Why Move to Maplewood, NJ?

Maplewood, NJ’s Public Library Free Events are just one of the many reasons why Maplewood, NJ is such a popular destination.

As the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall it marks the beginning of the perfect season to visit your local library. While the Library has an array of wonderful books to curl up next to a fireplace with, they also have a wide array of free events occurring this November.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 2.16.04 PMSaturday November 2nd (2-5pm) – The Theater Project presents “Opening Nights in the Afternoon”. This script-in-hand performance will honor the Kennedy legacy and have a discussion to follow. It will be held in the main library and is open to the public.

Wednesday November 6th (7pm) – Come try Yoga for the first time at Yoga For Adults and Teens.  All fitness levels are welcome and no experience is required.  No registration is needed.

Monday November 18th (11am) – It’s time to Make Friends with Your Computer in the free class that will teach you basic computer operation and how to navigate the internet.  This is the perfect introduction to computer class and no registration is needed.

Saturday/Sunday November 23rd/24th – The Friends of the Library Book Sale will be going on from 10-5 on the 23rd and 11-5 on the 24th.  This is a wonderful opportunity to get some winter reading material for a bargain while helping a good cause.

These exciting events are just a sampling of the free events being held at the Maplewood Library in November.  For the full list of events click here.  So whether you love books, plays, or just trying new things…the Maplewood Library has a free activity for you.  If you aren’t a Maplewood Resident and want to learn many more reasons that make this town so great, feel free to contact me  for more information about Maplewood.

Maplewood-South Orange NJ Holds Celebrity Event

The Maplewood-South Orange NJ Adult School recently announced that it would hold a celebrity storytelling event at the evening of November 4, with featured performances by Tony Award winners, Norbert Leo Butz and Faith Prince. Michele Federer, from the original cast of Wicked, was also scheduled to perform.images-1

Butz is a Maplewood local who has won Tony Awards for his work in two Broadway shows — Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Catch Me If You Can. He is currently starring in the Broadway production Big Fish. His real-life partner, Federer, not only appeared in Wicked, but also had a role in the television series, Smash. Prince, currently working on the new Broadway production of Annie, won a Tony Award for her work in Guys and Dolls. She has received Tony nominations for three other performances, as well.  Tickets for Celebrity Readings are $50 in advance and $55 at the door.  Buy tickets here: www.ssreg.com/som/classes/classes.asp?catID=2287 or by calling (973) 378-7620.

This is just one of many special events that make Maplewood Township a great place to live. With community centers, concerts, parks and an annual outdoor art show, Maplewood residents never run out of arts and cultural opportunities. In addition, the public schools in the Maplewood area boast small classroom sizes, high SAT scores and a rate of 91 percent of students choosing to further their education after graduation. Add to all of this a small town atmosphere with tranquil streets and an easy commute to the big cities, and you have a place you would be proud to call home.

If you’ve been dreaming of making Maplewood your home, contact me. As a resident of Maplewood and an area real estate expert, I would love to be a part of that dream.


Prices Up for Maplewood/South Orange NJ Homes

Prices are up for Maplewood/South Orange NJ Homes!  We saw a significant rise in home prices this past Spring.  Much of that rise was due to low mortgage interest rates and competition.   With less homes on the market and more buyers vying for them, many homes had multiple bids, therefore driving prices up.   The List to Sales Price Ratio for Maplewood was 98% in March of this year compared to 101% this August, 2013! South Orange homes saw a big increase as well from 94% in March of this year to 99% this past August, 2013.  If you’re thinking of selling your home, now is a great time!

Consider these prices, which are current as of the date of this post.16 Park Rd, Maplewood NJ

In Maplewood, median list price last September 2012 was $369,000 compared to $379,500 this September 2013.   Prices are continuing to go up.  After showing several peaks and valleys throughout the past few years, median sales prices rose 2% in the past year from average sales price of $460,612 in September of 2012 to to $528,100 this September, 2013.

As of this post, there are currently 80 Active Maplewood listings, compared to 73 available homes in South Orange.  Maplewood currently has 50 homes under contract and 32  in South Orange.

Median rents have increased by 27 percent to $2,300, driving many former renters to consider buying a home. This is just one of the reasons that Maplewood real estate is becoming a sellers market.  Rental rates have actual dropped by over 9 percent over the past year to $2,100. However, this is still high enough to make many renters consider buying a new home.

If you’re considering buying or selling your Maplewood/South Orange home, or just want more information about the housing market, please feel free to contact me for a no obligation consultation.

Maplewood NJ Columbia High School Ranks High

Maplewood, NJ Columbia High School Ranks High this year – in the TOP 15%.

Along with the price of a new Maplewood, NJ house and the taxes,the quality of the local school district is a key
consideration in deciding where to buy. For a parent, or a young couple planning on a family, it might veryScreen Shot 2013-03-07 at 1.54.00 PM
well be the most important factor of all.

In September 2012, on the basis of its academic excellence and student achievement, N.J. Monthly Magazine generated Maplewood, NJ’s Columbia High School#47 out of all the high schools in the State of New Jersey.  Small classes of 20-25 students, and a selection of over 140 courses to choose from, are the key to Columbia’s success. And it shows. The high school boasts average S.A.T. scores that are not only higher than the state average, but exceed the national average as well. For those kids on the fast track toward college, Columbia offers 21 Advanced Placement courses and can proudly point to an 85% passing rate on AP exams.

Columbia’s core curriculum focuses on 5 academic major subjects:
English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and World Languages.   After the required courses in each are completed, students are free to choose from among the scores of college-level electives that are available and for which college credit can be earned. Also required for graduation is one year of fine and performing arts and one year of practical arts. Fine arts courses range from animation, photography, film making, design, to chorale, orchestra and theatre, to name only a
few, while the practical art course offerings include business, finance and technology.

Academics are only one part of the picture at Columbia. The high school can proudly point to over 50 extracurricular activities that relate to its academic and athletic offerings. Among the more exceptional activities are the school newspaper, The Columbian, which was named Most Outstanding High School Newspaper by the Scholastic Press Association in 2012, and the school literary magazine, Guildscript, which received an Excellent ranking award from the National Council of Teachers of English. The school has its own television broadcasting station, which provides hands-on experience to students in the TV Production courses as well as daily programming to the local communities. Clubs devoted to everything from music, theatre, chess, Shakespeare, Magic, Italian, Astronomy keep students interest after school. There is even a Robotics, formed in 2011, which
has already won state titles in competition.

Nothing is more important than the education of your children. The school district that you live in will have a tremendous impact on their future.

If you want more information on schools or real estate in Maplewood/South Orange NJ,  visit my website.

Maplewood, NJ Columbia High School is just one of the reasons to consider purchasing a home in Maplewood or South Orange New Jersey.


South Orange New Jersey Real Estate Offers Great Selection of Midcentury Homes

Are You Looking For A Midcentury Home Within A 30 minute Commute Of Manhattan?

Look no further than South Orange New Jersey Homes.  The Newstead section of South Orange offers a wide selection of midcentury houses.  This style of  home has made a huge comeback within the last 10 years as people move towards the desire for an easier life style.  The one level, open floor plan of these homes offer just that, and are becoming hugely popular.  These homes offer great flow and abundant space; great for entertaining.  I have a new listing in the Newstead section of South Orange that is perfect for the person looking for a Midcentury home.  This sprawling custom brick contemporary home offers 4 bedrooms, 3.1 baths, nestled amongst mature landscaping with a custom inground pool and spacious patio.  An additional In-law suite with a full bath is located in a separate wing on the opposite side of the house.  This home is a true entertainer’s dream home, offering value, space and privacy.

More more information on South Orange Real Estate in New Jersey and Midcentury Homes, contact Barbara Lawrence or visit www.maplewood-realestate.com.


Want To Sell Your Maplewood, NJ Home Quickly?

Pricing is King in today’s Buyer’s market.    At the height of the market in Spring of ’05, just about any house would sell within a week, no matter what the condition, and often in multiple bids.  A good offer today is one close to the asking price and under contract within 30 days.  Right now, Buyers are in the driver’s  seat.  They want the best for the least amount of money.   In a market where the supply is greater than the demand, it’s crucial to create urgency and give Buyers a reason to make an offer right away.   I advise Sellers to be the best-looking house AND the least expensive.   In a recent NY Times blog, I discuss the story of a fantastic house that didn’t sell because it was priced too high to begin with.

Sellers that price their homes too high run the risk of pricing themselves out of the market.   When their properties don’t sell they reduce them, but then often it’s too late and they end up trying to chase the market.  As prices in Maplewood and South Orange have declined on average about 1% a month, the reductions are often not enough.  The good news is that the Maplewood real estate market is still thriving, and Sellers who price their homes correctly from the outset are reaping the benefits.




Has The Maplewood and South Orange New Jersey Real Estate Market Finally Reached The Bottom?

I’m very excited to share the news I learned last week at Jeff Otteau’s Real Estate Workshop.  If you’re not familiar with Jeff, he is renowned for being the most eminent authority on New Jersey Real estate trends.  His appraisal group has been studying the New Jersey real estate market for 30 years.

According to Jeff, Maplewood/South Orange Home Sales and other areas of New Jersey stabilized this past June, which more than likely means we’ve finally hit the bottom!  It looks like we’re in a recovery market right now. If you’ve been thinking of purchasing a New Jersey Home or selling your existing Maplewood or South Orange Home and buying a bigger house, you have about a six-month window to purchase at a great price with excellent interest rates.

As we all know, the government has been falsely keeping the interest rates down – but this can only continue for so long.   By next year, rates will be up about a point.  And while “one percent” doesn’t sound like a lot, it translates to a buyer losing 10% of their purchasing power!  So the $500,000 home you can afford today will translate to only 450k affordability next year.  By 2011, we’ll probably be seeing interest rates escalate up to 7%.

Jeff predicted last week that the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit set to expire would be extended.  Well, he was right.  The Obama Administration announced on October 29th that the credit would be extended until April 30th with an expansion to include higher-income and current home owners.  The new plan will offer a $6,500 credit to people who have lived in their current homes for at least 5 years.  Couples earning up to $225,000 and individuals up to $125,000 would qualify for the break.  That’s up from the current $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples.  We’ll probably see a surge in the upcoming Spring market as more people feel confident buying and the interest rates stay down.

So, if you’re looking for a Maplewood Home or South Orange Home, do it now and with confidence!





Tax Appeal In Effect For Maplewood New Jersey Homes


As you may have heard, Maplewood Township has just begun the town-wide property tax assessment. This will be completed by the end of the year and will take effect in 2011. Similar to the South Orange home assessment a few years ago, with homes selling for roughly 25% below ’05 prices, assessed values have come down significantly.  While its not certain whether the revaluation will cause your taxes to be reduced signifcantly, it may be worth filing an appeal this year.  When determining taxes, the town allows for 15% above and below the assessed value, which they refer to as “corridors”. So for your taxes to be reduced, you need to fall below the low range of the corridor.

To find out if your home will likely win an appeal, you’ll need to know what the minimum or low range market value is for your home. If your home sold for less than the low range market value, it is definitely worth filing an appeal. You can do that by following this basic formula:

Take the current assessed value of your home and divide that figure by .6011 [this number represents the tax ratio (.5227) multiplied by 1.15].

As an example: A Maplewood Home closed in ’09 for $605,000. The current assessed value of that home was $577,800. The taxes were $26,925. $577,800 divided by .6011 = 961,238. This number represents the lowest value of a home that would justify the current taxes of $26,000. Since the house sold for 605,000, the range is far below the low range value of $961,238. The appeal on this home was successful and these taxes have come down significantly.

If after applying this formula you think you qualify for an appeal, you will need to submit your application before April 1st. To download an application, go to: www.njactb.org. With your application, you will need to include five “comparables” of recent Maplewood Home Sales within the price range of your home. 
Some good news – if you win the appeal this year, your new taxes will be retroactive from January 1st! I’ve seen many homeowners have their taxes lowered already this past year, so it’s definitely worth the effort!

If you need help determining the current assessed value and/or obtaining comparables, contact me. I’m always here to help!



Afraid To Buy Or Sell A Home In A Short Sale? It Just Got Easier!

We’ve been seeing more and more short sales these days in the Maplewood and South Orange real estate markets. For those of you who are not familiar with what a short sale is, it’s simply this:  the owner owes more to the bank on their mortgage than the market will bear on their house.  So if they want to sell their home, it becomes a negotiation with the bank to take a “short” – accept less as a payoff than what they owe.

The short-sale process can be excruciating for both Buyers and Sellers!  I myself had a short sale listing for over a year.  This particular home had 3 liens against it with three different banks.  It finally sold, but more than 4 sets of buyers dropped out because they got tired of waiting for an approval from the banks.  The Sellers got equally frustrated having to wait and produce endless documentation to the lender.

Buyers and Sellers, however, don’t be discouraged.  There’s good news!  As of  April of this year, the federal government has standardized short sales, as a part of their new Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative Program, known as HAFA, a supplement to President Obama’s Making Home Affordable Modification Program launched in early 2009. The concept behind it is that lenders are now making an effort to help borrowers who can’t afford to stay in their homes,  keep them from going into foreclosure by establishing a pre-approval short sale process.

These new guidelines include standardized forms, procedures and timelines, and they also allow Sellers to receive pre-approved short sale terms prior to the property listing.  This could save Buyers months of agonizing and waiting to see if their offer will even be accepted.  The program also relieves Sellers from being liable for any future debt.  In addition, it enables the pre-approval process to begin once the home is put on the market, but before an offer comes in.  Up until now, banks wouldn’t even look at any short sale packages until there was an offer on the home.

To date, the drop out rate for short sales has been as high as 70%, according to the Senior Vice President of Bank of America’s Home Loans department.  Now, his hope is that that number will drop to between 10-15%.

Most of the big lenders are participating in the HAFA program, but it is voluntary.  If you’re considering purchasing a Maplewood or South Orange home in short sale,  find out if the bank  handling the short sale has opted in to the Making Home Affordable Modification Program.

This is good news all around for both Buyers and Sellers, making short sales definitely worth the effort of pursuing.