held here, the art remains the heart of this museum.

Tenafly is both a nice place to live and a cultural center.  This is because of it’s many cultural programs and events as well as it’s special venues.  Located in town are the Thurnauer School of Music, a theater company and art exhibits at the library.

I’ll keep you up to date on the wonderful things happening in town.  Come to the Festival and explore the other cultural offerings here.  It will enrich your life beyond measure.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe, Buying.

the bear facts in Tenafly

The Bear Facts in Tenafly

Did you ever believe you would live so close to one of the greatest cities in the world and see headlines like this:

Bear Just “Playing Through” NJ Suburbs

Well, this is what happened here in Tenafly this week, and in the surrounding towns. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen occasionally that we see wild animals in this beautiful area we live in. The bear is a very unusual visitor, but in Tenafly, it is not uncommon to see deer, and many beautiful birds. You will even see a wild turkey strolling through our green neighborhoods on occasion.

We don’t see the big fellows like that young bear very often for the simple fact that we are a community and wild animals don’t like to get too close to people. But we do live in a place where we can connect with nature and yet have the benefit of the city close by.

One of the truly great places to learn about all the natural beauty in our community is the Tenafly Nature Center. Stroll the paths, go birdwatching, or visit when they have family hikes organized. It is a great place to relax, and to really appreciate the beautiful world we live in.

By the way, the best thing you can do if you encounter a bear or any wild animal unexpectedly, is to remain calm, don’t run, don’t play dead, and don’t try to feed it.

It seems the bear was lost in Tenafly.   He should know that neighboring Bergenfield High School is the home of the bears!  So these are the bear facts in Tenafly.

Did you ever believe you would live so close to one of the greatest cities in the world and see headlines like this:

Bear Just “Playing Through” NJ Suburbs

Well, this is what happened here in Tenafly this week, and in the surrounding towns. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen occasionally that we see wild animals in this beautiful area we live in. The bear is a very unusual visitor, but in Tenafly, it is not uncommon to see deer, and many beautiful birds. You will even see wild turkey strolling through our green neighborhoods on occasion.

We don’t see the big fellows like that young bear very often for the simple fact that we are a community, and wild animals don’t like to get too close to people. But we do live in a place where we can connect with nature, and yet have the benefit of the city close by.

One of the truly great places to learn about all the natural beauty in our community is the Tenafly Nature Center. Stroll the paths, go birdwatching, or visit when they have family hikes organized. It is a great place to relax, and to really appreciate the beautiful world we live in.

By the way, the best thing you can do if you encounter a bear or any wild animal unexpectedly, is to remain calm, don’t run, don’t play dead, and don’t try to feed it.

It seems the bear was lost. He should know that neighboring Bergenfield High School is the home of the bears!

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

The real estate market in Bergen County outperformed the national market.  According to the report released this morning by the National Association of Realtors (and which is making headlines throughout the news media), June pending contracts are down by 2.6% from where they were in May.  This is not true for Bergen County.

New Jersey MLS data shows that we had 844 homes going under contract in May and 848 in June.  Where you will see declines are in July and August.  This typifies what happens every summer because real estate is still geared towards the school schedule. This is because it takes 50-60 days to close on a house.

If parents don’t register their children by mid August, their children will miss the first day of school in September.  As a result, parents can’t wait until July to find a home – it’s just too late.  For example, if you bought a home in Tenafly, you would need a minimum of 2 weeks to get your child registered today and 3 weeks is preferred.

Last year July had 139 fewer pendings but this year July is down by 101 so here too we’re doing better.  The bottom line is that real estate is always extremely local.  Despite today’s report from the NAR, the truth is that we’re doing all right.  The real estate market in Bergen County is in great shape.

Here is something else to consider too.  When the NAR looks at our area, it includes us with Passaic County for Northern NJ figures.  That is way to vast an area to be correct for what happens here.  It is not only physically too vast but included in Passaic are 2 large urban locations – Paterson and Passaic.  These cities are so large that they skew the figures.

As a result, it makes no sense to use NAR figures for Bergen County.  Many headline stories in the media are national in scope.  Because what happens in your real estate market is focused locally, this never works.  This is why it’s important to use our local MLS to understand the real estate market in Bergen County.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

a great local website

MyBergen.com is a Great Local Website

There’s a relatively new website that is all about Bergen County and what’s happening here.  Go to MyBergen.com and you’ll be amazed at all the information you’ll find there.  It is most definitely a great local website.

Today you’ll find a video on last month’s special Chamber of Commerce event in Westwood at their public library.  Called “A Taste of Westwood” this was a community event to raise funds for the Westwood Public Library and to support hospice.  If you take the time to watch it, you’ll get a real view of what it’s like to live in Bergen County.

I have to admit that as a mother I loved the Kid’s Corner.  This is where you’ll find all sorts of activities for children.  Recently there were 2 great events for children.  Robots in Upper Saddle River arrived in August and the New Jersey Children’s Museum in Paramus again had their Summer Fun Workshops.

MyBergen.com has a great calendar of what’s happening.  There are also tips on where to shop and where to eat.  If you’ve just moved to Bergen County, there’s a wonderful section for new residents titled New Movers.

Whether you’re a new resident or have been here for years, I’m sure you’ll find  MyBergen.com a great local website and a fun one too!

Posted by & filed under Buying.

lines of creditQualifying for a mortgage loan requires a good credit history.  Banks want a proven record of responsible financial behavior and lines of credit answer this requirement.  It’s not enough to use a mortgage loan calculator to figure your mortgage payment amount, you need to demonstrate that you can handle credit successfully.

What is a line of credit?  A line of credit (aka credit line) is when a bank grants an unsecured loan amount.  Unlike a regular loan, interest is only charged on how much of the credit line you use.  For example, a department store credit card has a limit of $500.  That’s your line of credit.  You spend $50 which leaves $450 left on your line of credit to use.  When the bill comes, if you pay it off in full, there’s no interest charged.  If you don’t pay it in full, the amount you owe incurs a credit charge.

Harry Vanezis, Vice President and Senior Loan Officer at Bank of America, said that for mortgage loans, banks consider a car loan/lease and rent/mortgage payments as lines of credit too.  Harry advises that you get a bank and department store card.  “Charge your gas every other month on the bank card and use the other for gift purchases but pay off the bill in full when it arrives so you don’t incur ilines of creditnterest expenses” said Harry.  “If you do this and pay your other bills in full and on time, you’ll have an excellent credit history.”  While 4 lines of credit are best, 3 will work if your other credentials are strong.

Amazing as it is, paying cash for everything makes getting a mortgage difficult because you have no verifiable record of good financial behavior.  Prudent and regular use of lines of credit creates an excellent credit history.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

Fannie Mae

June began a new requirement from Fannie Mae.  Mortgage applicants must now have their credit checked 3 days before closing.  If there are any significant changes, the terms may be adjusted or the mortgage may actually be cancelled.  While this may sound harsh, it also makes sense.

When you apply for a mortgage, your credit, debt and assets are checked.  The bank wants to verify that your credit history shows that you are a responsible person and your income, debt and assets are enough to allow you to comfortably carry the expenses.

Once you get your mortgage commitment, nothing should change.  You should be just as credit worthy on the day you close as you were when you first applied for your mortgage.  Fannie Mae is just checking to make sure.

Before the sub prime mortgage market existed, this was a normal part of the process.  Fannie Mae found that a good number of people abused the system by being irresponsible or committing outright fraud.  By requiring this verification just before closing, Fannie Mae is hoping to avoid such trouble.

In the past, some people actually took out other loans just before closing because they knew they’d never qualify once the mortgage closed and was on their credit record.  So, they got a car on a loan, bought an appliance on credit etc. and sometimes even quit a job just before closing on a house.  This sort of irresponsible behavior often ended up in foreclosure.

I agree with this.  Fannie Mae is taking the right approach because this goes a long way to ensure the integrity of the mortgage system.  It also protects buyers from over burdening themselves with debt.  It does no one good when a home ends up in foreclosure.  So is Fannie Mae making life impossible for buyers?  Not at all.

Posted by & filed under Homeowner Tips.

The NJ Senior Citizen Property Tax Freeze is a wonderful solution for many seniors.  It can make the difference between staying in your home or having to move out.

Property taxes are a major reason why senior citizens sell their Bergen County homes.  The cost of ownership for people who are on a retirement income often becomes a burden they cannot handle.  When they bought their family home many years ago, they had a working income.  Things change when they retire and no longer have that income.  Their home becomes too expensive even when the mortgage is paid off.

Property taxes are a big part of the problem.  New Jersey has high property taxes.  To make matters worse, those taxes go up every year for nearly all owners.  This makes it increasingly difficult for senior homeowners to afford their home.  To help out, the State of New Jersey has a property tax freeze program for those seniors who qualify,  Known as the Senior Freeze the deadline to apply has been extended until August 2nd.

You go to the State of New Jersey’s Property Tax Reimbursement website where you’ll find all the information.  This program, known as the Senior Freeze, stops property tax increases for those who qualify.  This is difficult for many seniors who are not computer savvy.  A good place to turn to is your local library.  Research librarians will help you out.  I’ll be glad to help too so just call me up at 201-741-8490.

As in all things relating to your finances and taxes, I suggest that you contact your accountant for guidance.  You can also call your attorney for a legal perspective.  I believe you should consult both so you understand it completely.  But one thing’s for sure – if you’re a senior citizen, you want to check this out before the August deadline.  The Senior Citizen Property Tax Freeze might be something you qualify for and if so, it’s a blessing.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

One of the wonderful things about owning a Bergen County home is how close you are to so many things.  Every season has it’s sports and activities.  Bergen County is always within an easy 1-2 hour drive which makes for lots of fun family trips.  This is particularly true when we get to beach weather.

When people come here to buy a home in Bergen County they often ask “How easy is it to get to the city?”  They are concerned with transportation to New York City.  Once they live in a Bergen County home, however, they soon ask about other things.  When beach weather arrives they’ll ask “How long does it take to get to the beach?”

With the summer season just beginning, it’s time to think of going to the Jersey Shore.  Actually, you never say you’re going TO the shore.  Here in Bergen County we say we’re going DOWN the shore.  That’s because Bergen County homes are north of the shore so our famous beaches are south of where we live.

Point Pleasant NJ is a very popular destination and it’s close.  It’s only a short 90 minutes from your front door whether you live in Tenafly, Paramus or Ridgewood or anywhere else in our county.  Just hop on the Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike.  You’ll find that sooner than you’d think you’ll be on the beautiful sandy beaches of the New Jersey Shore.

Every year New Jersey Monthly Magazine publishes it’s annual shore guide.  This is one issue you do not want to miss.  From Atlantic City to Sea Girt and beyond you’ll find everything you need to know about what’s happening down the New Jersey shore this season.  Once you read it, you can plan your next trip down the shore from your Bergen County home!

Posted by & filed under Homeowner Tips.

Make That Red Brick Fireplace Beautiful

Does this look familiar?  red brick fireplace

If it does, then you”re like many people who’ve bought an older, charming colonial home in Bergen County.  Along with the home you got a red brick fireplace in the living room that you figured you’d fix in the future.  This is often seen in towns with large inventories of charming colonial homes like Tenafly or Teaneck or Ridgewood.  An article I read in Lowes “Creative Ideas” magazine recently showed how you can transform that old red brick quickly and affordably.

Lowes has a special program for real estate agents.  I’ve found it to be a great help for my clients and it’s taught me a lot.  Recered brick fireplacently there was an article in “Creative Ideas” that solved this problem.  This was done by resurfacing the existing red brick with a combination of tile and slate.   This created an amazing, beautiful effect immediately.  As a result, the entire room’s ambiance changed from dated to fresh and modern.

This fireplace was an old, stained, red brick unit and then the Lowes team went to work  with a combination of tile and slate.  You can, of course, use other tile and stone materials but the change is certainly remarkable.  No structural renovations were needed to make this fireplace a modern showpiece.

If you’d like to get “Creative Ideas” you can go to http://www.Lowes.com   Or you can get in touch with me for the full real estate agent benefits program.  Lowes has many simple and affordable solutions to design problems for homeowners.  You’ll also find a lot of good tips from commercial painters for a wide range of things from gardening to indoor insulation.

The bottom line is that you can refinish that old red brick fireplace into a modern showplace.  It will be a lot easier and more affordable than you’d expect too.  So go to Lowes and make that red brick fireplace beautiful.