Happy 10th Anniversary to Us! Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty Celebrates Ten Years of Consistent Growth and Superior Service

In June 2009, John Sass became broker/owner of CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, Inc. at its Caldwell office. John and the team are celebrating the agency’s tenth anniversary this month, marking the milestone with pride, a shelf full of regional and national real estate industry awards, and a second office in Little Falls to better serve home buyers and sellers as well as commercial clients throughout North Jersey.

Prior to taking ownership of Cedarcrest Realty, John had worked in other CENTURY 21 offices in recruiting and training—a major driver in the agency’s professional development program for real estate agents at all experience levels. All agents receive training in sales and customer care, the transaction process, contracts, and using the digital marketing tools provided by CENTURY 21 Real Estate most effectively to their clients’ advantage.

The company, which started with six people in 2009, has grown 15-fold to over 80 real estate agents today—some among the region’s highest producers—plus a director of career development and two sales managers. Here’s a look at some of our achievements over the past decade:

Ten years of growth and recognition

  • Grew sales volume by 500%, from $20 million in 2009 to $110 million today
  • Multiple awards for sales volume, gross closed commissions and customer service:
    • CENTURY 21 Quality Service Pinnacle Award every year since 2010, based on a high level of customer satisfaction
    • CENTURY 21 Gold Medallion Office Award for production, 2012-2017
    • CENTURY 21 CENTURION® Award for superior production, 2018
    • CENTURY 21 President’s Award, 2018 – the most prestigious award given by the system to producers, teams and offices that achieve both CENTURION® level production and the Quality Service Pinnacle Award in the same year
    • Gold medal as “Best Realtor” in the Suburban Essex magazine’s Best of Essex Readers’ Choice Awards, 2015-2018
    • Numerous New Jersey REALTORS® Circle of Excellence awards for sales
  • Added Fine Homes & Estates division in 2015
  • Designated by CENTURY 21 Real Estate as a certified commercial specialist in 2018
  • Opened second office at 44 Main Street in Little Falls in March 2019
  • Top donation site for 10 years in a row for the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots holiday gift program in addition to supporting Easter Seals, NJ Special Olympics and area charities that aid the local community

“I’ve always cultivated a family feeling that values teamwork, which translates into better customer service out in the field,” said John as he looks toward the future. “We are well-positioned to continue our forward trajectory as we strive to always deliver—in the words of CENTURY 21 Real Estate—relentless service and commitment, and a superior experience for everyone involved.”

Working with Millennial First-Time Home Buyers

With most first-time home buyers falling within the millennial age range (those born between 1981 and 1996, ages 23 to 38 this year), real estate professionals might be interested in findings revealed in a recent Chase Home Lending survey. The survey was done among 1000 millennials about home ownership.

It turns out that they making smart financial decisions and saving money to make home ownership a reality. In fact, responses point to millennials being hyper-focused on the home buying journey. More than two-thirds of respondents said they want to talk about the process and about real estate topics, such as affordability and neighborhoods, with their friends.

Some other key findings include:

  • Seventy percent say they are willing to cut back on weekend activities in order to buy a home within the next 12 months – they are curtailing their shopping, dining out, movie-going and spa visits among their expense reduction tactics
  • Women are slightly more open to this idea than men
  • Fifty-two percent of first-time home buyers feel financially ready now
  • Many are optimistic about the home buying process
  • Seventy-one percent of women are willing to discuss real estate topics with friends while over 50 percent of men are comfortable talking about these on social media

Our takeaways at Century 21 Cedarcrest

1 – Real estate agents who provide an excellent transaction process with millennial homebuyers are likely to receive more referrals. After all, if these buyers are talking to their peers about the home buying journey, they are more likely to refer those agents with whom they are having a positive experience. This group values peer opinions; make sure you’re part of that.
2 – Members of this demographic are serious about positioning themselves for home ownership; and they want to learn more about becoming home owners. Whatever information or guidance you can provide will be a positive part of the transaction and help position you, as their real estate agent, as a trusted resource worth their referrals.
3 – If improving their credit score is an issue they are working on, or if they want to better understand home mortgages, look at your network to see who you can refer to help these home buyers make their dream of ownership a reality.
4 – With more than half of millennial first-time home buyers stating they feel financially ready to purchase a home, help them keep up the anticipation and excitement with relentlessly excellent service.

At Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we pride ourselves on making the process as smooth as possible for first-time home buyers. We understand you’ll have lots of questions and our team has the answers—and the listings that meet your criteria, from neighborhoods to school systems to town services and more. Whether it’s a condominium, townhouse, or single-family home, contact Century 21 Cedarcrest about what you’re looking for.

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.”

Announcing our CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty 2018 Award Winners for Service and Sales

Award Winning CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest RealtyAs always, our annual awards breakfast was filled with applause as John Sass announced the winners of CENTURY 21® and NJ REALTORS® awards for 2018, based on customer service and gross closed commissions.

John shared the good news that for the ninth year in a row, CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest grew in terms of gross closed commissions (23 percent higher than 2017!). Our team closed transactions in 57 towns throughout New Jersey, and our office is in the top ten in our entire region, which comprises New Jersey and Delaware. But the best news of all: For the first time ever, we are thrilled to share that CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty has won the CENTURY 21 President’s Award. It is given to producers, teams and offices that achieve both CENTURION® level production and the Quality Service Pinnacle Award in the same year. We can’t wait to add this prestigious trophy to our awards shelf!

2018 service award winners
The CENTURY 21 Quality Service awards are presented to agents and offices that consistently provide high levels of customer service. The winners will be recognized at the New Jersey Brokers Council gala in March. Drum roll, please, for our Cedarcrest Realty winners:

  • Quality Service Award – Paula Cano and Susan McGarrity (minimum 90 percent overall approval rating and 8 returned surveys in a calendar year)
  • Quality Service Pinnacle Producer Award – Tracy Chan, Bruno Marino and Joey Scotto (minimum 95 percent overall approval rating and 8 returned surveys for two or more consecutive years)

In addition, CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty won the Quality Service Pinnacle Office Award, CENTURY 21’s top award for quality service.

2018 production award winners
These are awarded based on real estate agents’ gross closed commissions for the year.

  • New Jersey REALTORS® (NJR) Circle of Excellence® Bronze Award – Nancy Scancarella and Paula Cano
  • CENTURY 21 CENTURION Individual Producer Level Award
    • Yaw “Tracy” Chan was our #2 producer last year. Tracy has consistently earned top honors for sales and service at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest and was recently inducted into the CENTURY 21 CENTURION Honor Society.
    • Joey Scotto earned the top spot as #1 producer, adding this honor to the others he’s won since starting his real estate career with us less than three years ago.
  • NJR Circle of Excellence® Gold Award – Tracy Chan and Joey Scotto; double congratulations to them this year!
  • CENTURY 21 Masters Team Level Award – The Rick Lodato Team (Rick Lodato, Lizette Brown and Peter Locurto), who joined Cedarcrest Realty last year.

What’s our winning formula at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest?
The positive, long-term relationships our agents build with home buyers and sellers.

Using all the available real estate technology available to us to source and nurture leads more effectively and to better serve their customers.

Our ongoing in-house training and development, with courses offered to agents at all levels of experience, so newer agents can build their skills and knowledge while our more experienced agents are refreshing theirs.

Now, on to a successful 2019 with the CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest team!

Going into a Commercial Space? Follow These Five Steps.

CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest - Commercial Space TipsCENTURY 21 Cedarcrest is expanding and—if all goes well—we hope to move into a second office in the Township of Little Falls, in Passaic County. The last couple of months have been hectic, to say the least, with choosing a location and then dealing with all the aspects of the build out in our new space.

John Sass, broker owner of Cedarcrest Realty, shares these tips for companies that are moving into a new commercial space, and are undergoing renovation.

  1. Have a plan. Know in advance exactly how you envision the space, from its design to how it will be used and by whom. Plan down to the smallest details, with the help of your design and construction team. It might sound crazy but even the number and placement of electrical outlets and Wi-Fi connections will make a difference for your staff—so think about your number of employees, their jobs, where customers will be greeted or wait for service.
    1. For example, if it’s a retail location, your selling space is key; your back office, less so. Are you opening a restaurant? There is so much that goes into planning your back of the house as well as front of the house.
    2. Make sure, as part of your plan, that you hire professionals with experience in your type of commercial space or who have worked with the municipality before (always a good idea when dealing with a building department) or with your landlord.
    3. Also plan for delays that you cannot control (whether it’s a scheduling issue, equipment that has not arrived when expected, weather-related delays, etc.). No matter how well prepared you are, your project will take three times longer than anticipated (and probably cost twice as much!).
  2. Check with the town for all requirement and permitted uses for the property. Find out exactly which permits you’ll be required to take out, how you may use the property (is it retail only or can you put an office in that storefront?), and what will trigger a variance hearing with the zoning board. Ask the building department what it requires in terms of drawings or anything else that could catch you off guard during construction (and hold up the project).
  3. Get contractor estimates in writing. Make sure your general contractor (or any trades you hire) put their estimates in writing and commit to them. Get their timelines for getting your work down as well (do they have other jobs that will make it difficult for them to get to your project?)
    1. Be sure they are all licensed and insured and that those numbers are readily available to you.
    2. Before you sign, check references, their ratings, and see if there are any complaints against them at the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs.
  4. Maintain good communication with all parties. Keep an open line of communication with your architect, interior designer or space planner, the contractor, and the landlord. When everyone knows what’s going on, things will progress more smoothly, problems will be solved more efficiently, and you’ll avoid nasty surprises.
  5. Understand your landlord’s expectations. Bottom line—it’s the landlord’s building, not yours. The landlord expects the renovation work or installations to be completed in a timely fashion, and performed in accordance with the property. You cannot alter something that does not belong to you without the landlord signing off on the plan. Check your lease for any build out requirements or restrictions for both interior and, if applicable, exterior work. This includes awnings and signage.

Above all else, stay calm and remain flexible. Moving into a new commercial space is exciting but a lot will happen between finding the right location, signing the lease, and move-in day—even when there is little work to be done (perhaps just a coat of fresh paint or new flooring in an office). Even as a certified commercial specialist, we are tackling the challenges of building out a new office every day!

Is a Winter Season Home Sale the Right Time for You?

Photo by Emil Vilsek on Unsplash

Even in northern New Jersey, which has a healthy real estate market, it’s hard to know whether or not seasons play in the home sale cycle. With the cold temperatures and inevitable snow and ice, many homeowners—and home buyers—may feel it’s better to wait until spring.

Not so fast!

There are actually strong reasons to put your home on the market now. The common belief is that the spring market—when birds are chirping and gardens are blooming—is the best time to buy and sell real estate but here are some good reasons to put your house on the market in the late fall or winter.

  1. You attract more serious buyers. Really—these people are on the hunt and want a house now. Motivated buyers, for whatever their reason, are always searching for the right home in the right town for them. The winter months also gives these buyers a chance to scope out potential neighborhoods when other things are going on besides landscaping and swimming pools. They may love or abhor lots of holiday lights, for example, and want to see what goes on around the block during December and January (or even February for Valentine’s Day and March for St. Patrick’s Day). Or they may have concerns about whether the neighbors are keeping sidewalks clear of snow and ice (and whether the town snowplows are doing a good job).
  2. Wintertime staging possibilities. A well-staged home attracts buyers and offers, and winter greenery, cozy throws and blankets, and the aroma of pumpkin spice can be very alluring.
  3. Competition is lighter. It’s all about supply and demand. With less “for sale” signs around town, yours will catch attention and yield calls to the real estate agency to see the house. Fewer homes on the market drives up buyer demand, increases the probability of showings and with those, strong offers.
  4. Speedier transactions (and less stress). Think of the real estate market as a highway; with fewer “cars” in the buying lane, there are no processing traffic jams for all parties involved and transactions can move along more quickly. Mortgage lenders have fewer loans to process, real estate attorneys are dealing with a lighter closing load, and home inspectors are more available.
  5. Your real estate agent is always ready! Good real estate agents know that any time of year is a good time to list a home and bring buyers around. Marketing tactics may shift with the seasons and these professionals are ready with tips to help sell your home at any time of year.

If you’re thinking of putting your home up for sale now, or are looking for a home in Essex County or throughout northern New Jersey, the real estate agents at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty are ready to help. Contact us at (973) 228-1050 to get started.