All posts by Don Johnston

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4 Questions to ask Before Selling your Home

5 Questions to ask Before Selling Your Home

The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

By Don Johnston

There comes a time in every homeowner’s life when he or she realizes: “I am not the same person I was when I bought this place.” Maybe your lifestyle or family configuration has changed, or perhaps the house isn’t as appealing as it was when you signed that ream of paperwork on closing day.


If you’re thinking about moving, then there are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you take the plunge and list the house. When you can answer these questions, you’ll know you’re in the right place emotionally and financially to move on to your next home.

It’s a starting point; it’s not an appraisal. It’s a computer, and we haven’t been in your home. We haven’t seen your new kitchen.” -Zillow

1. What is my home worth?

What's my home worth?

You can find almost anything on the internet, and that includes the estimated value of your home. How convenient! However, before you go galloping off to Zillow or a random brokerage website to try to figure out how much your house is worth, take a deep breath and resolve to remember one thing: “I shouldn’t believe everything I read on the internet.”


Although it might be possible, an automated estimate is going to be spot-on. Still, those algorithms depend on numbers that may or may not be accurate. In addition, one must understand that these algorithms don’t consider the condition of your property, the square footage, any features or amenities you’ve added (or removed), or recent comparable home sales in your immediate area.


Zillow’s director of communication / reputation management Emily Heffter said, “It’s a starting point; it’s not an appraisal. It’s a computer, and we haven’t been in your home. We haven’t seen your new kitchen.” –Chicago Tribune


I’ll go further and say, it’s not even a Broker Price Opinion (BPO).


A better way to figure out how much your home might be worth is to look at your most recent property tax bill. Your property taxes change with the value of your home. So suppose you look at your property tax rate from last year and figure out your state’s assessment rate.


Understand that this rate is typically not quite the total value of your home; it’s somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent of the home’s real value—depending on the state and local markets. Nevertheless, this assessment can help you get a little bit closer to pinpointing a realistic value for your home.


You can also talk to a professional about your home’s value. A data-savvy and experienced real estate agent has access to tools that require a real estate license to use. For example, at the Veteran Real Estate Group, we are offer data tools and in-sight not available to the public, which fills in the gaps where the algorithms fail. Thus, we’re able to give you a more accurate idea of the dollar value your home could fetch in the current market.


And a real estate professional can also explain what you can do to your home to help inch that number upward a little bit. Then you make the call as to whether or not you want to make any upgrades or take the estimated price as-is.

2. How can I sell at the highest price possible?

How can I Sell at the Highest and Best Price Possible?

“At the Vets Group, we offer most services in-house at no charge for essential staging, photos including drone content.”

When you’re selling anything, you want to get fair market value for the item you’re releasing, and that’s exponentially truer for your house, which is probably the biggest purchase you’ve ever made.


If you know your neighbor’s house sold for ten figures more than the highest estimate you’ve been able to find for your own home, that can be a harsh reality to swallow. But this is where real estate professionals earn their keep. They can explain why that house was so desirable. For example, if you’re honest with yourself, maybe you can admit that your neighbor’s view is much more attractive than yours, etc. An agent can also show you where you may have some room for price improvement.


If you don’t want to call in a professional, start with things that can spruce up almost any dwelling. One of the first and most important steps to selling your home for top dollar is to get the place deep-cleaned from floor to ceiling, including washing the windows and scrubbing down all your kitchen appliances.


Start by attacking the clutter; it’s much easier to clean a room that doesn’t have a lot of furniture or objects in it, so even if you’re hoping to move up to make space for all your stuff, it’s a good idea to start cleaning out the items that you know you don’t want to move with you. Then, if there’s a lot left, consider a shed or an off-site storage facility where you can stash things without packing them all in your closets (where buyers will most definitely be looking).


Suppose you consider remodeling the kitchen, bathrooms or even adding entire rooms. Those are good opportunities to discuss with a real estate professional, who can share feedback about whether the project will be worth the eventual return on investment when you sell the home and what projects will net you more money for your property.


At the Vets Group, we offer most services in-house at no charge for essential staging, photos including drone content. However, most experienced real estate agents know stagers and home photographers.


When a buyer falls in love with your home, it’s most likely going to be from an online listing, so your listing photos should be as high-quality as possible; that might mean bringing in a stager to spruce up the rooms and a photographer to capture the results.

3. How long will my home be on the market?

How long will my house be on the market?

“It’s crucial to get the initial list price right if you’d like the home to sell quickly.”

No one can predict the future, but experts who work in the industry can usually come close. If you haven’t called an agent yet, you might need to get the information you’ll need to answer this question. If you’re in New Jersey, click here to schedule some time with me: (Click Here)


Ultimately, it depends on what the housing market is like in your area. Still, there are many anomalies within a local housing market. For example, even in markets that seem red-hot, sometimes sellers make a mistake and overprice a home that then languishes for weeks or even months longer than more realistically priced homes.


Take a look at some of these homes that have been on the market for more than six months. (Click Here)


Some neighborhoods or even specific blocks where buyers seem to be willing to do just about anything to get their foot in the door and other geographies where they might need to be lured in a little more aggressively.


The number of days that homes stay on the market gets shorter and shorter as housing heats up, but that number is contingent on the initial list price. Thus, homes that need to reduce their price to attract qualified buyers will remain on the market significantly longer than homes priced competitively from the start.


It’s crucial to get the initial list price right if you’d like the home to sell quickly. Remember, the longer a house takes to sell, the longer you as the seller will be responsible for keeping it in touring condition for buyers seven days a week.


So even in markets where houses seem to be flying off the shelves, it’s wise to talk to someone who sees those sales up close and personal every day. They can give you an educated estimate about the amount of time it should take your property to get from list to close.

4. How can an agent help?

How can a real estate agent help me?

Selling a home is a huge life event that encroaches on just about every aspect of your existence, from your meals to your work schedule to how often you do laundry and vacuum up pet hair. As a result, it can be an incredibly stressful time. A real estate agent is a personal advisor and service provider that can help sellers make the best decisions possible while keeping track of all the details.


An excellent real estate agent will help you find the best price for your home, list it for you on the MLS, and handle all the marketing– from photos to open houses to glossy brochures to Facebook ads. In addition, a good agent can manage your showing schedule for buyers who want personal tours and can help you decide which offer to accept if you happen to receive more than one offer.


As a certified Real Estate Negotiation Expert (RENE), I say with great conviction that an experienced agent is essential during the negotiation process, especially if the buyer is making demands that the seller isn’t prepared to address. Having a buffer between you and the buyer creates the transaction sustainably more efficient and enjoyable.


A good agent will also know the best plumbers, electricians, and general contractors in the area who might be able to make any repairs or changes to the home before it closes. He or she can manage the transaction timeline, alerting you when an inspection or appraisal is about to happen and keeping you in the loop regarding financing and every other aspect of the deal.


A good agent can also help you do all of this while you’re simultaneously looking for a new place to live and can help you manage the processes. That includes knowing what to do if you find a home before your current house sells.


And depending on your situation, there are real estate agents who specialize in divorce, estate sales, and other tricky life events involving a home transaction.


Selling a home is not as simple as listing it on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and waiting for an appropriate offer to come in; there’s so much more involved that most sellers can’t manage on their own.


Answering these questions will get you a head start, but don’t skip talking to an agent or three when you’re ready to list that home; they’ll be able to point out what you didn’t know you were missing.


To schedule some time with me, email me at: info@thevetsgroup.com, text or call me at: (201) 581-7805, or fill this form out: (Click Here).

The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

Don Johnston is a licensed real estate broker in New Jersey with more than 20 years of experience. He started building houses at a young age and joined the Army Corps of Engineers at the beginning of his career. He started his real estate services business in Manhattan, New York  in 2005.  He brings a diverse knowledge of captial markets, private equity, construction, development, and a data science which makes him a very unique and powerful choice for your broker.

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The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

5 Reasons to Love Hoboken

5 Reason to Love Hoboken

Jennifer DeValue

By Jennifer DeValue

Hoboken: Hudson Shore Chic

A city within a stone’s throw of what locals call “the city” (NYC), Hoboken’s old-world feel with the best modern amenities is hard to rival. If you enjoy “walking cities” with plentiful recreation opportunities, then you will eat up all Hoboken has to offer (and it’s got a lot of worthwhile eateries).

“Come for the Festivals, Stay for the Possibilities.”

1. Hudson River Waterfront Walkway & Pier A Park

Hoboken Waterfront Walkway - Pier C Park

Running through 8 other municipalities and two counties, Hoboken’s section of the Hudson River leads straight to Pier A Park. The combination of these two landmarks is excellent for daily exercise, romantic dates, and family outings. Of course, you’ll want to invest in a hammock and picnic blanket to make the most out of each sunny day.

2. Every Kind of Festival

With plenty of festivals, you’ll always have a way to keep busy. Notable events include the Italian Festival, Restaurant Week, SantaCon, and the Art and Music Festival.

There truly is something for everyone, and with many of them being outdoors, you’ll be able to enjoy all Hoboken has to offer responsibly. 

3. Pier 13 Park

Pier 13, Hoboken, NJ

While Pier A Park is your typical retreat into nature, Pier 13 is a veritable smorgasbord of activities.

If you navigate over to their official website, it proclaims that their season 10 is “coming soon,” but we’re sure it will be a blast. Traditionally, however, the pier has offered various food trucks, water activities, and events, including a movie night and live music.  

4. With Planes and Trains Who Needs Automobiles?

Hoboken public transportation. PATH Train Stop in Hoboken, New Jersey

If getting around town is your concern, Hoboken is just what you’re looking for regarding public transportation. In comparison to other NJ regions, you couldn’t ask for better or faster public transit. Not only does the PATH train system bring you directly into the heart of New York City, but the ferry is also an affordable mix of transit and recreation.

Whether you’re a frequent traveler or expecting guests from all over, it’s hard to beat Hoboken’s proximity (just under half an hour drive) to Newark International Airport.

Altogether, if you’re an on-the-go sort of a person or responsible for keeping your family entertained, this is the place for you.

5. Art Galleries & Museums

Hoboken Historical Musem

A growing art scene means that Hoboken’s many art galleries will have something for every artistic pallet to enjoy.

From Barsky Gallery’s cutting-edge array to the multifaceted Hoboken Historical Museum, Hoboken reinforces that art is an experience. Why stop at viewing art when you can create your own with the classes that Field Colony provides? The Hoboken Girl blog has full explanations of every notable gallery and museum in the neighborhood.

Hoboken is also tremendously close to the Liberty Science Center, with hands-on science exhibits for kids and adults.

Come for the Festivals, Stay for the Possibilities

There’s nothing in New Jersey, or even the world, quite like Hoboken’s mixture of antique architecture and proximity to New York City. With the easy transportation system, the possibilities for work and play are limitless.

With our agents ready to help you, finding a home in this truly one-of-a-kind city will be as easy-breezy as a waterfront walk.

Jennifer DeValue

Jennifer DeValue is a New Jersey-born author with forays into many genres, but her favorite forays are her real-world travels. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees have brought her to three out of seven continents, and she cannot wait to complete the set eventually. Even so, Jennifer has always returned to the tri-state area and is looking forward to settling down here for the time being

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The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

5 Reasons Working with a Real Estate Pro is the Best Decision You’ll Ever Make

5 Reasons Working with a Real Estate Pro is the Best Decision You’ll Ever Make

The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

By Don Johnston

Most people don’t buy a home every day — it’s a once-or-twice-a-decade activity for many of us instead of a day-in-day-out activity.

So when you start getting serious about buying, whether it’s your first home or your fourth, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed pretty quickly. Some parts of the process (like searching for a home) have recently become more accessible through technology. Still, when every buyer has access to the same technology and resources, it’s tough to stand out in a crowd of showing, bids, and contracts.

And there’s a lot more to the journey than just finding the home: You need to figure out financing, negotiate on price and possibly request repairs or make concessions, get the home appraised and inspected, and make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed by the time you sit down at the closing table to sign your name on a stack of paperwork.

That’s why a real estate professional can be an indispensable resource for buyers. Unlike most of us, real estate professionals do manage home sale transactions every day. They can serve as a guide on the buyer’s journey, ushering you from Base Camp “I Think I Want To Buy A House” to Summit, the mountain of “I’m A Homeowner,” step by step.

What’s more, although a buyer’s agent has the legal duty to represent your best interests, their services usually cost nothing for the buyer.

Here are just a few of the ways a real estate professional can help smooth your home buying path.

“although a buyer’s agent has the legal duty to represent your best interests, their services usually cost nothing for the buyer.”

1. Getting pre-approved by a lender

The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

Instead of paying rent to the owner of your residence every month, as a homeowner, you’ll be paying back a bank for the money you borrowed to buy your own place.

But before you get there, you need to find that bank and secure that loan. 

Where do you start that process?

A real estate professional is one correct place to start. If you’re a veteran, have a unique credit history, need to transfer funds from other countries, or have a variety of different needs, a talented agent knows which lender (and loan officer) might be the best fit for you.

The right loan officer will explain your financing options and help you drill down to the real nitty-gritty, like the size of the monthly mortgage payment that’s affordable based on your current income, what you should expect in terms of closing costs, and whether the down payment amount you’ve saved is going to cut it.

Agents can explain what to expect during the mortgage loan application process, what you should know about transferring money during the sale, why it’s essential to review certain documents — and they can usually even attest to whether specific lenders have parameters that might be better for one type of home instead of another.

2. Choosing a Home

Many buyers (mistakenly) think that they don’t need an agent’s help finding a home. They know what they want, and they know how to search the internet — what’s the point of hiring an agent?

The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

Here’s the thing: You might not need any assistance when you’re picking out a car, but no consumer report exists for the specific home you’re about to spend 30 years paying off.

What if you’re someone who thrives on direct sunlight, and your “dream home” happens to be located by a hill that’s going to cast it in shadow half the year?

What if you can’t sleep when airplanes fly overhead, and your soon-to-be home is in a major airport’s flight path?

What about the schools? What about the amenities? How do homes in that area hold their value — can you expect this investment to appreciate in the next few years, and by how much?

Cars come off an assembly line; homes do not. Whether it’s the home’s condition or the neighborhood around it, you don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised once you move in.

A real estate professional has seen other buyers make mistakes (and find gems) and can help you find a home that you still love two or three (or ten!) years down the road.

3. Making an Offer

The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

This can be one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the process for buyers. Because even if you love the home and are making an offer at the very top of your budget … there is no guarantee that the seller will think it’s worth accepting. 

You could wind up starting all over again on the home search process.

Real estate professionals can help you do more than make an unsophisticated stab in the dark when it comes to offers — they can show you data that will help you understand whether you’re likely to be underbidding or overbidding, for example, such as the recent sales prices of similar homes nearby, the price-per-square-foot range in the neighborhood, and much more.

This is really where the home sales rubber meets the road. If your offer is high for the market, the seller may leap at it … but you’ll always wonder if you could have gotten a better deal. And if your offer is low, you should understand why the seller comes back with a counter-offer so you won’t feel offended or annoyed.

4. Closing

You did it! You found a home you love at a price you can afford, the seller accepted the offer, and now all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the closing process. Right?

The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

OK, that’s not exactly true. Even the simplest real estate sale involves quite a few mandated hoops that must be jumped through — like the inspection, the appraisal, title review, and more.

In some states, a title company manages the closing process; in others, a lawyer is involved. But the negotiation isn’t over yet, not by a long shot.

What happens if the inspector finds an issue with the home that must be addressed before the sale is legal? Who will pay for those repairs — you or the seller? What can you expect in terms of finalizing the loan and moving your down payment or earnest money from your account to the sellers?

What should you look for during the final walk-through?

An experienced agent can lay out a roadmap from offer acceptance to keys-in-hand and make sure you’re staying on track … which can feel like a lifesaver to a buyer drowning in details.

5. Continual Service

The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

When you’re all moved in and settling down, you’ll probably discover some upgrades you’d like to make and work on shaping your home to fit you instead of the previous owner.

Your real estate professional already knows your house (and the neighborhood), so why not reach out when you’re considering adding a deck or redoing a bathroom? They can help you figure out which improvements are timeless and will increase your home’s value versus quickly dated trends that you might have to redo again before you sell.

And that’s not all — your agent probably knows people in the neighborhood, from home service providers like plumbers and electricians to lifestyle service providers like day-care operators and pet sitters. If you need a recommendation, ask your agent!

Buying a home goes well beyond finding one for sale on the internet. Buyers who use a real estate professional’s services find the process more enjoyable and less stressful — and they also have an advocate to negotiate tirelessly on their behalf.

The Veteran Real Estate Group - Homes for Sale in Northern New Jersey & the New York City Suburbs

Don Johnston is a licensed real estate broker in New Jersey with more than 20 years of experience. He started building houses at a young age and joined the Army Corps of Engineers at the beginning of his career. He started his real estate services business in Manhattan, New York  in 2005.  He brings a diverse knowledge of captial markets, private equity, construction, development, and a data science which makes him a very unique and powerful choice for your broker.

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