Friday, August 27, 2010

Housing Scorecard Shows Some Progress in Mercer County

Even with the gloomy economic news, and even gloomier real estate news released this week, Mercer County, and Hamilton specifically, are showing some progress.  For a complete report of recent sales numbers, read my Active Rain blog on Mercer County July Sales Report.  While numbers of sales have declined, prices have climbed over the past few months.  And nationwide, there has been some improvement.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury have released the August edition of the Obama Administration’s Housing Scorecard (, a comprehensive report on the nation’s housing market. In July, housing prices remained level after 30 straight months of decline, while some price predictions have improved. In addition, historic low interest rates continued to promote home affordability and refinancing options for the nation’s families. However, the market remains fragile with foreclosure starts showing a slight increase and serious delinquencies continuing to work through the pipeline.

Some key data from the report include:

  • Stabilizing housing prices drive improving expectations in some regions. After 30 straight months of decline, home prices have leveled off in the past year; futures indices have shifted upward since January 2009 as signs of recovery continue, although overall housing outlook measures remain mixed.
  • More than 4.2 million families have benefited from housing counseling since April 2009. Working with a HUD-approved housing counselor can help borrowers manage debts apart from a mortgage – car payments, credit cards and personal loans, for example – and help them avoid falling into default.
  • Data in the scorecard show that the recovery in the housing market continues to remain fragile, with some measures suggesting recovery will take place over time. For example, foreclosure starts went up slightly in July from the previous month, but remain well below July 2009 levels.
We have our share of short sales and foreclosures and bank-owned properties overwhelming our Mercer County housing market.  Until these are absorbed, and folks can get back to work and bring their mortgages current, the housing market here will remain "fragile." 

I'm experienced in representing buyers and sellers in short sale situations, so if you are having trouble making your mortgage payment, call or email me now.  You have options to foreclosure if you don't wait too long.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Short Sale Specialist
Real Estate Advisor

Lawrenceville, NJ - Colonial Lakes - Bunker Hill Ave - SOLD

Beautiful restored Dutch Colonial located on a shady tree-lined street. This home has recently been updated and features new siding, roofing, replacement windows, modern kitchen with oak raised panel cabinetry, granite countertops, and tile flooring. The living room could be used as dining room, and there’s a family room with fireplace. Original restored shining oak hardwood flooring through out the first floor rooms. New carpeting in all three bedrooms. This home has the charm of yesteryear, reflecting historic features but offering modern amenities, and is close to the recreational opportunities of Colonial Lake Park.

Contact Joe Giancarli SA for a private preview.  609-658-2612.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stage your Hamilton NJ Home to Show Sustainability

After just writing a post on Mercer County NJ sellers reducing their prices to attract buyers, I thought I should offer some hints on how to showcase their properties when a buyer does take a look.  There is no question that Green is "In" and emphasizing the sustainability features of your home will give your property an edge.  Here are some sustainable staging ideas when you put your home on the market.

  • Environmental friendliness: Conduct an energy audit of your home and outline the green changes and upgrades that have been made as a result of the audit’s findings. That can include basic changes, such as new caulking, insulation and lighting packages. It also can entail more substantial upgrades, such as new appliances with the Energy Star® label and the installation of a tankless water heater or an efficient HVAC system. Show buyers the potential savings and long-term benefits of all the green modifications that have been made.
  • Highlight green features: Offer buyers a checklist of your home’s green features, along with the benefits that each offers.  Creating a notebook made of recycled paper or something with a green image that illustrates a home’s green aspects.
  • Integrate green products into your home: Any cleaning supplies in cabinets should be green, and food on display in pantries should be labeled organic.  Buyers will open cupboards and closets, and these are subtle reminders you care about your home's energy usage. 
  • Include a recycling center: The aesthetics of recycling bins have evolved beyond basic blue.  Make separating bins a sleek design element in a house or garage.
  • Eliminate odor: That freshly cleaned pine smell that comes from commercial cleaners or that new paint smell often signals air that is teeming with unhealthy chemicals. Use green cleaning products and avoid any items, such as vinyl shower curtain liners, that emit an aroma.  You are probably accustomed to the smells, so ask friends or neighbors to help you with a sniff test.
  • Go natural: Use living, not silk or plastic, plants. They have a more natural look and can improve indoor air quality.
  • Upgrade sustainably: When you upgrade or replace items inside your home, use natural and energy-efficient products.  Consider Green with everything from carpet to
    bathroom fixtures.
  • Enhance curb appeal: The perception that your home and you care about sustainability starts outside.   Consider plants, shrubs and vines native to New Jersey, that can thrive well without excessive watering or additives. Be frugal with planting large patches of lawn that will use water resources.  Highlight green outdoor features, like composting bins and rainwater barrels, and replace the chemical plant products with green ones.
This is quite a list, but even if you can accomplish half of them, you will help the environment, your community, and show buyers that you care.  They may not purchase your home just because of its Green Features, but it could motivate those on the fence to consider yours more seriously.

Let me know if I can help you make these ideas happen.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Short Sale Specialist
Real Estate Advisor

Hamilton NJ Homesellers Reduce Prices to be Competitive

The number of price-reduced homes on the market increased 5.3% in July 2010 as compared to June, according to a monthly review of MLS-listed properties within 26 of the country’s largest housing markets conducted by the national online real estate brokerage ZipRealty.  In my experience, Hamilton NJ and Mercer County homesellers followed this trend.

“Home buyers this summer have been on the sidelines, waiting to find deals and bargains; so we’re seeing more sellers slashing their list prices to entice these home shoppers to make an offer,” said Leslie Tyler, vice president of marketing for ZipRealty.

Highlights of ZipRealty’s July survey include:
-More than 45% of “for sale” homes included at least one price reduction—an increase of 2.67% compared to June
-”For sale” prices dropped 2.04%—down to a median of $254,987 across the 26 markets surveyed
-In six major metros, more than one out of two home sellers reduced their list price—Jacksonville, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Orlando, Austin and Chicago
-The metro with the highest percentage of price-reduced “for sale” homes continues to be Jacksonville, Fla., where 54% of all July listings had at least one price reduction
-Denver had the lowest percentage of price-reduced homes on the market in July with 32.5%
-Sellers in California housing markets continue to hold steady with prices, compared to other parts of the country; Los Angeles County (39.4%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (40.9%) had the second and third lowest percentage of reduced listings out of all markets surveyed in July
-Buyers in the San Francisco Bay Area again enjoyed the biggest home price discount in absolute dollars, with a median price reduction of $38,000 in July
-Buyers in Houston, Dallas and Raleigh-Durham found the smallest price reductions, with a median price cut of only $10,000 in each of the three markets
-Markets with the largest median price reduction in absolute dollars were: San Francisco ($38,000), Orange County California ($31,000), San Diego ($31,000), Los Angeles ($29,000), Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/Palm Beach ($27,000).

Personally, many of the homesellers I represent have been required to lower their prices to attract buyers.  Inventory remains high, and while rates are attractive to buyers, they can be selective.

Call or email me to find out what your home is worth in today's market in Hamilton or other Mercer County communities.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Short Sale Specialist
Real Estate Advisor

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beware of Short Sale Scams if you are a Hamilton NJ Seller

If you are in a short sale situation in Mercer County, you are under a lot of stress and trying to make good decisions.  But if someone approaches you with a "deal" that seems too good to be true, just realize it probably is.

There are dishonest people operating in this environment, trying to take advantage of your financial difficulties, and trying to bilk people out of cash and even out of their homes.

Here are 3 warning signs:
  • Realtor offering to help for a fee or other financial arrangement
  • If someone wants you to sign over your home for the promise of getting you out of the situation
  • If someone asks for a fee upfront to guide you through the transaction
Your best course of action is to check out a Realtor - we are all licensed and you should ask for references, and thoroughly investigate anyone else who seems in a hurry to get your money or your property.  Call the state Attorney General.

I'm experienced in short sales, working with both buyers and sellers.  If you have any questions, just call or email.  Don't wait for foreclosure - you have options.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why Your Loan Request to Buy a Home in Hamilton, NJ may be Denied

Mortgage lenders and the laws governing their practices have changed drastically in the last couple of years, and for good reason.  Their excesses and shoddy practices, if not illegal dealings, are well known now to the home buying public.  One of the end results is that mortgages are not as easy to obtain as they were at the peak of the housing bubble. Today, banks are making sure they don’t make the same mistakes, so loan underwriting standards have become more stringent than ever before.

According to a recent Federal Reserve study, it was found that about 75% of the banks surveyed indicated they had tightened their lending standards for prime, subprime and commercial mortgages. That was up from about 60% in the previous survey. With this sharp increase in lending standards, borrowers are being turned down for real estate loans at increasing rates.

As reported by, here are the top 7 reasons banks are denying home loan requests.
1.  Poor credit - even with a large down payment, and even the FHA requires at least a credit score now of 693, higher than the national average.
2.  Insufficient liquidity - 20-30% down payment required for most banks.
3.  Lack of income - with proof for the last 2-5 years of income, regardless of credit score or down payment.
4.  Lying on the application.
5.  Debt - must not be excessive and debt-to-income ratios must meet stricter guidelines.
6.  Unemployment - borrower must show at least 2 years of stable work history.
7.  Self-employment - makes it much harder now to be approved.

Home buyers across the country are realizing quickly that reputable credit and stable income aren’t always enough in qualifying for a loan through a traditional bank.  If you want to purchase a home in Hamilton, or other communities in Mercer and surrounding counties, contact me for referrals to reputable and experienced local lenders.  Let's work together to find a way for you to purchase a New Jersey home.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

Seller Incentives not as Common with Hamilton, NJ Sellers

In years past, New Jersey sellers used incentives like cash enticements were the norm, in addition to free cars, big-screen TVs and stainless appliances at closing. But after nearly a year and a half of a government tax credit program, sellers have scaled back on marketing gimmicks and buyer incentives, largely in an effort to limit their losses.  The government tax credit was a particularly good deal for cash-strapped buyers and sellers because it wasn’t tied to the value of the house and it arrived in the form of a check with few restrictions on how it could be spent.

Meanwhile, new rules aimed at reducing the risk of mortgage defaults have made many once-common incentives illegal, so many sellers are simply resorting to one of the oldest tricks in the book: dropping the price.  In short sale situations, which are unfortunately too common in Mercer County, price is the one and only incentive available to most sellers.

Buyers today have access to more information about the market than ever before, so competitive pricing is the best way to attract attention.  In addition, buyers are worried about the economy and their jobs, and have focused on getting the best price—and the lowest house payment—rather than incentives.  A sign of the times, many buyers are making decisions based on the assumption that someone in their family might lose their job, and the mortgage payment will still need to be paid.

As posted on, "Perhaps the biggest reason for the decline in seller incentives comes from the mortgage industry itself. In an effort to reduce defaults, the government has cracked down on all forms of seller incentives. New rules are designed to eliminate any exchange of cash or property before and after a closing that might affect how much equity a buyer has in their new home. That’s an about-face from a time when underwriting standards were much less stringent and cash-back signing bonuses and other perks were a common way to help push buyers over the fence. The goal now is to maximize a buyer’s investment in the hopes that they’ll be less likely to walk away from their obligation."

Current government loan guidelines limit seller contributions—usually in the form of closing costs—on conventional mortgages to 3% of the purchase price; FHA loans allow a 6% contribution, but that’s going to be reduced to 3% during the next few months.  Lenders say that losses are mounting on mortgages in which appraisers failed to discover—or sellers failed to disclose—incentives that were never deducted from the sale price of the house. That’s led to improperly priced loans and inaccuracies in valuations. Already Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are asking lenders to repurchase billions of dollars in improperly underwritten mortgages, including some in which enticements weren’t properly disclosed.

RisMedia concludes,
"Sales without incentives:  here’s what works best today:

  • Price it right. Buyers have access to lots of data, and they’ll know if your house is too expensive.
  • Offer to pay some of the buyer’s closing costs.
  • Maximize exposure. Saturate the Internet and all forms of social media with your listing.
  • Use great photos, not good ones. Make sure your house makes a great first impression.
  • Make it sing. Listing information must be complete and well-written.
  • Curb appeal matters. Spend a little money on flowers, new plants and fresh paint.
  • Inside, your house should look fresh, so make sure the paint, carpeting, light fixtures and appliances are updated and clean.
  • De-clutter. Eliminate one-third to two-thirds of your stuff; hire a stager.
  • Network. Sales come together because brains understand homes better than computers.
  • Be patient. Statistics say that it takes 21 showings, not including open-house traffic, to sell a house."
It goes almost without saying that most of the above points can better be achieved and be successful using the expertise of a local and knowledgeable Realtor.  I have the experience in Hamilton and Mercer County, and in short sales, to help you sell in a reasonable time at the best price for the market.  Call or email today and let's discuss your options.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

(c) 2010, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)