Lately I’ve been asked about refinancing quite a bit. Homeowners are beginning to worry – they sense that interest rates won’t stay this low for much longer. Just consider what’s been in the media lately.
The Fed has indicated that it may start to raise rates in June though gradually. Credible financial sources are sending out articles and quotes stating that rates will begin climbing later this year. Professional mortgage bankers I’ve talked to all say that this time next year mortgages will be at 5-5.5% It’s no wonder why homeowners are worried.
So should you refinance? Maybe yes and maybe no. It all depends on how much longer you’ll be in your home and if it makes financial sense.
The only reason to refinance is to lower the cost of your mortgage and/or to get into a better mortgage product for your needs. If you purchased a while ago, the market has recovered to a point where you now have enough equity to refinance to a lower rate or to get rid of PMI.
The only way to determine whether or not it makes sense for you is to properly analyze things. You need a Realtor for a valuation of your home and a professional mortgage banker (not a mortgage broker please) to investigate your financial options.
This won’t cost anything and can be done in a few days with the help of hetilainaa24.fi. As a matter of fact, I have done this often and work with Emi Kalici of Weichert Financial Services (201-569-7888). After I give people a market value of their home, they sit down with Emi to crunch the numbers.
If you have any interest in refinancing, my advice is don’t wait. It wasn’t very long ago that mortgage rates were just over 3%. Now they’re bouncing between close to or just over 4%. No doubt about it – they are oh so quietly moving up.
United Water Leak Guard and sewer repair plans are something most of us don’t know about but we should.
Are you buying a home in Bergen County? Perhaps in Tenafly or in Edgewater or in Ridgewood? Chances are that your Bergen County home gets it’s water from United Water. If it does you’ll also know that this utility is a bit of an old lady.
You can set up your gas and electric service through the PSEG website for most of us. Go to Orange & Rockland for the northern end of Bergen County. United Water requires a phone call at 800-422-5987.
This does seem pretty old fashioned these days. However, United Water has some great programs for homeowners that you should not overlook.
One of the beautiful aspects of living here are the older homes we have. Many Bergen County homes were built in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Drive down our streets and you’ll often see beautiful vintage and turn of the century homes.
There was also a construction boom right after World War II. A lot of homes are over, at or close to 100 years old here. A lot of infrastructure was built then and it’s beginning to show it’s age.
It’s not glamorous to talk about water pipes and sewer lines but they’re important. If they break and need to be replaced it can be very expensive. At an Englewood East Hill home inspection recently the inspector told my customers that replacing the water pipe would be around $8,000. My guess is that the sewer pipe would be at least this much.
United Water offers 2 programs to insure you against this from it’s vendor, Home Serve – exterior sewer line repair protection and Leak Guard
It’s best to call United Water to check this out when you contact them for water service at your new Bergen County home before closing. My advice is to get this. While nothing is perfect, the United Water Leak Guard and sewer repair program can be a big help in warding off very expensive bills.
Where is the spring market headed?
Although it’s snowing and 2 more snow storms are coming this week, spring is most definitely on it’s way and with it the spring market in real estate. The question I’m asked is How will the market do this spring?
The short answer is that the real estate market has been terrific and is poised for a very strong spring and summer. Let’s look at the facts.
Today there are 2,415 homes for sale in the New Jersey MLS and 1,054 under contract for a 2.3 to 1 ratio. A ratio of 2 to 1 is a strong seller’s market.
Comparing 2014 to 2015 for the first 2 months of the year, 10% more homes went under contract (1,210 to 1,327) and sales accepted offers and closed faster (72 to 65 days to closing).
On February 26th FHA mortgages became much less expensive (see my 2/26 article) which adds more first time home buyers. First time buyers fuel the real estate market so anything to create more of them strengthens the market.
Interest rates are still around 4% but the public increasingly expects rates to rise; this is a motivating factor for home buyers.
Low inventory continues to push up pricing. Higher prices and a fear of rising rates propelled many buyers to take action. We had tremendous activity during this very cold and snowy winter. Customers said that they wanted to take advantage of today’s prices and mortgage rates before they go up in the spring and summer.
Consumer confidence is back. No need to quote you articles in the media – you’ve been reading about this for months now.
With a strong start, low inventory & rates, more buyers, increased confidence and a correct perception that rates and prices will only be higher in the future, we have all the elements needed for a fabulous spring and summer market. If you’re buying – get going now. If you’re selling – this is the best year since the start of the recession.
So where is the spring market headed? Up.
I know the weather is freezing and it sure doesn’t look like spring but in 2 weeks the maple trees will be ready for the Tenafly Nature Center’s maple sugaring event. For me that’s really the start of spring activities.
On Sunday, March 1st, at 12:30 pm the program will begin. You’ll learn about the history of making maple syrup and how it’s changed over the years using advanced methods and technology. You’ll also learn about maple trees and you’ll actually go outside to a maple tree that’s already been tapped.
After gathering the sap and taking it inside, the sap will be boiled down to create delicious, warm maple syrup to be enjoyed by all. It’s not only an educational event but also a lot of fun too. Better dress warm because you will be outdoors for a while and Bergen County has been having quite a cold winter this year. Whether young or old, this is a great way to spend some of your Sunday afternoon.
You can register for maple sugaring on the Tenafly Nature Center website and while you’re there, explore all the other programs offered this spring. Whether or not you own a Tenafly home, the nature center is open to you. It’s a great facility for everyone in Bergen County offering terrific programs for both adults and youngsters all year long.
Don’t forget – Sunday March 1st at 12:30 for fun and sweet, warm maple syrup!
Have you been enjoying this winter? Many local residents certainly have. There is so much to do right here at home in Bergen County for winter sports. You never have to leave home, or take an expensive vacation. Skiing, hockey, ice skating – it’s all here!
Probably the top winter attraction for this area is Campgaw Mountain in Mahwah. Just a short drive from Tenafly and eastern Bergen, this very popular mountain resort is on the New York State border. There is downhill skiing, snow boarding and tubing. Programs begin as early as age 4. For more information check out the Campgaw website
Skating is also a popular year round sport here. The Ice House in Hackensack is a well known spot for social skating and for local hockey team action. There’s also the Fritz Dietl Ice Rink in Westwood and nearby in Elmwood Park is the Cutting Edge Ice Academy.
Campgaw Mountain Reservation is open year round and in warmer weather is a favorite hiking and camping retreat. But, in the winter, it becomes a snow park where you and your family can come for “in your backyard” winter sports. Campgaw is just another reason why it’s fun to live in Bergen County and why our Bergen County homes are so valued. I bet you didn’t expect a ski resort only 30 minutes from Manhattan!
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a major change to FHA mortgages that takes effect today, January 26, 2015. Your FHA mortgage will now cost you much less.
For 30-year mortgages with less than a 5 percent down payment, the mandatory annual mortgage insurance rate of 1.35 percent of the loan balance will be cut to 0.85 percent. For FHA-insured loans with more than a 5 percent down, the previous 1.30 percent rate will be reduced to 0.80 percent.
HUD estimates that the average borrower will save $900 per year in mortgage costs. Over the life of a FHA mortgage loan you will save thousands. There is a catch – this only applies to loans of longer than 15 years.
If you’ve already applied for a FHA mortgage or have a full commitment and are waiting to close, the FHA will allow you to cancel your current loan case number and get a new case number on or after January 26th so you can take advantage of this new program.
The effect of this new program is to lower the cost of FHA mortgages, expand the affordability of these loans and increase the price range a borrower can qualify for. The FHA has made the dream of home ownership a reality for millions of people nationwide and thousands in Bergen County. This is great news for the real estate market.
It’s tax appeal season – how to appeal your assessment is what this article is about.
Every year from January 1st through March 31st Bergen County property owners can file an appeal of their property tax assessment. You can only appeal the assessment; you can’t appeal the property tax. However taxes are calculated by multiplying the assessment by the tax rate.
The rule of thumb is you must prove that your current assessment should be reduced by 15% or more. The burden of proof is on you; not on the tax assessor. You need at least 3 but no more than 5 comparable sales which closed before October 1st of the prior year. Appeals are filed with the Bergen County Board of Taxation in Hackensack.
The Bergen County Board of Taxation will mail you the required petition of appeal form. You can complete it and mail it in or deliver it directly to their Hackensack location. Email and faxing isn’t allowed. You must also give your local tax assessor a copy.
Comparable sales should be near your property, have similar lot and structure size, age, style and condition. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of your property and comparables used. It’s essential that you know every property intimately well so you can present a detailed presentation and a suggested new value based on the evidence you cite.
While not impossible to do yourself, this is an involved process done at a public hearing.Everything you need to know is on the Bergen County Board of Taxation website
When my clients ask me about an attorney to represent them in a tax appeal, my advice is to use the services of Martin Sharit, Esq. Marty Sharit is an accomplished real estate attorney who also specializes in tax appeals. You can reach Mr. Sharit at 201-488-7711.
It’s tax appeal season and it ends on April 1st. Do your homework. You must be able to prove that your assessed value is too high. You must prove that your current assessment should be 85% or less than it is now. Good luck!
Here is my real estate market update for 2014: 2014 will go down as a positive year for Bergen County homes but also quite a varied year. Let’s look at the county’s over all performance comparing 2013 to 2014 –
Fewer Sales by 5% – from 8,890 in 2013 to 8,434 in 2014. Why? Fewer homes for sale = fewer closings. The median sold price went up by 3% – from $399,750 in 2013 to $411,021 in 2014. This shows that the market moved higher in 2014. Average sales price was virtually even which shows stability and strength. Strong consumer demand put pressure on pricing but buyers remain cautious so appreciation is here but at a moderate level. Quicker sales by 7% – from 93.9 to 87 days on the market. This is another sign of strong consumer demand and considering the fact that mortgages took longer to process in 2014 this is a very impressive showing.
Looking at the county as a whole we see a real estate market that was solid and gathering strength throughout the year. Let’s take a look at some individual towns now –
Alpine Homes – The number of sales was flat (from 13 to 12) as was the time it took to sell a home (148.2 days in 2013 to 149.7 in 2014). Median sold prices were down by 60% and average sales prices were down by 35% to $2,253,458. Top tier homes in Alpine weren’t moving and there were fewer for sale in 2014.
Bergenfield Homes- 10% drop in sales with an 8% rise in average prices and a 13% rise in median pricing. Days on the market dropped by 17%. What happened? Bergenfield’s bottom rose. Entry level homes here became significantly more expensive.
Englewood Homes – Here we have 2 towns because of a void in the market. Not at lot at $550-750,000. Up through $1 million we have 3% fewer sales with 2% higher median pricing and average sales pricing up by 4%. However it took much longer to sell a home from 95.5 to 138.7 days. This comes from the fact that we’re still working through several foreclosures and short sales. Over $1 million there were 43% fewer sales but the homes that sold were on the market for less time (by 38%). Average sales prices were up by 7% more while medians were down by 43%. Rampant over pricing and a large number for sale hurt the high end upper tier home.
Ridgewood Homes – 6% fewer sales, average sales pricing down by 5% to $806,815 while median sold pricing was flat. Time on the market was blistering with a 23% less days on the market from 59.6 to 45.8 days. Ridgewood was incredibly strong – we just needed more homes to sell and particularly at the higher end of the market.
Tenafly Homes – Inventory was a huge problem which translated to 8% less sales. We sold out so many high end new construction homes in 2013 that there wasn’t much available which showed up in a 3% lower median price and 4% lower average sales price of $996,240. Demand was so strong that homes sold much faster in 2014 from 102.8 to 86.1 days on the market.
If you have any questions about this real estate market update or want other information, just contact me and I’ll get you what you want.
It’s winter – take a look at this picture. This could be your home if you didn’t clean out your gutters by now. This is far from a good situation.
It may not be too late – take advantage of the current above freezing temperatures and get your gutters cleaned immediately if you haven’t done so already. Ice dams not only ruin roofs they create interior leaks and damage.
The damage you see in these pictures is real. Unfortunately this happens all the time and its so easy to avoid. It’s also a very inexpensive to avoid. You only have to clean your gutters, leaders and downspouts. Doing this is often less than $300.
Clogged gutters that retain water and then freeze are a menace. They cause thousands of dollars of damage to a home and can even set you up for a mold problem inside your walls. Do the math. Does it make sense to not spend a few hundred dollars and risk thousands?
Several years ago we had an extremely harsh winter in the Mid-Atlantic and North East of the US. It was so bad that homeowners had water pouring into their homes from their 1st floor ceilings. Ice dams had risen above the gutter and destroyed the roofing.
Don’t delay if your gutters need cleaning – you can’t afford to wait because freezing temperatures with snow and ice are only a few weeks away.
If you need help in finding someone to clean your gutters, call or text me on my cell phone at 201-741-8490 or just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s time for a quick market update now that we’re at the end of the year.
A lack of inventory continues to be the headline for the Bergen County housing market. No matter the town, no matter the price range we still have fewer homes available than the market needs. As I’ve said before here, I cannot see this changing for many years due to demographics.
Baby boomers are aging but they are more “young” than their predecessors. They are more physically fit and mentally sharp and for those who’ve lived in their homes a long while, mortgage free. In many cases renting a small apartment costs the same or more than the monthly cost to keep their home. They don’t need to sell and they don’t want to sell for a much longer time than most people would have expected. Thus a large contribution to the lack of inventory.
Buyers have slowed down due to the time of year which is normal but much less than last year. There is a good deal of activity out there with buyers going into contract at a fairly good rate. When activity in the 4th quarter is more than one would expect, that usually transfers into a robust following year. My projection for 2015 is that it will be very busy exceeding 2014 and that interest rates will be favorable until we approach summer.
Prices appear to have done what we expected – risen gradually in 2014. Mortgage rates which were approach 5% this summer are now around 4% and trending lower. I will publish a more detailed report in January but for now, all projections I made are on target.
I’ll have another quick market update for you in a few months,.