Making Your Real Estate Dreams Come True

Archive for July, 2014

Discrimination in Housing

There are three different laws that protect people from discrimination in real estate transactions including buying and selling property, borrowing and lending money, and the people involved in the transactions.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 is a federal law. It states that discrimination against people because of their race or color is illegal. There are no exceptions to this law and it applies to all properties and all transactions of property. It is enforced by Federal Court.

The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in residential real estate only but it extends the definition of the protected classes to include race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and mental or physical handicap.

  • With regard to handicap, it is unlawful to refuse to permit a handicapped person to make reasonable modifications to an existing property if the modifications are necessary for the handicapped person to use and enjoy the property. Common areas of a multifamily dwelling must be readily accessible to the handicapped person as well.
  • Housing for older persons is exempt from the protected class of familial status. Housing that is specifically designed to assist elderly persons and at least 80% of the units are occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older is exempt if there are published policies which state that the housing is intended for persons 55 years of age or older.
  • Advertising the indicates a limitation or even a preference based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or mental or physical handicap is prohibited.
  • The Federal Fair Housing Act is enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and complains must be filed within 1 year of the alleged violation.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was passed in 1945 and applies to all real property. It extends the list of protected classes to include race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, sex, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, familial status, disability, nationality, and source of lawful income. It is enforced by the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.



Dear TZ – What’s our Cranford home worth?

Dear Team Zuhl,

After Hurricane Sandy, the recession, and all this talk about short sales and foreclosures, we don’t have any idea what our Cranford home is worth! Do you know?

~Cranford Clan

Dear Cranford,

Of course we do! Today’s market in Cranford sure is different than it used to be, but the same rules apply.

Call us today for a free comparative market analysis. We’ll look at the other properties in your neighborhood that have sold recently and compare them to yours to get a reasonably good estimate of what your home would sell for in today’s real estate market!

~ Team Zuhl



Summer Recreation in Union County Parks

Union County’s Park System has plenty to entertain you and the family and friends this summer. There are dozens of parks throughout the County, each with something different to offer summer fun lovers!

Where can I bike in Union County?

  • Ashbrook Reservation in Scotch Plains
  • Echo Lake Park in Mountainside/Westfield
  • Lenape Park in Union/Westfield
  • Nomahegal Park in Cranford
  • Oak Ridge Park in Clark/Edison
  • Rahway River Parkway in Cranford
  • Warinanco Park in Elizabeth/Rosellebiking

Where can I canoe or kayak in Union County?

  • Milton Lake park in Clark/Rahway
  • Passaic River Parkway in Berkeley Heights/Summit
  • Rahway River Parkway in Clark
  • Watchung Reservation


Where is there a dog park in Union County?

  • Echo Lake Park in Mountainside/Westfield

Where can I fish in Union County?

  • Blackbrook Park in Kenilworth
  • Briant Park in Summit
  • Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield
  • Echo Lake Park in Mountainside/Westfield
  • Elizabeth River Parkway in Hilside/Union
  • Green Brook Park in Plainfield
  • Lenape Park in Cranford/Kenilworth/Springfield/Union/Westfield
  • McConnell Park in Cranford
  • Milton Lake Park in Clark/Rahway
  • Nomahegan Park in Cranford
  • Passaic River Parkway in Berkeley Heights
  • Rahway River Parkway in Rahway/Clark/Linden/Cranford/Springfield
  • Watchung Reservation


Where are there fitness trails in Union County?

  • Briant Park in Summit
  • Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield
  • Echo Lake Park in Mountainside
  • Esposito Park in Cranford
  • Nomahegan Park in Cranford
  • Oak Ridge Park in Clark/Edison
  • Phil Rizzuto Park in Union/Elizabeth
  • Ponderosa Park in Scotch Plains
  • Rahway River Parkway in Rahway/Springfeld


Where can I play handball in Union County?

  • Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield
  • Mattano Park in Elizabeth

Where are there Nature Trails in Union County?

  • Ashbrook Reservation in Scotch Plains
  • Lenape Park in Cranford/Kenilworth/Springfield/Union/Westfield
  • Milton Lake Park in Clark/Rahway
  • Passaic River Parkway in Berkeley Heights/New Providence/Summit
  • Watchung Reservation


Where are there pedal boats in Union County?

  • Echo Lake Park in Mountainside/Westfield
  • Rahway River Parkway in Cranford


Where are there water sprays in Union County?

  • Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield
  • Phil Rizzuto Park in Union/Elizabeth
  • Ponderosa Park in Scotch Plains
  • Watchung Reservation

Where are there tennis courts in Union County?

  • Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield
  • Mattano Park in Elizabeth
  • Rahway River Park in Rahway
  • Unami Park in Cranford/Garwood/Westfield


Free Comparative Market Analysis of your Clark Home

Do you know what your Clark home is worth? We do!



Call  us today for a free Comparative Market Analysis! We’ll compare your home with others like it and can usually estimate within 2% of what your home would sell for in today’s market.



De-Cluttering, 5 minutes at a time

clutter_before_1Clutter is the antithesis to selling a home. Buyers aren’t comfortable in a cluttered home and won’t stay long enough to appreciate the fine features in your home if there are too many distractions.

Got 5 minutes? Then tackle one of these 5 minute de-cluttering projects.

  1. Clear a counter. Take everything off the kitchen or bathroom counter and either put it away, donate it, or throw it away. Nothing – NOTHING – should be stored on the counter, although I might make an exception for a blender you use every day for your breakfast smoothie or a pretty soap dish. A clean work space is essential!
  2. Grab a garbage bag and walk around the house collecting things you don’t want or don’t need. Think about old magazines, ripped bath towels, mismatched socks, chipped coffee mugs. Don’t stop until you fill the garbage bag.
  3. Empty a shelf – either a shelf in a cabinet or a shelf in a closet. Everything must be either thrown away, donated, or replaced neatly. Be brutal, though. Don’t keep anything unless it’s really essential.
  4. Tackle 12 inches of the hanging space in your closet. If you won’t wear the item – doesn’t fit, out of style, ripped or stained – then donate it or throw it away.
  5. Pair all of your shoes. When they are sitting side by side with their partners, not only will they look neater but you can also make an informed decision about which to keep and which to donate.
  6. Clear your desk. A messy desk decreases efficiency. Take everything off your desk and either put it away or throw it away.
  7. Organize your paper files. Tackle one type of file at a time – insurance records, credit card receipts, tax records, and the like each require a permanent storage place that makes them accessible. Take one type of document, discard the papers you don’t need, and put the rest in a labelled file folder.
  8. Empty the medicine cabinet. Throw away out of date medicine and medicine you no longer use (contact your town for safe disposal days).
  9. Empty a drawer. Choose either a bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen drawer and remove everything. Discard what you can, donate the usable things you don’t want, and then replace the things you do want neatly.
  10. One wall of the garage at a time. Or, if it’s really bad, one half of one wall at a time. Again, remove everything. Throw it away, donate it, or replace it neatly.

And then, after you’re done, repeat. Over and over again. Five minutes at a time. 

Don’t you feel better already?


How do you choose a house?

What criteria are you looking for in a home?

When you are ready to start looking at homes, you and your agent will go through all of the homes offered for sale in your neighborhood in your price range. From the list, and there could be many, you’ll select the homes that meet the criteria you need and want in a home. Some things to consider are:

  •  How many bedrooms do you want?
  • How many bathrooms do you want?
  • What’s your preference in terms of outdoor space? Do you want a backyard, a garden, a lawn, a patio, a deck?
  • Do you want a garage?
  • Do you want a basement? Do you want a finished basement?
  • What room sizes are you comfortable with?
  • What floor plans or styles of homes do you like? Do you like split level homes, colonial homes, ranch homes, bi-levels, Tudors, Victorians, expanded ranch, Cape Cod or contemporary homes?
  • How much storage space is essential to you?
  • What upgrades are you looking for – gourmet kitchens, hardwood floors, granite countertops, and skylights?
  • Do you want a swimming pool?
  • Are you comfortable with a fixer-upper?

You’ll probably be able to take a list of all of the homes in your neighborhood in your price range and then narrow it down to a few that appeal to you based upon these characteristics.  Finally, your agent will schedule times for you to see each home on your list!


On your first showing day, you may find yourself getting confused by all the possibilities. Your agent will help you by pointing out the comparisons between the homes and helping you to see the home’s best features.

It often helps to keep a record of the homes that you’ve seen, their location, list price, and features that you love and don’t love about each home.

Buying a home is a financial decision and a business decision, but it’s also a very emotional decision. It might take two or three or even more showing days to find the right home for you and  your family. If you are exceptionally clear about the criteria that you want and don’t want in a home, your agent will be able to help you find the right home more quickly.


Writing an Offer on a Home

Once you’ve found a home, your agent will help you write an offer.

An offer takes the form of a contract and specifies everything about the conveyance of the property. Then, your agent will present the offer to the listing agent who will present it to the owners.

How Much Should You Offer?

In writing an offer, some buyers are concerned about offering too much. They think that if their offer is accepted, that means they could have offered less and still gotten the house. Other buyers are concerned about making an offer that is too low. They’re afraid that the sellers will be insulted and will refuse to negotiate.

Our advice to you is to make an offer that reflects what the property is worth. The only way to find out what it’s worth is to compare it to other similar properties that have sold in the same neighborhood. Your Realtor will call that a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). For more information on how CMAs are written, please read this article.yellow

What Other Information is in the Offer?

In addition to how much money you’re willing to offer for the home, there are other factorsthat are included in your offer and may impact the seller. One factor is the time frame. Your seller might want to close quickly or slowly to accommodate some event so your offer might be more appealing if you’re offering a flexible closing date. The type of financing you’re securing and the amount of your down payment are also important to your seller. They may feel more secure if your down payment is large or if your loan is a certain type.

You will also be asked to provide a check as earnest money. This is money, usually $1000, that indicates that you really intend to follow through with this contract as it is written if it is accepted by the seller. Of course, if the contract fails to be accepted, you will be refunded that money. If the sale gets to closing, this money will count as part of your down payment.

Then What?

Your agent will present the offer to the sellers. Possibly, they’ll have you write a letter telling the sellers a little about yourself to make the offer more personal. Additionally, your agent may present the offer in person to negotiate on the spot, with your permission.

The seller will either accept the offer as written, make a counter offer, or simply say no. If they accept the offer as written, congratulations! You’re on your way to owning the home you’ve chosen! If they make a counter offer, then your agent will negotiate on your behalf to try to reach a meeting of the minds. If they say no, then you’re back to the drawing board.


How to choose a neighborhood


An old joke goes like this:

Q: What are the three most important factors in a home?

A: Location, location, location.

But it’s not really a joke. Where you choose to live will have as much, or more, of an impact on your quality of life as the home you choose. westdown

What characteristics do you want in your neighborhood? Some things to consider are:

  •  How do you feel about your commute? Do you want to live 5 minutes from work or are you ok with living 30 or 60 minutes from work? Are you willing to drive on highways and take bridges or tunnels to get there, or will you be willing to take mass transit? Select neighborhoods that allow you to have the commute you prefer.
  • How important are the quality and proximity of schools to you? If you have, or will have children, then you want to do some research into the schools in the neighborhoods before you commit to a house. How close do you want to be to the schools – is walking distance necessary, or will you drop your children off at school or will they take a school bus?
  • Do you want community parks, green space, lakes, playgrounds, or other recreation available near by? If so, then make sure that the neighborhoods you choose have those amenities.
  • Is it important to you that shopping be within walking distance or within a short car ride? Are you comfortable driving 20-30 minutes for groceries?
  • The type of restaurants in a neighborhood might be an important factor for you. If you like to dine out, then you’ll want to choose a neighborhood that provides the types of restaurants that you enjoy.
  • For many home buyers, the proximity of a House of Worship to their home is an important factor.

This is the most important advice we can give you – Spend some time in each of the neighborhoods you’re considering. Get to know the neighborhood and the people in it – eat in the restaurants, shop in the stores, visit the library. Go to the post office and the convenience store. Do these people seem like people you want to live near? What’s the “feel” of the neighborhood?

Should you buy a Home?

There are many reasons why people choose to purchase their own home. The most common reasons are:hand-over-keys-to-house

1. Quality of life. Living in your own home allows you the opportunity to make decisions about your lifestyle that renting doesn’t always allow – decisions about room decor, pets, noise levels, carpeting, gardening. Owning your own home also provides you with participation in a community and homeowners report a higher satisfaction with their life, higher self-esteem, happiness, and higher perceived control over their lives (Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing).

2. Price appreciation. Real estate is a good investment. From 2013 to 2014, home prices increased nationally almost 14% and are predicted to rise another 5% by 2015 (Why 2014 is a good year to buy a home). Additionally, money paid in rent is gone, whereas money paid in mortgage principal increases your net worth.

3. Tax benefits. The interest you pay on your mortgage is tax-deductible. You can also deduct any payment toward points to reduce the interest rate of your mortgage. You don’t have to pay taxes on up to $250,000 profit ($500,000 if you are a couple who files jointly) you make when you sell your principal home (Tax benefits of owning a home).

There are also reasons why some people choose not to purchase their own home. These include:

1. The cost of owning a home can be great. Upkeep and maintenance can take a chunk of your budget, depending on the home, and can take a chunk of your free time. Painting walls or fixing plumbing over the weekend isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

2. Real Estate taxes. Renters don’t pay real estate taxes, which, for parts of Union County, can be very high.

3. Insurance. Homeowners insurance for a $400,000 home is around $1,200 per year (Measuring The Benefits Of Home Ownership).

4. Job or family insecurity. If your financial situation is in flux, now might be the best time for you to invest a large amount of money. If there is a possibility that you will be transferring to a new job location in the near future, now isn’t the right time to settle down.

If you’ve decided that buying a home is right for you, then Team Zuhl is here to help you on every step of the way!

The dangers of overpricing your home

Some homeowners are of the (mistaken) belief that they should price their home a tad above what it’s worth – say, $340k for a home worth $300k – so that there’s “room for negotiation.”


Pricing your home above its value actually decreases its value, and here’s why:

  1. Timing is everything. The greatest potential for buyer traffic is the first 30 days. This is an actual graph for the number of showings that a listing of ours recently had in its time on the market.  Internet activity follows an identical pattern. The only time the number of showings will actually increase is when the price drops – but that bump is never as high as the number of showings in that critical first week.showings


  1. Showings shut out. Buyers’ agents have an ethical obligation to do what is best for their clients. Showing them overpriced listings does not meet that criteria. Agents will always choose to show properties that are within their buyer’s price range and that are priced appropriately.
  2. Benefits the competition. Imagine that you’re in a grocery store. Two identical loaves of bread are sitting next to each other on the shelf – one is priced $5 and the other is priced $4. If there is no additional value to the higher priced bread, the lower priced bread is more likely to get purchased. The same is true of your home. When a home is overpriced, it not only sits on the market but also acts as a selling point for correctly priced homes. It’s a cue for buyers to say “I can get the same house for less!”
  3. Lender trouble. Even if there is a buyer willing to pay $340k for your $300k house, these buyers will not be able to get a mortgage. Today’s lenders are extraordinarily cautious and base their loans on accurate appraisals.
  4. Time on market. Overpriced homes will sit on the market. Extended time on the market makes buyers think that there are problems with the house and are loathe to even see the house.
  5. Lower proceeds. When a home is listed above its value, it almost always sells for less than its value. Simply put, buyers presume that the seller is getting desperate to sell and therefore make a low offer.

If you’re serious about selling your home, contact us today to help determine the best possible listing price to get the results you want in the quickest time possible!


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