New Jersey Realtor®—May/June 2021

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MaY/June 2021: VOLUME 7 ISSUE 3

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NEW JERSEY REALTOR® A publication of New Jersey Realtors®

10 Hamilton Avenue Trenton, NJ 08611 Phone: 609-341-7100


Jarrod C. Grasso, RCE Chief Executive Officer PUBLIC RELATIONS AND MARKETING DEPARTMENT Colleen King Oliver Director of Public Relations &

Marketing |

Erin McFeeters

Dana Fiori

Communications Coordinator

CONTENTS May/June 2021

Content Coordinator


Important Dates & Deadlines


President’s View: Housing Discrimination? Not in Our House.


2021 OFFICERS Jeffrey Jones


Robert White


Nick Manis

First Vice President

Kathleen Morin


ADVERTISING SALES Laura Lemos | 973-822-9274

Educational Foundation Trustee Spotlight: Judy Stefanik


First-Time Fixer Upper


CEO’s Desk: Year-Round Resources


Legislative Update: 2020 Wins for Real Estate— Year at a Glance


What Does Fair Housing Mean to You?

Move Over Millenials, Generation Z is Entering the Market


Board/Association News

DESIGN Rebecca Ryan McQuigg | Encompass Media Group

New Jersey Realtors® provides legal and legislative updates as well as information on a variety of real estate related topics solely for the use of its members. Due to the wide range of issues affecting its members, NJ Realtors® publishes information concerning those


issues that NJ Realtors®, in its sole discretion, deems the most important for its members. The content and accuracy of all articles and/or advertisements by persons not employed by or agents of NJ Realtor® are the sole responsibility of their author. NJ Realtors® disclaims any liability or


Curb Appeal Tips & Tricks


Important CE Update


Town Spotlight: Lacey Township


Remodeling Projects Worth the Time and Money

responsibility for their content or accuracy. Where such articles and/or advertisements contain legal advice or standards, NJ Realtors® recommends that NJ Realtors® seek legal counsel with regard to any

Sudoku puzzle solution:

specific situation to which they may seek to apply the article. New


Realtor ® ,



13260. Published bi-monthly each year. Member subscriptions allocated annually from annual dues: $3. Non-member annual subscription: $10. Known office of publication: 10 Hamilton Avenue, Trenton, NJ 08611. Periodicals postage paid at Trenton, NJ 08611 and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address change to Editor, 10 Hamilton Avenue, Trenton, NJ 08611.



2 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021



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Board of Directors Meeting

Orthodox Easter



National Association of Realtors® Virtual Legislative Meetings

Flag Day



Independence Day


Eid al-Adha Begins




Cinco de Mayo



Father’s Day

Mother’s Day


Eid al-Fitr


NJ Realtors® Office Closed—Memorial Day


Ready to rock? C2EX can help you take it to the next level. Amp up your career at

4 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021



National Financial Awareness Day


Housing Discrimination? Not in Our House. BY JEFFREY JONES


s one of the most diverse states in the country, fair

If you’re looking to deepen your education, consider

housing is one of the pillars of being a New Jersey

completing the At Home with Diversity® certification course

Realtor®. We treat communities fairly because it’s good for

through the National Association of Realtors® or your local

business, but more importantly because it’s the right thing to

board/association. The program helps prepare Realtors® to


work with all potential buyers or sellers no matter their race, religion, gender, handicaps, or sexual orientation. In New

Fair Housing CE Requirement

Jersey, you can earn six CE credits for the class.

Last month, the New Jersey Real Estate Commission mandated that 1 Fair Housing credit will be required for

Other Ways You Can Commit to Diversity

the current continuing education cycle. The NJREC has

Participate in the Fairhaven fair housing simulation developed

waived the $200 processing fee (late fee) until May 31 and has

by NAR. In this new training platform, Realtors® race against

extended the current CE licensing cycle until July 19.

the clock to help their clients buy or sell homes while also walking in the shoes of homebuyers facing discrimination.

We know this is a last-minute addition to the CE requirements,

Start the simulation at

but we have ways to help you complete them. If you only need the mandated fair housing requirement, New Jersey

According to the Perception Institute, stereotypes we have

Realtors Academy of Continuing Education offers a free

towards people without conscious knowledge are implicit

one-hour course, Complying with the Fair Housing Act.

biases. The Perception Institute developed an implicit bias

Barry Goodman, NJ Realtors General Counsel, covers vital

test so participants could understand the biases and how they

topics you need in your day-to-day business, such as what

impact their everyday life. Take the test and watch the NAR

you can do in your advertising and New Jersey’s Law Against

training video to gain a further understanding of stereotypes


and how they impact society.

If you need more than the fair housing credit,

For resources and to learn more about diversity and NJ offers online course bundles and a

Realtors®’ commitment to fair housing,

plethora of single online courses to help you finish your CE




before the new deadline.

NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 5


Year-Round Resources

ne benefit of the three-way agreement between local, state, and national associations is that you are able to use the resources from all three. But at the same time, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the amount of information and updates available to you. I want to highlight a few programs from the national association that may be helpful to you for any of your 2021 goals.


Education & Training

That’s Who We R’s-who-we-r

Commitment to Excellence

One way the National Association of Realtors® supports and promotes your business is through its consumer advertising campaign, That’s Who We R, which emphasizes Realtors®’ impacts on their communities. The advertisements show consumers that Realtors® do more than help clients find the perfect property, they also help them along the path to fulfill their dreams. You can customize, download, and share the campaign assets on social media and in print.

Amp up your professionalism a step further by participating in NAR’s C2EX challenge, a free endorsement that helps you stay on top of your game. You can start your journey to excellence by taking any of the self-assessments which measure your proficiency in topics such as customer service and technology. Then a customized educational pathway is created so members can progress and strengthen their industry knowledge.

Realtor® Benefits Program Take advantage of unique savings and offers on everything from GE appliances to dental insurance. The savings are a great compliment to the state run Member Perks Partners (

Research & Statistics— Looking for a particular statistic? Chances are NAR has a study on it. These studies are great content for your website or social media accounts, but are also helpful when researching for your own business. There are dozens available, focusing on areas such as home staging, commercial and international trends, real estate career choices, multi-generational housing, and so much more.

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Set yourself apart and grow your industry knowledge by earning designations and certifications. There are over twenty to choose from, and they cover each sector of the industry. Earn continuing education but also endorse your expertise and obtain a leg up in the industry.

Financial Wellness Plan for the future with the Center for Financial Wellness. The industry provides many investment opportunities, but with the added responsibility of managing it on your own. The Center for Financial Wellness can help you navigate your finances and plan for retirement. Set goals, learn about investing, and plan smartly. These are just a few of the many programs available to you from the national association. There are countless opportunities to better your individual business by making use of the tools you have access to with your membership.


MADE UP 33 PERCENT OF ALL HOMEBUYERS For New Jersey residents looking to buy their first home, saving enough money for a down payment often comes second to more immediate costs of living – student loans, childcare, rent, insurance, and additional expenses. There is a significant income ready segment of the New Jersey population poised to become first-time homebuyers, yet this initial down payment and closing cost hurdle is the # 1 impediment to their owning a home. New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency can help them over this hurdle.

FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER DOWN PAYMENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM NJHMFA’s Down Payment Assistance (DPA) program provides $10,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance to first-time homebuyers. These funds need never be repaid if the borrower lives in their new home for at least five years. NJHMFA invites you and your clients to join The Road Home New Jersey Homebuyer Webinar Series: • Held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings • Registration required for attendance • Customized for each county

• A roadmap of the homebuying process including details and information on: • $10,000 Down Payment Assistance Program for First-time Homebuyers • Credit Impact and how to access your report • Mortgage Lending Guidance • Current Market Trends • Housing Counseling • Importance of Hiring a Realtor • Importance of Using an Attorney

For more information about the Down Payment Assistance program or to register for a Road Home New Jersey webinar, visit NJHMFA is a self-sufficient agency of state government dedicated to offering New Jersey residents affordable and accessible housing.


2020 Wins for Real Estate— Year at a Glance I

n March 2020, stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and uncertainty left real estate professionals unsure of how to proceed with their businesses during the height of the pandemic. But, the Realtors® Political Action Committee and New Jersey Realtors® were there to spring into action and advocate for the industry. The work began on March 24 when New Jersey Realtors® President Angela Sicoli submitted a letter to the New Jersey Congressional Delegation asking for pandemic unemployment benefits for independent contractors. Before last year, independent contractors were never eligible for benefits, meaning if you were unable to work or you lost your job, you would not receive help from the government, even if you didn’t have a source of income. Four days after the letter was submitted, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law by President Trump in response to the deteriorating economy. It included benefits for independent contractors—a win for the industry. In mid-March, Gov. Murphy signed Executive Order 107 which called for all New Jersey residents to stay home, and all non-essential businesses had to close, but where did that leave real estate?

addition, NJ Realtors® Government Affairs Department contacted every municipality and numerous state and local departments to ensure real estate transactions could occur during the pandemic, following the governor’s clarification of EO 107.

“ New Jersey Realtors


advised members

to take necessary precautions while conducting business.

In response to the clarification, New Jersey Realtors® advised members to take necessary precautions while conducting business, such as wearing gloves and masks, and a number of forms were added to New Jersey Realtors® Forms Library to ensure members were legally protected. Other states in our region were not as lucky to have the ability to continue to conduct business. If it wasn’t for the continued efforts of RPAC you would not have been able to help your clients with critical life changes during the pandemic.

“ If it wasn’t for the continued efforts of RPAC you would not have been able to help your clients with critical life changes during the pandemic. The Government Affairs Department contacted Gov. Murphy’s office until the governor clarified EO 107 stating, “Realtors® can operate and show houses to prospective buyers on a 1-on-1 basis or to immediate families.” In 8 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021

In April, New Jersey Realtors worked with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce to host webinars to help members through the process of applying ®


“ RPAC continues to fight for you to ensure

for unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and help members keep their businesses afloat with the Paycheck Protection Program with the Small Business Administration.

the industry is protected and transactions can continue to occur, even in times of

The Work Doesn’t Stop Real estate in New Jersey has been business as usual for quite some time (with added precautions of course), but the fight for the rights of Realtors® and homeownership never stops for RPAC.

“ The fight for the rights of Realtors



RPAC continues to fight for you to ensure the industry is protected and transactions can continue to occur, even in times of crisis.


homeownership never stops for RPAC.

Last April, New Jersey Realtors Government Affairs Department began calling legislators non-stop to ensure and help members receive their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments. This work continues today. ®




raised as of April 13, 2021


They also kept the conversation going by conducting virtual Hill Visits with elected officials to discuss the issues that matter most to the real estate industry.


N E W J E R S E Y L E G I S L AT I V E B I L L S A4617 – Burzichelli (D3), Wimberly (D35)/S3357 – Stack (D33), Turner (D15) Addresses certain landlord expenses in response to COVID-19; appropriates $350 million. New Jersey Realtors® Position:

SUPPORT We support this bill to assist landlords whose tenants were unable to make rent payments due to COVID-19 by providing additional state funding to offset lost rent payment revenues. Bill History: 9/14/2020 – Introduced in Assembly and referred to Assembly Housing Committee 12/7/2020 – Reported out of committee with amendments and referred to Assembly Appropriations Committee 12/14/2020 – Reported out of committee with amendments, second reading in Assembly 1/12/2021 – Introduced in Senate and referred to Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee 2/11/2021 – Transferred to Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and reported out of committee with amendments, second reading in Senate 2/19/2021- Amended on Senate floor

A4787 – Murphy (D7), Wimberly (D35) Expands Department of Community Affairs oversight over common interest communities; establishes trust fund, advisory council and ombudsman office. New Jersey Realtors® Position:

SUPPORT We support this bill as it gives authority to the DCA to investigate complaints against common interest communities to ensure they comply with state laws. Bill History: 10/8/2020 – Introduced in Assembly and referred to Assembly Housing Committee

S3082 – Singleton (D7) Allows remote notarial acts using communication technology. New Jersey Realtors® Position:

SUPPORT We support this bill as it makes electronic notarization of documents authorized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic permanent in New Jersey, making it easier to have documents notarized using existing technology. Bill History: 10/29/2020 – Introduced in Senate and referred to Senate Judiciary Committee

NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 9

Move Over Millennials

Generation is Entering the Market


A.K.A. Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials The oldest segment of Generation Z is graduating from college and officially entering the workforce. They were raised with the Internet and smart phones at their disposal, and, according to research, they’re more educated and diverse than their generation predecessors.

Where to Find Ages 18-29 online, according to Pew Research Percentage of U.S. adults ages 18-29 who say they ever use the specific social media platform: Instagram 95% Facebook 70%

Born After 1996

Snapchat 65%

The oldest of this generation is turning 24 in 2021.

TikTok 48%

They are the largest generation in American history, according to Business Insider, making up 27% of the U.S. Population. They represent the leading edge of the country’s changing racial and ethnic makeup, according to Pew Research.

52% Non-Hispanic White 25% Hispanic 14% Black 6% Asian 5% Other

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Twitter 42% Pinterest 32% LinkedIn 30% YouTube 15%

According to the National Association of Realtors® 2021 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report, Generation Z is just beginning their home buying journey. Generation Z and Young Millennials made up 16% of Home Buyers and 6% of Home Sellers

Curb Appeal Tips and Tricks BY LEE NELSON

Make a Big Change with Fresh Paint

Courtesy of CLC Landscape Design

Curb Appeal Sets the Tone


urb appeal in residential housing can account for up to seven percent of a home’s value when sold, according to a 2020 joint study by University of Alabama and The University of Texas at Arlington. The median house in the study sample was purchased for $299,000. Based on curb appeal premiums such as trimmed shrubs, well-mowed lawns, and colorful flowers, the increase of the home value would be between $20,390 and $24,219.

What is Curb Appeal and Why is it Important? “Curb appeal is that front yard shot that is the first impression people see,” said Eric Cording, who is in charge of sales and design work for his family’s business, CLC Landscape Design in

Ringwood. He also earned his real estate license in 2020 and works out of the Terrie O’Connor Realtors® office in Kinnelon. “It includes a blend of colors in the plantings that makes photos pop and that complement the home. It’s instant gratification,” said Cording. Cording has designed and witnessed complete transformations of many homes’ curb appeal. His company recently worked on a whole renovation which included changing the house color to royal blue. “It was so sharp looking. For this particular homeowner, we redid her lawn and plants and spruced up the shutters, doors, and mailbox,” said Cording. “The changes were

Courtesy of CLC Landscape Design

Liven Up a Home with Landscaping tremendous. I wanted to implement beautiful work on their property but raise the value, too.” According to Cording, when people scroll websites to look at homes for sale, the first photo they usually see is the outside. Buyers want to make sure a property has been well maintained both inside NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 11

Pressure Wash to Remove Build Up

Flowers Add a Pop of Color

Keep the Lawn Green

and outside, said Linda McLaughlin, Realtor® at Berkshire Hathaway Fox and Roach Realtors® in Marlton. “Curb appeal says a lot about the current owners,” said McLaughlin. As an Accredited Staging Professional®, McLaughlin offers sellers who list their home with her, receive staging services, including suggestions for the outside. “You want everything to look neat and tidy,” said McLaughlin. Even putting down black mulch can be appealing and can cover up imperfections. Sellers should make sure gutters are clean, along with everything else prospective buyers can see. A good thing to tell clients is to go across the street and turn around to look at their

12 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021

home. If they can see missing roof shingles or a gutter hanging, suggest they get them repaired, according to McLaughlin.

Make it Enticing, Simple and Clean

“When a buyer walks through the front door and you feel that comfort and warmth, that first impression is inviting,” said Kowalik. “But you first have to entice them through the front porch.”

“We all make judgments on first reaction,” said Nancy Kowalik, broker/owner of Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group. “It’s a feeling homebuyers get when they see a home or walk inside it. They buy with their eyes and emotions.”

Kowalik suggests keeping your a porch simple with a rocker and some big red begonia plants that draw your eye and welcome you. If someone is coming to see your home, think about it as if you were having a wedding or graduation party.

If you can’t find the sidewalk because the weeds are so overgrown and cobwebs on the porch, buyers make that mental note and some never walk inside.

If you do have outdoor chairs and a table and umbrella, put them out to make it picturesque. Punctuate how welcoming it all can be if they lived there.

Add Ambiance with Lighting

Welcome Buyers with an Inviting Front Porch

Maintain Clean Gutters

Courtesy of CLC Landscape Design

Here are these design and Realtor® experts’ other best tips for curb appeal to help clients get the most bang for their buck:

3 Many people never go through their front door because they park the car in the garage. So, it’s important to look at everything including your doorknobs, kick plate, lights, and windows in the front to see they are free from rust and dirt, said McLaughlin. “A new front door can be very expensive. Sometimes, you can paint it, but a painted front door might not fit the neighborhood.” 3 It’s your job as a Realtor® to be honest with your clients about their curb appeal, said Kowalik. “It’s a hard conversation, but make sure it’s not a personal indictment. Tell them that this is what the market is looking for, and this is what you can bring to your home.”

3 A good green lawn is a plus, said Cording, along with curved flower beds.

sidewalks. It doesn’t cost much to rent a power washer, and they really aren’t that expensive to buy, said Kowalik.

3 A fresh coat of paint can be everything, said McLaughlin. Those are the big deal items that not everyone will do or want to do. Just painting doors and shutters can make it look so much inviting. “Regardless of price point, the house needs to look fresh and well kept on the outside.”

3 Don’t forget the nighttime ambiance. “When you show a house and there is an interested buyer, they will inevitably drive by at night,” said McLaughlin. It’s all about lighting. So make sure your clients have fresh bulbs over the garage and on the front porch. Solar lights are very inexpensive to purchase to line a walkway.

3 Set the tone with your mailbox, said Cording. Make it a fun destination with plantings and color.

3 If you have room, stage your front stoop or porch with a bench or chair with a pillow on it, said McLaughlin. Let them see themselves relaxing there. Keep any holiday ornaments to a minimum and put out some color in a hanging plant or flowerpot.

3 Power washing can help freshen up siding, brick, driveways, and

NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 13

IMPORTANT CE UPDATE The New Jersey Real Estate Commission has determined that 1 Fair Housing credit will be required for the current CE licensing cycle. The NJREC has waived the $200 processing (late fee) until May 31, 2021 (formerly April 30).

FREE Way to Fulfill the Fair Housing Requirement New Jersey Realtors® Academy of Continuing Education has you covered with a free one-hour course, Complying with Fair Housing, worth 1 Fair Housing Credit. In the course, presented by New Jersey Realtors® General Counsel Barry Goodman, learn about important topics such as the Fair Housing Act and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. The course will also cover what you can and can’t do in advertising and daily client interactions. 14 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021

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Academy of Continuing Education


The NJREC has waived the $200 processing (late fee) until May 31, 2021 (formerly April 30). NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 15

16 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021



Lanoka Harbor


ew-build communities, shore homes with a water view, and ranch-style homes with a backyard of pine trees—Lacey Township has something for everyone. “We’re a small town and we have small-town ways about us, and we’re always there to help each other out,” said Lacey Township Business Administrator Veronica Laureigh. “People in the community know each other and want to know each other.”

Lacey Township encompasses the communities of Forked River, Lanoka Harbor, Bamber Lakes, and more. The township is on the coast of Barnegat Bay, nestled in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and is the second largest township in Ocean County, just behind Jackson Township at around 83 square miles. According to New Jersey Realtors® February 2021 housing market statistics, the median sales price

for single-family homes in Lacey Township is $277,500, a 15.6 percent increase over last February. Prices in the adult community sector of the market are on the rise, as well. In February 2021, the median sales price was $465,000 for adult community properties, a 10.2 percent increase over last year and nearly $190,000 more than single-family homes in the area. The township’s unique location along U.S. Highway Route 9 and the Garden NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 17


Popcorn Park

State Parkway which makes it easy for residents to commute to work. According to the Lacey Township website, the Garden State Parkway also serves as a divider under the 1979 Pinelands Protection Act. The act designates the area west of the parkway as a preservation area and prevents development under the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. All development in the area is regulated by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, an independent state agency with a 18 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021

mission to preserve and protect the Pinelands National Reserve. Within the west section of the township is the small community of Bamber Lakes. “It’s nice and quiet and a real close-knit community,” said Director of the Popcorn Park Animal Refuge John Bergmann. Popcorn Park Animal Refuge is an animal sanctuary and permanent home to exotics, wildlife, farm animals, and birds who could not be safely returned to the

wild. According to Bergmann, since they began operating in 1977, Popcorn Park has rescued over 200 animals and counting. “I’ve been working in Lacey since 1977,” said Bergmann. “It has a very comfortable feel, and you get to know the merchants and business owners and develop a comradery.” While the west side is quiet and mostly preserved land, the east side of


Sunrise Beach Pavillion

town is where 95 percent of Lacey’s approximately 30,000 residents live. With access to both forest and bay, community members have a variety of things they can do, according to Laureigh. On a clear day, check out Sunrise Beach Pavilion to enjoy the sea breeze and catch a glimpse of neighboring islands such as Island Beach State Park. According to, “By water, the [Forked River State]

marina is a leisurely 15-minute ride to the “BB” Buoy, Barnegat Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway. Barnegat Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean are easily accessible.”

trails, youth sports organizations, and a multitude of programs for the community’s seniors, Laureigh describes Lacey as more of a yearround community.

Even with access to beautiful coastal water, unlike other shore areas, the township doesn’t rely on summer tourism. According to Laureigh, Lacey has an influx during the summer, but the population increases by only about 5,000 residents. With hiking NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 19


emodeling projects are exciting to homeowners for a number of reasons, but whether you’re looking to sell or just change your space, your return on investment (ROI) should be the top factor to keep in mind. “Move-in ready homes are much more appealing to buyers,” said Realtor® Thomas Brettell of Smires and Associates in Bordentown. “If a buyer walks into the home and the burden of fixing it up is gone, it’s already more desirable.”

Remodeling Projects Worth the Time and Money BY DANA FIORI

According to the 2021 Improving America’s Housing report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, American spending on home improvement and repairs increased by three percent to $420 billion in 2020. “Being home all the time, everyone is noticing things they don’t like about their house and what they want to change,” said Carl Giambrone, a contractor with EPIC Management, LLC in Piscataway. “They’re willing to spend the money whether they are looking to sell or fix it up for themselves.” Before hiring a contractor or breaking out the tools, decide which projects would be the most profitable in the long run. Here are the top remodeling projects according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report. Manufactured Stone Veneer Job Cost: $9,357 Resale Value: $8,943 Cost Recouped: 95.6% When it comes to home sales, curb appeal is your best friend. A big change to the front of your home can be made by adding stone veneer siding, making a difference in appearance and resell value. “People have busy lives,” explains Mandy Burckhardt, Realtor® with Weichert Realtors® in Medford. “Buyers today are looking for a home that not only fits their aesthetic, but also doesn’t require maintenance—and they’re willing to pay for it.” While adding stone veneer siding is an undertaking and not recommended as a do-it-yourself (DIY) project, ultimately, the price of the project pays off. Exterior projects currently have a higher ROI than indoor projects, according to the Cost vs. Value report.

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Garage Door Replacement Job Cost: $3,695 Resale Value: $3,491 Cost Recouped: 94.5% It may not seem important, but a new garage door is a game-changer when it comes to impressing potential buyers. According to®’s March 2021 Monthly Housing Market Trends Report, having a garage is

one of the top five most important home features. Outdated garage doors with wear and tear should be replaced with something fresh

Siding Replacement (Fiber Cement) Job Cost: $17,008 Resale Value: $13,195 Cost Recouped: 77.6% Homes with chipped, missing, or unattractive siding could make or break the opinions of potential buyers. The facade is the first part of the home they’ll notice and overall one of the most important home features. Siding not only gives the house an attractive appearance but also protects it from weather and outdoor elements. According to the Cost vs. Value report, fiber cement siding provides a higher return on investment compared to replacing vinyl siding, coming in at $14,359 for the job cost, $10,731 in resale value, and 74.7 percent for cost recouped.

and new. Not only are new garage doors more functional and energyefficient, but they also boost your home’s aesthetic.

new with an upgraded backsplash or freshly painted cabinets.

Minor Kitchen Remodel – Midrange Job Cost: $23,452 Resale Value: $18,206 Cost Recouped: 77.6% Living with an outdated kitchen may not seem so bad—but to a potential homebuyer, an updated kitchen is on the top of their want list. A minor upgrade doesn’t mean the entire kitchen needs to be gutted. Make an old kitchen feel Window Replacement – Vinyl Job Cost: $17,641 Resale Value: $12,761 Cost Recouped: 72.3% Beautiful bright windows gain positive attention and replacing outdated or old windows with new ones can benefit you and potential buyers. According to the

“If my sellers have an outdated kitchen and can’t afford a full remodel, I always recommend a fresh coat of paint, refinish the cabinets, and [change] out outdated hardware for modern ones,” said Brettell. The kitchen is a room people spend a lot of time in—ensure that it’s inviting and a place potential buyers would want to be. According to the Houzz 2021 U.S. Kitchen Trends Study, the top three kitchen feature upgrades include countertops at 88 percent, backsplash at 83 percent, and sink(s) at 80 percent.

National Association of Realtors® 2019 Remodeling Impact Survey, 42 percent of homeowners who replaced their windows said they had better functionality and livability. Updated windows are a desirable selling point because not only do they assist in utility costs, but it also takes the burden off of potential buyers. *All data courtesy of 2020 Cost vs. Value Report. NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 21




Who inspired your career and how did they inspire it? My mother was a huge influence and inspiration. She started her own office at a time when not that many women were small business owners. She was fortunate she had an encouraging husband. Through her involvement in the Realtor® organization, I also met many men and women who were great examples of our business both professionally and with community involvement and volunteering.

Judy Stefanik

Why is real estate a good career choice? You’re basically your own boss therefore you can set your own course. It’s rarely boring or routine, and there’s always a new challenge.

nfluenced by her late mother and past New Jersey Realtors® Educational Foundation Trustee, Gertrude M. “Pat” Stefanik, Judy Stefanik always had an interest helping others. She applied to be a trustee in 2008 and has enjoyed helping students achieve their goals ever since.

How did you get involved with the NJ Realtors® Educational Foundation? I’ve always had an interest in education and knew of the great work the New Jersey Realtors® Educational Foundation did long before I was involved. For years we had a Dollars for Scholars collection in our office when my mother was a foundation trustee. I applied to become a trustee and have been honored to be a small part that helps people achieve their educational dreams.


How long have you worked in the real estate Do you have any advice for students interested industry? in pursuing real estate? I have been licensed for over 40 years and Have a good understanding of finance, have been working full time in real money, budgeting and technology. If What is estate since 2000. Prior to that I was possible, try spending a day with an employed in the employment and your favorite agent to observe their work day. training field. motivational quote? What do you enjoy the most “It is never Why did you get involved in about your career? wrong to do real estate? It’s rewarding to help people find the right thing.” It was a natural progression for the perfect home. You meet people me, I was raised in the business. My from all walks of life and always learn – Mark Twain mother, Gertrude M. “Pat” Stefanik, something new. opened her business when my sister and I were both very young. We spent countless Knowing all that you do now, do you after school hours in the office, and we learned a have any advice for new Realtors®? lot about people. I worked in real estate part time while Treat buyers and sellers the way you want to be treated— at my former job which involved assisting people with with courtesy, respect and dignity. Don’t lose your sense their goals of work and school. Now, I help people with of humor, and never spend your commission before the their home ownership goals. sale has actually closed.

22 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021

First-time Fixer-Upper BY MICHELE LERNER


irst-time homebuyers always face the down payment hurdle, but in a housing market with rapidly rising prices and limited inventory, they’re also challenged by heavy competition. One method of beating the competition is to look for a house that needs some work rather than a move-in ready property.

then have a five-year plan to take care of smaller projects down the line.”

“Generally first-time buyers lack the skills or the time to take on projects, so they prefer a home that’s been rehabbed,” said Dawn Bricker, a Realtor® with Century 21 Advantage Gold in Cherry Hill. “Unfortunately, they’re getting blocked from buying those homes by competition, especially from cash buyers.”

“You can change the interior of a house, but you can’t change a location,” Lisella says. “Agents can help buyers see they have a blank canvas and an opportunity to customize their home, which can be a huge benefit if they’re not finding what they want on the market.”

Real estate agents can help first-time buyers see the potential in a less than perfect home, which may widen the possibilities to include ones that need work. “The key is to help first-time buyers avoid feeling overwhelmed by projects,” said Zach Lisella, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Realty in Allendale. “They need to realize not everything they want to do is crucial to do before or even after they move in. Agents can help them prioritize what needs to be done first, usually the kitchen or bathroom, and

While not every house is a good fit for a first-time buyer, a house that needs work can provide an opportunity to live in the location they want, said Lisella.

Pitfalls and Benefits of Fixer-Uppers To help your clients determine whether a fixer-upper could be a good choice, it’s important to ask them about their timeline for moving and their threshold for what’s livable, said Mischa Fisher, Chief Economist of HomeAdvisor in Denver. “If the buyers need to move in right away, they’ll need to determine their personal tolerance for living in a place that needs work,” said Fisher. “They need a plan about how to manage living there or a way to have the work done before they move.”

“Agents can help buyers see they have a blank canvas and an opportunity to customize their home, which can be a huge benefit if they’re not finding what they want on the market.”

NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 23

“First-time buyers who purchase a fixer-upper and improve it can immediately build equity in their home.”

If your buyers are open to a fixer-upper, it’s important to be honest about what the work entails, said Lisella. “There’s a fix for everything, but you need to be clear about what the fix is and how much it may cost,” said Lisella. “Your buyers may not want to take on a house with a structural crack or one in a flood hazard area.” Bricker said buyers should avoid buying properties that require a new septic system or that have knob-and-tube electrical systems that requires replacing. “I would definitely avoid taking on structural issues or an underground oil tank,” said Bricker. “They should ask the sellers to fix those things or at least bring in a structural engineer to evaluate the problem.” Naturally, buyers want to know how much projects will cost and whether they will get their money back. Resources such as HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Report or Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report can be valuable additions to your local market knowledge. “It’s important for buyers to know the risk when they set their budget and to have plenty of additional funds in case expenses go higher,” said Fisher. “A good home inspection is important, too, especially for things like mold.” While the pitfalls of taking on a house that needs work are evident, Lisella said buyers can benefit from the ability to customize their property through a renovation. For example, if they can’t find a house with the open floor plan they want, they may be able to remove walls to create the flow they want. “First-time buyers who purchase a fixer-upper and improve it can immediately build equity in their home,” said Bricker. 24 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021

“Right now, rehabbed houses are typically priced above their appraised price, so it may take time to gain more equity for buyers who purchase one in a bidding war compared to one they can add value to.” Price comparisons can be complicated between a home that has been renovated, one that needs some work, and one that needs a lot of work, said Fisher. “While a house that’s already been remodeled will save the buyers time, you can’t discount the value of location,” Fisher said. “The location of the property matters more than buying a move-in ready home. And all houses need some work, even if it’s just to change things to the way you want them.”

Confidence and Contractors Required Determining how much work they can handle can be difficult for inexperienced buyers. “Agents can help buyers be careful evaluating homes,” Fisher said. “The roof, electrical system, plumbing, heat and air conditioning must be reliable and can be expensive to fix. Everything else is cosmetic.” That doesn’t mean buyers should exclude homes that need major repairs, Fisher said, but they need to be realistic about the cost and understand that they need to hire a trustworthy professional to do the work. Since first-time buyers typically lack experience maintaining or repairing a home, an objection to overcome is their fear they won’t be able to find a reliable contractor. “Most agents have a roster of contractors they know and trust,” said Bricker. “One of the biggest requests I see on Facebook pages are for contractors, so I also recommend

people ask their local friends for the names of home improvement contractors.” Platforms such as HomeAdvisor, Thumbtack, Houzz and Porch can also be a resource for contractors.

Three renovation loan programs are available: FHA 203(k) loans, Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation loans and Veterans Affairs renovation loans.

Bricker suggests buyers have the work done before they move into their home to make it easier on themselves and the contractors, who can often do renovations more quickly if they don’t need to work around furniture and residents.

“There are nuances to all three loan programs, but the basis of the financing for all of them is that you’re financing the acquisition costs and home improvements in one loan,” said Greene. “The loan amount is based on the appraised value of the house and the estimated value of the property after the improvements are made.”

For buyers who want to do the projects, Lisella said agents should encourage them to only take on improvements that won’t cause a safety issue. Lisella reccomends homeowners call-in experts for projects that involve plumbing and electrical work.

If you qualify for a VA loan, they don’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance, but not all lenders offer VA renovation loans. Greene recommends a review of all three loan programs to see which is the best fit for the buyers and the property.

Financing a Fixer-Upper

“The HomeStyle loan requires a down payment of five percent and has the advantage of private mortgage insurance dropping off once the loan-to-value reaches 80 percent,” said Greene. “FHA loans are easier to qualify for, especially for borrowers with a lower credit score or a higher debtto-income ratio. They only require a down payment of 3.5 percent, but the mortgage insurance must be paid for the entire loan.”

Some first-time buyers have cash to pay for renovations, particularly if they purchase a fixer-upper home for less than their budget. For others, a renovation loan wraps the cost of repairs into the purchase mortgage can be an excellent option. “Renovation loans can be great for first-time buyers because even if they don’t have a lot of experience there are plenty of people to help them along the way,” said Mark Greene, a mortgage loan originator with Homebridge Financial Services in Hackensack. “Buyers qualify for renovation loans just like any other loan, so they won’t get a loan unless they can afford the payments. They have to use licensed contractors for the projects.”

Tips for Agents to Share with First-Time Buyers • Consult a lender with renovation loan experience. • Be completely preapproved with full underwriting before making an offer. • Interview several contractors before you search for homes and ask if they will provide estimates on a potential purchase. • Opt for a home inspection for a professional evaluation about the home’s condition, even if the home is being sold as-is. • Choose do-it-yourself projects you can realistically. • Anticipate your renovation will take longer than expected. • Budget for more than the estimate. • Monitor work as its being done.

FHA 203(k) loans include a streamlined option for less costly renovations up to $35,000. For more expensive projects, the standard FHA 203(k) loan doesn’t have a limit, but does require a HUD consultant to approve the project, an architect to draw up plans and a contractor to estimate the costs, said Greene. “It’s important to do your research and find an architect and a contractor ahead of time if possible to avoid slowing the process,” said Greene. “Agents should expect a closing of 60 days at least for a renovation loan.” Realtors® sometimes worry about a home in poor condition not passing inspection or not appraising, said Greene, but renovation loans don’t have issues like that since the work to bring them to code and improve their value is included in the financing. Agents who are familiar with fixer-upper transactions can provide valuable support to buyers by identifying a worthwhile property, helping buyers visualize the potential in various homes, partnering with lenders with renovation experience and having a deep network of trustworthy contractors.

NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021 | 25



To commemorate Fair Housing Month, we asked members from the NJ Realtors® Equal Opportunity/Cultural Diversity Committee what Fair Housing means to them.

“ “ “ “


Providing equal professional services for all, in accordance with the Fair Housing Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.” — Eileen Cahill Everyone has the right to homeownership and should be treated equally. I treat everyone the way I would like to be treated in any business transaction—fair, honest, transparent and given the best advice so I can make an informed decision.” — Penelope Gomes Treating people as I would want to be treated. Respecting different cultures, customs and trying to look beyond my own judgments based on first impressions. Looking for ways to always improve on how I treat others.” — William Koumas

Fair housing means that anyone who can purchase should be able to purchase wherever they would like to live. It further means that all homes that are within their target purchase power that are available for sale, they should be made aware of.” — Kathleen Morin Fair housing to me means equal opportunity for everyone! Period! It means that everyone should be able to get safe, clean affordable housing according to their means. It is a fair cooperation between landlord and tenants, sellers and buyers. As a NJ Realtor®, I do my utmost to follow all the laws, guidelines and moral implications of the words fair housing.” — Sheryl Simon

26 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021

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Fair housing means treating everyone the same no matter who they are. I tell my agents there’s only one of two things to worry about: does your client have the money or do they have a prequalification or preapproval.” — Vivian Ruggeri Prior to Fair Housing laws, my grandparents were limited to places they could live due to their religious background. Because of fair housing, communities are open to all. Everyone should have the opportunity to own a home and build roots within the communities they live and work.” — Ilene Horowitz

Discrimination can take many forms and occur at different stages of a housing transaction for renters, homebuyers, and those applying for a mortgage and homeowners’ insurance. Fair housing laws guarantee rights to obtain housing regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. Additionally, many state and local laws prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Discrimination can be subtle and difficult to prove. Violations, although sometimes unintentional or made in ignorance of the laws, could have costly penalties with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Upholding fair housing laws and offering equal professional service is relevant. Advice from me, a trained Realtor®, can prove to be invaluable for avoiding any mistakes.” — Tolonda Ross

FAIR HOUSING DECLARATION I agree to: • Provide equal professional service without regard to the race, color, religion, gender (sex), disability (handicap), familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity of any prospective client, customer, or of the residents of any community. • Keep informed about fair housing law and practices, improving my clients’ and customers’ opportunities and my business. • Develop advertising that indicates that everyone is welcome and no one is excluded;, expanding my client’s and customer’s opportunities to see, buy, or lease property. • Inform my clients and customers about their rights and responsibilities under the fair housing laws by providing brochures and other information. • Document my efforts to provide professional service, which will assist me in becoming a more responsive and successful REALTOR®. • Refuse to tolerate non-compliance. • Learn about those who are different from me, and celebrate those differences. • Take a positive approach to fair housing practices and aspire to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law.


• Develop and implement fair housing practices for my firm to carry out the spirit of this declaration.

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Outreach Committee Holds Food Drive

MORR Donates Over 7,000 Meals

During the month of March, the Warren County Board of Realtors® Outreach Committee ran a non-perishable food drive for the Trinity Church Food Bank, a pantry committed to supplementing regular food supply for Hackettstown area residents.

The Monmouth Ocean Regional Realtors® recently held a Food Drive for Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean. The organization recently changed its name because due to a change in its mission to do more than distribute food. Fulfill aims, “alleviate hunger and build food security in Monmouth and Ocean Counties and to make sure that all people at all times have access to enough nutritious food to maintain an active and healthy life,” according to

Greater Bergen Brings New Opportunities to Members In March, Greater Bergen Realtors® committed to bringing new opportunities to members by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Camara Costarricense de Corredores de Bienes Raices and the Costa Rica Global Association of Real Estate.

MORR members asked for food donations at their offices and collected 3,418 pounds of food and $1,590 in donations. In total, MORR’s donation will provide 7,618 meals to those in need.

“Signing this memorandum is the beginning of a new chapter in our long relationship with our Costa Rican counterparts,” said 2021 Greater Bergen Realtors® President Alireza Memar. “I was very happy of the outcome and look forward to all the success there is to come from the partnership.”

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28 | NEW JERSEY REALTOR® | May/June 2021

MORR members delivering their food donations to Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean County.

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