The PetNup: The New Prenup Explained

Custody battles aren’t just about children anymore. In recent years, disputes over the custody of pets have become a highly contested subject in divorce proceedings. Our beloved fur babies are like family, so it makes sense that people are willing to go to court for their right to see their furry friends. The frequency of pet custody disputes during divorce has led to the rise of  so-called “pet-nups.” This prenuptial agreement specifically details exactly what will happen to a shared family pet in the event of divorce. Here is everything you need to know about pet-nups.

While we may see our pets as furrier children, the law simply sees them as personal property. As such, pets are subject to the same rules governing the division of property in a divorce. More often than not, a judge will give full ownership to one person in the couple based on who has put the most money into the care of the pet. In more recent years, judges have been willing to look at pet ownership more like child custody and ruled to give “custody” to the person who can provide the best environment for the animal. If you own a pet with your spouse, it is a good idea to work out an agreement for custody or visitation of the pet.

A pet-nup is the best way to ensure that you get to maintain a relationship with your pet even if things don’t work out with your spouse. Divorce attorneys recommend a number of things to include in your pet-nup to avoid stress and heartache over the loss of a pet during the divorce process. Most pet-nups include the right of ownership, any visitation agreements, and expectations for ongoing pet care. A court will typically recognize the right of ownership laid out in a pet-nup, but it will not enforce lifestyle choices like who gets the pet for holidays or specific aspects of pet care. Still, deciding these things ahead of time can alleviate stress between former spouses.

In a pet-nup, you can detail exactly how ownership will go after a divorce. This includes any shared custody agreement (two weekends a month with one partner), visitation agreements, and parameters for how contact between caregivers should be carried out. The ownership agreement can break down financial responsibilities for everyday care, vet bills, and grooming expenses. Many pet-nups can also include holiday visitation schedules and who can watch the pet and where in the event the primary caregiver is unable to care for the pet due to illness or travel.

The pet-nup can also detail the expectations for pet care for the owner(s) of the pet in the event of a divorce. Many pet-nups include a clause binding both parties to abide by the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, requiring specific standards of care to be met in regards to the animal in question. A pet-nup can lay out expectations for grooming, regular vet care, food quality, and even microchipping registration. The pet-nup can include a clause about breeding—if it is allowed or not—and the ownership of any offspring of the pet in question.

Pets are increasingly seen as members of the family and big aspects of our lives. Courts are beginning to view pets less like personal property and more like children when it comes to questions of care and custody. Judges are much more likely to honor pet-nups and assign ownership based on who can provide the best environment and care for the pet than on traditional lines of ownership. If you share a pet with your significant other, a pet-nup can give you the peace of mind you need should things turn south in your relationship.

How Divorce can Affect Your NJ Small Business

Divorce can be messy and difficult for everyone involved: the couple, their family and friends, and, for small-business owners, even their business partners and employees. When a business becomes part of a divorce, owners can end up losing all or part of their business. It can be hard to understand what property is subject to division and how to go about protecting your business assets. The good news is there are legal measures business owners can implement to protect their small business in a divorce. Here is everything you need to know.

If a business is included in a property dispute between two divorcing couples, a few things can happen. If one person owns the business outright or with their partner, they stand to lose part or all of the business through divorce proceedings. If the business owner is in a partnership with non-family members, the financial and business damages can extend to business partners. To prevent a former spouse from interfering with a business, the owner(s) can face debt to keep their full ownership. Even if ownership is not in question, all the ill-will and uncertainty that can come with divorce can distract owners and their employees from the well-being of the business.

As with most legal matters, the best way to protect your business is to be proactive from the start. No one plans to get divorced, but if it does happen it is important to know your business will be protected. Forming your business as an LLC or a C-corporation will allow you to title real estate and other property to the business. Establishing this formal structure will prevent assets owned by the business to be split up during divorce proceedings. A prenuptial agreement can also protect your business during a divorce by contractually binding your spouse from seeking ownership over your business, property, or other assets.

If you are already married, you could create a postnup. A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenup but it happens after a couple has already said “I do.” This is an agreement that would designate assets as separate property or outline how the assets would be divided in the event of divorce. If this isn’t an option for you, you should at least get a good idea of what property is considered individually held and what property is shared. Property acquired or grown during the marriage—including your small business—is normally considered marital property, which is subject to division in divorce proceedings. This way, you have a good understanding of what you could lose in a divorce from your spouse.

Even if you are already in the process of divorcing your spouse, you can still protect your business. While most marital property is subject to division in a divorce, you can negotiate in court for an uneven division of property. Obtaining a valuation for the business can help you determine how much the business is worth and how that worth has increased during the marriage. Working with an experienced attorney can help mitigate the time, risk, and some of the stress throughout this process.

Even the most prepared business owner can face challenges when going through a divorce. Having the support and expert legal advice of an experienced attorney can be essential to getting through the divorce process. Veitengruber Law is experienced in asset protection. We can help you protect your small business and avoid this challenging situation.

How to Increase Your NJ Property Value with Smart Home Technology

Smart technology is everywhere. From iPhones to cars to household appliances, smart technology has never been more accessible or more affordable. These once futuristic accessories are becoming the norm. Especially as millennials enter the real estate market, adding some smart technology is a great way to get noticed and get better returns on your house. Besides making your property more attractive to potential buyers, smart technology can add a lot of convenience and efficiency to your daily life. Here are some of the latest smart technology upgrades you can make in your home.

1. Smart Thermostat

While programmable thermostats have been around since the 1950s, they can be outdated and lack user accessibility in the era of smart tech. Smart thermostats remove any guesswork from getting the perfect temperature in your home. They can sense when you are home, when you are away, and use this data to adjust the temperature according to your preferences. You can also turn up the heat without leaving your comfy nest of blankets on the couch. Smart thermostats can even save you money by conserving energy when you aren’t home.

2. Smart Smoke Detector

The smart smoke detector could save you money on insurance premiums, but it could also save your life. How many of us have resorted to disabling our smoke detectors to end the constant shrieking from a sensitive detector? With a smart detector you can keep on cooking without interruption. A smart smoke detector can monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, and even the general air quality of your home. If a problem arises, an alert can be sent to your smart phone or tablet so you know the second there is an issue. When it comes to your health, this particular smart tech is essential to improving your home environment.

3. Smart Security

Continuing on the topic of safety, smart security systems are a fantastic addition to any home. Many homebuyers consider safety technology an important aspect of a home’s value. You can sell your home for a premium if it is updated with the latest security technology. Smart security can include: cameras connected to your smart phone, audio/video capable doorbell systems, retina scanning technology, and even facial recognition lock systems. Smart door locks can even be programmed to unlock when you pull in the driveway. These features offer convenience, safety, and peace of mind.

4. Smart Lighting

This is another smart technology option for your home that offers convenience and can save you money. EnergyStar reports that 12% of your annual energy bill goes to lighting. That’s hundreds of dollars a year. Smart lighting sensor systems can turn lights on when you enter a room and turn them off when you leave, ensuring lights are only in use when needed. They can be controlled by your smart phone or programmed to dim and brighten to your preferences. Outdoor lighting with smart technology can also improve the safety of your home.

5. Smart Blinds

Blinds provide privacy, create the perfect nap setting, and help you save money on energy costs. Smart blinds allow you to better regulate how hot or cold your house is based on the amount of light being let in. There is a lot of convenience in being able to open all your blinds with the press of a button. After all, smart blinds rolling up to let in the light of a new day is the epitome of “futuristic” living.

6. Smart Solar Panels

Solar is a great source of clean energy to power your home. It is good for the environment and endlessly renewable. Smart solar panels are the latest in solar panel developments, allowing you to monitor individual panel performance and switch panels off and on as needed. Not only will solar energy save you money on energy expenses, it can also make you eligible for a federal tax credit program.

Your investment in each of these smart technology upgrades will vary depending on your home’s unique specifications, but all of them will undoubtedly increase the value of your home. Smart tech will give your home instant appeal to potential home buyers whenever you choose to sell. In the meantime, you will be able to enjoy the conveniences of these smart technology appliances!

 

8 Easy Updates that will Help Your NJ Home Sell Faster

When you take on the huge task of selling a home, it is easy to become overwhelmed with all of the necessary home improvement projects. The good news is you might not need to do a ton of big projects in order to make your home more appealing. If you know for a fact that your property doesn’t need any major repairs, you can focus on budget friendly, time saving, smaller updates in key areas. Here are eight ways to wow potential buyers for under $500.

1. Depersonalize Your Home

Potential buyers like to be able to envision themselves in any house they are viewing. This can be difficult with your family photos everywhere. Depersonalizing your space can help interested buyers see themselves making your house into a home of their own. You can depersonalize your space by removing photos, handmade art or gifts, sports memorabilia, and awards or certificates. Keep personal toiletries out of sight and clear bedside tables of everything but a lamp or a clock. You want your home to look warm and inviting without reminding potential buyers that someone else lives there.

2. Declutter Closets and Storage Spaces

Storage space is one of the big things people look for when viewing a house. If your home is lacking in storage space, you don’t have to build more closets to catch your buyer’s eye. Simply emptying your closets of half the contents can make them appear bigger. You can store clothing out of site or donate what you don’t use anymore. TIP: move the top clothing rail up and add a bottom rail for pants or skirts. This creates an illusion of more space and adds functionality. Also declutter your pantry, crawlspace, and attic to maximize the appearance of your home’s storage spaces.

3. Update Hardware

Old faucets and cabinet hardware can really date a home. It’s inexpensive and pretty easy to update these fixtures to create the appearance of an updated home. If your bathroom and kitchen faucets are more than a few years old, it is likely time for an update. Replace the cabinet hardware with matching, updated versions as well. This is a relatively cheap fix that won’t take you a lot of time but will mean a lot to potential buyers.

4. Update Light Fixtures

Like other fixtures, old lighting can really date a home. Light is a big part of creating an inviting ambiance to entice buyers. If your light fixtures are dented, faded, or scratched, it can make your house feel dingy. Update light fixtures with inexpensive and neutral choices. This can easily modernize your home and give the impression that the home is new and well-cared for. Opt for brighter bulbs to light up darker areas of the house.

5. Match Appliance Panels

Kitchens sell homes. As the heart of the home and the central hub of household activity, it’s crucial for potential buyers to see themselves eating and entertaining in the kitchen area. It might not be financially feasible or time efficient for a full kitchen remodel, but sometimes simple changes can go a long way. Changing out appliance panels so they match can give the kitchen an updated look. Stainless steel panels for your fridge or dishwasher can give your kitchen a modern and appealing appearance.

6. Deep Clean Carpets and Floors

Stained or musty carpet can be a major turnoff to potential buyers. If these issues exist in your home, consider having your carpets professionally cleaned. If your carpets are beyond repair, you may be able to save money on replacing them buy purchasing carpet remnants in the dimensions you need. Wood floors are currently a huge selling point, so if you have them – flaunt them. Hardwood floor cleaner can make sure wood floors are shiny and a wood stain marker can improve the appearance of scratches or stains.

7. New Paint

Fresh paint can vastly improve the appearance of your home. Paint can cover stains, minor scratches, and wall repairs. It’s an inexpensive way to give a few rooms an update. When choosing paint colors, stick to warm neutrals in modern shades like earthy grey or a soft tan. Before you paint, take the time to fill in any holes from hanging wall décor that were removed.

8. Curb Appeal

Adding some greenery to your front yard can create an enticing curb appeal to get buyers interested in what’s inside. Plant some colorful flowers, trim any existing bushes, and keep up on mowing the lawn. Choose vegetation that is local to your area and will require minimum upkeep. If you don’t have a walkway, create a defined path to the front door from the driveway or sidewalk with inexpensive solar lights.

 

NJ Real Estate: Inspection vs Walk Through

The walk-through will come towards the end of the home buying process, often the day before or morning of closing. A walk-through is the final chance for you to make sure you get what you pay for. Your contract will provide a full breakdown of what comes with the property you are purchasing. It will list how many rooms, appliances, and amenities are included in the sale as well as the condition they are in. If a contract states there are X number of bathrooms and X number of toilets, the walk-through ensures the seller is not flubbing on these details.

There is also a standard in New Jersey real estate, as well as in most states, for a property to be presented to the new homeowner as “broom-clean.” While it doesn’t have to be totally spotless, it should be in generally clean condition without any excess belongings left behind. The walk-through is your chance to note any remaining possessions from the previous owner and ask for them to be removed. Likewise, it is a time to notice things that are missing that you expected to be part of the sale. It often happens that buyers assume certain window treatments or light fixtures will be included in the sale only to be disappointed when they are not. If these things were included in the contract, make sure they are still there when you do the walk-through.

While a walk-through is typically done right before closing, in the instance of a condominium where a buyer may not have seen their actual unit up front, a walk-through might be scheduled a few weeks before closing. A condo walk-through normally includes a punch list, or a list of missing or broken items that should be fixed before closing.

During a walk-through, you should note any missing or broken appliances, holes, gaps, or major cracks in the walls or ceiling, and any legally essential safety equipment, like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. If you find anything missing or deficient, this is the last chance you have to bring it to the attention of the seller before closing.

The home inspection will come before the walk-through. The inspection is how the buyer determines the condition of the property to ensure there are no surprise issues or hidden damage. The buyer does not automatically have the right to inspect the property. Most buyers will put an inspection clause in the real estate contract that gives them the right to inspect the house before a sale has been finalized. The purpose of an inspection is not to nitpick over minor blemishes in the appearance of the property, but to uncover any glaring flaws.

Unless you are very experienced in real estate or home construction, you should hire a professional for the inspection. A professional will understand what to look for and will think of things you might not—like checking for a buried oil tank. If there are defects present, the buyer can attempt to negotiate to get these problems fixed. Depending on the way the market is leaning, the seller can decline or accept these terms before agreeing upon the sale. In a seller’s market, a seller can—and often times will—decline to fix even major issues.

If issues arise in negotiations over repairs, you don’t have to deal with it alone. Veitengruber Law can help you through every step of the real estate process. We can help you reach your real estate goals and make sure you are getting the best deal in the process.

Foreclosure Mediation Now Required by Law in New Jersey

New Jersey has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, making NJ homeowners specifically vulnerable to losing their homes. In April, Governor Murphy signed into law a bill that is intended to address the massive waves of foreclosures across the state. This new bill is intended to help NJ residents avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. Part of this bill requires mortgage lenders to send information about mediation with every notice of intent to foreclose. Here is everything you need to know about the law and how it impacts your rights as a homeowner in the Garden State.

As of November 1st, the New Jersey Foreclosure Mediation Act will help NJ homeowners and lenders work together to avoid foreclosure through mediation. Under this law, lenders must send a Notice of Intent to Foreclosure along with written notice of the homeowner’s right to take advantage of the Court’s Foreclosure Mediation Program. A homeowner is eligible for participation in the program as long as the property in question is an owner-occupied residence OR is planned to be occupied by the homeowner-borrower or a member of their immediate family.

The Foreclosure Mediation Program facilitates communication between the homeowner, their lender, and an impartial third-party. The parties involved can discuss the borrower’s financial situation and try to find ways the homeowner can keep their home or otherwise give up the property without foreclosure proceedings. Alternatives to foreclosure can include loan modification, repayment arrangements, a forbearance agreement, a short sale, or a deed in lieu of foreclosure. There is no fee to participate in this program.

There are legal requirements the lenders must abide by when sending the Foreclosure Mediation Notice.  The notice must be included in the initial Notice of Intent to Foreclose, it must be written in English and Spanish, it must inform the homeowner of their right to a free Housing Counselor, and it has to state in plain and direct language that a foreclosure has not been filed yet. If your lender does not follow even one of these rules, they are in violation of the law. The notice cannot claim that a foreclosure has been filed. The notice is to provide the homeowner with adequate time (60 days) to consider all of their options, including participation in the mediation program.

Since this new law has gone into place, some lenders have been disregarding this law by filing for foreclosure before sending the notice of mediation or by telling the homeowner they are in foreclosure before a complaint has been filed. It is important for homeowners to remember that a notice of intent to foreclose cannot legally claim that a foreclosure has been filed. You are entitled to the time and resources provided with the Foreclosure Mediation Program.

If you are in doubt about a Notice of Intent to Foreclosure or your rights under the NJ Foreclosure Mediation Act, contact Veitengruber Law. We can help you review these documents and explain your rights as an NJ homeowner. If you are facing foreclosure, you do have options. While participating in the NJ Foreclosure Mediation Program does not guarantee you will be able to avoid foreclosure, it doesn’t hurt to participate.

6 Tips for Getting a Loan Modification

Remember the day you made settlement on your house? The excitement of walking through your front door for the first time? Hanging your beloved artwork in just the right spots, shopping for the perfect TV to fit the space, enjoying life in your new home.

If financial troubles have turned what used to be your little slice of heaven into a burden of anxiety and you’re struggling to make your mortgage payments, a loan modification may be the answer.

Through a loan modification, the lender agrees to permanently restructure one or more terms of the existing loan, resulting in a more affordable monthly payment. The goal is to prevent foreclosure, which can be devastating for the borrower and costly for the creditor.

A loan modification may involve reducing the interest rate, increasing the length of the loan, converting to a different type of loan (for example from variable to fixed-rate), or a combination of these options.

A loan modification is not a forbearance, which would allow you skip or make partial payments for a little while. It’s not refinancing, in which you’d close out the old loan and get a new one. Rather, it’s a way to adjust your current loan to provide long-term relief for your financial troubles.

Taking this step may mean that you end up paying more in interest and waiting longer until your home is fully paid off. But if you want to save your home, here are six things to consider to help you successfully navigate the loan modification process.

  1. Make Sure You’re Eligible

Not every borrower will qualify for a loan modification. Typically, you’ll need to prove that you’re in a significant state of financial crisis or hardship, perhaps caused by job loss, divorce, or a serious physical or mental health situation.

  1. Talk to Your Lender

Owning up to financial difficulties is not easy, but it’s the first step in digging out of the hole. Reach out to your loan provider right away. Check out your latest loan statement or the company’s online contact information for departments such as “loss mitigation.”

And if you’re dealing with a financial hardship and the phone starts ringing – answer it. It could be your lender proactively trying to help.

Be sure to clearly describe your situation, ask about options, and don’t be afraid to propose your own ideas – it shows you’re interested in finding a solution.

  1. Let the Paperwork Begin

If the representative agrees that you’re a candidate for a loan modification, complete the application paperwork in a timely manner.

You’ll need to accurately verify your income, expenses, loan payment history, and other financial circumstances to demonstrate your inability to meet the current loan commitment. You may need documents such as tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs or contracting checks, and/or a hardship letter detailing the reasons you are requesting new loan terms.

  1. Keep Your Records – and Keep Your Cool

Know that this can be a time-consuming process; you’ll be dealing with multiple representatives and a multitude of forms.

Remember that we’re all human – mistakes happen. Documents can get lost. People can interpret things incorrectly. Copy and date everything you submit. Put your name, contact information, and loan number on each page. Also keep records of anything your lender sends you. Whatever happens, be polite; people are more likely to want to help someone who’s being nice to them, so in this case, kindness really does matter.

  1. Look to the Long-Term

If you and the lender come to an agreement over your loan modification – congratulations! Make sure your expectations are realistic. Understand that the proposal may not be as favorable as you had hoped. Before you finalize anything, make sure it’s an arrangement that you are willing and able to keep.

Know that your credit score will be affected, making it harder for you to obtain other loans until your score goes back up.

  1. Don’t Give Up

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Determine why the application was rejected and what you can do to get the resolution you want.

You may want to work with legal expert to help you understand your options to challenge the decision, make a counteroffer, or pursue a different solution entirely.

If you want to appeal, if you get stuck on the paperwork, if you believe your rights aren’t being upheld, or if you don’t even know where to begin, we can help. Contact Veitengruber Law, and we’ll be glad to work with you to tailor and pursue a comprehensive debt-relief plan to help you get your loan modification and financial situation back on track – all while you stay in the home you love.

Filing for Bankruptcy: Should I Wait Until After the Holidays?

nj bankruptcy

The holidays can be a stressful time of year for anyone, but it is especially stressful for those struggling financially. If your debts are too much to bear and you are considering bankruptcy, it can be hard to decide when is the best time to file. Should you file before the holidays to eliminate your anxieties, or is it the best plan to focus on enjoying the holiday season and figure out your finances in the new year? Every bankruptcy case is unique and the answer to this question will depend on the specifics of your situation.

Can Holiday Debt be Discharged?

In bankruptcy law, all the debt accumulated in the three months before and after Christmas is generally considered non-dischargeable debt. In other words, any money you spend on gifts, decorations, holiday parties, or travel during the holiday season is your responsibility to pay and cannot be eliminated through bankruptcy. With this kind of debt there are two options. The first option is to reaffirm this debt, which would allow you to make monthly payments until the debt is paid off. The second option is to redeem the debt, or pay the full balance. The exception to this rule is if the cause of the debt was an absolute necessity. In the case of necessary debt, even if it is accrued during the period of time surrounding the holidays, can be discharged during bankruptcy.

When trying to determine if you should file before or after the holidays, the best way to decide what to do is to take the means test. The means test is a set of steps you can use to determine if you should file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge many or all of your debts, while Chapter 13 bankruptcy, sets up a manageable monthly debt re-payment plan over a period of 3 to 5 years. One of the important areas of the means test is how much income you received in the six months prior to filing. If your income is above a certain threshold, you will not be able to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and will therefore be held responsible for more of your debts.

Chapter 7 

You will need to know precisely how much income you receive in the six months prior to filing – this include all incoming funds like child support, lottery winnings, inheritance money, survivor’s benefits and holiday bonuses. If you know you will be receiving a holiday bonus, it may be a good idea to file before you receive this extra income. If you file before you receive the bonus, it can raise your income and make you ineligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Your income taxes can also impact your filing status. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, debtors typically have what is known as a “no asset” bankruptcy. This means that what you own is either exempt or worth too little to be sold off to help pay for your debts. Under no asset Chapter 7, if you file after January 1, the IRS will not be paid from the bankruptcy proceedings. This does not mean debt owed to the IRS is forgiven, but instead that you will have to agree to a payment plan to pay off any income tax owed.

If you do own any valuable assets when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, any non-exempt item that meets the valuation criteria will be liquidated to pay your creditors. The IRS, as a priority debt, will receive payment before your other creditors.

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 bankruptcy presents three significant benefits to filing for bankruptcy after your income taxes are due.

  1. You will be protected from the IRS while you are repaying your debts.
  2. Because there is a decent amount of flexibility for repayment, you can choose to pay debts in order of priority.
  3. No interest or penalties will accrue during your bankruptcy case. If you want to take advantage of these benefits under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you should wait to file in the New Year.

The holidays are a time to enjoy family, friends, and cherished traditions. If financial stress is keeping you from enjoying the holiday season, don’t suffer alone. Veitengruber Law can help you determine when and how to file for bankruptcy. Our legal team is experienced in bankruptcy law and debt management. We can answer any of your questions and help you decide which option is best for your specific situation, and we will be by your side throughout your entire bankruptcy case.

NJ Real Estate Market is HOT as Weather Turns Cold

NJ real estate

In general, the real estate market tends to cool off with the weather. New Jersey sees some messy winters and it isn’t uncommon for low temperatures to keep people bundled up in their (current) homes. It’s true that some people looking for real estate in NJ will wait until the warmer months to pursue their real estate goals. But this year might see some atypical market trends emerging during the winter months. Being aware of these trends can help you successfully sell your home even when there’s a chill in the air. Here are some things you can watch for this winter.

1. Fewer Homes on the Market

Most people want to list their homes during the spring and summer months due to the commonly held belief that more potential buyers are house shopping in the warmer seasons. Because buyers know this, some may wait until the chilly season passes to seriously look for their dream home. However, less homes listed for sale doesn’t mean that your home won’t sell. In fact, when there are fewer homes on the market, buyers who are looking will be more inclined to take a second look at what you have to offer.

2. Carryover Into the New Year

Unlike previous years, real estate insiders expect the winter months this year to be busier than normal. Thus far in 2019, there were more people looking for houses than there were homes on the market. Buyers that weren’t able to purchase a home during the popular summer months will still be on the lookout for their dream property. Because of this, the market is rich with buyers and will be well into the winter months. This winter could be very profitable for the seller willing to keep their house open through the colder months.

3. “Interested Parties Only”

While there will be more buyers in this year’s winter market than normal, there are still less interested parties than in the spring and summer months. The holidays and cold weather tend to slow down the market. Buyers who are still looking in the winter are generally more serious about making a move and they know they’ll have less competition for homes during this time of the year.

4. You May Be More Motivated to Accept an Offer

If you have had your home listed for awhile, chances are good that you are eager to get the property sold. The longer a property sits on the market, the more it costs any owner. As your motivation to sell increases, you’ll likely find that you are willing to compromise a little more so that you can ultimately make the sale happen.

5. Real Estate Prices Are Rising

Zillow predicts that NJ home valuations and sale prices will increase another 1% as we round the corner into 2020. Specifically, single family homes will be in hot demand throughout this winter and into the warmer months of this upcoming spring and summer. Because demand looks like it will continue steadily, prices are only expected to rise further as we move through 2020, which is great news for sellers!

Neighborhoods throughout New Jersey are experiencing a hot market for real estate this winter. If you are thinking about buying or selling a property this season, Veitengruber Law has you covered. Your real estate plans don’t have to freeze with the temperatures. When you need us to look over your real estate contract, title paperwork and/or attend closing – we’re here for you no matter how frightful the weather.

Forcing the Sale of Real Estate in New Jersey

real estate in new jersey

When it comes to selling real estate, many problems can arise between the time a property goes on the market and closing. Financing issues, disagreement over the closing date, or discrepancies regarding the condition of the property can cause delays. Most of the time, the buyer and the seller are able to resolve these problems and work towards the mutual goal of a sale, but this isn’t always the case. If a deadlock occurs, either party could incur costs or face a potential lawsuit. If monetary compensation is not sufficient to repay a potential buyer for damages incurred, forcing the sale of real estate to the buyer may be the only way to resolve the issue.

“I don’t want to lose my dream home!”

Because of the unique nature of most real estate, sometimes financial compensation alone is not enough to make up for the loss of a real estate opportunity. If a buyer is attempting to buy their dream home or a uniquely advantaged commercial property and the seller fails to sell the property, this is considered a breach of contract. In this case, the only way to fairly compensate the buyer is to force the sale of the property to the buyer. This is also called specific performance. In New Jersey, specific performance is used to remedy the seller’s breach of contract and repay the buyers monetary damages.

In New Jersey, to establish the right to specific performance, a party must demonstrate three things:

  1. The contract is valid and legal
  2. Terms of the contract are clear enough for the court to determine the responsibilities of each party with reasonable certainty
  3. That an order forcing the sale of a property would not be harsh or oppressive to the seller

A court will look at a situation closely before ordering the sale of a property. Even if a contract is legally enforceable, there are outside circumstances that can impact the reasonableness of the sale of a property. The court will consider whether or not specific performance will unfairly disadvantage the seller or if denying specific performance will deny the buyer adequate compensation. Often, these court proceedings will involve a thorough investigation into the circumstances behind the real estate transaction and why a contract fell through. The court must confirm the buyer acted in a fair and equitable manner and behaved conscientiously in relation to the contract before a force of sale will be considered.

What if I don’t have a written contract in place?

While it is certainly more clear cut with a written contract, you do not have to have a contract to force the sale of real estate. Originally, New Jersey law forbade the enforcement of a contract for the sale of real estate if the contract was not in writing. However, a revision to law now allows for the enforcement of an oral contract in the event that clear and convincing evidence can be presented confirming the validity of a contract. The buyer must present proof that identifies the real estate in question, the names of the parties involved, the nature of the sale, and the existence of a mutual agreement to sell the property.

The forced sale of a property could also happen if a property’s co-owners cannot agree to sell a joint-owned property. In this situation, one co-owner can file a lawsuit against the other co-owner(s) to force the sale of the property. This is called a partition lawsuit. While these lawsuits are certainly a last resort in the eyes of the courts, and can be very costly for those involved, they do happen. The proceeds of the sale of the property will be divided evenly between owners based on established ownership interest percentages. In most cases, all parties involved in a partition lawsuit would net more from a voluntary sale of property than a court-ordered sale after a legal battle. Because of this, forcing the sale of a property with joint-owners should be a last resort.

If you are seeking to force the sale of real estate, you must file with the Chancery Division, General Equity Part of the Superior Court in the county where the real estate in question is located. Forcing the sale of a property can require significant documentation before a court will render judgment. Gathering all documentation required for discovery can be time consuming and confusing. Getting the help of an experienced real estate attorney can increase your chances of success in obtaining a force of sale.

Veitengruber Law is a full service New Jersey real estate team. We can help you navigate the complexities of any real estate contract. Understanding your rights as a buyer or a seller in a real estate transaction can ensure you do not miss out on your property dreams. We can help you reach your real estate goals!