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.

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.

Creating a NJ Use and Occupancy Agreement that Works for Buyer and Seller

use and occupancy agreement

“Help! My New Place Isn’t Ready, But My Home’s Buyers Need to Move In!”
How a Use & Occupancy Agreement can keep everyone in a “home sweet home” while all the paperwork is finalized.

Congratulations – you sold your home! And you found your new digs too!

But now you’re in that awkward in-between stage, hammering out the final details of the sales and juggling settlement dates on all the properties. What happens if those dates don’t align, and your buyer needs to move in to your house before you’re ready to move out?

Welcome to the land of Use & Occupancy agreements, where either you or your buyer agree to stay at the home for a set fee and a set time until all the dust settles and the transfer of the properties is legally complete.

What Is a Use & Occupancy Agreement?

A Use & Occupancy agreement – also known as a U&O – grants someone permission to do just that – use (get the benefit of) and occupy (inhabit) a property. No more, no less. For example, it can grant your buyer permission to move in and live at your home, or perhaps just leave a couch, bed, and other personal items there, until ownership is transferred. Or, it can allow you to stay in your home after settlement until your new home’s settlement is also finalized.

Five Tips to Ensuring Your U&O is A-OK

Home buying is stressful enough; follow these tips to keep your U&O agreement stress-free.

  1. Set Term Limits. Confirm the start and end dates, and how to remove the occupant if those dates are not honored.
  2. Show Me the Money. Set a rate that makes everyone comfortable with the compensation for use of the property. Be sure to include who’s responsible for electric, water, wi-fi, cable, telephone, and any other household fees. (It’s not a lease, but it should cover many of the same financial obligations.) Consider the benefits of a daily rate, just in case the agreement needs to be shorter or longer than originally anticipated.
  3. Practice Good Housekeeping. Who will be responsible for liability insurance? Who handles regular maintenance and upkeep? Can the buyer start home renovations during the U&O agreement period? Are you going to establish an escrow account to cover any damages that occur? Work out those details ahead of time.
  4. Take a Walk. Moving day is not the time for surprises. Just as you’d do a walk-through before settlement, make sure you do a walk-through at the start and end of the U&O term so everyone can agree on any changes to the condition of the property, and how to handle the situation if it arises.
  5. Spell it Out. Type it out in Word, hand write it on your favorite stationery, or grab a napkin and scribble it down at your favorite restaurant, but make sure you document all the terms of your U&O, and have both parties sign and date it. And if you’d like help ensuring that all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed in your U&O, give us a call at Veitengruber Law. We’ll be glad to help you bridge the gap and keep the property – and everyone in it – happily occupied during the transition.

 

NJ Quitclaim Deed: Explained

During a real estate transaction, there are several different ways to transfer title to a property. The most common type of deed used is a warranty real estate deed. This deed is used when a house is sold to a third party in a typical real estate transaction. The warranty deed is a legal promise that the person transferring the property has good title and the right to sell the property. A warranty deed includes protections for the buyer, the seller, and promises there are no liens on the property. Although a warranty deed is the most common deed, it isn’t always the best choice for every real estate transaction. Here we are going to look at quitclaim deeds and when to use them.

A quitclaim deed is often used when transferring property between family members. A quitclaim deed will transfer the title of a property but makes no promises about the owner’s title. In other words, a quitclaim will transfer the owner’s entire interest in the property to the person receiving the property, but it only transfers property the owner actually owns. Therefore, if the property is jointly owned—or split among different family members as with an inheritance—the owner can only transfer the portion of the property he or she actually owns.

It is important to note that deed transfers, warranty or quitclaim, only affect the ownership of a property and do not impact the mortgage on the property. This is especially important to keep in mind for those in a divorce situation where one spouse may quitclaim the property to the other. While the spouse relinquishing ownership over the property will have no rights to the property, they will still be responsible for the mortgage unless they remove themselves from the mortgage itself.

With all of that said, when should you use a quitclaim deed? Typically, if you are transferring ownership of a property without a traditional sale, it will be easier to use a quitclaim deed. This is often the case when property is being transferred between family members, married spouses, divorcing spouses, or when the property is being transferred to a living trust. It can also be used to clear up title to a property if there is a question about ownership right after a title search. Unlike with a warranty deed, a quitclaim deed requires no title search or title insurance making it fast and easy.

There is no quitclaim deed format specifically for New Jersey. An experienced real estate attorney can help you use a standard format to create your quitclaim deed. You will need to use the legal description of the property. This can often be found on the existing deed, a tax bill, or by contacting your local county clerk’s office. Once the quitclaim deed is completed, you will need to get it signed and notarized in the presence of a notary public. After that, you will need to file the deed with the county clerk’s office where the property is located. There is typically a small filing fee that varies by county.

As a full service real estate and estate planning law firm, Veitengruber Law can guarantee that your quitclaim deed is completed properly in compliance with local laws as well as filed correctly. Our  attorney and real estate team strive to handle all transactions with efficiency and professionalism. We can help you determine when and how to use a quitclaim deed to achieve your real estate goals.

Financing a Home as a Single Parent: What are my Options?

home ownership

Being a single parent isn’t easy. There are many unique financial challenges single moms and dads face as a one income household. For many single parents, buying a home can truly seem like an impossibility. But don’t give up on your dream of homeownership just yet. There are plenty of loan and assistance programs single parents can take advantage of, you just need to know where to look. In New Jersey, there are many state and federal assistance programs for home buyers with specific circumstances. While none of these categories explicitly list “single parents,” they can be a great benefit for those looking to buy a home with one income.

HUD 

One of the best places for single parents to start their home search is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Contacting your local New Jersey HUD office can give you access to resources that will help you find housing options as well as demystify the home-buying process. A HUD housing counselor can fill you in on local home buying programs you might not be aware of or help you obtain a loan. Some single parents may also qualify for subsidies and extra assistance that will help you afford decent housing (depending on your income and employment).

FHA

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are popular for many first time home-buyers, including singles on their own as well as single parents. FHA loans are government insured and easier to qualify for than other similar loans. There are many benefits associated with FHA loans that make them appealing to single parents, including a 3.5% down payment, lower credit score minimums, and low monthly mortgage insurance rates. FHA loans are also flexible about how a first-time homebuyer is defined. If you are recently divorced or become a displaced homemaker, you can qualify as a first-time homebuyer as long as the only residence you’ve ever owned was with a former spouse.

VA

Veteran Affairs (VA) loans are also an excellent resource for single parents. If you are a single service member, a veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran, you could be eligible for VA loan programs. There are a number of benefits for qualified buyers, including waived down payments and mortgage insurance, low-interest rates, and on-going support throughout home ownership. If you are facing foreclosure, the VA can step in to help you keep your home or find a new residence. In the event of a work-related disability, there may be additional Veteran’s benefits you can take advantage of.

USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a few different programs for low- and moderate-income home buyers in rural areas. Even if you aren’t sure that you live in a “rural” area, the USDA’s programs are still worth looking into. Many of the regions where programs are offered are located just outside major cities. USDA loan programs offer low interest rates and zero down payment options. Qualified borrowers can get 100% financing and the mortgage insurance premium is one of the lowest offered in any program. USDA loans do have an income maximum, but most single parents do not meet this maximum.

Private Lenders

Some private lenders will offer loan programs for single income borrowers. These custom loan programs can cater terms to your specific needs to help ensure that loan applicants get pre-approved for a mortgage. These custom loan programs can include help with your credit score or assistance with your down payment, among other things. While not all lenders will offer these kinds of programs for single parents, it is worth looking into as you begin your home search.

 

As a single parent, you aren’t limited to these programs. Your county, city, or even township might offer their own programs to help the single parent home buyer. Don’t lose hope in your dreams of owning a home. If you would like help getting started or with the application process, Veitengruber Law is more than happy to help you get on the path to home ownership!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Multiplier Effect: What it Means for You in 2020

multiplier effect

In 2020, as you consider where and how to spend your hard-earned paychecks, there’s one economic force we at Veitengruber Law would ask you to consider: The Multiplier Effect.

Why exactly is it that money must be spent locally to benefit the community? In short, it boils down to the multiplier effect, which states that each dollar spent has an impact that is greater than the original sum.

For example, if you were to visit a New Jersey locally-owned hardware store to purchase a new door for your home rather than choosing to order from a big-box chain, the money you spent will allow that store owner to earn profits and pay a local employee, who will likewise spend money in the community, hopefully at another local shop, thus multiplying the positive impact of the original amount spent.

In this way, each dollar spent locally has the potential to send positive economic reverberations throughout the region, and will continue to do so as long as the majority of cash earned continues to circulate locally.

When we think about cities and towns in NJ that have gone from thriving and vibrant to economic wastelands, it is evident that these communities lack local investment. Without local businesses and investors reinvesting their wealth, the very infrastructure supporting the community fractures and collapses.

In order to avoid such conditions, businesses and investors alike must commit to the local communities that support them. By the same token, consumers can maximize the impact of every dollar spent by finding local businesses to support.

What will the multiplier effect mean for you as a New Jersey resident in 2020? Should you cancel your Prime account and forego the convenience you gain as a modern citizen of a global economy? Of course not. There are, however, ways you can spend locally without having to restructure your life.

First, if you’re in the fortunate position to have the capital to purchase an investment property in the new year, consider looking nearer to home rather than just shopping for the best bang for your buck. Not only will doing so encourage additional investments – people can’t invest money they don’t have, after all – but it will also improve the New Jersey landscape by ensuring property development continues to happen right here where we live.

Furthermore, every dollar spent in New Jersey is not only just earned and re-spent, but it is also taxed! Consider that cash spent locally can be taxed repeatedly – nearly indefinitely – until someone in that cycle breaks the chain by spending the money elsewhere. Tax dollars are absolutely essential to the establishment and maintenance of vital community services: schools, libraries, parks, and public transportation are just a few of the most beloved public services, none of which will survive without a steady stream of local spending.

What if you’re a first-time home buyer rather than a big-shot investor? Are the dollars you spend really going to have a significant impact, or does massive impact only accompany huge property investments? The answer couldn’t be clearer.

In the calendar year 2019, if we only consider NJ buyers who purchased new homes, they will have splashed out more than two billion dollars. When the National Association of Home Builders crunched the numbers, they calculated that the multiplier effect of such an astronomical sum would account for the creation of nearly four million local jobs, over $180 million toward wages and income of those workers, and $225 million in revenue for local tax funds.

Furthermore, this two billion will still be positively impacting the community after 12 months! Clearly, if we want our incomes to sustain, nurture, and grow the very towns in which we live, we have to commit to spending, investing, and hiring locally whenever possible.

If this article has sparked you to action, and 2020 will be your first year focusing on keeping your money circulating here at home in NJ, we couldn’t be more delighted. Here are easy-to-use resources to get you started:

 

 

You’re Ready to Move in New Jersey – But is Your Dream Home Move-in Ready?

When you’re buying a house, unless you’re into flipping investments or you crave big DIY and home renovation projects, you probably just want to unpack all your boxes and start enjoying your new “home sweet home.” But before asking your real estate agent to show you “move-in ready” properties, you should be aware of what that phrase actually means.

It turns out that, like beauty, “move-in ready” is in the eye of the beholder. To you, it might mean everything not only works, but it also matches your style, right down to the door knobs and paint colors. To a lawyer using Black’s Law Dictionary, though, it simply means that the municipality has approved the property as a place approved for people to live – the plumbing and electricity are up to code, the windows and doors lock, and no pesky pests are creeping around within. And yet, to the seller, it could mean the kitchen was recently remodeled – but there’s only one tiny bathroom, and the living room still sports ‘70s orange shag carpeting in passably good condition.

So rather than get tangled in terminology, here are five things to keep in mind when you’re doing a walk-through on that “move-in ready” property.

  1. Start at the Bottom: Flooring
    You may have opinions on whether you prefer carpet or hardwood, but regardless of what is on the floor, make sure it’s a solid base for your new home. That means no peeling tiles, no ripped or odorous carpeting, and no ominous creaks. And here’s an insider tip – bring a marble to place on the floors along your tour. If it rolls a lot, the floors may be uneven, indicating potential issues with settling or even the actual foundation.
  2. Plumb the Depths: Kitchens and Bathrooms
    Though a stainless-steel refrigerator, granite countertops, and a double vanity may be high on your “must-have” wish list, what makes a house move-in ready is ovens and dishwashers that work and toilets that flush. Make sure the faucets don’t leak and the water pressure is good. Ask about the capacity and age of the water heater and any pumps to be sure they can handle your family’s needs. (Most water heaters should last eight to 12 years.) Poke around the cabinets to see – and smell – that there’s no water damage or mold hidden among the pipes, and that nothing is rusted. Taste the water – if you move in, you’re going to be drinking it for a long time!
  3. Don’t Be Shocked: Electric
    Check the wiring to be sure your hot property isn’t a fire hazard. Confirm with the seller’s agent that everything associated with the electrical current is indeed current and meets the local codes. There should be no archaic knob-and-tube wiring in the walls, the breaker box should be powerful enough to handle the load, and the outlets and switches should all work without any issues.
  4. Take Comfort: Heating and Cooling
    Pause during your house tour, and just breathe. Are you too warm? Too cold? Or, like Baby Bear, do you feel “just right?” Ensure that there’s proper insulation in the attic and around the heating ducts and water pipes. Find out how old the furnace and HVAC systems are, too; their average lifespan is about 15 years.
    Make sure the windows open and close easily, and whenever possible, look for double-paned windows for the double benefit of protection from both temperature and noise.
  1. Think Outside the House: Roofing and Siding
    Don’t go through the roof – figuratively or literally. Find out how old the roof is; a roof typically lasts about 20 to 30 years depending on what it’s made of and what climate it has faced. Do at least a visual check for leaks, loose or missing shingles, or areas where the structure might be sinking a bit. Similarly, examine the siding and window frames for discoloration or warping that could indicate not simply water damage, but also underlying mold and other costly concerns.

 

You should always engage the services of an experienced home inspector to thoroughly examine these and other elements of the property to be sure your dream home doesn’t turn into a nightmare. And whether your house hunt takes you to New Jersey’s friendly southwestern suburbs, its gorgeous northern mountains, the bustling outskirts of New York City, or those sunny beaches down the shore, Veitengruber Law can help with title searches, title insurance, and due diligence to help you turn that “move-in ready” house tour into a “we’re really moving!” experience.

 

When is it a Good Idea to Buy a Foreclosed Property in NJ?

NJ foreclosure

Since the housing market collapse of 2008, New Jersey has had the dubious distinction of leading the nation in foreclosures. For a variety of reasons (divorce, loss of income, disability, etc) people in NJ are still struggling to make their mortgage payments and stay in their homes over a decade later. Navigating the foreclosure market is wrought with pitfalls and potholes. However, contrary to popular belief that buying a foreclosure property is always bad news, there are actually a few occasions where investing in a foreclosed home can be a manageable and economical option.

 

1. You know the neighborhood.

Things happen to a house that sits vacant. Without heat and air conditioning running, a house gets exposed to moisture and rot. Without people around to fix things as they break, leaks spring up, wires fray, appliances rust. Animals bore holes in siding and chew through electrical wires. Criminals may break in and steal copper pipes and appliances, or use the property for drugs. Squatters make themselves at home and don’t clean up after themselves. These are some of the things you can expect when buying a foreclosure. But you can stem some of that tide by knowing the property and its owners.

A house in a good neighborhood is watched more carefully than a house in a neighborhood with a high crime rate. Check the local crime reports and see what the town history is. Are there police patrols in the streets that would deter criminal activity?

Neighbors would also have a vested interest in keeping up the foreclosed property for their own property values. They may occasionally mow the lawn to prevent overgrowth, weeds, and ticks. If an abandoned swimming pool was attracting mosquitoes and wildlife, they would report it to the town. Invested neighbors will do some of the work of keeping up a property for you.

 

2. You plan to tear down the house.

If the land is valuable and you plan to tear down the house anyway, buying a foreclosed property can be a great deal. You don’t have to worry about hidden repair costs if you’re ripping everything out and starting fresh. Land in New Jersey is at a premium, so if there’s acreage involved, a foreclosure may be your best option.

 

3. It’s not your primary home.

The foreclosure process can take years, and even toward the end can fall through. The legal system has protections in place to try to get the homeowner to remain in their home. They have various recourses to take up until the last day, and even then may try to regain their house. If you are trying to purchase a foreclosure as your primary residence you could be tied up for a long time without a home. It’s best to look at foreclosures when you have time to plan. Second homes or investment properties are usually a better fit.

 

4. You’re experienced in investment properties.

If you’re looking to be the next HGTV house-flipping star, it’s a bad idea to start with foreclosures. Build up a solid background of investment properties bought with traditional mortgages first. You’ll become experienced in uncovering structure issues, but usually not on the scale of what you can find in a foreclosure. As you earn stable profits, you’ll be able to afford the risk of a foreclosed property. At that point, even if you make a bad investment, it won’t bankrupt you.

 

5. You get to a property early in the process.

There’s a good chance you won’t be able to perform a home inspection if the foreclosure is being sold at auction. Without a home inspection, you will be going into the purchase totally blind. You may be able to bypass an auction altogether if you get to the homeowner during the pre-foreclosure period. The buyer may be receptive to a reasonable offer and you’ll be able to perform home inspections to uncover any potential problems.

 

6. You have an experienced real estate attorney.

An experienced attorney like George Veitengruber can help you determine if a foreclosure property is the right investment for you. Veitengruber Law can perform a title search on the property and discover if there are any outstanding liens. When you purchase a home at auction you are inheriting property liens, so you want to make sure you know what you’re getting into.

If you’ve decided that a foreclosure is a good investment for you, Veitengruber Law can also help you prepare for the auction as well as attend the auction with you. All the paperwork needs to be ready in advance including your deposit, which is nonrefundable in NJ. If you are ready to accept the risk, a foreclosed property could be your way to a big reward.

Should You Buy a Fixer-Upper?

fixer upperWith the success of popular HGTV shows like Fixer Upper and the prominence of DIY house projects, purchasing a fixer-upper is a common dream for some potential home buyers. Fixer-upper properties are often lower-priced while offering the opportunity to greatly increase the value of the home far beyond what the buyer paid for it. At the same time, fixer-upper properties can sometimes be more work than people think they will be. The final product may not be worth the time, effort, and money it took to get there. So how can you tell if buying a fixer upper is the right move for you?

A lot of factors go into determining if the fixer-upper you are looking for is a good investment. Fixer-uppers can offer ample opportunity for creativity, personalization, and savings. But they can also come with costly renovations, increased risk, and a monopoly on your time. Ultimately, whether or not you should buy a fixer-upper comes down to you and your unique circumstances as a home buyer. Here are some ways to decide if you have what it takes to buy a fixer-upper:

1. Are You Ready For the Work?

Doing all the work needed to bring your vision for a fixer-upper to life is time consuming and stressful. It is a huge undertaking even for the savviest DIY enthusiast. There is a reason many home buyers will spend the extra money for a newly renovated and updated home. The price tag of a fixer-upper might not seem worth it after you calculate the cost, time, and labor you will have to put into the home after purchase.

The commitment required of your time and energy is no small order. If you’ll be doing the renovations yourself, you need to be up to the physical task. If you are hiring professionals for the renovations, you will still need to be on site regularly and be able to take the time to shop for materials and appliances. The work can quickly become overwhelming, so make sure you are prepared.

2. Are You Connected?

When it comes to home renovations, hiring the right people can make or break a project—and your bank account! Time is money with contract work. Do you know trustworthy professionals to help you achieve your vision? Knowing architects, contractors, project managers, and other people in the construction business can be a major leg forward for your project. If you do not know anyone personally, ask trusted friends or family if they know any reliable project managers or general contractors. These professionals can make the renovation process more efficient and cost-effective for your bottom line.

3. Where Will You Live?

Are you prepared to live in a construction zone for months on end? Alternatively, if your renovations don’t allow you to live on site (if you’re gutting your bathroom, for instance), are you financially prepared to maintain two residences simultaneously? Make sure you look into all of your options. If a close friend or family member has room for you nearby, you could save money by bunking with them throughout the reno project. Finding an economical rental is also a good option if you cannot live in your new property while it is being renovated.

4. Do You Have the Vision?

Sure, it looks easy when Joanna and Chip Gaines do it on HGTV, but bringing a housing vision into reality isn’t something everyone is capable of doing. Getting a realistic mental image of how you want your home to look and then explaining that vision to the professionals helping you can be difficult. Some creative preferences and ideas can get lost in translation, leaving you with something you didn’t exactly want. A lot of creativity goes into renovating a home. Make sure you have thought through your ideas before you sign the dotted line for a fixer-upper.

A fixer-upper can be a fantastic investment opportunity for potential homebuyers. As with any real estate transaction, there are a lot of details and complex contracts involved in buying and fixing up an outdated home. Veitengruber Law is a full-service real estate law office with experience in all areas of contract review, real estate representation, and closing services. We can help ensure you are protected and supported as you purchase your dream home.

How Much House Can You Afford in the NJ Real Estate Market?

NJ real estate

As a prospective first time home owner, it can be easy to get caught up in the dream of finding the perfect house without adequately taking your finances into account. In the rush of excitement, things like down payments, property taxes, and closing fees can be pushed to the back of your mind. You might find yourself in love with a property only to realize it is way out of your budget when the final numbers are laid out. When you first start the home buying process, it can be hard to know how much house you can actually afford. Before you jump into looking at houses, it is important to determine a realistic real estate budget. If you are looking own NJ real estate, here are some tips:

Know your take home pay.

Before you can start browsing property listings, you’ll need to become uber familiar with your current financial situation. Determining your take-home pay is a great first step to figuring out how much house you can afford. Your take-home pay is how much money you bring home in a month once taxes and other contributions are taken out of your paycheck. Unless you have a hefty savings that can cover the full price of a house, this monthly take-home pay is the money you will be using to cover your monthly mortgage payments on the loan you will take out to purchase the house.

Determine the length of your loan.

When it comes to a real estate loan, there are three major aspects to consider: the term, the interest rate, and the principal. The term of the loan is how long it will take for you to pay back the loan in full, including interest. The average mortgage term in NJ is 30 years.  Every home loan will come with interest. Interest is the amount that is in addition to the principal amount you will pay back to your lender. Mortgages have compound interest, meaning the interest is calculated monthly based on the overall debt you owe that month. You will be able to pay less in interest if you can afford higher monthly payments over a shorter period of time.

Decide on “fixed rate” or “adjustable rate.”

The amount of interest that will accrue on your loan will depend on whether you have a fixed rate mortgage or an adjustable rate mortgage. A fixed-rate loan has a locked interest rate. If it starts out at 4.2% it will always be 4.2%. This is typically the better option, especially if you can lock in a low interest rate, because your monthly payment will never change. With an adjustable mortgage, your interest rate will change with the fluctuations of the real estate market. This means you could end up with a very high interest rate over time.


Your total monthly loan payment is the biggest determining factor in determining how much house you can afford.


Allocate funds for an adequate down payment.

Most real estate experts suggest allocating no more than 25% of your take-home pay on housing expenses. If you can keep your housing expenses to less than 25% of your take-home pay, you should be able to manage the rest of your monthly living expenses comfortably. The size of your down payment can make your monthly more affordable. The more money you put down, the less money you will have to borrow (and repay.) It is generally suggested to put down at least 10-20% of the purchase price of the home. If you can afford a 20% down payment, you will not have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can result in big savings on your monthly loan payment.

Of course, the money you borrow from a lender isn’t the only thing to consider when buying a home. You must also remember to calculate and prepare for:

  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Closing costs
  • Renovations (if applicable)

All of these things will have an impact on your monthly costs for housing and your ability to afford a particular property. Buying a house is a major financial investment. Thankfully, there are plenty of online tools to help simplify the process for you. SmartAsset.com offers a free mortgage calculating tool that includes the home insurance and taxes you can expect to pay as a home owner in New Jersey.

Becoming a homeowner is a cause for celebration, but the process itself can also be very stressful. Veitengruber Law is a full service real estate law firm in NJ. We can help you through all of the financial aspects of the real estate process so you can focus on the excitement of your new home.