Virtual Realty: Touring NJ Homes While Social Distancing

Real estate agents have had to get creative to work around the restrictions put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many in the industry have turned to technology for virtual tours and one-on-one meetings. Prior to the 2020 quarantine, buyers were already able to start their home search with online actions, like contacting agents, searching for homes and applying for a mortgage. Now, COVID-19 has turned nearly the entire home buying process into a virtual transaction. Online virtual tours have increased in popularity over the last few months, adding convenience and safety to buying a home today.

While the rest of the world seems to be on pause, there are still a surprising number of people who have to move at this time. Moving during a pandemic can come with a lot of anxiety because of the roadblocks to the already stressful process of buying a home. Buyers looking for a home naturally want to see every aspect of a potential property. They want to run their fingers over the counter tops, stand what could be their future bathroom, and test out all of the cabinet and closet doors. Right now, that kind of in-person tour simply isn’t possible for many people. Virtual tours offer a way for home buyers to see if they are interested enough in a home to risk going out to see it in person or even put in an offer – sight unseen.

Prospective buyers might be a little unsure about only seeing their future abode through a computer screen, but a good agent will ensure that their client gets the most out of a virtual tour. Before any virtual tours are scheduled, the agent should have a call with the buyer to get an understanding of their needs. Location, timing, budget, and other requirements will help the agent narrow down which houses to show a buyer. Narrowing down options is a critical step because the real estate process takes longer right now.

Typical virtual real estate tours look something like this:

The buyer will receive an e-mail link to a meeting on a video chatting app like Zoom. Once the buyer and agent have entered the chat they can walk through the virtual tour together so the agent can answer any questions and give the buyer more details on the home. Virtual tours consist of a mixture of still photographs and 3D videos. Most tours will take you through every room of the house, offering different views and angles to give you the best perspective possible.

A virtual tour should give prospective home buyers a good idea of whether or not they are interested in pursuing a home further – most will ultimately still want to see a home in person before they sign on the dotted line. It is possible to do in-person tours while maintaining social distancing via lock boxes with codes for self-guided tours or waiting outside while buyers are looking at homes can allow in-person touring to safely take place.

Virtual tours are a great tool for limiting the coronavirus risk to both buyers and agents by reducing the number of in-person home tours are needed. Veitengruber Law can connect home buyers or sellers with excellent agents ready to get creative in order to buy and sell properties during these strange and challenging times.

Can I Sell My Home If I’m Behind on My Mortgage?

If you have fallen behind on your mortgage payments and cannot find a way to catch up, you may think selling your home is the only way to get on top of your finances. As long as your lender has not foreclosed on your home yet, you still have the opportunity to sell your home and get out from under your mortgage. But in this situation you need to move quickly and decisively. Here is everything you need to know about selling your home after you have fallen behind on your mortgage payments.

The foreclosure process will start soon after you begin to miss mortgage payments. Even missing just one payment can cause you to receive a foreclosure notice in the mail. After you are more than 120 days late, your lender is legally able to reclaim your home and sell it in order to recoup their money. At this time, you will be forced out of your home. The foreclosure will also appear on your credit report and can drop your credit score drastically, impacting your ability to get future lines of credit. Fortunately, you have up until the actual day of foreclosure to sell your home on your own.

Even if you think you are heading towards foreclosure, you can still get in front of your situation and take financial control back. How you go about selling your home before foreclosure depends on whether your house is worth more or less than what you owe on your mortgage. You will be able to sell your home and use the profits to pay back your lender as long as the fair market value of your home is greater than what you still owe on your loan. Taking this path will look much like the steps you would take to sell your home at any time: find a real estate agent and hope you receive acceptable offers on your home. You will not normally need to get your lender’s permission to sell your home like this.

If you find your home is worth less than the amount you still owe your lender, you will need to sell your home as a short sale to avoid foreclosure. A short sale is when you accept an offer on your home that will not cover the full amount you still owe on your mortgage. You will need to get the approval of your lender in order to go down this path, however this may be difficult. Lenders automatically lose money on short sales so they may not be eager to approve. You will need to submit a hardship letter explaining why you can’t make your mortgage payments and evidence to support this claim.

Many lenders will eventually accept your short sale offer as long as you meet specific demands to help meet their bottom line. You might find yourself responsible for repairs and many closing fees so you need to decide if you want to take on these costs (and if you can even afford to do so). Your agent and real estate attorney will be able to help you negotiate these terms. A short sale will do much less damage to your credit than a foreclosure and will allow you to stay in the home until the sale is completed.

If you are behind on your mortgage payments, but you want to stay in your home, there are also other options besides selling or foreclosure, like mortgage forbearance or mortgage modification. Veitengruber Law can help you find the right solution for your specific situation.

Unemployed and Over Fifty: Making Adversity Work for You

If you are over 50 and have found yourself unemployed because of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. The unemployment rate of Americans 55+ has gone from 2.6% in January of this year to 11.8% in May. It is a difficult time for many Americans to find work and make ends meet, but that becomes a bigger challenge for those closer to retirement age. Working against the age bias of potential employers can be a significant hurdle. But you know better than anyone just what you have to offer a workplace. Here is how to make adversity work for you and finally land a new job.

1. Set a Budget

After you have lost employment, the first thing you should do is get a good idea of where you stand financially. Get a summary of all of your financial resources and determine how long you can survive out of work. If you are unemployed for an extended period of time, a solid understanding of your finances can help you stretch your funds further. Those who are unemployed in their 50s should plan to be unemployed for an average of one year.

2. Review your Resume

If it’s been a while since you updated your resume, it’s time to make some changes. Focus on major accomplishments from the last 15 years and provide a brief highlight of your earlier work experience. Showcase your best attributes and play up how valuable your experience can be for a company. While you never want to lie on a resume, it is ok to omit dates—like the year you graduated college, for instance—in order to avoid being screened out for your age. Be sure to address any concerns a potential employer may have about your technological prowess up front: discuss the technology you use that is relevant to your field, including software and computer programs.

3. Stay Active

It is easy to get depressed and wallow after extended unemployment, but try to stay active. This is the best time to explore things you have never had the time for. Start a side project that relates to your career. This could include writing a book, doing pro bono consulting work, or investing your time into your community. This work will keep your brain busy, create networking opportunities, and will show future potential employers that you are still active in your field (during job interviews). You could also look for temporary or part-time employment to help make ends meet while you continue to look for a job in your field.

4. Networking

Networking serves two major purposes: it gets you out of the house to socialize and it opens doors for future career opportunities. Old co-workers, friends, family, neighbors—you never know who might hold the key to a new job opportunity. These people can also be a great support system as you navigate unemployment and your job search.

5. Keep Applying—Don’t Give Up!

Apply to every job you think would be a good fit—and even some you are on the fence about! You should be sending your resume to any open position that fits your skill set. You can also apply directly to hiring managers at companies that may have an interest in an employee with your special abilities and background. Don’t get discouraged by a rejection and keep applying to as many positions as you can.

Just because you have lost your job in your 50s doesn’t mean you will never be employed again. Stay persistent in your job search – the right position will present itself as long as you don’t give up!

What is the Right of Redemption Before Foreclosure?

In the foreclosure process, the redemption period is a specific amount of time wherein the borrower can pay off the debt and “redeem” or “reclaim” their property. All states allow borrowers to redeem a property prior to a foreclosure sale, but New Jersey is one of the states that also allows you to redeem a property after it has already been sold via foreclosure. If you are facing foreclosure and unsure of your rights to redemption, here is what you need to know.

The right to redemption is meant to give borrowers one final chance to keep their home. Redeeming a home can include: 1) paying off the debt in total (principal balance plus interest and any accumulated fees) before the foreclosure sale in order to put a stop to the sale, or 2) providing reimbursement of the purchase price to the party who has purchased the property after the foreclosure sale, or otherwise paying off the mortgage debt including fees and interest.

Utilizing the right to redemption before the foreclosure sale is one of the best ways to avoid foreclosure. In order to redeem your home before the foreclosure sale, you must figure out exactly how much money you will need to present to satisfy the debt. You can do this by requesting a payoff quote (sometimes called a payoff letter or payoff statement) from your loan servicer. Once you know how much money you will need to redeem the property, you will have the chance to make payment anytime between the acceleration of the underlying promissory note and the foreclosure sale.

In practice, redeeming a home prior to a foreclosure sale does not happen very often. The reality is that if a borrower had the funds to redeem the property, they likely would not have fallen so far behind on their payments to begin with. This is where statutory redemption, or redemption after foreclosure, comes into play. Statutory redemption gives borrowers more time to gather the funds needed to keep their home. In New Jersey, borrowers have up until the court confirms the sale or the lender gets a deficiency judgement to redeem their home after a foreclosure sale.

In order to redeem your home after a foreclosure sale, you will need to pay the full amount of the judgement, plus interest, costs, and all reasonable expenses that the purchaser incurred for taxes, assessments, any prior liens, and necessary repairs after the sale of the home. If the purchaser received any amount of income from the property, as a rental, for example, this amount will be deducted from the total you will need to pay.

The right to redemption is a chance to help you save your home, but it isn’t always realistic for those facing foreclosure. If you want to save your home, but don’t think you’d have the ability to redeem it outright, Veitengruber Law can help you determine the best path through foreclosure based on your specific needs.

How to Take Advantage of Your NJ Home’s Equity

NJ home equity loan

Your home is likely the biggest investment you will ever make and it can be an extremely valuable asset. The best way to take advantage of the full value of your home is to utilize your home equity. Equity is the difference between what you owe on your mortgage and what your home is worth. Every time you make a payment on your home, your equity grows. Changes in the market value of your home can also increase your equity, as can certain home improvement projects. Here are three ways to tap into your NJ home’s equity.

1. Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit is a great way to borrow money that will fund smaller home improvement projects. Like a credit card, a HELOC has a set limit on how much you can borrow and you will pay interest only on the exact amount you have borrowed. A convenience factor of a home equity line of credit is that you can withdraw money as you need it instead of all at once as a lump sum. The interest rate for most HELOCs is variable, but you can usually get a lower rate than you’d get using credit cards or personal loans. You will have a predetermined time frame to pay back the HELOC, at the end of which the balance must be paid off in full. Keep in mind that the more you borrow, the higher your monthly payment will be. Like credit cards, HELOCs are flexible. Also like credit cards, it can be easy to get in over your head with overspending and rising interest rates.

2. Home Equity Loan

These are less common than HELOCs. A loan will allow you to borrow a lump sum at one time and pay a fixed interest on the amount over a predetermined period of time. This is also a type of second mortgage. Home equity loans are great because they offer a fixed interest rate, meaning your monthly payments will not change and you will know ahead of time exactly how long you will be paying off the loan. However, homeowners should be careful when tapping into all of the equity in their home at once. If property values in the area decline, you could end up owing more on your home than it is worth. Loans are great for big home projects and one-time expenses.

3. Cash-Out Refinance

This option allows you to get a new mortgage for more than the unpaid principal balance on your old loan. You use the new loan to pay off your old loan and then have additional money left over. You can use this to renovate your home, pay off other debts, or even finance college. Since you are essentially replacing your mortgage, be sure to closely review the terms of your new loan. Double check the interest rate and fees of the new loan before you agree to the terms. You will also be responsible for closing costs, so make sure you can afford to pay between 2% and 5% of the mortgage.

Whenever you borrow against the equity of your home, your home is being put up as collateral. With that in mind, it can be a great way to borrow money as long as you carefully consider the best option for your unique situation!

Top 5 Reasons You Should Hire a NJ Debt Relief Attorney

nj debt relief attorney

There are so many reasons that an excessive number of people find themselves up to their eyeballs in debt. Income loss, illness, poor spending habits, divorce, and a myriad of other factors can all lead to debt that quickly becomes unmanageable. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, you’ve likely wondered how to get yourself back on track post-haste. You may be considering several options for help. One thing is certain: when you cannot find your way out of debt on your own, you NEED the right professionals in your corner. Number one person to tap? The best NJ debt relief attorney you can find.

You might fight with yourself on whether or not it’s “worth it” to fork out even more money to pay an attorney to sort out your debt. We can tell you that it is 100% over-the-top WORTH IT and then some. Do we say this to convince you to hire our firm so we can get paid? ABSOLUTELY NOT. We are without question NOT that kind of professionals. Our #1 goal is always, without hesitation: helping others find their footing. Today, we’ll tell you the top five reasons why working with an experienced legal debt relief team is worth the money.

1. Expertise

It can be very tempting to try to handle your debt on your own in order to “save money.” Keep in mind that your creditors are experts at collecting debts—they literally do this for a living. A debt relief attorney will grant you not only the time and resources needed to negotiate your debt, but they will also provide the legal expertise needed to arbitrate with your creditors. The right debt relief attorney will know how to work with creditors and use the law to your advantage. They can also stay on top of creditors and hold them accountable to state, federal, and local laws meant to protect borrowers.

2. Stress Relief

When you attempt to reconcile your debt on your own, you are putting all of the stress of the situation squarely on your shoulders. Your debt resolution lawyer will take on the bulk of the workload required to negotiate with creditors and prepare for a court appearance, if necessary. Your attorney will become your one point of contact, keeping all documentation organized and communicating with creditors on your behalf.

3. Options

Everyone’s financial situation, including how they got into unmanageable debt (as well as the best way to get out of it) is vastly different. When you work with a team of pros who handle debt relief on the daily, they will be able to properly advise the right path forward based on what option is best for you. There are many options to handling debt, from bankruptcy to debt consolidation to a home equity loan and more! Each option will impact your financial health and credit score differently, which is another area in which your financially savvy legal team can help you assess all of your options.

4. Superiority Over Debt Consolidation Companies

The quality of debt consolidation companies varies widely, and it can be difficult to even know what you’re getting when you sign up for their services. Some companies are, in fact, nothing but scams, while others have astronomical hidden fees that will result in you falling right back into debit after their “help.” Debt consolidation companies also do not have the legal expertise of an attorney. Reputable, well-known debt relief attorneys will present their fees up-front, and you can be guaranteed that you’re not being scammed.

5. High ROI

Admittedly, it can be really difficult to set out to PAY someone to fix your money problems. It can easily seem like you’d be better off handling it yourself so that you aren’t out even more cash. The GOOD NEWS: when you work with the right NJ debt relief attorney, the return on your investment (ROI) will be so worth it. Do attorneys need to be paid? Yes! However, the fees you’ll pay will be nothing in comparison to the money you’ll save on paying for your quickly growing debt – from compounding interest and late fees – to the effect on your credit score (which will actually also end up costing you more money and can result in many negatives like being turned down for a job, inability to rent an apartment, difficulty being approved for any type of loan, and high interest rates.)

Veitengruber Law is a full service debt relief firm in New Jersey. We have years of experience working with clients to help them manage their debt and get back on the road to financial health. We will explain your options and guide you through every step of the debt settlement process. We know not all debt management solutions are one size fits all, and our results define us as one of the most successful debt relief firms in the area. If you need our help, please reach out to us.

4 Financial Goals to Hit Before You Start Your NJ Home Search

While owning a home is an integral part of the traditional “American Dream,” getting your finances in that sweet spot that allows you to comfortably purchase a home can take years. It can be tempting as you inch closer to your goal to start your house search before you are truly ready. But you likely won’t be able to snag your dream home—or be able to pay for it—if you miss the mark on your financial planning. Here are some financial goals you should accomplish before you even begin your home search.

1. Curb Excessive Spending 

Avoid extravagant purchases in the year or so leading up to when you want to start your house search. Buying a car or going on an expensive vacation can cause you to accumulate a large amount of debt quickly, which will negatively impact your debt-to-income ratio. This ratio is an important part of your credit score and can cause your score to decrease a lot in a short time frame. Even after you are preapproved for a mortgage, you will need to keep your debt-to-income ratio relatively steady throughout the home buying process.

2. Build (and Uphold) a Respectable Credit Score

All lenders will take a look at your credit score before pre-approving you for a loan. A positive credit score means you are less of a risk since you have a proven record of paying off your debts on time. So if you do not have good credit—or if you don’t have any credit at all—you should start working on that post-haste. Sign up for a free credit monitoring service and check your score regularly to confirm your number is increasing over time. This will also help safeguard against fraudulent activity that can impede your home buying plans.

3. Maintain Steady Employment

Job hopping can be just as detrimental to your mortgage prospects as bad credit. Lenders want to be able to forecast your income. Steady paychecks from a salaried job is the preference of most lenders. While a career change does not automatically mean you will not be approved for a mortgage, you will likely have to provide extra documentation to prove you have a stable income.

4. Limit Extra Monthly Expenses

Cut down on monthly expenses outside of your basic needs. Subscription services, from grocery delivery to extra channels added to your cable plan, are convenient. But the price you pay for this convenience can cut into your plans for home ownership. Go grocery shopping instead of eating or ordering out. Monitor your utility usage. Even small changes in your month to month expenses can add up big time to help you reach your real estate (and other financial) goals.

If you think you are finally ready to start looking for your dream home in New Jersey, Veitengruber Law can help. We can connect you with experienced real estate experts and provide legal advice throughout the home buying process.

Thinking of Downsizing? Steer Clear of these Common Mistakes.

The bigger the house, the more work (and money) required for upkeep and regular maintenance. You might decide to downsize your home if you are retiring, looking to spend more time traveling, or simply want to decrease your overall living expenses. In order to reap the benefits of downsizing, you need to have a solid plan in place. If you want your move toward downsizing to be a success, here are some things you should figure out ahead of time.

1. Budget Your Move

Even when downsizing, moving can be expensive. Besides the closing costs and out of pocket fees associated with buying a home, you will likely need to pay for movers or a moving van to transport your belongings to your new home. Something that people don’t think about when downsizing is that many of their belongings simply won’t fit in a smaller home. This means you will need to pay to store anything worth keeping that’s just too big for your new place.

2. Set Clear Goals

Why are you downsizing? Moving from a bigger home to a smaller home will reduce your mortgage payment and give you more time and money to focus on other things. The money you get from selling your bigger home can pay off the mortgage for the new house or to put toward other outstanding debts. You could use the money to invest in your retirement fund. Finding a smaller home that requires less upkeep can be an asset as you get older. Figure out what specific aspects of downsizing appeal to you and make sure these goals are at the front of your mind as you look for a new home.

3. Don’t Pay for What You Don’t Need

The whole point of downsizing is to figure out precisely how much space you need to live comfortably. If you don’t use a dining room, don’t buy a home that has one. Extra bedrooms, bathrooms, a study, or a second story are all things you might decide you no longer need. Be specific about what you are looking for in a home. This way, you won’t find yourself paying for rooms you don’t actually need or use.

4. Organize

A disorganized move can be disastrous for anyone, but especially for those who are downsizing. Before you move, sort through all of your possessions to determine what will come with you to the new house, what needs to go to storage, and what can be thrown away or sold. You may be inclined to hold onto items that you do not actually need, but you should only bring what you use every day or on a very regular basis.

Are you ready to downsize? Veitengruber Law can connect you with a trusted New Jersey realtor in your town so that you can achieve all of your real estate goals.

Understanding the Legalities of Buying a Home in NJ

Buying a home is a huge responsibility! Accordingly, there are a myriad of rules and regulations that guide the real estate purchase process. Understanding the legal details can save you major stress and headaches, which is why it is a good idea to hire a real estate attorney to help you through unscathed. Here are some legalities to keep in mind if you are thinking of buying a home in NJ.

1. Attorney Review

New Jersey is an attorney review state. This allows a 72 hour review period starting when an offer is made official. Both buyer and seller are encouraged to have their attorney review the offer and provide their legal opinion on the terms of the sales contract. During this period, the sales contract can be amended or terminated entirely without penalty.

2. Deposit of Funds

After the contract has been accepted and signed by both parties, the buyer is required to pay a good faith deposit to the seller. This deposit can be made through the seller’s attorney or an entrusted broker.

3. Disclosures

New Jersey real estate laws do not require sellers to disclose specific information. However, in order to protect the buyer, courts can compel sellers to disclose hidden defects of the property. If the seller is aware of any defects and fails to disclose them to the buyer, the buyer can sue the seller to be rightfully compensated.

4. Inspections

The best way to protect yourself from having to take future legal action resulting from a real estate purchase is to have all suggested inspections performed. This is doubly important if you are being financed by a mortgage lender. Most NJ real estate attorneys suggest the following inspections: radon, termite, lead paint and asbestos, as well as a general inspection to determine the overall condition and safety of the house.

5. Legal Documentation

The seller is legally required to provide specific certifications to the buyer. These documents include a certificate of occupancy, flood search, septic certification, well certification, and buried oil tank certification. These certifications verify the functionality of these systems and disclose important information to the buyer.

6. The Closing Process

Your attorney is responsible for ensuring that the title of the house includes no legal encumbrances by conducting a title search. The settlement date (aka “Closing“) will be scheduled once the title search has been completed. At settlement, the title of the home and its insurance will be legally changed to the buyer’s name and the final cash amount is calculated and paid by the seller. Your attorney will record the transaction and keep record of the title deed for you.

Buying a home is likely to be the biggest investment you’ll make in your life. Veitengruber Law can offer sound legal advice allowing you to make your big investment with peace of mind. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re thinking of making an offer on a NJ real estate property in the near future.

Surprising Factors that Influence the Value of Your NJ Home

nj home value

Many things impact a home’s value: the square footage, the lot size, the location, and the neighborhood, among many other things. But while these are the most common factors to influence home value, there are also some quite surprising factors that go into assessing the true value of a property. Here are seven unconventional factors that can impact your home’s value.

1. Privacy

In general, most homeowners desire a certain level of privacy, but not all homes offer the same level of seclusion. Neighborhood home density, proximity to neighbors, and backyard exposure all influence the perception of a home’s privacy factor. A home that is a significant distance from other properties or has a backyard that cannot be viewed by neighbors will be valued higher than a similar home located close to neighbors.

2. Frontage Length

They always say that size doesn’t matter, but when it comes to real estate, it definitely plays a part. Specifically when it comes to frontage length – the length of a home’s lot that faces the street. Not only does frontage length directly figure into the dimensions of a property, it also determines how much parking will be available to the residents. This tends to influence home values more in rural areas than suburbs.

3. Renters in the Area

There is a correlation between the number of rentals in the area and the value of a property. General opinion holds that renters don’t tend to care for a property as well as a homeowner would, thereby making the neighborhood less desirable. Because of this, lenders want to make sure there are not too many renters in the area of a property they are considering buying.

4. Proximity to Train Tracks or Airports

This one isn’t too surprising when you put it in simpler terms. It comes down to one thing: noise. Trains and planes are loud and can cause quite a disturbance throughout the day and night. Realtors know this and will often list a home at a lower price because selling near these travel hubs can be challenging.

5. Corner Lots

While this isn’t the case for all buyers, corner lots can be a turn off for some people. A property that borders two roads means there is a potential for increased (noisy) traffic, impacting the level of privacy and solitude the occupants will have. Corner lots also tend to have unusual or odd configurations that diverge from the typical square property lines.

6. History of Death in the Home

You often hear about this on tv and in movies, but the truth is that a home that has been the site of a traumatic event like a murder, suicide, or even accidental death can be negatively impacted when it comes to valuation. In fact, studies have shown that potential buyers are so turned off by these factors that a home’s value may be reduced up to 10-25%.

7. Low Scoring School Districts

Parents will relocate based entirely on the quality of a school district, so this is a very important factor. A home located in a school district with low test scores will not be valued as highly as a similar home in a district with higher test scores. The quality of the school districts in the area can also impact property taxes.

These factors don’t just influence the value of a house when you are looking to buy, but they can also affect how the value of your home changes over time. If you are looking to purchase a home, Veitengruber Law can help you connect with a realtor that knows the true value of homes in your area.