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.

Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty Celebrates Agents Who’ve Joined us in 2017

Wow, what a busy and fruitful year it has been at Century 21 Cedarcrest, with the addition of nearly a dozen new real estate agents to our roster in 2017. These agents are working with home buyers and sellers throughout northern New Jersey and have quickly become a big asset to our team.

The real estate agents who joined us this year have similar reasons for choosing our agency but come from such a rich diversity of business and professional backgrounds. Some have been licensed real estate agents but have not been active, others are entering the field for the first time. What they tell us is that they chose real estate because:

  • It allows for more personal and financial freedom. Getting away from a daily grind, greater independence, and being in more control of their schedules and work load were major attractions for them.
  • Real estate is a “people first” business. A greater ability to make a difference for customers is a common thread.
    • One agent considers herself a consumer advocate; at Century 21 Cedarcrest, she looks out for her home buyers and sellers and executes on her philosophy of always delivering great service.
    • Another said that through real estate, she has “endless opportunities to help others.”

As for why they chose Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty for their career, we are honored and delighted that our support earns such enthusiastic accolades. Our senior staff and the help they offer, and the Century 21 name are other factors.

An agent who has made the move to a full-time real estate career after working in it part time for 10 years, cited “the great group of people working at the office.” She said she appreciates the teamwork, training, professionalism, and leadership at Century 21 Cedarcrest, which she also identified as key components to success in this business (we blush!)

Susan Mazzetta, our director of career development, works with our agents at all stages of their careers, coaching and educating them on many aspects of real estate at our in-house seminars. These include how to create listings that get noticed, developing sales strategies, phone techniques, how to handle expired and specialty listings, and negotiating.

“It’s so important to stay abreast of current market trends and best practices when it comes to marketing properties,” says Susan. “I am passionate about helping all our agents develop and expand their marketing capabilities, and keeping them up to date on what’s happening in the real estate market, both regionally and industry-wide.”

Susan isn’t the only one passionate about her coaching and the results that ongoing agent education delivers. Another agent who joined us this year said that, “I believe Century 21 Cedarcrest sets the golden standard for excellence. In my 30+ years as a professional in a different business, I always worked for the best. I wanted to represent Century 21 Cedarcrest because they are the most recognized the name in the real estate world.”

If you’re interested in a career in real estate and would like more information about joining the Century 21 Cedarcrest team, contact Susan Mazzetta at 973-228-1050.

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 … Patricia “Pat” Popola

If you are ever looking at photos from a Century 21 Cedarcrest event, chances are, you’re seeing the work of Pat Popola, an ace photographer who’s also an ace REALTOR®—and has been for 25 years. Having started in 1992 with the Century 21 system, she is now celebrating her 25th anniversary in the business. Pat joined the Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty office in 2011, having worked previously with broker owner John Sass in other locations.

Pat serves home buyers and sellers in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic, and Union counties. Prior to working in real estate, Pat was a marketing & sales analyst for a computer company and later, became the client service manager for ADP. However, seeking the flexibility to raise her children, she left the corporate world to go into real estate. We’re glad she did!

A Passaic County native and resident of Roseland, Pat is very knowledgeable about the area. She puts her prior experience in marketing and sales analysis to good use at Century 21 Cedarcrest, as she carefully markets the properties she lists. She especially enjoys matching people with the right properties for where they are in their lives—from that first home to the “mature” move later in life.

“After doing this for so many years, I’ve found that people need different lifestyles and homes for different stages of their lives. Marketing properties helps my clients move on to their next lifestyle, their next phase, which I find so satisfying.”

Pat has a lifelong love of photography and uses her excellent photo skills to chronicle many of Century 21 Cedarcrest’s special events and gatherings. She is also our office advocate for Easter Seals, a charity supported by the Century 21 system. She coordinates our participation every year in the annual Easter Seals Walk with Me fundraiser at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.

Like many other agents in our office, Pat finds value in the on-site training and development at Century 21 Cedarcrest. “No matter how many years you’re in the business, as rules and regulations change, our in-house education offerings stay abreast of those changes, to make sure we are always on top of our game,” she says.

Standing by her credo of “customer service is my business,” Pat has cultivated an impressive list of vendors and professionals that support her clients’ needs, from plumbers and electricians to attorneys and mortgage specialists. For example, when a pipe broke in a home the day before the closing walk-through, she was able to get a plumber in to fix the problem in time so the deal went off without a hitch.

In her 25 years in real estate, it’s safe to say that Pat has also developed an impressive following; one client has done 12 transactions with her over the years, and even though he now lives in Florida, he continues to send her client referrals here in New Jersey. In addition, she has a new generation of customers.

“My past clients send me their grown children to purchase their first home because they trust me and my ethics,” she notes.

Pat has won numerous awards for sales and service throughout her career. You can read more about Pat’s recognitions from Century 21 and her real estate industry affiliations and credentials on her team bio page at http://century21cedarcrest.com/our-team/patricia-popola-realtor-essex-county-nj/

Spotlight on … Joan Puzzo Burkhard

Since breaking into the real estate business it seems like Joan Puzzo Burkhard has a knack for getting clients to find their perfect home. As one of our newest team members, she has quickly gained success as part of the Century 21 Cedcarcrest’s multiple-award-winning team. With her extensive background in customer service and sales, she has the knowledge and experience to become an outstanding real estate agent who closed her first transaction within a short period of time.

Being a native of Essex County, Joan is very familiar with the area and she will invest the time to help the client get the best value in buying or selling their home. She enjoys representing clients who are home buyers and home sellers, and her passion about real estate extends to working with those who are on the market for quality investment properties. Whether you are looking for a condo, your first house, or are upgrading to a larger home, Joan will put in the time to find the best property for your needs.

Prior to joining Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty, Joan worked for North Jersey Media Group in advertising sales, where she worked closely with a real estate agent on various projects. This opened new doors for Joan as she gained more experience working with multiple real estate offices. After working as an assistant part time in one office, Joan became inspired to enter the real estate business as a full-time occupation.

Susan Mazzetta, Century 21 Cedarcrest’s career development director, called her in for an interview when she saw that Joan was sitting for the real estate licensing exam. Joan saw that the great working environment where everyone was close knit and willing to do help each other out; she also was attracted to the ongoing professional training we offer at our office.

“I really appreciate the great support I receive from the other agents here and the one-on-one time Susan gives me has been invaluable,” says Joan.

She was also pleased that the office is conveniently located to her home in Roseland and that she is able to show so many great properties in Essex County, an area that she knows so well.

As for her relatively quick success in securing one closing already with another in the pipeline, Joan says that, “I really dove right into this. Within a couple of weeks, a friend’s aunt was selling her home and they asked if I was available to list it. It was a smooth transaction and the sale closed quickly but even better was the wonderful feedback I received from my client.” She attributes that to her attention to detail and to being a good listener who takes clients’ concerns to heart.

“My client said that, ‘Joan paid attention to the details and to my concerns. She was focused and provided some good suggestions to make small changes to the home.’ It’s those small changes that can sometimes make a big difference,” notes Joan.

Selling a home and moving can be a stressful time and Joan realizes the importance of making the transition as smooth as possible for her clients. She says there are certain things sellers should take care of in advance, and she brings attention to these during the initial walk-through so the client has less stress throughout the sales process. These include:

  • Reduce clutter; make each room as clutter-free as possible.
  • Stage the home for a more open feel.
  • Provide the best pricing strategy to attract more buyers.
  • Maintain good curb appeal with attractive landscaping.
  • Keep the home well maintained to improve its value.

She also notes that a good real estate agent will put the buyers and sellers in touch with qualified tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians, who can address faulty problems within the home.

“My main goal is to make my clients’ life as stress-free as possible when buying or selling a home. Whatever it takes, I’m there for them.”

Spotlight on … Carolyn Maloney & Jacqueline Cabrera

Meet Century 21 Cedarcrest’s very own dynamic duo, Carolyn Maloney and Jacqueline Cabrera. Carolyn has been with Century 21 Cedarcrest from the very start of her real estate career and Jackie joined us about 18 months ago. They teamed up last year to work not only on area listings but on community outreach projects as well and we couldn’t be prouder of these two!

Carolyn, a lifelong resident of Essex County, came to Century 21 Cedarcrest after a career in teaching. In fact, the Cedarcrest real estate agent who sold her the home in Cedar Grove where she still lives convinced her to make the switch; she’s been with our office ever since obtaining her real estate license in 1988.
“The thought of being able to do for other people what he had done for me and my family interested me. I’ve been very happy at Century 21 Cedarcrest and never had a reason to leave, which is unusual in our business,” says Carolyn.

Among her more unusual transactions, Carolyn once listed a house in Ireland, a small row house with a coal-burning stove as its heat source. “I took care of referral from here over to Ireland and oversaw the transaction, working with the “solicitors” (lawyers) and “estate agents” there,” she explained.

Carolyn appreciates the agency’s professional development offerings and takes advantage of outside training and motivational programs whenever possible to keep up her real estate game.

“You have to keep learning and stay on top of it. I always walk away with something important that I either didn’t know or was reminded of,” she said.

After all these years, Carolyn’s favorite part of the job is still finding people something they really love. “It’s nice to pair a customer with a place they’ll really enjoy. I especially look out for women who are alone, making sure they find a property that’s safe.”

For Jackie, it’s helping first-time buyers or sellers. “I love walking them through the entire experience from start to finish,” she said. She also enjoys holding open houses. “I like meeting new people who are potential clients and helping them find the next place they can call home.”

She says her degree in psychology and her background in customer service help her when she meets new clients. “In real estate, we have to read people and ask the right questions in order to understand what they like, so that we show them the right properties.”

Of her first year in real estate, Jackie says, “The real-life experience of real estate is different from what you learn in the books—and very different from the TV shows! In between the hands-on experience and our in-office training, I’m finding that you never stop learning.”

Jackie understands well why Carolyn has worked her entire real estate career at Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty. “Our environment is very different from other offices and I’m very comfortable here. You can tell that (broker owner) John Sass genuinely cares about us and everyone here is willing to help. We have Susan Mazzetta’s in-house training and whenever I have an issue I can’t resolve, I know I can tap John, Susan or Dennis DiSabato, our sales manager, for their input.”

She is also learning a great deal from Carolyn; they’ve been working together in a mentor-mentee relationship for about year, and quickly realized that their different styles, skills and work experience make them an excellent team. Together, they have been marketing to home buyers as well as sellers; they recently have shifted their attention to first-time home sellers who may need a knowledgeable assistance with the listing and selling process.

It could be argued, however, that their finest work has been their beautification project they undertook in Caldwell.

While exploring Brookside Avenue in Caldwell, the women were invited into the home of an older woman who was upset about a neglected patch of land that was a neighborhood eyesore. Carolyn and Jackie decided to adopt it and beautify it. They got permission from the mayor and town council to do so and in September 2016, they transformed the eyesore into a small, colorful garden. They now maintain it year ’round with seasonal plantings and in December, with holiday decorations as well.

Their next project: installing a tiny free lending library that sits on a pole, possibly in Verona, where Jackie now lives. “I was a teacher so getting people to read is important to me,” noted Carolyn. Jackie is talking to Verona officials to assess whether they can bring this community outreach project to her town.

Spotlight on … Tracy Chan

English, Mandarin or Cantonese—in any language, Tracy “Yaw” Chan is an award-winning real estate sales professional.

A native of Hong Kong, Tracy has been with Century 21 since 2002, helping clients buy, sell and lease residential and commercial properties in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris and Passaic counties. She joined Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty in the spring of 2016, having worked in previous years with broker owner John Sass.

“I was immediately comfortable here, because I knew quite a few of the agents,” says Tracy of her move to Century 21 Cedarcrest. “Plus, I really appreciate the in-house training classes, which are great reminders—even for experienced agents—about sales techniques, state guidelines and real estate technology.”

Since joining our office, she has continued her winning streak as a consistently high producer in both residential and commercial real estate, with numerous awards for sales and service. At the regional awards gala in March, Tracy took home two awards from Century 21 for production and service and the Century 21 Quality Service Producer Award for customer service; and a New Jersey Association of REALTORS® Circle of Excellence Sales Award® (silver), which recognizes excellence in salesmanship. She has won these awards many times throughout her real estate career, along with the Century 21 Masters Award in the ruby, emerald and diamond levels, the Centurion Award, President’s Award and the Quality Service Award.

Tracy is also a member of the NJAR Distinguished Sales Club, recognized for 10 or more years of excellence. Her many positive reviews on Zillow speak volumes about her patience, willingness to go the extra mile, her responsiveness and her ability to navigate both residential and commercial property transactions with efficiency and ease.

Prior to entering the real estate field, Tracy was the operations manager for a Turkish shipping company, where she became an expert at working with international business professionals. She holds an MBA in computer science from City University of New York, which she puts to use every day using Century 21’s real estate listing technology tools.

“My computer science background has enabled me to take full advantage of the latest real estate listing technology tools with ease,” says Tracy. “And, having taught piano in the past, I find that teaching experience has enhanced my listening and communication skills, which are so vital when working with home buyers or sellers.”

Tracy also holds the National Association of REALTORS® Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® (SFR) certification. This has provided her with a strong framework in which to work with sellers and buyers in this niche, developing short-sale packages, qualifying sellers and directing them to other professionals they need for these delicate transactions, and protecting buyers. In addition, she is a certified staging professional and an accredited buyer representative (ABR).

Of her switch 15 years ago to real estate, Tracy cites several factors that have brought her tremendous personal and professional satisfaction.

“I really like the variety and flexibility that a real estate career offers; every deal and every client is different, and I’ve been able to apply my diverse work and education experiences as well as my own cultural background, to something I really enjoy.”