CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty Is Collection Site for Marines Toys for Tots Foundation

North Jersey Real Estate Agency is Helping to Brighten Holidays for Underprivileged Children with Annual Toy Drive; Encourages Area Residents to Help Support Needy Families


CALDWELL, N.J., November 25, 2019 – CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, Inc., a real estate agency with offices in Caldwell and Little Falls, N.J., is a host site for the U.S. Marines’ annual Toys for Tots toy and fund drive. This is the 12th year in a row that Century 21 Cedarcrest is supporting the charitable effort.

Area residents are encouraged to drop off new, boxed and unwrapped toys and games at either of the Cedarcrest Realty offices, at 460 Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell or 44 Main Street in Little Falls, until December 15, 2019. Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and on weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The donated toys and games will be delivered by the Cedarcrest Realty team to the Marines at the official drop-off site in Dover; the items will be distributed to less fortunate families and children from babies to teens, through various non-profit organizations.

The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources—our children; to unite all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign; and to contribute to better communities in the future.

“My associates and I feel strongly about giving back to others in the communities we serve and are honored to support the Toys for Tots initiative every year,” said John Sass, broker owner of CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty. “In addition to toys and games, we also encourage our neighbors to consider giving a monetary donation on the Toys for Tots website, www.toysfortots.org, to brighten the holidays for families in need.”

For more information about what to donate, contact CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty at (973) 228-1050. For more information about the award-winning real estate brokerage, visit http://century21cedarcrest.com/.

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About Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty, Inc.
Located in Caldwell, N.J., CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, Inc. (Cedarcrest Realty) works with property buyers and sellers throughout northern New Jersey, including Morris, Essex, Passaic, and Bergen counties. Under the guidance of broker/owner John Sass, nearly 70 real estate agents and REALTORs® work in both residential and commercial real estate. Sass joined the CENTURY 21® Real Estate System as a real estate associate in 1983, and advanced to Management in 1987. He is a licensed broker in the State of New Jersey, as well as a graduate of the REALTOR® Institute (GRI). In 2018, CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty was designated a Certified Commercial Specialist by CENTURY 21 Real Estate LLC.

About John Sass

How the SALT Deduction is Affecting NJ Real Estate Market

Photo Credit: Denise Kappa

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act took effect for taxpayers upon filing their 2018 tax returns earlier this year. One of the biggest changes felt by homeowners in New Jersey—the state with the highest property taxes in the nation—was the state and local tax (SALT) deductions which include property, income, and sales taxes.

Property tax deductions
The SALT deduction allows taxpayers in high-tax states to deduct their local tax payments on their federal tax returns. Before the 2018 tax year, no maximum limits were attached to that deduction amount. Anyone who itemizes can deduct property taxes; the other taxes are their choice.

However, the new tax law placed a cap, for those who claim deductions, of $10,000 for income and property taxes. Ouch! Especially for homeowners in high-end markets, with homes valued at $1 million-plus, that cap represents an enormous drop in the deduction from what those taxpayers were claiming just two years ago.

In northern New Jersey—particularly in highly taxed municipalities in Bergen, Essex, and Passaic counties—these deductions for taxpayers who itemize were highly valued when filing their federal tax returns.

As our friend Joseph Isabella, a loan officer at Investors Bank illustrated in a recent presentation to our Cedarcrest team, “If you are paying $25,000 in income taxes to NJ and $25,000 in property taxes to your North Jersey town, that $50,000 deduction goes down to $10,000.” This is certainly affecting wealthier taxpayers, who now pay a higher tax bill to the federal government. However, middle-class Americans who itemize (or had itemized), and who pay substantial property taxes, have also felt the pinch.

Mortgage interest and home equity/HELOC deductions
Another reason why the TCJA affects those with high-value homes is that the bill also reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt.

  • For loans taken out after December 15, 2017, the cap is $750,000. Loans existing on December 15, 2017 of up to $1 million are not subject to the new $750,000 cap (they are grandfathered in). This figure is based on married filing jointly status; for a married filing separately or a single filer, the cap is half ($375,000).
  • If you have a loan of up to $1 million that existed on that mid-December date, you may refinance it and still deduct the interest. However, the new loan must not exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced.
  • Interest is still deductible on second homes, subject to the $1 million/$750,000 limits.
  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminates the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit for tax years 2018-2025 unless you use(d) those funds to purchase, renovate or substantially improve your primary or second home (any personal expenses are excluded, such as education or debt consolidation).

While high-net-worth individuals are seeing the biggest impact on their tax returns, the loss in deductions could be offset by the decrease of the top federal income tax rate, the doubling of the estate tax deduction, and the cutting of the capital gains rate.

Taking a broader view, these deduction limits may not have the negative effect many people fear. Due to their income or tax bracket, many taxpayers don’t qualify for itemization on their tax returns and/or are best served taking the (now higher) standard deduction. For taxpayers who are single or married but filing separately, the standard deduction is $12,000. For heads of households, it is $18,000 and $24,000 for the married filing jointly taxpayers.

Yes, New Jersey has high property taxes, but it also has some great places to live—with lots of town services and strong school systems supported by those local property taxes. John Sass, broker owner of CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, notes that, “Prior to buying or selling a home, consumers should consult with their tax advisors/accountants to see how the new tax laws may affect them, given their particular circumstances. This is especially true now as 2020 approaches. With lots of numbers to crunch and tax strategies to consider, it’s a great time to talk about tax matters related to real estate transactions with your trusted advisor.”

It’s also a great time to come talk to our real estate professionals at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty. Whether you’re looking for a new home or putting yours on the market, our team’s expertise in North Jersey real estate will help make the process a smooth one, every step of the way.

On the Market for a Home? Here are Five Considerations Before You Buy.

Are you a first-time home buyer? If so, here are five issues into consideration as you engage in your house hunt. Doing so will help avoid surprises that could bog down your transaction.

Is now the right time for you to buy?

This depends somewhat on your career situation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure of workers of ages 55 to 64 is 10.1 years, while for workers ages 25 to 34, it is only 2.8 years on average. If a distant job relocation is in the foreseeable future or career advancement is likely to take you out of the area, consider remaining a renter for now. Conventional wisdom is that you need to stay in the home for at least five years in order to recoup the amount of money you spent to purchase it.

Identify your housing criteria

Do you have a “dream home” in mind? Are you willing to modify your dream? After all, no house is totally perfect. We suggest you:

  • Create a list of absolute musts and reasons why—such as the town (for the school district, town services, property tax rate, environment), style and size of house, proximity to work, public transportation, etc.
  • Be flexible. Cosmetic updates may be needed in an otherwise great house so don’t let those deter you. If you like a house that needs a lot of work but has great bones, ask if the selling price is negotiable enough to make a reasonable offer.

What can you afford—including closing costs?

Set yourself up for success by first developing a budget that includes how much down payment and monthly mortgage payments you can afford. Then, look at the closing fees you’ll have to cover at time of loan settlement. These are fees paid to various third parties as part of expediting and closing the transaction.

As the home buyer, you are expected to cover most of those closing costs (3-4% of the home’s price) compared to what the seller will. Included are:

  • Title company closing fee for the representative who supervises the title transfer
  • Title search – this ensures there are no liens on the property to prevent you from buying it
  • Lender’s title insurance – protects the mortgage lender if something was overlooked in the title search
  • Document recording fees (deed and mortgage)
  • Loan origination fee – paperwork processing
  • Home appraisal
  • Home inspection
  • Survey fee (single-family homes, townhomes)
  • Escrow deposit – usually covers two months of prepaid property taxes and mortgage insurance payments
  • Taxes on money you borrowed for your home loan
  • Discount/mortgage points – paid to your lender in exchange for a lower interest rate, which has great long-term value
  • PMI, or private mortgage insurance, if you put down less than 20 percent of the purchase price
  • Other fees include running your credit report, underwriting and assessing your creditworthiness, wire/courier fees, attorney fees, and real estate agent commission

Federal law mandates that mortgage lenders provide borrowers with a loan estimate form in advance of the closing, denoting all the approximate closing costs. You may opt to roll the closing costs into the mortgage, but you’ll be paying interest on that amount for the life of the loan.

NOTE: If buying a condominium, get as much information as you can about the homeowners association fees/common area charges, the regulations regarding home improvements in your unit, and the association’s track record on maintenance and repairs.

Check your credit report

As noted above, the lender will be doing so and so should you. Contact Equifax, Experian and/or TransUnion for your free annual report. You want your credit score (FICO score) to be high enough to qualify you for a favorable rate. Clean up any outdated or incorrect information you find on the report right away. Scores in the 750-850 range are considered excellent, 700-749 is good. Anything below 650 is considered poor, making you a credit risk in lenders’ eyes.

Work with CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty

Searching for a home—whether as a first-time buyer or a seasoned residential real estate owner—is exciting but with all the details, it can be bit daunting and time-consuming. At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, our real estate professionals are dedicated to producing the best outcomes for every customer. When you work with our team, you’ll be with people who work tirelessly to help you navigate your real estate experience—with enthusiasm, confidence, and a passion for superior service—all backed by the industry-leading CENTURY 21® system and tools.

Contact us to get started on your journey to home ownership, or to find your next great home. We’re specialists in Essex County and Passaic County, NJ, and represent buyers and sellers from municipalities throughout North Jersey.

Agent spotlight on . . . Bob Prall & Eddie Modica

As we know, real estate is a relationship business . . . and it turns out, relationships are what brought two of our newest real estate associates to CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty.

Bob Prall joined our team in the Caldwell office after completing real estate school and getting his license in July. Dennis DiSabato, our Caldwell sales manager, sold Bob and his family their current home 15 years ago.

He ran into Dennis a few months ago by chance and mentioned he’d been thinking about getting into real estate. “We talked about it and I saw that it would be the perfect option for me because I like to help people. With his encouragement, I decided to pursue it.” He chose CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty because, “Given Dennis’ professionalism and integrity, I wanted to be at CENTURY 21, period!”

A lifelong Little Falls resident, Bob is a former volunteer fireman and a 20-year veteran of the Little Falls Police Department, he chose real estate as he looks to a future transition from assisting people as a sergeant on the streets to helping people find the home of their dreams.

“I’m a problem solver by nature and have worked with many people of all backgrounds during stressful times, helping them through their situation to see the bigger picture,” explained Bob.

He enjoys real estate investing (and owns a rental property), so he is eager to help others as Dennis had done for his family. He also appreciates the flexibility real estate allows in his schedule plus, in his words, “the help factor.” He loves meeting and talking to new people and with his personal real estate experience, he’s excited about the potential.

“I know the job is all about building relationships and helping people-and I always feel good when I’m able to do so in my police work. Real estate has become a passion of mine that I wasn’t able to tap into until now; it will be the key to opening new doors for me.”

Eddie Modica of Totowa has joined our Little Falls office full time, grateful to have left behind an unfulfilling “cubicle job.” He’d been interested in real estate for some time; a meaningful conversation with a friend (a real estate professional) and a friendly nudge from long-time pal Chris Malatesta in our Little Falls office, gave him the impetus to make the move.

“I had a conversation with my friend on a Wednesday, enrolled in real estate school the following week, got my license in July, and joined CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty right away,” said Eddie. “I’ve wanted a career that involves customer service and working directly with people for a long time-and something I could really take pride in. This is it.”

Having grown up in Woodland Park, Eddie knows the Passaic County area well. Chris brought him into the Little Falls office and Eddie was very impressed with the environment-from the team to the technology.

“Visiting there made my decision a lot easier,” he said. He noticed right away-and has experienced firsthand-how friendly and helpful everyone is. “They want you to succeed and everyone is willing to lend a hand. John Sass has been great and there are so many opportunities and resources there.”

Eddie’s looking forward to developing his own book of business as well. “A career in real estate is what you make of it which is exciting to me. No more punching the clock; I can build a more fulfilling future with endless possibilities here at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty.”

He is signing up for all the classes we offer to our agents at all levels of experience and was LUXE certified (Luxury Listing Specialist) in August.

“Training and support leads to professional growth for our sales associates as well as growth for our offices,” said broker owner John Sass. “The performance-based training we offer on an ongoing basis ensures that our Cedarcrest Realty agents are always delivering great service and that they’re operating at their highest level.”

Agent spotlight on . . . Chris Malatesta

Chris has been working in real estate for over 22 years, after a successful career in home construction. So how did he go from installing siding, windows and roofing to helping people buy and sell their homes?

“My mother used to work at a real estate agency and the broker suggested I get my real estate license,” explained Chris. “I took his advice and never looked back.” Since that time, Chris has worked primarily in Passaic Valley area—Totowa, Little Falls, and Woodland Park.

Before joining CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, Chris, who lives in Totowa, worked at several independent and national real estate offices in Passaic County, handling mostly residential transactions. When we opened CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, Little Falls, he joined our team there.

“I already knew broker owner John Sass, so I knew I’d be joining a strong outfit,” said Chris. “Plus, it was very appealing to come into a new office with Cedarcrest’s expansion in Passaic County.”

He was also attracted to the breadth of training classes CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest provides, for sales associates at all levels of experience. “They offer so much professional development there, with seminars about sales techniques and real estate technology, classes to work towards different designations . . . there’s so much available. Plus CENTURY 21 has some great online tools that make it so much easier now to manage our pipeline and transaction process,” he added.

Although Chris enjoys helping his clients realize the lifestyle they aspire to through the home buying process, he also enjoys the challenges that the real estate field brings to him as a sales associate. If a client asks about something he doesn’t typically run across, he simply gets it handled.

“I’ll research the issue and tap my network for the right pros to get the job done. After more than 20 years in real estate, I know that a key to success in this business is to never disappoint your clients, and do whatever it takes to ensure a smooth transaction.”

We certainly agree with that credo at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty!

In the Office, at an Expo, Online or at an Open House: Real Estate Marketing Happens in Many Places for Cedarcrest Realty’s Team

Three of the real estate professionals from CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty recently attended the North Jersey Woman Expo at Mayfair Farms in West Orange. Paula Cano, Carolyn Maloney and Lizette Brown were at our exhibitor table, handing out giveaways (including snacks labeled with their contact information) and chatting it up with attendees about the local real estate market.

This was the third year that Carolyn has represented us at the expo and a first for Paula and Lizette, who left with many leads to follow up on from people who may be planning to buy or sell a home in the area in the foreseeable future. Lizette had information to share about a new listing that had just come in for her team, so the expo provided good marketing exposure for that.

More good exposure came from our gift basket raffle; the basket drew people’s attention to our table and many stopped by to leave a business card for the drawing. This provided additional opportunities for our agents to speak to them about what we do at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest. As it so happens, the woman who won the basket is currently renovating her home in anticipation of putting it on the market. Given that she had a chance to chat with Paula at the show, Paula is now following up about and will meet with her to do a comprehensive market analysis for the house.

When our agents are not at business expos meeting hundreds of people, they are busy cultivating and working listings in other ways. For example, Carolyn and Jacqueline Cabrera, who often work as a team, have visited a condominium community across the street from our Caldwell office to hand out flower and herb seeds, along with information on how to cultivate balcony gardens. They have struck up conversations with condo residents and let residents know about the agency, should they know anyone interested in moving into the area—or if any residents are ready to upsize to a single-family home in northern New Jersey.

Of course, as part of the CENTURY 21® system, our entire team has access to the real estate industry’s best sales tools to get our listings in front of more prospects, and help prospective buyers find the types of properties they want and that are worth a look. There is always someone on site in our two offices (Caldwell and Little Falls) to assist by phone or in person during business hours. And we offer flexible open house schedules—such as twilight open houses—that help draw more people at the times they are available to attend.

Whether you’re buying or selling . . . on the market for a residential or commercial property . . . CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty is here to help in all ways possible!

Agent spotlight on . . . Michelle Christenson

Michelle Christenson loves CENTURY 21® and Little Falls so much, she couldn’t stay away! Having worked at another CENTURY 21 office for about 14 years earlier in her career—which had been located in Little Falls—Michelle reached out to John Sass to discuss joining Cedarcrest Realty when she heard about our new Little Falls office. She was more recently with another group, and was eager to rejoin CENTURY 21 and work in Little Falls.

“It’s so nice to be back at CENTURY 21,” said Michelle, a licensed REALTOR® in New Jersey for 19 years. “The system and support is superior to what is available at competitors, no question. And I’m delighted to be working at Cedarcrest Realty with a great team of real estate agents. Once I talked to John, I knew it was a good fit for me.”

Although she and John have not worked together before, their paths have crossed many times in the North Jersey real estate world, and she contacted him when she knew she was ready to make a change. Michelle said she is excited about the opportunities in Passaic County.

“There is a lot of new development in Little Falls, townhouses are going up in the area, and it’s an expanding market. Plus, downtown Little Falls is experiencing a resurgence that’s been great to see. I really like the area.”

Michelle, who lives in Cedar Grove, got into real estate when she was raising her children (who are now grown). As a career, it offered her the opportunity to arrange her schedule to meet family commitments while also meeting her customers’ needs. The flexibility has also enabled the lifelong animal lover to volunteer throughout the years with various animal rescue and foster organizations. But in real estate, for Michelle it’s all about the people.

“I love working with and helping all the different people I meet, from first-time home buyers to sellers. It’s the people aspect that keeps me in this business. Here I am, 19 years later and still loving it. And now that I’m back in Little Falls, I told John that’s it, I’m never leaving.”

Spotlight on . . . Nancy Scancarella

Nancy Scancarella waited until her children were a little older before going to work as a real estate agent . . . and wasted no time making her mark in the field.

That was 27 years ago and since then, the Woodland Park resident—who started her career in another CENTURY 21® office—became a licensed real estate broker and later ran a boutique real estate agency for another company. She joined the CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty team in November 2018.

“I’d had a good experience the first time around with CENTURY 21®, so I was delighted when the opportunity came along to work with John Sass at Cedarcrest Realty. I’m looking forward to building up the new Little Falls office,” said Nancy. (At the time of this writing, we are nearly done with the extensive renovations to our new space at 44 Main Street in the heart of Little Falls.)

Nancy loves the energy that many of the younger agents bring to CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, as well as the training programs and technology that help her to better serve her customers.

“All the new programs are great and the training at Cedarcrest is phenomenal,” said Nancy, “especially for seasoned agents who may not adopt new technology as readily. John and Susan Mazzetta (director of training & development) made it so easy to understand, learn, and use.”

While she acknowledges that many of today’s buyers are doing a lot of research online, Nancy feels that the experience and insights of a real estate agent remain a valuable part of the transaction. For instance, she noted that the information posted on various sites is sometimes inaccurate or out of date, or not pertinent to the area, which can misguide home buyers and sellers.

“Although today’s customers are very savvy, it is so important to gain their trust at the outset, and show them what your real estate expertise brings to their home buying or selling experience,” said Nancy. “We know the towns—the neighborhoods, schools and taxes—from our own firsthand knowledge as well as from industry resources and tools that are not available to consumers.”

Nancy especially loves working with first-time home buyers, whose needs are generally different from others’. “You have to have the patience and willingness to show first-time buyers dozens of houses in many different areas, as they hone in on the type of house they want, the towns they like, and what they can afford,” she explained. ‘I enjoy nurturing them along the path to home ownership and it’s so rewarding when we get to that closing.”

Having raised her family in Totowa and having worked before in Little Falls, Nancy really knows Passaic County well. However, she’s also worked with home buyers and sellers up through northern Bergen County and throughout Essex County.

As for CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, Little Falls, Nancy is eager to get into the office and has brought five real estate sales associates with her. “It’s a new, modern office in the heart of Little Falls, which is developing into a great little walking downtown,” said Nancy. “I’m really excited about our potential here.”