Our permits are in, now we wait to get our approvals.  In the meantime, we have found out that the City of Cape May has adopted several ordinances to establish a Housing and Fair Share Plan, a Developer Fee and a Spending Plan.  All these things are to gain full compliance with the State of New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH Fee). coah-fee

Basically, this is going to cost us 1.5% to put an addition on our house.  This fee could turn out to be pretty expensive to anyone considering buying a “tear-down”.  It is my understanding (from reading the ordinance) that the tax assessor makes the determination based on Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) based on plans and requests for permits.  The money must be paid prior to receiving a Certificate of Occupancy.

If you are like me, you are probably wondering what the hell is Equalized Assessed Value.  It is something I should know, because the fee is going to be determined on this amount.  The definition in the ordinance says it is the assessed value of a property divided by the current average ration of assessed to true value for the municipality in which the property is situated.  Yeah, I still don’t understand it, but I will  before I have to write the check.

What I do know is this, if you are planning to purchase in New Jersey, and are planning to add on to the existing structure or tear down the home that is there and build new, you will have to pay this fee.  The fee if you tear down and start again can be 2.5%.  So, if you bought a house on an existing lot and tear the house down and build a new home that cost you $200,000.00 to build, it will cost you an additional fee of at least $5,000.00 in Cape May.

The other thing I am trying to find out is if my plumber gave me a quote of $20,000.00, does that mean I have to pay 1.5% of that quote?  The quote was to fix the house and the addition, not just the addition.  Shouldn’t I be able to separate the two?  Does that mean every time you do work on your home in Cape May and take out a permit, they can enforce this rule?  Won’t that lead to people trying to avoid taking out permits?

I have a lot of questions and not all of the answers.  The people at the construction office have been very helpful, but I still don’t understand the basis of the tax.  But I will.

Sunsets over a Whaling Town

Open House Sitting in Townbank -the winds whipped across the Delaware Bay with 45 mile an hour gusts- cozy and comfortably watching seagulls and white caps- this area has such history- I can picture the whales spouting as the brilliant sun sets – such a unique area and still unknown- did you know that Townbank was here before Cape May? That the owners of proeprty here own their own beach? There is no commercial structures or townhomes, no parking meters. Quaint and quiet with the best sunset views around. Oh yeah bring your dog- they are allowed too!

Customer Service-Does anyone really know what it is?

You hear people talk about “Customer Service” all the time, but what is it really? If you are of the famous Baby Boomer generation you remember. It was the time when people would know your name, return a phone call and be available to help you. Now I don’t mean at all times of the day and night but within a timely manner. You don’t even need to know the answer to the question immediately but at least give the customer the time to discuss what’s on his/her mind. In the “real-time” world we are in today I find it amazing that you cannot even get a response. It is easy to advertise customer service and committment but do you really know what it is?  I believe Good Customer Service will sustain a Good Realtor in any type of economy.

What is Echo Sign?

Well it’s 5:30 on a Friday night and the Contract is ready to be signed. The Buyer and Seller are on the move. The agents are completing their daily tasks and are anxioulsy waiting for paperwork. Fortunately for all  Echo Sign  is available in our office. With Echo Sign I was able to email the Contract for signatures and through the technology of computers, I-pods and blackberrys all parties were able to sign and within minutes eveyone including the agents had a signed contract in their mailbox.  Settlement is next week.

Contractors? How Do You Pick?

   I guess it should be easy for me to find a contractors.  I’m in real estate, so I have had contact with many contractors through home inspections and repairs.  (Good and bad)  I’ve lived here for over 25 years.  Since my home is near I can meet them at the property to get some quotes.  So how do you pick?

   First and foremost, you should rely on someone who has had work done.  They will know if the contractor completed the job in the time promised, in a workman-like way, and was flexible with work order changes.  Sometimes, the cheapest contractor is not the best.  There is a reason why you get what you pay for.

   With the new property, we are planning to add a new kitchen, master bedroom and master bath.  We will almost double the size of the house.  So we started with someone we trust, Paul Burgin of Paul Burgin Builders is our general contractor.  We met Paul at the property and did a walk through and discussed the changes that we thought we would like to make tot he house.  Paul then took a copy of our survey and drew on graph paper a basic plan of what we discussed.  With the basic plan and square footage planned out, we made copies of the survey and layout and have handed them out to several electricians, plumbers, and a heating and cooling company.  Once the quotes come back in, and we decide which professionals to use, they will need to contact Paul to fill out all the permit applications.

   When planning to have major work done, you must go to City Hall and get permits.  When doing a project the size of ours, the entire permit package must be completed.  So the plumber, electrician, heating and cooling permits must all be handed in at the same time with the general contractors information.  Our plans do not require architectural drawings, so we are saving our selves some additional expense there.  Also, when planning our addition, we did not exceed the local zoning requirements for the area.  (These may be found on the City of Cape May website under zoning laws, or the people at City Hall are more than willing to help.)  Since we are abiding by the zoning requirements of the R-1 district, we will not need a variance to build.  Permits do not happen overnight.  The construction official needs time to review the application, and inspect the property.

   In the meantime, we have begun the hopefully magic transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.   Our time frame is tight, because we are looking to get summer rentals booked for June, July and August.

Winter Blues No Better Time to Buy

There is no better time to buy than now! The interest rates are still at a record low, inventory is high and pricing is at an all time low. HomeStead provides a one-of-a-kind quality of personal service that you’ll want to recommend to all your friends. Our Agents know the Cape May County Market. Our agents have consistently maintained the reputation of being service oriented and understanding. They understand that you do not hire just a company, but a person. HomeStead’s clients and customers are very satisfied and seem to make lasting friendships with their agents.

Dagmer Chew, Broker/Owner
The way to work out the winter blues is beat the Spring Market Buying traffic and call a HomeStead Agent today to get the head start on buying your new home. Once the weather breaks prices will be rising again and with more demand in the spring if you buy NOW you are likely to get a better price. Keep in mind that traditionally Spring is the time the flowers bloom and so does the buying. Get in ahead of the competition, other buyers, and beat the winter blues. Call a HomeStead agent today to set up a meeting to discuss your buying strategy.

Finally Ready to Begin

  With the help of the police – Big thanks to Cape May Police Department – the Seller has removed all their personal belongings and we are ready to begin the rehab. 

   Our goals are fairly simple.  We would like to enlarge the property from three bedrooms to four bedrooms and add at least another bathroom and maybe a bath and a half.  This works needs to be completed by April or May so that we can have it on the rental market before June.

   Tonight, the decision makers will be meeting to discuss the financing of the work.  We have met with a builder who has quoted us a price of $100.00 a square foot.  Our plan is to knock that down to $80.00 a square foot if we do a lot of the finishing work ourselves.  That price is probably realistic, since we will be moving the kitchen to the addition, adding bathrooms, central air, insulation, and all new siding.

   Finally, here is the before picture.  I hope by June you will not recognize the after picture.

New Year – Old Headaches

   Sometimes in business, an old adage is  an old adage for a reason.  The one today is “It doesn’t pay to be nice.”  The Seller still does not have all her belongings out of our home, although we went to settlement on December 17, 2009.  Understand this, when you sell a house, you don’t own it anymore.  You don’t get the money and then get to keep your stuff there for a few more days while you make arrangements to pack up and move.  The Buyers made the arrangements to get your money there on time.  The contract calls for the house to be empty and broom swept, yet still my Seller begs for more time.  We did accept $400.00 dollars from the Seller with a signed agreement that everything would be out by December 24, 2009.  That date has come and gone.  The Seller was planning to leave some things in the shed, thinking that we would dispose of them.  This is why real estate agents put money in escrow when some issues are not resolved at the settlement table.  Buyers and Sellers are more motivated to meet deadlines when money is involved in the outcome.

Why Are We the Experts?

Our Mission Statement at HomeStead is to serve our customers, clients and each other with honesty, integrity and professionalism.  After being with the company for 8 years, I can say that this philosophy has held true over time and is a large part of why we are the Cape May Experts!  There is dedication to our work and a sense of cooperation within our company both in sales and rentals.  We do our best to match the right property with the right owner or renter!   At  HomeStead our Team knows the market, we know the area, and we listen to the needs of our clients so we can best serve them.  Because we believe in sharing our knowledge with our colleagues, we work well together toward a company goal of achievement and success.  Therefore, we are all able to be more expert in our field, to be more fluent in the language of real estate, and to be more conversational in helping the client to understand what we recommend.  To truly be an Expert means to be in touch, to be available, and to listen and respond promptly and with professionalism.  I believe we at HomeStead always set the bar in Cape May, with our knowledge, technology, and spirit, and therefore We Are the Experts!

Short Sale After 11 months?

Well we finally received a word from the lender. After 11 months of waiting they have declined the short sale for the property. What does this mean? At this point the property will go to Sheriff Sale. The Buyer can bid on the property at the Sheriff Sale but will be responsible for outstanding liens over and above the lenders “upset figure.” If the lender takes the property back it will then be listed for sale. This process can also take months.  Anyone looking at a short sale needs to be prepared, not only to wait for responses but also to realize that they may not get the approval/house.  In the meantime mortgage commitments and appraisals are a cost to the Buyer. It is important to know the property and its’ encumbrences. Time, patience and committment are requirements for a short sale with all parites including a realtor. Ask questions, do your homework and be prepared.