It’s conventional wisdom that the best time to put one’s house on the market in our area is in the spring. By many its considered the time when there are most buyers in the market are actively looking for homes. Real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, and real estate lawyers know that typically, June 30th is the busiest closing day of the year because often families with school-age children will try to schedule their closing date as soon as possible after the school year ends to allow as much time as possible to settle in to a new home before the start of the new school year. With mortgage-funded closings typically taking 60 days to get from under contract date to closing date, this means that a lot of of properties go under contract in late spring in an effort to close around June 30th.
With buyer activity in May and June driven by the school year calendar and mortgage timelines, one would think that by comparison, July and August are relatively quiet. However, what’s surprising is that a look at the actual numbers tells a different story. In May and June of 2015, 15 properties went under contract, but the exact same number of properties in Tewksbury went under contract in July and August of 2015.
There are a few reasons for the disconnect between our expectation and the statistical reality. First, our instinct is that foot traffic (agent showings and visitors to open houses) is correlated to the number of contracts but in reality, there’s not necessarily a correlation between the two, i.e., just because there is more foot traffic doesn’t mean that there are more contracts written. Second, buyers who haven’t found what they need in time for an early summer close are still motivated to buy in time to close before the start of the new school year (it’s particularly important for a family changing school districts who needs to be under contract or closed on the new home in time for registration in the new district). And of course, third is that at any time of year, there are buyers without a need to move on a date convenient to school schedules.
The take-away from this is that while late spring is a good time to be on the market, 2015 numbers in Tewksbury suggest that it is just as likely for a home to go under contract if it’s on the market in July and August.
For more information about statistics and trends in different sectors of our local real estate market, contact Leaf, Realtors® at 908-975-9756.
Buying a Home
If your plans for 2015 include purchasing a condo or townhouse with an FHA mortgage, you’ll need to pay attention to more than just saving for the 3% downpayment. Before you start visiting different properties, be sure to confirm that a property that interests you is in a community currently approved for purchase with an FHA mortgage. The following condominium communities are the only ones currently (as of today) FHA-approved in Hunterdon County:
- Alton Place (Town of Clinton)
- Lake Cushetunk Woods (Readington Township)
- Oak Knoll Village (Clinton Township)
- Union Gap Village (Union Township)
- Union Hill (Union Township)
For more information about purchasing a condominium with an FHA morgtgage, feel free to contact Leaf, Realtors® at 908-975-9756.
We are frequently asked about the square footage of properties (a/k/a “gross living area” or “GLA”), particularly when home buyers and sellers see descriptions of properties on the internet with descriptions that either do not include a reference to the square footage of a particular property or have square footage information that conflicts with information they’ve obtained from another source.
Unlike the Malibu property referenced in a recent New York Times article, for most properties, a precise square footage measurement is not as important to the buyer as how the actual space functions for the buyer’s intended use. However, for situations in which the measurement raises special concerns, ask the following questions:
- what’s the source of the square footage information?
- what is included in the measurement?
- are there other measurements of the property that are different?
When referencing the square footage of a property, we rely upon the information provided by the municipality’s tax assessor’s office. For many properties, this information is available to the public, with no charge, at www.njactb.org (hint: click on “Record Search”). It’s interesting to note that after looking at hundreds of properties over several years at this website, we’ve noticed that some of the properties have changes in the square footage measurements on record over time.
If you have specific questions about a particular property regarding its square footage or its features, we would be happy to share our insights. Just call us at 908-975-9756 or contact us online.
News Flash! The Tewksbury Township Committee voted unanimously tonight to repeal inspections by the Zoning Officer as a pre-requisite to the sale of a home in Tewksbury Township. This new ordinance goes into effect immediately. Of course, homeowners still must apply to the Township for necessary permits before undertaking certain kinds of improvements to their property.
If you have questions about how this new ordinance affects homeowners and purchasers of real estate in Tewksbury Township, feel free to contact us.
If you’re a buyer considering buying a condominium or townhouse, make sure you pay attention not just to the individual units that are for sale, but look at issues associated with the community overall.
- Does it look like the landscaping and repairs are well-attended to?
- What amenities does the community have (tennis courts, pools, playgrounds, etc.) and how easy are they to access from the units that are of interest to you? Is there a separate charge for use of any of these facilities?
- Where do residents pick up mail?
- Where do residents leave their garbage (and is the garbage collection area tidy)?
- Is there a separate charge for garbage collection?
- What are the rules for resident parking and guest parking? Are there restrictions regarding the types of vehicles that can be parked outside a garage?
- What’s the monthly maintenance charge and what does it include?
- Has there been a special assessment recently or is one being considered by the Homeowners’ Association?
- (if you are considering buying with an FHA mortgage) Is the community approved for purchases financed by FHA mortgages?
By getting answers to these questions on or before your first visit to a community, you can not only save yourself a lot of time and effort in the process of identifying a particular condominium to purchase, but you can also avoid “falling in love” with a home only to find out that even though the unit is perfect, the community itself won’t be a good fit.
If you’re looking for answers to other questions about the process of buying or selling a condominium, we’re happy to help you out. Contact Leaf, Realtors® at 908-975-9756 or stop by our office at 66 Old Turnpike Road in the center of Oldwick, New Jersey.
If buying a home in 2014 is one of your New Year’s resolutions (or one of your spouses’), here’s some help in getting started in the process to keep it as streamlined, productive, and stress-free as possible.
First, choose your neighborhoods
Deciding what’s important to you will help you narrow down the municipalities in which you would like to search for a home. Make a list with two sections: one section with things that you must have and you can’t live without — these things are not-negotiable — and a second section with things that you would really like but don’t necessarily have to have. We find that a lot of buyers think of the following when making this “need/want” list:
- number of bedrooms
- number of bathrooms
- number of parking/garage spaces
- (if you are buying a condominium) pet-friendliness (there are always rules about pets but some are more restrictive than others)
- amenities serving the neighborhood (pools, tennis courts, golf courses, playgrounds, walking paths)
- distance/travel time for commute to work
- distance/travel time for drive to schools/shopping/recreation/transportation
- reputation of public schools
- condition of property and level of renovations necessary
- ongoing fees, e.g., taxes, maintenance fees, trash collection fees
Second, know your financing options.
Before you get serious about your search, learn what your financing options are. If you’re planning to get a mortgage to purchase your home, speak to a mortgage professional as early in the process as possible. By getting this information as early on in the process as possible, you’ll be able to be as prepared as possible when the right property comes along and you can minimize surprises. Things to discuss with a mortgage professional are:
- mortgage loan products and the interest rate, fees, and downpayment requirements of each
- how long the rate is “locked” and fees associated with extending that “rate lock”
- ways you can improve or maintain your credit score
- ideas for saving for an increased downpayment or reserving funds for renovations
- (if you are buying a condominium) which condominium communities are approved for purchases with an FHA-insured mortgage
Third, take a look at specific properties.
There are several ways you can start this process, and you can try them one at a time or all at the same time.
Internet search. You can look on the internet at websites that include information about properties currently on the market. The websites you might find are typically either broker websites (e.g., leafrealtors.com) or “third-party” or “aggregator” websites (e.g., realtor.com, zillow.com, trulia.com). The Garden State Multiple Listing System also has a website that will allow consumers to search for properties (gsmls.com).
Open houses. You can stop by open houses and get a hands-on feel for the homes and communities. Typically, open houses are hosted by real estate agents on Sunday afternoons from 1-4pm, but they are sometimes held on other times of the week when buyers might be available to see the properties (e.g., Saturday afternoons or early evening on weekdays in the summer). You can find a list of open houses for any particular date by visiting the websites mentioned above.
Consult a Realtor®. While it might seem intimidating or old-fashioned to do this, if you connect with the right agent, you can hit the jackpot in terms of finding the right place for you and getting a good deal. Think of it like the difference between researching specific stocks, bonds, disability insurance, and life insurance products on the internet or researching who is the best financial advisor for your needs, personality, lifestyle, and goals . In doing your research for a Realtor® to advise you, you can ask friends for recommendations. You can also use the internet to find out who might be a good fit for you — look at their website, including their qualifications and blog posts (this will tell you if they’re a generalist or if they’re a specialist who has their finger on the pulse of the communities that interest you). Also look at what past customers and colleagues say about agents on their websites, on aggregator sites (see above), as well as on LinkedIn. Some things to consider in choosing your Realtor® are:
- does the Realtor sell real estate as a full-time career or is it a part-time job?
- how well do they know the areas or types of homes you’re considering?
- does the Realtor represent one side of a transaction only or will their representation of you as a buyer be compromised by representing both sides of a single transaction (for more on this, see our blog post on agency relationships).
- do you think you would like working with them? Do they have a personality that works with yours? Are you looking for a good hand-holder through the process? Are you looking for someone who is good with market analysis? Are you looking for someone who has experience with relocating families from out-of-the-area? Will the Realtor have the time/expertise to advise you on all aspects of the transaction as you progress from contract to closing?
- for more about choosing a Realtor, see http://www.realtor.com/basics/buy/looking/realtor.asp
Once you’ve found a Realtor® in whom you have confidence, you’re ready to look at properties that you and the realtor select while working collaboratively to find a home that will match your needs.