Spotlight on … Tom Siso

When it comes to amazing customer testimonials, the one Tom Siso received last month really blew us away! Tom worked with a Clifton homeowner to get his home sold; here’s what this happy customer had to say about the experience:

“Tom was such a positive change from the real estate brokers I have dealt with in the past. He took the time to understand my financial, personal and business commitments that impacted the price and timing of the sale of my home. He was remarkably patient and understanding of my decision (regarding) several offers I turned down. I never experienced an agent who was more concerned with what I wanted and needed than about his time and efforts (or his commission).

Tom and his associates were the most understanding and professional group of real estate personnel I have ever had the experience of working with, and I have had many previous real estate transactions in many different locations. They are the BEST!”

WOW – but we knew that already!

Tom, also a Clifton resident, is a 21-year New Jersey real estate veteran who had worked years ago with our broker owner, John Sass, at another office. He joined Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty about three years ago.

He attributes his success to his patience and his focus on cultivating the sales seeds he plants early in the year to bring them to fruition now. He attributes his success and stamina to understanding the rhythms of real estate sales and how to keep nurturing his prospects throughout that sales cycle. It’s a lesson he tries to impart to his colleagues who are newer to the real estate world.

“It’s important to know that the year has its cycles and that those who are patient enough to ride out the lulls will reap the benefits,” says Tom. “There are definite patterns to how real estate agents should be working. It’s easy to get discouraged but if you follow a steady plan, things work out.”

Tom usually seeks out listings in January and February—using real estate technology tools as well more traditional methods—and he stays in touch with prospects through the following months. “When the homeowner realizes it’s a good time to list, which often happens around this time of year, they call me to discuss their listing,” he says.

He also gets many referrals from satisfied customers. “If you are in good standing with past clients you’ll be in good shape for the future.” In addition to maintaining total commitment to clients, Tom says it’s equally important to be committed to the broker.

Before he got into real estate, Tom was in food sales and the dry cleaning business, doing both for many years. When he semi-retired from that business at a fairly early age, he was looking for work that would fulfill him, and went into real estate in December 1996. He clearly enjoys sales, and had purchased several properties on his own, so real estate appealed to him as his next career.

“There’s great joy in real estate,” he says. “It was exciting for me when I bought my first house and I expect to deliver the same experience for younger people coming into it now. Plus, the referrals stimulate us and keep us going. If you leave a good impression and touch base throughout the year, they come back. In fact, I’ve worked with several grown children of former customers who stayed in the area.”

Tom works mainly in Passaic County but says, “I am willing to go anywhere and because of the referrals I get from past customers, I’ve gone down to Brielle and up to Butler,” he explains. “I’m always willing to help, especially when it’s for past customers who are referring their friends and family.” The happy Clifton homeowner has already referred Tom to several friends and associates and Tom is currently the listing agent on one of those referrals.

Although the internet and availability of information online has changed the industry and given clients a lot more information, Tom notes that “they can look at listings and research areas, but they don’t really understand the full process. I counsel them to be patient and explain the process of buying and selling a home.”

Spotlight on … Frank Conturso

Frank Conturso has certainly earned his place in our spotlight, as Century 21 Cedarcrest’s top producing real estate agent in 2016 and 2015 (he was warming up by being our second highest producer the previous two years).

A native of Nutley, Frank joined our agency eight years ago after an interesting and winding career path that in hindsight led him straight to our door. His professional life began in finance on Wall Street and then as a client rep for a financial software company in California, where he got a taste of customer service.

After returning to New Jersey, Frank experienced firsthand what it takes to build a quality home, when he went to work with his brother in the latter’s construction company. Although he was a project manager, he had ample opportunities to get his hands dirty and see how to build a house from the ground up, to see a raw piece of land become someone’s dream home. The experience also taught him the value that remodels and additions bring to an existing home. This got the wheels turning about his next career move into real estate. The time was right to make the transition when the construction business slowed down in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

“I saw a career as a real estate agent as an opportunity to do things the way I wanted to—to look out for my clients’ needs and interests first and foremost,” says Frank. “I believed that the income would flow naturally if I did things the right way.”

As part of his research into a real estate career, Frank turned to his uncle, who is in the business locally. Frank told his uncle that it was important for him to get into an office where he’d receive good training. He originally thought he’d go work with his uncle but the advice he got was a game changer. “If I had to start over, I’d go work for John Sass,” his uncle told him. “He believes in ongoing education and does excellent training.”

Frank agrees 100 percent. “John is a great person to learn with. I really liked that training is a priority for him. He truly wants to see his agents succeed.”
Although he got started in the field during a very difficult time (2009), with many distressed properties and short sales in the New Jersey market, Frank understood that the tough times offered an excellent opportunity to learn the business the right way. “Learning in a difficult time like that prepares you for just about anything,” notes Frank.

He seems to have learned quite a bit, given his rising sales production over the years. In addition to being our agency’s top producer, he has won the following Century 21 honors: Quality Service Pinnacle Producer Award (2011-2016), Masters Diamond Level and Emerald Level Awards (2012-2016), and a President’s Award (having achieved both CENTURION® level production and the Quality Service Pinnacle Award in the same year, 2015). Frank is also #79 in our entire NJ/Delaware region and a recipient of the New Jersey Association of REALTORS® (NJAR) Silver Level Circle of Excellence Sales Award (2012-2016).

“I have a good team around me with strong support, with John being first and foremost in that role. My mentor there (who has since left) was also a big part of my success as is believing in what we stand for at Century 21 Cedarcrest,” he says. Frank is quick to point out that all agents, new and seasoned, really look out for each other.

“Being here feels like family to me and family has always been important to me in personal life. To have it in professional life is a blessing.”

Is It Possible to Sell a Home in the Winter?

Is It Possible to Sell a Home in the Winter?

A lot of people look at the winter season as an absolutely horrific time of year to purchase a home. Truth be told, it’s not always the most pleasant time of the year, but it’s still possible to sell.

What are the Drawbacks?

You’re fighting a lot in the winter months. First, you have to compete with the holiday season, during which everyone tends to focus on each day and generally not on moving. Then you have the deepest part of the winter to contend with, including bitter cold, ice, and snow. People just don’t want to go out in the dark, especially in dreary conditions.

The Benefits of a Winter Sale

The benefits are, of course, that any buyer you do meet is very likely moving quickly and with purpose. Many winter buyers do so for a reason – a job relocation, a divorce – some sort of need. They don’t tend to have a ton of time to shop around and aren’t interested in prolonging the process.

Believe it or not, the numbers support not waiting until the Spring to put your home on the market. According to the Redfin Research Center, winter listings are 9% more likely to sell, are likely to sell a week faster than other homes, and generally sell for 1.2% more than home sold during other times of the year. That’s huge!

How to Sell Faster in the Winter

You will, of course, need to make some effort to make your home appealing during the winter months. Make sure your home is always well-list, especially since people looking to buy may be visiting after work, when it’s colder. Make sure your driveway and walkways are cleared of snow and are salted to prevent dangerous ice accumulation.

Make sure the inside of your home is warm and inviting as well, and ensure your holiday clutter is carefully put away. A warm, clean home will allow potential visitors to envision themselves living in your space, no matter how dreary it is outside.

Not sure if winter is right for you? Talk to your real estate agent. We can help you decide when and how to list your home and what price points are best.

 

7 Simple Secrets for First-Time Home Buyers

7 Simple Secrets for First-Time Home Buyers

Psst! Hey, you! Buying your first house? We know a few things we think you should know. Things that will ensure you end up in a house you can afford in a neighborhood you love – without having to shell out a ton of money later on to make avoidable repairs. Ready? Here we go…

Counseling is Available – for Free

There are a lot of non-profit organizations who provide housing counselors. Talk to one. These individuals can help you to assess your finances, life situation, and other considerations and help you determine if it’s really the right time for you to buy.

You Need to Understand Your Lifestyle

We’d like nothing better than to sell you the house of your dreams, but the realist inside knows that not everyone has a lifestyle that makes homeownership feasible. Take a close look at your field of work, the current economy, and recent trends. Does buying a home make financial sense?

Assess Your Finances

A lot of people look at homes before looking at their finances and this is a HUGE mistake. You need to consider your credit history, capital for a down payment, capacity to pay your bills, and the collateral (condition of the house you want to buy). There are a lot of online estimators you can use to assess your finances. Try one.

Have a Bottom Line

Walk into every situation using your head, not your heart. You may be in love with a home, but if the seller won’t budge on the price, you have to know when to walk away. Just because you’re approved for a certain mortgage amount doesn’t mean you should buy a house for that same high price.

Shopping for Necessities

A lot of people look at the home but forget about the rest. Make sure you consider the amount of money you’ll need to spend on renovations. Oh, and appliances – the fridge, washer, dryer, and oven are important. If this is truly your first home, you’ll need furniture, too. Shop around and consider the prices as you calculate the total you’ll really need.

You’re Allowed to Make a Low Offer

That house you’re interested in has been sitting empty for a very, very long time. No one seems particularly interested and it’s still there despite you spending weeks looking at other homes. You want to make an offer, but you want to make a low offer. Do it. The worst that can happen is that the seller says no. And you never know; he might just say yes.

Have a Home Inspection

You’ve made your choice. Great! Now make sure you get a professional home inspection. Your offer should be contingent upon the results of the home inspection so that you can back out if the inspector finds something wrong with the home that can’t be handled reasonably. Make sure your offer includes this condition. It’s important.

Your real estate agent is here to help, no matter what. Give us a call and we’ll walk you through the process from start to finish. We can’t wait to see you settle into your first home!

 

Buying a Home: What Type of Insurance Do I Need?

Buying a Home: What Type of Insurance Do I Need?

Congratulations on your decision to buy a home! No matter where you end up, you’re going to need some sort of insurance to protect your new investment. Here’s what you need to know.

Buying a Condo

If you’re buying a condo, you’re going to need what is referred to as an HO-6 policy. Condominiums are interesting because while you own the inside of your unit (everything “from the walls in”), your association owns everything from the studs out. This includes common areas, the roof, and any other area not in your unit. Your insurance will specifically state that it only covers the area inside your unit, including permanent fixtures. You’ll also receive coverage for your personal property, loss of use if you need to rent a place to live after a covered cause of loss, and liability coverage to protect you if someone is hurt on your property.

Buying a House You’ll Live In

The most commonly known type of homeowner’s insurance policy, for a house in which you’ll live, is the HO-3, though there are now other variations. The traditional homeowner’s policy includes coverage for the house itself, coverage for additional structures (like a detached shed or garage), personal property coverage for your belongings, loss of use coverage, and personal liability coverage.

Buying a House As an Investment Property

Are you buying a home as an investment property or to rent to others? In this case you’ll need a HO-2 policy, or a dwelling policy. This type of policy protects your interest in the building and the detached structures, and also includes personal liability coverage. If you rent the home to someone else, he’ll need to buy his own renter’s insurance policy to protect her personal property and his personal liability. Talk to your insurance agent if you’re renting your home to ensure you get the exact coverage you need.

A lot of mortgage companies will require you to purchase insurance upfront for the first year while others will include the cost in the mortgage payments. Ask your real estate agent if you need help finding someone to write your insurance policy, or if you aren’t sure what you need to satisfy closing requirements.

7 Tips for Negotiating the Purchase of Your Next Home

7 Tips for Negotiating the Purchase of Your Next Home

You’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage. You’ve done your homework and you know what you can realistically fit into your budget. You’ve found your dream house bit it’s just slightly out of range. What can you do? Negotiate, of course.

Don’t Be Afraid of a Low Offer

Don’t be afraid of a low offer – ever. It doesn’t take a lot of work for your real estate agent to share your bid with a potential seller, so start low (lower even than you think they might take) and work your way back up. Just make sure you know where your stop point is.

Don’t Plan on Reopening Negotiations

If you do place an offer, make sure it is contingent upon a home inspection. If you do find something wrong with the house, don’t assume the seller will renegotiate. You may be eligible for a credit at closing to pay for the repairs yourself, but don’t assume you’ll be able to drop the price of the house significantly. Be prepared to walk away.

Ask for Repairs

That said, don’t be afraid to ask for repairs. If you don’t ask, you’ll ever know, and you certainly won’t receive. Wait until your inspection is finished and then ask for all of your repairs at once.

Do Your Homework

Find out why the seller is moving. This info will help you determine how quickly the seller may want to go to closing, or even if he may want or need to rent the house back for a short period of time. You should also find out if the house is in foreclosure, how long it’s been on the market, and what neighboring homes have gone for.

Move Quickly

Don’t assume you’re the only buyer placing an offer. If you receive a counteroffer, respond to it very quickly. The longer you wait, the more time other buyers may have to make a better deal with the seller. Once your offer is accepted, you’re in!

Never Bypass Your Agent

You have a quick question about the house? Never, ever go to the seller directly. It sounds complicated, but going through your agent and allowing her to ask the seller’s agent is the safer route. It protects you from misunderstanding legal jargon and, to be honest, it’s part of what you’re paying for.

Communicate with Your Lender

Keep tabs on your offer numbers and ask your mortgage broker to recalculate your monthly payment as you make changes. This will help you to avoid surprises if your offer ends up being higher than you anticipated (or lower, for that matter).

At the end of the day, your real estate agent is there to help you with negotiations. Never be afraid to ask questions or request negotiations. Doing so could land you in your dream home!