Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

bergen county homes was hackedBergen County Homes Was Hacked

I have to admit that Bergen County Homes was hacked.  To be more specific, the hackers invaded this blog and created a large amount of problems.

They changed sentences in an article.  They inserted weird links and weird sentences that had nothing to do with the article’s subject.  In addition, this was done sporadically through the entire inventory of blog articles.

Because there was no rhyme or reason to how they did it, I had to check every blog article.  As a result, it took a few days and the help of my excellent webmaster, Sizzling Studios.

Hacked Examples For You

I bet you’re wondering what exactly happened.  Here’s some examples for you.  I wrote an article on how the real estate market was performing.  The hacker inserted a sentence in the middle of a paragraph about paint with a link to a paint store in New Mexico.  Sometimes they added to a sentence to an article that made no sense whatsoever and had a very weird appearing link.  Additionally they would change a sentence or paragraph into something that was very rude or negative.bergen county homes was hacked

I was very lucky, however, because nothing off color was involved.  That can happen too.  Although what they did might seem trivial to you, it’s really not.  Because of this anyone reading my blog would find it unprofessional at best or worry that it was sending them a virus.  Clients expecting to hear from me didn’t because I was afraid to do anything until this mess was fixed.  There is also the amount of time it took to get this fixed.  As a result, this was quite an unhappy situation.

Protecting Bergen County Homes & My Internet Ability

My Bergen County Homes website – – was created at the end of 1994 and officially launched in January bergen county homes was hacked1995.  That is 23 years without any trouble like this.  It could be that I took things too lightly.  Because I did, I have not changed my password for a long time and that’s the problem.

They hacked my site and got into my blog because they somehow got my password.  For sophisticated hackers this is not all that hard to do.  It is really a lack of concern on my part that made me vulnerable.  When I teach real estate agents and other people about technology, I always emphasize the need to change passwords regularly.  Oh well.

Because we all use the internet extensively we are more and more vulnerable.  We do so much needing so many passwords that it simply becomes overwhelming.  This is where a password manager comes in.  It solves the problem because it makes changing passwords regularly easy.  As a result, I am currently investigating this and plan to get one within the next 24 hours.  Consumer Reports has a terrific article on password managers by the way.

So if you went to my Bergen County Homes website or my blog and saw something weird, you have my apologies.  Use my unhappy experience as a kind warning and change all your passwords today.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

shop till you drop in paramus njShop Till You Drop in Paramus NJ

Shop till you drop in Paramus NJ is more than a slogan.  Bergen County is famous for its concentration of shopping malls located on Route 17 and Route 4 in Paramus.  There are so many malls here that Paramus has more mall space per capita than anywhere else in the US.  Because shopping malls have defined this area, it is being watched closely by the retail industry as brick and mortar stores struggle to survive online competition from Amazon to their own websites.

Bergen County’s 5 Major Shopping Malls

Although Paramus has 4 major malls, there is a 5th right on it’s border – Riverside Square.  While actually in Hackensack none of the shoppers going there know it.  Everyone considers the Shops at Riverside to be the first major shopping center as you travel west on Route 4.

Right on Route 4 you’ll find the very upscale Shops at Riverside and the discount mall Bergen Town Center .

shop till you drop in paramus nj

A minute or two west at the intersection of Route 4 and Route 17 is the Garden State Plaza which is one of the largest shopping malls in the New York metro area.  Further up Route 17 is the Fashion Center and the Paramus Park Mall and connecting all of these are countless other smalls.

New Jersey does not tax clothing so on any weekend you’ll see a large number of cars with New York license plates.  However Paramus enforces it’s blue laws which means no retail shopping on Sundays.  Still Bergen County’s demographics as one of the most affluent areas in the US is a strong support system for mall shopping and it’s a big part of our culture here too.  You can shop, go out to dinner and take in a movie all in one mall.

The Future Remains Bright

Online competition is having an effect but the news is good.  Saks Fifth Avenue left a few years ago but has been replaced by a very popular upscale dine in movie theater at Riverside.  The Garden State Plaza added a AMC 16 movie theater many years ago and has been increasing the number of restaurant offerings.  When large stores close it seems that in Paramus, at least so far, creative solutions or other successful chains have dropped in.  For example, Fairway came to the Fashion Center.  This is a highly successful gourmet supermarket.  Sears closed at Paramus Park and will become a huge Stew Leonard’s.

Because of the effect of online shopping on retail stores, Paramus is re-zoning to allow residential construction at a mall location.  As a result, Paramus will remain a shopping center while incorporating other uses

shop till you drop in paramus nj

Local Shopping

In addition to the major malls and countless others on the Paramus highways you have other options too.  Major local shopping centers with national brands exist in robust local town business districts.  Englewood has a bustling downtown with high end boutiques, Starbucks, numerous excellent restaurants, the Bergen County Performing Arts Center and more.  Ridgewood has the most extensive business district in Bergen County that is peppered with 4 star restaurants, national chain stores like The Gap and Chicos as well as multi generational retail establishments.  Westwood is smaller but boasts stores that are into 3rd generation owners as well as national chains, a true 5 & Dime plus some excellent restaurants.  Westwood also has one of the best camera stores in the NYC metro area – Bergen County Camera.

Paramus remains the epicenter of shopping however.  If you need to “shop till you drop” Bergen County has will make you smile!

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

homes from bergenfield to tenaflyEnthusiasm sells homes from Bergenfield to Tenafly and throughout Bergen County.  Step forward into the real estate market positively.  Enthusiasm is contagious so if you market a home with excitement it will radiate in the marketplace.

I see so much negativity out there recently.  It’s the wrong time of year.  There’s snow on the ground.  The lawn isn’t green.  Flowers are not blooming.  Wait till spring when it’s better.  Open houses won’t work because buyers are not out.

Excuses don’t work.  Neither does negative thinking.  You want to move so do it.  Go into the market if this is the right time for you to move.  Enthusiasm sells so let’s be positive.

Don’t worry about pictures at this time of year.  Your agent should use a professional photographer for great results.  Every home has a special beauty of its own.  It’s your agent’s job to bring that out and emphasize it.  You want the right buyer – not any buyer – because the right buyer will love your home like you do.  As a result you will have a better offer and a smoother transaction with everyone winning.

Because so many people look at this time of year negatively, you don’t have much competition.  This puts you in a much better place to get a higher price.  It’s the law of supply and demand.  Demand is strong.  There are tons of buyers out there and the supply of homes for sale now  is extremely low.  Why would anyone think this is not a good time to market your home for sale?

Buyers look at this time of year negatively too.  No homes for sale so I’ll wait till spring.  It’s a pain to go out in the cold and snow to look.  While we’re having a thaw right now, we all know that cold weather is on it’s way back soon.

Because more buyers are out in the spring, there’s more competition for buyers too.  Interest rates are on the way up as well.  Even if there aren’t as many homes for sale now, if you find one the cost is less because rates are lower now than later in the year.  The biggest cost of owning a house is the mortgage so if you save on the rate, you’re really ahead.  This is true for homes from Bergenfield to Tenafly as well as the rest of Bergen County. home from bergenfield to tenafly

Think about what it will be like in the spring.  More homes for sale but many more buyers competing for them.  With projected higher rates this is not a great scenario for a buyer.  Don’t think of this time of year negatively because it offers you a better deal in many ways.  Rates should be lower and there’s fewer buyers competing against you.

With the early months of every year being the start of the spring market, this time of year gives both buyer and seller opportunities not found later on.  Enthusiasm not negativity allows both to recognize this.

If this is the right time for you to make a move, don’t let negative thinking stop you.  The bottom line is that there is no perfect day or time – the right time is when you decide to move.



Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

Jeffrey OtteauJeffrey Otteau

Jeffrey Otteau is one of the most astute analysts of the New Jersey housing market.  I subscribe to his service and have been raving about him for years.  He has always correctly analyzed the real estate market.  Additionally he is often way ahead of everyone else.  I like the fact that he is completely independent – no one owns him and he is not associated with anyone.

Taxes impact real estate; any change is significant.  Because of this I went to a seminar Jeff was holding on how the the new tax law affects real estate.  It was very interesting and confirmed a lot of what I thought.

By the way, anyone can go to one of his seminars.  You don’t have to be a real estate professional so if you’d like to know about this or how to subscribe to his service, just call or text me at 201-741-8490.

Jeff’s Take

The overall theme of what Jeff said is that the new tax code is a better system than anything we’ve had for decades.  Because it’s a much more fair tax code, he felt it was better and because most people will benefit from it.  As a result, most Americans will have more cash to spend which will do 2 things – spur the economy forward and help real estate.

This does not sound like anything we’ve been hearing does it?  He explained that, and I quote, “because the White House is so inept” they didn’t “get in front of it and properly explain this thing to the public”.  As a result, a vacuum of information developed into which poured the media and the opposition spewing forth misinformation.  He went on to say that once people understand it, they’ll love the new tax laws.  However, there will be exceptions.

High Tax States

High tax States in the Northeast and Northwest won’t be so happy because property tax deductions are limited to $10,000.  The reason most Americans aren’t affected is because outside of these 2 areas no one pays anything close to $10,000 in property taxes.  He said for the majority of people in the 2 high tax areas, it won’t really have as great an effect as we have been led to believe.  This is because half of us don’t have taxes over $10,000 and for the other half, most will absorb it.  The toughest group are the $950,000 – 1.250 million buyers.  Once you get to higher figures those folks can handle the difference and have other tax shelters anyway.

Mortgage Interest Rate Deduction

The other big change is that the MID or mortgage interest rate deduction is now limited to a mortgage up to $750,000 for a couple.  Before it was limited to $1 million.  Because this typically affects home purchases of $1 million or more, it’s not most people.  Higher earners will find that their income tax bill is pretty much staying the same.  So any fears they had of huge losses on that score are not valid.  Most high earners pay off their mortgages quickly or purchase in cash so he felt this is not as significant an issue as has been reported.

The Bottom Line

Because people don’t understand the new tax law, the market will have a slow start this year.  He said that after April 15th people will understand it.  As a result, we will have a later but much busier spring and summer market so prices won’t go up much if at all for the first 3-4 months of this year.  Price appreciation will kick in, however, so 2018 will see a 3.5% appreciation for real estate.  Additionally he added that rates are on the way up and should be at 5% by year’s end.

So according to Jeff this is a more fair system that will help both the economy and the real estate market.  Homes bought prior to this law are not affected because they are grandfathered.  The only question, he adds, is how to pay for it and we’ll see what happens on this in the future.


Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe, Buying, Selling.

Bergen CountyTake a look at Bergen County. Whether you live here, are visiting or want to move here, there’s a lot to know about Bergen County. We begin with basic statistics:


  • 939,151 people live here.
  • The median age is 41.5 years
  • 52% are female and 48% are male
  • 54% are married, 30% are single, 16% are divorced or surviving spouses

We are the most populous county in New Jersey.  Because Bergen County is 233.1 square miles in size, it is also the most densely populated county.  4,030 people live here in each square mile.

Ethnic Makeup

  • 57% White
  • 19% Hispanic
  • 17% Asian
  • 7% Black

Diversity rules here and increases every year.  Because we are so highly diverse this is a dynamic multi faceted place.  Go to Wikipedia to find an amazing breakdown of the varied backgrounds living here.


  • Median Household Income is $93,683
  • Average Household Income with Children is $113,680
  • Per Capital Income is $44,978

We are the 4th most affluent county of the 21 counties in New Jersey.


  • 24.1% Professional
  • 20% Service Industry
  • 19% Management
  • 16.6% Administrative Support
  • 6.6% Laborer

Public Recreation

  • 15 County Parks Totaling 7,968 Acres
  • 3 State Parks
  • Hundreds of Municipal Parks
  • 6 County Golf Courses
  • 6 County Dog Runs
  • 3 Camping Sites
  • 1 Downhill Skiing Site
  • 1 Swimming Lake
  • 2 Horseback Riding Facilities

When you look at all of these facts, a picture begins to emerge of what Bergen County is like.

This is one of the most affluent areas in the US (ranked the 18th most affluent US county) and also one of the most densely populated with nearly 1 million people.

We are highly educated and have a diverse and balanced employment profile.  Despite the large numbers of people living here, open space is important and there is a thriving parks system.

Because we are highly educated, we appreciate our local schools and parent involvement is high.  As a result, Bergen County is renown for its high scoring school districts.  In addition our county run school system is outstanding with its varied disciplined Academy System.

When you put all of this together with a location that is on top of Manhattan (we’re on the other side of the Hudson River from NYC), it is no wonder that Bergen County is one of the most sought after locations in the New York metropolitan area and that real estate here has always done better in holding its value.

I used the US Census and Wikipedia for this information as well as the County website..  Want a personal tour of Bergen County or have more questions?  Just let me know.

winter activities

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

winter activities Winter arrived this week in Bergen County.  It came with a major nor’easter that brought 5-7 inches of snow and freezing temperatures.  Because we had an unseasonably warm fall this is quite a change.  As a result, winter activities for kids is now a focus for families.  Bergen County has the solution because we have many options for you.

Campgaw Mountain is a terrific opportunity for winter fun.  You can ski, snowboard and tube there.  Located in Mahwah it’s no more than a half hour drive from anywhere in Bergen County.  Think of it as a winter sports vacation for the day.

Campgaw runs a wonderful learning program for children.  Cruisers gives you a specifically designed ski program for 4-6 year olds with an emphasis on fun first.  Mountain Masters handles children age 7 and older as well as adults.  This is a newly created program where you arewinter activities for kids in Bergen County grouped by ability.  Because Mountain Masters starts at the beginner level it’s ideal for older children who want to learn or improve on their skiing and snowboarding abilities.

Local nature centers have all sorts of winter activities for kids too. From hiking trails to indoor classes children have fun while learning about the natural world in winter.  The Tenafly Nature Center features a variety of programs while Flat Rock Brook Nature Center keeps it’s popular nature walks going throughout the winter.  The Closter Nature Center has after school programs starting at Pre K after school in January.  This begins next week.

Call your local library too. Here’s a great example:  The Ridgewood Public Library features fabulous programs for children as well as for for teens.  You will be amazed at all the free offerings from your local library.

The Y is another great resource for children in so many ways.  Go to the Bergen YMCA website where you’ll find what seems to be an endless stream of opportunities.

Bergen County is so lucky because we have several terrific live theater groups.  They give children the opportunity to take theater, dance and music classes.  The Saddle River Youth Theater and Bergen PAC offer extensive youth programs.

Check your local public school and town recreation department.  They have after school and vacation week programs.  Toddler classes such as Mommy and Me are very popular too.

Bergen County hosts a wide variety of winter activities for kids both outside and indoor.  Get involved in what we have and make winter a fun learning experience.

Because of the storm this week, I couldn’t contact a few other places.  Call me if you’d like those updates next week at 201-741-8490.

Posted by & filed under Buying, Selling.

The 2017 Bergen County real estate market had a unique combination of factors – zero increase in sales from the year before with price appreciation. In fact, much of what you’ll find is a mirror image of 2016.

Home sales are nearly identical – 6915 in 2017 and 6920 in 2016. I think you’ll agree that when you’re talking about nearly 7,000 units a difference of 5 is nothing.

Statistics has it at 9% fewer days on the market. This, at least, seems impressive. What it really comes to is 1 less week on the market for sale in 2017. Time on the market went from 72.2 days to 65.5 days. One less week out of 52 doesn’t truly sound like much, does it?

As a result, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the two years. They do seem to mirror each other.

Let’s look at home prices. The median sales price rose by 4% from $465,000 to $483,000. The average sales price also went up by 4% from $571,773 to $594,053. Clearly the market appreciated by 4%. This is indeed a positive change.

The Federal Open Market Committee meeting on December 13th estimated GDP growth for 2017 at 2.5% which is also what they project for 2018. Because of this, appreciation of 4% is strong. As a result, I can tell you that Bergen County homes performed very well in 2017.

Let’s see how the housing market performed by price range looking at the unit numbers:

Price Range                        2016                       2017

$0-$200,000                        163                         113

$200-300,000                      815                         672

$300-400,000                  1,635                     1,561

$400-500,000                  1,294                     1,322

$500-600,000                      903                         910

$600-700,000                      601                         701

$700-800,000                      423                         448

$800-900,000                      285                         305

$900,000-1 million        223                         243

$1-2 million                      492                         551

$2-3 million                      55                           70

$3 million +                       23                           19

2017 did better because of several things shown here.  9% fewer homes sold at $400,000 and less.  This is 34% of 2017 sales and 38% of 2016.  Because this is a sizeable chunk of both years, it has quite an effect.  Homes were selling much more at a higher point in 2017.  Every price range after (except for over $3 million) saw more sales that year than in 2016.

The result is that Bergen County homes commanded higher prices because the bottom evaporated by 5%.  Luxury sales at over $3 million are so few that they are statistically insignificant.

Consumer demand is what drives up prices.  There was no inventory growth because both years had nearly identical sales numbers.  This is not going to change so 2018.  As a result, our New Year should be another great one for Bergen County homeowners and challenging for buyers who are not properly prepared.

I believe that whether you are buying or selling a home, it is essential to be fully and properly prepared.  Buyers have a greater challenge in this because they have more competition from other buyers.  Sellers need to prepare as well because although low inventory tilts things in their favor, this is not an easy market for homeowners.  One mistake and you can lose value quickly and severely.  Call me at 201-741-8490 if you’d like to discuss this further or Bergen County real estate in general.

Note:  Data is sourced from the New Jersey MLS




Posted by & filed under Buying.

home inspectorThe value of a good home inspector cannot be understated. Home inspectors give you much more than an evaluation of a house.  You learn how to care for your new home because this is also part of your inspection.

A great home inspector teaches you how to manage the maintenance of your house.  The information you get is extremely important.  A good example is how to maintain your furnace.  Hot air systems have filters.  Steam furnaces need water.  Hot water furnaces need other things.  Outside maintenance is important too.  Cleaning gutters, keeping shrubs and branches off the house, grading the property to keep water away are all essential items.

Home inspections are learning experiences as well as evaluations of condition.  As a result, I recommend to all my clients that they take notes to refer back to in the future.  They can always call me for help and good inspectors are always available.

The value of a good home inspector is financial too because you can unknowingly buy a huge condition problem along with the house.  Let me give you some recent examples.

A garage had dropped 1-1.5 inches.  If you looked at it, you would never know.  This garage had sheetrocked walls.  There were no cracks anywhere.  The garage door worked perfectly.  The door to the yard on the back wall worked perfectly.  Because neither I nor my buyers are engineers, we could not tell.  home inspector

Sung Y “Sean” Lee of Prime Choice Inspection LLC found it.  Termites had eaten away the bottom sill plate so the garage had dropped, Sean said, probably about 1 inch or slightly over 1 inch.  Because the garage was attached, it had a common wall to the house.  Obviously this was a problem.  On another inspection Sean found that there was a serious structural defect.

Again, it wasn’t something you or I would find.  This time it had to do with the foundation.  Because foundation problems often present with uneven floors, there was no indication.  The house had straight floors and walls, no cracks, no signs of shifting due to a foundation problem.  As a result, we had no idea but Sean found it and explained how to fix it.

Craig Sharf of Home Team Inspection Service found a problem in a fireplace chimney and urged my buyers to get a Level 2 chimney inspection done.  His suspected that the entire chimney needed to be rebuilt.  After the chimney specialist came and did the Level 2 inspection, he confirmed Craig’s suspicions.  In another home Craig advised the buyers to have the entire home re-wired because he found that it had the potential for an electrical fire.  Again, Craig was right – they called in an electrician who confirmed that the house was running on old knob and tube wiring.  Most definitely a major fire hazard.  home inspector

No home is perfect.  Craig found on a new high end home that the roofing substructure hadn’t been properly installed.  We had the builder come back and fix it.  We called Craig back to check it and after he determined everything was fine my buyers closed on the house.

Because my buyers used these great home inspectors they were able to avoid major problems.  As a result, they saved themselves from heartache and significant expense.  No doubt about it – the value of a good home inspector cannot be understated.

Posted by & filed under Selling.

You put your home on the market for sale. It’s both an exciting and an anxious time. Expectations are running high. The buyer traffic is great. Showings happen several times each week. Then the phone call comes. Your agent has received an offer. You listen in disbelief. The offer is extremely low. Emotions rise immediately – anger, hurt and disgust all at once. This is completely predictable and completely understandable. It is not, however, negotiation. Don’t get upset by a low ball offer because emotions can not help you. Negotiate because that’s the only way to win.

Negotiation is a process. It is essential to take emotions out of it. I know this is hard. You have every right to be upset but this is precisely how you’ll lose. It does not matter where a buyer starts. Where he ends is what counts for you.

Your job is to move the buyer up as much as possible. Then you decide if you want to sell your house. Slamming the door shut gets you nothing. Negotiation is messaging. Send back the message that you want to negotiate but not at that low ball level.

It’s easier than you’d imagine. Reply with a small reduction. Then see what the buyer does. A low ball offer can be many things.

A buyer may be testing you. He may trying to find out how firm you are. The buyer may also not understand the value your home represents. Sometimes misunderstandings exist. An example is thinking the roof is old when it’s age is 3 years. Acting emotionally rather than strategically gets you nowhere.

Your agent should discuss your reply and the buyer’s offer with the buyer’s agent. There are times a frank discussion between the agents clears the air and moves you toward a win.

As long as emotion does not rule, you have opportunity to get an offer that works for you. Here’s an example for you:

I had a listing in the low $300,000 range. The listing price was not above the market. The seller needed to move quickly so the house was aggressively priced. The offer came in at more than 10% under the asking price. It had a very quick closing date which was a term that meant a lot to my seller. We negotiated back and forth for a while. During negotiations I uncovered the buyer’s concerns and we methodically answered those concerns. With every answer, value was added to the house. Eventually we arrived at a sales price the seller accepted. It was within 5% of the asking price.

This never would have happened if the seller’s initial emotional reaction had set the tone. The answer to win is don’t get upset by a low ball offer. You never know where it will end up if you don’t negotiate it out.

Posted by & filed under Bergen County LIfe.

Bread Boutique and CafeBread Boutique and Cafe opened up this week in Tenafly.  It is an adorable little place that is an added plus to the downtown scene.  The location is next to my office at 15 W Railroad Ave.  This can be a challenge for my diet because Bread features absolutely delicious baked goods.  It has other items too so I may be in trouble………

We watched the construction going on for several weeks.  Opening day came as no surprise because you could smell the baking through the wall out on the street.  This did add to the anticipation.  They celebrated their opening by not charging everyone who came for coffee.  I thought that was a very nice touch although I had no time to stop by.

Tenafly is a very nice community.  People enjoy going downtown and hanging out together.  While we have several restaurants, a boutique coffee shop has been missing.

Coffee is available with baked goods at Miller’s Bakery and Cafe Angelique.  Both are literally across the street and around the corner.  They are very good too but there really is no true boutique coffee shop.  As a result, Bread fills a void.Bread Boutique and Cafe

They have a great concept with Grab and Go areas.  You can get in and out quickly with a baked good, salad or something else.  This appeals to people like me.  I’m always on the go so waiting forever to get a salad isn’t the best situation for me.  I have no doubt many people will love this.

I know it’s colder but people were sitting outside having coffee.  There is seating inside too if you like.  The baked goods looked fabulous.  I did not have a lot of time so I got a salad and coffee.  It took only a few minutes; I did the Grab and Go Bread Boutique and Cafething.

This is a Kosher establishment.  As a result this is great for people who need a Kosher bakery and coffee shop.  Other folks come because what they have is excellent.

It is open Sunday through Friday and closed on Saturday because it’s Kosher.  Commuters love it because it opens at 6:30 am during the week.

I got a beet and goat cheese salad along with coffee.  It was excellent.  The salad was interesting because there were some grapefruit wedges along with the beets, cheese and greens.  It was a hit with me as was the coffee.

Give Bread Boutique and Cafe a try.  You will be so glad you did!