Posted by & filed under Buying.

thinking-clip-artShould I wait until spring to buy a house? It seems to make sense.  I haven’t found a house yet, there’s not a lot to look at, I don’t want to move in lousy weather and all the holidays are coming up.  I’m stressed out enough.

Sounds like a typical home buyer at this time of year, doesn’t it?  You might view this as self serving but waiting until spring is not always the best idea.  Strategically, you have more leverage now than at any other time of year.

The National Association of Realtors tracks buyers.  A question they ask is “Why did you decide to buy a house when you did?”  The #1 answer has nothing to do with the market – it has to do with personal choice.

Home buyers bought their home because they felt it was the right time.  So if you thought it was the right time before, why isn’t it the right time now?  This question is why many home buyers have a nagging doubt about ending their home search and waiting until spring.

You’re right – waiting until Spring has some definite advantages.  There are more homes on best-time-to-buy-home-new-yorkthe market, the weather is nicer and it’s a lot easier to see the exterior when it isn’t covered by snow or falling leaves.  But in the spring there are many more buyers out so you have much more competition; sellers typically have the advantage in springtime.

This year waiting can definitely hurt you with rising mortgage rates.  Two weeks ago rates were 3.5%; now they’re 4% and moving higher as I write this.  No one has a perfect view of the future but it’s not realistic to expect rates to do anything but go up and that costs you more every month.

So the answer to the annual question of Should I wait until spring? is No.  My advice is to keep looking.  I know holidays are hectic but go out and look a few times over the next 7 weeks.  You might catch more of a bargain at the end of this year than you will in April or May.

Posted by & filed under Selling.

You’ve decided to sell your home so you call in some real estate agents for their opinions.  You select one after considering all the options and go on the market.  This seems reasonable but you’ve forgotten a very important step.  When selling your home be sure to get a home inspector first.

You want to get the most you can for your home.  You chose an agent based on marketing because marketing builds value.  A pre-listing home inspection does this too.  If you get a home inspector first you might save thousands.

Here’s how it works – You put your home up for sale, a buyer comes along with an offer you accept, the contract gets finalized and then the buyer does a home inspection.  If the inspection reveals issues, the buyer will try to:

A.  Negotiate to lower the sales price.

B  Make you fix something

C.  Make you give them a credit towards their closing costs

D.  Do a combination of these.

Can you blame them for trying?  Can you blame them for being concerned if, for example, their home inspector tells them that your roof needs to be replaced in 6 months?  roof-inspector

Living in a house for years doesn’t always mean we know our homes intimately well.  I don’t know about you but I never went on top of my roof to see how it was doing or took the cover off my electrical box to check its wiring.  We really don’t know what a home inspector will find which is exactly why you do a pre-listing inspection.

home-inspector-elecDoing a pre-listing inspection gives you a huge advantage.  You can fix things often for much less than what a buyer will be quoted and eliminate minor issues that look like a list of headaches in an inspector’s report.

You’ve heard the cliche – the best defense is a good offense.  Put your offense on when selling your home. Do a pre-listing home inspection.  Use the results to your best advantage.  You are now pro-active rather than waiting for a buyer to act upon you.

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

halloween

Halloween happenings are beginning in many towns as recreation departments have costume parades scheduled, scary haunted houses and other events going on between now and October 31st.  If you have a little ghoul or goblin in your home and you live here, make sure you check out what your local school and recreation department have planned.

There are also some really neat events not connected to your school or rec department so check these Halloween happenings out –

Glen Rock’s Porch Light Theater has performances of it’s award winning original musical Stage Fright on October 28th and 30th.  A musical comedy about trick or treaters, this is a fun night out for the entire family.  halloween-witch-1600x900

The annual Zoo Boo at the Bergen County Zoo located inside Van Saun County Park in Paramus is another terrific Halloween happening for children.  This does tend to get sold out quickly so get your tickets right away.

In New Milford there is the amazing Nightmare on River Road with two levels which they describe as Under 13 and Adult.  This is an annual fund raiser that has become so popular that it runs for an entire month.

In Ridgewood tghosthe Ridgewood Y has a pumpkin painting event for young children that’s free and open to the public from 1-3:30 on October 29th.  All you have to do is bring your pumpkin with you and they’ll supply everything else.

For more Halloween happenings be sure to check with your local town hall, school and nature center.  Another great source of local event information are the following 2 websites – www.MyBergen.com as well as www.Bergen.com  Halloween happenings are all over Bergen County – find one that’s right for you and have a safe and happy Halloween!

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

zillow_logo

Why do agents hate Zillow ?  Haven’t you wondered about this?

You’re working with a real estate agent.  You mention Zillow.  Your agent rolls their eyes, tells you it stinks and to not go there.  You wonder what’s wrong with your Realtor.

Zillow is a presence in the real estate market; it’s important to understand both its positives and negatives.

Let’s start with the positives – You’ll find a tremendous amount of information.  In addition to what you’d expect – homes, buyer/seller advice, mortgages – there’s information on home design, a great blog called Porchlight and a section on market trends/research. It’s easy to use and loads quickly.

So why the agent attitude?  Because so much of it is incorrect and misleading.  The blame for this lies with both agents and the website itself.

Homes listed on Zillow are edited by the listing agent.  Agents don’t always keep on top of things.  Price, status, details can all be incorrect.  As incredible as it may seem, there have been times when a home sold over 1 year ago is still posted as active.

The more people who visit a website, the more it can charge advertisers.  Zillow depends on its inventory of homes to attract people and they increase it by including homes no longer for sale.  While such homes have a notice in light gray (not easy to see) saying the house isn’t for sale, many people miss this.  is-zestimate-correct

Zillow puts a value on a house called a Zestimate.  Zestimates ignore the 2 primary factors of value – location and condition.  Zestimates, in my experience, are often .

Zillow said it’s error rate nationally is 8% in June 2016.  That’s huge.  A $500,000 home can be $460,000 or $540,000.

So why do agents hate Zillow?  Because buyers and sellers believe whatever is on it no matter how inaccurate.  You can really be hurt because of this.

Zillow has a lot of good information but their Zestimates and market guidance can be highly inaccurate.  The best information on a home’s status is still your local MLS website.

Want to talk more about this?  Call, text or email me.

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

bergen-regional Englewood Hospital

Bergen County is the most populous county in New Jersey with an estimated population of 938,506 according to Wikipedia.  It’s also fairly large with 246,671 acres. With nearly 1 million residents and big size, it certainly makes sense that Bergen County has  7 major medical centers.

If you were to drive from one extreme end to the other in Bergen County, it would take you about 40 minutes.  6 major medical centers assures every Bergen County resident that they are no more than a 20 minutes away from medical help and often much less.

All of these hospital centers are highly rated, most are associated with major New York City teaching hospitals and several are themselves teaching hospitals for new physicians.  If you are wondering how health care is in Bergen County, rest assured that world class health care is no more than a 20 minute drive away.

holy-name-emergency hack-u-pasack-valley

These are our 6 major medical centers and a 7th in North Bergen, Hackensack University Medical Center Palisades.  I’m including this 7th medical center because it’s on the border of Bergen County and services the Bergen County towns along the Hudson River and adjoining areas.  So while Bergen County does have 6 major medical centers there is also this 7th that services us as well.

 

Bergen Regional Medical Center

230 E Ridgewood Ave, Paramus, NJ 07652

201-967-4000

 

Englewood Hospital and Medical Center

350 Engle St, Englewood, NJ 07631

201-894-3000

 

Hackensack University Medical Center

30 Prospect Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601

551-996-2000

 

Hackensack University Medical Center Palisades

7600 River Road

North Bergen, NJ 07047

201-854-5000

 

Hackensack University Medical Center at Pascack Valley

250 Old Hook Road, Westwood, NJ 07676

201-383-1035

 

Holy Name Medical Center

718 Teaneck Rd, Teaneck, NJ 07666

201-833-3000

 

The Valley Hospital

223 N Van Dien Ave, Ridgewood, NJ 07450

201-447-8000

 

Bergen County has a 911 system which connects you in an emergency to the help you need.  So if you have an emergency, just dial 911 on your phone and you’ll be connected to the help you need.

As Bergen County’s population has grown, so have our medical centers.  We are proud of the outstanding health care centers we have here and I have no doubt that you’ll find the health care you need here.

 

Posted by & filed under Homeowner Tips.

teaneckDo you own a home or are you buying a home in Bergen County?  Is it one of those gracious colonials you find in towns like Tenafly, Ridgewood or Englewood?  Or perhaps it’s a charming cape cod in Dumont or New Milford?  Or a split level in Oradell or Paramus?  No matter what style you live in now or are thinking of buying, if it’s more than 25 years old chances are it had oil heat.  bergenfield

It’s not always easy or possible to find out if it had oil heat in the past.  However, if you do know that the house had oil before and is heated by gas today, the chimney should be a concern; if you’re buying a home or own one and don’t know whether the chimney has been relined properly, this is also a concern for you.

Years ago when people converted from oil to gas heat they didn’t worry about the chimney.  They just changed their heating system and left it at that. This is the problem.

Oil heat produces sulfur deposits inside the chimney while gas heat produces water vapor.  Remember high school chemistry?  When you mix water with sulfur you create acid and that acid is very caustic.  It’s corrosive action over the years can severely damage a chimney and this can become a very unsafe condition.  chimney-bad-interior

Today regulations are in place that require a conversion from oil to gas to include relining the chimney; a while ago no such regulations existed.  As a result, a large number of oil to gas heat conversions never included chimney relining.  Correcting this damage can be more than a little expensive.

Here’s what to do –

Have an excellent chimney contractor do a thorough inspection as a follow up to your home inspection when buying a house and if you own a home and haven’t done this, do it now (unless, of course, the chimney has been properly relined already).  You might be shocked by what you discover.chimney_lining

Craig Sharf of HomeTeam Inspections (201-297-4460) advised a buyer of mine to do a follow up chimney inspection on a colonial in River Edge.  While Craig found the exterior to be in great shape his visual inspection of the inside concerned him.  He advised us to call in Advanced Chimney Their inspection showed that the entire interior needed to be rebuilt; together with a new liner; the cost exceeded $7,000. Relining the chimney was only $1,700.

So be pro active – discuss getting a follow up chimney inspection with your home inspector when buying a home and if you own a home and don’t know for sure that your chimney has been properly relined and maintained, have a good contractor inspect it.

 

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Now that we’re through May, it’s time to see how Bergen County home sales scored.  We’ll look at Bergen County homes in total and then go on to some individual towns.  All data is directly from the New Jersey MLS.

Through May I can report the following comparing this year to 2015:

Sales increased tremendously.  Up 24% from 3,211 to 3,970 – that’s 759 more homes sold in 2016 through May.  Both the average sales price and median sales price were down by 2%.  The average sales price is $475,455 and the median price is $386,600.

Despite dire predictions that the October 3rd change in mortgage regulations would create months of delays, homes are selling faster.

This is a confusing picture. Low inventory, soaring demand and 2% lower prices?  What happened to the law of supply and demand?  2016 Bergen County homes sales data doesn’t make sense.  Let’s dig deeper.

Looking at the high end at $2 million + shows an increase of 6 to 34 sales with average sales prices up by 9% and median by 6% in 4.5 less days.  The average sales price is $2.776,471 and median is $2,520,000.

Look at the lower end, under $400,000, there were 27% more sales with an average sales price 2% higher and median prices up by 3%.  Homes here too sold 5 days quicker.  So where is the trouble?

The trouble with the market is in the middle.  At $500,000 to $1 million both average sales and median prices are down 3%.  There are 21% more closings with 6 less days on the market.  So it’s the middle of the market where we are losing ground with pricing.

There’s no way to precisely determine why but clearly Bergen County home sales are not doing as well here.  My observations being in the market every day are that many of these homes need to be redone.  Most of the homes that I see in this price range need updating and very often new kitchens and baths.  Homes that need work take a beating in this market.  With such a large group it pulls down the overall figures.

As always condition is important along with location.  Bergen County home sales so far this year reflect the fact that many mid range homes need work.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Farmer's Market Logo

Farmer’s Markets are opening in June throughout Bergen County.  From early June through mid to late October these fresh produce markets come to many towns in Bergen County bringing delicious farm fresh produce, cheese, and baked goods.  Home made pies, fresh baked hearty breads, canned vegetables, bottled honey and, of course, all sorts of fresh vegetables and fruits come streaming in to Bergen County every week direct from the farm.   Fresh Produce

In fact, they’re so popular that some local fresh food stores find themselves there too.  For example at the Teaneck market you’ll find The Mortgage Apple Cake lady.

Demand for these seasonal treats has been increasing and many towns find their markets expanding and like River Vale find themselves offering indoor markets in the colder months as well.  From what I’ve seen you’ll find a good number of organic produce and products too.  If you’ve only been to commercial markets you really owe it to yourself to stop by and buy yourself from really fresh food.

Here’s where you can find them in Bergen County –

Allendale Farmer’s Market  June 4 – Oct 29th  Saturdays 9:30-2:30  500 W Crescent St  allendalefarmersmarket@gmail.com

Englewood Farmer’s Market  June 3 – October 28th  Fridays 11-6  Corner of  N Van Brunt & Depot Square  tevans@cityofenglewood.org

Ft Lee Farmer’s Market  June 26 – November 20th  Sundays 8-2  Ft Lee Community Center 1355 Inwood Ter.  ftleefilm@gmail.com

Hasbrouck Heights Farmer’s Market  June 4 – Mid October  Tuesdays 12-6  Central Ave & The Boulevard  heightsflowershoppe@verizon.net

Paramus Farmer’s Market  June 15 – Oct 12th  Wednesdays 2-6:30  N Parking Lot of Petruska Park at 475 Farview Ave grm4161@aol.com

Ramsey Farmer’s Market  June – November  Sundays 9-2  Ramsey Main Street Train Station at W Main St & Erie Plaza  amorfeti@aol.com

Ridgewood Farmer’s Market  June 22 – November 2nd  Sundays 9-3  At the West Side of the NJ Transit Train Station  info@ridgewoodchamber.com

River Vale Farmer’s Market  June 2 – October 27th  Thursdays 12-6  406 Rivervale Rd across from the tennis courts wellness@rivervalenj.org

Rutherford Farmer’s Market  June 15 – October 29th  Wednesdays 11-6  Park Ave at the Williams Center Plaza    office@downtownrutherfordnj.com

Teaneck Farmer’s Market  June 2 – October 27th  Thursdays 12-5  Beverly Road & Garrison Avenue   staff@cedarlane.net  home made pies

Years ago there were fresh food stands all over Bergen County and many small farms.  It wasn’t all that long ago.  With land values being so high and profit margins being so low local farms have pretty much disappeared so take advantage of these weekly markets and enjoy!

Posted by & filed under Selling.

Lockboxes.  Homeowners hate them.  Real estate agents love them.  If you are selling your home they’re very important; use a lockbox to get more showings.

old lockbox20 years or so ago I never used a lockbox.  Back then there was no accountability.  A round shaped key opened up the front lid and inside was a key to the house.  It was impossible to know for certain who went into the house and when.

With no accountability came horrible behavior.  Doors were left unlocked, lights were left on, etc.  There was no way I’d put one of those lockboxes on my listings.  What I did do was to get a cell phone.

Back then cell phones were a trip.  Expensive, big and heavy (they had to be drilled into your car or you carried them around in a small suitcase) and with poor reception they still solved the problem.  Agents could call me and I’d meet them at the house.  old_cell_phone

Sometimes I’d feel like a ping pong ball going back and forth but I got my listings sold faster and for higher prices.  Why?  Because using that cell phone allowed me to not miss showings.

Today lockboxes are digital using Bluetooth technology.  The NJMLS uses GE Supra lockboxes and they’re great.   new_supra_box

They record who enters, from what office, at what hour and minute and can be programmed so that no one can get in when the seller doesn’t want them. This is full accountability and agent behavior has significantly improved.

Even when a seller wants me to accompany all showings I still use a lockbox with their permission.  It’s not in the listing but when I can’t be 2 places at once, if it’s an agent I know then I’ll tell them it’s there.

When you’re selling your home you want showings.  If buyers can’t see your house, you can’t sell it.  Electronic lockboxes make your home accessible and attractive to agents.  It’s a win – you get more showings which enhances your opportunities in the market.

So use a lockbox to get more showings.

Posted by & filed under Buying.

considering investing

thinking of real estate

Ever thought about investing in real estate but didn’t know where to start?  Thinking about buying a home but not sure you want to tie up everything in 1 house?  Need a place to live but not sure what to buy?  Maybe you should start by investing and buy a 2 family home.

A 2 family home is a great long term investment (emphasis on long term).  Over the course of many years you’ll find that it is a fabulous addition to your investment portfolio.  I believe people get hurt because they don’t commit to what works best – long term investing within budget.

Real estate is cyclical – it goes up, it goes down.  However, held over the long term it works and does better as an investment than everything else for the average person.

A 2 family home purchase gives you several advantages:

  1.  Greater leverage because you can afford a2 family home more valuable property.
  2. Better equity growth while you use a tenant’s rent to pay off your loan.
  3. You get strong tax benefits which your accountant will explain.
  4. Best of all you get tax free income by refinancing in the future.

There are also disadvantages:

  1. You lose some privacy.
  2. You don’t get as much living space for yourself as with a single family purchase.
  3. Tenants can be a problem.
  4. There will be vacancy periods and maintenance issues that come up.
  5. This is essentially your own business so there’s the work of running a business.

To do it right, talk to a real estate attorney and accountant first.  The advice and counsel you will get from both is invaluable and if you need a financial loan click here to get help.  You’ll also need the help of contractors and a handyman for small jobs.  office_lawyer_client

Clients of mine who did it right were able to retire earlier, had well over $1 million in property value and rental income for a great retirement lifestyle.  So start by investing and buy a 2 family home.

For advice or questions, contact me when convenient.