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Orly Steinberg


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Beachcombers, Treasure Hunters, and Ringwood’s MLS

by Orly Steinberg

 House hunters are sometimes compared with treasure hunters—and it can certainly feel like that when you find a Ringwood home that’s a perfect fit. The other day, I read a writer who compared house hunting with beachcombing. That might pass muster at first—but when you think it over, it really doesn’t quite work.

For one thing, the average beachcomber is only out to enhance a surfside stroll by picking up something interesting. Unlike a dedicated treasure hunter or house hunter, a beachcomber isn’t focused on any specific prize. Dedicated treasure hunters spend days in dusty libraries researching historical rumors about buried chests or sunken galleons. House hunters, likewise, put a lot of energy into prowling through the Ringwood listings, narrowing the possibilities. Beachcombers are less focused—and a lot less determined.

For Ringwood househunters, our Multiple Listing Service is the primary go-to resource. It’s a treasure in itself: a single place to turn when it comes to finding Ringwood homes currently on the market. Beachcombers have no like counterpart. Sure, once the tide is out, any given beach might have a lot of flotsam and jetsam. But it’s blind luck whether any of it will be worth carrying back.

Compared with vacationing beachcombers, MLS-combers have much more rigorous standards. Most beachcombers will at least bend down to examine anything shaped like a Shell gas station sign, even if it’s partially busted up. MLS-combers, on the other hand, move on without a second glance if the picture at the top of a Ringwood listing looks at all shabby.

Whenever you are doing some tropical beachcombing, and you find a really large shell (like a conch), even if there’s no extra space in your luggage, you’re likely to haul it back to the beach blanket for everyone to admire. But if you are MLS-combing and you come across an 18-bedroom mansion, you won’t add it to your 4-bedroom, 3 ½ bath Serious Contender list. MLS-combing is more focused than beachcombing.

I’d have to go with treasure hunting as the best metaphor for house hunting—and right now, the Ringwood MLS is loaded with treasures that aren’t even buried. Give me a call if you’re in the market—we’ll give some of the best ones a good look!


It’s not a coincidence that the same word is used in both dramatic undertakings and Northern New Jersey residential real estate preparation. Both describe preparations that seek to establish a feeling within the beholder. Of course, staging for Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne home showings differs fundamentally from its theatrical homonym. With our kind of staging, the presentation is real—not make-believe.

That’s not to say we can’t borrow an idea or two from the theater. Some stage directors begin first rehearsals by encouraging the actors to overdo their readings; to “make it big—really big!” The idea is that later on, after they’ve rehearsed the same scene dozens of times, it will be harder to think creatively about interpreting their characters. There will be plenty of time to tone down wildly overdone acting, but after many days of rehearsing, overfamiliarity with the play will make it harder to come up with creative ideas to improve performances.

There can be some value in applying the same kind of thinking when you approach the staging of your Northern New Jersey home—at least in the sense of thinking outside the box. One way our Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne’s staging professionals have the advantage over homeowners who do it themselves is that they arrive on the scene without preconceptions. They get to see a home with fresh eyes. That’s pretty much impossible for someone who has lived in the place for years. The pros have also developed a good deal of expertise in imagining basics, like how the placement of furniture can improve the “flow” of a home: how visitors naturally move from room to room.

When actors perform that first rehearsal, making their reading “bigger” than it will wind up being on opening night, there is an apt analogy for staging a home.

It’s about the all-important staging rudiment: the de-cluttering.

Essentially, the ideal would be to clear everything out.

Of course, unless it’s a pack-up-and-move situation, that’s usually not practical. But what can be accomplished is to progress through the house, room by room, slightly overdoing the de-cluttering. Walking through a living room that you’ve made comfortable through the years, it is really hard to think of doing much other than clearing surfaces or rearranging an item or two. But when you evacuate almost everything from a space (which is possible if you’re only moving it into an adjoining room), it’s suddenly easy to see what really needs to be moved back. And new ideas pop up for where lamps, tables, chairs might be more appealingly placed…and most important, which things aren’t really necessary at all!

Come opening night (that is, the first showing or the first open house), the results from a serious home staging effort can often earn the kind of critical results that translate into a “sold” sign in the front yard.

For more ideas that can speed your Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne property’s move into the sold column, I hope you’ll give me a call!




 It was tucked away in a backwater of The Wall Street Journal’s online Design tab, which is actually just a sub-section of their Real Estate section. “The Rise of the Colorful Bathroom” was like a conceptual hand grenade tossed into the placid lagoon of home decor orthodoxy.

As far as design insights likely to affect our Northern New Jersey’s home resale market, the pointers found in Design lately haven’t been particularly noteworthy. Earlier this month, there had been a piece about metal versions of “The Classic Peacock Chair.” That might have had some impact in Rangoon, but here in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne, where peacock chairs are few and far in between, it scarcely ruffled a feather. Similarly, there had appeared “A Décor Lesson in Subtle Patriotism” with marginally subtle red, white and blue illustrations—but especially since it first appeared after the July 4th weekend, Passaic County readers were unlikely to run that one up the flagpole…

But now, tucked away beside a Most Popular Videos sidebar, came this subversive “Rise of the Colorful Bathroom.” A generous illustration showed an example of how far the author was willing to go: it portrayed a stark blue bathroom wall and sink featuring clapboard-like blue-and-gray porcelain tiles: the blue plank special. Did this mark a warning shot over the bow of one of the longest unchallenged home décor conventions—that the American bathroom palette should be, in the author’s phrase, “compulsively neutral”?

If so, would the new trend force homeowners poised to enter the Northern New Jersey’s home resale market to have to expensively retool their bathrooms’ calming hues?

Fortunately for the budgets of Passaic County home sellers, a close reading made that unlikely. Although the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) does report some tip-toeing by their members in the direction of bathroom color infusions, no more than 10%-15% of them actually expect to decorate more baths “in green, blue and black”—at least for this year. There were also tacit admissions that the Rise of the Colorful Bathroom might become somewhat diluted before it spreads much further. “Muted beats candy bright” was the caption describing a mid-toned bathroom, displaying an almost traditional “quiet, palatable personality.”

Some designers also expressed some reluctance to jump on the Colorful Bathroom train—at least in one part of the rainbow. Palm Springs designer Christopher Kennedy may opt for small touches of bright color, but will always “avoid pea greens and acid greens” because “they aren’t so great on the skin.” He goes in a rosier direction, with hip colors like blush “because it makes you look beautiful.”

As far as Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne home resale prospects are concerned, one devil-may-care subhead gives away a quite possible impact. The truly cool blues to emphatic blacks are labelled “resale-be-damned” colors. As we near the end of the hectic peak selling period, most Passaic County sellers are continuing to choose much more of a “resale-be-welcomed” disposition. If that describes your own stance, you’ll find it echoed when you give me a call! 

The “5-Year Rule” as it applies to Northern New Jersey homes listed for sale is a pretty good one, as far as real estate rules-of-thumb go. It’s part of the family of truisms that have been around long enough that you’d figure they have to be reliable—like the rule that you should plan on maintenance costing 1% of a listed home’s selling price per year; or the one the government often quotes that housing costs should be no more than 30% of income.

The 5-Year Rule has it that if you don’t know you will remain in a new home for at least 5 years, you’d be better off not buying. The reasons are the oft-cited dollars and cents issues. In addition to the closing costs, commissions, and costs of moving your household, emotional issues are often cited: as in the familiar “moving is one of the most stressful events in life.

But like most other similar guidelines, the 5-Year Rule is useful as a starting point only. If you have no overriding issues that have set you to checking out the homes listed in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne, it’s a reasonable starting point. But if other factors are nudging you into action, it’s only one way to look at the practicality of buying a home—not the final verdict. Some outside factors that might make it worth at least considering overruling the 5-Year Rule:

  • One of the homes listed is a perfect fit AND a genuine steal. When you come across a property that is exactly what you have been looking for and the asking price is clearly below what comparable Passaic County homes are currently commanding at market, it might make sense to reconsider the 5-Year Rule. The reason is simple: if you have to move, you have reason to believe that you will be able to sell at a price that offsets the costs of the transactions.
  • The emotional cost of not owning your home is substantial. This is easily overlooked, but for some people (often, for those whose entire childhood was centered in one home) the feeling of being untethered—or of delaying the familial commitment that accompanies the institution of homeownership—can be emotionally disruptive. It’s impossible to put a price on this, but it can make a real difference in well-being.
  • Knowing what you don’t know. The 5-Year Rule is based upon a certainty: that you will be moving away from Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne in at most 5 years. But what if there is less certainty? What if you simply don’t know? This is a fairly common 21st century conundrum, and it can lead to paralysis in any number of decision-making situations. Especially right now, when the homes listed in the Northern New Jersey are qualifying for today’s incredibly low mortgage interest rates, it may be worthwhile to pencil in the cash flow tradeoff versus the renting alternative. If you still don’t know 5 years from now, that same tradeoff might look a lot less worth doing!

When the 5-Year Rule isn’t at issue (or if it might give way to one of the overriding factors), you want to be sure you are being shown the listed Passaic County homes that offer the best value in your price range. That’s where I will be certain to be your strongest asset. Call me!  


7 Financial Results Passaic County FSBO Sellers May Face

by Orly Steinberg

 Once you have decided to sell your Northern New Jersey home, one of your first action items is to recruit a top sales team. About 90% of sellers choose a licensed Realtor® to head up their effort—not just because it’s the popular thing to do, but because the alternatives are few. You could recruit a business person from some other discipline, but few do that. Most in the minority group decide to do it all themselves—to go the FSBO route: “For Sale By Owner.”

The reason for settling on this choice is usually a dollars and cents one: to eliminate the real estate commissions. Any home sale in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne is a weighty transaction—so pocketing that percentage looks like a businesslike decision. It usually does have financial ramifications, but not necessarily the kind that the Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne FSBO seller was hoping for:

1.Statistics tell us that fewer than 3% of home buyers hear about their ultimate purchase directly from the seller. Missing out on 97% of prospective buyers greatly diminishes the chance that more than one party will compete to buy the property.

2.The longer a property lingers on the market, the lower its ultimate selling price is likely to be. Interviews confirm that only 1 in 8 FSBO sellers succeed in selling within their planned length of time…

3.…and even fewer “get what they consider the right price.”

4.Advertising expenses have to be paid by the seller. There is $5.95 for a front yard FSBO sign, plus $2.35 for the wooden stake that holds the sign up. If no additional advertising expenses are incurred, it means there is no advertising—with likely outcomes described in 1, 2, and 3.

5.If the FSBO seller has regular job responsibilities, the time devoted to handling prospects and addressing the business and legal ramifications that accompany a residential real estate transaction can become costly distractions. High among the tasks past FSBO sellers rated most difficult was “understanding and performing the paperwork.”

6.The average price of a FSBO sale is 75% of one carried out by a professional.

7.Even if a sale is accomplished, the premium gained may be less than anticipated. Since the buyer is likely to be represented by a buyer’s agent, the hoped-for savings are cut in half.

A financial result—the usual reason for most Northern New Jersey FSBOs—often comes to pass, but it’s the opposite of the one intended. You might say that the FSBO strategy should really only be attempted by those for whom money is no object. In effect, FSBOs are the champagne of real estate strategies…

I’m only half kidding about that last—but not kidding at all when I suggest that you give me a call when it’s time to sell your own Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne property!

 “Homeownership is the bedrock of the American Dream!” was long an unchallenged byword in American culture. Certainly most Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne homeowners agreed during most of the 20th Century. That premise may have been rocked a little during the early phases of the Great Recession that shook the country starting in 2008, but as the housing recovery gathered steam, faith in the concept eventually returned for most folks.

The economic advantages of owning your own Northern New Jersey home have been particularly dramatic lately, as historically low mortgage interest rates have made the benefits of homeownership on the family budget dazzlingly apparent. One of the further benefits was just offered in a seminar given by a prominent research economist.

As you might guess from the description of the speaker, some of the details in the hour-long presentation tended to get a little obscure. When economists have something to say, often their verbiage is less than easy to fathom—so when a research economist speaks, the audience had better pay close attention. The impenetrability factor can be daunting. Nonetheless, since this talk was presented by the National Association of Realtors®, I thought its message would be worth tuning in on.

The title of the summary was “House Price Growth When Children are Teenagers—A Path to Higher Earnings?” The question mark was a hopeful indication of the unbiased scientific nature of the research (and there’s no reason to doubt that)—but the body of evidence described doesn’t leave much question.

The answer is “yes.”

It’s the details that are somewhat challenging, but the compact explanation is that when house prices rise in a household with a 17-year-old, that teenager’s income as an adult can be expected to be above average. Likewise, a 17-year-old in a household that rents the family residence while house prices are going up has a higher likelihood of earning less in their adult years.

No explanation is confirmed for why there is such an impact, except a suggestion that they are more likely to attend a top-ranked college. In any case, the effect was marked in a sample of 892 respondents:

“For every 10% increase in home prices that occurred when children were 17 years old, the income of homeowners’ children as adults was 9% higher on average, while the income of renters’ children as adults was 15% lower.”

The takeaway for Northern New Jersey homeowners is assuredly positive. It’s long been known that research shows many economic and social benefits to homeownership—among them a boost in the likelihood of educational achievement for children—probably because of the effects of a stable housing environment. Currently, since rising home values have been with us for quite a while, these latest findings of a positive outlook for “the economic trajectory of the homeowner’s children” is welcome news.

Fostering homeownership in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne is my principal professional goal, so it’s good to hear confirmation of what seems clear on a daily basis (not to mention, another good reason to give me a call)!

 If you happened upon the Weather Channel’s site last week and were greeted with headlines like, “Massive Heat Dome Inbound” and “Excessive Heat in the East and West,” it could have let you feel better about our Northern New Jersey’s own weather. After all, what do you expect from August in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne? At least we weren’t under a massive heat dome… (or were we)?

The fact is, no matter how uncomfortable the warmup was here, the Weather Channel reported that “Russia and the Southern Ocean” reportedly had the worst of it. In Russia, fires were said to have broken out because of the heat spell. An anthrax outbreak was blamed on it. Since the “Southern Ocean” isn’t a country, it complained less than Russia. And with no anthrax at all, we here in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne should probably count our blessings.

When it comes to holding open houses in this Northern New Jersey, though, weather is always an issue. In the winter, really bad weather can derail open houses altogether: cascading re-scheduling has been known to result.

Summer open houses are generally less risky, scheduling-wise…but when true heat waves send those massive heat domes our way, even uncomfortably warm weather can be countered via a few simple countermeasures. Four common suggestions for creating happier open house visitors:

1.Move the air. Whether your home has central air conditioning, strategically-placed window units or splits, a swamp cooling setup or dehumidifiers, the comfort factor advances when inside air is on the move. Fan power settings should be set to minimize noise while assuring that the atmosphere isn’t stuck in one place.

2.Adjust the shades. This is a rare circumstance when you can abandon the open house commonplace that advises maximizing sunlight. If it’s a hot afternoon, pull the shades lest the sun-facing windows magnify the blast furnace effect.

3.Put out chilly refreshments. Let’s face it: those whose open houses happen to fall on 90+ temperature days could probably turn a nice profit if they let Junior run a lemonade stand out front. Even if Junior isn’t around, pitchers of ice water in the kitchen are a minimum. Instead of the standard chocolate chip cookies, consider putting out a tray of chilled watermelon cubes, or ice-cooled grape clusters. And if the neighbor’s kids have a lemonade stand going down the street, consider bribing them to move it onto your lawn (when a ‘free lemonade’ sign is added, open house success is in the bag)!

4.For Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne open houses with swimming pools—make the most of it! Short of inviting your visitors to jump right in, you can capitalize on what makes a pool such an asset. Consider setting your listing literature out there on the table beneath the welcoming poolside umbrella, with a few chairs inviting a sit-down. The prospects will be grateful for the breather...and won’t be able to help drinking in the poolside ambiance is at its best!

  We’re still in the summer selling season—which has been “hot” in more ways than one. Open houses can definitely do well in Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne, with a little creativity. For instance, there was the time And it’s definitely still a great time of year to give me a call!

 It’s probably just an inevitable part of the human condition.

For almost everyone, awaiting any Passaic County home inspection is pure, unadulterated jitters time. Nail-biting time. Edge-of-your-seat time.

It isn’t because anyone seriously expects any of our Northern New Jersey home inspectors to be ogres. Certainly the inspectors I recommend are uniformly courteous, professional, and quite empathetic. They should be empathetic, because of the situation—which consists of a buyer standing by, ready to become the proud owner of seller’s Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne dream house. With only the home inspection remaining to be conducted…

In other words, the inspector is asked to perform a professional service, the purpose of which is to uncover any previously unknown defects.

Potentially derailing the otherwise blissful scenario of uniting of buyer with house.

That is why, in the backs of both seller’s and buyers’ minds, there is usually some form of this scenario: the seller is in the act of dropping the front door keys into the outstretched hand of the buyer, only to have the home inspector snatch them out of the air. Caved-in roof has suddenly materialized; termite-infested inner walls discovered; fireplace housing found to actually be made of strawberry jello (all right, I made that one up). The point is, if you have house-hunted extensively to little avail—then finally found THE place of your dreams, you really really don’t want your Passaic County home inspection to turn up any bad news. Ditto if it’s your home about to be sold. With the additional factor that if some defect turns up that you knew nothing about, you still could wind up looking like a jerk…

Given the tension and anxiety involved with the profession, it’s just short of miraculous that our home inspectors aren’t all fighting peptic ulcers. The reason is probably because, when all is said and done, performing a thorough home inspection is a high-skill accomplishment—one of great value to both buyer and seller.

For the seller, the home inspection ritual is an exercise that bolsters the buyer’s confidence in the wisdom of such a momentous transaction. Without it, who knows how many homes would not change hands as readily? For the buyer, even when no defects are discovered (as is often the case), the home inspection report serves as an invaluable handbook, filled with useful details about the nature and status of the residence’s structure and systems.

Some agents believe they should spare jittery home buying clients a nerve-wracking experience by counseling them to stay away during the actual home inspection. However, accompanying the inspector is a valuable way to get in-depth knowledge about the workings of their new residence. Plus—there’s no better way to get over those jitters than to acquaint yourself with the real value you are about to acquire.

Having an experienced Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne agent on your team is an excellent way to prevent any jitters from developing in your home buying process—another good reason to call me! 

If you are a house hunter who isn’t reluctant to dig in and roll up your sleeves, it could be worth your while to take a look at Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne “bank-owned” offerings. Deciding to do that is less popular than you’d think.

Bank-owned is a word that can summon up all sorts of negative connotations, causing even people who usually think of themselves as unemotional to hang back. Like “REO” (short for real estate-owned, a synonym for bank-owned), it is applied to Northern New Jersey homes whose ownership has been reclaimed by the lender. Foreclosures and real estate auctions that follow are never jolly circumstances, so many don’t even consider looking at the subject residences.

It is partly because of the inauspicious histories that such properties can carry with them that the majority of Passaic County home seekers automatically shy away. Yet it can be forcefully argued that, especially for prospective homeowners who are on the lookout for bargains, the “bank-owned” moniker ought to draw special attention. Our Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne’s bank-owned homes usually take some additional care in how they are examined and purchased, but they can also present value that is worth the extra effort.

Because a bank-owned home is being offered for sale by the lending institution that holds its deed, the precise way any one can be purchased varies depending upon the policies of the company involved. Some of the mythology about homes that have been through foreclosure are not true—for instance, it is not usually true that only cash offers will be considered, or that an auction will be involved (usually that phase has already come and gone).

What IS definitely true is that bank-owned homes have a better-than-average chance of needing some level of rehabilitation. On the other hand, if a bank is selling the property, it’s a safe bet that any cloud on the title (a second or third mortgage or other creditor liens) has been dealt with. It can be the case that a bank comes into possession because of just that kind of problem—and any newly created “freed value” might be had by a new owner at a head-turning discount.

The paths to buying bank-owned Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne homes can require patience and an experienced hand at residential negotiations, so if you are considering going after one yourself, be sure to pick a real estate agent with the requisite background. That’s true in any house-hunting endeavor, of course—and a reason I hope you’ll give me a call!



 As every college freshman will tell you, it’s those “Introductory” classes that can wind up being the most time-consuming. Since they cover a lot of territory dealing with subjects that are new to you, they can be the hardest to keep up with. If Ringwood, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Wayne real estate had its own college department, its “Introduction to” class might be a lot easier than some of the other departments’—but there would still be a few basics some of the freshmen might need to master before proceeding much further.

When it comes to Passaic County real estate, the equivalent of the freshmen are the first time home buyers. They don’t need a whole class to be prepared to dive in, but they should be aware of some basics. Some financial preparation comes first:

  • For openers, find out what your credit report says. If there are mistakes, it takes time to get them corrected, so this is Job One.
  • Then, before even starting to discover what properties are available, you should sit down and work out how much you can afford. That will point you toward the portion of the Northern New Jersey’s real estate offerings you should spend your time and effort examining. If you do it the other way around, you are too likely to waste time visiting houses that would put too much strain on your budget.
  • There are many different kinds of home loans—with differing cost and cash flow implications. The difference between variable and fixed interest rate loans and the difference between down payment percentages will have major impacts on your monthly family operating budget, and what you can comfortably afford. An important part of being an informed buyer is making sure you know what loan types are available—and the financial implications of each.

Then comes the search—the house hunt. If you haven’t already made contact with the Passaic County real estate agent who will help with your search, it’s time to do so. Most of the basics are pretty much common sensical:

  • Knowing that sellers pay the Realtor® fee, locate a licensed Northern New Jersey real estate agent with a good reputation, experience in the Northern New Jersey, and with whom you can communicate easily: one who “speaks your language.” (Hint: call me!)
  • Instead of planning to just go out to “see what’s out there,” first get as clear a picture as possible of what features you know you require. Make a list with both “wants” and “must haves”—and stick with it. Remember that allowing the “wants” to become more important than the “must haves” will usually prove to be a bad idea.
  • When you make an offer on the house you’ve been looking for, be sure the contract specifies that you can request repairs or back out of the deal based on the inspection results…and be sure to have that inspection!

If I’m your agent, I’ll be sure to remind you!



Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 581




Orly Steinberg

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
130 Skyline Drive, Ringwood NJ 07456

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