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Passaic County NJ Real Estate Blog

Orly Steinberg


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Top 9 Showing Offenses for Ringwood Houses for Sale

by Orly Steinberg

Real estate articles that are really just lists are now being called “listicles”—and there are certainly plenty of them around. The other day one appeared that just had to be read: Bankrate’s “7 things that could turn off homebuyers.”

The actual listicle may not have been the product of much real research into houses for sale, but it was amusing. In the best social media tradition, I’d like to add a few thoughts in order to come up with a modified/improved “7 things” (for starters, there are 9):

9 Things Bound to Offend Ringwood Homebuyers


2.All right, that first requires an explanation. It headed up the Bankrate list, with a picture of a rhesus macaque clinging to a balcony railing. I’d have to agree that monkeys freewheeling around a Ringwood house for sale might drive some potential buyers away. Make number 2: uncaged rabbits.

3.Animal trophies. Better to pack them up. Dead animals can offend some non-Ernest Hemmingway fans.

4.Flags. I think an American flag is okay, but Confederate flags just get people thinking about controversy instead of the house.  

5.Sports teams memorabilia. This one is questionable, especially in a nicely understated den or TV room. Trash-talking posters, not so much.

6.Nudity. The Bankrate article was describing artwork—the point being that for some homebuyers, even tasteful artwork produces a degree of shock value. Universally showable homes strive to avoid shock value.

7.Locked rooms. Bankrate called this phenomenon ‘Mystery rooms’—but the effect is always the same: curiosity that’s not helpful. If the idea is to help potential Ringwood buyers to picture themselves as owners, a locked door works against the goal.

8.Odors (bad or exotic ones, that is). Our sense of smell is a powerful memory trigger, and if the lingering aroma of a cigar or onions predominates, it could easily make buyers associate the property with something in their past. Whether the “something” is good or bad is anyone’s guess.

9.Owners. Even if the potential buyers turn out to be exactly your kind of people, that too is a distraction from the business at hand. It’s hard enough for buyers to visit a series of properties and remember which place had which features—so it’s a relief for them not to have to go through the social niceties of meeting new people—owners included.

This should be a fairly non-controversial listicle. Once we’ve all agreed that the monkey should step out for a cola with its owners while the showing is in progress, the rest will be easy to accept. For other proven ways to speed your own Ringwood house for sale into the ‘sold’ category, give me a call anytime!


A New Kind of Affluence Figures in Ringwood Retirement

by Orly Steinberg

 You don’t have to be beyond your 40s to begin plotting a direction for your retirement years. Most younger Ringwood residents know this full well but (truth be told) do precious little about it. For most of us, we’re all so busy tending to career and daily living concerns that most of the time it seems like self-indulgent wool-gathering to go daydreaming about retirement plans. Besides—who has extra cash to be doing more than the bare minimum about financing retirement? It’s so far off in the future…

That may be the 21st-century reality for most Ringwood adults who aren’t close to retirement age, but in fact, some of the real estate decisions we make early on can set the stage for satisfaction in later years. That’s one of the takeaways from the brains at Age Wave, a think tank who consult on all things retirement-related. They recently co-authored (with Merrill Lynch) a study on the subject of satisfaction among the retired. It turns out that money is not the major determinant of happiness in retirement that everyone assumes.

Ringwood elders will probably already be interested, but youngsters: listen up! As the country and western lyrics tell us, You can’t get to where you’re going/If you ain’t got a map! The key findings spell out some things most of us would assume—but some we wouldn’t.

  • Pre-retirement, most working Americans take fewer vacation days than in other nations (and 83% of us do at least some work even when we’re on vacation!)
  • Working folks feel stressed during leisure time because it’s so fragmented
  • When retirement comes, it can take years before they can adjust
  •  Once retirees adjust to their new schedule of free time, gradually they come to value experiences over things
  • Another change is to elevate the import of social connections and bonds with family and friends (that we could guess!)

The researchers at Age Wave came up with a catchy key phrase that helps summarize where their findings lead: it’s “Time Affluence.” Sure—the security of financial independence is valuable in retirement, but it doesn’t seem to be the single all-important element that investment house commercials would lead us to believe. It’s easy to find fun, inexpensive leisure activities according to 86% of retirees—and 95% prefer experiences of all kinds over “buying more things.” A huge majority say they are happier after retirement than before.

For Ringwood real estate planning purposes, the ultimate takeaway boils down to the familiar real estate watchwords: location, location, location! Planning to settle in a residence that’s close to friends and family might just be a key element in bringing satisfaction in later years. It follows that planning for a home base that fills the bill can begin long before “time affluence” becomes a daily reality. For that and all Ringwood real estate strategic planning, I’m here to offer my professional, no-obligation advice and guidance.   

Ringwood New Homes for Sale Deserve Close-up Exams

by Orly Steinberg

It’s a fair bet that anyone who is taking a serious look at the current assortment of new homes for sale in Ringwood is someone who places a value on sheer newness. It’s about more than prestige—although owning a new home does carry at least an element of the kind of special pride that goes with owning the latest model auto. More substantively, the first owner of a new Ringwood home gains the advantage of not having to worry that some previous owner’s inattention to maintenance issues could cause trouble down the road.

Like a new car, though, when it comes to buying a new home, it’s a good idea to take at least a peek under the hood. What you will be looking for is a number of new construction quality issues. Even when a new home bears the signature of one of Ringwood’s premier builders, before the sale is final, it’s always prudent to commission a detailed house inspection. Since that’s not free, before committing to that expense you’ll want to have a reasonable expectation that the home in question passes your own muster. In other words, before ordering up a formal professional inspection, you can do some inspecting of your own.

The first step is to disengage from the “wow” factor. Because it’s in mint condition, good new construction invites acceptance—everything looks so fresh and flawless! That makes it harder to take a hard look, especially when the new home in question looks like what you have been hoping to find. Nevertheless, the first walk-through should be followed by an as-skeptical-as-possible return visit. Some of the areas that merit close attention:

  • Structure: without exception, the walls should be plumb and flat. Wherever building materials meet (wood to plaster; glass to metal; drywall to tile, etc.) are the seams clean, the joints tight?
  • Flooring: when you jump in the middle of a room, do the feel and sound tell you it’s solid (yes: somebody has to jump!).
  • Detailing: in closets and cabinetry, trim and hardware, are the workmanship and materials up to what the asking price indicates?
  • Plumbing and electrical: are the sinks conveniently located for cooking and laundry  duty? Is water pressure strong? Are there sufficient and well-placed outlets?
  • Heating and cooling: Is one of the main selling points the economic advantage of the systems’ operating efficiency. If not, ask questions.
  • Roof: it should look trim and new, and carry a manufacturer’s warranty for at least 10 years. Gutter placement and grading should make clear that water can’t pool near the foundation.

The best Ringwood builders earn solid reputations not just because of winning design innovations or outstanding price leadership. When you hear past buyers praise a builder, it’s most likely because of the value their homes continue to exhibit over the long haul—value that results in years of trouble-free homeownership.

An important part of my service is keeping abreast of the details that differentiate all the new homes for sale in Ringwood. Call me if you’d like a detailed rundown of all the great buys that are currently being offered! 

November Ringwood Mortgage Rates Surprise Experts

by Orly Steinberg

Last week, when Ringwood mortgage rates began to rise abruptly, you’d have to say that it was actually a double-barreled surprise. In addition to the sudden blip up on the mortgage rate charts, there was the second shocker: that so many expert observers were taken by surprise.

Even though the actual rise in mortgage rates was what Zillow’s chief economist called “a relatively modest” increase, it prompted The New York Times to headline the fact that lenders and home buyers alike had all been caught off guard. With Ringwood mortgage rates having remained under 4% for years, the notion that experts could be taken by surprise whenever they began to rise has to rate as the real shocker.

With experts, lenders, and home shoppers having been surprised by last week’s rate uptick, the real question is whether they will continue to be surprised if rates keep climbing. True, nobody has a reliable calendar showing exactly where Ringwood rates will be at any given point in time, but a dispassionate survey of history (credit Jim Whittaker’s real estate marketing blog) reveals the following compilation of the national averages for mortgage rates:

1970s:   8.85%

1980s:  12.7%

1990s:   8.12%

2000s:   6.29%

2010s:  3.5%

Freddie Mac’s market survey showed last week’s average at 3.94%. Taking a look at the historical record, you have to wonder if lenders and other experts will be equally “surprised” if and when rates top 4%...or 5%...or 6%?

It’s hard not to conclude that for Ringwood sellers—as well as for all those who have been thinking about buying a home eventually—last week’s mortgage rate “surprise” should come as a wake-up call to action. Many others have already foreseen the opportunity: October’s national existing home sales reached the highest annualized pace in nearly a decade. According to the NAR®, “all major regions saw monthly and annual sales increases in October.” Housing starts were up, as well.

Low mortgage interest rates are not the only reason to list your Ringwood property or decide that now is the time to shop for your next home. But the fact that they remain (at least for the moment) as low as they do is so important to the bottom line cost of owning a home that it should be no “surprise” at all that consumers see why today’s market looks like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Taking the first step to investigate what this can mean to your future is as simple as just giving me a call!

Top 4 Reasons to Call Ringwood Real Estate Investments “Smart”

by Orly Steinberg

When you see any title here containing the words “Ringwood Real Estate Investment,” you won’t be terribly surprised if the gist turns out to be what a good idea! When you’ve had the experience of seeing clients succeed with many real estate investment projects, it’s an unavoidable conclusion. Unfortunately, also pretty yawn-worthy.

That’s why I was pleased to come across Grant Cardone’s piece in Entrepreneur magazine. We all like to see our opinions agreed with—but doubly so when you’re offered specifics that bolster your own conclusions. The article listed reasons why real estate investments are “your smartest investment.” Here are some of them:

1.A real estate investment is a hedge on inflation. Inflation hasn’t been hugely important for a while, but serious investors have an eye out for the possibility. When you dig down, you find that real estate investments have “historically shown the highest correlation to inflation” of other major asset classes.

2.Real estate investments enable positive cash flow. This was Entrepreneur's number one reason. Having an investment which throws off cash while building equity at the same time is any smart investor’s ideal situation. When a Ringwood real estate investment produces an income stream that is significantly higher than the typical stock dividend, what investor wouldn’t be interested?

3.Leverage. A typical Ringwood real estate investment makes it relatively easy “to place debt on the asset” because of its built-in collateral value. Entrepreneur offered some math to back up the way low-cost debt works to multiply a real estate investor’s power.

4.Maximizing tax benefits. Taxes can be the bane of any investor—so real estate provisions that lighten the load can be significant factors influencing your bottom line.

Those are four solid advantages of the eight detailed in Cardone’s article. The last reason was less demonstrable but, IMHO, just as real:

  • Feeling the pride ownership” (no further explanation necessary).

If you are an investor who is beginning to look over the year’s performance and thinking about how you want 2017 to look, I hope you’ll do two things. First: take a serious look at whether a Ringwood real estate investment might make a smart addition to your current portfolio. Second: call me! 

The Ringwood Thanksgiving that Happened Twice

by Orly Steinberg

 If you have been looking forward to celebrating your Ringwood Thanksgiving this Thursday, you’re probably confident that on Friday you’ll be able to put all the Thanksgiving paraphernalia away until next year. If you have plates or cups festooned with Pilgrims, Indians, and turkeys, back they’ll go into the cupboard until 2017—because Thanksgiving comes but once a year.

True—except for that one year. That was the time when there were two Thanksgivings.

If you haven’t heard this story, gather ‘round:

The year was 1939. On November 23, President Roosevelt ceremoniously carved a turkey, then took to the airwaves to wish his fellow citizens a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. The problem was, in many states across the country, radios were probably being clicked off because, for them, Thanksgiving wasn’t going to happen until a week later. If any turkeys had been aware of the situation, the lingering threat would have been more alarming than usual.

The anarchy had been years in the making. Presidents have the power to decree when the national day of thankfulness is celebrated. Ever since Honest Abe Lincoln had proclaimed it a national holiday, the last Thursday had been “it.” When Roosevelt began his presidency in 1933, he had come under pressure from business interests to move Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday—but he’d had resisted all attempts to overcome tradition.

But in 1939, the calendar again showed a five-Thursday November. The reason business hated such years was because they had to wait until December to launch their Christmas sales. After all, Americans didn’t even think about the holidays until they’d shaken off their calorie-induced Turkey Day stupors—everyone knew that!

With the Great Depression still digging the economy an ever-deeper pit, The Chief reluctantly gave in. Early in 1939, FDR proclaimed that the fourth Thursday, November 23rd, was to going to be Thanksgiving.

No big deal, you might think. Wrong! Whenever any tradition is upended, some people are bound to get upset. Not to mention the calendar publishers, who reportedly had to scrap all the calendars they had printed in advance. School holiday schedules had to be redrawn; annual Thanksgiving football game dates changed—in short, in addition to the whipped cream on their pumpkin pies, states who went along with FDR had an extra dollop of chaos.

I haven’t been able to determine whether New Jersey was one of the states that refused to budge, but 23 of them crossed their legislative arms and issued their own counter-proclamations. And sure enough, lots of people put off the carving until the last day in November. Oh—wait! This just in: Colorado and Texas celebrated both!

In today’s more practical America, we have prevented two Thanksgivings from ever troubling us again by starting Christmas sales right after Halloween. I don’t know about your household, but in ours, one Ringwood Thanksgiving is both welcome and sufficient. Here is hoping your holiday finds everyone healthy and properly thankful for the blessings we pause to remember. Happy Thanksgiving (but one to a customer, please)!

Ringwood Bargain-Hunters May Choose a Fixer-Upper

by Orly Steinberg

 If you were one of the brave Ringwood real estate investors who decided a few years back that the real estate meltdown was an awfully good buying opportunity, congratulations on being able to resist any naysayers. The fact that real estate has always lived up to its name (“real”) is easy to forget when prices have hit the basement—especially when the surrounding economic news is dire.

Those were days when Ringwood fixer-upper opportunities were available for shockingly low asking prices—and before long, the shockingly low asking prices began to look normal and reasonable. “Bank owned homes” became a hugely popular search term as foreclosure numbers skyrocketed. It’s hard to recall the way it really felt, but any buying into that real estate market seemed like a swashbuckling act of raw courage.

Today the Ringwood market still offers opportunities for bargain hunters, but they tend to be of a different kind. When a low asking price stands out in one of today’s Ringwood listings, it’s likely to fall into one of two categories:

CATEGORY 1: The home’s location has one or more characteristics that the majority of prospective buyers finds off-putting. There’s not much the seller can do in this case, except wait for the right buyer to appear. In all likelihood, it will be someone for whom the issue isn’t an issue at all. If the school district isn’t up to snuff, for instance, a buyer with no school-age kids (and no chance the need will arise to sell anytime soon) may snap up a real bargain.

CATEGORY 2: It’s a home that needs work: a classical fixer-upper. If the buyer is an investor with a flip in mind, it’s vital to get an accurate read on the amount of time, money and effort it will take to rehabilitate the investment. That may seem like it deserves a “duh!”—but it’s all too tempting to let a fantastic asking price blind you into underestimating how far from saleable a badly maintained residence really is. If the buyers are going to be the ultimate residents, enjoy do-it-yourself projects, and are willing to take the necessary time to nurse a fixer into shape, it’s only necessary to determine that no overwhelming structural issues are beneath the surface. If all is well, it can turn out to be the dream opportunity they were hoping for.

Needless to say, fixer-uppers may not be for everybody—but there’s sure to be something for everybody among today’s Ringwood offerings. If you will be in the market anytime soon, give me a call to discuss how far you’ve gotten in creating your wish list: there may be a perfect fit right now waiting for you to appear!

U.S. Home Owner’s Equity Doubles: Here’s How and Why

by Orly Steinberg

Diana Olick is a well-known industry writer. Anyone with an interest in Ringwood real estate can usually find something of value when she comes up with a new entry in her CNBC column (the one with the pun-worthy title, “Realty Check”). This month she commented on the rising housing market across the nation and its repercussions in terms of homeowner equity.

The piece points out that in the U.S., home equity has doubled over the last five years!

It’s hardly news that home values have been steadily on the rise—that’s been a trend long seen in the asking prices in New Jersey and our Ringwood listings. But the idea of homeowner equity actually doubling could be hard to believe.

That’s a claim that sounds a like quite an exaggeration…until you stop to think about what is actually being said. When a Ringwood homeowner sees that their home’s “equity” has doubled, what it doesn’t mean is that its value has doubled.

Here’s a simplistic example. Suppose a Ringwood homeowner’s vacation cabin was estimated to be valued at $100,000 in 2011. Doubling the owner’s equity doesn’t mean that today the cabin would be worth $200,000. The “equity” in the property is the amount of investment value currently owned: the difference between its market value (in this case, the original $100K) and the amount owed on its mortgage. So if there were a $70,000 mortgage outstanding on the cabin five years ago, its equity at that point would have been the difference: $100,000-$70,000—or $30,000.

Using CNBC’s calculations (actually, they relied on research from CoreLogic), for our example property to match the national average, today its owner’s equity would have had to have doubled to $60,000.

For many Ringwood real estate owners, that’s not much of a stretch.

Keep in mind that as time moves on, for all mortgage loans other than interest-only loans, the amount owed is reduced with each payment. If the principal portion of the payments had averaged just $200 a month, the amount owed would now be down to $58,000. For the owner’s equity to have doubled to $60,000, the market value would only have to have risen to $118,000: and that’s a mere 18% rise, which works out to an average of 3.6% per year. That wouldn’t be unusual, considering the steady gains we’ve seen. Long story short: voila—investment equity doubled!

The moral of the story isn’t just that there are many happy Ringwood homeowners—but that the investment value of owning a home continues to be what it has been for as long as real estate has been bought and sold: a very canny investment. If you are planning on adding to your own personal Ringwood real estate investments, I hope you’ll consider using my services as a key part of your strategy. Do call me!  

Ringwood Mortgage Interest Rates and Normalcy Bias

by Orly Steinberg

 If you look up the term “normalcy bias,” you find yourself swimming in psychological theoretician talk, most of which deals with people’s response to disastrous situations. The theory behind it is that when faced with the unknown, there is a tendency among even rational human beings to misconstrue new (and even dangerous) circumstances as being more normal—hence, safe—than is really the case.

 What this has to do with Ringwood real estate is not as farfetched as you might think. Ask anyone who wanted to buy a house in the early 1980s, and you will probably get an earful. Because of inflation since then, the asking prices for local homes back then seems pretty inviting today…until we check into the then-current mortgage interest rates. A home that today is valued at $250,000 would have had an asking price in 1983 dollars of just over $94,000—a real bargain. But the October 1981 30-year mortgage interest rate was a colossal 18.39%! In today’s dollars, the monthly payment on a mortgage for the full amount would be a daunting $4,295! That’s not even counting taxes and insurance.

No one is predicting that 18% mortgage interest rates are right around the corner—or even any time in the future—but no rational observer is predicting that they will remain at today’s historic lows, either. Not for nothing is “normalcy bias” also known as “analysis paralysis.” There’s more than idle speculation behind the suspicion that change is in the air.

A case in point came last week when Ringwood mortgage interest rate watchers got a peek into the rate-setters’ minds. The November 2 release of the Federal Reserve’s notes from their last Open Market Committee meeting wasn’t entertaining reading, but did shed some light on what lies ahead:

  • Committee members agree that their goal remains 2% inflation (it’s less than that now) coupled with “maximum employment and price stability.”
  • They believe the case for a rate hike has strengthened but is not yet sufficient to raise rates.
  • The Committee expects economic conditions will evolve to warrant gradual increases in the Fed funds rate.
  • Two members voted to raise the target rate ½ to ¾% without waiting further.

All in all, if future Ringwood home buyers have a normalcy bias which leads them to expect today’s rates will be around indefinitely, it’s safe to say they are more likely to be disappointed than not. That makes right now an excellent time to take advantage of all the bargains currently populating the Ringwood market—which means also giving me a call!


A Few New Tricks to Speed Selling Your Ringwood House

by Orly Steinberg

If you have much experience with selling your house, you probably have your own ideas about what has seemed to be the preparations that made the most difference with the least trouble and expense. Here are three you might not have used before:

  • Closets – every now and then you’ll see clutter-clearing advice that emphasizes how important it is that closets be neat and organized—shoes lined up, drawers closed, shelves neatened, etc. The new idea is to empty the closets. Not entirely, though: empty just half of what’s in there! It’s actually a good way to use a closet, because when it’s jammed to the rafters, many items are never used anyway (they get lost among everything else). By putting half the stuff into storage, the net effect is that closets appear much more spacious.
  • Refrigerators — an age-old adage has it that what you’re really selling isn’t a Ringwood house; it’s a kitchen. That’s an exaggeration with a grain of truth. Nobody would say that you’re selling a refrigerator—but there might be another grain of truth in there as well. Buyers really do open refrigerator doors, and what they find registers. So the cleaner, the better. Since cleaning involves emptying it shelf by shelf, while you’re at it, you might as well take the opportunity to declutter. In refrigerator terms, decluttering means getting rid of the bits and pieces and too-ancient jars you won’t ever use again anyway. Some expert advice includes actually staging your fridge: adding healthy items selected for maximum foodie appeal. But since you have to continue preparing actual meals for everyone, I suggest sticking to the usual family favorites.
  • Lights: at night — especially once I’ve planted my “FOR SALE” sign out front—there is a fresh opportunity to indulge in some inexpensive Ringwood showmanship. Think “stage lighting.” Now that the Ringwood days are short and nights long, more folks are out driving in the dark of night or early morning. A floodlit entryway flanked by attractive spots highlighting landscape features will add eye-catching architectural interest. Too, when you’re selling your house, it never hurts when you also subtly upstage the surrounding properties. For some homes, color can be especially appealing when it’s not too garish.

Those are just three easy but effective ideas that are among those that can add up to a Ringwood house that earns its “SOLD” sign fast. Since every property is unique, each offers different opportunities. When you give me a call for a no-obligation consultation, we can put our heads together to come up with some that will work best!

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 595




Orly Steinberg

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
130 Skyline Drive, Ringwood NJ 07456

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