Posted by & filed under Buying, Homeowner Tips.

You don’t have to own a home in Tenafly to know what’s happening there.  Go to the town website.  That’s all you have to do.  The Borough of Tenafly website is where you’ll discover that Tenafly is doing a revaluation right now.

Let’s say you’re thinking of buying a home in Englewood.  You see that many of the homes there are from the early 20th century so you’d like to know about the city’s history.  Go to the City of Englewood website where you’ll find the Historic Englewood page This page will take you from Englewood’s earliest days to the present.  The information there is incredibly fascinating.

The River Vale website is the place to go for local events.  It’s always on their home page.   Park Ridge and Westwood do this too along with many other local communities.  You may find important changes on a town’s home page.  Because of this it’s important to check your town  website from time to time.  Westwood began registering it’s various Recreation Department activities online this year.  This new change is announced on it’s home page.

Town websites help tremendously when you need a form because they allow a download.  This saves you a trip to the Borough Hall.

Here’s a perfect example for you.  You want to put up a fence on your property and you live in Cresskill.  To do this you must send a permit to the Building Department.  You find the fence permit form on the Cresskill Boro website and download it.  What could be easier?  Some towns like Tenafly actually have a step by step guide for you when it comes to getting a permit  Tenafly makes the entire process understandable as a result.

Many community sites have portions of their building codes right on their websites.  Old Tappan has their entire borough code online.

You may be amazed at how much information can be found on a town website.  If you’re thinking of buying a home or if you’re a Bergen County resident now, check out the borough website.

Don’t forget about the County’s website too.  There is an overwhelming amount of information on the Bergen County Website

Posted by & filed under Buying.

Mortgage terms are easing for luxury homes which will significantly help this market recover.

While the real estate market in Bergen County has been recovering nicely since late last year, the luxury market has not.  Sales of high end homes has been one of the less robust parts of the market because of financing.  Financing for upper tier homes all but disappeared in 2008.  This was a large part of the problem.  When banks began to loan on luxury homes the terms were often highly objectionable.  As a result, the luxury home market has been having a hard time.

There is a segment of that market which is immune to the economy.  Premier luxury homes at the highest level are in a class by themselves.  Typically cash purchases, homes at this level are  bought and sold by people of such vast wealth that they rise about what’s happening in the world economy.  In our area this would be purchases at or above $5 million.

Jumbo loans and super jumbo loans were not only hard to get but their down payment requirements went through the roof.  If you wanted to purchase a $2 million house you had to come up with as much as a 50% down payment.  Requirements of 40-45% were standard for up to $2 million purchases.  As a result it’s easy to see why these terms were objectionable.  This has changed because mortgage terms are easing for luxury homes now.

Today I can report to you that only a 20% down payment is required for $1-2 million homes and just a 25% down payment for a $2-3 million purchase.  Of course this assumes the buyer is qualified as to credit, assets, etc.

This change bodes well for affluent buyers and the luxury home market.  With more liberal jumbo loan financing the market for high end luxury homes is now becoming more active.  According to the New Jersey MLS data, we have an 18% increase in the number of homes sold at $2 million or above for the first 4 months of this year.  Better mortgage loan terms for luxury home buyers is indeed positive for the Bergen County real estate market.

Posted by & filed under Selling.

A major source of stress for people who are selling their home is the home inspection.  No matter how well you’ve maintained your house, there can be unpleasant surprises.   It’s smart to pre-empt a buyer by doing a pre listing inspection before the home is listed for sale.

Buying a home is often the biggest purchase buyers make in their lifetime.  Home inspections are additionally stressful for buyers because most are ill equipped for even minor home repairs.  This is because of a sociological shift.

Most homeowners are older than their buyers.  These are 2 different generations.  The majority of sellers had parents who came through the Depression.  Their parents didn’t call the plumber because they fixed things themselves.  What sellers heard growing up was “We’ll make do with what we have.”

Their younger generation buyers grew up in a very different world.  They never  or hardly ever saw parents with a screwdriver trying to fix something.  This generation did not see Dad putting together a tricycle for them with 1,000 small parts because he didn’t have to.  They drove plastic Big Wheels or Dad paid a small fee to have a more conventional tricycle assembled.  As a result this generation is often not comfortable with any work required on a home because it’s not within their experience.

We have 2 different worlds combining on a home purchase.  Sellers do not understand why something they see as a minor fix is upsetting to their buyer.  I think this explains why things get out of perspective so quickly.

It hurts a seller more to have a failed contract than it does a buyer.  The seller must put his house back on the market and statistically the next offer that comes along is at least 2-3% lower.  This cost is much higher than a buyer’s home inspection.  As a result the seller loses much more.

By getting the house inspected by a professional home inspector, issues likely to come up are uncovered.  Homeowners can repair them or get estimates from contractors.  Either way, they’ll be prepared and that puts a homeowner in a good position.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

summer camp  Two towns in the Pascack Valley have come together as a team to offer their residents all options for summer day camp.  If you have a Hillsdale home or a River Vale home, you now have the choice of full or half day summer camp for your children.  Each town will accept the other’s children on an equal footing with their own residents which serves to share both town’s resources and fully answer’s homeowner needs.

River Vale has a half day summer program and Hillsdale has a full day summer camp.  This is truly innovative because most homeowners are stuck with only one choice – whatever their town has to offer.  By sharing their resources, both Hillsdale and River Vale have given their families with children an unbeatable situation.  This is just another example of why our suburban lifestyle keeps  Bergen County homes  in high demand.

If you have a school aged child and need a summer camp placement, go to the Hillsdale website for full day and the River Vale website for half day placements.  Whether you’re looking at Hillsdale homes or River Vale homes you know you’ve got summer camp covered!

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

If you own a Bergen County home or anywhere else in the New York City area, the past few months were a challenge indeed.  Winter weather in Bergen County was very unusual this year.  We had multiple storms that wreaked havoc throughout the NYC area and Bergen County was right in the middle of things.    bergen county homes

One snow storm after another for weeks on end with even a full blown blizzard gave us over 30 inches of snow.  Once that melted then we had a series of rain storms culminating in a vicious nor’easter that came with winds at hurricane force toppling tree limbs and entire trees  knocking out power with such drenching rain that many local towns resembled lakes or raging rivers.  We had 7 inches of rain within 24 hours.  It was so bad that Bergen County and 11 other counties in New Jersey were declared Federal Disaster Areas.

Bergen County homes suffered with days of power outages, flooded basements, cars smashed by trees, 100 year old trees strewn across lawns like  toothpicks or thrown across a roof ripping it to shreds and impassable streets everywhere.  Because of this mess, the IRS has delayed tax day to May 11th from the traditional April 15th date.  So if you own a Bergen County home, you’re getting additional time to file your taxes from both the IRS and the State of New Jersey.  Of course you should consult with your tax preparer to make sure of things but tax day for Bergen County homes this year is May 11th.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

westside Englewood homesEnglewood homes are highly prized for their gracious old world charm.  The East Hill is famous for its many grand estates that are surrounded by towering oak trees, 15 foot high native rhododendrons and flowering fruit trees.  Such beauty and ambiance is not only found on East Hill acre estates; west side Englewood homes are equally beautiful just on a smaller scale.

Traditional colonial and Tudor style homes with gorgeous woodwork framed by 30-40 foot trees are in abundance here.  Many of these Englewood homes also feature stained glass windows, gorgeous inlaid wood floors and chestnut trim.  Traditional floor plans create ideal flows for entertaining and the friendly neighborhoods are exceptionally stable – turnover isn’t high here because people love living here.  In fact it’s not at all unusual to see people stay in their Englewood home for decades after their children have grown up and moved on.  As a result you’ll find long time residents on every street as well as new young families.

A perfect example is my listing at 315 Katherine Street.  This traditional colonial is located on a hidden street – ask mowestside Englewood homesst folks and they’ve never heard of Katherine Street and when you try to find 315 Katherine Street 07601 on your GPS you are bound to get lost.  This 1 block long street is at the end of St Nicholas Street which is itself a dead end.  Extremely quiet with 100 year old trees, it’s as if you’re on a country lane yet you’re only a 15 minute drive to New York City.

Englewood homes on the west side are also quite affordable as far as Bergen County homes are concerned – at an asking price of $345,000 this 3 bedroom 1.5 bath home sits on a 50 X 110 lot in a terrific location.   Come see 315 Katherine Street – you’ll be glad you did!

Posted by & filed under Buying.

If you’re a typical home buyer you’ll be on the web looking at all the real estate websites gathering information on homes for sale.  It’s really very easy to get plenty of information on the real estate market through the internet but its not very easy to get information on the communites where the homes are located or to get a feeling for a town.  If you’re thinking of buying a Westwood home  New Jersey Monthly Magazine will help you. 

New Jersey Monthly Magazine  has a simply great article on taking a day trip to Westwood that highlights the business district and all it has to offer.  Westwood has one of the best local business districts in Bergen County which has a very positive impact on the value of Westwood homes.  Many of the local stores, restaurants and boutiques have been in Westwood for decades and have gone through several generations of owners.  Westwood homes are always in high demand and the many features this town has to offer is a big reason why.  You can find more information on Westwood at the Borough Website at http://www.westwoodnj.gov/

Posted by & filed under Buying.

Short sales explained in a terrific new book.

Inman News is the leading source of news for the real estate industry.  I receive it’s news updates twice daily and this afternoon short sales there was a book review on a new book that I thought would be of great use to any home owner who is thinking of selling his home as a short sale.

The book is titled “How to Use A Short Sale to Stop Home Foreclosure and Protect Your Finances”.  What I liked about it was the clear way the material is presented.  The reviewer, Tara-Nicholle Nelson,emphasized that the author made everything involved in a short sale easily understandable.

Short sales can be a great solution to avoid foreclosure.  This book is a great help because what I’ve observed is that most homeowners and real estate agents simply don’t understand them.

I’d also recommend that any home buyer who is thinking about purchasing a short sale get this book.  From what Ms. Nelson wrote in her review, the material is very comprehensive and a lot of it would also help to educate a buyer.  You can get it at Amazon and the 2 reviews there were positive.

Get this excellent book so you have short sales explained in depth and understandably.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Englewood trolley

Trolley service is back.  Use the Englewood trolley to commute from your home.

Trolley service was  used in Bergen County until the advent of the Automobile Age in the 50’s and 60’s which made them seem old fashioned and restrictive.  You could drive anywhere in a car at any time – not so with the trolley.  Another change was development of large scale shopping malls on Route 4 and Route 17.  The Bergen Mall and Garden State Plaza were the first major shopping malls opening in the late 50’s.  People flocked to these new malls in their cars.  Even with a great business district locally, if you owned an Englewood home, chances were that you drove to these malls.

In the affluence of the post World War II era, the American Dream of owning a home with your own backyard and a car in the driveway took over.  Soon even public buses  linking all 70 communities in Bergen County became a thing of the past.  People went everywhere in their cars.  I remember watching trolley tracks being paved over on Broad Avenue in Leonia when I was a young girl.  Everyone was proud of how “modern” Leonia now appeared.  But, times have changed and trolley service is one of the advantages of owning an Englewood home.

Green is in which means using public transportation to commute to work, shop and dine out is  more important than ever.  People who are thinking of buying a home now use such websites as Walk Score to measure how accessible homes are to basic services.

In December of 2008 the City of Englewood began an experiment – free trolley service to the downtown business district where an Englewood resident could connect to NJ Transit and Coach USA express buses to work.  In addition to  normal rush hours, the trolley operates until 8 pm during the work week so commuters can shop and dine downtown on their way home at night.  (Saturdays it runs from 1 to 8 pm).  Having this free service is quite an advantage if you own an Englewood home.

The Englewood trolley experiment has been a huge success and is another benefit for Englewood homes.  For more information , Englewood has a detailed brochure and a map of the trolley line .

Posted by & filed under Buying.

home buyer tax creditClaim Your Home Buyer Tax Credit with IRS Form 5405

On January 15th the IRS released a new form for home buyers who want to claim the tax credit when they file their taxes this year.  This is Form 5405.  Form 5405 is a revision of the previous 2009 First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit.  This is so that the current 2010 Home Buyer Tax Credit program is covered.

I would like to point out 2 important changes:

  1. You MUST include documentation such as your RESPA closing statement along with Form 5405.
  2. You must file manually.

Because there is more documentation required your tax return must be filed manually.  This applies to both a repeat and a first time home buyer who are claiming the tax credit.  Remember that both more documentation and manual filing is what you’ll have to do.

For more information, just go to the IRS website .  It’s really not hard to take care of this and since you will have purchased your home recently, it shouldn’t be difficult to access your RESPA closing statement.  As always, I recommend that you consult with a tax professional.

The home buyer tax credit is a benefit of home ownership.  Make sure you do what’s required so you get this advantage.