Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

adopt a dog

Adopt a dog.  Say Hi to Elton!

Begen County is filled with families and children. There are many great facilities for kids which I’ll be talking about but I also want to feature some of the pets waiting for adoption here because we have many pet facilities where you can get a great pet.

Very often after a family moves into their new home, they get a pet and that usually means a dog or a cat. Many home buyers buy a home and then get a dog because they are coming from apartments or the city where having a pet is not easy or allowed. There are so many wonderful dogs and cats in our animal shelters and here’s one who’s on the Urgent List at The Bergen County Animal Shelter which means poor Elton doesn’t have a lot of time left on this earth.

Because so many families have lost their jobs or their homes or both, the animal shelters are overwhelmed. Bergen County has a large facility but they can’t handle the inflow and euthanize animals. If you know of anyone who’s looking for a good pet, take a look at Elton.

Fostering a pet is also something that’s urgently needed and it gives you a good chance to see if you and a dog are a good match. I know of many good pet organizations in Bergen County where you can get advice, help and obedience classes so that you and your new dog can bond properly. Take a look at Elton – you’ll be glad you did.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy mortgages which means that they guarantee them. Without the backing of Fannie and Freddie, mortgage lenders have to find other investors to sell their mortgage loans to and those investors charge more so interest rates are higher. Fannie and Freddie backed mortgages are called conforming; the others are called jumbo. The limit on a conforming mortgage is $417,000 but that is about to change.

There’s also an intermediate level which is a special allowance for higher cost areas like Bergen County. Such mortage loans are at $417,000 – $625,000 with moderately higher interest rates than conforming loans. This is a super conforming loan but marketing folks have coined the phrases Jumbo and Super Jumbo. You’ll see a Jumbo Mortgage at $417-625,000 and Super Jumbo above $625,000.

OK, now you should have a good basic idea of how things work. Here’s where it gets interesting:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are increasing the conforming mortgage loan limits to $729,750 on May 4th. This came about due to the economic stimulus package which was signed into law on February 17th. Wells Fargo will start taking applications for these loans on Monday, April 27th and I’m sure other banks will begin before May 4th too.

New Jersey MLS data shows that the 2008 average sales price for a single family home in Bergen County was $570,217. Even with a 20% down payment, this put a buyer into jumbo loan territory. In several towns it was often impossible for many buyers to qualify and is part of the reason that upper mid range homes have had such a hard time.

In the upper mid range market, it’s really been tough due to the restrictions on conforming loans. Loosening up lending for these homes creates more buyers for sellers. For real estate in Bergen County this is huge. Bergen County is the 18th most affluent county in the US; many of our towns have been severely impacted by the $417,000 limit and even $625,000 didn’t quite work.

For example, Tenafly had an average sales price last year of $915,581, Old Tappan was $1,147,159 and Woodcliff Lake was $838,309 plus many other Bergen County towns have scores of homes that will benefit. If you are a home buyer who’s looking at $850,000 homes, think of how this will help you! You won’t have to pay a point and your interest rate just dropped.

Think of the impact this will have on real estate in Bergen County and across the United States. Buying a home is never an isolated transaction. Real estate is a chain of events – there are homes sold above and below your own transaction so anything that happens in one price range affects it all. This is going to have quite an impact.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allow our mortgage system to exist and move forward.  As a result, I will keep you updated on this works out and any other future changes.  If you have questions call me at 201-741-8490.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

The spring market for homes in Bergen County really feels like it’s accelerating.  Let’s check it out and see what’s truly happening.

Since the beginning of March the housing market for homes in Bergen County has really picked up.  Because  we are now nearly through April, I thought that I would take a look at the MLS data.  I want to see if what I’ve been sensing is really happening.

I have been discussing this with many colleagues and reading reports by economists.  However it’s also true that those in real estate are often a very optimistic group.  Since this is true, I thought it best to go into the New Jersey MLS and check.

Here’s what I found:  The spring market is truly are picking up. Real estate is improving most definitely.  It’s not dramatic but haven’t we had enough drama over the past 9 months? The market is steady and that’s good.

Take a look at the figures below and you’ll see what I’m talking about. More buyers are coming out to look at homes and more homes are taking offers. Here are homes that came on the market for sale and which went under contract so far this year:

Jan – 1,232 Active/286 UC = 4.3 to 1 ratio
Feb -1,255 Active/335 UC = 3.8 to 1 ratio
Mar -1,693 Active/443 UC = 3.8 to 1 ratio
Apr -1,311 Active/413 UC = 3.2 to 1 ratio

The April figures are through today, April 23rd, and they certainly indicate continued improvement for Bergen County homes. What hasn’t been so clear are the Days on the Market figures but you really can’t get a sense of where that’s going until we’re further into the year because almost all sales in January and February originate from the previous year. But in March it took 110.64 days to sell a home and so far in April it’s been taking 103.59 days to sell a home which is a positive change.

The real estate market is always more active during the spring and early summer months.  This year the spring market is developing a pattern that is quite normal and that is excellent news. For a home buyer, this is really a great time to buy a home.  Prices will only go up in the future because we are definitely moving up.

t increasing numbers of people are sensing this and acting.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

“How’s real estate and what should I do?” I am receiving so many calls and messages like this that I thought I should post some answers. It seems that real estate is on everyone’s mind lately.  Let’s find out how to handle the Bergen County housing market.

Here’s something to consider: A primary motivating factor for most people is simply because it was the right time. So ask yourself this question – Is this the right time for you?
The right time to move can be due to many reasons such as getting your kids out of the city and into a backyard with pretty lighting, you’ve outgrown your home and need more space, you’ve had it with renting and want your own place, you’re ready to move to your dream retirement, everyone’s moved to California and you’re still in Bergen County etc.

If you’re wondering how to manage things based on how the real estate market is doing in Bergen County, here are some answers to help you:

Are you thinking of buying a home? Do it now – we’re at or near the bottom with mortgage rates at historic lows; inflation, with its high interest rates, is projected for the future.

Want to move up to a larger home? Move up now – the cost of upgrading is always the cheapest when you’re around a market’s bottom which is where we are today.

Own a home and not moving? Check your mortgage rate immediately. No matter when you purchased or if you did refinance recently, do this for your own benefit.

Thinking of selling your home? Get your home on the market now – you stand to lose another 5% this year so waiting will hurt you.

Not sure if this is the right time to move? Then don’t. If you’re not sure, its always best to stay put. However, it’s also best to investigate your options fully; I suggest you do this bi-annually.

Let me know if you have any other questions about how to handle the Bergen County housing market today.  All you have to do is contact me today.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

What Can We Expect in 2009 and for Tenafly real estate in particular?

I can answer this with one word – improvement. I had projected 10% depreciation but that was before the stunning sub prime mess was revealed. While we have “Monday Morning Quarterbacks,” the truth is virtually no one knew of this growing menace. The Tenafly market for homes in 2008 ended with 25% fewer sales and 18% depreciation.

Yet Tenafly homes did better than most; our market is more resilient than you’d think. Selling a home took less time in 2008 and first quarter figures indicate we’ll do even better this year.

Appraisers are still deducting 1% per month but say this will end later in the year; Jeff Otteau, the renowned analyst of New Jersey’s housing market, announced in mid March that 2009 will end with 9% depreciation statewide. This dovetails with a second half recovery; homes in Tenafly will see it during the fourth quarter.

By recovery I do not mean that prices will go up; they won’t. They will stop going down and the market will stabilize. We’ll stay there for another year or two before any upward swing bringing us to 2012 or later.

Although unemployment will continue to increase over the next several months, it should level off by year’s end. Unfortunately unemployment will not improve quickly. For now we can only estimate how this will affect our market; its impact takes a while to be felt.

But Washington funded the FHA to continue lending and increased the tax credit to $8,000 with no payback required. This enabled first time buyers to get in the market. With the lion’s share of price depreciation done and mortgage rates so low most of us have never seen this, home buyers are back in the market. Activity has really picked up since March 1st with no signs of slowing down.

What is certain is that Tenafly real estate remains one of the most in demand markets in the NYC metropolitan area. This will not change. While we can’t escape the storms of life, the truth is that Tenafly weathers them better than most in Bergen County and the New York City area.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Cresskill EarthfestCresskill is celebrating Earth Day in a very special way by having it’s first ever Cresskill  Earthfest.  The date is Sunday, April 18th and everyone is looking forward to it.

This is going to be an all day fun filled event for people of all ages.  The focus is not only on celebrating our planet but also learning about it.   As a result there’s going to be a large number of learning activities and exhibitions.

Cresskill Earthfest is also about having fun.  This is why they have plenty of live entertainment and fascinating exhibits.  There are the following events for even more fun too:

  • A Family Bicycle Tour (it’s also ok if you’re not a family),
  • An Environmental Fun Walk
  • a Volunteer Community Clean up of the Tenakill Brook
  • A Children’s Bicycle Rodeo and Safety Check (be sure the kids bring their bikes)

Cresskill Earthfest starts at 9 am and ends at 2 pm (although it might run a bit longer).  This is going to be an awesome event.  Many environmental groups and regulation agencies are coming to help enthuse and educate everyone.  They will teach us how to preserve and protect the environment.  They will also show us to live a better life by going green.

Have you ever thought about going green with a car?  If you have, you’re in for a treat because there will be an exhibit of the latest in green cars.

This very impressive event is put together by the Cresskill Environmental Commission and the Cresskill Education Fund. Working hard together they have created a spectacular day.  It has everything you’d expect of an Earth Day celebration. You’ll find things from alternative energy exhibits to an arts and crafts table to foods from organic farms. If it’s about the environment and making your world more green, it will be there for you.

Come to the Cresskill Earthfest on the 18th.  This major event is located on the 3rd Street field and rec center near the town pool.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

The figures are in and the real estate market in Bergen County is doing OK.  It’s still a buyer’s market for homes but you can see some signs of improvement with Bergen County real estate.

In January I had written that the real estate market in Bergen County would shift during the 4th quarter of 2009 and stabilize.  From then on for a few years we would be working in a narrow range before turning upward again.  This time it would take longer than it did in the early 90’s to rebound fully but being stable is good.  So far my projection is still on target.

Most of the reports at that time were for this to happen once we were solidly in 2010 – well, the media reports are singing a different song because things have changed.  And so has the Bergen County real estate market.

If you look at the number of homes coming onto the market and going under contract, what you’ll find is very interesting.  For the homes becoming active in the New Jersey MLS, there’s been an 11% drop during the first quarter of 2009 but the pace of homes going under contract is the same this year as it was last year.  Do I hear the word stable anywhere?  Yes, this is indeed a sign of stabilization and that’s, to quote Martha Stewart, a good thing.

For the first quarter in both 2008 and 2009 the Active to Under Contract ratio is 3.9 to 1 in the New Jersey MLS data.  This means that the pace of home sales is maintaining itself and it’s also quite respectable – the ratio of a strong seller’s market is 2 to 1.

Looking closer to see what happened we find that in 2008 the rate at which homes became active was pretty normal – a gradual progression as you moved more into the year.  But in 2009, January and February were anemic and then we had a 32% explosion upward in March.  Do you think that the spring real esate market is back in Bergen County?  I sure do.

Home buying activity has really picked up since March 1st and home sellers have correspondingly jumped into the real estate market.  Why would they wait until now to put their home on the market for sale?  Because the atmosphere was so negative at the end of 2008 that it made many homeowners hold off.  What’s changed?  Well, just to mention a few items – the $8,000 tax credit, liberalization of FHA mortgages, even lower mortage rates, home prices not seen in nearly 8 years and the natural spring rhythm of home buying.

While home values are still going down – another 5% for the rest of this year – I still feel that the market will be stabilized by the 4th quarter.  What we’ve seen so far this year in maintaining the pace of sales and in the recent surge in home buying activity certainly point to this and also to a good spring market for Bergen County real estate.  In fact, I won’t be surprised to learn that the bottom of the real estate market in Bergen County was the end of 2008 and the very beginning of 2009.  2009 will be a year of change.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

The most important first step in buying a home is financing which involves getting prequalified for a home mortgage.  It doesn’t matter if you’re buying Bergen County real estate or a home somewhere else – because your mortgage loan is so critical to your home buying process, you are naturally interested in any news about these loans.  Here is where you begin what I call Mortgage Rate Madness.

People afflicted with this disease believe that they can get mortgage rates at levels not seen because they don’t exist.  The other day I had a call from a consumer who had this disease – a really bad case of MRM!  She thought she could get a mortgage rate of 4%.  The reason she was so sure of this was simply because one of her friends heard this on the radio and someone else saw it on TV.

Hmm…..maybe at 3 in the morning you might see some infomercial where all sorts of nice people are sitting in their Bentleys (which they rented for the hour) telling the world all sorts of mysterious fables.  You know, the folks who make millions without working and get tons of free money.  It isn’t your fault if you get the MRM disease.  This virus is everywhere – it’s on the radio, it’s on TV, it’s online, it comes from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from…and on and on and on.

OK – how about a good dose of reality?  Mortgage rates are indeed low.  In fact, they’re so low that they’re truly at historic lows.  But the interest rate on your mortgage depends on many things – for example, if you have a small down payment, for almost everyone that means a FHA loan.  Because your down payment is small, the risk is greater to the lender so the interest rate is a little higher; the FHA specializes in such loans.  It’s all in the details as they say.

It also depends on how much money you are going to borrow.  Up to $417,000 it’s one rate, at $417,000 – $1 million it’s about one half point higher, etc.  Mortgage rates vary depending on how much you borrow, your down payment and, of course, your credit score.  I can tell you that that there is a cure for MRM disease – work with a good licensed mortgage banker.  Invest some time in getting properly educated and pre-approved for your mortgage.  It’s usually the biggest loan you’ll ever have.  If you go to the Financing section at you’ll find several.  Trust me – if it’s too good to be true, it’s MRM disease!

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Here is a quick update for you and it is indeed great news.  Buyers are back.  As a result activity’s up in the real estate market.

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of people looking at homes over the past two weeks.  We’re seeing more buyers coming out on Sundays to our open houses.  We are also receiving more calls into our offices and more web responses to our internet postings.   The Bergen County real estate market has become very very busy.

At the same time, the inventory of homes for sale is growing daily.  More and more people are putting their homes on the market for sale now that we’re safely past the snow season.  Most home owners do not want to sell their home during the winter weather.  As a result having the number of homes for sale grow significantly at winter’s end is quite normal.

The reason for home buyer activity is improved market conditions.  Because market conditions for buyers have improved greatly, buyers are back.  Prices are down substantially from 2004 (by 20 to 25% in most areas) and mortgage rates tumbled over the past 2 weeks.

Jeffrey Otteau is  one of the most respected analysts of New Jersey real estate.  When he speaks people listen.  Here is his take on things:

Mr. Otteau announced last week that New Jersey real estate will depreciate another 9% in 2009.  He went on to say that prices will stay at that level in 2010 as the real estate market stabilizes.  For many home buyers, this combination of factors made buying a home now a great idea.

It will be interesting to see if this pick up in activity continues and for how long.  I have a funny feeling that the “smart money” is buying a home now.  Only a lucky person picks the market bottom but I must say that we’ve got to be pretty close to it now.  What I do know is that buyers are back and that’s a very good thing.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

A short sale occurs when a home that is sold is worth less than the mortgage amount and the homeowner cannot make up the difference.  For example, you sell a home for $75,000 but the mortgage is $100,000; you’re short $25,000.  The bank enables the homeowner to sell the house by forgiving the $25,000 difference.  So while the bank doesn’t own the house, the owner can’t sell it without the bank’s cooperation.   Of course, in an actual short sale, the bank would be forgiving the mortgage amount, any other liens and the closing costs.

This is my best advice to pursue a short sale in Bergen County:  Contact an attorney who specializes in real estate before you do anything.  It is always best if you begin by being fully informed.

You do several things to get a bank to allow a short sale.  Banks require homeowners to complete a “workout package”.  Hardship letters are part of this package.  They are written by the owner to explain the circumstances that led to the owner’s financial difficulties.  Supporting documents are included too such as pay stubs and account statements.  You need to make a strong case to get the bank’s approval.

Why would a bank do this?  Because the other alternative is a foreclosure.  Foreclosures cost the bank much more in time and money.

Why would a homeowner dos this?  Because a short sale erases the debt.  Banks forgive everything most of the time.  They may insist on a promissory note for part of the loss sometimes.  That’s still much better than a foreclosure.

Foreclosures do not erase debt.  Debt collectors pursue you for years.  They take your vehicles, garnish your wages, clean out your checking account etc.  Your credit is ruined for about 10 years.  That is a Titanic sized disaster.  Short sales recover your credit in a few years.  Debts are wiped clean.  The IRS does not consider forgiven debt as income.

3,703 single family homes are for sale in Bergen County.  Short sales total 346 or 9.3% of all homes for sale.  They resolve a difficult situation for both banks and owners.