Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Van Saun ParkAmazing Van Saun Park is one of the jewels in the Bergen County Parks system.  Located in Paramus it has so much to offer you.  Van Saun is 146 acres of fun!

Last weekend I had a few hours free so I took my dog, Mickey, there.  Because no one was at the dog park we took a long walk.  The dog park there is excellent.  It has large and small dog sections and it’s always been very clean whenever I’ve been there.  Because there is no water available you need to bring some with you.

Walking through the park, you see so many people on a weekend.  Weekdays are busy too by the children’s playground and other areas.  The playground is terrific.  There are always tons of children and it looks like the UN has arrived.  You will see all of Bergen County’s diversity here which is great.  There is also a new ADA compliant section that has a water sprinkler area.

Parking is never a problem.  Even on Labor Day Weekend (I took Mickey on Labor Day mid afternoon) I was able to find a spot.  Because the park is so well designed the facilities everywhere are great.

Families fill the picnic tables barbecuing all over.  Great food smellVan Saun Parks are everywhere.  The park has hot ash containers for you once you’re done.  It seems they’ve thought of everything.  I also saw volley ball, soccer, catch, softball, bike riding and just relaxing in a hammock.

Mickey and I walked over to the carousel – that’s right, there is a real live carousel – and along the way saw the park’s Safari Train.  This train has been running since the early 1960’s.  I know parents who rode the train themselves as children and take their kids today.  Both the carousel and zoo tickets are $1.50 which isn’t bad.

WalkingVan Saun Park through the park is fun.  There are beautiful paths where you feel like you’re in the middle of a nature preserve with streams and lush foliage.  It is so easy to come here and just relax.  In fact there is one section where General George Washington visited with his army.  This is Washington Spring.  Volunteers maintain this area as they do elsewhere in the park.

Even more family fun awaits you.  Pony rides from Ironside Farm are just north of the tennis courts.  That’s about a 5 minute walk north from the carousel.  Do you remember taking a pony ride?  I do.  It was so much fun.  I took Mickey over there and he could care less.  He had never seen a horse before so I was wondering what kind of reaction he would have.  Zero is the answer!  Van Saun Park

The Bergen County Zoo is in Van Saun Park too.  It’s free for Bergen County residents and a nominal charge for others.  This is really a terrific learning experience for your children and they have many different special activities throughout the year.  Please click on the URL here for all the information and check back often.

If you’re wondering what to do this weekend, come to this park.  Amazing Van Saun Park is all of that and more.  Whether you’re by yourself or with others, you will be so glad you did.  I have been coming here nearly all my life and it’s never disappointed me.  I have to admit that it stirs up happy memories every time I do.  So come and make some of your own!


Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Here is my sold report for Bergenfield NJ homes using data from the New Jersey MLS.  Bergenfield is a very popular location because of it’s strong school district and affordability.  This report compares 2017 to 2016 through August.

Single Family Homes

  • 12 more sales for an 8% increase (157 to 169)
  • 37% less time on the market (86.6 to 64.8 days)
  • 25% higher dollar volume ($55,241,499 to $69,164,292)
  • 16% higher average price ($351,857 to $409,256)
  • 11% higher median price ($325,000 to $360,000)
  •  2% more Under Contract (187 to 191)
  • 13% higher Under Contract listing price ($354,413 to $401,493)

Bergenfield real estate is moving at a blistering pace.  Look at the time on the market – that’s fabulous.  We track absorption rates – that’s how long it takes to sell what’s on the market now – and it’s been 2-3 months almost all year long.  You can also see it in the higher listing price range of homes under contract.

Because 16% is a tremendous and unsustainable increase we have to look further to see what’s happening.  You start by looking at the median which is 11%.  A 5% differential statistically is huge.  This tells us something is going on and what’s going on is new construction.

The most expensive homes are usually new construction or very recently built homes.  As a result, if you have a large number of these they pull up the average sales figures.  Bergenfield has had an explosion of new construction.  Of the 169 sales, 18 were new or newer homes.  That’s roughly 11%.  No wonder the overall figures are so high.

By the way, this is a perfect example of why you can’t just Zillow your way to a home’s true value.  Nothing works like the New Jersey MLS data.  At any rate, let’s see what happens when we eliminate these new homes.  I’ll go up through $600,000 because the 1 home in between 600k and 650k was an office exclusive without much data.

Sold Report for Bergenfield Homes to $600,000

  • 7 more sales for a 5% increase (153 to 160)
  • 42% less time on the market (88.1 to 51.2 days)
  • 17% higher dollar volume ($44,889,499 to  $52,687,292)
  • 12% higher average price ($313,913 to $351,249)
  • 12% higher median price ($320,000 to $357,000)
  • 2% fewer Under Contract homes (176 to 172)
  • 7% higher Under Contract listing price ($329,280 to $353,102)

This makes much more sense.  The average and median prices are identical with a 12% rise.  Less homes under contract this year at up to $600,000 and only 2% more town wide speaks to the lack of inventory.  It might also be a bit of a pull back from the sharp increase in pricing.  There is yet another item to consider – distressed properties.

In 2016 there were 30 such homes but this year only 20.  That’s 1/3 less which is significant.  Distressed properties sell for less than market value and pull everything down with them.  It seems clear that part of the 12% rise in pricing has to do with the effect of distressed homes.  Of the 30 in 2016, half were foreclosures but only 5 of the 20 this year as best as I can tell.  The NJMLS has no separate category for these homes so I do a detailed search to the best extent possible.

This sold report for Bergenfield NJ homes shows that the market is doing very well.  Prices are up substantially, time on the market has been slashed and distressed properties are fewer by a good margin.




Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Now that we are through the summer it’s time to do a sold report for Bergen County homes.  Comparing 2017 to 2016 gives us a great view of the market trends so let’s get going.

Residential Sales

Single family homes dominate the residential real estate market so we begin here.  Let’s take a look at some numbers:

  • 224 more sales for a 3% increase (8,082 to 8,306)
  • 10% less time on the market (73.3 to 65.9 days)
  • 6% higher dollar volume of sales ($245,843,417 increase)
  • 3% higher average price ($503,232 to $519,259)
  • 4% higher median price ($409,000 to $425,000)
  • 2% more Under Contract homes (10,542 to 10,739)
  • 3% higher Under Contract listing price ($500,249 to $515,543)

Most of you are looking at the prices.  Prices are moderately higher so that’s great.  Modest increases are sustainable because they’re solid.  When you get aggressive increases it’s not healthy.  So we’re in a good position.  If you look carefully at this data from the New Jersey MLS you’ll see that higher priced homes sold well.  Higher dollar volume twice the higher average price together with a higher median price tells you this.  The future looks bright too.  Look at the Under Contract figures.  There are more of them at higher asking prices.  This shows rising house prices.

Multi Family Homes

Investors have been shopping too.  Income producing properties have been very popular and many people have been buying two family homes.  Because a two family home is less expensive and less scary for a first time investor they’ve been selling well.  Let’s look at two family statistics now:

  • 77 more sales for a 5% increase (1,413 to 1,490)
  • 10% less time on the market (89.5 to 80.4 days)
  • 10% higher dollar volume of sales ($469,426,334 to $514,578,003)
  • 4% higher average price ($332,220 to $345,354)
  • 6% higher median price ($310,000 to $330,000)
  • 4% more Under Contract homes (2,034 to 2,118)
  • 4% higher Under Contract listing price ($329,224 to $341,475)
  • PLEASE NOTE: NJMLS data is for 2-4 family homes but almost all are 2 family properties.

Consumer confidence is driving a lot of this in my opinion.  When people feel good about real estate, they not only buy single family homes.  They invest in real estate as well because they see the future positively.  Although Bergen County values are high the buyers I have dealt with aren’t looking for a good rate of return immediately.  Most have been 1st time investors who look long term.  As a result, the immediate return is not an issue for them.  If they get a small return it’s still better than what they get in a money market account.

Here’s another aspect of buying a 2 family:  You can refinance as your equity grows.  As a result, you get tax free income over the years paid for by your tenants.  2-4 family homes are also seen as savings for retirement when paid off or steams of retirement income.  For people thinking long term this is a great opportunity.  Because of all this multi family investment homes are extremely popular.

Unfortunately the New Jersey MLS lumps co-ops, condos and townhouses into the same category.  As a result, I will do a separate article on these properties.  There is simply too great a difference among them in both values and characteristics to place them together as one group.  It just won’t make sense.

Bergen County has 70 different towns.  This sold report for Bergen County homes is obviously a broad picture of the real estate market here.  As I’ve said before, real estate is very local so let me know what towns you’d like and I’ll get you the report you need.  Tell me what you want so I can send it to you right away.



Posted by & filed under Buying.

How to buy a fixer upper with a 203k loan may be the magic you need. 203k

Bedford Avenue in Teaneck is a great place to live.  Located off of Teaneck Road, it’s an amazing setting.  It ends at what looks like a forest but is actually the extension of Argonne Park.  The street is lined with gorgeous towering trees and deer often walk through the neighborhood.  People are friendly and help each other out.  Who would move from here?

Because Bedford is such a great neighborhood, many residents stay for decades.  As a result, sellers are often senior citizens.  Seniors are  usually on retirement incomes.  Because their incomes are limited, they can’t afford to update their homes.

203kI listed a home here recently.  It is well cared for but like many other senior owned houses, it hasn’t been updated for a long while.  Younger buyers see such homes as “needing work” and “fixer uppers”.  This creates a purchasing problem.

Buyers are cash poor these days.  Because of this, they have small down payments and can’t afford to fix up a house.  The mortgage industry has responded to this.  There are many low down payment mortgage options.  The 203k program is basically a construction loan.  203k loans allow construction costs in addition to the purchase price.  Here’s how it worked with my listing:

The purchase price is $275,000.  The buyer is paying $310,000 with a 203k loan.  $275,000 goes to the seller and $35,000 to fix up the house.  The buyer is using the 35k to renovate the bath, finish the basement and install new kitchen coun203kter tops and appliances.

Everyone is happy.  The homeowner sells his home.  The FHA loans 310 on a house worth more.  The buyer buys an updated house with more value than he pays.  What’s the catch?

203k mortgages cost more.  They have extra fees and a slightly higher interest rate but they’re worth it.  They cost less than a traditional construction loan and you can do this with a small down payment.    Because the home is ultimately worth more it’s a win for the buyer.

This is how you get an updated home with 203k loans.  It takes more effort but it’s worth it.  Most mortgage bankers can not do 203k loans.  This is a certified specialty.   Contact Felicia Dori Festa to speak to a 203k certified banker.  I’ve worked with Felicia for years – she’s an outstanding banker and a super nice lady.

The bottom line is that how to buy a fixer upper with a 203k loan is exactly the magic you need.  It allows you to move into an updated home affordably.  What could be better?

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

labor day eventsLabor Day events in Bergen County are a tradition here.  There are 3 major events to include in your weekend along with just relaxing with friends and family.  Of course there always the Jersey Shore but for those of us staying at home, we have plenty of fun opportunities.

Here are 3 major Labor Day Weekend activities for you –

You can enjoy a real Italian feast from Friday through Monday in Lodi at the Feast of Saint Joseph  Located on the Church grounds at 40 Spring Street, there is everything you’d expect at an Italian church feast.  Great food, rides for the kids, games for everyone and nightly music. Large crowds come every year because this is one of our most popular feasts.labor day events

Runners love to compete. The Glen Rock Jaycees 5k Arboretum Run gives runners the chance to do exactly that every Labor Day.  In addition to the 5k run there are the Junior 1 Mile and Kid’s Run too.  You can still register to enter.  Registration goes through the 31st.  This run draws a large number of participants every year.  It’s so popular with runners that it’s celebrating it’s 30th year this September.

Rutherford’s 42nd Annual Street Fair is on Monday.  It is the oldest and biggest street fair in New Jersey.  I took my son every year when he labor day eventswas a little boy so I can tell you it’s a great fair.  You’ll see everything from fine antiques to crafts to White Elephant tables.  Food trucks, entertainment for children, music and more will be there.  Rutherford has wonderful restaurants and shops many of which will be open as well.  Parking might be a few blocks away but it’s well worth it.

Bergen County also has a tremendous park system.  You can play golf, swim, ride a horse,hike, picnic, take the kids to a playground or zoo and more.  The Bergen County Park system is huge.  Local town parks offer you other options too.

Get outside and enjoy the last weekend of summer.  There is a lot to do.  Weather should be perfect so check out the Labor Day events in Bergen County and have fun!

Posted by & filed under Selling.

surprised ladyOh good grief!  The oil tank is still in the ground?

You changed from oil to gas heat years ago.  Oil tanks didn’t matter back then.  Consequently you closed the thing off and left it in the ground.

It’s time to sell your house now.  That old oil tank you forgot about is unacceptable today.   As a result, you have a problem.

You can’t sell a house with an abandoned underground oil tank.  Here are some reasons why:

Almost all buyers use a mortgage.  Banks will refuse to mortgage.  Insurance companies will refuse to insure.  Even cash buyers run away.

Environmental damage is the big fear.  Underground tanks rust because they’re made of metal.  Leaks happen sometimes which contaminates the soil.  As a result, an expensive cleanup is required.

Buyers don’t want that responsibility nor does the bank or insurance company.  Because of this you can’t sell your home until the oil tank is removed.

What else can you do?  Hope for a cash buyer who doesn’t care?  Removing it is the only solution.  You really have no choice if you want to sell your home.

Licensed contractors remove underground oil tanks.  It’s done most of the time like this:

  1.  A backhoe digs out the tank.
  2. A special truck siphons out whatever remains inside.
  3. The backhoe pulls the tank out of the ground.
  4. Workmen inspect the tank for any obvious defects.
  5. The town inspector determines if everything is fine.
  6. The tank is hauled away.

Contractors remove tanks in a few hours. They charge around $2,000 (including permits) for the average home.  Homeowners lose much more if they don’t do this.  Because buyers see this as an intolerable negative, they cancel the contract.  The next offer you get is almost always lower.  You lose more than $2,000 as a result and the tank still has to come out.

Be proactive because buyers see excavated tanks as a positive.  This adds value to your home so you win.  Also you sell your home quicker because houses with tanks removed shine in the marketplace.

Contact me  any time If you need the name of an oil tank contractor or just have some questions.


Posted by & filed under Buying.

how to look at a houseHow 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 fehow to look at a housew 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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 if you need help doing some changes in your kitchen

how to look at a houseI 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.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Ellis Iland

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.   lovely-victorian-home_2175682

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

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Bergen County home salesBergen 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 Bergen County home salesis 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.

Bergen County home salesJeff 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.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

hikerRamapo 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:



  1. Bird Watching
  2. Canoeing
  3. Cross County Skiing
  4. Fishing
  5. Hiking
  6. Kayaking

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 Rafishingmapo 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 gorgkayakingeous 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.