How do you know which town is right for you? You can change the house, knock it down and build new, expand it or just keep it. What you can not change is the land or where the house is located. As a result, buying a home involves choosing a town. You need to figure out which town is right for you.
70 Bergen County Towns
Bergen County has 70 different towns. We have small hamlets, urban neighborhoods and country areas with horses. Prices go from around $150,000 to just under $30 million. Styles range from antique colonials to modern grand scale mansions. While having so many choices is great, it can also be overwhelming. Let’s figure out which town is right for you now.
Doing The Right Financials
Begin with an identified budget. I know you do this online but online pre-approvals are often quite preliminary. How come? Because online systems usually lack accurate property tax and home insurance costs for a local area.
As a result, you don’t have a budget you can safely rely on. A great banker is also an advisor. He/She will listen to your needs and together you create a budget that is right for you. Rick Casatelli in my office does this brilliantly.
Identifying Your Needs
Over half of all home buyers are families with children. As a result, schools are very important to them. I have an entire section on Bergen County’s schools to help you.
Getting to work is the other top consideration for most home buyers. Do you drive to work? If so you need a town that’s accessible to highways. Do you use public transportation? Use New Jersey Transit’s website Put in a home’s address and they’ll tell you how to commute.
Relatives can be another consideration if they live here. Is it important to be near them? Bergen County is big – it can take just under 1 hour to go from one end to the other.
Once you’ve identified a budget and locations that work for you, then together with your agent you’ll find the right towns. Once you do, you’ll find the right house too!
If you want my help, just contact me today
Get ready to wear green because it’s time for the Bergen County St Patrick’s Day Parade! It’s the 38th year this popular parade is being held in, of course, Bergenfield. The parade will begin at 2 pm and end at 4 pm or there about. An annual tradition, it brings out thousands of people rain or shine every year and this Sunday will be no different.
The 2019 Grand Marshal is Patsy McLoughlin because of her contributions to Irish culture and Irish dance. Patsy is the owner of McLoughlin School of Irish Dance. For over 50 years her school has promoted Irish dance and she’s been a force in Bergen County’s Irish community. This is a very well deserved honor.
The day begins with The Flag Raising Ceremony at 1 pm at the Roy Brown Middle School on Washington Ave. The Parade then takes off from there at 2 pm.
Bergen County’s St Patrick’s Day Parade features Irish dancing by both children and adults, at least 3 bagpipe bands, antique cars, live music and more. It really is a lot of fun.
Bergen County has a proud and strong Irish community. Because there are so many people of Irish descent in Bergenfield the parade has always been held here. Statewide, 10% of New Jersey residents have an Irish heritage according to Wikipedia.
So come on out this Sunday, March 10th, and enjoy the Bergen County St Patrick’s Day Parade. Afterwards have a meal at one of our great local Irish restaurants – Tommy Fox’s Public House in Bergenfield or Biddy O’Malley’s in Englewood or Northvale.
Negotiating mistakes that lose the house for a buyer are heartbreaking. Imagine what it’s like to think you have finally found your new home only to learn you haven’t. This just happened on my listing in Fair Lawn. I want to tell you this story so it never happens to you.
There is an adage in real estate – time loses deals. This is especially true today because there aren’t enough homes for sale. As a result, the market favors the seller, not the buyer.
If you are competing against other home buyers for a house, is it a good idea to take a few days to get a contract to a seller? Or is it better to act quickly?
While I realize this may seem obvious, timing is important for more reasons than you may expect. When you are in a seller’s market, you must be completely prepared to act immediately. It’s a race and you want to win.
Homeowners are impressed when a buyer looks at their house and delivers a sales contract within hours. Timing an offer so quickly displays decisive action. It definitely gives you a leg up.
Taking your time does the opposite. It creates doubt in a homeowner’s mind because they rightly wonder if you are sincerely interested. This is always a mistake.
Negotiating Mistakes in Fair Lawn
What happened in Fair Lawn is that a young couple who fell in love with my listing lost it. They lost it for the most unacceptable of reasons. It took several days to send in the final contract offer.
We negotiated price and terms concluding mid-day on a Friday. I told the buyer’s agent that I will get the contract signed as soon as I could once I received it. The answer was “I’ll get it to you on Monday.”
I was shocked by this. Why would the buyer wait? The logical deduction was to keep shopping over the weekend. At least that’s how this delay was interpreted by the seller. It was also interpreted as a lack of commitment. As a result, the buyer lost credibility with the seller.
By the time the buyer’s contract arrived on Monday, my listing had been shown 41 times (36 at Sunday’s open house) and a better offer arrived. It was of course accepted.
Don’t let this happen to you. Avoid negotiating mistakes. When you find the house you want, move quickly and aggressively. Impress the seller and leave the others behind.
If you want to discuss this further, just call or text me at 201-741-8490.
A Special Fair Lawn Home For Sale
Pristine condition is what you’ll find in this beautiful family home. It is a rare combination of traditional elegance and modern space. You step inside to be greeted by an elegant formal living room. This leads to the open floor plan kitchen and dining room space. Because you have a unique combination of 2 distinct styles, this is indeed a very special home.
Custom Kitchen with Hi End Materials
Kitchens are the heart of any home. This one is so beautiful that it truly is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Magnificent walls of custom cherry cabinetry, gorgeous Italian tile, beautiful granite counter tops and a large center island are all here for you. There is even a full sized Avanti wine refrigerator.
Light pours in through the sliding glass doors that lead to the deck outside. As a result, even overcast days are bright inside. This magnificent room is highly functional.
While this is a modern floor plan, you are not overwhelmed by the wide open space. Additionally the center island perfectly separates the kitchen and dining areas.
Because this room is created out of natural materials, it is both modern and warm. Moreover the traditional part of this level is as charming as the kitchen area is dramatic. As a result, 0-34 Morlot Ave captures your heart immediately.
Detailed House Features
0-34 Morlot Ave is offered at $459,000 and has separate hot water heat and central air conditioning. Taxes are $9,699 and lot size is 65 x 102. There is a 1 car attached garage with an automatic door. Bathrooms are updated and the outside deck is made of composite material.
There are 2 nice bedrooms on the main floor. Upstairs is a 3rd bedroom plus walk in attic storage. Additionally there is a generous sized rec room in the basement with a dry bar. This is a terrific space set up for 2 uses – home theater and relaxing with friends.
In conclusion, this is a great family home with good space and pristine condition.
Bergen County Players presents Veronica’s Room starting this weekend. It is a play written by Ira Levin that opens this Saturday night, February 16th, with an 8 pm curtain. Performances run through March 9th on weekends. Tickets are priced at $21 for Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays are $17.
Ira Levin is a novelist and a playwright. Because his novels were so well received and filled with suspense, many were turned into movies. You might recognize some or all of these examples: Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, The Boys from Brazil, Sliver and Deathtrap. Deathtrap remains the longest running comedy thriller on Broadway. Mr. Levin won many awards for his writing so it’s no wonder that play goers are eager to see Veronica’s Room.
Veronica’s Room is like so many of Ira Levin’s works. It is filled with suspense, adult themes and plot twists. It includes everything from false identities to murder. Programs identify the characters as Man, Woman, etc. This is because to do otherwise can reveal the plot and spoil your experience. I thought this was an interesting fact. Since Veronica’s room is adult in it’s theme and language, it’s not appropriate for children.
Bergen County Players
Bergen County Players is a local live theater group that I have written about often. They put on terrific plays year round. Ticket prices are moderate as you saw above. Parking is on the street or in a nearby municipal lot. It was once an old fire house and today is a fully equipped and recently renovated theater. Productions began in the 1950’s so there is a long history here. I love the fact that they also produce plays for children. It’s great fun to introduce a child to live theater here. Children love it and especially because after a performance, they get to meet the characters.
Go to Veronica’s Room. You get to see an Ira Levin play and support local live theater at the same time.
Hackensack Condo By The Train
I just listed a 1 bedroom Hackensack condo by the train for $139,000. New Jersey Transit trains go to Penn Station in Manhattan from here. The entire trip takes about 30 minutes so this is a fabulous commute. The building is located only a 5-7 minute walk to the train station
While this condo is on the 1st floor, it’s not on ground level because it’s 1 story above. Maintenance is $259.29 and property taxes are $3,710. The building has an elevator plus covered and outside parking spaces. There is a coin operated laundry room a few doors away from this unit. The floor plan is open. It really is one large space with a separate bedroom.
Sunlight flows in through the sliding glass doors. They open onto a nice balcony which the current tenant enjoys in warmer weather. Ceiling height is good too.
This Hackensack condo is in a location that is upgrading. There are several other buildings on the street and nearby new construction for more condo and rental buildings. Years ago this was a more industrial type area. Investment in Hackensack can be seen throughout the city.
Hackensack is one of 5 cities in Bergen County. We define a city as having 25,000 people or more. Because we are literally on top of Manhattan, Bergen County gets a lot of home buyers from New York City. By NYC standards our cities are suburbs. They do appear this way to be sure. In NYC there are apartment buildings with more than 25,000 people so our cities certainly don’t look like what they’re used to.
Buy It For What You’d Rent It
Hackensack condos are in big demand because they are more affordable than Fort Lee. Both locations have hi rise buildings and many garden and mid rise buildings.
One bedroom units are also very popular because they often cost the same as renting. This is true here too.
This condo would rent for at least $1,200 per month. Mortgage cost is $669.50 at 4.5% with a 5% down payment. Add maintenance ($259.29) and taxes ($310) for a total of $1,238.79 monthly. Insurance costs would be comparable so I didn’t factor that in.
This comfortable and bright Hackensack condo is a great start to home ownership and possibly a great investment too. If you want to take a look, contact me today.
Where is real estate going is a question that comes up at the beginning of every year. No one has a perfect crystal ball but looking at the dynamics of the market gives us a pretty good idea.
Mortgage rates rose in 2018 and will again in 2019. We began 2018 at 3.85% and rose to 5% by early fall. As rates go up, affordability goes down. This resulted in a steeper 3rd quarter decline than the year before.
Rates started falling throughout the fall and were back down to mid 4% by December and have been holding there since. Once people got through the holidays, buyers came back in a major way 2 weeks ago. Bankers tell me that rates should stay in this range for the next few months.
Stability is the word to use. While you need to look at a town specifically to really know what’s happening, overall the stabilization that began in 2017 continued.
The number of sales rose 1% from 12,624 to 12,700. Days on market reduced by about 5 days – from 66 to 60.8. That’s 4% fewer days but I’m sure you’ll agree selling a house 5 days quicker really isn’t dramatic. Prices were pretty flat too. The average sales price in Bergen County rose 2% from $511,282 to $523,087.
Inventory is the number of available homes for sale. If you’ve been looking for a home, you know the inventory stinks. There isn’t a lot to look at. Since the 14% rise between 2015 and 2016, inventory levels have been flat. We have sales of 12,257 in 2016, 12,624 in 2017 and 12,700 in 2018. This is just 4% more sales since 2016 (appreciation was only 5%).
Demand has increased tremendously since 2016. You see that by the sharp decline in how long a home stays for sale. Days on market dropped 17%. Homes sold nearly 2 weeks quicker and that’s huge.
The Bottom Line
Today there are only 2,178 Bergen County homes for sale in the New Jersey MLS. This is another low inventory year. Mortgage rates while good are nearly 1% higher than at the start of 2018. As a result the market will remain stabilized because higher rates + prices up a bit mean homes today cost more. 2019 seems like a repeat of 2018 and that’s good.
So where is real estate going in Bergen County? Its going to continue it’s positive, stable trend. This is a general view of the market; where you live or want to buy might be different. Contact me if you’d like to know about any particular area or neighborhood.
Lead in drinking water in Bergen County and northern Hudson County has been found by Suez Water. Because I’ve been asked about this lately, I thought writing an article would be helpful.
Suez Water is the water utility company servicing almost all of Bergen County and northern Hudson County. On January 16th they published their findings in an article on their website and at a public press conference. They tested 108 homes and found 16 (15%) with elevated levels of lead in the drinking water. They also tested the water they were sending out and found no lead at all.
How Lead Gets Into Your Water
So how did this happen? Suez came up with two reasons –
- Many homes built before 1986 used lead pipes to connect to the water main
- Many homes have lead solder and fixtures
Suez will test any home for lead in their drinking water for free. Click here to find out how to get your home tested.
The Good News
You might not think of this as good news but if you own an affected home, you’re not alone. This is not a NJ or Bergen County problem. Homes built before 1986 number in the millions all over the US.
The good news is that you can do something about this. Today you can buy NSF rated water filters that remove lead and other contaminants from water. It’s up to you and your budget on the system you use. You can do whole house systems or just a sink faucet. While it’s several thousand dollars, you can replace that old lead water pipe in your lawn too.
The EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) has an entire section on lead in drinking water on their website. New Jersey’s DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) has a section on lead in drinking water as well on their website. Let’s not forget Suez Water either as another resource.
If you need more help, let me know.
What can I afford in a house is always the right question to ask. Why? Because what you can afford is more than a mortgage quote.
Affordability is Everything
Affordability is everything. It is no fun to be house poor. I bet you know these folks – they used to go out to dinner, to the movies etc. But they just bought a house and now nothing’s left over once the mortgage is paid. How did this happen? They didn’t understand affordability.
What Can I Afford In A House
Let’s look at the total cost of owning a house –
- Property Taxes
- Homeowner Insurance
- Utilities (Oil/Gas/Electric/Water)
- Maintenance (Landscaping/Snow Removal/Regular Maintenance)
I’m not including a few other items that may or may not apply – a home warranty for houses with appliances/furnaces etc. that are more than 5 years old, a termite warranty and oil tank insurance.
I’m also assuming that you have a few month’s worth of mortgage payments in a separate account for emergencies such as a new roof, upgrades etc. If not, you should budget in 3-6 month’s worth of mortgage payments for this. I’d say at least $100 per month until you have this saved up.
Using a $500,000 purchase with a 5% down payment, here’s what we have –
- $475,000 mortgage – $2,450 p/month
- $12,000 property taxes – $1,000 p/month
- Homeowner Insurance – $100 p/month
- Heat, cooling, gas, electric – $300 p/month
- Maintenance – $125 p/month
While your mortgage comes to $3,550 per month you have an additional $425 per month in expenses. Many home buyers focus on just the mortgage payment and that’s how you can get into trouble.
So here’s the formula for what’s affordable – mortgage + carrying costs. If that figure works for you, then the house is affordable.
To do this right, however, you must have accurate figures. I’ve seen a lot of mortgages figured with ridiculously low homeowner insurance and property tax figures. If you’d like help in getting the right figures to buy a home, just call or text me at 201-741-8490.
Multi family homes for sale in Bergen County NJ are always very popular. Serious investors, first time home buyers and just folks who want to begin a real estate portfolio all find multi family properties attractive. While 1-4 family homes are residential over 4 units becomes commercial real estate. Because I specialize in residential real estate, I’ll leave commercial to experts in that field. I do know a great commercial agent so contact me for this if your interest is commercial.
The Multi Family Home Market Today
There are 208 multi family homes for sale in the New Jersey MLS right now. They range in price from $145,000 up to $1,799,889. Most are 2 families – 192 to be exact. Since they are so popular, the ratio of for sale to under contract is always very strong. Today it’s 192 for sale/134 under contract for a 1.6 to 1 ratio.
Low inventory + strong demand = higher prices. It doesn’t look like this will change any time soon. More first time buyers are purchasing these properties simply because it makes good economic sense. I’ve always encouraged this with the goal to keep them as long term investments. I wrote a blog article on buying a 2 family home a few years ago about this.
For those of you who took my advice back then, your investment would have grown by a whopping 16% according to the New Jersey MLS (comparing all 1-4 family sales in 2016 against 2018). If you’re thinking about a multi family purchase, you really should read my article on buying a 2 family home.
What Buying A Multi Family Means to You
Investors look at multi family homes strictly for cash flow. They analyze expenses vs income to calculate the cap rate. They have a set goal because this is strictly a business investment. Some will consider doing major work as long as “the numbers work” .
Owner occupiers see things differently. Because they want a home and an investment, multi family homes are the answer. They use these properties to build equity quicker than with a single family purchase. They also see them as protection against future bumps in the road because at least some of the mortgage is covered every month.
Multi family homes for sale in Bergen County NJ are and will always be very popular. If you want to kick some ideas around or explore a purchase, call me at 201-741-8490.