New Jersey Real Estate April 18, 2014

Flood Insurance Just Got More Affordable for NJ Residents

President Obama just signed a flood insurance relief bill that will make flood insurance more affordable for American homeowners, especially those living along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. About two years ago, coastal homeowners saw their flood insurance premiums spike so high, it threatened their financial stability. With such high increases in flood insurance, it has also made coastal properties unattainable for new homeowners who don’t want to take on the financial burden. This, too, has slowed the NJ market.

The original intention of the Biggert-Waters Act was to make the National Flood Insurance Program more financially stable, but really, it placed strain on homeowners living in flood-prone areas. Some of these homeowners didn’t buy in original flood plains, but their homes were deemed at risk and not built to code, so they were impacted by high premiums as well.

When homeowners began voicing their concerns over significantly high premiums after Hurricane Sandy, Congress took up the issue. It’s understandable that making the National Flood Insurance Program more stable would be a major advantage and take pressure off tax dollars, but forcing people from their homes due to such high costs was not a fair alternative.

The new relief bill looks at several different aspects of flood insurance. First, flood insurance premiums are capped under the new bill, at an average of 15 percent. The maximum is 18 percent for primary homeowners, while secondary homeowners may still see their premiums rise by 25 percent. Second, people buying new properties that are on flood plains can have below-market rates passed down to them. Flood insurance may not be cheap, but at least it’s more affordable.

The flood insurance relief bill helps the NJ market by making coastal properties more practical. In recent years, these properties have slowed because people are afraid to foot a large insurance bill each month. The new bill should offer more financial stability for those living along the East Coast as well as people who are interested in purchasing a home off the coast.

In New Jersey, roughly 233,000 homeowners are now covered by federally subsidized flood insurance, with the majority of the properties coming from Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties.

New Jersey Real EstateNew Jersey Real Estate MarketReal Estates Sales April 8, 2014

Why 2014 Will be a Strong Year for the Housing Market

We’re already four months into 2014, and the height of the selling season will soon be upon us. The winter was unusually cold, but we should be seeing more homes listed in the coming weeks. Spring has traditionally been considered that perfect time to list a home. This year in particular, we have a lot to look forward to. Housing activity has been increasing over the past several years, so we can expect the same trend to continue this year.

Increased Housing Activity

This year may be the first year that we see the most housing activity since 2006/2007. There are a few reasons for this. The first is simple. Since the housing bubble, housing activity has slowly picked up, with each year a little better than the last. As long as this trend continues, we can expect to see even better sales in 2014. Additionally, there should be more jobs available, a bigger inventory of homes and competitive housing and interest rates to drive up housing activity.

More Young People Looking to Buy

A second reason why 2014 may be the strongest year yet is because of a basic yet important piece to the puzzle: demographics. On average, there are 1.2 million households each year that demand a housing unit, whether that housing unit be rented or bought. Due to the recession, there are more young people living at home with their parents for financial security. Many of these young people want the freedom of living independently, though, and will soon be ready to purchase a home. When demand from young people starts to kick in, we can expect to see real progress in the housing market.

Mortgage Availability is Improving

Lastly, mortgage availability may improve in 2014. While it’s not as easy to get a mortgage as it was during the housing boom, it is becoming easier than in years directly following the boom. For those deserving of a mortgage, there are a number of options available through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and VA loans. Also, with rising interest rates, it’s to be expected that fewer people will refinance their mortgages, so lenders will be looking to boost activity by giving out new loans.


New Jersey Real EstateNew Jersey Real Estate MarketReal Estates Sales March 12, 2014

New Jersey Housing Market Continues to Strengthen

According to the New Jersey Association of Realtors, the NJ market continues to strengthen thanks to a lower inventory of available homes, higher median prices and faster selling times. How do these numbers compare to last year?

According to NJAR, the number of homes for sale in all markets is down 15.5 percent from September 2012. Closed sales in all markets have risen 21.8 percent, though. Single-family homes have seen a median sale price of 7 percent more compared to September 2012, and single-family homes are spending less time on the market.

To add more good news to the picture, positive trends are being seen in the townhome and condo communities as well. While NJ isn’t back to pre-recession prices, at least the housing market is moving in the right direction.

Why Inventory is Low – But Maybe Not for Long

Part of the reason why inventory is low is because would-be sellers are holding onto their properties because they are not willing to sell their home at a discount. This deters many would-be sellers, so they either remain in their homes or rent them out to continue paying down their mortgage.

Over time, we can expect to see some of these sellers slowly listing their homes when they can finally make the numbers work for them, but in the meantime, inventory will remain relatively low – at least for these types of homes.

Foreclosed homes are a different story. With the high number of foreclosures, there are still many that need to make it onto the market. Once they are listed, we can expect to see them clear out very quickly, boosting sales and driving up the market, hopefully allowing today’s would-be sellers to finally list their homes without taking as much of a hit. This has been the trend for much of the country, and it has helped many states rebound to better sales.

We can only hope that the housing market bubble will be a thing of the past, and housing prices will continue to strengthen over time. We’re making positive steps in the right direction, making now – potentially – a great time to sell, buy or both.

New Jersey Real EstateNew Jersey Real Estate Market February 26, 2014

Why Are New Jersey’s Property Taxes So High?

New Jersey is a great place to work and live. Its cities are often ranked some of the best places to live in the US, and the state is home to great restaurants and sports teams, not to mention there are plenty of job opportunities being centrally located to several large cities. But, there’s one thing that often comes up in conversation when talking about New Jersey: property taxes are high. Some of the highest in the country, in fact.

A study from the Tax Foundation found that in 2009, New Jersey residents paid median taxes of $6,579 in 2009, giving them the highest property taxes in the country. It’s no wonder why residents get so angry about having to pay high taxes, but the truth is that New Jersey is highly reliant on property taxes to fund schools and government. So, looking at property tax numbers alone isn’t enough to tell the full story. Other areas may be paying the same dollar amount of taxes, just in a different form.

Here are the factors that determine New Jersey taxes, according to NJLM:

  • Your home’s market value

  • Cost of municipal and county programs and services

  • Cost of local public schools

  • Availability of revenue to cover the above costs

  • Extent of tax exempt properties in your municipality

  • Total value of taxable properties in your municipality

So, if you were to make structural renovations or additions to your property, your tax bill gets higher. If it costs more to deliver local government services and programs to your area, your tax bill gets higher. If local school districts cannot count on other revenues and their costs rise, your tax bill gets higher. When looking at the numbers, it’s important to remember all of the programs and services that NJ taxes support.

Also, NJ municipalities are highly autonomous. This offers a range of benefits to residents, including more control over local school systems and government. But, this also comes with a cost, and that cost is reflected in NJ property taxes. The more emphasis you place on having local independence, the more the municipality is to going to have to pick up these costs, when in other states, they are funded at a state level. It’s a Catch 22, really.

Bottom line: No tax is popular. There will always be some aspect of taxes that people don’t like. At the end of the day, there are many government-level programs and services that our nation’s cities need to function.

New Jersey Real Estate Market February 5, 2014

Positive Signs of Growth for the NJ Housing Market

The New Jersey Association of Realtors reports that the NJ housing market is growing stronger each quarter, with single-family homes selling 13 days faster and for $11,000 more than the year before. These numbers come from NJAR, as they are launching a new project that will provide detailed housing data each month based on state, county and local niches. This information is designed to educate buyers and sellers who want to learn more about the current housing market.

NJAR pulls the information from the MLS in New Jersey to determine where homes are selling, how quick they are selling and for what price they are selling. New Jersey has a complicated housing market, so it’s helpful to know which areas are seeing the most growth. For instance, South Jersey markets Cape May County, Atlantic County and Cumberland County have had sluggish sales compared to countries like Essex and Caldwell. Still, even these slower markets are seeing better days. On the whole, the average NJ home sits on the market for 82 days.

Additionally, more information will hopefully prompt buyers who are on the fence about buying. Interest rates and home prices are climbing, and with higher costs come fewer affordable homes. As interest rates continue to go up, it will impact people’s decisions on whether or not to buy a home. Prospective buyers can also see which counties have a higher demand. There are differences from one county to the next, as the demand is stronger in Bergen than in Passaic, for example.

Even though the market is still slow in New Jersey, we’re seeing signs of positive growth, and many real estate experts predict that this is just the beginning. The number of homes sold in NJ has rebounded its fastest since 2007. We can attribute this to low home prices, low mortgage rates and a growing confidence in the housing market. NJ has also had steady job growth, which will also help stabilize the housing industry.

New Jersey Real Estate MarketNew Jersey Real Estate Tips January 18, 2014

Vampire and Zombie Homes Continue to Grow in NJ

Just because it isn’t Halloween season it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of zombies and vampires. A real estate firm coined the term “vampire houses” to represent the many homes that have gone into foreclosure, but the original owners continue to live there. Vampire homes are slightly different from zombie homes in which no one lives in. These homes are going through the foreclosure process, but they have been abandoned by the owners. Which one is worse? It’s hard to say. All we know is that both vampire and zombie homes continue to grow in NJ.

Why So Many Foreclosures in NJ?

It’s no secret that the Garden State has been hit hard by foreclosures. In fact, as much of the country is seeing a reduced rate of foreclosures, the number of foreclosed properties is still increasing in NJ. This is largely due to the fact that New Jersey is one of 17 states that requires foreclosures to go through the court system. With so many homes in foreclosure, the state has a lot of paperwork to process, and foreclosed homes keep piling up.

In the meantime, zombie homes continue to sit, and more homes turn into vampire lots where the family continues to live in the home until they are forced out. Currently, there are more zombie homes than vampire homes, with a staggering 14,000 homes sitting empty, accounting for 17 percent of the NJ population. The vast majority of these homes come from Cape May, Hudson County, Camden, Gloucester and Somerset.

Will Any Good Come out of Vampire and Zombie Properties?

Of course, no homeowner who pays their bills and mortgage on time wants to hear that they have zombies and vampires for neighbors. But, is there any good that could result from this?

Hopefully, yes. As New Jersey deals with more paperwork and processing, the banks are going to want to sell homes sooner. This leaves a good opportunity for buyers to purchase a home that they want, in an area that they want and for a price that they want. With so many homes in the foreclosure process, buyers will have the upper hand, because at the end of the day, these homes are better off being sold and having real owners live in them rather than sitting vacant or with “vampires.”

New Jersey Real EstateNew Jersey Real Estate Market January 8, 2014

Best Counties for Middle Class NJ Residents

We may be biased, but New Jersey is one of the best states to live in!

The dynamic history, the beautiful Jersey Shore coastline and great eats from famous diners and local farmer’s markets make the Garden State a pleasant and entertaining place to live. We also have a dense population that keeps things interesting. Some residents were born and raised in NJ, while others have come to our state from NYC to seek a quiet, suburban lifestyle. Our close proximity to other cities, including Philadelphia, Manhattan and Boston, also make NJ a hotspot.

The one downfall to NJ is that we are an expensive state. In fact, a recent study from Trulia reported that in Bergen County alone, only 19 percent of homes are within reach for middle-class families. A family with a median income of $56,000 could afford a home in Bergen County priced at $274,000. Unfortunately, homes in this price range are rare. We are talking about some of the most expensive counties in the country after all.

So, if you’re currently looking for a new home in NJ and have moderate earnings, where are some of the best – but affordable – places to live?

Below is a great chart to reference, courtesy of Fred Kaimann/The Star Ledger, with data from Trulia. This comprehensive chart is an excellent tool for middle-class families looking for an affordable home in the Garden State.



Percentage of homes within reach for middle class

Median square foot of affordable homes

Median household income for metro

Maximum affordable home price





















Cape May





















































































New Jersey Real Estate January 1, 2014

7 Reasons to Move to New Jersey

Are you thinking about moving to New Jersey? Many New York residents are faced with this decision at some point as they contemplate leaving behind the busy city life for a quiet, suburban life. Here are seven reasons why moving to the Garden State may not be such a bad idea!

1. Jersey City: A Cheaper NYC

Jersey City has been growing for years and offers an abundance of restaurants, waterfront apartment buildings, farmer’s markets, theaters and state parks. It delivers stunning views, and real estate prices are far less than in NYC.

2. Fresh Garden Vegetables Off the Shore

The Garden State isn’t called ‘the Garden State’ for no reason. Find some of the freshest produce from farmer’s markets where you can support the local economy and eat sustainably. New Jersey corn off the shore is a local favorite.

3. Endless Diner Choices

Forget the five-star restaurants. There are plenty of diners in the Garden State, and they offer a great dining experience as well as equally great food. Some of the local favorites include boardwalk fries, hoagies, pizza, pasta and sandwiches.

4. No Need to Pump Your Own Gas

It’s basically illegal to pump your own gas in NJ. No matter where you go in the state, a gas attendant is standing by to do the hard work. There’s just simply no reason to get out of your car or smell like oil. Ever.

5. We’re Dense…Densely Cool That Is

New Jersey may have a dense population, but that makes our state all the more interesting. We have an intricate system of highways, major roads and railways that make getting to work on time actually doable. Also, New Jersey Transit can be seen in just about every town.

6. Access to Nearby States

Thanks to a strong system of roads, railways and public transit, NJ residents can get to cities like Manhattan or Philadelphia in a flash. This means that you can work in one of the cities, earning a higher income, yet retreat back to your quiet suburban household at night.

7. Geographically, we are Awesome

New Jersey is simply beautiful. We get to experience all four seasons and have the lovely Jersey Shore to spend the summer months at. Plus, we are minutes away from some of the best cities, including Manhattan and Philadelphia. Our state alone has over 75 historic sites and resort cities.


CENTURY 21® NewsNew Jersey Real Estate December 26, 2013

Bidding Wars are Back!

If you’ve been sitting back, waiting for the housing market to improve, it’s time to get your ducks in a row. The housing market is advancing, and there’s real proof to be seen. It’s not just in the numbers, but also in the bidding wars that are taking place across the U.S. These wars are bigger and badder than ever, with some homeowners watching their homes being sold for more than what they asked for.

What’s the big deal with bidding wars in the first place?

Currently, there is very low inventory out there, so for people looking to buy, there’s not much to choose from. Homeowners are still holding on to their properties and waiting for a better market, contributing to the limited inventory. When a family finds the house they want, they’re not afraid to fight for it, which may mean paying more for it. They know they can’t just turn around and find something comparable within a few days or weeks, so they have to be aggressive.

That’s where the bidding wars come in. And, for homeowners, this can mean more money in their pocket as well as a quick sell time.

Bidding wars are also beneficial for the housing market at large. These bids create buyer activity; after all, only one person wins. That means the other two or three or five people bidding on the house will continue looking for another comparable home, and this continued activity pushes more people to list their homes and ask higher prices.

It’s not uncommon for homes in New Jersey to see five, six or even seven bidders on a house. Since New Jersey has a prime location, with some counties a mere 20 minutes from NYC, the suburbs remain a great place to buy a home. And, this is what fuels bidding wars even more. Interest rates and housing prices are slowly climbing back up, which means the “best time to buy” is behind us. Buyers know that their window of opportunity is short, so they must buy NOW to get the best rates and home prices.

Bidding wars are created whenever demand is high and supply is low, and this can quickly change at any time. So, whether you’re interested in selling or buying, the market is hot right now. It’s a win-win for everyone, and we can only hope this trend will continue.

New Jersey Real Estate MarketReal Estates Sales November 17, 2013

High-End Homes in New Jersey See Slow Growth

New Jersey has some of the most beautiful, high-end homes in the country thanks to their historic charm, intricate details and superior construction. Unfortunately, these high-end homes have been the slowest to recover and slumped the most in 2012. For instance, prices in Bergen County rose 5.9 percent at the beginning of 2013 while prices in Passaic County only rose 1 percent. Should the homeowners with these high-end homes worry?

No. Although the high-end areas in North Jersey have been slower to recover than the rest of the New Jersey market, they are still improving. Upper-end sales have picked up this past spring and should continue to rise over the following months. Some realtors predict that it will take about 2 years for the high-end homes to see sales return.

One reason why the lower market has seen greater home prices is because of the short sales and foreclosures that have been recently purchased, many of which sat for years during the recession. With these homes being sold for lower prices, they bumped up the lower market without having an impact on the higher market. Also, there is more demand for smaller, lower priced homes compared to large, expensive ones. Fewer buyers for these types of homes is what is preventing prices from rising.

Additionally, from 2006 to 2011, the North Jersey economy lost 10 percent of the jobs in high-paying industries. With the crash of the housing market and the loss of good jobs, buyers have been  more careful about what they invest in, even affluent buyers. Young couples and young adults alike are choosing to invest in homes that are more economically priced, sized smaller and are more cost-effective to maintain. All of these factors put the high-end market at a disadvantage.

Still, there is something about the historic homes in North Jersey, and they can’t be replicated anywhere else. As the housing market recovers and these high-end homes can be purchased at a decent price, more buyers will take the opportunity to have a North Jersey home. Sellers may have no choice but to take some loss, but buyers will have plenty of opportunities to own a North  Jersey home at a lower price.