Frequently asked questions of CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty.

Q: What is the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker?
A: All real estate professionals in New Jersey must be licensed by the state. Typically, real estate brokers are required to have more education and experience than agents. In New Jersey, they must have a minimum of three years in the business before applying for a broker’s license, and must pass the NJ brokerage exam. At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, our broker owner is John Sass; we have more than 70 agents working with us.

Q: When selling a home, must I disclose any problems I am aware of to the buyer?
A: Most states require that the seller discloses any problems he or she knows about in writing, especially those that would influence a sale (for example, if the buyer asks about flooding then the seller should disclose the information).

Q: If the real estate agent representing the buyer knows of any problems, must they disclose this information to the buyer? Is it unethical if they do not?
A: Real estate agents are never as familiar with a property as the seller is. However, if the buyer receives a Transfer Disclosure Statement and either the listing agent or the selling agent knew of a problem not listed by the seller, they are required to add it to the form; to not do so would be a breach of ethics. If the information is not disclosed by the seller to the agent or they had no other way of knowing, they cannot possibly add it to the form (in which case, it would not be considered unethical). Our agents do the best they can to make sure that they behave in an ethical manner on behalf of their clients.

Q: Are the “no down payment” plans on late night television real or a scam?
A: If you think it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. All real estate contracts usually require a down payment.

Q: What are the terms of the pest inspection? If termites are found after a few years of living in the home, are the sellers responsible?
A: If the infestation was discovered with enough time before closing on the transaction, a treatment can still be chosen and performed to the satisfaction of the buyer, seller, and mortgage company. Closing can also be postponed temporarily until the treatment is completed, although this is usually not preferred by the parties concerned. If termites are found after a few years, it would not be considered reasonable to hold the sellers responsible for the problem. At that point, it would be your responsibility to find a pest control service.

Q: What should I be aware of about the home inspection of the property I am interested in buying?
A: The home inspector should check the following elements of your prospective home:

  • Drainage
  • Foundation
  • Roof and water leaks
  • Paint
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical wiring
  • HVAC system (heating, air conditioning, ventilation)
  • Fireplace, chimney stack
  • Flooring (tile or wood)

Q: What, precisely can be claimed as a tax deduction when you purchase a home?
A: If you own and occupy your home, you can deduct property taxes paid on the home (up to the amount allowed by law) and interest paid on your mortgage. You can also deduct the points and prepaid interest you make during the actual purchase, whether you pay for them or the seller pays for them on your behalf. Consult your tax preparer for the most current tax law in your state.

Q: If a walk-through inspection reveals a problem, but I choose to go through with the closing anyway, can I retain a percentage of the down payment or mortgage amount not to be paid until repairs are made?
A: If you wish to go through with the closing, you will not be allowed to hold onto your money or your lender will not fund the loan. In new construction, we have found that normally the builder will make the change.

Q: What determines the square footage of a home when listing it on the market? Is a garage usually considered when determining this?
A: Even an attached garage is not considered part of the home’s square footage. Only livable space is considered in the square footage calculation. Calculating the square footage of a home is difficult and home owners should not be the ones responsible for estimating this. It is best to hire a licensed appraiser who will map out the house and correctly calculate all areas.
NOTE: if the owner put on an addition to the home with no building permit, that section of the house may not be allowed as part of the square footage. The same goes for attic and basement conversions, lofts, and so on. Contact us for a list of recommended appraisers in the area.

Q: How can I find out how much my house is worth if there are no comparable homes in the area?
A: If you think that your house is worth more than other houses in your neighborhood, this could be a bad sign. Homes are more likely to maintain their value if the neighboring properties are fairly similar. It is best in this type of situation to talk to several REALTORS® to get their input about your home’s market value.

Q: Why should I buy a home rather than rent?
A: When you rent, you will never see that monthly rental money again. On the contrary, investing in home ownership offers certain tax deductions (mortgage interest, property taxes) and you will have an asset to sell and reap the rewards down the line.

Q: What are HUD homes, and are they a good deal?
A: HUD stands for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; HUD homes can be a very good deal. When someone with an HUD-insured mortgage can’t meet payments, the lender forecloses on the home. HUD pays the lender what is owed and takes ownership of the property, selling it at market value as quickly as possible. Ask one of our agents about HUD homes in the area and if they can be a good option to you.

Q: If I have bad credit and not much money for a down payment, can I still become a homeowner?
A: See if you qualify for one of the federal mortgage programs. It may be a good idea to contact one of the HUD-funded housing counseling agencies. Our agents will be happy to discuss a few possible options.

Q: Are there special homeownership grants or programs for single parents?
A: There is help available. It may be hard to qualify for a loan with only one income but you our agents can guide you regarding the home buying process and help you determine if there are any programs in the area to assist you with mortgage payments.

Q: How do I find a lender?
A: You can finance a home with a loan from a bank, a savings and loan, a credit union, a private mortgage company, or various state government lenders. We suggest you do your research before you decide who should finance your loan. Compare all the interest rates and fees. Most lenders need anywhere from three to six weeks to approve a loan. Ask one of our agents to help you find a good lender in the area and help you decide what is best for you.

Q: What other costs do I need to consider besides mortgage payments?
A: The cost of your monthly utilities (gas, oil, electric, water); property taxes, and depending on where you live, city or county taxes; and home maintenance expenses or homeowner’s association fees if relevant. Discuss your budget with your CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest agent to best determine what you can afford.

Q: How to I make an offer on the home that I want to buy?
A: Your CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest agent will work with you on this. You should consider the following:

  • Is the asking price similar to other homes in the area?
  • Is the home in good condition or will you have to spend money to make it par with your standards?
  • How long has the home been on the market?
  • Are there multiple offers from other interested buyers?
  • How much will the mortgage payment be? What can you afford?
  • How much do you really want the home?

Depending on the answers, you may want to offer more or less than the asking price. Every offer is a negotiation and our agents have the negotiating experience and real estate smarts to help you through the process.

Q: Should I add on or buy a bigger home?
A: There are many different questions to answer before making this very subjective decision. Ask yourself the following:

  • How much money is available, either from cash reserves or through a home improvement loan, to remodel the current house?
  • How much additional space is required? Would the foundation support a second floor or does the lot have room to expand on ground level?
  • What do local zoning and building ordinances permit?
  • Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy housing needs?
  • How will either the home improvement loan or a new mortgage change monthly expenses?
  • Will an expansion fit in with the neighborhood? You’ll never get back the investment in a home that’s been over-expanded relative to the neighborhood.

Q: How do I begin to prepare my home for sale?
A: The first thing to do is to put your house in the best condition possible, especially if it’s in a market with few buyers and many homes for sale. Make any repairs that could deter a buyer or delay a sale and work on your home’s curb appeal. Mow the grass, trim the hedges/bushes, clean up debris, weed, and plant flowers. Other quick fixes that don’t cost a lot of money but can help you get more money for your home is:

  • Clean the windows and make sure the paint is not chipped.
  • Be sure the doorbell works.
  • Clean and freshen up rooms (furnishings, floors, walls, and ceilings).
  • Eliminate any bad smells and be sure your home smells inviting.
  • Invest in a few vases of fresh flowers to place around house and next to any information about the house you have prepared for buyers.

If you have additional questions, feel free to call our office or stop in.