Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Cinco de MayoEveryone wants to know what things to do this weekend.  Here in Bergen County we have plenty of things to do this weekend.

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire in 1862 on May 5th.  It’s a major national holiday in Mexico.  Here are 2 great options for celebrating Cinco de Mayo here –


Blue Moon Cafe

They have several locations here.  The party goes all weekend from Friday through Sunday night.  Every day is something special so get your friends and have a blast.

Pancho’s Burritos

Pancho’s Burrito’s at 214 Main St in New Milford is always looking for a reason to have a major party.  Cinco de Mayo is one of their major events with live music.  If you want to party hardy go to Pancho Burrito’s on Sunday starting at 11 am and ending at 2 am Monday morning.

Bergen County Zoo

There will be sheep shearing demonstrations all day on Saturday at the Bergen County Zoo  This starts at 10 am and goes through 4:30 pm.  Children have other things to do as well so click on the link I have here for you and enjoy a day at the zoo!

Local Live Theater in Leonia & Oradell

The Leonia Players Guild is opening their performances of Calendar Girls on Friday night.  Performances this weekend are Friday and Saturday night at 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm.  I’ve gone to productions here and it’s a very intimate theater with great acting.

The Bergen County Players open a production of Neil Simon’s play “Rumors” this weekend.  Show times are 8 pm on Saturday night and Sunday at 2 pm.  If you don’t know about Neil Simon, he is one of our greatest playwrights.

Wyckoff Food Truck and Music Festival

Wyckoff is hosting it’s annual Food Truck and Music Festival this Friday from 5-9 pm.  There will be 12 different food trucks and a live band.  They usually have other things too and in the past featured laser tag.  You don’t have to cook dinner this Friday!  Just go to the Wyckoff Food Truck and Music Festival.  It’s located at the Eisenhower Middle School at 344 Calvin Ct in Wyckoff.

Westwood Crafts Fair & Antiques Show

Westwood NJ is the place to be this Sunday for 2 major fun events.  There will be both a crafts fair and an antiques fair from 10 am through 5 pm.  Held at Veteran’s Park this event draws thousands – and I mean thousands – of people.  So far there are 95 crafts and artists coming and 25 antiques dealers.  As a result, both shows are big with lots to offer.  There’s also food, music and I bet some things for the younger set.  Veterans Park is immediately behind the train station at the intersection of Washington & Broadway.

So here you have it, plenty of things to do this weekend in Bergen County!




Posted by & filed under Buying, Homeowner Tips, Selling.

open floor plan Before you knock down that wall take a minute to think about the result.  Especially with older homes.  You might be making a huge and costly mistake.

Older Homes

When I sell a house, I hear my customers talking about taking down walls.  Older homes have separate spaces.  Very often all those walls separating one room from another keeps the light out.  Buying a home always means changing it to what you want.  Open space floor plans allow light in, a feeling of openness and a relaxed environment.

This is all good but once you open it all up, what do you do with it?  For example, let’s knock down walls between the living room and formal dining room.  Now it’s 1 big space but how about those windows?  They’re still positioned for the previous floor plan.  Does that work?  Where will you put the furniture?

Furniture Placement

Did you know that when I sell someone a house and they want to do major renovations I ask them about furniture.  It’s really important.  Let’s take your flat screen TV.  Where will it go?  Will it be directly across from your couch?

How about a piano.  If you have a piano or want to get one, where will it fit in?  Did you know that having sunlight streaming in on top of it looks great in a picture but can ruin a piano’s finish or sound board.

With undefined open space you have the problem of furniture placement that makes sense.  You might end up with dead zones of unusable space.

Structural Support Before You Knock Down That Wall

When you take down an interior wall that actually helps to support the floor above, this becomes an obvious problem.  I don’t know about you but I’m not someone who wants to see a sagging ceiling above my head.

Seriously, you can’t ever allow anyone to take down a wall without first calling in the help of an architect.  I would not do anything without the help, advice and plans from an architect.

Here’s a good tip for homeowners and home buyers – pay an architect for their time to give you an assessment of whether or not what you want to do is feasible and if the result makes sense financially.  I know 2 excellent architects (David Maron 201-568-2157 and Michael Gorenstein 201-567-6721) who will give you the right advice.

Housing Trends for Investors

For those of you who do fix and flip projects, stop making those completely open rectangular spaces that combine the living room , dining room and kitchen.  You know, where you walk into what was once a traditional colonial and it’s one big space with kitchen cabinets and a sink on the back wall.  Open floor plans should be better than this.

Summing Up

Today home buyers increasingly look at undefined space and ask me “What do I do with this?”  “Where do I put the dining room table?”  Guess what – on fix and flip homes, you almost always have a chandelier in the wrong spot. Gone are the days where everything open is the preferred look.  Why?  Because it never really worked for most home buyers.

If you’re energy conscious, these spaces cost more to heat and cool  Sound travels throughout and so does cooking odors.  There’s also a lack of privacy if everything is one big space.

What does work?  A kitchen that opens into a family room or dining area or both.  People want a defined living room and dining room but the kitchen is always the heart of a home.  Open that area up, gently define other areas so they flow together effortlessly and you’ve got what today’s customers want.

Before you knock down that wall think hard about the result and what you’ll do with your furniture.  Get a good architect to help you so get what you want in a home.  Investors do the same.  Don’t believe that one big empty space works because it doesn’t.

Questions?  Need advice?  Call me today at 201-741-8490



Posted by & filed under Buying, Homeowner Tips, Selling.

Need a new roof or siding this year?  Be very careful because you are no longer protected.

What Happened & Why

March 2018 is when the Department of Consumer Affairs “declassified” a lot of home improvements.  As a result, permits are no longer required for a host of expensive, big ticket items like putting on a new roof or siding a house.  Also included are installing alarm systems, outdoor irrigation, chimney lining, indoor sheetrock and replacing indoor plumbing fixtures.  The reasons are ridiculous.

To save time.  Contractors no longer have to file permits and wait for the OK to start the job.

To save money.  Homeowners no longer have the pay for permits.  So you get a job done quicker, perhaps contractors saving time can book another job and homeowners save a few hundred dollars.  Sounds like a nice idea.  It’s not.

A Disaster Awaits You

Because the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs removed the permit requirement for all of these home improvements, anyone can do them.  Anyone.  So how are you protected now?  There is no permit filed so no town building inspector comes to see if the work is done correctly.

Because no permit is required, you can put on a new roof, vinyl side a house, install a sprinkler system, redo a bath all without a licensed contractor.  Does this make sense?  Can you tell if a roof or anything else here is being installed correctly?

God Bless the Tenafly Building Inspector

My husband and I bought a Tenafly home that needed a garage.  So we saved up and added one.  I was not a real estate agent then and knew nothing about these things.  However I’d noticed roofs going on in the area and what my contractor was doing just didn’t seem right.  Because this worried me, I called the Tenafly Building Department about it.

The Tenafly Building Inspector then, Bill Dunlop, called me back and was at my house in about 15 minutes.  Bill stopped the work and had the contractor read the code on roofs out loud.  The contractor had to remove everything and do it over correctly.  Bill Dunlop saved me from a disaster.  Permits are not your enemy.  They protect you.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

How can you protect yourself if permits are no longer required for so many important things?  You can go online for reviews.  That can work but it isn’t a guarantee.  There are nasty reviews at times from nasty people.  Glowing reviews come from family or friends.  It happens.

Call people you know for recommendations.  You can call me at 201-741-8490 because I know good contractors.  Be very careful of who you hire.

You can do something else.  Bring this to the attention of your town.  Ask them to pass an ordinance requiring permits.  I bet you’ll win because all towns have lost those permit fees.

Excuses given for removing permits have no validity with me.  While it may have good intentions, it has great potential to hurt you.   So be very careful if you need a roof or something else on this list.  Let me know if you need help.




Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe, Buying, Selling.

1st time home buyersBergen County real estate is important.  This is the largest county in New Jersey with 948,000+ people and we are one of the most affluent counties in the US.  What happens here influences everyone in the NYC metropolitan area.  The Bergen County housing market reflects the Tri-State economy and outlook.  So let’s take a look at our first quarter real estate market.

Home Prices Are Moderately Higher

Comparing the 1st quarter of 2018 to 2019 we find that the average sales price is almost identical.  2019 is $1,380 less at $488,606.  Time on the market is only 4 days less at 71 days.  You’d say this is a flat market.  Examining this by price range tells you a different story.

At $500,000 and less home prices are up by 3%.  Move that to $500-$1 million and prices rise by 2%.  Let’s now go to the $1-1.5 million category and we find prices higher by 3%.  At $1.5-2 million we see a 2% rise.  However going higher things change to the negative.

The Pace of Sales

2019 is ahead overall by 4% more closed sales.  Looking at under contract units gives us an even better idea of how things are shaping up.  Under Contract units soared this year.

January was up 6% and February rose a whopping 10%.  March was pretty flat but I attribute that to the weather.  We had a mild winter until March which was filled with storms.  We averaged out at a 5% improvement over 2019.  This is a tremendous increase statistically.  As a result we can say that in general, the Bergen County housing market is on pace for a record year.

Luxury Homes

The number of transactions begins to dive once you get to $2 million and above.  There are so few sales that it really is statistically insignificant.  While I understand that transactions above $2 million are not large in numbers, going from 24 to 12 closings is a huge difference.  Under contract units are also negative.

Every month is negative and the worst is March at -57%.  The average is -47% going from 29 to 17 units.  The high end market has been in a stall now for several years.  It shows no signs of improvement.

Below $2 million

However below $2 million, demand is up.  If you eliminate luxury homes, we have a dynamic, positive real estate market this year.   You can really say that prices are up around 2-3% so far this year.  It’s reasonable to assume they will be higher because we haven’t hit the full spring market yet.  We’re just getting there.

The split between high end luxury homes sales in the Bergen County housing market and those below $2 million has been going on for a while.  The question is how to interpret this.  I’ll be writing an article on it soon.

Questions?  Click here to contact me.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe, Buying, Selling.

new jersey smoke detector requirementsNew Jersey smoke detector requirements changed this year and it’s a good thing.  I’m writing this blog article because almost everyone I’ve bumped into knows nothing about this.

The Scope of Things

Smoke detectors are not required to be wired in to homes built before 1977.  Doing a quick search in the New Jersey MLS, you find that around 65% of all single family homes on the market were built before 1977.  My guess is that this is pretty representative of how things really are.

Doing a search for new construction finds that this is 12% of the inventory.  What’s left is 23% of existing homes.  Almost all of these homes, in my experience, do not have a wired in smoke alarm system.  They are required to install one if they do a big enough renovation or expansion.

Of course there’s no way to know how many did.  We have a big need need for 10 year sealed battery units because Bergen County is huge with over 948,000 residents.

The US Census says we have 357,520 housing units.  This includes single family homes, apartments, multi family homes etc.  As a result that’s a lot of housing potentially needing smoke detectors or a smoke alarm system if we use the NJMLS new homes 12%.  Since we really can’t know for sure, if only half need smoke detectors that’s 178,760.

What Changed and Why

It seems that every week we see a news report about a massive fire.  People are rescued, sent to shelters, helped by the Red Cross because they’ve lost everything, firemen get hurt etc.  It happens all the time.

You also see reported that there were smoke detectors in the house but they weren’t working.  Very often the reason they did not work is because the batteries had been removed.  As a result of all this a change was needed.

As of Jan 1, 2019 the New Jersey State Building Code requires all residences built before 1977 to have 10 year sealed battery smoke detectors installed.  In Bergen County this has now been expanded to all residences without a wired in smoke alarm system.

How This Affects You

If you are selling or renting a residential property, New Jersey requires a Fire Code Certificate.  This requires battery operated or wired in smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors by bedrooms and a fire extinguisher near or in a kitchen.  You can not use the less expensive units with batteries that lasted barely 1 year.  New Jersey smoke detector requirements now mean a 10 year sealed battery unit if you don’t have a wired in system.

So how much more with this cost a property owner?  Not a lot.  It’s only a few dollars more per unit.  This is well worth it because of the increased safety these units bring.

Get one of these new units and install it.  Don’t gamble with your safety because the risk far outweighs the cost of a 10 year battery sealed smoke detector.

Need help?  Just get in touch with me.





Posted by & filed under Buying.

How to find school informationHow to find school information is a question I hear often.  Most of my customers are families with children so information on Bergen County schools is important.  Let’s find out about this.

Be Careful of What You Find

Everyone goes online to do research.  Whether it’s about buying a home or checking out the best price for a PC, we all do it.  The problem with this is that not all websites are valid.  It’s worth remembering that every time you click on a commercial website, that site makes money.  It’s also worth remembering that anyone can put up a website and publish information that’s not properly verified.

I have no doubt this is true about some school information websites.  There are so many school rating websites out there that it’s easy to be misled.  How  do those websites rate schools – by what protocol?  What I can tell you is that a lot of those websites have information based on standards I wouldn’t believe.  A very popular website uses parent reviews.  How does this make sense?  If a child doesn’t do well in a class, can you imagine the parents writing a good review on that school?

Where To Go For School Information

The State of New Jersey is the best and most comprehensive source of school information.  The New Jersey School Performance Report surveys every school district in the State.  This information is updated every 2 years.  I have all of this on my website.

Another great source of information are the schools themselves.  These websites can give you a good insight into a school along with valuable information. I have a link to every Bergen County school website.  Just scroll down this page and you’ll find “Local School Links” to every Bergen County school site.

New Jersey Monthly Magazine  has a very popular bi-annual report that rates the top high schools in New Jersey.  They are also completely transparent in how they do this because they publish how they rate schools.  This report is a very popular report and sells out in hours even though it’s online too.

Your Bergen County School Choice

I know that there are several popular school rating websites.  However I encourage you to use the New Jersey School Performance Report.  It’s on my website and you’ll also find a link to technical schools too.  Please consider this – a school district is more than SAT or ACT scores.  Bergen County is renown for the strength of our public schools.  No matter where you buy a Bergen County home, you’ll find a fine school district.



Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

softballOne of the really terrific advantages of living in any Bergen County town are the varied activities available to you.  From infants to senior citizens it seems that there’s something going on every week.  Now that Major League Baseball has begun and Little League is about to get underway, it’s natural to look forward to afternoons at the ball park enjoying our National Pastime with a hot dog and a soda.

Unfortunately for adult ladies watching is the operative word.  While there are plenty of men’s softball leagues, women haven’t had the same opportunities up until recently.  There’s a change that came for many from New Milford, NJ.

New Milford has a relatively new women’s softball league. Among the requirements are that you must be a New Milford resident and 30 years of age or older.  New Milford calls this a “fun league” and also posts on it’s website that it’s “regardless of skill level”.  I don’t think it matters how much over 30 you are and best of all for many of us, any degree of talent allowed!

This promises to be a lively softball league.  The schedule is very convenient because games will be played on Sundays.  They anticipate that this will run some time from mid May to August every year.  For the 2019 season, it starts on June 2nd  through the last Sunday in July (the 27th).  So if your sister, mom or grandmother has been looking at her other half of the family from the sidelines, she doesn’t have to any longer in New Milford.

New Milford is saying to all of it’s adult 30+ ladies “Batter up – let’s play softball!”

I wrote this article in 2017 based on information I had then.  Maura Henyecz contacted me to say that there are mistakes in my article.  Maura is the Assistant Director of New Milford’s Recreation Department.  Because Maura let me know this, I made changes.  Thank you Maura!

Posted by & filed under Buying.

radon and rainRadon and rain aren’t always a good combination.  Rain may or may not affect radon levels.  Because of this, you can have an issue during your home inspection.  You will also want to know about this as a homeowner.  Let me explain what just happened during a home inspection on a listing of mine.

What Is Radon

Let’s start with what is radon?  An expert in the field is Radata.  Radata is a company that’s been in the radon testing and mitigation business since 1984.  Here is their definition of radon:

“Radon is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas formed by the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water.  The radon outdoors is diluted by fresh air, but radon can penetrate any type of building, become trapped and can increase to high levels.”

Radon causes lung cancer.  The National Cancer Institute has an entire section on radon.  Since radon causes cancer, every home inspection should include a radon test.  If the test shows a level of 4 pico curies or less, this is considered an acceptable level.  Radon is not just in Bergen County – it occurs all over the US.

Radon and Rain

Radon fluctuates.  It’s not at the same level every day of the year.  Weather has a direct impact on radon levels in your home as well as other things.  The best explanation I found on this comes from a Littleton Colorado radon company website.  They explain how radon and rain sometimes don’t mix.  Light rain has no effect but downpours do.  I just dealt with this issue on a listing.

My homeowner has lived in the house for 20 years.  When they did their purchase home inspection, radon test results were 2.9 pico curies.  Their buyer did home inspections 1 week ago when we had days of heavy downpours.  Radon test results came back with an unacceptable 4.3 pico curies.

Susana G. Manna, Esq., is an outstanding attorney in Closter NJ.  With Susana’s help, I was able to convince the buyer and their agent to re-test the house.  Because of the heavy rain conditions which I argued invalidated the results, I was able to have the home inspector re-test with no additional cost to the buyer.  We just got the results of the 2nd test – 2.8 pico curies.

Radon Testing

What is important to take away from this is that radon testing can be affected by weather.  Talk to your home inspector about this.  He is the expert – not me.  You want to live in a healthy environment so always make a radon test part of your inspection.  If you own a home, why not test periodically?

If you have any questions or need advice, you can always contact me.  Also, if you want to call Susana G. Manna, Esq, her phone number is 201-750-7564.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

What’s happening this weekend is a question I get frequently.  Let’s see what’s happening this weekend in Bergen County and nearby that’s fun.  Weather predictions are for great weather – sunny all weekend with moderate temperatures.  So here goes:

a streetcar named desireA Streetcar Named Desire

The Bergen County Players begins it’s run of the most famous Tennesee Williams play, A Streetcar Name Desire.   Award winning, acclaimed and offered to the public countless times since it was first presented on Broadway, it opens this Saturday night and tickets are still available.  This is such an intimate theater that no matter where you sit, the view is great.  Tickets are only $21 or $17 each depending on the performance.

Bogota Golf and Sports Centermini golf

There is something for everyone here – batting cages, a driving range and mini golf are all open at this family oriented facility year round.  Call up the Bogota Golf and Sports Center to see if their winter special on driving range pricing is still going on.  Whether or not, this is a place where everyone can find something fun to  do.

Spring Campfire at The Tenafly Nature Center

Have you ever had a s’more that didn’t come out of a micro wave oven?   You are in for a treat because this Saturday night is the Tenafly Nature Center’s Spring Campfire event.  You will indeed roast marshmallows over an open fire and make yourself delicious, gooey s’mores while listening to all roasting marshmallowssorts of fun stories by an open fire.  So make a reservation and have fun!

Wayne Valley Spring Craft Fair

A really big crafts fair is coming this Sunday to the Wayne Valley High School at 551 Valley Road in Wayne NJ.  Sponsored by the Wayne PTO and promoted by PJ”s Promotions, this annual fundraiser is a major crafts event in our general area.  Over 100 exhibitors will be there at this highly popular show which runs from 10 to 5 pm.  Admission is $3 and there’s also food – breakfast, lunch and a bake sale.  This show has been going on annually for over 20 years according to PJ’s write up.

Bergen County Parks

Year round we have great parks to do all sorts of outdoor activities in.  Weather looks good so take a walk or hike, bring kids to the playgrounds, use a bike path, visit the zoo or just hang out in the sun.  There are so many wonderful County Parks all over Bergen County to enjoy.  Because we are transitioning over from winter to spring, some parts of the County website aren’t working.  Call or text me at 201-741-8490 if you need help in finding a County Park that’s near you.



Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

is is still a seller's marketIs it still a seller’s market in Bergen County?  The answer is that it depends.

Analyzing The Market

Because residential real estate is seasonal, it’s necessary to compare month to month.  While it’s also instructive to look at annual data, you can spot trends comparing month to month.

Over half of all single family homes are sold to families with school aged children.  As a result, it’s a seasonal market and most closings occur between June and mid August.  This is why the first quarter of each year gives you the picture for the year ahead.

Where We Are So Far

Where we are is recovered.  Mortgage rate increases began in late summer and culminated at 4.94% by November.  This upset home buyers and stalled the market.  However, rates then tumbled down and by January had dropped to 4.35%.

Home buyers came back and came back with a sense of urgency.  They see now as an opportunity to grab lower rates before they go up for good later in the year.  As a result, they’re out in force.

Comparing 2019 to 2018, January closings were flat while February was up 7%.  This makes a lot of sense because sales today originated 2-3 months before.  February closings originated when rates were lower.

Under Contract figures also demonstrate recovery.  January rose 5% and February 9%.  Because it typically takes 7-10 days to get a home Under Contract, this data originated when rates increasingly dropped.

The Year Ahead

The year ahead will have challenges for buyers and sellers alike.  Today the NJMLS has 1,987 homes fully available for sale (2,318 – 331 with accepted offers).  This is about 1,000 less than you’d expect.  With so few for sale there will be less closings this year.

Millennials make up the biggest group of home buyers.  They see homes as a lifestyle, not as an investment and are fed up with renting.  While millennials want to take advantage of low rates, they will still wait to get what they want.   As a result the days of ferocious bidding wars are pretty much over and appreciation will be moderate.

Is it still a seller’s market in Bergen County?  Yes but to a limited degree.  Low inventory will maintain appreciation albeit at a moderate level.  Buyers win with low mortgage rates keeping homes affordable for the spring market.  So there’s positives for both sides.  The bottom line?  Another good year for home sales in Bergen County.