Category Archives: Uncategorized

There’s no housing bubble? Depends on location and price

Interesting article on regarding the housing market in New Jersey:

No sign of a New Jersey housing bubble, according to report

Trulia reports that home prices are___ % undervalued in New Jersey and thus there’s no concern for another housing bubble to hit our market…and they point to numbers for various areas:

“During last decade’s housing bubble, prices were as high as 39 percent overvalued,” Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko said in the report. “We estimate that national home prices are (now) 5 percent undervalued,” he said.

“In the Newark area, home prices are up 3 percent over last year, but still undervalued by 3 percent. In Northern New Jersey and New York, home prices are up 5 percent, but the market is undervalued by 7 percent.”

The problem however with all of these broad brushed reports, is that they have nothing to do with you exact location.  If we learned one thing from the market crash, it’s that real estate is local.  Not only is it local but there are markets within markets,and they all react differently than one another.

Home sales in Tenafly are a great example of how locale real estate reacts to the market at various price points:

  • Home sales up to $500k are down a whopping 69% in 2013…while the average price increased by 7%
  • Home sales from $500-$1M increased by 20%…the average price was up 4% for this price point
  • From $1M-1.5M sales increased by 50%….average price increased 6%
  • Home sales from $1.5-2M were even with 2012….but the average price decreased by 19%

The other thing is in Tenafly….many of the home that are being sold are at prices that are equal to pre-crash prices, and some of the new and newer homes sold at prices that exceeded the pre-crash prices.

The reality is, you can’t can’t rely on the accuracy of these reports project, because they’re usually misguided as to your local market.  Whether you are a seller or a home buyer you need to understand exactly what is going on in your specific market and price range, because some broad brushed statement by realtors will be as wrong as these reports are. It’s best to have the realtors break down the market by price points and to show you on paper what’s happening in your town.

Fantasy isn’t always reality


Tenafly home sales breakdown report

So why are home sales in Tenafly on the decline compared to 2011.

Tenafly home sales by price range

From my perspective, sales “declines” in Tenafly are happening for two reasons:

  1. Tenafly has a property tax problem.  Taxes keep increasing because the government and school boards can’t stop spending money.  They don’t understand that most people don’t want to spend huge sums of money on real estate taxes…so sales of high priced homes, with high priced taxes take a hit.  And that’s what we’re now experiencing
  2. Homes at the high end of the market aren’t in huge demand anymore.  It’s a factor of price, taxes, demographics.  Today’s buyers are young and they’re buying in the suburbs because they have kids who are about to enter school.  Move up buyers are very few and those who are moving up aren’t buying the typical 6,000 to 7,000 sf in your face Tenafly ego homes (though there are about 9 of these mega homes that were started in 2011 and are being completed). The ultra luxury market in Tenafly was great in 2011, but it’s not happening this year.

As you can see from the chart, Tenafly is more than holding its own with sales priced below $1 million.  And let’s not forget that this is happening in every town…not just Tenafly.
Next post I’ll dive deeper into the data, and  provide a better picture of the market…without any of the industry spin

Crappy photos decrease the value of your home

Crappy listing pictures are worth a fast click to another home

Crappy pictures have no excitement value.  They’re a turn off.

Crappy pictures will not create a memorable, and they won’t make your home stand out from the crowd

And most of all, crappy pictures decrease the value of your home.

And don’t let anyone tell you differently.

The first thing that I recommend if you have crappy listing pictures, isn’t to fix the pictures, it’s to fire your agent…then put up new pictures.  If using crappy pictures to promote your home is the best that a Realtor can do, then just imagine how bad they’ll be when they’re finally in front of a potential buyer…who’s also looking at other homes.

Taking great pictures is no easy task.  It takes talent and it takes desire…and it even takes a few minutes or even hours working photoshop…all aimed at creating a WOW MOMENT every time someone sees your home online or in print.

And don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not important, because they would just be lying to you.  Look at the great brokerage firms in New Yor City…Corcoran, Elliman, Hallstead and Town…all who have gone to extreme efforts to produce some of the most spectacular full screen HD photos of their listings.  They understand the importance of a visual WOW.  It may have taken them way too long to “get it”, but they got it!

It’s been far too long here in Bergen County, for Realtors to accept disposable camera looking pictures.  It’s time for a change.

It’s all about marketing!

Realtors in Tenafly, Alpine, Cresskill, Englewood and everywhere else in Bergen County now have to compete with listings in the city…and with all the rental projects that will soon be competing with sellers in the suburbs.

Continuing down the path of mediocrity will hurt every home owner…and agent.  Because your home and listing will become less valuable.

And it’s all because of an outdated marketing approach and mindset, where good enough is fine.

But good enough isn’t fine.  And it never way…but in the high flying days you could get away with it.  But not anymore.

Now you have to ferociously compete for far fewer sales..

Mediocrity fails us all.

It’s time to step up to the plate, and perform.

It’s no longer good enough to just list your home on a few free web sites with anything less than electrifying pictures, and captivating descriptions.

It’s all about marketing…and it’s all about the quality of the marketing!

Consumers see the difference, and so do the developers who are building all those beautiful new rental complexes.

And now it’s also time for Realtors to see the difference…and to do something about it.

Hey, and if you don’t care what price your home sells for and how long it takes to sell, then keep doing what you’ve been doing, and keep reducing your price.

The return of the $300k home sale in Bergen County? Not in the eastern part of the county

I added another post to my series about the State of the Housing Market in Bergen County, because of an article that was just released in The Record and on…The return of the under $300k house in Bergen, Passaic counties…by Kathleen Lynn, that focuses on the lower price range of the market (in specific towns), and once again on affordability.

  • is this really a return of lower priced homes?
  • is it a temporary return?
  • will this hurt sales of higher priced homes?
  • or is this article all about nothing…because the sales figures for homes priced under $1 million hasn’t really changed all that much going back to 2009?

And to dig even deeper, is this the future for Bergen County home sales, because the lower price range is all that today’s buyers can afford?

In fact, it’s pretty easy to find a home for less than $250,000

but not in the eastern part of the county!

This article seems more like a marketing piece for Realtors.  And again, they make it all about price.  But as the facts bare out, price doesn’t create more sales…it just makes it less expensive for people who are already in the market who probably would have bought a home at a higher price.

Sales of homes priced below $300k decreased in Tenafly by 88% in 2012…and that’s taking into consideration, all types of housing…not just single family homes…(8 houses sold in 2011 and only 1 house sold thus far in 2012).  And there was a 17% decrease in this price range from 2010-2011.

Real estate is local!

As I’ve stated in previous posts, it’s impossible to properly assess the market at any price point unless you use comparison from a multiple of past years and price ranges. The shift to something is be more important than the shift to something.  And this is the case for the articles in the above referenced publications.

The Record’s look at property records found that under-$300,000 homes were a majority of sales in many towns that have traditionally drawn first-time home buyers, such as Bogota, Bergenfield, Elmwood Park, Garfield, Hackensack, Lodi, Clifton, Wanaque, West Milford and Pompton Lakes. But properties under $300,000 also made up 42 percent of the sales in Fair Lawn, 27 percent of the sales in Mahwah and 23 percent of the sales in Waldwick.

I’m going out on a limb to say that a majority of the homes sold in Tenafly are also to first time buyer…but at higher prices than the towns mentioned above. Which means that the $300k price range is irrelevant, but for talking about an incredibly narrow price point.

Yes it’s true that the sales of homes priced below $500k (they use the weird figure of $300k…whereas I use more simplified figures in $500k-$1.0m increments, so it’s easier to understand) has increased by a whopping 31% in 2012…from 40% of all homes sold in Bergen County to 62% of home sales.

But what the articles failed to point out is that in 2011 the sales of homes priced below $500k, actually fell by an equally whopping 27% from 2010.  So the return to the $300k home may not be such a radical move after all (or could it be incredibly radical).

And also not mentioned were the sales figures for homes priced from $500k- $1 million:

  • sales of homes in this price ranged decreased by 36%…from 47% to 30% of all homes sold in Bergen County
  • however, sales in the same price range increased in 2011 by 28%

What this really tells us about the market is something that we all need to be concerned about…and that is the trend that this portrays.  Which is that if this is in fact the trend that the publications believe that it is, is that the market in Bergen County is going to be predominately positive only for lower priced homes.  Because as they point out, most of today’s buyers are first time buyers…not move up buyers.

And if this is in fact the case, which it could be, then the trend for homes priced well above these figures will suffer, because there isn’t enough of a supply of these homes for sale.  Which will then cause the price of the lower priced homes to increase in value.  Which will then cause less homes to sell…and push more people to rentals.

Another problem that isn’t addressed in the articles is…what does this mean for towns like Tenafly, Cresskill, Closter and others in the more expensive eastern part of the County where the prices are considerably more expensive than in other areas of the County.  Will the eastern towns get hurt if this remains the trend?

If there’s one thing to learn from this…it’s that real estate is very local.  And if facts aren’t compared to other towns a price ranges, then it has no baring on anything other than to create distracting noise.  But worse it misleads consumers into believing something that is broadly true, but locally not correct.

If I only read the headline…The return of the under $300k house in Bergen, Passaic counties…then I would believe that the $300k home sale was a trend everywhere in Bergen County.  But it’s not.

But I do think that this highlights a serious problem that will affect us in the future…throughout Bergen County.  If this is the price range that buyers can afford for the next few years, it creates a problem for sales and values everywhere in the county.

The article was great in that it brings to attention some potential future problems with our housing market, and by pointing out that some people are looking in specific areas for lower priced homes, but that has pretty much always been the case in Bergen County. But you didn’t know that.

It’s time for real estate marketing to add some WOW. Quit being boring!

From time to time, in order to add a little excitement to the site, I’m going to post some things that catch my eye.  

The reason for this is really simple…marketing!

Not marketing to boost my viewership, but to show, sellers, agents and real estate developers, just how horrible they are at marketing their products. I’ve never seen an industry that is soooo pathetic at marketing homes, office buildings and everything else real estate.

Check out the houses for sale in Tenafly on the njmls, and tell me if there’s any WOW to it.

I’m looking for some WOW stuff!

After being in the biz for my entire life, real estate marketing has become a real turnoff (it’s always been a turn off for me).  And everyone suffers because of it.  Things take longer to sell or lease than they should, and mostly everything sells for less than it should.

All because of horrible marketing!

So I’m going to start posting things that scream out WOW when I see it.

And then I’m going to talk about how we can use it to sell more houses in Tenafly…and sell them faster and for higher prices.

I know all the Realtors will say it won’t work.  But that’s coming from people who have been doing it the same way for decades, and they’re not creating any more sales, or faster sales, or adding value via their marketing.  Run from anyone who tells you that marketing homes doesn’t work.

Some of it will be feminine and sexy, and some will be macho and powerful…and sexy as well.

Sorry but I’m tired of looking at boring, ugly sleep inducing real estate marketing.

It’s the most uneventful crap out there!

Let me know what you think!


First up is some kick ass jewelry that I came across on a really cool site that I follow called… le zoe musings

The post is called…More arm swag please!

I find the photography interesting and sexy…and their use of filters gives the photos a great look.

Great stuff even for a guy to check out.

Guess you could say that I’m in touch with my feminine side

If they can make jewelry look sexy and WOW, then why can brokers make it happen with real estate?

Agents need to open their eyes, trash their disposable cameras, and use an iphone, Instagram, and iphoto enhancements and start creating some interesting shots.

Be different or be invisible!

And if you haven’t noticed on this site, I’m into BIG photos.  It’s all about grabbing a viewers attention, and big makes a powerful statement

Local media predicts low interest rates and home prices will create turnaround for Bergen County. Are they right?

This is the first of a multi-part series looking at the housing market in Bergen County based on an article I recently came across on titled…Home prices coming down to earth in Bergen County, could signal turnaround. 

This article represents the typical broad based view, that historically low interest rates and decreased home prices, should automatically create affordability, and thus should translate into a housing turnaround.  This is the same assumption that the pundits have been touting since the housing bubble crashed in 2008 (really in 2006 in our area)…and yet have been left scratching their heads, wondering why their view of the market hasn’t come close to fruition.

Who in their right mind wouldn’t purchase a home with these numbers?

If only a recovery, or a turnaround was as easy as a simple math equation

Bergen County home sales 2001 – 6/30/12

As you can see by the table (data from njmls) few people have bought into this line of thinking, because as the data shows, home sales haven’t improved in Bergen County with 3+ years of record low rates and huge price declines.

Home sales have remained remarkably stable since the crash.

Stability is a great thing!

First some stats for single family home sale in Bergen County:

  • the number of homes sold yearly in Bergen County, have declined by 20% since 2008 (national market crash)
  • the number of home sold from the high point of 2004 (7631 single family homes sold) decreased in Bergen County by 41%
  • The dollar volume of homes sold in Bergen County compared to 2004 decreased by the same 41%

Multi-family sales stats:

  • Again, contrary to the national crash, the multi-family market  in our area crashed in 2006…sales declined by 21%% from 2006 to 2007.  And then sales declined even further  by another 33% from 2007 to 2008.  But the market has been stable since then
  • As with the single family market in Bergen County, multi-family sales bottomed in 2008 and have remained at the same level of sales since then

Why didn’t the people who have all the up to date sales stats, see that the market crashed, and sound the alarm back in 2006?  Why did it take another 2 years for consumers to find it out the hard way. How many of us would have sold our homes or not have bought one if we had know the big crash was coming

Stability is a great thing!

Even at a low sales volume, we should be celebrating stable sales activity, and not dwell on the fact that home sales haven’t gone back to the hyper boom day volumes…that simply isn’t going to happen again.

What the industry machine and the media are all caught up on, is that history will repeat itself, and when and if things do improve, then the market will jump back to where it once was.  It’s a myopic view of reality

What everyone should start getting used to,  is that this is the “new norm” for home sales looking into the future?

Buying homes is not all about a mathematical equation of price and low rates…in fact I contend that price has very little to do with the volume of home sales…and the data proves that point.

Let’s look at a few topics:

First: the demographics of today’s home buyer is dramatically different than past buyers

  • a majority of buyers are first time buyers and investors (what happens when all of these investors can’t sell their units?).  Buyers typically take a rather large mortgage, and investors pay cash
  • people are getting married later in life…so the need to buy a home isn’t as immediate as it was in the past
  • married couples are waiting longer to have kids…so the move to the suburbs will take longer…if people do in fact move to the burbs
  • it takes longer to save for a down payment…creates less sales
  • it takes longer to sell a home in the burbs, because there are less buyers in the market for suburban homes
  • people are waiting to buy a home in the suburbs until their kids are ready to enter the school system…because of insanely high property taxes

All of this leads to a longer sales cycle, and fewer sales.

Second: the suburbs offer little in value or lifestyle needs for today’s young buyers…especially without kids. The 1950’s vision of suburban family life, doesn’t work with today’s pool of buyer…both young and old.

So who are the suburbs for?  Everyone!

  • Urban areas like Hoboken, Edgewater, Fort Lee, Jersey City and Weehawken will become boom towns for new rentals…and that will draw today’s younger buyers, because these projects offer a more attractive and exciting lifestyle…and a less costly and less risky place to spend their money for the next “x#” of years. These areas are rapidly replacing our existing suburbs
  • See article outlining the pending rental boom in northern New JerseyRobust New Jersey Development Buoying Optimism
  • And even with increasing rentals rates, developers can easily lower their prices to compete against the “it’s cheaper to own” formula that this article and most others point out.

Rents can come down at a moments drop to compete with lower home prices, whereas home prices can’t. But again. we’re seeing that it’s not all about price.

All of these items will lead to less home sales in Bergen County during the next decade.  And let’s not forget that New York City has proven to be a better investment for buyers, and is still the go to place to live in our region

The argument for affordability based solely on an equation (price and interest rates…and compared to increasing rental rates) is an argument that the real estate industry machine has been hammering consumers with since the market crashed.  Their sales pitch has fallen flat.

There needs to be a new message and a new zoning that will allow the suburbs to compete for buyers…and tax dollars.

It is foolish to believe that things will go back to where it once was. To do that you would have to totally ignore a dramatic shift in the demographics of who today’s buyers are, and believe that their views haven’t changed AT ALL regarding life, and possession, and risk on investments

With the exception of 3+ years of unprecedented sales activity, the Bergen County housing market is fine (with the exception of a decrease in the value of our homes).  Sales are steady, as are prices.

As all indicators point to, an increase in home sales is highly unlikely anytime soon.

To be continued…

Tenafly home sales report; July 2012

Here’s a recap of Tenafly home sales as of July 20, 2012

  • 12 homes have gone under contract in July
  • 75% of the 12 homes under contract were priced below $1 million…which continues to show that this price point remains hot for Tenafly.  So why aren’t sellers raising their prices to reflect such strong demand
  • 7 home sales were withdrawn (homes were re-listed for sale)
  • Of the 7 homes re-listed for sale, 4 were priced above $1 million…the most expensive home re-listed was priced at $2,550,000.  7 homes is an unusually high number of homes for contracts to fail
  • The homes that were re-listed were homes that went under contract prior to July…probably some in May and June
Tenafly homes that went to contract in July
Tenafly homes that were re-listed in July

The number of homes sold thus far in July is average.  Average is a sign of stability, and when compared to other town in the area, average becomes a strong number.

For our region, Tenafly still has the highest demand for home buyers.  There’s strength here compared to other towns…and it has always been that way…and will continue to be that way.

So why isn’t anyone other than me promoting all!

Now it’s time for homeowners to recoup some of their lost equity.

The more attractive, and modernized your home is, the more valuable it will be.

Realtors, it’s time to compete and make your listings stand out from the crowd!

Go for it!

How new rental projects along the waterfront will affect area home sales

Just came across this article on titled….Feeding the rental appetite…by Antoinette Martin, where the author details numerous upcoming  rental projects that are slated to be built in Hudson County, as well as some interesting facts that back up her perception for the areas future as it pertains to housing.  Though the article was published in February 2012, the facts remain relevant:

HUDSON COUNTY indisputably rules the rental housing market in New Jersey: It has the largest supply of Class A units — around 13,000, according to industry experts — and commands the highest average rental rates of any part of the state. This year and next, that rental kingdom is projected to grow rapidly      

As these projects get off the ground and start renting out, I believe that it will have a negative effect on the for sale market in the outling markets in Bergen County and elsewhere in New Jersey. Home sales in the suburbs will suffer as young buyers flock to these projects, rather than buying homes in the suburbs. And it will happen sooner rather than later:

  • people will put off making a purchase or rental decision while these projects are being built
  • there’s no real rush to buy a home because interest rates and prices aren’t inflating anytime soon

Developers are already at work on, or have recently announced, projects that will add several thousand more units in waterfront communities like Hoboken, Jersey City and Weehawken, and hundreds of other units elsewhere. Hudson County is one part of the state where builders “can still get the economics to work” in their favor, said David Barry, the president of the Ironstate Development Company in Hoboken. “You have to add in the fact that multifamily rentals seem to be the only thing for which builders can get a construction loan from lenders these days,” Mr. Barry added, noting that this factor was keeping the rental development market “very warm, if not hot.”  

Even if the economy picks up these rental projects will thrive for decades compared to home sales and new home construction.

If you’re trying to sell your home in towns like Tenafly, Cresskill, Closter and Demarest, then you need to find a way to compete for the first time buyers who make up a majority of home buyers in our area.  You need to find a way to entice them with their future ties in the community, because the rental market is an easy “buy”for them.

And these new mega projects that contain every modern amenity imaginable that everyone now looks for, so they too will affect the older once more established rental markets like Fort Lee and Hackensack, because they can’t compete with new more vibrant projects and locations.

As I point out time and again on this site.  It’s all about competing for sales.

It’s all about marketing.

Are large homes still the trend in Tenafly?

I came across an interesting article on twitter via @builderbuzz..Americans living larger as new home sizes defy economy, that describes how the size of new homes being built…and sold…have unexplainably become larger, rather than smaller. Even in this economy!

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This  exact thing is  happening right here in Tenafly, and elsewhere in Bergen County…though very few homes are being built.  Let’s not go wild with the idea that everything in housing is getting better and larger throughout the entire marketplace, when in fact this is just a microcosm of the housing market

The article talks about how Toll Brothers, one of the largest home builders in the country is building a new project in Randolph New Jersey, and the homes are large and they’re sitting on large properties.

 Slightly more than 1 in 4 new homes built last year were larger than 3,000 square feet, the highest percentage since 2007

To a large extent, people are still putting off new homes. The number of new single-family dwellings built last year fell to 447,000, off 72.9 percent from the 2006 high of 1.65 million. About 236,000 of the new ones, or more than half, were built in the South

I think that all of the new homes that were built in Tenafly as spec homes, were more than 3,000sf….probably 20% larger. And this means that they have to sell for higher prices (hopefully). And there have even been a few ultra luxury spec home the have been built in Tenafly that are well over 6,000 sf and are listed between $3.4-$4 million. One has sold in in this price range in 2012 in Tenafly.

Frankly, I’m one of those who believed that people were over the idea of buying huge homes, because of their price, cost to maintain and mostly because of the insanely high property taxes that we so much enjoy paying in Tenafly. and elsewhere in New Jersey.  We do have the distinction of having the highest property taxes in the country, and the highest auto insurance rates in the country as well.

However, if the getting larger thing continues, then Tenafly, Cresskill, Alpine and Demarest will get it fair share of the pie.

Big is a big deal in these towns

The 2 most expensive listings in Alpine disappeared. What happened!

Something interesting is happening with the two most expensive listings in Alpine…and I don’t think they were sold!

A few weeks ago The Stone Mansion which was for sale at $56 million was suddenly taken off the market.  I heard rumors that someone was buying this super ultra mega luxury home.  But then the rumor-mill dried up.  And it’s still off the market.

And now i just noticed that the original Frick estate home, and all it’s acreage was suddenly taken off the market.  But that home was only listed at a mere $29 million.  So what happened?

If you have any ideas what is going on here behind the scenes…even if it’s a rumor (though we prefer facts), then let us know.

We are mega curious!