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Orly Steinberg

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Weather Can’t Stop the Postman or Ringwood Showings

by Orly Steinberg

When even severely draught-ridden California neighborhoods are having trouble coming up for air, you know that 2017 is turning out to be one of those winters. Punxsutawney Phil only confirmed what we already knew: until the bulbs start pushing their way upward, we’re likely to have more wind-blown stormy days than usual. When it comes to Ringwood showings, some strategic thinking can be in order.

Ringwood showings are always at their best when the wind is gentle, the clouds are white, puffy, off in the distance instead of blocking the sun—and the ground is agreeably soil-like rather than squishy. February is the season when prospective buyers are few, but Ringwood home sellers should also remember that they tend to be more focused and determined than at other times of the year. They are more likely to persist through stretches of inclement weather. But even though you may be painfully aware that the property isn’t at its glamorous best, keep in mind that showings of your competitors are subject to the same meteorological handicap. IOW, don’t give up—you can cope!

Here are a few tips culled from various real estate musings on the subject of showings in foul weather. They start with some fair-weather activity:

  • Advance prep should especially include conscientious gutter and downspout cleaning. If you’re someone who views climbing any ladder rung higher than the third as a life-threatening exercise, it’s worth recruiting some surefooted help. Clogged gutters don’t just short-circuit otherwise great showings: they can cause serious water damage.
  • If muddy shoeprints are likely to be unavoidable, the resulting impression can dampen your showing. To avoid that, you have the choice of arranging with your agent (hopefully, that’s me!) to request shoes be removed—or to provide inexpensive throw-away shoe covers. In either case, it’s thoughtful to place a chair or two for your guests near the entryway.
  • If you have photo blowups of the exterior and yard on a sunny summer day, don’t be shy about setting them out in a prominent place. Proving how inviting the property feels in better weather is a strong selling point.
  • If it’s unremittingly gloomy outside, shine a light wherever you can—including over the front porch. Open draperies and blinds to brighten wherever possible.
  • If it’s windy or damp, crank the heat up a couple of degrees higher than usual (but not enough to cause it to feel stuffy). The object is to dry out the interior air spaces. Of course, a roaring fireplace does the job best of all!

Ringwood showings when it’s nasty outside can seem to be a fool’s errand—but experience teaches that it’s not necessarily so. I will always sound out potential buyers about whether they would rather postpone a showing on a difficult day. When they decide that they really want to proceed despite uncomfortable weather, that is, after all, a very good sign. In fair or foul weather, I hope you won’t wait for the sun to shine to give me a call! 

Ringwood Real Estate and Optimism Make a Happy Couple

by Orly Steinberg

Owning your own Ringwood home is, for most of us, a goal that’s been with us so long we don’t even question it. In addition to the economic advantages that come with Ringwood real estate ownership, there are, for most, a host of corresponding emotional benefits—the sense of security and “belonging” within the community are just two.

So it should be no surprise that the real estate industry is bound to be at least somewhat affected by changes in the public’s emotional outlook. After all, when people start feeling good about the country and their own circumstances (they’re “optimistic”), they’ll be more likely to see the future in a positive light. More businesses will be started; more couples will decide it’s time to grow the family—and in Ringwood real estate terms, more homes will be bought and sold.

Last week, Ringwood real estate observers didn’t have to look hard to find a number of optimism-signaling items in the media. If local sentiment is in line with what was being reported nationally, it has to boost confidence in the commercial outlook for both New Jersey and Ringwood. For real estate matters in particular, optimism ruled.

The first wave arrived on Tuesday when Fannie Mae published its prognosis on “housing attitudes.” The quasi-governmental entity reported an abrupt turnaround in their Home Purchase Sentiment Index. This is the comprehensive sampling that measure various consumer sentiment on six components related to residential real estate. Most notable (actually, sort of astonishing!) was the component that measures consumers’ optimism regarding their own personal financial prospects and the economy. It registered the highest level in the history of the Index.

The percentage of those who say they feel now is a good time to sell a home rose, as did those who reported higher income in their own households. And the number of those who also believe home prices will rise in the coming year grew by 7%—which could explain why potential buyers might be increasingly eager to buy sooner rather than later.

The following day, RealtorMag® quoted a 1,000-consumer survey which confirmed that conclusion. It tracked those who “consider homeownership as a priority” and are considering buying a home in 2017. Undaunted by rising real estate prices, consumers are saying that they are more willing to sacrifice other priorities to save for a down payment. USA Today listed some of those “other priorities” as saving for emergencies or retirement—clearly signaling an increase in positive outlooks.

Some people grumble that roses have thorns; others are delighted that thorns have roses. When public sentiment begins to see more roses than thorns, Ringwood real estate is bound to be among the biggest beneficiaries. If you are thinking of taking advantage of what looks like a breakout spring selling season, why not give me a call?

Asking Price Decision is Crucial for Ringwood Home Sellers

by Orly Steinberg

For more than a year, it’s been the happy trend across the nation for the average DOM (days on market) for residential properties to have been declining. It’s a “speed of sale” measure—one that most Ringwood home sellers hope will reflect that it won’t be long before they are handing the keys to happy new owners.

There are some ruling considerations that go into establishing a winning Ringwood asking price. One is psychological: thinking of a buyer’s frame of mind, most people don’t want to be the only ones who are interested in a house. When a slightly lower-than-comparable asking price is part of the marketing message, it draws a crowd. Another consideration is the search bracket. Knowing how buyers tend to bracket price range parameters for similar Ringwood homes is something I can help with. If comparable homes have been selling in a range that tops out at $400,000, asking $410,000 (so you can discount it in later negotiations) is a mistake: your property won’t even appear on search results you’re aiming for. 

It is said that pricing is an ongoing discussion—something that holds true if the activity level is less than expected. In every dissertation, oration, article, comment, FAQ, and essay about successful house sales, the dictum is the same: if the place doesn’t sell, first check the asking price.

Sometimes that truism can seem indisputable. If the property in question has been listed at an asking price that’s higher than comparable Ringwood houses—other homes that have sold—unless outside factors have slowed all area sales, the asking price is probably the stumbling block. A homeowner can quite reasonably object that their property has unusual qualities that make direct comparisons with other Ringwood homes inexact, but that logic may not be powerful enough to counter the market figures that buyers can see (remember that they don’t want to be the only ones who are interested). Sometimes even for a home that shows spectacularly, lowering the asking price can be the simplest and quickest route to a “sold” sign on the front lawn.

In the case of those Ringwood homes where Ringwood asking price conformity isn’t the issue—as when there simply are no other properties that are at all similar—if lowering the asking price is not indicated, it will simply become a waiting game: waiting for the buyer who appreciates the special character of the property. The good news is that there IS a buyer out there for every property; the bad news is that unique properties attract unique buyers—as in, there are fewer of them. But there is some second good news: when they do show up, they are apt to fall in love with the place!

Pricing is part math and part skill, and since the market is constantly changing, it’s a skill that rewards experience tempered by consistent monitoring. I monitor Ringwood real estate full time so I can provide the most timely assistance and advice in all phases of selling and buying. I hope you’ll give me a call! 

House Hunting in Ringwood: Bad Weather Version

by Orly Steinberg

Showing a home in bad weather might seem to be a blueprint for disappointment, but sometimes that’s not what happens. Of course, prospective buyers do find that house hunting in Ringwood is easiest when the sun is shining, but homes continue to be bought and sold in every season, and sometimes bad weather can even prove to be advantageous.

Now, it’s true that when you stick the word “bad” in front of anything, you can bet it will stifle enthusiasm. If you’re trying to promote something, it’s hardly the go-to adjective. “Let’s try out that new Chinese restaurant—I hear it’s bad” isn’t a quorum-builder. That’s why “let’s schedule some serious house hunting; it looks like the weather will be really bad,” isn’t likely to spur a lot of enthusiasm—even if a deadline looms and people need to find a house.

When the wind is howling, and Mother Nature lets loose with one of the many ways she has of transforming water into a treacherous adversary, any showings that aren’t canceled can become unique opportunities for both the hunters and homeowners.

For the house hunters, there’s a chance to see how impressively the property holds up in less than ideal conditions. In that sense, it’s an opportunity to go “backstage” to experience how solidly built the place comes across in the midst of a storm. That experience can’t be duplicated on a mild spring day—and it can result in a valuable insight, no matter what the verdict.

For the seller whose property stands up well to the challenge, this is an opportunity to demonstrate that convincingly. Remember how great it is to feel the warmth and comfort of home as you curl up on the couch with a good book? Anything a seller can do to amplify that kind of welcoming feeling—from lighting a crackling fireplace to setting out cups of hot cocoa—can make it that much easier for visitors to see themselves as the safe and secure owners of the property. 

If the showing goes well, the buyers will be certain to return when the sun shines and the protective qualities of the structure are less prominent. But experience shows that if they do request a second visit, that stormy first look will have set the table for a positive outcome.

House hunting in Ringwood—which is often a truly pleasurable outing in spring, summer, or fall—takes on a different aura this time of year. But even when the weather behaves the way it has been recently, don’t think that Ringwood house hunting expeditions are out of the question until spring arrives. They are happening—and winter sales are the frequent result. I’m here to help no matter what the season. Rain or shine, I hope you’ll give me a call!

Evaluating an Offer for Your Ringwood Home

by Orly Steinberg

 Once we have marketed your Ringwood home successfully, there follows the delightful interlude during which the eager buyer awaits your response to his or her offer. It will be 100% delightful if, in evaluating the offer, all details are as you hoped and expected. But many times, evaluating an offer results in more than a simple “Yea” or “Nay”—the details can be crucial:

Offer Price. Suppose the top line number is close enough to your asking price to bring a smile to your face. Your Ringwood property’s value has been acknowledged by the buyer—it’s in line (or better) with neighborhood comparables, and your net after expenses will enable you to move on to your next residence without financial strain. Evaluating an offer only begins with that eye-catching number, but it doesn’t end there. There are all the other elements, many of which boil down to the level of risk going forward.

Deposit. High on the list is the pledged amount that accompanies the offer. Whether it’s called a deposit, earnest money, or pledge, this serves to instill confidence that when you are evaluating the offer you know that it’s backed up with more than wishful thinking. If the amount is greater than the customary minimum, it’s a signal that the would-be buyer is more than minimally serious about completing the transaction, that their financial ability to execute is demonstrable—or both. Evaluating this detail of an offer does, however, involve factoring in whether it would be unduly easy to “de-commit” the committed amount, as well as the true liquidity of the pledge (overseas bank deposits, for instance, raise eyebrows).

Inspection provision. Almost every serious offer will be contingent on the property’s condition passing inspection—but this is a risk element that’s largely controllable by the seller. It’s the reason some Ringwood sellers get ahead of the game by investing in their own inspection before listing. Twelfth-hour discoveries of maintenance issues that could have been fixed beforehand are apt to throw a disproportionate amount of cold water on a transaction that had been proceeding smoothly. If a condition has been properly disclosed in advance, evaluating an offer will include verifying acknowledgment of disclosures.

All the rest. An offer may have any number of other provisions, so properly evaluating an offer means carefully weighing the practical impact each may have. The timing elements can be  crucial. Too lengthy a closing can be inconvenient and add a degree of uncertainty. Too swift a closing may create an interim “no-place-to-live” situation—and wow—can that be awkward and expensive! An offer that is contingent on the sale of the buyer’s home adds a degree of uncertainty that needs to be evaluated with knowledge of that area’s specifics. Any detail that introduces uncertainty adds to the ultimate risk.

Success in evaluating an offer for your Ringwood home—or comparing multiple offers when that auspicious situation occurs—often means a lot more than a simple yes or no decision. Coming up with a strategic counter-offer is often called for—and that’s when there’s no substitute for having an experienced agent by your side to help fashion a strategic win-win counter offer.

To discuss these and all the other steps that will result in the successful sale of your property, give me a call to arrange a no-obligation consultation.  

 

Exploring the Best Time to Buy a House in Ringwood

by Orly Steinberg

 Many of us who call Ringwood home find that the beginning of the new year serves as a useful benchmark. This is when it’s easiest to collect the bygone year’s household bills and receipts and stash them in the drawer, box, or envelopes marked “2016” to be revisited at tax time. Once all the holiday ornaments are safely stored for next year, it’s time to embark on the coming year with a refreshed outlook and energy.

When you go looking for fresh insights that will be relevant to Ringwood real estate buyers and sellers, some of that New Year’s enthusiasm can come in handy. Particularly when you come across news items with headlines like “The Best Time to Buy a House” or “The Best Time to Sell a House.” It’s not that the topics aren’t interesting, but since we know darned well that there’s no such thing as a single “best time” to buy a house, it takes a little extra energy to read further. The best time to buy a house in Ringwood depends on the area, neighborhood, on the current market activity which varies from year to year—and on the qualities of the property itself.

Nevertheless, coming across the Business Insider piece headlined, “New research reveals the single best day of the year to buy a house,” it was simply too tempting to pass up. The best single day! This was nonsense, of course, but with fresh 2017 energy to spare, it had to be checked out! Here’s what was revealed:

This analysis resulted from some past research dusted off from RealtyTrac’s review of more than 32,000,000 home and condo sales from across the nation. It had taken 15 years to collect all that data, but when they put it all into the proper columns and added and divided in the way statisticians do, they came up with the final answer:

The best day to buy a house is October 8.

Now, since it’s going to be a long time until the next October 8 (it will fall on a Sunday), some secondary news might be of more immediate interest to Ringwood readers. The best month to buy may be October, but the second best month to buy a house is February! So wouldn’t it follow that January is a good time to start looking?

The way RealtyTrac defined the “best” time to buy was by comparing the sale price with the fair market value. For buyers, the best day was the one with the biggest average discount. October 8 was that day.   

Now, the practical use for this information here in Ringwood is very limited for a couple of reasons. First off, they really meant “best day to close” a sale—leaving open the more tactical consideration, which would probably be the best day to make an offer. Then, too, the residential market and resulting sales results over the past 15 years have been so varied and sometimes so wildly atypical that generalizing from them could yield almost any answer. Also, this was a nationwide survey—so even just the way weather here in Ringwood differs from the national average would certainly affect the results.

But the ideas written about did have some practical value. They highlight the notion that for buyers, the late fall and winter months might be a pretty good time to buy a house in Ringwood even when there are comparatively fewer properties on the market.

It’s true that today there are some great buys to be had—which makes it a great time to give me a call! 

New Year’s Predictions for Steady Real Estate Market in 2017

by Orly Steinberg

 It’s that time again: the annual look at whether there is a convincing consensus among real estate experts for what to expect in the coming year. Ringwood homeowners and potential homeowners found generally welcoming conditions throughout 2016, as steadily improving property values and low mortgage interest rates echoed the national picture. With lending rates beginning to rise, there could be reason to question whether an equally agreeable Ringwood real estate climate will prevail in 2017.

Apparently, there is not much to worry about. Despite the usual qualification that the nation’s real estate experts are no more clairvoyant than are experts in any field, when you look over this batch of New Year’s predictions, you can’t help but emerge with the impression that there’s a more than usual degree of certainty about the immediate future. Almost unanimously, there is confidence that the nation’s real estate prospects are good—and likely to stay that way. The most frequently recurring adjectives are “moderate” and “moderating”—and no mention of major obstacles that might upset the apple cart. If New Jersey and Ringwood real estate markets follow suit, the optimism voiced by most commentators should mean continuing good news locally. Here are some samplings:

Fiscal Times: Rising prices will keep pushing up homeowners’ net worth.

CBS MoneyWatch: Millennials and baby boomers will be big buyers; home appreciation rates will normalize.

Realtor.com: Home prices projected to increase 3.9%; new home sales expected to grow 10%.

Nela Richardson: 2017 will be the fastest real estate market on record (measured by average number of days spent on market).

Home Buying Institute: Mortgage rates will rise gradually, but stay below 5%.

The Washington Post: Expect home sales and prices to moderate; suburbs will make a comeback.

Zillow: Homeownership rates will bounce back; rental affordability will improve as incomes rise.

Kiplinger: Rising national GDP, retail sales and jobs growth should result in steady demand for housing—as well as spurring price growth.

For some reason, the editors at Fortune didn’t have anything to add about real estate—perhaps because continuing with the current moderate growth scenario doesn’t make for interesting reading. They did predict that in the coming year a Tesla will drive itself across the country…and drones will deliver pizza and burritos (let’s keep an eye out for that in Ringwood).

We’ve seen New Year’s predictions go wide of the mark in the past, but the unanimity of this year’s projections make it hard to imagine that will happen in 2017. In any case, I’ll stay tuned and close to the phone, as well—ready to help with any and all of your Ringwood real estate needs!

Top 8 New Year’s Resolutions for Ringwood Real Estate

by Orly Steinberg

 For most Ringwood celebrants, the holiday season hasn’t been a single non-stop flurry of activities (even though that’s what sticks in our memories). In fact, the holidays usually include more stretches of free time than we generally experience. Probably because our regular schedules get shredded over the holidays, you can usually count on injections of unclaimed time—whether spent in airport departure lounges or at home, awaiting waylaid deliveries or overdue guests.

Such moments provide a disguised benefit. Especially this week, as we begin our voyage into Ringwood’s New Year, there is no more apt time to steal the moments needed to consider what fresh initiatives might be possible.

It is New Year’s Resolution time, after all—and if a change in Ringwood real estate matters could be due, that’s something that probably belongs near the top of the list. With that in mind, here are the most frequently named real estate-related subjects in popular New Year’s resolution lists:

1.Make extra mortgage payments — even a single extra payment a year makes a surprisingly large financial impact

2.Downsize — recognizing when family living space requirements shrink can mean significant cash savings as well as property maintenance time and effort

3.Upsize — sometimes the extra elbow room yields major quality of living gains

4.Save Up for a Down Payment — even if a new home isn’t contemplated in the near future, the sooner a regular saving plan is put into action, the easier it will be to meet the goal

5.Tackle Deferred Household Maintenance Items — for efficiency and pride of ownership

6.Buy an Investment Property — a thoughtful Ringwood real estate investment can yield both cash flow and long-term growth benefits  

7.Get Organized — de-cluttering is a near universal New Year’s resolution  

8.Get Efficient — cutting energy consumption and/or water usage by converting outdated household systems should result in net operating outlays

When it comes to Ringwood real estate initiatives, a list of your own New Year’s resolutions may be minor or monumental. If it’s the latter (and a possible change of residence is nearing) you might add one item to your New Year’s to-do list: call me!   

Prime Time for Oakland Home Improvement Planning

by Orly Steinberg

 When, as the holiday lyrics have it, “the weather outside is frightful,” that makes it a good time to start planning the coming year’s home improvement projects. If you wait for ideal weather conditions to begin laying out your plans, you’re likely to wind up well behind schedule before you even start.

If the home improvements you are contemplating can be handled by yourself, you are probably a Do-It-Yourselfer who knows that you’ll need your ducks in a row before you pull the first nail or make the first cut. Having plans drawn and materials at the ready saves time and work (but you know that).

Should the scope of your contemplated home improvements go beyond the DIY approach, if you have experience in overseeing similar projects in the past, you know how important it is to hire the right tradespeople. True Oakland crafts professionals are perpetually in demand not only because of their skills but because of that demand. It means that they don’t create more work than is necessary or stretch out a project to fill their week—their week is already spoken for (and the weeks after, too!).  The issue is more that of reserving sufficient time for any given project. A corollary is that the more experience Oakland tradespeople have under their belts, the more skilled they are at accurately projecting time requirements.

If you haven’t tackled any major home improvement projects before—or even if you have, if your own time is fully committed elsewhere—finding the right Oakland contractor to shepherd your job is all-important. The best Oakland contractors can be scheduled well in advance, so if weather factors into your initiative, winter is the ideal time to get planning underway.

How to find the right Oakland contractor follows some familiar action steps—

  • Gather recommendations from friends with success stories and from experienced Oakland real estate professionals (like me, of course!)
  • Call the likely candidates. A phone interview should provide you with a preliminary impression and a list of past clients you can contact
  • Meet the few who make your short list. Discuss the scope of the job; request preliminary cost and time estimates
  • After you make your decision, make sure scope and schedule are in writing—including bonus payments (it’s sometimes a good idea) and penalties. One thing to always keep in mind is that some of the most expensive words in the English language are “while you’re at it.”

Of course, a fast way to get started is to contact me in that first action item. We can discuss a short list of Oakland’s best contractors—as well as some go-to tradespeople who have proven their value to my clients in the past. As with all your Oakland real estate questions, I’m always happy to help!

Ringwood Homeowners Check 2016 Tax Break Deadlines

by Orly Steinberg

 If you are like most Ringwood homeowners, this is not the time of year you relish thinking about next year’s April 15 tap on the shoulder from Uncle Sam. Nonetheless, the calendar doesn’t lie. In a matter of days, New Year’s Eve will be here—and once the champagne corks have popped, it’s entirely possible if some t’s weren’t crossed and i’s dotted, Ringwood homeowners might accidentally miss a year-end tax break deadline.

Tax advice is best left to your own Ringwood financial advisor, which is why I don’t offer any myself. But some useful articles have recently surfaced (in Forbes, Trulia, TheFiscalTimes, among others) highlighting three of the tax provisions that are set to expire at the end of 2016. A few of them could affect some Ringwood homeowners’ bank balances come tax time.

If any of these sound like they could impinge on your own situation, it’s probably a good idea to check in with your financial advisor to see if action is warranted before year’s end. Here are some of the areas involved:

1.Energy-saving home improvement. Homeowners have been able to take advantage of all sorts of qualified energy efficiency improvements to gain various tax breaks—some of which even apply to second homes, too. Going green has resulted in some bank account green, too—but many (if not most) of these breaks are expected to expire this year.

2.Mortgage insurance. Sometimes abbreviated as PMI (for “private mortgage insurance”), this is the product that protects lenders in the event of default. It’s sometimes required for borrowers whose down payments are below a certain level. Existing law allows taxpayers to deduct PMI payments along with their mortgage interest—but the PMI portion is set to expire at year’s end.

3.Mortgage debt. Following the financial meltdown, Congress moved to allow struggling homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure, or who benefitted from any form of debt forgiveness, to escape taxation on the amount saved. But that exemption expires on December 31 of this year unless a qualifying written agreement has been recorded before then. The details are definitely best directed to your tax expert!

The lists of expiring tax breaks are generally accompanied by some if’s and likely to’s because Congress sometimes extends them during their last pre-holiday session—or re-enacts them later on. But as you probably suspect, counting on that would be risky business.

Ringwood homeowners who don’t see any familiar categories in that list can now breathe a sigh of relief and go back to their other holiday matters. Meantime, I’ll be here at the office, ready as always to help out with any and all Ringwood real estate matters!

 

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Orly Steinberg

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
130 Skyline Drive, Ringwood NJ 07456

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