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Orly Steinberg

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 The days of boring slideshow type “virtual tours” are disappearing fast. Today’s Northern New Jersey listings can include actual virtual walk-through videos, breathtaking aerial drone shots, and sweeping panoramic 360 degree views. Now it appears there can even be the possibility of James Bond-style suspense.

That’s right—Double-O Seven himself (almost).

I offer an example that’s too creative to pass up: check out this $4.295 million listing video for the San Francisco Bay Northern New Jersey. While not exactly typical of listings here in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne or (to be fair) anywhere else, the creative marketing employed by these Tiburon listing agents is worth taking a peek. Hefty listing price tag? Check.  Gorgeous photos for the Passaic County MLS? Check. Superb staging? Check and double-check. It’s a five-minute, web-designed, creatively written and staged, well-lit, deliberately horrendously acted—and persistently cheeky James Bond-style spoof. One high point is when the Bond stand-in (this has to be the agent) opens the sleek luxury car door and a sippy cup falls out onto the driveway.

As consumers, Americans have developed into a short attention-spanned and click-happy group. We in the real estate agent contingent have learned to make the most of this. As consumer habits have evolved, so too have our marketing strategies. A comprehensive marketing package is only part of the value I bring to the table when Northern New Jersey clients engage me to put together their Northern New Jersey listing and marketing backup materials.  Data-driven pricing strategies, deep networking, and the solid work ethic that backs it up are part of the package as well.

Thinking of listing your Passaic County home this summer or fall? The James Bond approach works for the spoofy example because of the property’s Bond Street address—so we won’t be using a spy movie motif for your offering. But our approach will be creative and in tune with your home’s key selling points—along with a marketing plan that’s compelling and designed to get your property S-O-L-D for top dollar!

Contact me anytime for a complimentary consultation. And, seriously, check out the video. What these agents have done is hilarious, while at the same time exploiting the sales points in a way that keeps eyes glued to the screen. If you’re in the market for a $4,295,000 home in Tiburon, CA…well, this “virtual tour” makes the point that you could do a lot worse!

 

 If you have ever looked at your Northern New Jersey home’s mortgage balance and thought, “Yikes! That’s a lot of money!” you’re not alone. Such a gulp-inducing moment can be triggered by listening to one of the celebrated financial gurus explaining personal finance. Much of the latest financial wisdom is aimed at extolling the virtues of an entirely debt-free existence—which would seem to preclude any six-figure home loans on the family ledger.

For most every Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne family in the early or middle years, that debtless goal—although it pencils out as a good idea—is pretty much unattainable. If owning makes more financial sense than renting (it almost always does), unless the family can operate from a garden shed, taking on a home loan is unavoidable fiscal reality. Since home ownership is the acknowledged path for making headway when it comes to shelter, is there a good reason to worry about the mortgage that goes with it?

Last week, Daniel Bortz, a reporter in the Finance section of realtor.com, came up with “8 Surprising Facts” about mortgages—a few of which should serve to alleviate any free-floating anxiety homeowners might associate with their Northern New Jersey mortgages—even hefty ones. Here are three that may or may not be very “surprising,” but in any case, certainly are relevant:

  • Mortgage interest rates can get really high…

In October 1981, mortgage interest rates averaged 18.45%! When you take a look at your typical 2016 Passaic Countymortgage statement, and note how low your current monthly interest payment is, “Yikes! That’s a lot of money” should become, “Yikes! What a great deal!”

  • Even billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg have a mortgage

This could be the most anxiety-alleviating surprising fact of all. The Facebook founder refinanced his home with an adjustable-rate mortgage (the kind financial gurus tell you is the riskiest way to go). He refi’ed a 1.75% adjustable with a new 1.05% adjustable—a maneuver that saves him $1,981 a month! Why, since he could obviously pay cash for any property, would he take a mortgage at all? It could have something to do with the tax advantage home loans feature.

  • People celebrate their last mortgage payment in bizarre ways

This is hardly surprising—but does bear indirectly on why your Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne mortgage should be little cause for financial anxiety: it’s going to eventually disappear! And since the asset (the house) is counted as a positive which balanced the liability (the mortgage), month by month that liability gets smaller as the value you own grows. The Yikes! balance of the loan is negated by the Yippee! value of your property. (BTW, the “bizarre ways to celebrate” include Archie Bunker’s torching the paperwork in an episode of All in the Family).

These positives are the financial ones, but they are also bolstered by this real world big fat plus: owning your Northern New Jersey home undeniably imparts a feeling of security and stability—something that most of us find to be nearly priceless.

I hope you’ll feel free to give me a call for feedback or advice whenever any Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne real estate questions arise. I’ll be standing by!

 House hunters aiming for some of the Northern New Jersey’s more upscale properties may see their home loan applications finding an increasingly welcome reception. That’s the word from the national financial press—and they aren’t whispering. According to The Wall Street Journal, it’s nothing short of “a jumbo shift in the U.S. mortgage market.”

In the world of mortgage lending, the “jumbos” are home loans for amounts that rise above the limits set by the federal reinsuring entities—Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac (they aren’t exactly miniature outfits themselves). In circus lore, the name of “Jumbo” became legendary when, in the late 1800’s, P.T. Barnum thrilled crowds by starring the pachyderm of the same name—at that time the largest captive elephant in the world—in the center ring of his “Greatest Show on Earth.”

Today, the Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne home loans that borrow his name may not be elephantine, but they are larger than average. While one might think that lenders would view the larger loans askance, since more money involved would carry greater risk. You’d think they would give greater scrutiny and be more reluctant to lend for the same reason. But there are more and more indications that the opposite is true: jumbo loans are rising in popularity among lenders.

Financial commentators point to a number of reasons. CNBC cited the drop in interest rates as the cause of what they branded a “refinance boomlet” in the jumbo sector. After last week’s post-Brexit dive in mortgage rates, more borrowers had a larger incentive to refinance. CNBC found an average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed rate jumbos falling “to their lowest level since January 2011.”

The National Association of Realtors® found reason to point to the same conclusion—and provided a rationale explaining why “the jumbo mortgage business keeps getting bigger for banks.” In the wake of the mortgage crisis, with regulators pressuring banks to avoid anything that even smacks of risky lending, jumbo applications “typically feature borrowers with high credit scores”—a feature banks find newly appealing. “And,” according to the realtor.com website, “they aren’t linked to government programs that cost banks tens of billions of dollars in fines after the financial crisis.

All in all, the gist of the news should gladden the hearts of any resident looking to buy or sell the level of home that warrants one of those Passaic County jumbo loans. For sellers, it means that a greater number of consumers may be able to comfortably afford a jumbo home loan, broadening the pool of potential buyers. For buyers, it could mean that “more house” is newly within reach. For either eventuality, I hope you’ll give me a ring!

 

 

a new buyer first approaches their initial Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne home buying effort, chances are they have only a general idea of what the process involves. Although they are successful people who have arrived at a juncture in their lives and careers where it’s now possible to buy a home of their own, most of the details—and even the terminology—is specific to this single kind of transaction. More than in most other purchases, there are a number of junctures where negotiations determine the outcome.

It’s pretty common to assume that their Northern New Jersey home buying venture can be wrapped up with a single offer—one that will either be accepted or not. But along the way, from the home loan provider to the title insurer to the seller, other bargaining points frequently appear.

A first Passaic Countyhome buying venture is sure to run more smoothly if these basics don’t come as a bolt from the blue. Most of these five fundamental bargaining point basics might be guessed at, but anticipating them all will put any first-time buyer in a much better prepared position:

  • Down payment. It’s not true that buyers must put 20% down to buy a house. Or 10%. The amount of the down payment is a bargaining point with the lender, who usually offers trade-off choices.
  • Pre-qualification/Pre-approval. The difference between the two terms can make a difference in how eager some sellers are to talk turkey. Pre-qualified means the lender has received a potential borrower’s information; Pre-approved means the bank has verified it, which presents the buyer in a stronger light.
  • Closing costs. The down payment isn’t the only “up front” cost: there are a variety of other home-buying fees and charges that must be paid before the deal is financed. It’s a myth that the seller is obligated to pay closing costs—it can be a bargaining point, though.
  • Home inspection. The inspection report informs the buyer what might need to be fixed now or at some future time. If the buyer has made an offer contingent on a flawless report, if problems are identified the seller can offer to correct them, pay a named amount for a cash-back credit—or refuse (a “take it or leave it” stance). In any case, it’s another bargaining point.
  • Asking Price/Offering Price. This is the bargaining point that is fundamental in every Passaic Countyhome buying venture. The seller can accept, reject, or compromise with a counter-offer. Then again, if more than one buyer is interested in a property, stand back: a bidding war could erupt!   

With all these (and there can be more) bargaining points to deal with, a first-time buyer might feel intimidated. That’s where being able to rely on the experience of a veteran Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne real estate agent is such an advantage. It’s not just that you won’t be surprised by steps in the process—you will have access to the approaches and tactics that have led to success in the post. It’s another good reason why a strategic first call will be to my office!

 

Northern New Jersey Home Inspections Under the Magnifying Glass

by Orly Steinberg

 When you are buying your first Passaic County house, understanding the way a home inspection helps facilitate the process will help you to get the most out of the opportunity it represents. It might seem as if the home inspection step is one of those technical legal formalities that only serve to slow down the purchase. Like an automobile inspection the Department of Motor Vehicles demands when all you want to do is get your car legally registered, it can seem like an irritating and time-consuming bureaucratic hurdle. But, like those auto inspections, if it turns up a problem you didn’t suspect, it can be a godsend!

Your Northern New Jersey home inspection and the home inspection professional who conducts it are charged with performing a function that is specifically tailored to protect your interests. For first-time Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne home buyers, making the most of the process doesn’t take any study or preparation. The best Passaic County home inspectors (they’re the only ones I recommend) will make it easy to look over their shoulder during the inspection. It’s not required that you be there, but it’s a very good idea to do so. When you follow along—see what they are looking at, and find out why—you will be taking advantage of this first chance to acquaint yourself with some of the inner workings of your future home.

Most normal-sized home inspections take somewhere between 2 ½ to 4 hours. The ultimate work product will be a written report, which may be computer-generated (those are usually completed quickly—sometimes even onsite) or based on a handwritten checklist. Where specific issues are uncovered, photos may be included for illustration. The plumbing, heating, A/C, electrical, exterior and roof will be examined, with a professional’s opinion on their condition. The object is to give you an unbiased view of the complex items that lie beneath the surface of your future home. Eventually, every house has systems whose components will need maintenance or repair—and even the most candid seller isn’t likely to have a professional quality estimate of what their longevity is likely to be. The home inspection procedure is designed to provide a general idea of what to expect (and how soon to expect it) …although it’s good to remember that the inspector is only able to form an opinion based on what is visible and accessible.

One last important aspect of the inspection process: the written report should be read! Even if you have accompanied the inspector for the entire tour and have discussed the findings, consider the written report “must” reading. It encapsulates all of the findings under one cover—in later years, it can be a valuable reference.

We’re lucky in our Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne to draw from a variety of skilled home inspection resources. When the need arises, I’ll be happy to recommend the best from which to choose!   

 

 

 

Homes for sale in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne compete in the marketplace based on the major search criteria that have long been in place: location, architectural style, number of bedrooms and baths, overall size, style, quality, age, etc.

It’s a given that curb appeal and the property’s other photogenic qualities also make a difference for how much buyer interest is generated, and how soon serious offers roll in. We who deal in the marketplace also keep an eye on any emerging or strengthening trends and that could impinge on our Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne clients’ properties’ popular appeal. One of those factors might be in the process of becoming more important—it has to do with landscaping.

In any year, this is the season when landscaping makes the biggest impact on potential buyers.  If January is prime time to show off a home’s outstanding fireplace or welcoming radiant heating setup, July does the same for a property’s outdoor living attributes. A welcoming yard or leafy patio can be the final extra feature that propels a house for sale in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne into the ‘sold’ column—but now it seems more important that the effect be due to the right kind of greenery!

That’s the takeaway from the ASLA’s latest query to its membership. The American Society of Landscape Architects is its members’ pre-eminent professional association. Part of their charge is to track the trends and innovations in what is called residential outdoor design elements—exterior features that can make a home for sale more saleable—or, it now seems, less so.

In their latest poll, landscape architects were asked to rate the expected popularity of backyard design elements based on what they are hearing from the field. Needless to say, we might expect those factors to show a commensurate impact on their popularity with prospective buyers of our Northern New Jersey homes for sale.

Among the Top Ten project types that registered the highest expected consumer demand, all but two reflected some element of the same theme: water sustainability. Scoring highest was “Rainwater/graywater harvesting” with 88%. The next three most popular project types also showed an awareness of water conservation. “Native” and “Drought-Tolerant” plants and “low maintenance landscapes” each weighed in with more than 80% of respondents. “Permeable paving”—which can be a method of avoiding water wastage through pavement washing, came in next. Also in the list were “rain gardens”, “drip/water-efficient irrigation,” and “reduced lawn Northern New Jerseys.”

Water conservation has long been a serious concern for those with a keen green awareness quotient, but when responses on this kind of popularity list reach eight out of ten, that awareness and concern must be notching up considerably. It’s something to bear in mind for those whose Passaic County homes will be up for sale in the future—particularly if any landscape beautification projects are being considered. I hope you will feel free to call me whenever a question arises about how to prepare your own property for our Northern New Jersey’s active real estate market!

 

 Midway through Northern New Jersey real estate’s busy selling season also finds us at the beginning of many a homeowner’s personal vacation season. For those whose homes are on the market, one of the benefits of having a close working relationship with their Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne real estate agent means that they can take off for their out-of-Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne holiday without having to worry about losing prospective buyers. If my clients instruct me to continue showings in their absence, it’s no problem; likewise, if they’d prefer to hold off until their return, the showing schedule is juggled accordingly.

When a house sitter is part of the picture, it’s a low-stress showing situation, as well. Good house sitters keep their client’s property in order on a day-to-day basis anyway, so with the agreed-upon advance scheduling, showings can proceed as usual. It’s especially nice when the Passaic County homeowner returns to find good news on the real estate front!

 There are two truisms about leaving your most valuable asset—your home—in the care of any house sitter.

The first is to select the sitter wisely. It’s usually best to go with a neighborhood favorite: someone who is Passaic County to Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne, who comes highly recommended by neighbors, and who views house sitting as a professional calling. That doesn’t mean he or she should necessarily be a full-time house sitter (many great sitters have other jobs). It does mean that, since it is at least a part-time occupation, he or she has a reputation to preserve. Cousin Mark or Aunt Mildred might be more than competent enough to do the job, but if it seems to them more like an imposition rather than a calling, the results can be less than top-notch.

The second necessity for getting a satisfactory (and safe) house sitting result after a first-rate house sitter has been recruited is to provide the raw materials that allow them to do their best job. In the house-sitting realm those raw materials consist of good information: the vital information that you usually take for granted, but which is necessary to oversee the proper functioning of the property. The information should be made available in a carefully assembled and written list. Some (not all) of the items you gather could include your on-the-go contact information at each destination; alternative contact persons; names and phone numbers of any service persons scheduled to be working on the property; emergency numbers for the Passaic County maintenance professionals you rely on for things like plumbing emergencies; and—at the top of the page, right after “911”—the Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne emergency numbers for police and fire departments. Elsewhere, near the TV and other electronics, it’s also considerate to write out in explicit detail how to turn them on. As we all know, in today’s world, that can require a page or two…

When your property’s operations/emergency list is complete, be sure to reserve some time to go over the items with your house sitter—before Getaway Day, when the schedule can easily grow too hectic to do the briefing properly. And if your house really is currently on the market, include your real estate agent’s contact information— which I hope is mine!

 

 Some of our Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne’s senior residents will verify that The Reader’s Digest was once flat-out the most popular magazine in the country. I don’t know how far back that began, but at one point at least, it was the time-saving way Americans kept up with what was being published in the other magazines (there were lots of them). RD boiled lengthy articles down to a couple of pages.

TV is probably what spelled its decline. The internet almost finished the job—but the Digest is still going in various forms. When you come across it online, it never fails to show a whole lineup of almost irresistible Click Me sidebars. Last week, for instance, Passaic County homeowners might have been snared by “20 Secret Hiding Places for Valuables in Your Home” (if your home will host an open house anytime soon, that one would be fortuitous); “Prepare to Be Amazed By the Gorgeous Way This Woman Transformed Her Simple Camper Trailer” (although the flashy red-white-and-blue stripes on the camper shell might have been overkill); “13 Neat Ways Milk Can Help You Look Gorgeous And Clean Your House Too!”(sour milk can renew tarnished silver; powdered milk can erase fine cracks in china).

But the most relevant attention-grabber of all (for Northern New Jersey homeowners, at least) would have been “10 Ways to Increase Home Value with Exterior Paint.” We all know that a fresh paint job will give any home a value boost—but what are the other 9 ways? Here’s a selection from the answer:

1.Color Correct for Value—which means “use eye-catching color schemes.” This was RD’s #1 way to increase value…but I’d have to caution that if a color scheme is a bit too eye-catching, it could accomplish the reverse…

2.Perception of Color is Very Relative—When choosing color schemes, remember that the colors need to viewed right next to each other to judge how they will actually appear to the eye.

3.Begin with the Value—The word “value” here means how dark or light the main color will be. Decide on it first, before trim colors.

4.Don’t Be Top-Heavy ( homeowners note: this was really the only one I thought could actually increase value)—Place darker colors below lighter shades to prevent a top-heavy look.

5.Choose Colors in the Right Light—view swatches in the same kind of light they’ll be seen in).

6.Play Up the Size (use light colors to enlarge a small house and dark colors to make a large house on a small lot look smaller).

I can’t really agree with #6; most Passaic County homeowners whose houses are set on small lots would still do well to have the home look as roomy as possible.

Following the original Readers Digest concept, this boils the 10 Ways down to 6. You really could shrink it all the way down to just #4—but since it would no longer be a list, that would be overdoing it. In fact, Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne homeowners who clicked on the sidebar for “13 Tips for Selling Your Home” might actually benefit most from #9—which was “Get Real About Pricing.” No matter how many of the Selling Tips you wound up taking seriously, though, I would have to add one more truly practical one: Call Me!

When Passaic County Homeowners Capitalize on Energy Savings

by Orly Steinberg

 It’s been a welcome relief for Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne homeowners as the Bad Old Days of the energy crisis recede from memory. $4+-a-gallon gasoline, huge electric, propane and fuel oil bills that were the subject of national outrage have faded from the headlines. We’re now busy attending to the current challenges of daily living—and OPEC’s machinations aren’t front and center!

But for those Northern New Jersey homeowners more attuned to what’s likely to be headed our way sooner or later, now is as good a time as any to prepare for the next spate of energy price surprises. And there are many new products—some in development, some already on the market—that soon could put a serious dent in the damage tomorrow’s energy bills might wreak.

Some of the interesting innovations:

  • Bladeless Fans. These are already out there—the weird-looking magnifying-glass-shaped electric fans that suck hot air in through the base and push a steady stream of air out via an impeller. The no-blades design promises to make them safer, and eventually less of an energy-eater.
  • Smart Thermostats. The best new ones connect to home systems and display how much energy is being used (and how much it’s costing). Being able to see the dollars and cents result of every temperature-setting decision, these “smart” thermostats can’t help but result in measurable energy savings.  
  • Flooring Upgrades. Who isn’t attracted to the warmth of hardwood floors? That never changes, but when it comes to the cost factor, they can’t match the energy savings of radiant heat. Unlike older versions of radiant flooring, the new products like Warmboard don’t require running tubes in concrete to circulate hot water. Radiant solutions were already 25% more efficient than forced air—the newer systems allow greater control and lower water temperatures.
  • Sprinkler Controllers. Water bills can be eyebrow-raisers anytime—but if you’ve ever found yourself rushing outside during a rainstorm to figure out how to stop your automatic lawn sprinkling system from adding to the flood, that situation needn’t reoccur. The newest “smart” systems take weather, sprinkler type—even growing conditions—into account. As an extra, mobile apps allow you to supervise from afar.
  • Solar Shingles. They’re not yet at the price point of traditional solar panels (who would have thought that bolt-on solar panels would ever become “traditional”?)—but they are quicker to install and have the advantage of maintaining the traditional rooflines. They are becoming the renewable energy solution with curb appeal!

Investments in home renovations that give Passaic County homeowners energy savings are investments that pay off twice: right now, as the monthly operating costs are realized; and later, when those advanced features make the property more attractive to buyers. If that “later” is also a time when a future energy crunch is on everybody’s minds, it can be an important selling feature.

That would also be prime time to give me a call! 

One good way my clients get a head start from the word “go!” is the amount of attention their Passaic County listing receives. Since that listing is by far the most prominent display piece their property will be presenting to the world of potential buyers, it has to be first-rate. The details must be presented in clear and unambiguous language, laid out with the information buyers consider important right at the top. Most important of all is how the data is illustrated. If there is ever a place where top-notch photography will pay off, this is it!

That’s why it’s astonishing when you come across Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne listings where the shots appear to have been taken with casual abandon. You seldom see those when a property is represented by a licensed agent—or if you do, it’s probably the result of a client’s sudden need to sell quickly—in which case the offending specimens are usually swiftly replaced by professional substitutes.

What are the most common amateur photography slip-ups that can’t help but harm a property’s impact? Here are five that seem to lead the pack:

1.   Flash. Even most smartphone cameras have flash capability for dark scenes. The problems with that kind of flash is that, since the light provided is right next to the lens, everything that’s illuminated looks flat—it erases the depth that shadows provide. Also, things that are closest to the camera are bright, those distant are darker—making for all the appeal of a crime scene photo. As if that weren’t enough, reflective objects like mirrors and glass reflect the glare of the flash. Professionals use multiple “slaved” flashes deflected off walls and ceilings—an entirely different matter!

2.   Illumination. Most Passaic County listings are more inviting when they serve to emphasize a property’s open, spacious qualities. There are exceptions, but most of the time that means bright and light. Rooms look their best when their natural light is only subtly augmented by additional photo lighting. Photo lights introduce unnatural shadows unless they are skillfully placed…but when that’s accomplished, the result is a bright, clean, color-balanced shot.

3.   Selection. When a listing photo portrays an Northern New Jersey that isn’t obvious—when a shot doesn’t “explain itself”—the result is confusion for the viewer. More than one or two close-ups of architectural details without a clear indication of where they are found don’t help tell the listing’s “story.”

4.   Focal length. Most “normal” lenses aren’t well suited for listing photography. Wide angle shots are almost always more appropriate. They provide more information by showing a greater Northern New Jersey—which also conveys a more spacious feeling.

5.   Clutter. Experienced listing photographers know how the viewer’s eye is attracted to details which are out of place. The personal bric-a-brac that’s part of daily living can be a show-stopper in listing photography. Amateurs leave clutter in; professionals seek to remove it before every shot!

A superb Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne listing is one that features photos that tell a story beautifully and accurately. It’s really the opening act of a presentation which—hopefully—ends with a deed conveyed and front door key presented. I hope you’ll call me when it’s time to get your show on the road!

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Orly Steinberg

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
130 Skyline Drive, Ringwood NJ 07456

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