Five Reasons to Forego a FSBO (For Sale By Owner)

For Sale By Owner - Century 21 CedarcrestYou’ve probably passed For Sale by Owner signs and wondered whether you could sell your house by yourself–and if it makes sense financially. The quick answer for most people: it’s a lot of work, for no guaranteed payoff. And the risks really aren’t worth it.

With FSBO (pronounced fizz-bow) transactions, sellers think they’ll save on commissions. But they’ll be missing out on what seasoned real estate agents do best–negotiating a great deal that could net you much more money than you’re likely to get on your own.

Factor in the hidden or unexpected expenses, say from potential legal or other problems, and it’s no wonder only 8% of homeowners in New Jersey decide to sell solo, according to the latest data from New Jersey Realtors®.

Here are some key reasons to work with a good real estate agent, backed by a solid brokerage, instead of FSBO:

  1. Pricing strategy

    Sure, you can look up comps and use online assessment tools, but there’s no substitute for local market knowledge. Experienced agents have a deep understanding of neighborhood and industry trends to help you determine the actual value of your home based on a detailed market analysis and any improvements you’ve made.

    The goal is to pinpoint the optimal price; too high, and your home sits on the market, a red flag for buyers. Too low, and you’ll get a bad return on perhaps your biggest investment.

  2. Prepping your property

    So what are buyers looking for these days? A good agent will know the answer, and how to position the look and feel of your property. Does a room need painting or minor repairs? How about swapping out some things, like furniture or a faucet? If you’re tackling a sale on your own, you might be tempted to do a major, unnecessary overhaul–or do nothing, which could turn off potential buyers immediately.

    Real estate agents also have relationships with professional stagers and photographers who can present your home in the best light for onsite showings and online photos.

  3. Marketing your home

    The more buyers who know about your home sale, the more likely you’ll get the price you’re looking for, in the shortest amount of time. Brokers and real estate agents have access to extensive resources and technology that will quickly broaden your field of serious prospects.

    Nearly all buyers start online, and that’s where FSBOs can have limited exposure. Agents get the word out through online portal listings, most notably the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which updates constantly. And, they reach a wider audience through social media channels, professional networks, and name recognition. You can list on the MLS as a FSBO, but it will cost you.

  4. Handling all those people

    A home that’s for sale is at the busy intersection of gawkers, serious buyers, buyers’ agents and attorneys, home inspectors, and possibly appraisers, to name a few. Showings alone can be exhausting. And with a FSBO, no one else is looking out for your interests or representing you.

    An experienced real estate agent will streamline the process, bring in more pre-approved buyers, and collect valuable feedback. You’ll yield the strongest offers and the most motivated sellers, plus get recommendations on appropriate counteroffers. Having a broker or agent experienced in such negotiations, and advising on final terms and conditions, will reduce stress and anxiety for you.

  5. Paper, paper, everywhere

    The closing process involves a huge stack of complicated paperwork, knowledge of local real estate law, and attention to detail to make sure the sale goes through. If you fail to disclose something crucial about your property, for example, you could face serious financial or legal repercussions and perhaps a buyer who walks away.

    Do you want the burden of making sure all the documentation is complete and accurate? And are you comfortable knowing all the regulations affecting your sale?

Our sign is a good sign
At Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty, our real estate pros will support you throughout the entire selling or buying process. We’re Essex County and northern New Jersey experts with a successful track record. Our agency has been voted “Best Realtor” four years in a row (and counting!) in Suburban Essex magazine’s Best of Essex Readers’ Choice Awards. Give us a call at 973-228-1050 to discuss your listing.

Spotlight on … Claudette Seide

For Claudette Seide, who recently joined Century 21 Cedarcrest, service to others has always been at the foundation of her life—reflected in her passion for helping people find their perfect home as a real estate agent.

Claudette had been working at another real estate company for four years, and decided to make a career move to Century 21 Cedarcrest for its global exposure and access to the latest technology, tools, and data to help her more effectively market her listings. She says she found so much more.

“I wanted an office that offered stability and opportunity for growth; one with a comfortable working atmosphere, which I felt right away. I was also looking for an agency that fostered strong working relationships—among the agents and between agents and management—which I was not finding elsewhere. (Broker owner) John Sass made me feel so comfortable right from the beginning and (director of career development) Susan Mazzetta was wonderful. When you walk in here, you feel an immediate sense of belonging.”

She was also attracted to Century 21 Cedarcrest’s award-winning history for production and service. “That’s where you want to be—with the best, with a company that’s thriving, which in turn will help me grow my book of business.” A big factor in her growing business is her skill at negotiating; Claudette is adept at helping her customers buy and sell their homes at the best price, making sure they receive the best service and value in every transaction.

In her prior professional life, Claudette was a healthcare professional in various disciplines, including as an EKG and phlebotomy technician, for over 20 years. She is also certified in medical coding and billing, is licensed to sell life insurance, and is a notary public. All of these endeavors have helped Claudette develop a vast professional network.

Serving others is a big part of her personal life, too. Claudette does ministry work in her church, helping at-risk children locally and abroad. She has traveled to Guatemala to help children escape lives of desperation and poverty, and her ministry partners with World Mission orphanage and other groups to help develop churches and schools, and shelter and educate children. The Bloomfield resident also mentors area high school girls who need a positive role model in their lives.

Claudette is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, the Passaic County Board of REALTORS, and the Garden State and New Jersey MLS; she works in Essex County and surrounding areas. “Wherever clients need service, it’s my pleasure to help guide them through the process of buying or selling a home.”

Spotlight on … Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith - Century 21 Cedarcrest RealtyPatrick Smith has served in the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman, worked for various retail establishments, sold cars at dealerships, and provided customer service at the MetLife Stadium. His multitude of early work experiences and broad skills were all rooted in his love for helping others, which guided him to becoming a real estate agent.

Pat found his love for real estate by mistake. He enrolled in a real estate licensing course with his mother to spend time with her and coach her through the material; they both passed the exam. Engaged to be married, working long hours in retail, Patrick realized it was time for a career change and took a chance on his new real estate license. It didn’t take him long to fall in love with his choice.

“I cannot imagine doing anything else,” he says. “No two days are ever alike and each one is an adventure.”

A resident of Bloomfield, Pat has been helping residential real estate customers in Essex and Passaic counties for approximately 25 years, all within the Century 21 system. Patrick joined Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty about three years ago for one reason: broker owner John Sass.

“John is a people person with great understanding and a keen ability to train others,” says Pat. “The family atmosphere we enjoy in our office and everything that makes Cedarcrest Realty what it is, is a direct reflection of John.”

Today, Pat specializes in working with homeowners dealing with short sales. This allows him to help people going through hard times to reach their ideal end goal.

He works closely with the banks to arrive at a sales figure the lender will accept, noting that short sales have a much longer closing process than typical transactions because of the negotiating these transactions entail. He is accustomed to working in divorce situations as well as estate sales, balancing the competing interests of multiple parties to make sure the contract gets signed. He is also involved in commercial work with multifamily rental and investment properties.

Pat’s hard work has paid off in many ways. He is a member of the National Association of Realtors and a New Jersey Association of Realtors Circle of Excellence multi-year award winner, and he has acquired the E-Pro for Realtors and Certified Negotiator designations, and the Military Relocation Professional and Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource certifications.

When asked for advice to new real estate agents and what he values about his career, Pat says that he values the flexibility. “As a real estate agent your sales will fluctuate, so you must become an expert at budgeting. However, you also have the option to create the availability in your schedule to be with your children; for me as a dad, that’s my favorite job of all.”

Spotlight on … Adrienne Wheeler

Adrienne Wheeler is used to getting things done. As a former network television producer, she appreciates timelines, deadlines, accountability, and challenges. Having worked with some of the biggest names in TV, she knows the importance of honesty, integrity, and confidentiality. These are some of the factors that are making her a successful commercial and investment real estate specialist at Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty.

Adrienne joined Cedarcrest in January 2017 about a year into her real estate career; she says that after meeting broker owner John Sass, she knew she’d found the right fit.

“I knew right away that this was the best place for me. I needed an agency whose broker invested in his agents. From our first meeting, I felt I could become successful under John’s tutelage.”

With more than 49,000 real estate agents in northern New Jersey alone, Adrienne knew she had to focus on a particular sector that would lend itself to the skills she had from producing. After researching and talking to people in the commercial part of the business, she focused her efforts in that direction.

Working with real estate investors, developers, and sellers in Essex County, Adrienne focuses mostly on multi-family properties, warehouses, and industrial buildings. She is building a clientele in Newark, which is experiencing increased interest in real estate, as well as in Bayonne, which is also undergoing renewal and new development. She “produces” every commercial real estate transaction, prioritizing her clients’ goals and listings, keeping all the players involved and all the pieces moving ahead, as she ferries each listing to a completed sale.

Part of producing those transactions is keeping both the buyer’s and seller’s attorneys in the loop throughout the process and staying a step ahead of all parties to make sure everyone is prepared at all times. She helps the other agents through the transaction as well to make sure it goes through smoothly and on time. She also believes that her commitment to client confidentiality, business savvy, and her personal and professional integrity have helped her grow her book of business.

“This is an area of business that requires hours of preparation and leg work, and a strong contact list. I also know it’s all in the marketing; you have to know how to write a story about what you’re selling.”

Adrienne’s process includes doing thorough research, canvassing the area, and providing an executive summary of the properties to her buyers. “I’m a bottom line person committed to a positive outcome; I go into each transaction fully prepared and ready for any objection.”

Her efforts and attention to detail result in getting to the closing table in a shorter-than-average sales cycle. Adrienne reports that every one of her commercial and residential transactions has gotten multiple offers within four to six weeks, which is especially unusual in commercial real estate.

A resident of Essex Fells, Adrienne also does residential real estate in Essex County, working with buyers and sellers. But, she likes the challenge of working in commercial and investment real estate, which she admits is a tougher end of the business; she proudly points out that only 37 percent of all commercial real estate agents are women. She is a member of CoStar, which offers a vast suite of tools and resources for the commercial real estate market, and she continually invests in additional training classes specific to commercial real estate, which she believes is a win-win for both her as a real estate agent and for Century 21 Cedarcrest.

Of the office and its broker owner, Adrienne says that, “Every agency and broker claim to be the best but I have the best right here. John Sass goes above and beyond; he doesn’t just talk about what he’s going to do, he does it. He supplies me with the tools I need to create my success.”

Spotlight on … Bruno Marino, Jr.

Bruno Marino, Jr. has grown up in the Century 21 system, the son of a former franchise owner in a busy Belleville, NJ office. Bruno joined his father and mother, who was the agency’s bookkeeper, after graduating college in 1985 and has been an award-winning real estate professional ever since.

Although his original career plans out of college did not include real estate, his father asked Bruno to join him in the agency, Century 21 Homes Thru Us. He decided to go for his license, passed the test, and began making a name for himself in Essex County real estate in October 1985.

“We were one of the first franchises in the area,” said Bruno. “We used to wear the gold Century 21 jackets. They certainly stood out but they made a difference, people noticed.”

Over the years, Bruno worked side by side with his parents, until his father decided to retire. He subsequently joined Cedarcrest Realty in June 2013.

“Bruno is a consummate professional, a Quality Service award recipient year after year and is loved by all,” said John Sass, broker owner of Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty. “We are so fortunate to have him on our team.”

Since joining Century 21 Cedarcrest, Bruno has been a recipient of the Century 21 Centurion Award, the system’s highest honor, a Quality Service Pinnacle awardee, and he has been recognized many times for his high production levels. He is also a past REALTOR® of the Year Award winner and a Distinguished Sales Club Award member. In addition, Bruno is a member of the Graduate Realtor Institute* (GRI), a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), and a member of the NJ Association of Realtors.He works primarily with first-time home buyers as well as seniors who are selling their homes to downsize, and adult children who are handling their parents’ estates and selling a home.

When asked to what he attributes his success over the past 32+ years, Bruno says that “99 percent of my business is from past customers. The Century 21 system was built on the golden rule. I was trained that you always treat people right and it comes back to you. A favorite quote of mine is ‘People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.’ I’m one of those guys who cares.”

This is borne out by the fact that now, Bruno is working on next-generation customers. “I remember when my clients’ children were little, walking around as I was showing the parents a house. Now I’m selling those children their houses; I never thought I’d do that!”

He believes that those referrals are a result of his approach to real estate, which comes from the life lessons he’s learned about what’s truly important.

“Having helped take care of my mother, watching out for my father, seeing family come together to support each other—that’s what’s it’s all about. That commitment that we had for each other is something I bring to my work every day. To be successful in real estate, you have to understand that it’s a long-term commitment; and you need to be honest and open with everyone you deal with. If you treat everyone fairly, it keeps you in business as long as you want to be.”

When asked what he enjoys most about real estate, he says, “When you help someone and they’re thankful, you want to do it again. That’s what keeps me going every day.”

Congratulations to our 2017 Award Winners for Production and Customer Service!

As happens every January, we held our annual awards breakfast on January 24, 2018, when broker owner John Sass announced Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty’s top agents in terms of production and customer service. These awards recognize those real estate agents who earned the highest gross closed commissions and highest customer satisfaction scores in 2017.

John presented the following Century 21 customer service and production awards at the event:

1 – Quality Service Producer: Patricia Popola and Joey Scotto for attaining an overall 90 percent approval rating in the past year.

2 – Quality Service Pinnacle Producer: Bruno Marino, Tracy Chan and Frank Conturso for attaining a 95 percent approval rating for two or more consecutive years.

3 – Century 21 CENTURION Producer: Tracy Chan, the number one agent in production at Century 21 Cedarcrest. Not only that, Tracy has distinguished herself in another way: she is ranked 13 out of over 1000 agents throughout Century 21’s entire New Jersey/Delaware region (putting her in the top 2 percent!) and a Century 21 Presidents Award winner. She had over $16 million in sales volume in 2017. Tracy is also a New Jersey Association of Realtors® (NJAR) Gold Level Circle of Excellence® Sales Award® winner.

4 – Century 21 Masters Emerald Level: Frank Conturso and Joey Scotto, who ranked second and third respectively in gross closed commissions at Century 21 Cedarcrest. Both are also NJAR Silver Level Circle of Excellence® winners.

In addition, Patricia Popola, Susan McGarrity and Bruno Marino were recognized for being among the top six agents in gross closed commissions in the office. All Century 21 Quality Service and Top Producer award winners will be recognized at the Greater New Jersey Brokers Council Gala at The Venetian in Garfield, N.J. on March 8, 2018. At that event, another Century 21 Cedarcrest agent, Paula Cano, will receive an NJAR Circle of Excellence® Bronze Level Sales Award®.

Office recognition
John also shared the year’s high points at the event, including the agency’s growth in terms of commission figures, numbers of transactions and numbers of real estate agents since he became the broker of record and owner of Century 21 Cedarcrest in late July 2009.

“We had about 16 people and we were doing between $15 and $20 million in sales volume at that time and in 2017, we did over $90 million in sales volume. Last year was our eighth straight year of positive growth, and we closed transactions in 59 different municipalities throughout New Jersey,” said John. He also pointed out that the growth curve meant that not only did Century 21 Cedarcrest survive the Great Recession and the housing market collapse but continued to show positive growth year over year—in sales volume and agents. We now have 70 real estate agents on our roster.

More good news revealed at the awards breakfast: for the fourth year in a row, Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty was the GOLD MEDALLION Office Award Winner and Century 21 Quality Service Pinnacle Award winner for the region, reflecting total office production and customer satisfaction scores. We are delighted to add this to the honor of being named “Best Realtor” in Suburban Essex magazine’s 2017 Best of Essex Readers’ Choice Awards, in recognition of our high level of customer service, for the third consecutive year.

What’s the secret to all this success? John points out several factors:

  • Our team’s commitment to customer service and leveraging the leading real estate technology tools to expand listing reach, improve lead generation and enhance customer relationship marketing
  • Onsite training and professional development, including informational and educations webinars and seminars, and professional development classes
  • His investment in external marketing efforts, including website updates, social media marketing, TV commercials and direct mail campaigns.

We’re all looking forward to a great 2018 for the home buyers and sellers we help throughout northern New Jersey and beyond!

Why Winter 2018 is a Great Time to Purchase a Home

It’s no secret in the real estate business that the housing inventory in New Jersey is tight; there are far more buyers than sellers and it’s been that way for a while. This level of competition drives up housing prices (it seems we all know someone who ended up in a bidding war, whether as a home buyer or home seller, or have heard the stories). Another factor that drives home purchases: mortgage interest rates.

How do interest rates originate?
Interest rates are typically determined by a central bank in most countries. In the United States, representatives from the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Reserve Bank comprise the Federal Open Market Committee, which assesses the economic status of the country throughout the year and adjusts interest rates accordingly.

The central bank lends money to retail banks at a discount and then consumers borrow from the retail banks. The rates assigned by the central bank to the retail banks determine interest rates or Prime Interest Rates.

Why interest rates fluctuate
If the central bank wants to discourage consumer borrowing and encourage more saving, it raises interest rates. The banks rely on those deposits in order to raise their worth and have money to lend to another party, which generates additional income from interest collected. When the central bank wants to encourage consumer borrowing and increase spending, it will lower interest rates.

Mortgage interest rates today
Interest rates started creeping up a little bit late in the fall and continue a modest rise—from 3/8 to ½ of a percentage point. Bankrate predicts a slow and steady climb throughout the first half of this year due to various pressures on the U.S. bond market.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate rose .08 percent in the first week of January, a significant jump after a prior rate drop (it is currently slightly over 4 percent). That said, with New Jersey’s housing inventory being so tight and home values remaining fairly steady, why not strike while the iron is hot?

Some figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association:

  • The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.57 percent from 3.49 percent.
  • The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose to 3.77 percent from 3.70 percent.
  • The 30-year fixed-rate jumbo mortgage rose to 4.21 percent from 4.14 percent.

Although the difference in monthly mortgage payments is quite small today as interest rates rise (a few dollars a month for most borrowers), there’s no telling where it could end up six months from now—and besides, why pay any more than you have to on a home loan?

Some Americans appear to be catching the clue. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey, mortgage applications overall rose 8.3 percent for the week ending January 5, 2017; 52.9 percent of those were refinances (up nearly a full percentage point from the week before). Homeowners and those on the market to purchase a home are locking into rates now.

Get into a new home sooner than later
Again, there is tremendous competition for good houses in northern New Jersey, so if you are planning to purchase a home, there’s no time like the present to get into the real estate market. And, if your credit history is strong, it’s a great time to pre-qualify for a favorable mortgage program at preferential rates.

Another great reason to purchase a home now: you’ll beat the typical spring/summer rush, so there are fewer buyers to compete with. Fewer buyers may help keep prices moderated in your favor. Sellers may also be more willing to negotiate with you.

The real estate agents at Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty will help you zero in on the right towns to meet your criteria and your budget, and work hard to help make your transaction as smooth as possible. We’re experts in Essex County, where our office is located … but we work throughout northern New Jersey, from Hudson County to Warren County and everywhere in between. We’re here with our heavy winter coats, ready to show you our listings, so contact us to get into a new home this winter at (973) 228-1050.

Why Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty is the Gold Medal Best of Essex Realtor (Again!)

For the third year in a row, Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty has been voted “Best Realtor in Essex County” in the Suburban Essex magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards. As you’ll see on our Facebook page, we are proudly showing off our Best of Essex gold medals for 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Our 2017 gold medal, for quality customer service, was hard won as it always is, but there are many reasons behind why we provide consistently excellent customer service to home buyers and sellers, year after year.

At the top of that list is our real estate agents, of course, who understand we operate in a highly competitive market in northern New Jersey. They love what they do and they’re really good at it! They know the markets we work in (we specialize in Essex County but work throughout the region), they take the time to listen to what our customers are looking for, they research competitive listings to arrive at the smartest asking price, and so much more. Plus, they appreciate our ongoing professional development training that we offer in our on-site training room, the support they get from and teamwork they experience from each other, and the mentorship they get from our office management.

They also appreciate the second major factor in our real estate agency’s success: the fact that we are part of the Century 21 system. Century 21 is the nation’s most recognized name in real estate. Really! The company reaches millions of Americans through its sponsorship of U.S. Soccer and advertises on high-profile sports broadcasts (such as the Olympics), it is a supporter of the Easter Seals, advertises on major television broadcasts/specials.

Tools of the real estate trade
Did you know that 95% of home buyers search online? Century21.com is designed to provide an exceptional experience for home buyers and when they select New Jersey real estate markets. The website makes it so easy for buyers to search different types of homes at all price ranges, and contact the Century 21 office that can help them.

In addition to our on-site training, our team has access to Century 21 University, which offers online training to help them sharpen their real estate skills; in fact, Century 21 University is a nine-time winner of Training Magazine’s Top 125 Award. In fact, there is a wide array of technology and sales tools at their fingertips for helping our team through every phase of every transaction so we can always provide the best customer service in our field.

Century 21’s lead generation program and marketing tools enable our real estate professionals to help our customers market and sell their homes more effectively. We have many programs available to promote our listings and showcase homes to their best advantage. For instance, our powerful listing strategy displays your listings on over 500 real estate search websites. And, if you follow us on social media, you’ll see our featured listings every week—one of them could be your home.

At Century 21 Cedarcrest, we also use a proprietary contact management system that helps everyone stay in touch with buyers and sellers—past and present—to ensure those important lines of communication stay open, especially when a property come up that looks like a great fit for someone looking to buy a home.

We have much to be proud of at our real estate agency and have much to be thankful for—especially of our customers who voted for us in the Best of Essex Readers’ Choice Awards. We appreciate the votes of confidence and the many referrals we receive from customers who’ve worked with us in the past. If you know someone who’s looking to buy or sell a property in northern New Jersey—whether it’s a townhome or a distinctive property that will be marketed through our Fine Homes & Estates division—we hope you’ll recommend they contact Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty for a “best of Essex” real estate experience.