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.

On the Market for a Home? Here are Five Considerations Before You Buy.

Are you a first-time home buyer? If so, here are five issues into consideration as you engage in your house hunt. Doing so will help avoid surprises that could bog down your transaction.

Is now the right time for you to buy?

This depends somewhat on your career situation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure of workers of ages 55 to 64 is 10.1 years, while for workers ages 25 to 34, it is only 2.8 years on average. If a distant job relocation is in the foreseeable future or career advancement is likely to take you out of the area, consider remaining a renter for now. Conventional wisdom is that you need to stay in the home for at least five years in order to recoup the amount of money you spent to purchase it.

Identify your housing criteria

Do you have a “dream home” in mind? Are you willing to modify your dream? After all, no house is totally perfect. We suggest you:

  • Create a list of absolute musts and reasons why—such as the town (for the school district, town services, property tax rate, environment), style and size of house, proximity to work, public transportation, etc.
  • Be flexible. Cosmetic updates may be needed in an otherwise great house so don’t let those deter you. If you like a house that needs a lot of work but has great bones, ask if the selling price is negotiable enough to make a reasonable offer.

What can you afford—including closing costs?

Set yourself up for success by first developing a budget that includes how much down payment and monthly mortgage payments you can afford. Then, look at the closing fees you’ll have to cover at time of loan settlement. These are fees paid to various third parties as part of expediting and closing the transaction.

As the home buyer, you are expected to cover most of those closing costs (3-4% of the home’s price) compared to what the seller will. Included are:

  • Title company closing fee for the representative who supervises the title transfer
  • Title search – this ensures there are no liens on the property to prevent you from buying it
  • Lender’s title insurance – protects the mortgage lender if something was overlooked in the title search
  • Document recording fees (deed and mortgage)
  • Loan origination fee – paperwork processing
  • Home appraisal
  • Home inspection
  • Survey fee (single-family homes, townhomes)
  • Escrow deposit – usually covers two months of prepaid property taxes and mortgage insurance payments
  • Taxes on money you borrowed for your home loan
  • Discount/mortgage points – paid to your lender in exchange for a lower interest rate, which has great long-term value
  • PMI, or private mortgage insurance, if you put down less than 20 percent of the purchase price
  • Other fees include running your credit report, underwriting and assessing your creditworthiness, wire/courier fees, attorney fees, and real estate agent commission

Federal law mandates that mortgage lenders provide borrowers with a loan estimate form in advance of the closing, denoting all the approximate closing costs. You may opt to roll the closing costs into the mortgage, but you’ll be paying interest on that amount for the life of the loan.

NOTE: If buying a condominium, get as much information as you can about the homeowners association fees/common area charges, the regulations regarding home improvements in your unit, and the association’s track record on maintenance and repairs.

Check your credit report

As noted above, the lender will be doing so and so should you. Contact Equifax, Experian and/or TransUnion for your free annual report. You want your credit score (FICO score) to be high enough to qualify you for a favorable rate. Clean up any outdated or incorrect information you find on the report right away. Scores in the 750-850 range are considered excellent, 700-749 is good. Anything below 650 is considered poor, making you a credit risk in lenders’ eyes.

Work with CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty

Searching for a home—whether as a first-time buyer or a seasoned residential real estate owner—is exciting but with all the details, it can be bit daunting and time-consuming. At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, our real estate professionals are dedicated to producing the best outcomes for every customer. When you work with our team, you’ll be with people who work tirelessly to help you navigate your real estate experience—with enthusiasm, confidence, and a passion for superior service—all backed by the industry-leading CENTURY 21® system and tools.

Contact us to get started on your journey to home ownership, or to find your next great home. We’re specialists in Essex County and Passaic County, NJ, and represent buyers and sellers from municipalities throughout North Jersey.

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.”

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.