How to Handle a Real Estate Bidding War

In northern New Jersey, the inventory of homes for sale has been relatively tight for several years, with more prospective buyers vying for homes on the market. That often means a bidding war, as home buyers attempt to be the one who gets the house they want.

Also driving this demand right now is the trend forecasted a couple of months ago (in the early weeks of the pandemic) and is now a reality—people are leaving the cities for more space in the suburbs. We’re seeing not only an increased number of people in our sales lead pipeline, but also where they are from—the majority being from congested urban areas outside of the suburban Essex County and Passaic County towns. These are well-qualified buyers, usually in their mid-30s and starting families. They are looking for homes across price ranges and they’re bringing large down payments to secure the home of their dreams.

That said, we’re seeing every property—whether single family or two-family (another popular property type right now) being bid upon by multiple buyers. Some properties are selling for $50,000 over asking price and, with tight inventory, many go to contract within a week, especially those that are priced right at market level and are professionally staged.

Here are some recommendations for buyers in a tight housing market, to engage smartly in a bidding war:

1 – Before you even go out to look at houses, get pre-approved for a mortgage. We cannot stress this enough. This is more rigorous than pre-qualification because the mortgage lender will run your credit, check your job information, and verify income. Based on that, the lender will tell you how much money the bank is prepared to lend you with a commitment to an actual amount (subject to appraisal).

2 – Make a larger-than-normal down payment. This shows you have serious intention of buying.

3 – Accelerate the time frame for making the second deposit after signing the contract (within 5 to 7 days instead of 10). As soon as the contract is signed, make that next payment!

4 – Accelerate the home inspection as well; get it done within one business week instead of two.

Advice to sellers
Before you put your house on the market, invest in cosmetic upgrades and basic repairs, like painting, refinishing floors or replacing old carpet, or replacing a tired-looking bathroom vanity. Fix what’s broken, clean out the attic, and organize the garage and the basement. Consider getting a pre-inspection so you’ll have a home inspector’s report on the major issues to take care of in advance.

Also invest in real estate staging to visually merchandise your home. A professionally staged home sells more quickly, and that more inviting interior may invite higher bids.

With a house that shows well and hungry buyers at your door, it’s tempting to accept the highest price; but at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we feel it’s more important to accept the strongest buyers (see list above). Terms are so important now, especially as people are dealing with the effects of the pandemic, with layoffs, furloughs, or reduced hours. You want to make sure the buyer can complete the contract process without issue. Your Cedarcrest Realty real estate agent, as your partner, can help you assess your buyer pool.

Contact us if you’re thinking of listing your home for sale in northern New Jersey, or if you’re looking for a great house that checks off all the boxes for you. We have two offices to serve you, in Caldwell (973) 228-1050 and Little Falls (973) 364-1111.

Buying and Selling Real Estate During the Pandemic

John Sass, broker owner of CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty

While we all work through the COVID-19 pandemic, the business of real estate continues in different ways. For homeowners wishing to sell and prospective buyers looking for their new home, conducting real estate transactions continues, with modifications.

CENTURY 21® Real Estate LLC has been a national leader in real estate technology, with strong marketing and listing tools. Technology now plays a central and highly visible role in how real estate is done now—from the virtual sales meetings that brokerages hold for their agents to virtual tours posted online for buyers.

Technology brings efficiency and safety
At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we had already been doing extensive virtual tours, created by our system automatically with images shot by professional photographers. These provide buyers with a full view of a home’s interior and exterior; they’re a great way for buyers to save time as they get a feel for home styles, narrow down their search to which properties to see in person, and make informed decisions about what they can afford. These video tours are augmented by floor plans of each home on the MLS listing, which further help buyers in their decision-making process.

Buyers appreciate the ability to view homes online at their convenience and from any distance; and in today’s environment, sellers appreciate that this limits the number of people coming into their home.

We also stay in touch with our customers via video chat and Facebook Live (as well as phone and email, of course) and are using various online meeting platforms to connect with our sales associates and strategic partners as more people work remotely.

Coronavirus safety protocols
Early in the pandemic, CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty implemented our nationwide system’s buyer and seller showing protocols, which are designed to protect all parties involved and ensure that everyone who works with our team is comfortable. In fact, we will only work with other professionals and customers who follow our prescribed safety measures.

  • Anyone entering a home must wear gloves, a mask, and shoe booties: real estate agents, buyers, photographers, appraisers, and home inspectors.
  • The homeowners are asked to turn on all the lights in the house and leave while the photographer is there to take pictures. This avoids unnecessary contact with light switches and people.
  • We conduct in-person, one-on-one showings only (no open houses). Again, all the lights are on in advance and buyers and agents (and sellers) adhere to the six-foot distancing rule.
  • Our agents must state in writing that they have not had the virus, as do all buyers and sellers with whom we do business. If any party to the transaction did have the virus, this must be disclosed, and all parties must acknowledge this and consent to moving forward.
  • Buyers must get preapprovals from their mortgage company before seeing a property. This limits the number of people viewing a home in a certain price range; and in today’s market, with historically low interest rates, this prequalification also benefits the buyer to lock into a low rate now.
  • Attorneys and title companies are working virtually, with electronic documents and e-signature capabilities for contactless paperwork and closings with limited contact.
  • Our two office locations are disinfected regularly, conference room use is limited, and measures are in place to reduce the potential for infection from secondary contact from surfaces.


At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, we have the experience, market knowledge, and real estate technology to adapt to the rapidly changing world we are now in. We have a range of listings—single-family homes, condos, and townhouses—in great suburban locations. After you’ve taken a few virtual video tours, contact us to arrange a showing.

CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty Announces 2019 Award Winners for Service and Sales from CENTURY 21® System and NJ REALTORS®

Cedarcrest Realty’s John Sass and Lynn DeLuccia with (l. to r.): Michael Miedler, president & CEO of CENTURY 21 Real Estate Corporation, and Fernando and Antonia Semiao of CENTURY 21 Semiao & Associates at the annual awards ceremony.

It’s awards season again at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty!

Broker owner John Sass and members of the Cedarcrest Realty team recently attended the CENTURY 21® annual awards gala at the Venetian in Garfield. We celebrated and honored the winners from our office of several CENTURY 21® awards, which are presented to agents and offices that consistently provide high levels of customer service and sales production.

Here is our lineup of the 2019 CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest all-stars, based on customer service and gross closed commissions.:

  • Quality Service Pinnacle Award – Paula Cano, Yaw “Tracy” Chan, Bruno Marino, Joseph Scotto
  • Masters Ruby Award – Joseph Scotto
  • CENTURION® Award and Presidents Producer Award – Yaw “Tracy” Chan
  • Gold Medallion Award – CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, for sales production
  • Quality Service Pinnacle Office Award – For the ninth year in a row, CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty won this prestigious award for delivering superior customer service, which is CENTURY 21’s top honor for service

In addition, our office has some winners of the NJ Realtors® Circle of Excellence® Sales Award®. The Circle of Excellence® recognizes real estate professionals who have demonstrated excellence in the field of salesmanship.

  • Bronze Award – Patrick Smith, Paula Cano
  • Silver Award – Joseph Scotto
  • Gold Award – Yaw “Tracy” Chan

Congratulations to our hard-working real estate associates!

Spotlight on . . . Eugenia France

Veteran real estate professional Eugenia France joined Cedarcrest Realty in November 2019 and is already making her mark in terms of transactions at our agency. Eugenia, who came to the U.S. in 1987, has been working in real estate since 1992 and according to broker owner John Sass, “Eugenia’s experience really shows. She has already done half a dozen transactions to date, with two currently under contract. She knows the system and comes to work every day ready to get things done. We’re delighted to have her on the Cedarcrest team.”

And this is with Eugenia, a native of Brazil, spending several weeks visiting family in her home country!

Early in her career, she was at another CENTURY 21 office, working with home buyers and sellers primarily in Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Newark, and Nutley. It was there that she first met John, who at the time was doing training and recruiting for the system. She was most recently with a brokerage in Newark and although she was the top producer there, she was not happy with the work environment and decided to make a move last fall. She came across John’s name and contacted him to find out if there were any opportunities at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest.

As someone who has been self-employed since coming to the States, Eugenia said real estate appealed to her because, “You can make your own schedule and develop a business. I enjoy dealing with people and making them happy when they find the right house—and it feels great when that happens. But it’s also a great feeling when those customers refer me to someone else; it means I’ve done a good job.”

Although she’s done some commercial real estate work before, Eugenia prefers residential real estate. “You participate more in the residential transaction and I like guiding the contract process, which I didn’t get to do as much in commercial deals.”

Of her decision to join the Cedarcrest team, she said, “It’s a much nicer workplace; people treat each other well, John respects his team, and there are opportunities to grow here.” She works in our Caldwell office-and we’re glad she’s there!

Spotlight on . . . Armand Michael DiVirgilio

After 30 years in the field of facilities engineering and asset protection, Michael DiVirgilio felt it was time to start a new career. Taking his in-depth experience in commercial and industrial properties, he brings fresh insights into his work today, working with residential and commercial real estate buyers and sellers.

“There are a lot of things I see right away when I walk into a home or a commercial establishment,” said Michael. “I’ve covered many aspects of facilities and property management, so my prior career brings additional skills and knowledge to my real estate clients and the Cedarcrest team.” He also has firsthand experience remodeling several homes, so he’s always looking for the positives and the potential negatives in a property he’s showing.

Michael moved to New Jersey from Florida with his wife back in March and obtained his real estate license in New Jersey and New York in April. (He is also a Florida State licensed community association manager and a New Jersey notary public.) He began his real estate career at a small office in Tenafly but after he and his wife bought a condo in Bloomfield, he looked for an agency closer to home. He’d met Tom Siso, a CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty agent, during the condo-hunting process and Tom introduced him to broker owner, John Sass.

“I really feel like a part of a great family here; the people are fantastic,” said Michael, who works out of our Caldwell office. “Cedarcrest Realty is well structured and organized and John and his team care deeply about the clients they serve.” Having served in the U.S. Air Force after high school, Michael appreciates the structure at the brokerage. “I’m glad to be in this tight-knit, family-feeling organization.” From a large family himself, and with seven kids, it’s no wonder that the family feeling at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest was a pull for him.

Michael said he was drawn to real estate sales because, “It allows me to help people find that perfect home. I love working with people and seeing that expression on their faces when you show them a place that’s the right fit. Seeing them light up like that brings me tremendous satisfaction. I’ve always been about helping people.” That helping spirit is reflected in the community service work he and his wife do in soup kitchens and through other charitable endeavors.

He’s enjoying learning from the Cedarcrest Realty team and appreciates the ongoing training available in the office. “I have more to learn and there are great people with a plethora of knowledge that they’re sharing,” he said.

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.