Top Renovation Projects That Add Value to Your Home

January 22nd, 2015

People often ask us about renovations that they would like to make and the possible return on their investment. Here is an article by Jane Blanchard who is a blogger, design geek, graphic designer and writer for to shed some light on that subject.

Top Renovation Projects That Add Value to Your Home

By Jane Blanchard

Not all renovations will add value to your property. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine, no shiny appliances or reinforced doors will increase the price of your home in 2014.  You can, however, recoup the majority of your expenses when you choose the right renovations for your home. Here are six savvy ways to upgrade your real estate.

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1.   Attic Bedroom

Average cost: $49,000 Average value: $41,000

Attic bedrooms are one of the best ways to add value to your home. However, you'll need to extend a real effort to make the space habitable; a few chairs and a dresser won't do it. You'll need to add plumbing, lighting and heating to recoup at least 80 percent of the cost.

2. Backup Power Generator

Average cost: $12,000 Average value: $8,000

Prospective homeowners are willing to pay a lot for peace of mind. If you can offer them an emergency power supply, especially one that comes with multiple circuits and automatic transfer switches, you'll add almost $10,000 to the value of your house.

3. Basement Remodel

Average cost: $68,000 Average value: $49,000

You've already transformed your attic; now go to the opposite end of the house and work your magic there. You can convert your basement into everything from a bedroom to an entertainment center, and depending on your state, you can regain between 60 and 80 percent of its cost.

4. Additional Bathrooms

Average cost: $38,000 Average value: $23,000

Buyers are willing to pay big money for the increased convenience of multiple bathrooms. If you have a closet, cupboard or crawl space that's just sitting there without purpose, think about turning it into a half-bath that will add more than $20,000 to your home's value. 

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5. Deck Additions

Average cost: $9,000 Average value: $8,000

Decks are enjoying a wave of popularity this year, likely because more and more home buyers are finding value in having an outdoor entertaining space. They were only worth 72 percent of their cost in 2010, but this year that number has climbed to 87 percent.

6. Window Replacement

Average cost: $10,000 Average value: $8,000

Wood windows and vinyl windows have different valuations, but they both offer almost 80 percent of their worth on the real estate market. If you're looking for an easy and effective remodeling project, this is it.

These are just seven ways to add value to your home and recoup the costs when it's time to sell. Remember, however, that these numbers are only valid for 2014; the market will change in the upcoming years. You'll need to watch the trends carefully if you want to stay on top of the game! Check out Modernize for more home remodeling ideas.

Update on The Real Estate Market in Northern New Jersey

May 2nd, 2014

The Spring Market is now in full swing. We are seeing bidding wars on absolutely everything that is priced right and either looks great with full renovations or is at least priced right to show value if it is a home that needs updates.

The inventory has been hitting the Market at a fairly rapid pace, but with the number of buyers out there who are ready, willing, and able, the overall buildup is minimal at this point. We do expect to see quite a number of homes continue to hit the Market for the next 6-7 weeks when it will likely begin to slow down for the summer.

If you are still thinking of selling this year, we would recommend not waiting! Call us and we can quickly map out a plan that will enable you to get your home on the Market and reap the benefits of being a seller in this Market. There are no guarantees about what the selling season will look like in 2015!

We have access to all of the service providers that you would need to get your home ready quickly. We also have the ability to immediately give you a price range within which your home could be listed.

Call us or email us and we will send you a market analysis on your home within 24 hours!

Here are this week's statistics:

Active now (# active 2 weeks ago) Under Contract (since April 1)
Maplewood 68 (67) 34
South Orange 72 (67) 26
Millburn/Short Hills 113 (98) 37
West Orange 251 (203) 51
Montclair 117 (103) 45
Livingston 118 (128) (very active market 51
Summit 81 (69) 31
Union 249 (241) 51

Update on The Real Estate Market in Northern New Jersey

April 11th, 2014

We are about to enter the height of the 2014 "Spring Market." It is no surprise the buyers who are out there are facing a little bit of sticker shock in some instances. Coming off of the strength of 2013, sellers and agents are being quite bullish with pricing techniques, especially if you know you have the goods! Location, location, location--still a term that stands the test of time! If there is a house that is within "walking distance to the train," the sky is the limit and there will be multiple offers. It is rare that a new buyer comes to town and does not request to see homes that are within walking distance to the train. Everyone wants the same thing whether their price range is $200k or 900k.

Home prices are up approximately 10% over last year (give or take). There is, however, a bit of danger with this trend as incomes are only up about 2%. This begins to make housing less affordable for many. It is a trend that we would rather avoid in this economy as buyers are going to begin to face rising interest rates and even tighter credit conditions. In a year from now, interest rates are expected to be higher and this will take a bite into the buying power that is available.

All in all, it seems like buyers are actually a little surprised at the fact that there are so many multiple offers out there. In the majority of the cases, it is, in fact, a seller's market right now. Buyers still want what they want and so do sellers! It is a great time to be a seller and all the stars are, in fact, aligned for the buyers this year as well. When 2015 begins, interest rates will be higher, mortgages a bit more difficult and annoying to secure, and prices will likely be a tad higher as well.

Here are this week's statistics:

Active now (# active 2 weeks ago) Under Contract (since March 16)
Maplewood 67 (60) 33
South Orange 67 (68) 25
Millburn/Short Hills 98 (77) 34
West Orange 203 (179) 40
Montclair 103 (102) 41
Livingston 128 (106) 27
Summit 69 (54) 23
Union 241 (247) 39

The Real Estate Market in Northern New Jersey

March 28th, 2014

Thinking of selling your house? Here are four reasons to do it now:
  1. Demand is High. We have been experiencing double digit gains in the amount of inventory that is moving into contract . Buyers and more buyers are out there in all price points.
  2. As you know, supply has been below what has been needed to satisfy the buyers who are in the market. This phenomenon began early in 2013 and has continued. What we are seeing at the moment is the very beginning of what we feel will be a slight build up of inventory over the next year. This should come as no surprise because for many years now, sellers have been sitting and waiting for the market to rebound so they could have equity in their homes when they sell. These sellers are now thinking seriously about getting their homes ready for the market. We believe that buyers will begin to have many choices later in the year, and especially next year. The message is that if you are planning to sell next year, perhaps consider selling this year; you will likely get the most money for your home during 2014.
  1. Interest rates are expected to rise over the next year. They are now about 4.25% and have already been a bit higher than this. Whether you are moving up or moving down, your expenses will be higher in a year than they are now. This will also affect the buying power of the purchasers. With higher rates, the amount of house they can buy will be less. This specifically means that they will be less able to pay you a higher purchase price in a year than they are able to today. It also means that it will become slightly more difficult for those first-time homebuyers to enter the market in a year as compared to right now. Those first-time buyers are critical in the home buying chain! When they purchase their starter home, it enables everyone in the chain to move up. This will eventually cause a slight “pause” in the market.
  2. If you are thinking of selling, why wait? There is no better time than right now to assess why you may be “waiting a year” to sell. Is the possibility of a few extra dollars more important than making that move to be closer to grandchildren? Do you yearn to live in a warmer climate? Should you be moving to a different house or a condo/townhome to make things easier? Think about why you may want to move and make a decision to go forward and live the life that you desire. What is truly important to you?
Here's an update on how the local market is doing:
Active now (# active 2 weeks ago) Under Contract (since 2 weeks ago)
Maplewood 60 (58) 37 (20)
South Orange 58 (55) 25 (16)
Millburn/Short Hills 77 (68) 34 (20)
West Orange 179 (188) 73 (44)
Montclair 102 (82) 39 (21)
Livingston 106 (87) 27 (13)
Summit 54 (45) 35 (22)
Union 247 (231) 48 (29)

The History of Home Ownership

March 11th, 2014

According to Realtor Magazine, there is definitely something to celebrate around the idea of owning your own home. The concept of individuals being able to own property has really been a defining element of American history. Now that we have just celebrated the 237th birthday of this nation, let us be clear that even during recent difficult economic times, the overwhelming majority of people still believe that owning a home is a worthwhile and rewarding part of life.

Realtors have been in existence for over 100 years--we have been a part of helping people achieve The American Dream. Just as critical is the fact that the health of the Real Estate market dictates the stability of this nation.

Recent studies have shown that 85% of recent first-time homebuyers consider buying a home a solid investment moreso than the stock market. Owning a home has also had support of the government for many decades.

Home ownership creates stability in the communities around America. Studies also show tangible social benefits of owning as compared to renting. Owners enjoy greater self esteem than renters--they take pride in their home and where they live. They move less frequently, get involved in the community in which they live and contribute to neighborhood stability.

Some facts that you may not realize are the following: the deduction for mortgage interest on our loans was introduced as part of the Federal tax code nearly 100 years ago and the Federal Housing Administration as well as Fannie Mae were all created during the Great Depression.

How is the market doing?

Over the last two weeks since our last ezine, we have seen additional properties enter the Market. The weather has been a bit better and it has allowed sellers to step forward and actually get their homes on the Market. The buyers have been waiting for a while to begin to see new inventory. As a result, anything hitting the Market that looks good and is priced right is selling immediately. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to stage a home. The average cost to do this is $2500-$3000 and will be returned to you multiple times over! When we list houses, we build in a piece of this cost into our marketing plan and return that amount to our sellers at closing. That is how strongly we feel about this!

Here are the current market statistics:

Active now (# active 2 weeks ago) Under Contract (since Feb. 15)
Maplewood 58 (57) 20
South Orange 55 (55) 16
Millburn/Short Hills 68 (67) 20
West Orange 188 (180) 44
Montclair 82 (78) 21
Livingston 87 (83) 13
Summit 45 (42) 22
Union 231 (235) 29

An Update on the Real Estate Market in Northern New Jersey

February 28th, 2014

What do the home buyers feel is important when searching for a property?

The #1 turn-on for a home buyer is ENERGY EFFICIENCY.

What this means is that they want energy rated appliances, a home that is well insulated and energy-efficient windows. They are also getting turned off from very high entry foyers and any other areas that are costly to heat and cool. Solar panels are also a good way to boost efficiency and can be easily discussed with an expert.

Scoring in the high 80% to low 90% of “wants” for all buyers is AMPLE STORAGE.

This desire for storage space continues to increase in importance. This is no surprise since many of the local buyers come from apartment living! They want a linen closet that is ample and if there is also one in the bathroom, that is considered to be perfect. They want a garage in order to store sports equiptment, gardening and yard tools. The storage desire then carries over into the kitchen area where having a pantry is definitely high on the list as well.

Many people now work from home so space for a HOME OFFICE is a big plus.

Home buyers are willing to give up devoted space to home theaters and other specialized media rooms in order to have the home office. In fact, they’d be willing to forego a formal dining room altogether in order to have a home office or study.

OUTDOOR LIVING ROOMS outweigh outdoor kitchens.

A peaceful and comfortable outdoor space created out of stone and/or slate with comfortable furniture and perhaps a fire pit are immensely alluring to our buyers. Once again, since many come from apartment living, this is what appeals to their fantasy of one of the big benefits of living in a house with a backyard.

When you are planning investments in your home, .keep some of this information in mind. You will more than get your money back if you spend money upgrading in any of these areas. If you have any questions about what is worthwhile to do in your home, we are always available.

Here is this week's snapshot on the local market:

Active now (# active 2 weeks ago) Under Contract (since Feb. 1)
Maplewood 57 (53) 11
South Orange 55 (53) 13
Millburn/Short Hills 67 (68) 17
West Orange 180 (176) 39
Montclair 78 (71) 15
Livingston 83 (86) 18
Summit 42 (41) 8
Union 235 (223) 20

The Real Estate Market in Northern New Jersey

February 14th, 2014

Once again we are here to report that the inventory STILL remains at historic lows. No surprise, as even if you were ready to list, the weather has not been cooperative! When the inventory begins to build up, we predict we will begin to see a lot of bidding wars. This may beg the question, “How Do You Get The Home You Want” under these circumstances?

The first step is to BE READY.

What we mean by this is talk to your mortgage professional in advance about your financial situation and credit history in order to determine the options that are available to you with regard to loans. It is critical to know how much house you can afford and if you have to sell your current residence before you can buy a new one. If that is the case, you would need a seller to accept a home sale contingency. If you find yourself in a bidding war, a home sale contingency in your contract will almost always put you on the bottom of the list, UNLESS you compensate with making your offer a very stong one AND if your home is already on the market or better yet, under contract. If that is the case, you may have a very good chance that the seller will agree to take your offer.

The second step is to be a SMART SHOPPER.

Location is key. Ask yourself whether it will appeal to a large pool of buyers when you decide to sell in the future. In addition, weigh the plusses and minuses of buying a fixer upper. You can get a good deal, but do you have the stomach for the work? Does it need a complete gut renovation or could you get by with some relatively easy upgrades, fixtures and some paint? If you are working with us, we can easily assess any situation with regard to end value and whether your upgrades will be money well spent.


This is our specialty. We can dig deep and look at all comparable sales, the price trends and evaluate the location in terms of demand. We go above and beyond by finding out the seller’s motivation for selling, where they are going and when. We will find out their preferred closing date and what else may be important to them in a contract (other than price, of course). We, too, will compose a compelling letter outlining the details of your family, such as why you want to live in their house, how many children you have, where you work, why your contract is solid and why your family would be an outstanding choice for the neighborhood. It is a formula for success.


Below you will find my usual update on the number of properties available and active and in parenthesis ( ), you will note the number of active properties that were on the market two weeks ago.

Active now (# active 2 weeks ago) Under Contract (since Jan. 15)
Maplewood 53 (57) 13
South Orange 53 (54) 15
West Orange 176 (184) 31
Millburn/Short Hills 68 (65) 14
Montclair 71 (74) 19
Livingston 86 (84) 19
Summit 41 (40) 11
Union 223 (231) 36

Market Conditions in Northern New Jersey – brought to you by the Lichtman-Rabney Team

January 29th, 2014

We are sure you have noticed that every publication of this online newsletter has had a recurring theme--WE NEED HOUSES TO SELL! Once again we are here to report that while we have seen a few properties dribble on to the market over the last two weeks, it is still not enough to satisfy the number of buyers who are standing on the sidelines waiting for their dream home to show up. There is encouraging news though. There is an expectation that amongst those of us who do a lot of business in these markets, we will see the inventory begin to pick up the pace a bit over the next 4-6 weeks. We are all hoping that the properties will cover a variety of price points as there are buyers out there in all price ranges. We presently have buyers looking in the $200k range up to well over $1 million, not to mention the investors who are happy to find a fixer upper in any of these towns. The message here is that we need all kinds of homes to be entering the market ASAP. If you know anyone contemplating a sale, please encourage them to call or email us without delay. Thank you! Below we have outlined the current active properties as well as what the change in total inventory is since our last newsletter sent two weeks ago. In addition, we have also indicated how many houses went under contract since January 1.
Active (+/- since Jan. 14) Under Contract (since Jan. 1)
Maplewood 57 (54) 8
South Orange 54 (52) 12
West Orange 184 (189) 27
Millburn/Short Hills 65 (62) 10
Montclair 74 (64) 18
Livingston 84 (77) 14
Summit 40 (40) 8
Union 231 (240) 29

The Real Estate Market in Northern New Jersey – 2014

January 14th, 2014

The experts say we are in for a great Spring Market. There is still a good deal of pent up demand and we will see this play out over the next six months. Everyone knows that inventory has been seriously low for many months now. This has caused some stress for buyers. Many have been sitting on the sidelines; new listings have dribbled out of the starting gate but not too many. My sense of it is that with the cold temps and unusual number of snow episodes that we have seen so early in the winter season, some sellers have run into delays with getting on the market.

Mortgage rates are still very favorable, although they have crept up a bit in recent months. Sometimes this causes people to look for properties in a slightly lower price range than they may have a year ago as they just cannot afford the higher mortgage payment. One interesting fact is that mortgage people in the know are predicting that adjustable rate mortgages are going to regain popularity. If you recall, this type of mortgage all but disappeared during the downturn in the housing market. Last week,according to Freddie Mac, a five-year adjustable interest rate was at 3.05% as compared to a 30-year fixed average rate at 4.53% It is said that buyers who only plan to be in their home for five years or less may be very well suited for these mortgage products and should not immediately kick them to the curb. One interesting fact is that it is said these ARM’s have become most popular in some higher priced communities, which is contrary to past years when they have been extremely popular in the working class communities. Regardless of what path is chosen to finance purchases, this 2014 Spring Market is now officially underway.

The statistics below will give you an idea as to where things stand in the local markets as this year begins. Watch this space! It will be very interesting…

Active Under Contract
Maplewood 54 45
South Orange 52 39
West Orange 189 94
Montclair 64 71
Millburn/Short Hills 62 39
Livingston 77 48
Summit 40 29
Union 240 102

The Real Estate Market in Northern New Jersey – A Look Back and a Sneak Preview of 2014

December 20th, 2013

We have seen a very strong housing market in 2013. Home sales outpaced those of 2012 each and every month in the range of double digit percentages. Prices have also risen approximately 4-5% year over year. While the national average is about 12%, keep in mind that the housing stock in our area did not fall as badly as most of the rest of the country so we have had much less ground to make up. In general, prices in the area are back up to the levels that they were at mid 2004.

Inventory remained lower than needed for most of 2013 which resulted in many multiple offer situations for any house that was in good condition with many upgrades. I personally was involved in many. We just had a listing in Maplewood that closed last week. We had five offers with the highest being $1,025,000 for a house priced at $979k. It was a beauty with a true state of the art kitchen with all of the bells and whistles as well as a beautifully renovated master bathroom, walk in closets plus so much more. We expect this trend to continue.


We will see the year get off to a booming start provided that the inventory begins to flow onto the market. If you or anyone you know is considering a sale, you do not need to wait until “Spring”. In real estate, “Spring” begins by January 15th and it will be a great time to list your house. There will be numerous buyers waiting for each property. The interest rates will remain attractive, but there is definitely a clock that is ticking on how much longer the rates will be at these lows. For at least the next two years, the housing market should remain strong. Beyond that, interest rates will continue to edge up as will housing prices and this will start to make purchases less affordable for many.

Here is the latest information on the number of houses on the market right now in our area:

Active Under contract
Maplewood 57 58
South Orange 59 34
Millburn/Short Hills 64 43
West Orange 197 109
Montclair 86 66
Union 244 122
Summit 59 27