Posted by & filed under Buying.

new homesNew homes need inspections too.  Even though a new construction house has everything brand new in it, things can go wrong.  Buying a new home does not guarantee that everything is perfect.

You may think this is crazy.  Nothing is old.  Manufacturer warranties are on all major systems for at least 5 years.  Appliances have manufacturer warranties too.  The house comes with a NJ State 10 Year Builder’s Warranty.

Buyers look at this and think they are safe.  This is not always true.  Sometimes yes and sometimes no.  New homes need inspections too.

Consider radon for example.  Builders use gravel for the foundation.  They install it under the foundation walls and floor.  Gravel can come from high radon areas.  As a result, your new basement can have high radon levels.

Problems might develop anywhere. Cabinet doors don’t open and close properly.  The painter forgot to paint a closet interior wall.  The chandelier is not installed correctly, etc.  You don’t want to move into a new home and find out it’s not homes

Craig Sharf inspected a newly built  Tenafly home for my clients on Saturday.  Craig is a very thorough home inspector.  As a result he found several issues.  These are just a few:

  1. Roof rafters pulling away from the ridge beam.
  2. The garage step made by the garage door service is too high so it’s a tripping hazard.
  3. Furnace exhaust pipe might be too long to maintain the manufacturer warranty.
  4. Storage closets are not ventilated to prevent mold.

Inspect the new home you are buying with a good home inspector.  Builders are human; this doesn’t mean they’re bad.  They make mistakes like all of us.  Because of this you need to protect yourself.  You do this with a home inspection.  new homes

I am not a home inspector which is why I missed these issues. Home inspectors examine a house with a trained eye.  No real estate agent or home buyer does this.  Why?  Because we can’t. Use a professional home inspector to protect yourself because not doing so is a huge mistake.

Call or email me if you’d like Craig Sharf’s information or the names of other good home inspectors in my experience.

Find out more about the professionals you need when you buy a home. 

Posted by & filed under Buying.

homeowner insurance  Homeowner insurance is obviously very important.  Home insurance is also very misunderstood.

You’re watching TV and an insurance ad comes on.  A lizard with an Australian accent starts running all over your screen.  An angry lady asks how you can drive half of a car.  A duck starts quacking.  A website tells you that is where you go to shop zillions of insurers.  Is this any way to pick an insurer?

Not only is your home unique, you and your needs are unique too.  Cookie cutter insurance plans are not the right way to go.  This is why shopping for home insurance by price alone doesn’t work. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

If you’ve been reading my blog then you know shopping for anything by price never works.  You do get what you pay for.

So if you’re buying a home don’t just check out the cost of insurance online.  If you are a first time home buyer this is especially dangerous in my view.  There are so many options and so many companies to choose from.  What you really homeowner insuranceneed is the help of an expert insurance agent.

I know.  I’m giving you old fashioned advice.  Sometimes old fashioned personalized service is the best way to go.  It doesn’t have to cost you more.

Guess what I hear from my 1st time home buyers – they SAVE money by using my company for home insurance.  Can you believe it?  This is because Weichert Insurance shops 40-60 companies weekly and our insurance agents TALK TO YOU AND LISTEN.  They figure out what you really need and which company will give you the best deal.

Maybe that’s old fashioned but isn’t it fun to save money?  You don’t have to go to Weichert Insurance.  However, do go to an excellent homeowner insuranceinsurance agent who will do the best for you.

There are times the internet is the best place to go.  There are times the internet is the worst place to go.  Don’t make a rookie mistake on your home insurance using Google mobile.  If something happens you don’t want an unhappy surprise because you bought the wrong coverage.

If you’d like the name of Walter Buschbacher, my Weichert Insurance agent, just contact me and I’ll get you his information ASAP.



Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Free summer concerts are very popular here.  In fact, they’ve become a Bergen County summer tradition.

Many Bergen County towns host these outdoor events over the course of several weeks and people love them.  It’s a nice way to spend a summer evening.  It’s also a help to local businesses because they bring people out at night.

Concerts often begin after the 4th of July weekend.  They usually run weekly for 4-6 weeks depending on the town.  You can find the schedule on your local town or Chamber of Commerce website.  Even the County itself has a series of outdoor concerts.

Because concerts are usually held in a local park, it’s a good idea to bring a folding chair with you or a blanket to sit on.  If you don’t want bugs to bug you, then use some repellent too.  or contact North Shore Services Inc they are willing to eliminate bed bugs in your area, even inside your homes.

Here are a few options for you but be sure to check out what your town has to offer –

Bergen County has 4 weekly concerts they call Terrific Thursdays in the band shell at Overpeck Park.  free summer concerts

Outdoor concerts have become so popular in Tenafly that they host them twice weekly on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  Edgewater has Music at the Marina  along the Hudson River although this is really for locals since there’s no parking.  Rutherford starts earlier than most in June holding it’s concerts at Lincoln Park.  Ridgewood too starts in June at the Kasschau Memorial Shell in Veterans Park.  Old Tappan has concerts in July and August at Oakes Park.  Paramus has Terrific Tuesdays in July and August.

These are just some examples.  Be sure to check out your town to see if there’s a concert schedule where you live.  Free summer concerts are an annual summer tradition and a great way to spend a summer night.  So go downtown, have a relaxing dinner and then finish it off with music under the stars!

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

get a good attorney

Get a good attorney, not a cheap attorney.

Real estate is a sizable purchase.  You want to be sure everything is right.  Because real estate agents must use a New Jersey State Contract for residential sales, you really need to get a good attorney.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Here’s why:


  1. Only attorneys can ratify contracts legally.
  2. Attorneys make sure everything is correct so you don’t buy a mistake.
  3. Lawyers incorporate negotiated inspection issues into your contract.
  4. Your attorney has only your interest in mind and doesn’t care which house or Realtor is involved.
  5. Maybe, most importantly, your lawyer gives you guidance no one else can.

No Realtor, title rep or banker has the knowledge and skill to correctly examine title searches, surveys, contracts and closing documents.  As a result, no one protects you like your lawyer.

Why look for the cheapest attorney when buying the biggest purchase of your life?  If you needed brain surgery would you use a discount  surgeon?  get a good attorney

A closing was scheduled for yesterday morning.  The seller had moved out of state.  As a result, he did not know his discount attorney couldn’t be bothered to come.  His attorney sent closing papers to our attorney that morning.  Because there were so many errors the closing had to be cancelled.

The deed was wrong, signatures were missing or in the wrong places, pages were not notarized etc.  It was terrible.  The discount attorney didn’t know how to fix this and asked our attorney to tell him what to do.

If the seller was counting on the proceeds to purchase his next home yesterday, that didn’t happen.  If my buyer had planned to move in that day, she couldn’t. She also lost a vacation day for nothing.

Because a good attorney is often only a few hundred dollars more, it’s not worth the risk.  How much did it cost the seller to not move yesterday?  It’s expensive to keep things in a moving truck overnight.  Get a good attorney not a cheap attorney.

If you want the names of outstanding real estate attorneys, contact me today.  You can also find information on attorneys in my website.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe, Buying, Homeowner Tips.

tree by the curbIs there a tree by the curb?  If so you’re in luck because that tree is owned by the town.

Most homeowners and home buyers don’t know that usually the first 10 feet from the curb is town property.  This is called the right of way.  Because the town owns this land, trees on it are the town’s responsibility.

As a result the town has to maintain the tree including tree trimming.  This is a great savings for the homeowner.  You need to call your town to check on this of course.  However, if the town owns it they have to maintain it.


There are 3 things you need to do:

1.  Call your town to learn their policy on this.

2.  Call your town to request that the tree be trimmed.

3.  Be patient.  You may have to wait a really long while.  A follow up call is often a good idea.

My experience has been that most towns do a good job trimming trees.  It’s important for the tree’s health and it’s aesthetics.  Some towns, like the City of Englewood, have entire departments just for this.

There is another reason to trim a tree.  Branches growing too close to power lines can snap them in a storm.  Such live wires let loose can create havoc.  Everything from starting fires to electrocuting people is possible.  tree by the curb

Our local utility, Public Service Gas & Electric (PSEG) will send a truck out quickly to trim back the offending branches.  All you have to do is to call PSEG and give them the number of the nearest telephone pole.  You’ll find a metal tag right on the pole with a number.

I have to tell you that the crews PSEG sends out don’t worry about aesthetics.  They aren’t there to trim the tree because their focus is on safety.  As a result, only the branches that can cause trouble are cut down.  Sometimes it doesn’t look terrific but wouldn’t you rather be safe and not lose power?

tree by the curb

So there you have it.  Two opportunities to take care of those trees at the curb.




Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

horseback riding

Bergen County is 1 mile across the river from Manhattan.  I bet you don’t expect horseback riding here.  Not next to New York City of course.  You are in for a happy surprise because Bergen County has great horseback riding.

We have excellent County run and private stables all over Bergen County.  No matter where you own a home, riding a horse is not far away.  Horseback riding is also year round weather permitting.

The County operates 2 terrific facilities itself – Bergen Equestrian Center in Leonia and Saddle Ridge Riding Center in Franklin Lakes.  People board horses, take lessons or just enjoy a ride.  Both have summer camps and programs for younger folks too.

Want to book a pony party for a child’s birthday?  Check out Ironside Farm in Paramus.  Ironside Farm is on the Bergen County website because it’s conveniently located in Van Saun County Park.  They offer pony rides and a summer camp for childPony Power Therapiesren.  Ironside Farm is close to both the carousel and playground.  Parents give their children a whole day of fun easily here.

Pony Power Therapies is a non-profit organization in Mahwah.  They are a  wonderful facility.  It gives children and adults who are at risk or have special needs a unique opportunity to ride, care for and interact with horses.

Winter Haven Equestrian Center is a family run operation.  It is located on the western edge of the county in Oakland.  You can board your horse, enjoy a ride or take lessons in competitive and recreational riding.  In addition to an acre outdoor sand arena there is an indoor riding arena ideal for year round riding.horseback riding

Rockleigh Equestrian Centre is at the northeastern end of Bergen County in Rockleigh.  Their website has a separate section for adults, teens and kids.  You will find lessons, boarding, a summer riding program and even supervised cross country jumps for qualified riders.
horseback riding


Both Winter Haven and Rockleigh offer leasing programs.  If you’re not committed to owning a horse but want more than a training pony, this may be right up your alley.  People do this because it’s more affordable than owning.

Ramapo Saddlery has everything you need to outfit yourself and your horse.  From boots to horse treats it’s a great tack shop that also has other sportswear and exercise items too.horseback riding

Horseback riding is just another reason why Bergen County is such a great place to live.







Posted by & filed under Selling.

realty transfer feeThe New Jersey realty transfer fee (aka the real estate transfer tax) is not always understood by home sellers.  It should be explained early on because you can’t get an accurate idea of your net proceeds without it.

This is important because most sellers want an idea of what they’ll net.  Homeowners don’t always get this information early on and that’s unfortunate.  As a result, the transfer fee can be an unhappy surprise just before the closing.

I blame both agents and attorneys.  Since real estate agents don’t set closing costs or do the actual closing, they’re often uncomfortable with this.  Closing costs are figured by the bank, title company and attorneys.  Real estate agents manage the transaction; lawyers, banks and title companies do the closing.

If a seller uses an attorney I recommend, I defer to that attorney.  If not then I do my best to explain closing costs although I’m no substitute for an attorney.

The New Jersey realty transfer fee is essentially a sales tax on your home.  It’s less than the NJ State Sales Tax of 7%.  You will want to calculate this because it comes to several thousand dollars.  realty transfer fee

The realty transfer fee is based on the sales price of a home.  Here’s an easy calculator for you to use from the NJ Realtor Association.  All you have to do is to fill in the price and click on Calculate to get the figure.

The average sales price in Bergen County is around $499,000.  If we put that into the calculator, the transfer fee comes to $4,165.  If NJ were to apply it’s 7% sales tax the figure would be $34,930.  So while it’s not fun it is a whole lot better.

There are some exemptions that reduce the realty transfer fee.  You qualify based on senior, disabled or low income status.  Discuss this with your attorney because no real estate agent can guide you correctly on this.




Posted by & filed under Buying.

home inspectionThe home inspection was awful – what do I do?

Sometimes serious problems are discovered during your home inspection.  This is always a big disappointment.  Think of what you’ve gone through.

Months of looking online.  Sunday afternoons going to open houses.  Trips with your agent to see houses.  The excitement and anxiety of making an offer.  Going through the Attorney Review process.  Looking forward to moving in and the house flunks inspection?

The home inspection was awful – what do I do? is the question you ask.  How you handle this is extremely important.  Here is what I typically advise:

  1. Go home and think it over.  Your initial reaction is emotional.  As they say cooler heads prevail.
  2. Wait for the written inspection report which arrives in 24-48 hours
  3. Consult with your attorney (and your realtor if you wish).
  4. Get estimates for fixing what’s wrong.
  5. Negotiate with the seller for repairs or credits.
  6. Decide after negotiations have reached their end whether or not you want to proceed.

While the focus is often on negotiating with the seller for repairs and/or credits, this is not what really counts.  Most of all do you still want the house even if the seller is willing to do things.

Buying a house is not just dollars and cents.  It’s your home.  As a result, if the problems found are so upsetting that you no longer want to live there, cancel the contract.

Furthermore there’s your budget.  Seller concessions rarely equal the cost of repairs.  Therefore if the cost is too high, you’ll probably cancel for this reason alone.

At the same time, over reacting can lose you a house you’ll regret for years.  Why?  Because prices continue to rise albeit slowly.  Hence the next house might be a bit more expensive or not have as many features.home inspection

The answer to The home inspection was awful – what do I do? is to carefully think it over, read the inspection report, listen to your attorney and then proceed as you wish.

If you decide that the problems are just too much for you, move on to another home.  If you are satisfied with the seller’s concessions, be happy that issues were found before you own it.



Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Bergen CountyBergen County is not the focus of most home buyers. Buyers focus on the towns they’re considering because that’s what’s most important to them.  This makes perfect sense of course.

They’re not alone.  Most homeowners and residents don’t know much about the County they live in either.  As a result if you were to ask anyone you meet here how many people live in Bergen County, I bet they’d answer “A lot.”

The scale of this place is huge.  There are 70 different municipalities.  Each has it’s own personality.  We are also a highly diverse place.  While many counties in the US have a distinct flavor, we are a rainbow of options and choices.  If you only focus on a few towns, you’ll miss so much of what we have to offer.  Let’s take a look.

The US Census Bureau says that 939,151 people live here.  That’s nearly 1 million people packed into 246.61 square miles.  This makes us the most populous County in New Jersey.

Known as a bedroom community to NYC, the truth is that most people here don’t work in NYC. Half work in Bergen County and 15% commute to NYC.

Education is big.  We have a well deserved reputation for outstanding public school systems.   New Jersey Monthly Magazine  publishes a list of the top high NJ high schools every 2 years.  Bergen County has 22% of the top 50 which is Bergen Countymore than any other County.

We are also very well educated because 91.6% of us graduated high school and 46.9% are college graduates.  As a result, we have the highest  median household income in the State at $85,806.

There are 9,000 acres of County Parks.  As a result it’s easy to see why Bergen County is so beautiful when you add in all the town parks and nature preserves.

Speaking of County Parks, we have golf courses, winter ski slopes, horseback riding, hiking trails, a zoo and more.

Diversity is amazing.  Did you know that the town in the US with the highest percentage of Korean Americans is Palisades Park?  That 18.5% of us are Italian Americans?  That Poland, South Korea and India are where most of our foreign born Bergen Countycitizens come from?  About 20% of us are of Hispanic origin.  We have a large Jewish population too as well as African American.

Even people from my background – Armenian – have a sizable population.  I bet there is not 1 country missing here in our population.  The diversity of Bergen County is at times staggering.  Walk into a supermarket – it’s a kaleidoscope of cultures.

The diversity of Bergen County is wonderful in both what it has to offer in real estate and it’s people.  This is why Bergen County is both a dynamic and terrific place to live.  Come join us – you’ll love living here.

Posted by & filed under Selling.

getting your house readySelling your home?  Getting your house ready is a big part of your success.  Let’s start with condition.

You’ve probably heard that it’s a seller’s market because Bergen County homes are in high demand.  While this is true it also misses the point.

The only thing that matters is how much you get for your house.  Condition will lift you high or devastate you in any real estate market.  So let’s get ready for the heights!

If your home is like almost all others, condition is something to be carefully considered. Most of all you want to add value so consequently whatever is done must make sense.

Most homeowners live with things for years that they just don’t see.  You get used to it or it doesn’t matter.  Selling a house makes it matter because condition issues steal value from you.getting your house ready

Opening windows and airing a house out can do wonders.  How a house smells is a condition issue.  So open your windows and let fresh air in.

Odors will kill you.  Dogs get a bath.  Rugs need shampooing.  Oven vents should be cleaned.  Air scents need to be trashed.  Examine your home carefully.

Do you have a damp basement?  Water penetration may not be the issue.  What about those old basement windows that no longer open and the missing dehumidifier.  Get a dehumidifier and turn it on.  Forget the windows because once opened, they may not close.

Check your leaders and gutters. Overflowing gutters pour water into your foundation and create stains. Consequently gutters appear dirty and unattractive. Clean and power wash them so they operate properly and shine.

Power washing is always a good idea if your home’s exterior works with this.  Sidewalks and patios are helped too.

Look at your bathrooms.  Re-caulk the bath tub and steam clean the tiles because this will make it pop.

Professiongetting your house readyal cleaning services are the best idea. They know how to get a house ready for the market. As a result, this is very cost effective.  Furthermore they get it done in quickly.

Cleaning windows is a must.  I wrote an entire article just on cleaning windows. because it’s so very important.

Wood floors are a huge deal with buyers therefore polish them up.  Covered with old carpet?  Almost always it’s smart to remove it.  This is a judgement call on your part.

Decide what’s best based on your budget and what adds the most value.  Selling your home is also getting your home ready.  You want the best price so pay attention to condition and put your best foot forward!

Thinking of selling your home?  Find out more about selling from Barbara here.