Eleven Years Already? Here’s to the Next 11 Years of Superior Service at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest

We’re looking for dedicated real estate professionals and motivated newcomers to join the business

Broker owner John Sass and our real estate team at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty celebrated 11 years as a leading North Jersey real estate brokerage in June 2020. Where did the years go? It seems like yesterday that John took over the Caldwell office after many years in recruiting and training for other CENTURY 21 agencies.

Marking his 11th anniversary as broker owner, John notes these agency milestones:

  • Taking ownership of Cedarcrest Realty in 2009
  • Earning the CENTURY 21 Quality Service Pinnacle Award—the system’s top customer service award—10 years in a row
  • The Caldwell office received the CENTURY 21 CENTURION® Award in 2018 (the top award for sales production) AND the CENTURY 21 President’s Award that year, which is a rare honor
    • The President’s Award is most prestigious honor given to producers, teams and offices that achieve both CENTURION® level production and the Quality Service Pinnacle Award in the same year
  • Opening a second office in Little Falls in 2019 to better serve home buyers and sellers and commercial clients throughout North Jersey

Positioning CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest for continued excellence
Our agency is always recruiting great people who want to become real estate agents or are experienced pros who want to make a move. We have two offices in North Jersey to staff with motivated, dedicated people who love sales, working with all sorts of people, and enjoy stepping up to meet the challenges we all face in today’s marketplace. The CENTURY 21 motto is “Be Relentless” and we are just that when it comes to delivering quality service to home buyers, sellers, and our team.

  • New to real estate: Our office offers opportunities for people entering the real estate field, who are going for their real estate license, and who are seeking mentorship from top sales professionals, guidance, and professional development.
  • Experienced agents: If you feel stale in the job, stalled in their career, or not supported at their current agency, please come talk to us. CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest offers the training and support you need to take your career and your transactions to the next level. We’ll share techniques to boost your production while providing the high level of service we’ve been known for over the past 11 years.
  • Excellent training/support: We have our own on-site training room in our Caldwell office, where we’ve begun holding in-person classes again (with all the necessary health guidelines in place); we also have ongoing virtual training classes which include CENTURY 21 system-wide training as well as our own programs we’ve developed.
  • Personal coaching: Our sales manager, Dennis DiSabato provides one-on-one coaching to agents at all levels of experience, applying his experience to help our team members put transactions together and get them to closing—including deals that encounter roadblocks that could derail them completely.

Drive, passion, communication
At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, we know the value of good old-fashioned communication; after all, real estate is a people-oriented business. It’s about building trust and relationships. If you’re someone who understands that sometimes, there’s no greater tool than getting on the phone to talk to buyers and sellers, let’s talk. We are adding to our team with people who rise to a challenge, address problems as they occur, and enjoy real conversations with people . . . professionals who understand how the real estate sales process works and how to make it work for them.

Interested? Contact John Sass at 973.228.1050, ext. 102 or johnsassc21re@gmail.com.

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.

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!

Winter Home Improvement Projects for North Jersey Homeowners

In northeast New Jersey where our offices are located, snow, ice and cold temperatures make outdoor renovation and home improvement projects unlikely in the winter. However, there are some projects you can do now to get your home ready for an early spring showing, or to beautify and update your home for your pleasure.

If your project requires a contractor or home improvement specialist, you may be able to take advantage of these professionals’ off season in terms of scheduling and rates., before they get into the spring hustle.

TIP: Remember to check your municipality regarding which kinds of projects require permits from the building department and build that into your timeline.

Paint and accessories

Painting your home’s interior is a great indoor project and instantly refreshes rooms (we recommend you choose light neutral tones if your home is going on the market). After you’re done painting, you might be inspired to change out carpeting or area rugs, add toss pillows in new colors, or hang new drapes in coordinating colors.

Bathroom or kitchen remodel

Whether you’re considering cosmetic changes such as new kitchen counters and cabinets, or a new bathroom vanity, or a more large-scale renovation, remodeling will bring new life to your home. A full kitchen renovation may not pay off in terms of sale price, since tastes and lifestyles differ, but appliance upgrades, freshening up cabinetry, and new lighting are great ways to update a kitchen.

A popular bathroom upgrade is to replace the traditional showerhead with a spa-style showerhead that offer a more luxurious shower experience. Handheld shower heads are also a great (and less expensive) shower upgrade. If you’re going for a full bathroom remodel, heated floors, overhead heat lamp, and heated towel bars are other luxuries to consider including.

Even low-cost updates, such as painting walls a new color or adding a colorful backsplash can perk up these spaces and add value to your home. If you’re prepping your home for sale, these changes will also give you new ideas for real estate staging.

Weatherproofing

There are many ways to make your home more energy efficient and comfortable, from adding insulation to walls or the attic to sealing up cracks and caulking around windows. Even your high-hat lighting cans can be an entry point for cold or hot air. Replacing old exterior doors with insulated models will also “tighten the envelope.” Installing smart thermostats also help control energy costs. A more expensive project with long-term benefits is to replace old windows with top-quality energy-efficient windows.

Organize the garage

Grab a jacket and get out there to organize your gardening, snow and hand tools. Hang wall units made specially for holding and hanging these items, and shelves above or in front of vehicles to stack boxes, cans and large objects. If you have a workbench, hang a peg board for hand tools and store large items underneath the table. Clean out what you no longer need (including old boxes of stuff that came with you from the last move).

Prune and nourish your trees

OK, this one’s outdoors . . . but late winter is a great time to trim trees and shrubs before the spring bloom starts. The bare limbs give you clear visibility and because the trees and shrubs are dormant, they are less likely to attract insects or disease. This is also a time to add fertilizer in preparation for spring. Take time now to plan out any landscaping updates as well.

Install a security system

From smart doorbells to connected alarms, these products will keep your family and belongings safer and are a great selling point to prospective buyers.

Finish the basement

This is a highly worthwhile project, providing extra (and insulated) workspace, storage, a playroom or entertainment area for your family-even a guest bedroom depending on the home’s structure. A finished basement also increases your home’s value. It’s like adding on a room without breaking ground.

At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, our sales associates will review your home improvement plans or discuss timely projects that make good sense to handle right now. Contact us for questions about listing your North Jersey real estate.

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.

Agent spotlight on . . . Bob Prall & Eddie Modica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agent spotlight on . . . Chris Malatesta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”