How to look at a house is a skill you need to learn. Before you click your way to another website, take a minute to read what I have for you now.
Just because no one told you how to look at a house doesn’t mean it isn’t something you need to know. Consider this for a moment.
If you’re like most home buyers, you’re whipped on Sunday nights. You went to 1 zillion open houses making sure you saw every house on your list. Because you had 100 homes to see in 25 different towns, you didn’t spend much time in any of them.
That’s all right. It only takes a few minutes to see a house. Not exactly.
Open houses are great and not so great. You see a lot of homes in a few hours; sellers get a lot of buyers into their house. If you’re starting out, it can be very helpful because you find out what you don’t like as well as what you do.
Here’s what’s wrong with open houses – it’s not a coordinated, logical search. As a result, you really don’t understand the market as well as you should. You also waste a lot of time going to homes that aren’t right for you. Because you’ve been racing through homes, you’ve learned to look on a very surface level.
Oh sure, you might walk through a home you’re considering slowly but you’re still not looking at it correctly. As a result, you can miss a lot.
Here are a few tips for you:
- The Roof. Go across the street or to the back of a yard. You have to be a distance away to see a roof. Walk from side to side – look at the roof at an angle. You can’t see swaying and shingle lifting when you look at it straight on.
- Don’t be so polite. Walk into the rooms and across at an angle. No house is perfect. If there’s a shift you want to know about it now; not after you buy the house. You can’t feel space you don’t walk into. How about squeaky floors. Viewing a room from the doorway is not the same as walking into it.
- Take time in the basement – look at the manufacturer names on the systems. Did the owner invest in quality brands or not? Behind those boxes along the wall does it look like there’s a water problem being covered up?
- Open kitchen cabinet doors and drawers. Are the cabinets refaced? When you pull out a drawer does it fall down or stay straight out? Is the oven vent really going to the outside? make sure to check https://www.pagenstechergroup.com/services/kitchen-remodeling if you need help doing some changes in your kitchen
I spend a good amount of time teaching my buyers how to look at a house. We are not home inspectors but I don’t want you to miss anything we should be able to see. There are many issues a buyer can miss. Learn how to look at a house properly. Find an agent who will take the time to show you. You can, of course, call me at 201-741-8490 to make an appointment to view homes.
Watch for future blog articles that go into more detail on what to look for when viewing homes. I’ll be writing them this fall.
Saving A Turn of the Century Home is more than a real estate story.
It is about how one lady, my Great Aunt, stood up against developers. She was on a mission to save her turn of the century Hackensack home and neighborhood along with the entire Fairmount District.
My family has spread out across the US but things were different when I was a child. I grew up in a very close and nurturing world where my large extended Armenian family lived very near each other. We were a family of immigrants and their first born all of whom were the adults in my world.
Like so many other Bergen County residents of the time, my family arrived at Ellis Island, settled in Hudson County’s urban neighborhoods and later moved north to Bergen County’s quieter suburban streets and nice sized yards.
Among those moving north was my Great Aunt Aghavnie Hammalian. My Aunt Aghavnie was a spirited woman who had more spunk than her tiny size would indicate. I don’t think she was even 5 feet tall. She had white hair and bright blue eyes that would turn dark if anyone said one negative word about her beloved Hackensack.
Highly intelligent, she spent most of her life as a widow in the 2 family home she bought at 72 Poplar Avenue. Horrified when developers started tearing down the gorgeous turn of the century homes in her Fairmount neighborhood, she mounted a one woman campaign to stop it.
Aunt Aghavnie was adamant that they were not going to get any more homes on her block. She actively recruited the remaining neighbors (one of whom was a cowering relative) to preserve the street. After she died they did do more projects but her home still stands as do so many more.
Because of her spunk and drive, she was able to not only save her home but convince many other residents. As a result, the beautiful Fairmount District remains.
My Aunt Aghavnie had the power of one – the power of one person. Today most of the truly magnificentl homes of Hackensack’s Fairmount District still stand. People drive though the Fairmount District admiring one turn of the century home after another.
As a real estate agent I often show homes there. When I drive by 72 Poplar I always smile. Her turn of the century home is still there. No, Aunt Aghavnie. They never got your home.
This article was originally published by me on Jan 24, 2014. Driving through the Fairmount District and by 72 Poplar, I thought you’d enjoy reading this. So here it is again for you. Barbara
Bergen County home sales are doing well because demand is strong.
By the time you get to August, the majority of the real estate year is over. This is why it makes sense to analyze the market now. Frankly the last 2 weeks of August are deadly. Hardly anyone is around as most people are on vacation. Home buyers want to close by mid month so there’s enough time to register children for school. College students are packing up and going back to school It’s really not a robust time for residential sales.
The fall market is strong. There are many transactions that happen then through November. While homes sell every day of the year, this is a good time to look back at what’s happened. The next time is January 1st because we have a lot of end of year closings.
New Jersey MLS figures are clear – comparing 2016 to 2017 through July, here is what we have: Only 2% more sales overall. The average sales price is up 4%. Time on the market is down 10%.
Rising prices with a tiny increase in volume indicates low supply. Even though our supply of homes to sell is low, the average sales price increase isn’t crazy at 4%. As a result, this is a healthy sustainable market.
2004 and 2005 was a crazy unsustainable market. At this point in the year, that market had 1% more sales while the average price rose 14%. Why anyone thought this would continue is beyond me. It’s important to look at the data because it shows you what is really happening.
Jeff Otteau just released his latest market letter. In it he notes that because of increased consumer confidence, luxury home sales are up. He has sales at $1-2.5 million up 11% in New Jersey and over $2.5 million higher for the first time in over a decade. Some people see the high end market as the market to watch.
Bergen County home sales are doing well because of many factors. Confidence in the market and in the economy for the future is certainly driving this as are low rates.
The bottom line is that this is a good market for everyone. If you want to know how a particular town or towns are doing contact me and I’ll send you what’s happening.
Ramapo Valley County Reservation Park is Bergen County’s largest park. It is so big that it spills over into Passaic County and Upstate New York.
There are over 4,000 acres to explore in this fabulous nature reserve. You can have so much fun here because of all the options available to you:
- Bird Watching
- Cross County Skiing
Work was completed in 2016 to totally reconfigure and improve the park’s hiking trail system. 1.2 miles of new trails were added and the other 6 miles re-blazed. The result is a wonderful loop system of hiking trails that everyone from beginners on up can enjoy. Take a look at the trail map to plan your hike.
The park is dog friendly so you can bring Fido. As a result you can have a wonderful hike with your dog. Ramapo Valley is possibly the best dog hiking experience in Bergen County.
I don’t know much about canoeing and kayaking but I found a great article about paddling a canoe or kayak on the Ramapo River. There is a dock for boaters in the park so it’s easy to access the river. Because of this the Reserve is a favorite spot.
Freshwater fishing is available on the Ramapo River, in the reservoir and at Scarlet Oak Pond. You must have a NJ fishing license to fish.
Ramapo Valley Reserve is no more than a 40 minute drive from anywhere in Bergen County. As a result you have a wonderful camping experience not far from home. There are several campsites around Scarlet Oak Pond. All you need is a permit, a tent, yourself and your family. Campers come back every year because it’s such a nice experience.
During the winter you’ll find great cross country skiing and there is always gorgeous views year round. Because it’s winter we also have to remember this is weather permitting.
The park is a gorgeous nature preserve. There is an amazing variety of birds which draws birders all throughout the year. The natural beauty of this park is stunning. There is everything from a waterfall to beautiful wild flowers.
For camping and fishing permit information and all other questions, call Darlington County Park at 201-327-3500. If you need more help, just call me at 201-741-8490.
New 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 finished.
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:
- Roof rafters pulling away from the ridge beam.
- The garage step made by the garage door service is too high so it’s a tripping hazard.
- Furnace exhaust pipe might be too long to maintain the manufacturer warranty.
- 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.
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.
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 need 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 insurance 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.
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.
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!
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:
- Only attorneys can ratify contracts legally.
- Attorneys make sure everything is correct so you don’t buy a mistake.
- Lawyers incorporate negotiated inspection issues into your contract.
- Your attorney has only your interest in mind and doesn’t care which house or Realtor is involved.
- 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?
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.
Is 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.
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?
So there you have it. Two opportunities to take care of those trees at the curb.
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 children. 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.
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.
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 is just another reason why Bergen County is such a great place to live.