Monday, April 19

Is It a Great Time To Buy?

A lot of people are unsure as to whether or not it is a good time to buy. Properties are down substantially from the height of the market. Even so, high taxes and fear that the market might go down further are causing some people to hesitate. As realtors, we are seeing properties sell steadily in this market if the property is well-priced. There is more supply than usual and unrenovated condos are having the hardest time selling. I believe that this is the best time to buy in years. However, it does pay to pay attention to taxes. Many savvy sellers have appealed their taxes and the city is routinely lowering taxes that are appealed.

Friday, March 5

Friday Update on the Condo Market

188 ACTIVE one bedroom listings
$386,000 is the average active listing price
38 DABOs (Under Contracts)
$351,000 average price
27 SOLDS since Jan 1
$412,000 average price

258 ACTIVE two bedroom listings
$367,400 average price
78 DABOs
55 SOLD listings since Jan 1
$486,000 average price

$956,400 average price (ouch!)
22 DABOs
$723,600 average price
10 SOLDs since Jan 1
$834,000 average sale price

Monday, March 1

How the Bailout is affecting Mortgages

According to a detailed article by Matt Tiabbi for Rolling Stone, ominously entitled "Wallstreet's Bailout Hustle", the Federal government has been printing more money and using it "to buy mortgage-backed securities in an effort to spur home lending" (Rollingstone's March 4th issue, p. 53). This opened up huge avenues of money-making for the large banks. However, the Fed is planning on trying to get out of the home lending market, beginning this month. Per the article, home lending money is going to dry up again. Loans will be fewer and harder to get. "The Mortgage Bankers Association expects the number of new residential mortgages to plunge by 40 percent this year" (RS p52). FHA lending, which really helped for awhile, is tightening. Spot-assessing in order to do an FHA loan is no longer possible, having stopped February 1.

What does this mean for buyers? Money is going to tighten up again. The larger the down payment and the better your credit score, the more likely your loan will be approved. Loans with less than 20% down will be much harder to get.

What does this mean for sellers? Keep in mind that appraisals will be more stringent and since there is a smaller pool of sales to choose from, even if you get a high number on your property, it may not appraise. Be realistic about the value of your home. Carefully go over the comparables and price your home accordingly.

Wednesday, January 27

All the Info on the Tax Credit for New Buyers and Repeat Buyers

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009:

The first extension and expansion of the tax credit was introduced with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This law changed the time period to purchase the principal residence, the amount of the credit, repayment terms, and the tax year for claiming the credit.

Taxpayers who purchased a home between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009 can still claim a credit of 10% of the purchase price but up to a maximum of $8,000 ($4,000 for married filing separately). A home constructed by the taxpayer only qualifies for the credit if the taxpayer occupies it no later than November 30, 2009. The credit is not required to be paid back so repayment terms are not applicable. However, the home must remain the taxpayer’s principal residence for at least 36 months after the date of purchase. Taxpayers who qualify for the 2009 credit have the option to claim the credit on either their 2008 or 2009 tax return. If a 2008 return had already been filed, an amended return can be submitted.

Worker, Homeowner and Business Assistance Act of 2009:

The final extension and expansion, as it stands today, was introduced with the Worker, Homeowner and Business Assistance Act of 2009. This law changed the deadline to purchase and close on a home, authorized the credit for long-time homeowners buying a replacement principal residence, raised the income limitations for claiming the credit, and again the tax year for claiming the credit.

Under this version an eligible taxpayer must buy, or enter into a binding contract to buy, a principal residence on or before April 30, 2010 and close on the home by June 30, 2010. Long-time residents, those that do not qualify as first-time buyers, are allowed a credit of up to $6,500 if they owned and used the same home as a principal or primary residence for at least five consecutive years of the eight year period ending on the date of purchase of a new home as a principal residence. Individuals with income up to $124,999 received the full credit, the credit was phased out for individuals with income between $125,000 and $145,000, and individuals with income in excess of $145,000 do not qualify for any part of the credit. Joint filers with income up to $224,999 received the full credit, the credit was phased out for joint filers with income between $225,000 and $245,000, and joint filers with income in excess of $245,000 did not qualify for any part of the credit. For all qualifying purchases in 2010, taxpayers have the option of claiming the credit on either their 2009 or 2010 tax return.

Under this new law several restrictions go into effect for purchases after November 6, 2009. Dependents are not eligible to claim the credit, no credit is available if the purchase price of the home is over $800,000, a purchaser must be at least 18 years of age on the date of purchase.

This article was written by Salvatore M. Grasso, CPA of Grasso & Company, LLC. It is not comprehensive and not intended to constitute legal or tax advice but only to inform the reader. The application of tax laws may vary amongst taxpayers. Accordingly, a qualified professional should be consulted with in the application of these rules to ensure they are applied properly.

Tuesday, January 26

The Proof is in the DABOs

So it looks like we are off and running! Though the DABOs are not high (134 as of yesterday in Hoboken...these are the properties that are under contract but not yet closed), for January, it isn't bad and we are seeing properties that are priced well selling at a relatively encouraging rate. With the first time buyer's tax credit at $8,000 and the second time buyer's credit at $6500, buyers are out and looking. And buying...which is a big improvement over this time last year. Properties under $600,000 are getting the most exposure and newer renovation fairs better than older. This promises to be a healthy Spring market with still excellent prices for buyers.

Thursday, January 14

The New Year

What will the new year bring? This is the question I hear from both buyers and sellers. Buyers ask me if they market is done falling and sellers are are wondering if prices will hold. Some recent credible real estate studies are claiming that the market could drop as much as 9% more, but I think this is very unlikely in this urban area, where both the stock market and the job market are slowly beginning to recover.

It will not be quick recovery. We expect it to take years. However, not being a soothsayer, and going by my experiences in Hoboken over the last twelve years, I believe that the market has stopped falling. If prices do drop any further, I think it will definitely be less than a 5% drop. Though are prices were inflated at the height of the market, they were not as inflated as New York City, and Hoboken has seen the most dramatic drop in prices in the last thirty years, a price drop of 20% from the height of the market. I believe this is an excellent time to buy, while the rates remain low. There are some great properties on the market for very reasonable prices (for Hoboken).

If you need to sell, it may not be ideal but if you are buying after selling, that is your opportunity to save money...on the buying end. You will get less money for your home than two years ago, but you will get more house than you might have been able to afford on the purchase of a new home.

Monday, December 28

End of the year stats

So there are, as of 12/28/09, 441 residential properties for sale on the MLS.

Of those: 138 are one bedrooms
234 are two bedrooms - the lowest priced being 615 square feet and listed at $275,000 and the most expensive being a townhouse at 1126 Maxwell Lane at $2,207,000
45 are three bedrooms ranging from $469,000 at 1300 Park to $1,272,995.00 at 1125 Maxwell Lane (the new building at Maxwell Place)

DABOS (units sold but not yet closed) is way down from last month at 105 condos. It was about twice that last month.

It is not really a concern that the sales have slowed in December. Real estate is, of course, seasonal...sales drop off considerably from late October through January. But the DABO number is worth watching for the long is one of the best indications of the sate of the real estate marketplace.

Tuesday, October 13

What's the News? Tell me what's happening!

Ok, here are the stats on the current market. We are proud to say at Singleton Galmann Realty LLC that we sold six of the nine houses sold in the last six months and 4 out of 5 of the houses priced over 1 million:

One Bedroom condos 169 active
Two Bedroom condos 295 active
Three Bedroom condos 63 active

DABOs (under contract)
lowest list price 109,900 - highest 925,000 at 225 River St.
Median price $360,000
SOLDS 46 sales in the last six months at $359,000

lowest list price $275,000-highest $685,000
Median $485,000
SOLDS 69 sales in the last six months at a median price of $539,000

9 DABOs lowest list $670,000-highest $1,112,875 median list $789,900
SOLDS 9 SOLD in last six months at a median price of $649,000

16 ACTIVE on the market (including the very small house on Willow Terrace)
$645,000-$2,495,000 median $1,049,000
DABOs 3 DABOs $599,000-$1,299,000
SOLDS 9 Solds $782,000-$1,538,000
Median price 1,236,000

Friday, October 2

The Bottom

Speculation is still circling around whether or not we have "hit bottom". I have read market reports that insist the real estate market will still drop 10%. Meanwhile, markets like those out west and in the mid-west, markets that have been in crisis for years, are starting to see a low but steady recovery. Overall, the National Association of Realtors reports a sizable increase in sales in the last three to four months. Certainly the $8000 federal credit might have helped. The Spring was lukewarm here in Hoboken, but the summer was a bit better than expected. Of course, no one knows if we have "hit bottom" but the freefall has certainly stopped here in Hoboken. Though I do not think we will see any increase in prices any time soon (prices having dropped 20$ from the height of the market), I don't think we will see a further decline...I think we will hold steady where we are now. That is just my opinion, now twelve years in the business.... for what it is worth.

Saturday, September 12

Window Of Opportunity

Hoboken has two strong selling "seasons": Spring and Fall. Spring is the stronger market overall and starts in mid-February. It usually peters out by around Memorial Day. Sometimes, there is a flurry of activity that continues to the 4th of July. This year, we had more sales in the summer than was typical due to a slow increase in optimism among buyers and a huge drop in prices from the year before. August, though, is a very dead month. After Labor Day, properties once again start to hit the market but most buyers are only looking until the Holidays. Sellers often take their properties off the market during the holidays and relist them in the Spring, if they can. It is very slow until Feburary.

Though we don't anticipate a huge jump in market values next Spring, I believe that this Fall may be the bottom of the market. If you are looking to buy, now is the time. If you are looking to sell, this is your window of opportunity, now until November. After that, the next strong market won't be until late February.

Friday, September 11

Gate Sales and Block Parties

In the early Fall, as most Hoboken residents know, much of upper Hoboken, the blocks above 7th Street on Bloomfield St, Garden St, and Park, will be having block parties on the weekend. This is a good time to get out and meet the neighbors. It is also a good time to find pictures, vases, small tables, etc. at the gate sales if you need to stage a vacant or near vacant house or condo. And it is also a great time to put your stuff out in Hoboken to declutter your home if you are getting ready to put your place up for sale or for rent this Fall before the holidays and winter slow-down.

Tuesday, September 8

Short Sales

What is a short sale? A short sale is when the seller of a property arranges with the bank holding the mortgage to agree to take less than the home is mortgaged for in order to complete a sale. This is happening now because buyers purchased homes that have now lost approximately 20% of their value since the height of the market approximately a year and a half to two years ago.

So let's say that a couple bought a home for $660,000 and it is now worth about $560,000. They are being relocated to Atlanta. They put 10% down at the time of purchase. They would need to take a loss of about $35,000 and then the price of the realty commission, transfer tax which is about 1% of the purchase price, and the attorney fee. So they are now looking at an additonal loss of $22,400 at a reduced realtor fee of 4%, $5600 transfer tax and about $1400 for the attorney fee. Therefore, they could be looking at having to bring to the closing table about $63,400 just in order to get rid of the property and move on.

That's a lot of money.

Short sales do affect one's credit but they are a possibility to avoid foreclosure, which is much worse for one's credit rating. If you have to move and renting your property is not going to be pheasible for you, then it may be your only option if you don't have the funds to close on a property that has lost significant value since purchased. It is cumbersome because banks do not want to do it, but it could save both you and the bank substantial money in the long run.

I will be taking a course in short sales this October. Most realtors in Hoboken are not well-versed in this problem but I believe we will see more of these before our market fully recovers. It is an excellent opportunity for buyers but it requires great patience and perseverance on the parts of the sellers, buyers, and realtors.

Thursday, September 3

Where are the rentals going?

The rental market is a clear example of supply and demand economics. There is a glut of available rentals, many of them condos, and though the demand was once very high in Hoboken, it is not as high as it once was...not high enough to get all these rentals rented at the higher numbers that they once commanded. Even luxury buildings have seen a decline in their rental prices. Of course, much of this is due to the perception of the public that this is a buyer's/renter's market. Many renters do not want to pay a fee also.

Landlords need to realize that the prices last year do not apply. Rents are down 15% or more. Also, paying a half fee to a realtor, will often get the job done. If your realtor is willing to eat half the fee, and you pay half the fee as the landlord, it is much more likely that you can get the rental rented quickly.

Landlords with tenants in place should definitely consider lowering the rent from last year in order to keep good tenants, despite the recent tax increase which you would normally pass on to the tenants.

We all have to take financial hits right now to keep things moving, but apartments are renting, as long as the price and fee are right.

Saturday, August 29

Current Market Statistics from the Hudson County MLS- 8/29

500 ACTIVE listings
173 studio- 1 bedrooms
263 - 2 bedrooms
58 - 3 bedrooms
6 - 4 bedrooms

DABOs (recently under contract but not closed yet)
56 studio to 1 bedrooms
82 2 bedrooms
18 3 bedrooms
2 4+ bedrooms

SOLDS (within the last three months which is particularly important for appraisal purposes)
53 studios to 1 bedrooms
ranging from 450 square feet to 1135 at the Garden Street Lofts

102 2 bedrooms
ranging from 872 sq ft on the cheapest unit to 1900 sq ft on the most expensive
$300,000 to 1.8 million at 225 River St (the W hotel) but other highest unit was 78 Jackson at $925,000
12 3 bedrooms sold
ranging from 1261 sq ft to 2018 sq ft

Thursday, August 27

Hoboken Rentals on the Hudson Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

Currently, there are 109 rentals on the Hudson Country MLS for Hoboken alone! As you might know, rentals used to be housed in-office, jealously guarded and rented by the listing office and rarely shared as a co-broke with another office.

But times have changed! The rentals on the MLS start as low as $1390 and go as high as $9500. Only twelve of the rentals are listed at $3500 or above. And rental prices are negotiable, which was never the case before.

This is a reflection of the glut of condos on the market as owners try not to sell during a down market and fewer renters...too much supply and not enough demand. If you are thinking of renting in Hoboken, now is the time! Landlords are even considering dogs! If you are an owner, be prepared to have to negotiate on the price and possibly kick in on the realtor fee to get your place rented. Rental prices are also about 20% down since last year.

Wednesday, August 26

How do you time a sale?

Timing a sale is not always easy...a sudden work transfer can make it imperative or a private school contract could hold you back. In Hoboken, the two best times to put a property on the market are Fall and Spring. Spring starts as early as mid-February now and the market activity largely dries up by June 1st, beach season. This year, the busiest months in our office were April and May and the first half of June.

Our slowest time of year is August and January. These months are dead slow. I anticipate new properties and activity will pick up after Labor Day. During the real estate "seasons" is the best time to sell...more buyers out there, more market interest, even though there is greater competition as well.

Three rules of timing an efficient sale: try to put your place on the market during the height of the Fall or Spring season, in the best condition possible given your budget, and at a competitive price. A property has the best chance of selling and selling at a good price if you obey these three rules.

Tuesday, August 25

How Effective is Home Staging?

Home Staging works. It helps sell property. The more presentable a property is, the quicker it will sell. That said, the most effective way to stage is to use your own furniture, pictures, and interesting decorations (like a nice vase). Most people need to get rid of about half of their stuff....excess furniture, knick knacks, clutter. De-cluttering is key. It makes the property seem larger and well-maintained.

That said, is it cost effective to put rental furniture into a home to dress it up and kick start the imaginations of prospective buyers? I think it is a good idea on higher end properties. However, on smaller properties, I believe pricing the property correctly depending on location, square footage, and overall condition is more important. Staging is not as important as correct pricing.

Staging helps sell a property but it will not get you a lot more money, especially if the property has not been renovated lately. Buyers want SS appliances and granite countertop, wood or tile flooring in the bathrooms and kitchen.

Saturday, August 22

Have We Hit Bottom?

This is the question that everyone is asking. According to the National Association of Realtors, the residential real estate home sales were up 11% in July, more than had been anticipated.

I have been in touch with realtors from other markets and I think the recovery is starting in markets where the bottom fell out long ago. We have felt the recession later than most real estate markets. However, I think it is reasonable to assume, give the recent activity, that prices are finally stabilizing after a very sudden free fall since last September.

I believe that the next six months may be the best time to buy in Hoboken for quite awhile, though I don't anticipate a sudden rise in prices either.

Friday, August 21

What do the figures mean?

I have scrutinized the numbers and here is the breakdown: the sales in one bedrooms average a price of %389,910 and a length of 90 days on the market.

The vast majority of two bedrooms sold between $400,000-$600,000. Overall, we have seen a drop of about 20% in prices from the height of the market. Hardest hit have been fourth and fifth floor walk-ups and properties that have not been renovated.

In the recent sales not closed (DABOs), the average sale price of a two bedroom, eliminating extremely large units or units in Maxwell Land or Garden Street Lofts (the two most expensive buildings in town) is about $540,000.

In the 3 bedroom DABOs, which range from 1324 to 1701 square footage, the average was $697,314 with a lengthy 118 days on the market.

In the house market, sales have finally picked up a bit. However, prices are also 20% or more off from the height of the market.


ONE FAMILY HOUSES as of 8/21/09

Active 21

DABOs 3 (all with my office Singleton Galmann Realty LLC)

Sold 6 (3 with Singleton Galmann Realty LLC)

Thursday, August 20

Weekly Roundup 8/20

Current Hoboken Condo Sales in the last three months:
1 Bedrooms: 8
2 Bedrooms: 8
3 Bedrooms: 0

Current Hoboken Condo Under Contracts or DABOs:

1 Bedrooms: 55
2 Bedrooms: 83
3 Bedrooms: 18

Current Hoboken Active Listings:

1 Bedrooms: 163
2 Bedrooms: 272
3 Bedrooms: 62

Friday, July 17

What is the Value of Parking?

Today, I had a former customer of mine as me whether I thought they should buy a parking spot near their property (which does not have parking). They were offered the spot at $30,000. $30,000 has been the standard asking price for some time...years in fact. I have seen newer construction charge more, or try to, in the past. At one point, some premium luxury buildings were offering prime spots at $35-$40,000. However, it is typically $30,000. What value does that add to the property?

This is hard to say. Fewer and fewer people want properties without it, but how much does it raise the value? I am showing condos tonight where one condo is charging only $20,000 for their condo with parking over another one in the building, an identical unit, that has none. I think if someone wants more buyers to look at their place, a parking spot does that. I think if you need to sell this year when you bought in the last two years, you may need that $30,000 just to bring to the table to get out of a property now worth less than purchased.

However, if you are not moving soon and are buying parking as an investment in the future value of your property, it is a good investment...even if you don't need it. You can rent it for $250 or more a month. Would I pay #30,000 now? That depends on the location but I think there is still some wiggle room to negotiate price.

But truly, the most expensive real estate in Hoboken in parking space.

Wednesday, June 24

Summer in the City - The Heat is On When it Comes to Mortgages

Supposedly it is summer in the city...if it ever stops raining! The biggest problem for buyers in this late Spring/early summer market is getting a mortgage. This is creating tremendous stress throughout the industry. Well-qualified buyers can no longer get the same generous loan terms that were available a year ago. Less than 20% down is a problem if a buyer's credit is less than stellar. "Piggy-back" loans to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance)are non-existent. Many sellers are chosing buyers with more down, even if they are offering slightly less than a competing buyer. Believe it or not, bidding wars are still taking place but now because some condos are so well-priced that the listing creates that kind of excitement...sellers are finally facing the grim reality of the market.

The good news for lower end buyers is that the rules for FHA loans have been greatly relaxed and are much more attainable. Buyers who are borrowing less than $417,000 can put down as little as 3.5% and qualify for a mortgage.

Mortgages are attainable not fear! But good credit and a larger than 10% deposit will greatly improve a buyer's chances of getting a loan, however, loans are taking much longer due to greater scrutiny by the lenders.

Monday, January 19

Short Selling and Foreclosures

A week ago, I showed my first property that is a short sell. The property was selling at a lower price than it probably would have been marketed otherwise. I was told, once I got to the agency, that there was already an offer on it. Short selling is a pre-foreclosure option. It will adversely affect your credit, though not as badly as a foreclosure. When someone short sells, they put the property on the market for what they realistically think they can get for it. There is no point at all in overpricing. The idea is to sell the property and get the bank/mortgage lender to agree to take whatever you can get for the property. Sellers resort to this when they are "upside down", meaning that the mortgage they carry on the property is as much or greater than the current value, and they need to get out from under the obligation.

It is in the best interest of the bank, when the seller cannot pay their mortgage or must sell the property for other reasons, and the sellers only other recourse is full foreclosure. A foreclosure is very costly for the bank and a short sell means that they will recoop more of their money. I have heard of a few short sells in Hoboken but it is not the norm here at all, though it is becoming much more common in the suburbs. It is very common these days in areas most hard hit by the current real estate decline. In many places like Southern Colorado, short selling and foreclosures are extremely common.

Though we'll see short sells and foreclosures here, most people in Hoboken have the income to weather temporary losses which is advisable in terms of one's credit. Sellers who have bought in the last two years or added a second mortgage, have the option of renting in Hoboken. Sometimes this will mean a monthly loss, but in the long run, it is often best to wait out the current market by becoming a landlord. We are hoping to see an active market in the Spring and values rising in 2010

Friday, January 2

Reducing Your Price

Today, in the current market conditions, if your property is getting few showings in the first few weeks, it is reasonable to wait up to three or four weeks before reducing the price (in the non-holiday season, that is). Unfortunately, your greatest impact is those first few weeks, so starting too high can be the worst mistake you make in selling your home. If you have decluttered and homestaged your home to look its best, your only other option to entice buyers is to lower your price. (If the property is vacant, you should consider staging it with some furniture.) If you have made your property as presentable as possible, the price reduction is the next step. In the past, a $10,000 reduction was a-typical. Unfortunately, that is not enough to turn the heads of buyers these days. To initiate more serious and steady buyer traffic, even on lower-priced condos, a reduction should be at least $15,000 and you will still need to negoitate from there. If a property has been on the market a long time, it might be best to withdraw it and put it back on the market as new, with the new price. Ultimately, pricing your house or condo a bit lower than you might feel comfortable, from the start, is the best move. A property new to the market that seems like a good deal will still bring out real buyers and the possibility of a higher offer.

Monday, December 29

The New Year

Lately, I feel more like a doctor in the intensive care unit than a realtor, having to give people the "bad news" about the current value of their property and the state of the real estate market. However, I do think the patient will live. :)

No, we don't know were it is going, and in particular, we don't know how the Hoboken market will be in the early Spring market, a much better indicator of the real estate market than the current winter market. With few exceptions, properties purchased in the last two years have suffered a decline in value.

Presentation of a property (homestaging), pricing the house/condo realistically, and negotiating realistically (buyers are typically offering 10% lower bids and a seller must be willing to negotiate) will greatly increase your chances of a sale.

With the interest rates as an all time low and real estate values down, we may very well see a resurgence in Hoboken real estate this Spring. We are one of the most desirable locations in New Jersey due to our proximity to Manhattan. Manhattan too has seen an increase in value for the money but is often not an option for people who need more room, especially if they have to have a family soon.

If you are planning to sell soon, the Spring market is always the strongest market of the year and this will most likely still be true in 2009. Keep in mind that property values in the suburbs are down also so that if you are buying, you will reap the benefits of this buyers's market on your new purchase as well.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Monday, December 22

Homestaging Tips

Naturally, right before the holidays, real estate is pretty much in a holding pattern. However, if you are anticipating marketing and selling your home in the Spring (the Spring market happens early in Hoboken, usually starting in late February), then you will probably need to prepare your home for sale. Most people, including me, don't keep their homes as clean and clutter-free as a hotel room but when selling your home you need to stage it that way. Your condo or house needs to look as pristine as possible.

Of course, you have to live in it. I advise clients to eliminate furniture not used often, especially sideboards, and unnecessary chairs. A storage locker may be a good idea for such items. Old rugs should be pulled up unless they really add something to a room. You WANT people to notice the floors, not the rugs. Generally, box up any knick-knacks football size or smaller, unless it is a special piece that will accent the room. Boxing up smaller items also gives you a head start on packing for your eventual move.

If walls are dingy, paintng in soft modern neutral colors with contrasting white woodwork will improve the impression for a prospective buyer. The first impression that the buyer gets as he walks in the door is most important. Spaciousness and the impression that the place is clean, neat, and well-cared-for will help you sell your home for its best possible price.

Nancy Wykstra and I are certified home stagers and are happy to answer any questions you might have about homestaging. You can visit our site at

Wednesday, December 10

DABOs and Market Status

If you have worked with a realtor at all in Hoboken, you have probably heard the term "DABO". It means Deposit Accepted By Owner. Once attorney review is over,or the owner has accepted an offer and has decided against further showings, the listing agent will update the listing in the MLS from Active to DABO. DABOd properties have been purchased by a buyer but the closing has not occurred. Once the closing is complete, the listing agent will change the status on the MLS from DABO to Sold.

DABOs are often the best indicator of how the market is going. Currently, the number of DABOs is 84. That is less than half what the number of DABOs was one month ago. Of these pending sales, none were listed above $599,900 and the lowest priced recent pending sale was $249,900. The average price was $446,462. Properties are/were selling in all locations in Hoboken. The further west properties were the best bargains,of course, in terms of square footage and amenties for the money.

Many people are waiting for the Spring market to consider buying. There is no knowing for sure if the market will drop further. But these numbers are very low for Hoboken. The next few months may be the best time to buy given the drop in prices and the winter discouragement of sellers who are already very worried due to the deepening recession.

Friday, December 5

Fantastic Interest Rates

Current mortgage interest rates are now at 5.25% for 30 year fixed. This is lower than the interest rates have been in some time and over the life of the loan, the reduction of previous rates that were 1% higher could be substantial. If you have reasonably good credit and a consistent employment history, this could be an excellent time to purchase. Prices are lower per square foot than they have been in years.

Of course, many people are waiting to see if prices will drop even further. However, there is no reason to believe that the rates will remain this low or go lower, though there have been rumors to that effect. It is my opinion, as a realtor for more than ten years, that these winter prices in an already quiet market coupled with the low interest rates adds up to great deals. It takes some wearwithal to buy when others are hesitating, but I believe this is an excellent time to purchase.

Monday, November 24

Hoboken Tax Increase

As many residents are aware, there have been huge budget problems in Hoboken recently. Apparently, gross mismanagement and poor record keeping have resulted in a huge budget deficit. The increase in the tax rate just came out with the recently mailed tax bills. The rates has gone from 34.90 to 42.93 per $1,000 of assessed value. In order to arrive at the taxes for the coming fiscal year, you multiple the current assessed value of the property (which is a fraction of what the property is actually worth if you were to sell it) by the tax rate. So, for example, if you own a property that is assessed at $220,000, you would have paid $7,678 for last year. This year, your property taxes would be $9,444.60.

This is something to be aware of when purchasing a property now. The taxes in most listings are from the tax records, which is 2007, so prior to purchasing, the assessed value should be determined (which is usually easily done by accessing the NJ tax records) and multiply by the new rate so that you have a better idea what your taxes will really be upon purchase. If you are a seller, it may be advisable that your attorney discuss the increase with the buyers' attorney during attorney review.

Wednesday, November 19


The term DABO, which realtors will bandy about effortlessly, means Deposit Accepted By Owner. What is really means is that there is not only an accepted offer but that contracts have been written and the parties have gotten through attorney review. Attorney review in New Jersey last a minimum of three FULL business days and usually the attorneys extend it, typically it lasts 5-6 days. Once the contract is completed and agreed upon by both the seller and buyer and their attorneys, a second deposit will be required and will be held by the seller's attorney. The initial $1000 good faith deposit given at the time of the offer is usually held in the realtor's escrow account and later that money is sent to the seller's attorney. Most second deposits are expected to be sent by the buyer within ten days of the end of attorney review. So technically, when a property comes up DABO on our Multiple Listing Service, the second deposit has not been given in most cases. From a practical standpoint, DABO on the MLS means the contract is solid and the property is out of attorney review.

The serious lack of DABOs on the MLS right now is the greatest indication of how soft the current market is. Though a DABO listing does not give the informaton on what the agreed price was (it is confidential until the closing), a good realtor can generally guess based on number of days on the market about what price the property went for. DABOs are often the single best way to determine where the market prices are, realistically, right now. Appraisers need three sales from the last six months to comp a property and determine value, but DABOs, for the purpose of pricing and knowing what to pay as a buyer, are even more useful.

Tuesday, November 18

The Worth of a Good Mortgage Broker

Increasingly, a good mortgage representative is vital. Credit has tightened considerably in the last six months and especially in the last six-eight weeks. People with sterling credit scores and 20% down and a solid job history will have no problem getting a mortgage. Mortgage brokers and banks are generally giving better rates on fixed rate loans now than adjustables which are completely out of favor. Lenders no longer can afford to absorb the risk. If you do not having perfect credit or a large deposit, loans are still available at rates that in any time prior to the last few years would still be considered excellent rates. We have been spoiled with extremely low rates in the last few years, which has gotten us into the current economic downturn via interest only adjustables, 0% down financing, and the lender encouragement of the public to refinance their homes and take out second mortgages or home equity loans to do home repairs, pay off credit cards etc.

In any case, good loans are still available but adjustables and no verification loans are virtually extinct. There is a new market of FHA loans also for people with a low downpayment but you will need to check with a local mortgage broker to make sure that the Hoboken condo that you might want to purchase can qualify for FHA. It is my understanding that many Hoboken condos that did not conform in the past do qualify now. As with a lawyer, make sure you use a mortgage broker or bank that routinely does business in Hoboken. The mortgage company does not necessarily have to be located in Hoboken to do the job, just be familiar with the market here and the nature of condominium complexes in our town.

Tuesday, November 11

Now what?

Since Lehman Brothers problems, and the economic bailout of Wall Street, several weeks before the election, real estate in Hoboken has been quiet. New sales are down dramatically. That said, sellers still need to sell for personal reasons such as a new baby or babies, or because of a job relocation. Buyers are finding that prices have come down or that sellers are more negotiable. Those buyers out looking now can find great buys.

The sellers hit hardest are those who bought in the last two years. They are more reluctant to sell their place for a great deal less since they have built up little or no equity, and in many cases lost equity in the past two years. This was very unusual for Hoboken and very disappointing for these homeowners. Some of these homewowners are choosing to rent their condo for the time being until the market improves. This has caused a glut of rentals and prices have come down somewhat on rentals as well.

Sellers losing money in this market should try to remember that though the real estate market in Hoboken is normally very stable, financial loss can happen, just as it has on Wall Street. But whereas many peoples investments have lost 30-40% since black October, the housing market in Hoboken has more typically lost 5% value in the last two years. There is risk in any investment, even Hoboken real estate, but the upside is that most of the suburbs have suffered worst declines and the loss in value here is often more than made up for on the buying end of a new home in either the NJ suburbs or in many other cities.

The sky is not falling. We may not achieve equity increases until 2010 but there is reason to believe that the decline in real estate value will lessen and prices stabilize in 2009.

Friday, August 29

The Worth of A Good Lawyer

You can buy real estate without an attorney. In fact, in many parts of the country, that is the norm. Even in South New Jersey, this is the case. But it is highly inadvisable to do so here. As a realtor, one of the biggest problems that I have is people choosing poorly when it comes to an attorney. It can be as bad or worse than having no attorney.

An incompetent attorney can leave you, as a buyer or a seller, vulnerable through a prolonged attorney review. A lax attorney can also leave home inspection issues unresolved for an extended period, sometimes causing one or both parties big last- minute problems prior to closing, if the closing still happens. An attorney that is not on the ball can end up scheduling a closing date after the buyer's mortgage rate expires reaking all kinds of havoc for both sides of a transaction.

Please be good to your realtor and yourself and choose an attorney that specializes in real estate in Hudson county. Get references from friends or ask your realtor if you think your realtor is experienced enough to make a good recommendation. I have seen less experienced realtors make terrible recommendations based on little more than the fact that the attorney has his office in town. One of the best real estate attorneys that I know has his office Ridgewood, but works in Hoboken regularly.

Wednesday, August 13

Home Inspection Issues

In a buyer's market, it is not uncommon for buyers who really want a place to feel like they overpaid if they pay list price to get a property. Even when the property is well-priced according to recent comparable sales, the buyers often feel like they overpaid just to get the property before anyone else did/does. The usual scenario of a full-price offer comes during the first two weeks of a listing hitting the market.

Sometimes, this results in an attempt by the buyer to recoop some money through the home inspection.

Home inspections are not for that purpose. They are to discover the problems with the property, if any, and only the serious problems, not minor cosmetic issues. Structural problems like bad beams or severe settling, electrical problems, heating and cooling issues...these are the primary issues that the inspector is investigating. Are things up to code? If not, and the building is protected by grandfather laws from being up to current code, is the house or condo dangerous in its current condition or likely to have a problem in the near-future.

Condo roofs are an association issue but something a prospective buyer should know about in case of a future leak in the unit or a special assessment for the building, which could be costly down the road. Other inspection issues to be concerned about are the age of the hot water heater and the age of the furnace. Generally, functioning systems do not warrant a credit but often if it is extremely old, some credit is issued by the sellers at the request of the buyers and their attorney.

Home inspections in Hoboken often result in a credit to the buyers for work that should be done but it is rarely a large amount. Typically, it is under $3000 on a larger unit. Houses, on the other hand, may require a more subtantial credit due to more complicated issues and the sole homeownership of a house as opposed to a condo. Sometimes, with severe problems, a credit of $10,000 or more may be given to allow the buyer to rectify the problems.

Monday, August 4

A Drop in Active Listings

Today, we pulled the active listings from June 20th-July 20th. And they are down. This is good news. The inventory has been very high lately and too many properties and not enough committed buyers is not a good trend for a real estate market. We are seeing sales happening all the time, but mostly in the under $500,000 range. A lot of people are looking for bargains and looking to invest conservatively.

On the other hand, there have been few properties in the brownstone or house market since the Spring. A number of houses sold last Spring. Houses are taking longer to sell, overall, but still selling. People in this price range of 1.1 million to 1.8 million are naturally being cautious and very sure of what they want to purchase...given the current real estate climate.

The only two price ranges that were up, in Hoboken, are the under $400,000 market and the over $800,000 price range. Eight new listings came on in each category during the time period.

It will be interesting to see what happens in September. August is traditionally a slow month. And many people wait until after Labor day to list a property. The Fall market is our secondary market and sometimes very active. An increase then would be normal but too great an increase could result in a flood of inventory and not enough buyers causing a strain on prices. From my open houses, it seems like the buyers have renewed interest in the market lately and that there are more of them seriously considering buying. But we will have to wait until the end of September to see how the market pans out.

Tuesday, July 29

Central Air Conditioning

More and more, we are finding that people do not want to live without central air. When I started in this business over 10 years ago, no one even mentioned it. It was taken for granted that the older buildings would not have it and it didn't seem to bother people much. Today, buyers want central air and are suprised when a unit does not have it. It is true that the cooling technology has changed and that it is much easier to add. Central air conditioning can be added without the huge ducts that used to be required.

Now tubing can run between floors and holes are added to the ceiling...this is especially easy and effective for houses or top floor units. The compressor unit is placed on the roof, or in the garden for a first floor unit. Houses often have a unit outside and one on the roof, two zones. The other alternative is wall units or units that are both heat and A/C units (heat pumps). These units are are energy efficient and so effective that people often call them "central air". These units are have plumbing lines so the water can drain from the unit and electrical wiring that connects the individual unit with a small outside compressor.

In Hoboken, it adds great value to a condo or house to have the central air. In my opinion, it is usually worth the cost if it is a financial option. But if a property does not have it, a buyer may be able to get a very nice unit for less money and affordably be able to add it later and recoup the cost, or most of it, when he/she sells.

Waiting and Seeing

Right now, many buyers are in wait and see mode. This happens in the stock market too. When there is fear and an air of pessimism about the economy and the market, in general, buyers become hesitant to buy. The irony, of course, is that this is the best time to buy, especially in this area.

Some people think the real estate market has not yet hit bottom and want to wait for that. Others are just afraid...the excessive doom and gloom media coverage does not help. But as the Realtor commercial says on television, the market is highly localized. And it is. Hoboken has had a slow and steady decline in prices over the past two years. No one knows for sure; prices may continue to go lower. However, truly, prices are better now than they have been in years. Sellers are now educated and aware that they are in a buyer's market and there is more overall flexability in terms of negotiating price. Money is harder to borrow and therefore, sellers are also less willing to let a good qualified buyer walk over a few thousand dollars.

That said, this is not the Midwest and foreclosures and short sells are rare. This is an affluent area overall and the job market is stronger here than elsewhere. It is unrealistic to think this area will be affected to the degree that areas like Florida and California have been affected. Due to proximity to Manhattan, Hoboken fares far better than almost all other real estate markets. It is a relatively stable market.

Interest rates are still very appealing. The time to buy is when prices are down and optimism low in a neighborhood that traditionally does very well due to location. If you can buy and not sell in less than two years, a buyer has an excellent chance of making a profit, though a smaller one, in a prolonged period of market adjustment.

Tuesday, July 15

Oil Tanks

Ten years ago, oil tanks were no big deal. Buyers never asked about them, attorneys never included them in their riders, and sellers never worried about them. However, now the oil tank issue is here to stay. Older houses that originally had oil tanks, usually have an abandoned tank buried beneath the sidewalk, even if the property was long ago converted to gas. A leaking oil tank is an environmental hazard that can cost an owner tens of thousands of dollars to clean up. Sometimes, these tanks have been filled but left buried. Some owners have had the oil tank tested for leakage and when it did not appear to have leaked, had it filled rather than remove it.

Today, when an oil tank is determined to exist (sometimes the only way to know is by the hiring of a company that specializes in finding them, using a device not unlike the metal detectors used by treasure hunters at the shore), most buyers and their attorneys want it removed regardless of whether or not it is leaking. Sellers can refuse if it is tested and it is determined that it is not and has not been leaking, but not removing it is always a battle.

Sellers should count on the likely possibility of the the need to remove an oil tank on the property. Buyers should perform their due diligence by asking if one exists, having the property tested for one if the owner is uncertain, and then negotiating with the seller regarding how the problem will be addressed. One friend of mine recently took his house with the oil tank in place. He had it tested and knew it was not leaking. He knows he will need to remove it eventually. But he got an excellent price on his fixer-upper and it was worth the aggravation of the future job and expense. Removal of an oil tank can vary greatly depending on size and whether or not it is full of oil. An average price for Hoboken is about $5000-$8000. Once the job is done, you receive certification that the tank was removed...a piece of paper you will need to hold onto for years to come.

Sunday, July 6

Closing Dates

Recently, I had a seller tell me that she wanted to close on the afternoon of the official closing date. She saw no reason why this should be a problem I understand this completely. I remember thinking closing dates were carved in stone when I was a buyer/seller even after I had bought and sold several times (afterall, it was discussed and put in the final contract by the attorneys).

However, this is not the case. A closing can take place days before the official closing date or up to two weeks after. Usually, the closing takes place with a day or two of the official date, but it is not in the hands of your realtor.

Two things mess up a closing date: the attorneys' schedules or the mortgage company. Attorneys juggle many different clients and often don't know until a few days prior, whether or not they can close on the official date. That is why it is prudent to build in flexability to your moving schedule, whether buyer or seller. If something can go wrong, it often does...usually not terribly wrong, just a day or two wrong.

Mortage companies can ruin a closing date because they fail to get certain documents to the lawyer in time or the wire transfer of money fails to take place. That is why it is important that you stay on top of both the mortgage company and attorney, if you are the buyer. Do not assume that everything is fine and running on time....make sure.

If you are the seller, and buying another home using the proceeds of the first home, it is advisable to close first on your home and build in a day or two leeway on the closing of your new home. Two closings in a day can happen but it takes careful coordination of mortgages and attorneys.

Whether a buyer or seller, if your closing date is important to you, it is in your best interest to stay in close touch with the mortgage bank/broker and your attorney in the two weeks prior to the closing date, in order to assure you close when you need to close.

Wednesday, July 2

What to do when there are multiple offers?

Multiple offers are still happening in this market. If a property is priced right from the start, the market will often respond enthusiastically and more than one offer will come in. On the other end of the spectrum, it never fails that a good property will sometimes sit, sometimes due to a slightly-high price, sometimes for no apparent reason, and then all of a sudden, there are several offers. It only takes two offers to make things sticky.

The bottom line is that if you make an offer on a property and another offer comes in, you need to decide how much you want the property and how much the property is worth based on the comparables and weigh both these factors. Then you can come up with your number. If you are planning on staying for awhile in Hoboken, paying a bit higher on a property may well be worth it. You have to consider how it will improve your quality of life...does it put you nearer to the train or the bus. Is it a lot more room than you now have? On the other hand, the other bid may not be great. If you are on the fence about the property or feel nervous about how much you are paying or can afford to pay, then you should make an offer in keeping with your budget. But if you really want a property, even in this market, and there is another offer, you should usually offer the list least.

Additional important factors that could sway a seller are: putting down a large deposit (that inspires confidence in sellers that you have the money and will not be turned down for a mortgage. It can make you look better than your competitor who is putting down 5%.), or moving the closing date to best accomodate the seller, or waiving the home inspection contingency. All of these factors can help you beat an opponent.

A good realtor can be very helpful in this situation. He/she can get a sense of how strong the other offer is from the listing agent. The buyer's agent tries to figure out what her buyer needs to do to get it. The listing agent's game is to get the best deal for her client but also one that is solid and one she feels will stick. She may take into account deposit amount, the way the buyers conduct themselves in terms of making the offer, even the quality of the realtor bringing the offer. Her job is to protect her sellers and get the best price for them.

Bidders in a "bidding war" often console themselves, when they lose, with the phrase: "Well, I guess it wasn't meant to be." But it has been my experience that bidders who lose were fearful. They did not go high enough because either it was out of their price range (they were already stretching) or due to a fear of the bidding process.

Saturday, June 28

Making Offers

Today, I showed two houses, one to a couple who said that they had heard that it is appropriate to make an offer of 10% asking. I get this question a lot and it baffles me every time. In my opinion, you should not be thinking in terms of percentages. That sounds like some media hype nonsense to me.

It's not a sound way to determine your offer. The best way to determine value is to take comparable sales over the past six months and judge by what other people have paid recently. That is market value. Ok, you may need to adjust down or up in terms of making an offer now as opposed to the offer made on a similar property six months earlier, if the market has changed dramatically during that time period. Overall, within a six month period in a stable market like Hoboken, comparables give you a very good idea what is an appropriate price to offer and to pay. It is how appraisers determine value for the banks. You adjust your offer according to upgrades or lack of upgrades compared to other sales. That's what an appraiser does also....though he uses an excel-style program assigning dollar values to things like outdoor space, additional baths, parking, etc.

If you are going to make an offer on a property, the most reasonable way to determine the value of the property is comparables. That is also how Realtors determine list price (though we sometimes have to price higher because a seller will not trust our judgement based on the comparables). In any case, ask for comparables and then talk to your Realtor about whether it is reasonable in the current market climate to offer more or less based on those comparables.

Wednesday, June 25

Condo Price per Square Foot

In Hoboken, price per square foot can vary greatly. Three major factors influence price: location, condition and amenities, and size. Large square footage is anything 1500 square feet and larger. Anything larger than this, whether a modern condo in an elevator building or a duplex (two floor condominium unit, usually in a brownstone) will have a sizeable number of prospective buyers who are usually trading up to a larger space due to children in the household.

What is often surprising for sellers of large units is that most command a smaller price per square foot than, say, a one bedroom unit. A nice one bedroom with decent square footage, good location, and amenities can easily price out at anywhere from $570 a square foot to $800 a square foot plus. Last summer, I sold a very nice duplex with amazing period plaster ceilings, a yard, and a nice kitchen, for $800,000, or $500 a square foot. A larger condo in a location seen as undesirable by the majority of buyers, even one modern and renovated, can fall well below $500 a square foot.

For the most part, however, Hoboken square footage pricing starts at $500 a square foot. For a larger unit to command more than that, it must have parking or a great kitchen, amazing outdoor space, or a view. A prime example is my recent sale of a three bedroom 2006 square foot condo in Maxwell Place. This resale had parking, a doorman, a gym, a great location, two balconies, the most modern of kitchens and baths, and the most incredible view of the NYC skyline, the Hudson River, and the George Washington bridge that I have ever seen. It sold for about $1122 a square foot.

Friday, June 20

Houses-The Size of Things

Hoboken houses range in size from 12-1/2 feet wide on Willow Terrace to 25 feet wide on Castle Point Terrace. Most houses are from Hudson Street to Willow Avenue, or on side streets from 1st up to 13th and east of Willow.

House lot depth can run from approximately 50 feet deep to 120feet deep. The Willow Terrace houses can be as small as 950 square feet with the original floorplan or 3,000 square feet on Hudson St or Castle Point. Houses on the side streets have shorter lots. The problem for many prospective house buyers is that the layout of the brownstones does not allow for three bedrooms on one level. The original floorplans on many of the main streets of Bloomfield, Garden, and Park, technically have three bedrooms but most people combine the two very small back bedrooms to make one room. Houses that are 13.5 and bigger, particularly the houses 15 feet wide, have two bedrooms on the second level and two on the third, usually with a bath off the hallway on each floor.

Larger houses have a parlour floor, and two floors above, with a basement below the garden level. Kitchens can be on the ground level or on the parlour level. Some people dig out their basements to create greater ceiling height, below the garden level, for additional space....though this can cause problems.

Many people can only afford about 1 million, but unfortunately, in Hoboken, this buys you a house that needs substantial work or is far to the west. There are very nice one and two family homes on the side streets that can be purchased for somewhere between 1.1 and 1.3 million that do not need huge amounts of work but you will have to sacrifice the yard or space.

Large houses of 18 feet and wider with 90 feet lots or better exist on Hudson St., Castle Point Terrace, and the 900 block of Washington (known as Doctor's Row). Houses, one or two families or converted three families, of that size can be found on Garden between 10th and 11th. Individual random homes on Bloomfield, Park, Garden or Willow also exist. Houses of this size command a sales price of 2 million plus unless they are in need of substantial renovation. The most expensive finished houses on the Hoboken real estate market are now in the 3 million range. range.

Thursday, June 19

Fourth Floor Walk-Ups

In the current buyer's market, walk-ups have been suffering. With more properties available in Hoboken, buyers are more reluctant to deal with the top floor walk-up. For what is considered by many to be the best locations (the streets of Hudson, Washington, Bloomfield, Garden, Park, and Willow), we are finding that buyers don't seem to mind third floor so much. However, they are balking at the fourth floor or above. Of course, this is even more true for walk-up condos further west. Sellers can and have overcome this problem. Fourth floor walk-ups can overcome the stigma of the additional flight of stairs with substantial upgrades such as stainless steel appliances, granite, marble in the kitchen or bath, newly refinished floors, central air or new installed a/c wall units, and washer/dryer in the unit. Sometimes, it requires all these upgrades. Buyers feel these properties should be negotiable unless they are completely tricked out in all the high end upgrades. We are seeing that people will pay for high end upgrades, even if top floor walk-ups.

The good news for buyers is that many of these properties are the best deals available in Hoboken. In the Sunday real estate section, The New York Times recently ran an article on the deals to be had if you buy a fourth floor walk-up in the New York market. They have great light and you have no one "walking on your head." You can get more square footage for the money, and sometimes, more in upgrades. The downside is that it will usually take longer to sell your unit and sellers will rarely get the same price as just the floor below would, even for an identical unit with similar upgrades. On the other hand, when selling a top floor unit, upgrades and good staging can make a big difference.

Monday, June 16

The MLS and Pictures

The best way to list your property is to use a reputable real estate office, hopefully one with good business ethics, to represent you. And a good real estate knows the value of the MLS and will use it to your benefit. That includes writing a detailed description that will interest your prospective buyers and quality pictures that will lure the buyer into coming to see your property. Pictures are of the utmost importance. Listings that do not have good pictures in the MLS fail to draw the same number of buyers. Pictures of a well-staged home. Obviously, if your place is a mess or your tenants of your property are piggy and cannot be prevailed upon to straighten up, you are better off without pictures. But overall, pictures are the greatest marketing tool. Pictures on the MLS listing, pictures on the flyers, pictures in the window of the real estate office for browsers to view. Before signing with any agency, ask them to send your their MLS listings so you can see if they put multiple pictures on their listings. Ask to see a flyer during the marketing presentation. And above all, insist that your listing is on the MLS and the keys are readily available at the front desk for other offices to show the property. Beware offices that want to hold an "exclusive" and run from offices that do not have top-notch pictures on MLS listings and good looking flyers. Marketing tools are often simple enough, but the quality will reflect on your property.

Thursday, June 12

House Buyers

Today, our office visited several broker open houses. In conversation at a condo listing that had excellent Mango and Strawberry smoothies, we talked about the housing market. My broker, Maureen Singleton, had a lengthy discussion with another leading house seller in the area, a brokerage that is sometimes our competitor, and a respected office. The managing agent and broker of that office reaffirmed what we have been seeing: the brownstone market is turbulent. Lately it goes through ups and downs. We will sell a bunch of houses suddenly and at good prices and then a month later, similar just-as-good houses, sit and don't sell, sometimes for months. It is unpredictable. Overall, the brownstone market is a very strong market. Houses are few and demand is great. However, nervous buyers are more hesitant lately and more demanding during attorney review.

We talked about the oil tank issue. Increasingly, it is a problem. Buyers generally just want them out of the ground. Typically, they are tested first and usually fail, therefore, the sellers must remove the tank. Occasionally, the tank checks out and the sellers do not want to bear the additional expense. But more and more, it seems to be an unavoidable headache for the sellers and just part of a list of demands that buyers expect to have met.

Tuesday, June 10

Home Staging

Sellers ask if home staging really works. It does. I have seen it again and again. Often, a seller is reluctant to make the changes that the home stager deems necessary. Often, sellers feel insulted that the home stager thinks the rug that they picked out or the curtains that they love should go. A home stagers agenda is simple. The idea is to present the property in the best light, literally and figuratively. If there are great wood floors, you want to show them off, not your rug. If the curtains are heavy or a busy design, no curtain, or white sheers, may be better to create greater light in the property. You want to accent the best parts of your home. However, nice furniture does help, though it is not an aspect of the condo or house itself. Most home stagers will want you to remove clutter, as much as a third of your furniture, and paint any dark- colored rooms with light paint. You want the buyer to be able to imagine themselves in your home, which might be hard for them if your bedroom is maroon. Also, all smells should be eliminated and air fresheners in vanilla or another less-perfumey scent is a good idea also. Lastly, a bit of greenery can really add to the overall feel of your condo or house for very little money. Take the time to prepare your home and you will have a much more positive response from buyers and a higher sales price.

Sunday, June 8

The Dog Days of Summer

Sellers often ask whether it is a mistake to put their property on the market in the summer. Ideally, you want to put your condo or home on the market in the Spring. Though the inventory increases across the board, the buyers come out from hiding after the winter and it is traditionally the strongest time of year to sell your property. In Hudson County, "Spring" starts as early as mid-February. We had an early Spring in terms of sales this year, in fact. Activity slows down after Memorial Day and is extremely slow from the 4th of July through Labor Day. A second market picks up in the Fall. However, if your condo has not sold by now, do not despair! Last year, as an agent, I closed on three properties in late July, all of which went to contract in June. And the previous year, I sold several properties in August that closed in September and October. The lesson is this: if you are selling your home and it is on the market in the summer, be prepared for it to take longer than it might otherwise. Buyers are at the shore, on vacation, or just not motivated to brave the heat and look at properties, let alone consider moving in the dog days of summer. Selling a home in the summer takes patience but it can certainly be done!

Friday, June 6

Open Houses

When you sell your home, during the average listing appointment, the real estate sales associate will tell you that part of the marketing plan is to do a broker open house and public open houses. From a professional's point of view, the broker open house may be the more important of the two. Broker open houses introduce your property to the real estate community...all those people who will be trying to sell your home, potentially. When you have already seen a property, it is much easier to talk about it, and to know whether or not the customer you have been working with would like it. In Hoboken, because the inventory is plentiful and the parking a nightmare, a listing agent will lure her/his colleagues to his open house with food from Margherita's or homemade cheese cake, or sushi! But that exposure is important and worthwhile. Sometimes, for condos that Realtors suspect are "typical", as in railroad style or non-descript 1980s construction, it may be hard for your listing agent to drag agents in. But overall, it is a worthwhile endeavor, especially for more unique or renovated properties.

Public open houses are, unfortunately, rarely productive. I have sold properties from an open house, but it rarely occurs. The statistic often quoted is that 98% of properties for sale do NOT sell through an open house. The initial open house makes sense to introduce the property to the public. Active buyers are watching what is coming on, as are their agents, so the first open house is the best. Sometimes, another open house, after a significant price change, also makes sense. But repeated weekly open houses, touted by some agencies as necessary and what they will "do" for you, are largely a waste of time for a single unit and may arguably make you look "desperate". In fact, many agencies do lots of public open houses primarily for agency exposure, and so that new agents can meet and potentially pick up buyers. The exception to the rule is public open houses for a developer's project of a new building or a recently renovated and condo-ed building. A building with multiple units available is another matter.

Thursday, June 5


In most condo sales, in Hoboken anyway, issues with termites or other pests is a rare occurence. Pest problems are less likely in more modern buildings. Mice are a common nuisance in older buildings but easily treatable, either with poison (not the preferred method because the mice can die between the wall and smell) or by old-fashioned traps with peanut butter on them. And many a Hobokenite has has a sudden infestation of tiny ants in the Spring. You know it is Spring in Hoboken when your bathroom has tiny ants all over the floor! These ants swarm and disappear after a few weeks. But real pest problems can arise, particularly when buying or selling a house as opposed to a condo. It is not unusual for the home inspector to discover evidence of termite damage. Often, it is hard to tell if the damage is old or new. Regardless, the bank will want documentation that the property has been treated before they will mortgage a property where a potential problem exists. Evidence of termites is usually nothing to panic about. More often than not, the damage is confined to a small area or may even be old damage that was already treated by the last owner. However, it is often a necessary expense of the seller prior to closing and non-negotiable in terms of the buyer being able to mortgage the property.

Tuesday, June 3

What is a "green" building?

There is a lot of buzz about green building these days. As a realtor, when I first heard the term, I thought, “Great, another new gimmick.” I doubted that it was a concept that was worth much, assuming that it was just a new way for builders to separate themselves from the pack, make their building stand out to buyers. I doubted whether the buildings in town claiming “green-ness” were doing much to help the environment. I also wondered whether the whole idea of “green” building was legitimate. What can I say? I’m a skeptic.

But according to the website, two of the green builders working in town have successful track records and are promising newcomers to this new form of building.
Web publisher Stephen T. Del Percio is an authority on green building. A green business and construction attorney who practices in New York and New Jersey, and a LEED Accredited Professional, Del Percio has a BS in civil engineering from Columbia and works for a Manhattan firm that “exclusively services the design, construction, and real estate industries.” In his December 2007 posted article, Stephen T. Del Percio Esq. writes extensively about SJP Properties and Bijou Properties.

New Jersey-based
SJP Properties is responsible for the 14-story, 500,000 square foot Waterfront Corporate Center II, the building adjacent to the under-construction W Hotel being built on River Rd. SJP Properties is seeking the Silver level of LEED certification. Del Percio writes, “(the project) will feature the standard LEED features, will include low-flow plumbing, recycled-content construction materials, preferred parking for hybrid vehicles, and efficient HVAC systems.” Del Percio further states that SJP is responsible for 1.6 million square feet of upcoming sustainable real estate development in the New York City area.

In terms of residential real estate, the greenest builder in town seems to be Bijou Properties, the builders on the Garden Street Lofts at 1425 Garden (on 14th Street).
Detailed information on what makes them green is found on their website at Additionally, long –known on the realtor grapevine, the parking garage known as Park on Park will be converted by Bijou into residential space and parking. Bijou is responsible for the just-converted building now housing the New York Sports Club, CVS, and Washington Mutual and the plans for development of the parking garage are forthcoming. Del Percio writes: “It’s going to give way to a 12-story, 180 unit LEED Gold mixed-use condominium complex…the $100 million project, designed by Hoboken’s Dean Marchetto Architects, will offer 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, 371 parking spots, and a green roof, among numerous other sustainable design elements

So what are the advantages of green building?
What is LEED? And why should buyers be interested? LEED certification has been established and defined by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and three designations are possible: bronze, silver, and gold. Designations are determined by a point system. Detailed information on the checklist and point system used to evaluate building construction can be found on Sustainability is a cornerstone of green building. On the website for the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive,, the 1987 Brundtland Commission Report is quoted: “Sustainable design optimizes resources, restores, and renews them…sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Green building is meant to optimize sustainability by an extensive list of measures.
These measures range from water efficiency in the landscaping and heat island effect roofing (a nifty concept used to reduce microclimate change and that sometimes includes a vegetated roof) to indoor environmental quality that includes low-emitting construction materials and building design that optimizes light and air quality. Aside from the obvious intention to help save the environment one building at a time by using recycled wood and materials such as countertops made of recycled glass (which looks remarkably cool by the way), the idea is to reduce building cost in terms of construction and long-term costs for the upkeep and life of the building, thereby saving condo owners money through efficient light, heat and water usage. And not incidentally, to increase quality of life for inhabitants. Many sealants and building materials emit gases that silently can affect air quality and potentially cause long-term health issues in some people sensitive to them.

The downside of green building is accomplishing LEED certification while meeting local building code standards, long waits and additional cost for recycled materials that are not yet widely available, and creating an interest that the public can embrace.
Ultimately, buyers must see the monetary value in buying green, in addition to the “feel good” aspect of buying a condo in a building that is designed to gently use the planet’s resources. Green builders must overcome skepticism in buyers who are already wary of the changing market. Buyers will ask themselves: “If I buy in a green building, will that add to my condo’s value in the long run or is this a passing fad? And will buying green reduce my maintenance charges for the common areas and/or reduce my energy and water bills?”

As a Hoboken realtor, I want the answers to these question too so that I can accurately inform my customers.
I am hopeful that green building is here to stay and is as financially smart as it seems to be environmentally savvy. Of course, when our bodies and those of our children are bombarded by environmental poisons, anything that reduces our daily intact of environmental poisons can’t be a bad thing if it legitimately does so, right? And in an age where energy is precious, and increasingly alarmingly expensive, sustainable building and architectural design may well be the wave of the future.

Cobblestone Street Homes

In Hoboken, most houses sell for over 1 million. A house 1.2 million or less is typically one that needs a lot of work...renovations costing anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 or possibly more. The Willow Terrace houses are the exception. My recent listing, now under contract, was listed at $669,000. These houses share common brick walls with their neighbors, and are 12.5 wide on lots of 50 ft deep, whereas most houses in Hoboken are between 13.5 feet wide to 20 ft wide, on Washington St and west with wider houses on Hudson St. or Castle Point Terrace. Willow Terrace homes are on cobblestone streets with "private" parking. These streets are private, and not maintained by the city, other than basic garbage pick-up and sidewalk cleaning. Residents prefer the cobblestone because it helps prevent flooding (rain water mostly seeps into the ground and the dirt crawl spaces rather than backing up in the Willow Street sewers). The folklore is that originally these homes were for Stevens family workers and had no kitchens or bathrooms. Willow Terrace homes that are partly renovated have the bathroom behind the kitchen on the first floor. More renovated versions of these homes have been expanded on the second and third floors, adding at least one bathroom and one or more decks. If you really want a house at condo prices, Willow Terrace is your best bed in Hoboken.

Hoboken Realtor on Real Estate Now

Welcome to First Exit in New Jersey!

I am Stacey Morrison, a veteran of real estate sales in Hoboken, NJ. This blog is a straight-up discussion of real estate here from a Realtor's professional point of view.

Please feel free to write me with questions or comments. :)