Spotlight on … Dennis DiSabato

When we say real estate is in his blood, we really mean it! Dennis DiSabato is a third-generation REALTOR ® and real estate professional, having grown up in the business and learning a lot from his grandfather and father. In fact, his grandfather was a REALTOR before the National Association of Realtors ® even existed!

“I joke that when I was born, instead of a birth certificate they gave me a real estate license,” says Dennis, who is a broker, sales person and sales manager at Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty. As such, he uses his years of real estate experience to help our agents conduct the smoothest transactions possible and avoid hitting any bumps in the road to successful closings. Dennis joined Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty in 2010 after many years at the Terry Perko Agency in Little Falls.

Dennis has been very active in the local real estate community and its professional organizations, having first served in several leadership positions for the Arlington Kearny Board of Realtors (which later merged with the Meadowlands association), and as president of the Passaic County Board of REALTORS.

He considers himself a regional REALTOR, given his extensive experience that has truly spanned across northern New Jersey, from Netcong to Jersey City. Because he has represented so many sellers and buyers across the region over the years, Dennis is always ready to help our agents hone in on an area to better serve their customers.

“I can help someone zero in on the right towns and the homes within customers’ budgets before anyone has a chance to use the technology tools we have to find the information,” says Dennis. As his company bio states, in today’s fast paced, ever-changing market, there is no substitute for experience.

Here’s another thing Dennis stands by in today’s high-tech, low-touch world: personal communication and in-person service. He notes that working in such a time-sensitive industry, a phone call is more targeted and that verbal communication will help rectify a misunderstanding quickly as well as soothe jittery buyers or sellers—something a text or email cannot always do.

Of his managerial capacity at the agency, Dennis says that anything the sales people are encountering, he’s likely already dealt with, and has plenty of tips to share throughout the course of the transaction to ensure contracts make it to closing.

He also helps our sales people differentiate themselves from the thousands of others out there, when it comes to signing a listing and working with customers throughout the life of the transaction. He says it’s all about providing the personal touch, such as fully vetting buyers and presenting offers in person rather than electronically (a little old-school touch that goes far when it comes to customer service!). He also says a good real estate agent must be the best listener around, which is part of Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty’s consultative approach to real estate sales.

As testament to his sales ability, Dennis is a long-time member of the New Jersey Association of REALTORS’ distinguished Million Dollar Sales Club and a recipient of its Circle of Excellence award. He stays at the top of his game by attending continuing education seminars on a regular basis, picking up tips to refresh his presentation of offers or ways to communicate with buyers.

“Knowledge doesn’t make the sale, it’s the emotion,” says Dennis. “The real estate agent needs to find out their personal motivation behind the move and hone in on their hot spots; they might not even know what they want or don’t like. A real estate professional determines what’s really important to buyers, through listening and experiencing various homes with the customer. You can show them something they didn’t think they wanted, and then they realize it’s the perfect home for them because you listened.”

Spotlight on … Susan Mazzetta, Director of Career Development

Legions of New Jersey real estate agents owe their success to the training and expertise they received from Susan Mazzetta, Century 21 Cedarcrest’s director of career development. Susan puts her 30+ years of experience as a real estate executive (management, sales, training, and recruiting) into every training seminar and career development program we hold for our agents, both new and seasoned. A nationally certified trainer, Susan has also attended Century 21 corporate training classes and incorporates some of the techniques and insights into our office’s training and career development.

Among the key aspects of real estate that Susan teaches are how to create listings that get noticed, developing sales strategies, phone techniques, how to handle expired listings and specialty listings such as for sale by owner (FSBO), and negotiating. In fact, negotiating is a key area of Susan’s expertise.

“There are four skills that agents bring to the transaction: the ability to merchandise and stage the property, marketing to reach the right buyer, networking, and negotiating. This final stage is so important to achieve a smooth outcome; the agents learn how to not only negotiate with buyers or sellers but also to understand the entire contract process, which I also teach them.”

Regarding her training on listing and marketing strategies, Susan says that “I coach the agents to find the essence of the house and discover the potential buyer for that. Then, we design a program to appeal to a specific target buyer.” She helps Century 21 Cedarcrest’s agents develop marketing strategies that appeal to both the public as well as other real estate agents, and says it’s important to present alternative ways to draw prospective buyers, such as twilight or progressive open houses for people who work during the day or have flexible schedules. Exceeding the expectations of the people they serve is a mantra she drives home to every new agent in the office.

“Susan motivates and builds our team with great skill,” said John Sass, broker/owner of Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty. “The results of her trainings are seen in the increase of our agents’ production levels year after year by teaching them to be better salespeople.”

Susan believes that in order to work well with clients—whether home sellers or home buyers, even builders and developers—a real estate agent needs to adapt to who they are working with and gauge clients where they are in order to develop a strong working relationship. “There is something great in everyone if you look for it. Find what makes them shine and build up those special aspects, whether it’s a client or another real estate agent you are working with on a transaction.”

She also recruits agents to join the Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty team. In order to succeed, she says agents must have a passion for this career, be highly motivated and attentive to details, and provide outstanding customer service. Of the many people she meets at career seminars, she notes that people who enjoyed service- and sales-related careers in the past make great real estate agents. “They are organized and caring, a great combination for a successful agent.”

To stay at her peak, Susan continues her own real estate education in order to incorporate new technologies and techniques into her training. She has been recognized with many industry awards for her numerous sales achievements and has served as director for a variety of new home communities throughout the state. Before Susan joined Century 21 Cedarcrest, she was an agent, manager, and corporate trainer for several nationally known real estate brands. She also ran the sales offices for five distinctive condominium developments in northern New Jersey and worked with an exclusive clientele while at Sotheby’s and Previews’ high-end divisions.

In addition to training and professional development, Susan is a certified fine homes and estates specialist and a broker/associate in Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty’s Fine Homes & Estates division. However, she says that, “Recruiting and training are where I am most comfortable and feel I can make the biggest impact. I enjoy helping agents succeed, so when I was offered the opportunity here, I knew this was a great fit.”

When asked about her favorite part of her job, she responds that, “If I can inspire someone to reach the next level, if I had any effect on them to build their career, that’s my reward. Being a part of the Century 21 Cedarcrest team and seeing the combination of energy and spirit in our office as agents reach for the highest level of real estate service—that’s what inspires me in return.”

Creating a Zen Garden for Your New Jersey Backyard

Zen—or dry—gardens date back to the late 14th century, when Zen Buddhist priests created these austere gardens for meditation and appreciation of beauty. These gardens had no water features; the priests created a feeling of water with rocks, even raking them to get a ripple-like appearance.

Zen gardens are appearing in backyards across northern New Jersey as well, taking a cue from Asian traditions by keeping the focus on nature. Homeowners may choose to create these gardens—made primarily of stone and gravel, often enhanced with moss, small plants or shrubs, and rock formations—to avoid having to water; others choose to install these for the quiet contemplation they invite and the serenity they provide. And, they are easy to maintain and are weatherproof. The homeowner needs simply to rake the gravel or sand, in desired designs. The very act of this raking can be in itself a meditation and is meant to be relaxing. Raked designs are often made to look like waves or streams.

Although they appear simple on the surface, Zen gardens have a complexity that is revealed as one takes time to enjoy the space. The homeowner takes an active (albeit, relaxing) role in changing the raked design, then stepping back to contemplate and enjoy it. The carefully groomed sand is meant to provide a refuge from the world.

Today’s Zen gardens may include enhancements such as ponds, bridges, lighting and sculpture but the raked sand and fine gravel are the canvas upon which these sit.

Designing your Zen Garden

This starts by defining the space: a corner of an existing garden, part of your yard or even the whole yard. Do some research or visit other Zen or Asian gardens for ideas about topography and the hardscape (the stone work). Do you want to include water or not? What about lighting?

Whatever you do, think nature—a space with rough edges. Plants are not the main attraction so select a few specimen plants that will enhance the design because of their color or texture. Also consider seasonal changes; in northern New Jersey we experience all four seasons very distinctly and so does plant life.

Then it’s time for your hardscape materials:

  • Stone – the structural basis for your Zen garden. Stepping stones, formations, borders, designs.
  • Pebbles – think river-rounded pebbles of various sizes that will create the fields, surround plants and outline paths.
  • Sand or fine gravel – this is used to create the illusion of water, raked as anything from a dry riverbed to roiling waves and ripples – the choice (and the fun) is all yours.

Other enhancements may include bamboo panels, statues (such as one of Buddha), low lighting (stone or concrete housing blends in best), and a koi fish pond. The plants you choose should offer some texture and color. Your landscaping professional or high-quality garden center should be able to make some smart suggestions.

You can find inspiration and ideas for your Zen garden on Pinterest and there are plenty of sources online or in your public library.

Adding a Zen garden to your New Jersey property will certainly make your home stand out, and will provide you with many tranquil hours enjoying and reconfiguring your creation.

Getting Ready to List Your Home – Steps You Can Take to Add Value for Buyers

Getting your home prepared for a listing with a real estate agency is an exciting time. Of course, your agent will want to be excited about your listing and bring as many qualified prospects as possible. Is your real estate professional providing you with guidance about how to add value to your home? These home maintenance and repair tips will help you increase your chances of a sale more quickly.

De-clutter and organize. No one wants to step through clutter, look in rooms or closets that are overflowing with unnecessary items, or have to imagine what the space could look like without a homeowners personal effects clouding the “scenery.” Before you list your home for sale, start going through all the rooms, from attic to basement, and clean out and organize. You can create piles for discard, donate and store; once you’ve done the first two, it’s time to organize your storage needs. Closet storage systems will help you keep clothes organized and make a great presentation. Garage and basement storage solutions are also available to keep items off the floor and in a safe place.

Refresh rooms with paint. That first impression will be largely influenced by the look and feel of your rooms. After you’ve cleaned and cleared, a fresh coat of paint in neutral colors will help rooms look larger and make prospective buyers feel better about your space. Bright colors might be your style but not theirs so avoid making too much of a “statement” in your color choice.

Update bathroom fixtures. Swap out those tired old bathroom faucets and the old sink; install a new vanity or a shower head; or put on new toilet seats if necessary. You need not spend lots of money to do these simple updates and a little goes a long way. Remember, clean and new is better than tired and worn.

Update kitchen appliances and fixtures. If this is in your budget, it is well worth the expenditure on this end of the sales process. There’s no need for a full remodel but a face lift is well worth it for making a quicker sale. New cabinet doors and hardware or a new sink or new faucet with sprayer (a popular feature) are good investments. If you can swing it and your dishwasher or refrigerator are outdated, consider installing new models that prospective home buyers will appreciate.

Boost your curb appeal. Landscaping and driveway appearance are what prospective home buyers will see first—and will encourage or discourage them about coming inside for a closer look. Get your lawn in shape, plant your garden beds, prune your trees and shrubs. Outdoor lighting is also a benefit, from the front porch to the walkway or gardens. If the driveway is in poor shape, have it repaired.

Make necessary exterior repairs. In addition to the driveway, your front steps should be in good condition; your gutters should be in place and doing their jobs to prevent water damage to the home; missing roof shingles should be replaced; problems with paver or concrete walkways, your sidewalk, patio and deck (where applicable) should be remediated. Remember, you don’t want to give anyone a reason to walk away (and you wouldn’t want anyone to trip and get hurt).

Insulate for energy efficiency. One way to show prospective home buyers that your home is prepared for 21st century living is to add insulation in order to improve your energy efficiency and reduce heating and cooling costs. This is a also good time to look at your windows to see where you can seal any seams or cracks where air penetrates.

At Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we guide our clients to make sure their homes are in “ready for sale” condition, in order to make the sales process as stress-free as possible for everyone involved. As part of our client service, our real estate agents will go over what we feel your home needs to prepare it for a listing, and help you hash out the pros and cons of certain upgrades and repairs. Want to find out more about the best way to sell your home in Essex County or other northern New Jersey areas? Call Century 21 Cedarcrest at (973) 228-1050 or visit our website to get started.

When Less is More in Real Estate

Of all the things that can be most damaging in real estate, clutter tops the list. For many, this just means that the house needs tidied or the shelves need to be cleaned up a bit or even removed. For others, some major outdoor and indoor work may be necessary. The goal here is to maximize the concept of space. Even a large room looks small when it’s cluttered, but even a small room can look large when it’s not cluttered. Use the tips here, but listen to specifics from your real estate agent, who has to experience to know what really matters in your home specifically.

 

De-Personalize the House

 

You may enjoy collecting all sorts of things, but you aren’t trying to impress a buyer with your decorating skills. Instead, you are trying to offer a buyer an open canvas, a place where he or she can imagine their own collections and how they would personalize the space. Consider removing shelves and pictures from the wall, but also make sure to clean up the marks to give a smooth, open appearance.

 

Manage the Landscaping

 

Take a walk around your house, starting at the front. This is the first impression that people have when they come to see if your house is the one they want to invest in. Make sure to clean up any clutter and put away most of the decorations. This is especially true if you happen to have religious decorations. It may be difficult, but you need to keep your personal beliefs out of the buyer’s mind so they can focus on the major aspects of the house itself.

 

Once you have the front yard covered, try cleaning up the back. It’s fine to have your patio furniture out, especially if it goes with the house. Just try to avoid the decorations. It might even be a great time to thin the flowers so they can see what is there, but also see that there is plenty of room for their own interests.

 

Keep in mind that the buyer is looking for a home that fits them and their interests. They want to see if they can make this property fit their lifestyle, not if they can move in to your lifestyle.

Modeling to the Target Buyer

It is hard enough to part with a home you love without trying to imagine that someone will use it in a way you wouldn’t like. If you have the time and the luxury of seeking out a target buyer, then by all means, make the effort to do so. Some houses just suit particular people better. For example, if you own an urban dwelling with a concrete backyard and swimming pool, your realtor probably isn’t going to try and target buyers who are looking for a quiet country dwelling where they can garden all summer long.

 

Maximize Focal Points

 

If your home has specific features that make it perfect for a certain type of lifestyle, you will want to make those features stand out when you market to a specific audience. You might also ask yourself what you can add that would make it even more appealing. If your property has a greenhouse, will you be leaving any supplies so that the owner can use it right away? Those little things can let a buyer know they can start in on their hobbies immediately, without an added expense on top of a new home purchase.

 

Allow for Immersion

 

Some properties aren’t set up so much for hobbies as they are other elements. You will want to be able to immerse your guests in the experience so they can enjoy it with all their senses. Are you trying to demonstrate that your home is a quiet safe haven from the world? Offer a viewing when the neighborhood kids are at school or make sure to do most of the welcoming in the soundproof room. These are the details that can really capture a buyer’s attention. Make the most of them.

 

Avoid Advice

 

Just as much as you want to market to specific buyers, you also want to avoid leaving hints or advice. This is the start of a new journey for them so they will want to do it their way. In the meantime, you don’t want to have to think about them doing things differently than you would because that can limit your pleasure with the experience.

 

Best Season to Sell a Home

Knowing what the best season is to buy or sell a home is just the tip of the iceberg. Believe it or not, there are also best days to list a home or make an offer. Sometimes the best days to buy and sell coincide, but not always. That becomes important when you go from listing your home to shopping for a new one. It can also make a difference in how you or your broker or agent manages your sale or purchase.

 

Spring is the Busy Season

 

Hands down, spring is the busiest season to buy or sell a home. The weather is starting to warm up, but it is not so hot that people don’t want to get out and about. If anything, they are dying to get out of the house. However, this is also the season when your yard looks the worst because the snow just melted and revealed what was left after a long winter. Be sure to spruce things up a bit before you list your home.

 

January Starts Things Off

 

January doesn’t just start the new year, but is probably the best month to start making offers on homes. Most people are waiting for spring to arrive so they can get out and about in comfort. For a home buyer, this means that there is far less competition than there is going to be in a couple of months. For the home seller, it may bring some much needed relief after an expensive winter.

 

Tuesday and Thursday

 

Tuesday and Thursday have a special significance in the real estate world. The first Tuesday of the month is the day that many mortgage payments are due. That means it is a perfect day to make an offer on a house. The owner just made a payment that they really don’t care to make anymore, so they will be more inclined to accept and offer.

 

Thursday is the day to list a house. During the week, people are busy working and they may not have much time to patiently explore what’s for sale. Thursday posting will be listed as new listing over the weekend, so they are sure to get plenty of views.