Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

We’re now past one December holiday (Hannukah) and about to land on Christmas.  Soon parents of young children have that 10 day period of vacation time looming in front of them.  The question is always “What do we do with the kids?”

This reminds me of the Staples TV ad from years ago.  It showed a gleeful parent throwing school supplies into the cart with a very glum child.  The parent was shouting “They’re going back!”  For many parents what do we do with the kids is a real problem.

Weather is often a challenge too.  Outside it’s cold and damp.  I don’t know about you but I am not enthusiastic about being outside now.  You meed a great indoor activity.  Why not take them to a local museum?

For children from 1 to 8 there’s the New Jersey Museum for Children right in Paramus.  They’re closed on Mondays but open the rest of the week.  Because we have 2 holiday weekends this month I’d check their schedule.  This is a great place for the kids and they even do birthday parties.  Their exhibits are so much fun for children as they learn and use their imagination.  I like this museum a lot because its focused solely on our youngest children.  It’s not easy to find a facility for the little ones exclusively.

For children of all ages (and adults too) there’s Liberty Science Center  in Jersey City.  It’s an easy ride down the Turnpike to Exit 14.  It takes no more than 1 hour to get to from anywhere in Bergen County. It’s really a snap to get to and there’s a big bonus.  You have a stunning view of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline from the parking lot.  They have a special exhibit that runs till January 9th on the ice age and woolly mammoths.  This current exhibit has received rave reviews.

Another good idea is your local nature center.  Many have special events for the holiday vacation week as do many local libraries all aimed at children.  And, of course, across the Hudson River is New York City.  You may not think of NYC as a local museum destination but it’s no further than Jersey City.

The Museum of Natural History is a favorite with children of all ages and adults like it too.  Because it’s located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it’s easy to get to.  I took my son there many times when he was little.  I made a point of getting there early so there was room in the parking lot.  You enter on 81st Street between Columbus and Central Park West.  The lot is more convenient and less expensive than commercial lots.

Take the kids to a local museum while they’re off from school.  They’ll have fun learning and you’ll enjoy it too.  If you need more ideas, just contact me through my website. or you can call me at 201-741-8490.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

It’s not too late to catch a toy train show in Bergen County.  Every year from Thanksgiving through mid December there are train shows throughout the Bergen County area.  Most occur just before or just after Thanksgiving.  It’s not too late to catch one because the The Montvale Train Show is coming up this weekend.

Held this Sunday, December 19th, at St. Joseph High School on Chestnut Ridge Road in Montvale, it’s very easy to get to and right off Exit 172 of the Garden State Parkway.  There is an admission charge of $6 but children under 10 years of age get in free.  For all of the details, just go to their website.

If this weekend doesn’t work for you, the “Big Daddy” of all holiday train shows is at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.  One of the great advantages of living in Bergen County is how close we are to New York City.  From my home in Englewood, it’s only a 30 minute drive away.  If you live in the most northern end of Bergen County such as Mahwah or Allendale or on the west edge in Franklin Lakes or Oakland, the Botanical Garden is only another 15 minutes on the highway.  This train show is an all day event and it’s so popular that you need to make reservations in advance.  You’ll find all the information if you visit their website .  This model train show runs through January 9th.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Paramus New Jersey Is A Shopping Mall Paradise

Now that Thanksgiving is past, the annual holiday shopping season is in full swing.  Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, and Christmas dominate the December holiday buying season.  We also have Kwanza  and that is also a significant holiday this month.  With all the parties, events and home entertaining that goes on in December it’s no wonder that this is a busy time of year.

Bergen County is famous for it’s concentration of shopping malls located on Route 17 and Route 4 in Paramus.  There is one major mall right on the border, Riverside Square.  This major mall is actually in Hackensack although none of the shoppers going there know it.  No matter where you live in Bergen County, you’re no more than a 10-15 minute drive to a major shopping center.  This is truly a shopping mall paradise.

Right on Route 4 you’ll find the very upscale Shops at Riverside and the discount mall Bergen Town Center and a minute or two west at the intersection of Route 4 and Route 17 is the Garden State Plaza which is one of the largest shopping malls in the New York metro area.  Further up Route 17 is the Fashion Center and the Paramus Park Mall although connecting all of these are countless other local malls.

In addition to the major malls and countless others on the Paramus highways you have other options too.  Major local shopping centers with national brands exist in robust local town business districts.  Englewood has a bustling downtown with The Gap, Starbucks, Ann Taylor, Chicos and more.  Ridgewood has the most extensive business district in Bergen County that is peppered with 4 star restaurants.  Westwood is much smaller but boasts stores that are into 2nd and 3rd generation owners.

Paramus remains the epicenter of shopping however.  If you need to “shop till you drop” Bergen County has will make you smile!

Posted by & filed under Buying.

Are you shopping for a new home?  Whether it’s in River Vale, Tenafly, Dumont or Englewood the tax information that your agent can get you is invaluable; possibly the most important item is the Tax Assessor Map.

You might ask now What on earth is that?  Each town is divided into blocks on each block are lots.  The property the house is on has an address of it’s own by block and lot.  For example, if your home is on 20 Maple Street, it has a specific block and lot number.  Let’s say you’re on the north side of Maple Street and that’s Block 1403 and on Block 1403 there are 12 lots and 20 Maple is lot 9.  The property identification is by Block and Lot would be Block 1403, Lot 9.

The New Jersey MLS has tax maps for all towns in Bergen County and also many other counties as well.  Tax maps display property dimensions of the lot and can also reveal some other very important items such as easements, streams or irregular lot lines that may not be disclosed in the listing.  Before you make any offer at all, your agent needs to check the NJMLS Tax Assessor Map to see what, if anything, is there.  Below is an example of a Right of Way.  It’s actually on Lot 9 and you can also see that the property lines on Lot 9 are very irregular too.

It’s entirely up to you whether or not an easement, irregular property line, right of ways, etc. is acceptable but what’s not acceptable is not having the information at hand.  The NJMLS helps by having the Tax Assessor Map available – when shopping for a home, make good use of it.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Dumont homes are always in demand; the Dumont real estate market is one of the most active in Bergen County.  Not only is there a lot of “in house” demand, Dumont also represents a lot of value for out of town home buyers too.

Even with a population of 16,590 people, Dumont is decidedly small town in it’s feeling with a strong community spririt and well attended town events that bring folks together.  Every fall Dumont Day is a huge happening from the morning through fireworks at night with thousands of people attending.

In fact, many multi generational families live here.  Children come back as adults to purchase their home.  In selling homes in Dumont I’ve seen this many times over the years.

The real estate market for Dumont homes is strong for out of town buyers because houses here are moderately priced, schools are great, there’s express bus commuting to New York City and the business district has everything you need.

For both 2009 and 2010, the difference between asking and selling prices is 5% but homes are on the market fewer days in 2010 (68 to 74).  This is significant because new banking regulations in 2010  make mortgage processing take much longer.   This can only mean that homes are selling quicker this year.

At the same time, the average sales price is down by 6% due to more sales under $250,000 (13 as opposed to 4 in 2009) and none above $500,000 where we had 4 last year.  Still demand is up shown by less time on the market and consistently strong for sale to under contract ratios plus we have close to 20 homes under contract a lot of which will close this year.

I expect the final 2010 figures to be better.  There is no doubt that we are past the bottom and are in full recovery mode.  2011 will be an even better year for Dumont homes.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe, Buying.

Alpine NJ  Alpine New Jersey is well known as one of the world’s most affluent communities where magnificent estate residences are hidden in heavily wooded settings only 15 minutes from New York City.  While Alpine NJ is certainly one of the most exclusive and highly prized locations, it also has a rich history dating back to before the American Revolutionary War.

New Alpine residents soon discover a spectacular nature preserve that hosts a boat basin and a 1700’s pub – The Kearney House..  This 18th century establishment has a colorful past and is the scene of  many dining and other events.  Open to the public from May through October, there are also special events during the colder months.  In fact, November is a busy time at the Kearney House with “Short Stories for Long Nights” on the 21st and Thanksgiving Time on the 27th and 28th.

Kearney House activities are so popular that they are often sold out;  it’s a good idea to plan early.  Located along the Hudson River by the Alpine Boat Basin, you are transported into another world the moment you drive down to the river.  Imagine taking your children out to a candle light dinner in this historic tavern only 10 minutes from your Alpine. home.   It’s a wonderful way to teach them about how people lived during the past.  General Cornwallis is said to have stayed there in 1776.

Listed on the National and New Jersey Historic Registers as the Blackledge-Kearney House, you can keep on top of what’s happening at Mrs. Kearney’s house through a calendar of events or by calling the Palisades Interstate Park at 201-768-1360.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

rabies shotsThe Bergen County Animal Shelter has a great free program for pet owners who are residents of Bergen County – during certain times of each month you can go to their facility and get free rabies shots for your pet.  From 3:30 to 5 pm on the following Thursdays, you can bring your pet in for this free service:  November 18th, December 2nd and December 16th.

The Bergen County Animal Shelter is located in Teterboro at 100 United Lane.  You can reach them by phone at 201-229-4600 or by email at shelter@co.bergen.nj.us  You need to call them before bringing your pet to the shelter for a rabies shot because you may have to bring in documentation from prior shots and/or other information.

There are many great animals there waiting for someone to love them so if you’re thinking of bringing home a new pet, please visit the animal shelter where you’ll find many fine furry friends.  There are dogs and cats of course but you can also find birds, ferrets and others too.  Adopted pets make wonderful additions to your family and seem to love you even more – it’s almost as if they understand they’ve been rescued.

So be sure to take advantage of the free rabies shots at the Bergen County Animal Shelter.  It will keep your pet safe as well as everyone else.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

The premier newspaper in Bergen County is the The Record.  Kathleen Lynn is one of their top reporters and she focuses on our real estate market.  Today Kathleen published a terrific article.  She went over figures from both Standard & Poor’s Case-Schiller index and the local Multiple Listing Services.  She gives you a very insightful view of home prices.

What she found is very interesting and positive.  Comparing the real estate market from August 2009 to August 2010, she found that home prices rose 10.2% in Bergen County but “the number of sales dropped about 24%”.  Ms. Lynn’s bottom line on the housing market is that while prices got a kick from the home buyer tax credit, activity fell off once the program ended.  Frankly this was no surprise; many home buyers bought houses earlier than they would have to take advantage of the tax credit.  Just ask a mortgage banker how busy he was processing home loans in May and June.

I find this report to be positive simply because the comparison showing prices are up is for the month of August.

To qualify for the tax credit, you had to close on your home by June 30th.  Yes, there was an extension but it wasn’t authorized by Congress until late at night on June 30th after almost every tax credit home buyer had bought their new house.  The extension really helped people who were delayed by banks on short sales and REO transactions.  August closings had nothing to do with the tax credit push and in spite of 24% fewer transactions prices still rose by 10.2% from the year before.  That’s positive!

On a personal note, I have always found Kathleen Lynn’s articles to be excellent.  I have a tremendous respect for how carefully she researches and analyzes the market.  She often updates how home prices are doing.  You can read her entire article at http://tinyurl.com/KLynnHomePrices  If you want good information on the Bergen County housing market I encourage you to read the Real Estate Section in the Sunday edition of the The Record and to look for more articles by Kathleen Lynn.  You can get The Record online by going to www.NorthJersey.com

Posted by & filed under Buying.

fha logoFHA mortgage loans are extremely important to the real estate industry.  The FHA insures, on average, 30% of all mortgages in the US.  Something like 70% of all first time home buyers use FHA loans.  As a result any change, no matter how slight, in FHA policy is big news.

The FHA announced new credit requirements for mortgages on October 4th.  The bar has been raised for home buyers.  Buyers must have at least a 580 credit score now to get a 3.5% down loan. Home buyers with FICO  scores of 500-579 must have at least a 10% down payment.   Credit scores less than 500 won’t get a FHA loan.  You’re simply out of luck.

The up front mortgage insurance premium was reduced from 2.25% to 1% and the limit on annual premium increases was raised from .55% to 1.55%

Some people criticized the FHA for making it tougher to get a loan.  Steve Bergsman is a free lance journalist.  He wrote an excellent article on these changes for Inman News.  He quotes an expert as saying that while only 2% of all FHA borrowers have FICO scores under 580, 27% of them default.  Ouch!

I believe that what should be criticized are the wide FHA mortgage ratios allowed.  What about allowing up to 55% of your gross income to qualify for a FHA mortgage?  I think that’s a disaster in the making.  How can it make sense to spend close to 75% of your take home pay on your mortgage?  That’s how the 55% works out.  Because of these wider ratios more defaults are possible.

Emi Kalici is our Weichert Financial Services mortgage banker.  Emi feels, as I do, that what the FHA has just done is irresponsible.  She said that WFS has a better way.

Weichert Financial Services is a licensed FHA underwriter so we can be more relaxed with FICO scores for our Weichert buyers.  This is a whole lot better for financially able people than widening their ratios recklessly.

It’s important to remember what created the financial crisis.  The crisis came from irresponsible credit.  Weichert Financial is right because widening ratios is wrong.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

haunted forest Bring your children or yourself this Saturday or Sunday night to the Tenafly Nature Center for their special event – the Haunted Forest.  It’s a fun and educational tour that is absolutely not scary.  After all, this is primarily created for children but animal loving adults will also enjoy it.  This program is both a lot of fun and educational as are all the programs at the Tenafly Nature Center.

If you come early, you”ll get to meet some live forest animals and when the sun goes down, you’ll go on a guided tour of the nature center forest where you’ll learn how the animals adapt to the night.  Once your walking tour is over, you and your family can enjoy refreshments and crafts around the campfire.  This is a fabulous family fun evening and one your children will remember.

The Tenafly Nature Center runs many excellent programs for children as well as adults.  Very often they are sold out although there are still spots available for the Haunted Forest right now.  Call the Tenafly Nature Center now at 201-568-6093 to reserve your spot for the Haunted Forest.  When my son was little, the Tenafly Nature Center was a large part of our life in Tenafly.  It’s a great place and only gets better.  For a complete list of their public programs, click here.

haunted forest