John Sass, broker owner of CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, attended the invitation-only leadership conference in Phoenix, Arizona in late October, for broker owners and office managers. Around 500 people attended the more-intimate gathering (when compared to the thousands who attend the international convention every March). In this article, John shares his impressions of and key takeaways from the event.
“Overall, it was a great event. It was wonderful to rekindle many relationships that go back 20+ years as we shared thoughts and ideas about what’s happening in today’s real estate market. There were ample opportunities to talk to more people about what we are working on in our offices and what we are trying because the leadership conference is much smaller than the annual international event.”
“CENTURY 21® President Mike Miedler shared strategies on how to prepare for the potential recession on the horizon. One key message he drove home is that this is not like the Great Recession and market downturn of 2008 at all. As always, Mike was upbeat and positive.”
“The seminars and presentations included new technologies (such as the MoxiWorks platform the system is using), agent recruiting and retention, the benefits of offering multiple commission plans, building a better value proposition for the brokerage, creating stronger accountability and standards for sales goals, and brokerage growth and development through mergers and acquisitions.”
“Joining forces through M&A can be an excellent way to capitalize on the sales strength of small offices whose principals or leading producers want to focus on what they do best—real estate sales—while the office that rolls them in provides the infrastructure, office management, and agent recruitment and training.”
“Regarding value proposition, CENTURY 21 Real Estate LLC believes in providing a lot of value to the people who work with us on both sides of the transaction and that’s something we strive for every day at Cedarcrest Realty. We are working on defining our value as a workplace to real estate agents and as a broker to customers.”
“The three pillars of our value proposition at Cedarcrest Realty are name recognition, stability, and the potential to earn. The CENTURY 21® name is known worldwide. I’ve been in the business for 30+ years and have weathered market ups and downs many times. Our leadership team has tremendous experience and insight to share. And I believe that when you follow the training and work the leads, everyone can make money here.”
“At Cedarcrest Realty, we create an environment where people can grow. Part of that comes through active, ongoing coaching. Our leadership team (Mannie Rodriguez, Dennis Di Sabato and Jill Savva) have begin meeting with our agents to formulate 2023 sales goals and will provide active coaching around those goals. We also offer twice-weekly educational sessions and peak producers’ sessions every week to help agents tap into their sphere of influence more effectively.”
“As I was reminded at the conference, the strength of being among peers is undeniable. With the international Century 21® International Conference (ONE21 Experience) coming up in March in Orlando, I want to get as many of my agents there to gain valuable industry knowledge, make lasting connections, and get inspired. My first convention was long ago in San Francisco, where I first experienced that feeling of camaraderie, caring and support among the Century 21® family. Many of the relationships I gained there still exist today.”
“The training, education, fun and laughter that brings us all together can only be felt by attending one of these events. I believe in this deeply and am offering several incentives to help our associates get to the Orlando join me in Orlando at the ONE21 Experience in March. In New Jersey, the real estate market remains strong, and I know our associates will learn and share so much with other agents from diverse markets. As 2022 draws to a close (which is hard to believe!), I look forward to the growth potential we can all enjoy in 2023.”
Regarding professional growth in the coming year, John adds this message to current or aspiring real estate agents and broker owners in the North Jersey area.
“If you are thinking of making a career move to or within real estate, or if you are a broker owner seeking an exit strategy through a merger, please call me at 973-632-4398 for a private conversation.”
Real estate brokerages may seem pretty much the same to most consumers. But for real estate agents, there are significant differences working at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty. It’s all in the training and professional development the brokerage provides.
John Sass, broker owner of Cedarcrest Realty, knows how important training and continuing education are in real estate. “We offer training on-site and through C21 online, to help agents through every period of their career build their skills and book of business.”
For newly minted real estate agents in particular, John says that nothing takes the place of live in-house training. “We hold 12 basic training sessions in our office to get new associates acclimated to the business,” he said.
Cedarcrest Realty’s ongoing training and development comprise:
1 – Basic onboarding. Everything new agents need to get set up in the CENTURY 21 system, and all skills necessary to prospect, communicate with (and listen to) buyers and sellers, and modules on basic marketing and customer service—a major point of pride and difference at Cedarcrest Realty, which consistently wins the annual CENTURY 21 Quality Service Award. Mannie Rodriguez, our director of growth and career development, oversees this portion of our training.
For experienced real estate agents new to the CENTURY 21 system, the courses provide a valuable introduction to what’s available to them to continue working on their business—including the proprietary programs we use.
2 – Starting and growing your business. Agents learn how to create a personal database, and maintain and grow their sphere of influence. They also participate in C21 Online training with live, interactive C21 University courses on every real estate topic imaginable.
“There are so many tools available throughout the CENTURY 21 system such as XCellerate, courses on handling for sale by owner (FSBO) transactions, listing presentations, prospecting tactics, and for more experienced agents, topics such as recruiting a team and building a luxury business,” said John.
Additionally, new agents receive valuable hands-on field training from Jill Savva throughout their first few transactions. She also works with them on how to best use social media to market their listings.
“New agents need someone at those early appointments to make sure they are covering all the bases and get full support in the field, in real time,” explained John. “They may shadow Jill for the first few appointments with buyers and sellers as they gain this experience.” Jill also ensures they understand how to write contracts, and do a market analysis and listing presentation.
3 – Personal coaching. More experienced real estate agents get one-on-one coaching to up-level their business, with John and Dennis Di Sabato, our sales manager. They are coached on how to achieve their personal goals and get sage advice on how to put together and maintain a piece of business to get the transaction to the closing table. Other guidance includes how to transform their personal databases into customers, advocates, and referral sources; hiring an assistant (timing and process) and how to put together a cohesive team; and how to market different types of listings.
“Regardless of how seasoned any of us are, that fresh perspective is so helpful when it comes to seeing new ways to hit goals,” said John. “We want all our associates to know they are never alone, and if they hit a roadblock, Dennis will show them how to continue moving the deal forward. One of our highly productive associates meets with Dennis every day to review his pipeline, look for potential issues, and discuss closing strategy.”
4 – Continuing education. All real estate agents must complete 12 CE credits every two years to renew their licenses. Cedarcrest Realty offers ample opportunities for agents to build their knowledge base through in-office presentations about various topics related to the business of real estate.
5 – Tech tools and office support. CENTURY 21 offers industry-leading tools beyond C21 University and C21 Online. From leads to listings and throughout the transaction process, Cedarcrest Realty agents get unmatched support with:
- Dash – a back office program that pushes out all our listings to various websites.
- Back at You Media – a service that also connects to and shares our listings automatically. Our associates can access the back end to update or enhance the posts as desired.
- The MoxiWorks suite – Moxi Engage leads engine, Moxi Present for market analyses and presentations, Moxi Impress for marketing properties, Moxi Website for creating unique agent websites.
- Unique Properties
- Dotloop for paperless transaction management
- NJ MLS and Garden State MLS (training and full access to our accounts)
- CoStar and LoopNet for commercial transactions
- Listing signs are ordered, put up and taken down for our associates
- We purchase all lock boxes for your listings
- We provide signage and social media marketing for open houses
In August, CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty welcomed Manuela “Mannie” Rodriguez to our team as director of growth and career development. In her role, Mannie will recruit new real estate agents, and oversee their training and professional development.
Mannie has nearly 20 years of experience in real estate as an agent, trainer, recruiter, and office manager. She has developed coaching programs and one-on-one training for real estate agents, created programs to elevate performance standards and team productivity, and has a proven track record of increasing sales revenue and client acquisition. Before entering the real estate profession (which includes being part of the CENTURY 21® system), she worked in college admissions and commercial lending.
Aside from her keen interpersonal skills, team-building expertise, and extensive knowledge of what it takes to succeed in real estate, Mannie also brings a passion for performance to our team.
“I’ve been on the front lines of recruiting and development for years and enjoy creating an atmosphere that fosters enthusiasm for and learning about the real estate industry,” she said. “I am very lucky to do what I am passionate about every day, and I’m looking forward to bringing energy and excitement to our team, while discovering motivated talent that wants to become part of CENTURY 21®.”
Mannie has set her sights on growing the Cedarcrest Realty team with real estate associates at all levels of experience. In addition to training them on the online tools and resources available from CENTURY 21®, she will also provide professional guidance for new agents. Outside of the office, expect to see Mannie—a veteran networker—at area chambers of commerce and other business associations as part of her business development activities.
Mannie added that it’s the go-getter attitude she’s looking for to build the Cedarcrest Realty team. “I’m proud of my track record and am looking for agents who share that same thirst for success I had when I started out in real estate.”
She noted how the real estate field, like so many others, has evolved over the past 20 years.
“Real estate is no longer paper driven; it’s about being online and social media is the name of the game. But I understand that not everyone is at the same level of comfort or know-how with technology and that’s OK! I am here to partner with our associates, motivate them, and provide the skills and support they need to run a successful and productive real estate business,” she said.
Broker owner John Sass said that “Mannie’s passion for coaching and professional development aligns so well with my vision for the future of our agency. Her enthusiasm and ‘can do’ attitude will infuse our offices with tremendous energy. She understands the system’s digital tools and how they benefit our agents, and as younger recruits come in, they’ll have strong support here. The CENTURY 21 culture—one of relentless excellence and an elevated real estate experience for our customers—is in good hands with Mannie.”
Anyone interested in career opportunities at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty should call the Caldwell office at (973) 228-1050 or email Mannie Rodriguez at Manniec21cedarcrest@gmail.com. More information about the brokerage is at https://century21cedarcrest.com/.
The North Jersey housing market is still hot, and many cash buyers are waiving their home appraisals. But there are many reasons why a home appraisal protects you and this most important investment.
You’ve finally gotten here. You have enough money to pay cash for your dream home. It feels great being able to afford a home without the need for financing or mortgage loans. In New Jersey, the housing market is still a hot seller’s market and when it comes to buying a home, time is of the essence. You don’t want to get into an aggressive bidding war, so you might also be tempted to waive the appraisal. But there are numerous reasons why you shouldn’t skip this important step.
What is a Home Appraisal?
A home appraisal is a professional evaluation of a home’s value. A licensed, trained appraiser will assess a house and take several different factors into consideration when calculating the home value.
Appraisals are helpful to homebuyers who want to make sure the price they’re paying is justified. You may want to include an appraisal contingency in the sales contract; this clause lets you walk away from a home purchase if the appraisal comes in too low to justify the agreed-upon purchase price.
Banks and mortgage lenders use the appraised value to determine the highest mortgage amount they are willing to loan a borrower, to ensure that they are not financing an overvalued asset.
Factors that go into a home appraisal
- Location / neighborhood
- The year the home was built
- Roof, floor, wall, and other construction materials
- Bed/bath total
- Square footage, number of stories
- Foundation, basement, attic features
- Off-street parking, driveway, garage, etc.
- Comparable homes and the overall housing market
Items that can affect an appraisal
- Home location, curb appeal, neighborhood
We’ve all heard the phrase “location, location, location,” but that’s because it’s one of the most important factors in determining your home’s market value. Appraisers are looking for features such as neighborhood amenities, schools, quality of roads, walkability, etc.
Curb appeal is the first thing that potential buyers see, so if the outside of your property is unkempt, it could affect your home value. Upgrading your landscaping can help to improve your appraisal value.
You can’t control who you live next to, but your neighbors could still affect the value of your home. Appraisers will check out the other homes in your neighborhood to help determine your property’s value. If your neighbor’s home is visibly more well-maintained than yours, it could hurt your appraisal. On the flip side, unruly pets, unkempt yards, noisy inhabitants, or poorly maintained property could also drive down your property value.
- Maintenance, cosmetic updates, renovations
Maintaining a home is expensive and time-consuming, but neglecting standard maintenance can become a costly problem, and it can affect the value of your home. Therefore, ensuring that your home is clean and well-maintained can go a long way in improving your evaluation. Odors like cigarette smoke, pet smells, or mildew may also be a factor.
Keeping your home updated and well-preserved can go a long way in making it a desirable property for potential buyers. Outdated appliances, fixtures, and cabinetry may also negatively affect the marketability of your home. Be careful of making too many home renovations though, as some will not deliver a return on investment.
Other reasons to get a home appraisal
Appraisals can be used for other purposes:
- Before selling your home to gauge appropriate asking price
- Before refinancing your home
- Before applying for a home equity loan
- Applying for other loans
- Appealing tax assessments
Are home appraisals required in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, home appraisals are required for buyers who are using a mortgage loan. Lenders want to make sure that their investment is worthwhile. After all, the home is being used as collateral for the loan. Determining market value is beneficial for both the buyer and the lender.
Even though appraisals are not required in New Jersey for buyers paying in cash, an appraisal will give you and your family an idea of what the home is truly worth.
Buying a home is a big investment. You and your family will potentially be putting hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line for your dream home. You want to make sure that you are making the right decision. The real estate professionals at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty will assist you throughout every step to ensure your home buying transaction is as smooth and pleasant as possible. We work with home buyers and sellers throughout Essex County, Passaic County, and North Jersey; come into our offices in Caldwell or Little Falls to start your journey!
Julie Zack got her real estate license just under a year ago and came to CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty in January. She is soaking up the training and mentorship she’s receiving here.
Her professional background includes work with automobile dealerships in the Motor Vehicle Department and in the high-end vintage car arena. She moved to northern New Jersey in 2016, eventually purchasing a home in Little Falls. When the pandemic hit, she worked from home as the executive assistant to the CEO of a manufacturing company. Suffice to say, Julie knows her way around numbers and paperwork, which greatly benefits our real estate customers when it comes to getting transactions to contract!
She liked the flexibility of working from home, but saw the potential for doing something different. In 2021, she decided to go into real estate, got her license and launched her next act.
“I didn’t have direct sales experience at the time but the ability to be my own boss, as I am in my real estate career, was very appealing,” said Julie.
She worked with a business coach, read dozens of personal and professional development books, and realized the most important factor for her in terms of a real estate brokerage was agent support.
“I’m still learning and need guidance and hands-on support; that’s what I’m getting at Cedarcrest Realty,” said Julie. “I learned more in two hours with our sales manager, Dennis DiSabato, than I did in the 10 months prior to coming to Cedarcrest.” She is eager to learn the business and said, “I read tons of books, listen to podcasts and watch videos, but there’s nothing like having someone right there to help me when I need it.”
Julie is taking advantage of our CENTURY 21 XCELLERATE lead generation program and benefits greatly from the guidance provided by Jill Savva, who is our field trainer and works with new real estate agents to develop their skills. “You don’t get that kind of real-time training anywhere else,” she said.
She also likes the tech tools available to her as a CENTURY 21 real estate agent, and the fact that she now lives just minutes away from our Little Falls office and close to our Caldwell office, with easy access to our trainers, mentors, and support.
“The support and team atmosphere at Cedarcrest Realty is remarkable, and truly unique,” said Julie.
She is working with first-time and move-up buyers throughout North Jersey counties with a focus on Little Falls and surrounding towns. When she’s not working with homeowners or buyers, she and her pup Monroe enjoy walking the local trails and parks. You can contact her at email@example.com.
Jackie Cardona of Bloomfield has been at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty for five years. In that time, she has distinguished herself as an effective real estate agent while holding down a full-time job for an area municipality’s building department.
As a dual career agent (working a full-time job while doing real estate part time) she has found a way to balance both jobs and serve her real estate customers with grace and a good measure of time management!
Using past experience to build her business
Jackie got her real estate license many years ago with the idea of having a career she could continue after her retirement. When she began giving her post-retirement plan more thought, she interviewed at Cedarcrest Realty.
“It felt like home at Cedarcrest. It’s so comfortable to work with a team where everyone helps each other out. There’s a lot of trust between agents and a high level of comfort. Plus, everyone is willing to teach you something if you don’t know it,” said Jackie.
As a dual career agent, she cannot always make team meetings and on-site trainings. She credits sales manager Dennis DiSabato and Susan Mazzetta for helping fill that gap.
“Dennis is on speed dial for me, and he and Susan are so generous with their field experience,” said Jackie. “I learn from their stories of what they’ve gone through in the business and Dennis provides excellent guidance to make sure more complicated deals work out.”
Thanks to her professional experience, Jackie has a great deal of “inside knowledge” when it comes to home buying, selling, and renovation that she applies in her real estate business. At the construction office (where she has been for 16 years), she reads building plans all the time and knows the permitting process. Prior to that position, Jackie was a paralegal for a real estate attorney for 20 years.
With that background, she has developed a book of business with real estate investors seeking distressed properties to “fix and flip.” She enjoys a strong referral network within the investor community and often handles both sides of the transaction—selling homes to investors, then selling the renovated homes for them to others, most often in. Clifton, Nutley, and Newark. The secret to her success?
“I love old homes, and ones that need TLC, to see them transformed,” said Jackie. “You need to have an eye for that and to see the possibilities. I enjoy presenting those homes to buyers with a ‘look what you can do with this’ approach.” It’s an approach she also uses with first-time home buyers, with whom she finds tremendous personal reward when the excitement of finding that perfect first home sets in.
Understanding her customers’ needs is key
Regarding her work with real estate investors, Jackie said that “Whenever I see fixer-uppers on the multiple listing services, I do a market analysis of the property and present this to the investor. I have a firm idea of what they will want to put into the rehabbing the property and understand what they’re looking for to put in bids. I also know what it will take to perform all the cosmetic or structural renovations. I’m presenting good deals to them in terms of solid properties to renovate and sell at a profit.”
Given her full-time job, Jackie is creative about carving out the time to work with her customers. She shows homes in the evenings and on weekends, during her lunch hour, or takes personal time when needed for closings. She is fluent in Spanish, so she can serve the Spanish-speaking community with ease.
When she’s not working, working, working, Jackie enjoys spending time with her three grown sons and her five grandchildren.
Physical disabilities require that homeowners have greater accessibility in their homes. Finding a house that meets your aesthetic desires and mobility needs can be somewhat challenging. And accessibility means different things to different people.
At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, our goal is to always make the home buying journey as stress-free as possible. We offer these tips for house hunters with disabilities.
- Check with your real estate agent about listings specific to accessible housing. Choose a real estate brokerage that knows the areas you prefer very well, including the neighborhoods and town amenities that support residents with different needs. When the real estate agent pulls listings for you, they should also be homes that meet accessibility criteria, or properties that could be modified to do so.
Be specific about your needs or preferences, based on your abilities. A checklist of your requirements will help your real estate agent pinpoint the most sensible listings for you. Older adults with declining mobility or other conditions will have different requirements than those who use wheelchairs and need wider hallways and doorways (a minimum of 32 inches).
For example, if steps are completely out of the question, a single-floor home with an accessibility ramp (either existing or added) or a condo in an elevator building make the most sense. However, even those may have a few steps to deal with between rooms (such as a sunken living room).
- Take a virtual tour in advance to refine your search. The video or images should cover all rooms including kitchen and bathrooms, and show the layout. That way, you’ll see any potential barriers or modifications that can be addressed with the seller, or cross a property off your list.
- Think of future modifications you may need. This is especially true of older home buyers who are downsizing. They may not be thinking about walk-in or roll-in showers, grab bars, wider doorways, or closets with lower shelving for easy reach. Look at properties that can change along with your evolving needs as you age—or properties that can be modified with relative ease to meet current needs.
- Develop a renovation budget. Unless you are moving into a housing community that’s purpose-built for individuals with disabilities, you will likely have to make some renovations for safety and accessibility. These may include widening doorways, altering the kitchen layout, remodeling the bathroom, or building indoor ramps between rooms. Include these figures into your overall housing budget so you stay within your comfortable price range. Also ask your real estate agency to recommend reputable general contractors in the area who are familiar with ADA specifications.
- Check the home’s lighting. Good lighting helps reduce household accidents. Is there good natural light during the day? Are there ample light fixtures in the hallways? Are there places to add light fixtures safely?
- Check out the community. What amenities does the town offer? How is the parking situation in your target neighborhood and local shopping district? Are streets well-maintained? Although municipal buildings will adhere to ADA requirements, are the local restaurants and stores accessible to all patrons?
- Contact CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty. Our team works closely with every home buyer who’s looking and homeowner who’s selling. We take the time to understand what our customers are looking for, within their budget. We guide home buyers through the entire process with care, and can provide referrals to professional resources in the area as needed. Give us a call at 973-228-1050 to get started. Or visit our accessible offices in Caldwell or Little Falls.
CENTURY 21 supports Easterseals, a leading advocate for people with disabilities. You’ll find helpful information regarding accessibility on the organization’s website here. At Cedarcrest Realty, we look forward to helping you find a home that meets your particular needs.
Cedarcrest Realty Offers Tips for Home Sellers
Are you selling a home with unique features? This may be a piece of real estate that stands out in its area, such as a farm or ranch in an area not typically known for this (like our northern NJ suburbs) or a waterfront property in a little-known cove.
Perhaps your home was once a church or a stable. Maybe it’s perched atop a mountain, situated deep in the woods, or has all glass walls. You may have built a home inspired by nature with “woodsy” architecture, or built it into a mountainside or a cave. Does it have a nautical or outer space theme that caters to a niche audience?
Your unusual property may be a home with spaces that are not commonly found in your neighborhood, such as:
- A basketball court or indoor swimming pool
- A garage converted into a guest suite, home office, or recording studio
- A basement space tricked out as a cigar bar and wine room, a media room with projection and surround sound, or a well-equipped home gym
- Large property with a guest house or other outer buildings (raw or renovated)
Marketing your unusual property
Marketing a unique property takes some skill and savvy—and knowledge of the local market and what prospective home buyers are looking for. This also means working with a real estate agent who understands how to get those unusual listings shown to the right people. It’s important to communicate from the start so that both agent and customer are on the same real estate page in terms of types of buyers to attract (or if you’re the buyer, types of homes to show you).
- For a musician, the house with the recording studio or purpose-built rehearsal space will be attractive.
- Someone who loves the great outdoors may gravitate to a home in the woods or with scenic mountain views.
- The weekend farmer may love the potential to do some tilling and growing on that farm property.
- The woodworking enthusiast, weekend mechanic or artist will appreciate the barn that can be turned into a workshop or studio.
- Fitness buffs will see the benefits of that indoor pool or home gym right away
- Film lovers will flip over the home theatre
As your Cedarcrest Realty agent will explain, online marketing that uses specific keywords in the listing to attract specialty buyers is a start, as is creating marketing materials that celebrate the home’s unusual features or location. This will help market the property to target buyers who may not be looking for a “three-bedroom ranch with updated kitchen and bath.”
Social media—especially Instagram and Facebook—is an excellent vehicle for showing off a home’s unusual aspects. At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, we recommend hiring a professional photographer with experience in real estate photography to create compelling social media posts and put together a powerful virtual tour. If that’s not in your budget, you can capture high-resolution digital photos from your camera (even a new cell phone); be sure to stage the rooms before shooting. If your home is on a large or extraordinary piece of land, or has exterior features of note, drone photography is a great way to show the setting and adds drama to your listing.
Real estate staging
As with any home on the market, real estate staging is an excellent way to show the space and give prospective buyers the ability to visualize themselves and their furnishings in the rooms. Even if you’re attached to your Star Trek memorabilia in your Enterprise-shaped house, your Cedarcrest Realty agent will likely recommend you pack away most of it to clear the clutter. If you’ve chosen dark colors for your walls, buyers may turn away because of all the work it takes to paint light over dark (primer, two coats of paint …) so you may have to repaint the walls in more neutral tones, even though that deep blue matches the captain’s quarters on the cruise ship.
You may have made some home improvements that appeal to you but are making it difficult to sell your house—whether it’s an odd addition or level, choice of construction materials, or using a space differently from its intended use. Your real estate agent may suggest reverting a private office into a den or repurpose a large addition into a great room that appeals to families. Remember, your agent is there to help you get the best offer in the shortest amount of time!
At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we work with home sellers and buyers across northern New Jersey, with a specialty in Essex County and Passaic County. Our agents have helped thousands of buyers and sellers throughout our 12 years in business, making successful, happy matches with all types of properties in all price ranges. Contact us at 973-228-1050 to get your home listed or to start your home buying journey with our experienced real estate team.
You’ve been renting an apartment or house but now you’re thinking about buying your first home in North Jersey. There are many considerations for first-time home buyers—from determining your budget to locating your target neighborhoods.
Entering the real estate market can be exciting—and for first-time buyers, a bit daunting (we promise it gets easier after your first home purchase!). It’s no secret that we live in an expensive part of the country with high real estate taxes. But don’t let that deter you from finding a great starter home in Bergen, Essex, Morris, or Passaic counties (or beyond). There are many wonderful towns and homes in all price ranges.
Let’s break it down for you.
Considerations for first-time home buyers
- Budget – determining your home-buying budget will then determine many other factors involved in your decision—size of the house, neighborhood/town, type of mortgage, and more. The sale price of any home is not the only cost consideration—there will be approximate monthly mortgage payments, real estate taxes, and utility costs. In the case of a condominium or townhouse community, common area charges and/or homeowner association (HOA) fees must be included. Your real estate agent can go over all the typical expenses involved, and help you formulate a comfortable working budget.
- Settling on a budget will lead you to the next steps in the house hunt. Knowing what you can comfortably afford will help you zero in on certain towns or areas, and the type of house in your budget. Choosing the area and type of home are highly subjective decisions and many criteria play into it. For example:
- Do you prefer urban, suburban, or more rural communities?
- Do you need bus or rail availability, or access to highways?
- Is the public school system important to you if you plan to raise children there?
- What features are must-haves vs. want-to-have in the home?
- A fixer-upper in an urban location may be right for you—if you have the funds to invest in the needed renovations or can tackle those yourself.
- Perhaps a smaller house in a desirable town is a great starter home, with room to expand or move up in later years.
- Or maybe, despite renting all those years, you’ve socked away a hefty amount for a down payment and your income supports a jumbo mortgage on a big house on a large piece of land. Go for it!
- Mortgage pre-approval – at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we strongly recommend (especially in the crowded North Jersey real estate market) to get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just pre-qualified). A lender’s pre-approval letter, while not a guarantee of a loan, is a commitment by the lender to a certain amount (pending appraisal). This shows you are serious about making an offer, as it is a more rigorous process than pre-qualification.
- The offer – once you find the right house, your real estate agent will help you negotiate an offer and guide you through the next steps once your offer is accepted. There are a lot of them! There will be certain disclosures to consider and items you may want repaired before the sale (or use as a bargaining tool if you agree to handle those once the sale is completed). There will be a home inspection, appraisal, title search, and mortgage approvals. Your Cedarcrest agent will also explain the closing costs associated with your transaction so you can be prepared for everything in that exciting home stretch.
Our Cedarcrest Realty associates can provide valuable information about the towns in the counties we serve, with relevant tax rate figures, the town amenities (recreation facilities, programming for residents, shopping, and dining options) and what your local real estate taxes cover (such as garbage and recycling pickup). Your agent will also provide the comparative sales analyses that will help you arrive at a competitive offer price.
About that mortgage: Having a strong credit score will help you qualify for a favorable program, so it’s important to know your credit score and take steps to improve it if necessary. Review your finances to see how you can save as much as possible (while also meeting your existing financial obligations, of course), and assess where you can cut if necessary. The traditional down payment is 20% of the purchase price but there are programs available for home buyers who have less set aside for the down payment.
Your real estate agent at CENTURY 21 Cedarcest Realty will walk you through the entire home buying process, and provide guidance at each step. Our team also has many in-office resources as well as trusted professionals in related fields such as mortgage lenders and home inspectors. The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency has a helpful guide with lots of information about what to expect during your first-time home search, and our specialists in North Jersey real estate are here to help. Call our Caldwell office at 973-228-1050 or in Little Falls at 973-364-1111 to get started on your home-buying journey.
We are blessed to have offices in Essex County and Passaic County, where many high-end homes are also located, with proximity to other luxury markets in Bergen County and Morris County. As a real estate brokerage that is part of the CENTURY 21 Fine Homes & Estates® program, we have the knowledge and resources to market luxury homes in our market. This is a specialized division that caters to the home buyers and sellers in the luxury market.
What constitutes a luxury home?
According to CENTURY 21 Real Estate, a luxury listing is one that is priced at three times the market area’s median price, and typically is in the top 10% tier of the local real estate market.
According to the New Jersey REALTORS®, the single-family median sales price was $458,675 in June 2021 (up by about 29% over the prior year); given that figure, a luxury listing in our area would start at approximately $1,380,000. In addition to price point, other criteria may include the home’s condition, size (property and house), number of bedrooms and bathrooms, location (neighborhood as well as environment such as waterfront property or golf/country club community), and high-end amenities.
Who are today’s luxury-home buyers?
Urban buyers who came out to North Jersey during the pandemic, seeking more house and space drove luxury home sales over the past year, as the money they were paying to live in New York City went (and still goes) further in our suburbs. These buyers are often well-positioned to buy the prestigious properties within our Fine Homes & Estates portfolio.
Further, they are usually millennials who postponed buying a “starter home” as their parents probably did, and now have the purchasing power to go big. In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORs, millennials comprise the largest cohort of home buyers nationwide followed by Gen Xers. Given they have delayed their residential real estate purchases and with mortgage rates historically low, it’s prime time for this population to enter the luxury market.
What do they want in an upscale home?
Some high-end amenities are based on the home’s location or the buyer’s profile, but some common sought-after upgrades include:
- Expansive outdoor entertaining space (complete with chef-worthy outdoor kitchen, built-in fireplace, multi-level patio or deck, spa, lush gardens)
- Kitchens with work/dining island, European appliances, industrial stoves
- Private dock and/or beach for waterfront properties
- Wine cellar
- Smart appliances/connected home
- Fully equipped media room.
- Home office(s) or playroom
- Guest/caregiver bedroom and bath
- Energy efficiency features from solar panels to tankless water heaters
Tools to market luxury homes
Preparing to list and market these distinctive homes requires a higher level of preparation and attention to detail. With the CENTURY 21 Fine Homes & Estates program, Cedarcrest Realty has access to specialized marketing tools to effectively market distinctive homes and address the expectations of the more affluent buyer or seller. For example, our real estate associates who work within this segment understand that they may be expected to work with or negotiate with other individuals such as trusted advisors (attorneys, accountants, business managers) or professional associates of the buyers or sellers.
Marketing your New Jersey luxury home
Every listing in Cedarcrest Realty’s Fine Homes & Estates program receives extensive exposure to potential buyers and their real estate agents through multimedia marketing and advertising support, which includes:
- Strong curbside visibility with our “Fine Homes and Estates” signage
- Exposure nationwide and internationally on hundreds of websites that cater to exclusive lifestyles, including Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com), RobbReport. com, duPontREGISTRY.com, LuxuryHomes.com, James Edition, MansionGlobal.com
- Professional real estate photography
- Professionally written and designed marketing collateral that highlights the property’s unique high-end features
- Property brochures distributed to potential luxury home buyers and the area’s finest real estate offices
- Featured listing in Suburban Essex magazine, Essex County’s upscale lifestyle magazine read by your potential buyers
- Outreach to our extensive Global Broker Referral Network℠
Remarkable homes for sale require remarkable service and attention. At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we have won multiple industry and consumer awards in recognition of our high level of customer service (as well as sales). Rest assured, our Fine Homes & Estates team will create an award-winning experience for your luxury home listing or to help you find the distinctive property you seek in North Jersey. Contact our office in Caldwell at (973) 228-1050 to get started.