Posted by & filed under Buying.

finding the best schoolFinding the best school for you is a major home buyer concern.  When I’m showing homes I always get questions about the school district.  Because most home buyers are young families, school is important.

Bergen County has a well deserved reputation for having great public schools.  As a result, we are a very popular destination for young home buying families.  Finding the best school for you is not impossible but it’s also not a simple task.

  • I can’t advise you; no real estate agent can do this.
  • Buyers often believe it if it’s in the internet
  • Reliable data and websites can be hard to find
  • Data isn’t everything
  • School tours are often not allowed

These are the challenges.  Let’s look at them carefully.

Because of anti-discrimination law and concerns, I can not discuss school districts.  Buyers tell me that they find this frustrating.  They rely on me for information and guidance after all.  What I can do is guide them to what I feel is reliable information.

If it’s in the internet nearly everyone believes it.  Let’s be honest – do any of us truly research what’s on the web?  Wefinding the best school go to Wikipedia, for example, and believe it’s true.  Not everything is.  There are websites out there that I’ve found ranking/rating schools using parent reviews.  How reliable and accurate is that?  Not at all.  As a result, it’s easy to be fooled and hard to find reliable data.

Speaking of data, it’s not everything.  Just because a school scores higher than another does not mean it’s the right school for you.  Sometimes high scoring districts are not as nurturing as a lower scoring school.  Also, what outreach does a school have?  A client of mine decided on a town because one coordinated with robotics classes at Bergen County Academies and another did not.  The one that did not scored much higher.

School districts used to give tours during the school day for prospective parents.  Today almost every district does not.  The reason given to me has been lack of time and security issues.  As a result, this experience is no longer available.  I think this is a shame but there’s nothing anyone can do about this.

So I am not allowed to sayfinding the best school anything.  You can’t believe every website and article you see on the web.  It’s tough to find reliable data.  Schools don’t give tours.  However, finding the best school for you is still something I can help you with.

Go to my website section on schools.  You’ll find the link to the State of New Jersey’s Performance Report on every NJ school district.  Scroll down further where I have a link to every Bergen County school.  There is a breakdown to show you which schools make up a regional high school.

The US Department of Education has a school data site – The National Center for Education Statistics  You can get to the district you want by just filling in the town name, State (NJ) and county (Bergen).  Just remember for regionalized districts, you need to put in the regional high school separately.  Also, River Edge and Oradell have both their middle and high schools together as the Riverdell School District.

Of all the school ranking websites, the best one I’ve found is www.niche.com  So many of the other popular choices are based on parent ratings which I feel is an unreliable method.  New Jersey Monthly Magazine has a highly watched bi-annual ranking of high schools. The most recent was done in 2016.  There is also the US News & World Report high school rankings at https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools

Finding the best school for you is a lot easier using all of the above.  Be sure to remember that the best school for you is not always the highest scoring district.

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Halloween eventsYou see it driving or walking through town.  Ghosts and goblins appear everywhere.  Spiders and monsters adorn front doors and shrubs.  Halloween events are nearly ready.  We have only 2 more weeks till the Big Day.  Because there is so much going on for Halloween, you have many fun options.  Let’s take a look so you can enjoy it to the fullest.

Children love Halloween.  They dress up in costumes, go trick or treating and generally have a blast.  As a result, start with their school.  If you are not sure of what’s happening there, call the school to find out.

Next comes your town.  Check out your town’s website and call the recreation department.  If you don’t know your town’s site address, the Bergen County government website  has every town’s website on it.  Just click here to get yours.

After this, you might also look at your neighborhood.  SoHalloween eventsme neighborhoods have Halloween events themselves.  For example, there are Halloween block parties.  If you don’t know what website to use for this, I can give you some ideas.  Contact me through my site or call me at 201-741-8490.

Because Halloween has become such a big holiday, you’ll find Halloween events throughout Bergen County.  Here are some for you:

Allendale has the John Fell House, a wonderful 18th home that is now a cultural center.  For Halloween there is a production bringing to life Edgar Allen stories. at 7 pm on October 20 to 21 and a Hallow’s Eve Tea on the 28th at 12 noon.

Bergenfield has a Food and Fright Festival at 3 pm on October 31st with a costume parade at 5.  A local restaurant food crawl runs thHalloween eventsrough Nov 5th.

Fort Lee’s Business Alliance hosts it’s popular Fall-O-Ween Spectacular on Saturday, Oct 28th from 2 to 4 pm.

Glen Rock is where you’ll find Porch Light Productions.  This award winning live theater group has a Halloween themed play, Trapped, on October 27-29th.

Glen Rock also has it’s Haunted House event at the Central School put on by 5th graders on Friday Oct 20th and Saturday Oct 21st from 6-9 pm.  This is a great annual event in town.

Paramus is where you’ll Van Saun County Park and Zoo Boo on October 27 and 28 at the Bergen County Zoo there.  Because it’s so popular it sells out quickly so act on this ASAP.

Tenafly’s Nature Center has special Haunted Forest Tours which also sell out quickly.  Right now October 28th is available but this can change.

Ridgewood’s Historical Society is hosting it’s annual spooky and educational Cemetery Walk on October 20th with 3 tours from 6 – 7:30 pm.

Wyckoff’s Family YMCA is again doing it’s Monster Mash event October 24th at 6:30 to 8 pm.  Scroll down it’s page to find the information.

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Pumpkin PatchHalloween is nearly here.  Temperatures are still mild and the air is crisp.  It’s the right time to go to a pumpkin patch this weekend.  Go out to a patch and have fun bringing home your pumpkin.

Because you might not know where to go, I have some good ideas here for you right in Bergen County.  We have 4 good spots for you to enjoy here.  It’s a good idea to check these out to see which one has what you want.  Petting zoos are featured in several.  This is a great idea if you have children.  Most offer other fresh produce, home backed goods and cider.  Some have hayrides too.

Here are what we have in pumpkin patch options for you –pumpkin patch

  1. Abna’s Farm is located at 711 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff.  This is a large commercial farm that’s open year round.  Because they are usually closed on Sundays according to their website, it’s best to plan on going other times.
  2. Demarest Farms is probably the best known if for nothing else than it’s delicious home made fruit pies and it’s ongoing battle with Hillsdale about parking.   Located at 244 Wierimus Road in Hillsdale, you have to try their home made cider donuts while you’re there.
  3. Secor Farms at 85 Airmont Road in Mahwah is another terrific option.  Like the others, you’ll find a petting zoo, home made pies and donuts, fresh produce and a glorious pumpkin patch.
  4. Ward’s Pumpkin Patch is more than just pumpkins.  It’s easy to miss because it’s right off of Route 17 in Ridgewood.  This is an extremely family friendly farm.  As a result, there are ongoing activities for little ones.  Because it’s more intimate and child focused, this is a very good option for young families located at 552 Route 17 North in Ridgewood.
pumpkin patch

Because Bergen County is so well developed, we forget that working farms exist here.  Many sold out recently and are now commercial developments but these 4 family farms are still operating.  There is also a very special option – the Abram Demaree Homestead in Closter. Pumpkins are here too.

This is located at the corner of Old Hook and Schraalenburgh Roads.  Because it’s both a historic house and working farm with a country stand, it’s pretty unique.  The house sells a variety of goods from antiques to candles.

Go to a pumpkin patch this weekend.  Enjoy being outdoors with your friends and family.  It’s not far from home and a lot of fun too!  Should you wish to go further out, you can always call me at 201-741-8490 for more ideas.

 

Posted by & filed under Homeowner Tips.

get your house ready for winterIt’s fall in Bergen County.  One day it’s cool, one day it’s warm as we move toward winter. Trees are ablaze with color as leaves swirl in the wind while they tumble to the ground.  This is one of the most beautiful times of the year.  Sunlight takes on a special glow as the days grow noticeably shorter.  Because this is such a bucolic season, we often forget to get your house ready for winter now.

Winter seems so far away right now but snow comes before you know it.  December is only a few weeks away.  January and February can be the biggest snow months of the year.  Winter is only a month or two away.  Let’s get your house ready for winter now before it’s freezing cold.

Begin By Sealing

Caulk is your friend.  So is silicone.  Walk around your home both inside and out.  Seal up cracks and openings you see.  Weather strip windows and doors.  Seal visible cracks, wall switches and electrical outlets.  Hire someone if you don’t have the time because a few hundred here saves you thousands later.

Check Your Insulation

Insulate your attic.  Attic insulation saves heating costs and helps to avoid ice dams and roof decay.  Because ice dams can cause thousands of dollars in repairs you need to be sure your attic is well insulated, and you can get professionals from Palm Beach Roofing Expert to help you install this.

Service Your Furnace

Keep your furnace running as efficiently as possible by having it serviced before the heating system starts.  Because furnace breakdowns happen with the 1st cold snap, make sure you get this done now.  It’s no fun freezing for hours in January while waiting for help because your furnace broke down.

Service and/or Buy Snow Removal Equipment

Remember last winter?  The scenes of empty store shelves because shovels and snow blowers sold out before you got there after work?  Or how your neighbor howled when his snow blower wouldn’t start?  Furthermore the middle of a storm is no time to set up snow plowing service.  Do that now too.

Clean and Check Gutters & Downspouts

Clogged, leaking and broken gutters and downspouts create havoc.  Thousands and thousands and thousands of havoc.  Get the gutters cleaned as often as you need to and make sure everything is fine.

Service Your Fireplace

Fireplace dampers can leak.  When they do, heat literally escapes out the chimney.  Because of this, have your damper checked along with the rest of the fireplace and chimney.  Safety alone demands that the chimney be regularly cleaned.

Invest in a Programmable Thermostat

Everyone knows that programmable thermostats save significant heating costs.  You don’t have to spend hundreds on remote operated digitized units.  A simple programmable thermostat will do the trick.

If you get your house ready for winter now you’ll avoid expensive problems and the stress of catching up in the future.  If you need any help at all, call me at 201-741-8490.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

horrible mortgageHere is yet another horrible mortgage story. This time the agent is more at fault than anyone else.

I have a listing in Bergenfield NJ. Bergenfield is a great town. It’s a town of affordable homes with a terrific school district and strong community spirit.There is also a good bus commute to NYC (extremely important around here) and a nice business district too. Because Bergenfield has so much to offer, it’s very popular with home buyers.

We listed the house with a clear notice that pre qualifications will not be honored. Because pre qualifications are non verified they’re worthless. As a result, this is unacceptable to me whether I’m a listing agent or representing a buyer. What’s the point? It doesn’t work. Let me tell you why.

Sellers take their home off the market only to learn that their buyer pulls out because they can’t get a mortgage or it takes delay after delay while a buyer tries to find a mortgage. Buyers go into contract on a house with no idea what the mortgage will really cost. Talk about a disaster waiting to happen!

Unfortunately this happens all the time. I call these horrible people horrible mortgageMr Happy Banker because he tells you happy fairy tales or shoots rockets into the sky on TV. It’s all a big lie. The truth is that you need to sit down with a banker, bring in all that pain in the neck documentation and get it done right. There is no substitute.

We received several offers and one used Mr Happy Banker. I could not believe what I was reading while reviewing it. The offer and pre approval were for a conventional mortgage with a 3% down payment.

Conventional loans accept 5% as a minimum down payment. The offer is not possible with only 3%. It got worse.

The so called pre approval was really a pre qualification because nothing was verified. I Google searched their bank. It’s not a bank because it’s an LLC. I dug deep into their website and saw they call themselves a mortgage company.

There are programs that allow less but for very specialized borrowers like VA loans. This buyer is not that. She is a typical home buyer. So I called her agent who told me she recommended the LLC and that her pre approval was good enough for now. I asked her to please get the buyer correctly pre approved and come back to me with your best and highest offer as I am asking this of all offers.

They raised their offer a little bit. Nothing else changed. The seller is very sophisticated and he understands finance. He told me he would not accept such an offer at any price because “that thing will blow up and never close”.

Buyers go to LLC’s rather than a legitimate bank because they don’t qualify with a Chase, Wells Fargo or Weichert Financial. They pay higher rates and fees when all they have to do is save up a little more or fix their credit etc. Buyers go to these places sometimes because they just don’t know better. I blame the agent who is not doing the best for her customer.

This buyer is going to have a very hard time. I wish I could help her but she’s someone else’s customer. She is also responsible for what happens to her. This is another horrible mortgage story.

Posted by & filed under Selling.

listing photosHave you seen your listing photos?  Now that your house is on the market for sale, have you checked out how it’s displayed?  You should.

Nothing in a listing gets me more upset than seeing how poorly a house is marketed.  It starts with the first look and that’s the front picture of a house.  You expect pictures on your listing.  The fact is that many homes go on the market without even 1 picture.  This is how the MLS displays it.

It is 8:44 am and 50% of the new single family homes listed in the New Jersey MLS do not have even 1 picture.  Let’s be fair because you first input the listing and then add pictures.  As a result, it does take a little while but less than 1 minute’s time to get even a few pictures posted.

So let’s wait a minute or two and come back to these.  It’s 5 minutes later and not one of those listings have pictures.  These are all single family homes.  So I ask you again – Have you seen your listing photos?  For homes without them, I’m sure you haven’t checked.  Rentals do worse.

Rental properties never have pictures sometimes.  I am not kidding.  The New Jersey MLS does the best it can.  The MLS will fine an agent and even take a front picture.  Because of the volume of properties in the NJMLS they limit this to single family homes.  You are out of luck if you listed a rental property.

I find this very embarrassing as a real estate professional.  There are times I must send a listing twice to a buyer – once without and then later with pictures.

Imagine how this affects consumers.  If you are searching for a home, would you spend time looking at a listing with zero pictures?  If you need to rent an apartment would you stay on a listing without pictures?  Because pictures are so important to consumers, properties without them are often dismissed by them.

As a result, your property doesn’t do as well in the price you get and in how long it takes.  There is no excuse for this.  Even if it’s a rental listing and the tenant won’t allow pictures, at least a front view should be posted.  A good agent gets creative by taking pictures of the bus stop, school, town etc.  Anything is better than nothing for at least search engine purposes.

I have no doubt this post will upset some agents.  It is, however, the truth.  So sellers check your listing.  No pictures?  Kick your agent in the pants and get some posted ASAP.  How good they are is a blog article coming soon.  Questions, comments?  Contact me.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

 

OK – here is some shameless promotion of my 2 new listings in Englewood 🙂  Both are both located in the Manor Area of Englewood.  This is the northwest corner of Englewood which borders Teaneck and Tenafly.  You will find Manor Road here so I guess that’s where the name comes from.

It is a beautiful suburban neighborhood.  Mature towering trees line the streets which are filled with an eclectic mix of housing styles.  As a result you see gracious turn of the century colonials next to modest cape cod homes as well as split levels.  As mixed as the housing styles are, it works.  This location is visually attractive and very popular.  The Manor Area runs pretty much from Tenafly Road west and from Dwight Morrow High School north.

New Listings

 

257 W Hudson is on the market for sale at $424,900.  This is a custom built home being sold by the original family with 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths.  Because it was custom built there are several features worth pointing out:

It’s big with nearly 2,000 square feet on the 1st and 2nd floors.  Heat is separate from air conditioning.  Since central air wasn’t common this is most definitely a custom feature.  So is the fact that there is a bathroom on every floor.  Because it’s really constructed like a 2 bedroom ranch with a 2nd floor, the basement is enormous.  This might look like a cape cod but it sure isn’t you’re typical cape.  Inside is a full sized living and dining room plus an eat in kitchen.New Listings

My 2nd listing is a simply gorgeous early 20th century home for rent at $2,950 per month.  Because it was built in the very early 20th century, there is beautiful detailing.  Coffered ceilings adorn the living room where you’ll also find a wood burning fireplace.  True wainscoting lines the dining room walls.   This is a really huge home.  You have 5 bedrooms located on 2 floors.  This works great for large families, mixed generations or group living.  Because 3 bedrooms are on the 2nd floor and 2 on the 3rd floor, it’s also ideal for other needs.  A small family has terrific guest quarters on the 3rd floor or 2 home offices or hobby rooms.

So there you have it.  2 new listings in the Manor area for you.  They couldn’t be more different but they couldn’t fit in better.  To see them just call me at 201-741-8490.

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

commuting to workCommuting to work in New York is how 13% of Bergen County residents get to work.  13% does not sound like a lot until you consider that Bergen County has 939,151 residents.  This comes to 122,090 people traveling to work daily in New York City.  That’s 1 out of every 7 or 8 of us.

Bergen County is across the Hudson River from Manhattan.  Because we are so close to New York commuting is a big reason why our homes are in such great demand.  Moving over 122,000 people every day is done by bus, rail, car and ferry.  Let’s see what choices you have in commuting to work in New York.

You can drive of course.  Many people do.  We have 2 major and 4 local highways taking you to the Lincoln Tunnel or the George Washington Bridge.  We also have vast mass transit options too.  The biggest system is New Jersey Transit.

New Jersey Transit gets you to Manhattan by bus and train.  If you go to their website  you can plug in your address to get commuting information.  I think this is a very cool and useful feature.  Another bus only option is Coach USA.  Their website  is much simpler and less detailed.  Because we have so many bus options, bus commuting is available in nearly every one of our 70 locations.  commuting to work

During rush hours both systems use express bus routes with limited stops.  Other times are local routes with, it seems, stops at every corner.  How long it takes really depends on when you travel and where you are located.  Typically not more than 1 hour on the bus at most.

Towns along the Hudson River don’t have a train commute.  Nor do many on the western edge of the county like Franklin Lakes.  Trains run on 2 lines – the Pascack Valley Line and the Main Bergen Line  They take you to Secaucus or Hoboken where you get the PATH train across the river to Manhattan.

You can cross tcommuting to workhe river by ferry too.  New York Waterway is how a great many people south of the George Washington Bridge along the Hudson travel to work.  Buses also go through these towns but there’s something special about a ferry.  Buses are cheaper though.

To find out more information about what your commute will be like, call me at 201-741-8490.  For any home you consider, it’s essential you have accurate commuting information.

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

mortgage ratesMortgage rates today don’t matter tomorrow is very important to understand.  Let’s look at this carefully.

Do you know what the #1 mistake home buyers make when mortgage shopping?  Mortgage rates.  They simply don’t matter.  Because this is true a great many home buyers, in my opinion, make mistakes in choosing a mortgage.

 

Mortgage Rates – The #1 Mistake

Buying a home in Bergen County takes a good bit of time.

The contract is sent to the attorneys once it’s signed by the seller.  This begins the Attorney Review process.  No one processes a mortgage then.  Why?  Because it doesn’t make sense.  Would you process a mortgage without a firm, binding contract on a house?  Attorney Review creates that final contract.  So you wait for Attorney Review to end.  Next comes the home inspections.

Figure 3 weeks of time to schedule, inspect and conclude inspection issue negotiations.  Buyers wait until this is concluded to be sure they will still buy the house.  We are now 1 month past the day the contract was signed.  This is when the mortgage really gets processed.

Assuming you had a pre-approval, some work has already been done.  Consequently it only takes a few more weeks to get the mortgage commitment.  All of this totals 7 weeks.  Because almost all mortgages do not allow rates to be locked in without a commitment, you can’t do this for 7 weeks.

So why does an interest rate from 7 weeks ago matter today?  It doesn’t.  This is why I tell my home shopping buyers that mortgage rates today don’t matter tomorrow.  Yet every buyer stays focused on mortgage rates.  This is the #1 mistake they make with their mortgage.

Why Do Home Buyers Focus On Interest Rates?

Why do home buyers focus on interest rates?  Because they are taught to do so by powerful forces.  The mortgage indmortgage ratesustry markets itself through interest rates and how easy it is to get a mortgage.  The main emphasis is overwhelmingly on rates.  You are taught to compare banks by the rates they quote.  So you do.  However this is wrong because it’s never accurate.

Rates quoted in ads differ because banks include varying degrees of processing fees. One bank including all fees will have a higher rate than another bank eliminating some or all fees in their rate.  Here’s something else – rates fluctuate all day.  So if one bank quotes a rate from 10 am hmanuand another from 2 pm, the rates can be different.

Imagine all the games that can be played depending on what is or isn’t included in the quote.  You can’t possibly figure out which bank is best for you by only looking at interest rates.

Your Solution Is The APR

The APR is the annual percentage rate published as a percent.  It includes the cost of the mortgage plus fees and other charges.  A mortgage rate is only what it costs to borrow the money.  So the APR is a much better way to compare what a bank is charging you.  It shows you what the mortgage really costs.

Can you see now why banks want you to focus on interest rates?  Because rates alone don’t disclose the true cost of a mortgage.

On top of all this, how can you be sure the rate won’t be different when you can lock it in 7 weeks later?  You can’t.

When you are house hunting always remember:  Mortgage rates today don’t matter tomorrow.  Don’t be fooled.  If you want to compare rates, use the APR.

If you need the name of a good banker just call or text me at 201-741-8490.  There are several I can recommend who are ethical and come from fine banks.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

sales report

 

Doing research on this sales report for Tenafly homes confirmed what I’d observed.  New construction has been big and the number of sales is up.  Let’s take a look at how 2017 compares to 2016 town wide through August:

  • 27 more sales for a 22% increase (124 to 151)
  • 24% less time on the market (95.2 to 72.1 days)
  • 18% higher dollar volume ($133,140,350 to $157,121,988)
  • 3% lower average price ($1,073,713 to $1,040,543)
  • 2% lower median price ($895,000 to $877,500)
  • 29% more Under Contract homes (130 to 168)
  • 2% lower Under Contract listing price ($1,130,466 to $1,107,188)
  • New construction remained at 16% or every 6.25 sales.

What’s striking about this data is the huge increase in the number of sold homes.  We have been crying about the lack of inventory and it has seemed extremely low this year at times.  However, look at the increase in sales.  We also have lower prices for both average and median figures.

So I went back into the New Jersey MLS to compare the number of active listings for 2016 and 2017.  We had 254 in 2016 and 272 this year for a 7% increase.  How do we get 22% more sales with only 7% more houses to sell?  Because a greater number of homes coming on the market sold.  The pace of sales tells you this.

24% less time on the market equals torrid consumer demand.  No matter how you figure it, this is a tremendous increase in the demand for Tenafly homes.

Let’s look at how the market breaks down in 2017:

  • 10  under $500,000 (6.6%)
  • 114 are $500-1.5 million (75%)
  • 27  $1.5 million+ (18%)

Now let’s look at 2016:

  • 9 under $500,000 (7%)
  • 95 $500-1.5 million (75%)
  • 22 $1.5 million+ (17%)

As you can see, both years are very similar which shows stability and ongoing strength.  I ran a NJMLS comparative report for $500-1.5 million sales because that’s the bulk of the market.  This showed a 5% drop in average sales prices and a 4% drop for median prices.  There isn’t much of a difference between them.  As a result, we know price numbers did come down slightly.

The question is Why?

Data is great but you can’t always figure things out this way.  It’s not a mathematical problem because residential real estate is not just numbers.  People act emotionally.  It’s their home.  Consequently it’s a matter of knowledge, of interpretation.

While more sellers are selling their homes many of those homes are not updated.  Homes needing updating sell for less.  As a result, pricing figures came in lower.  Therefore this does not prove that values are coming down.

Why more homes on the market?  Because of Baby Boomers.  Although we have an inventory shortage because Boomers are staying put longer, this is a huge population.  As a result even a modest increase in Boomer homes for sale has a big effect.

Tenafly is and always will be one of the most coveted addresses in the New York metropolitan market.  What really happened is that the product mix changed.  More of the market is made up of homes that need updating.

In conclusion, here’s the key to it all:  More sales happening quicker.  If values were really dropping, you’d have fewer sales taking longer.

You can’t do this on a computer because nothing beats experience and the personal knowledge you gain by being in the market every day.

I hope you found this sales report for Tenafly homes valuable.  Contact me when you want to get into the market yourself or to just discuss your options.