Carpenter Notes

Welcome to my blog, and yes you are in the right place for all things real estate here in New Jersey.  Here you will find information of local establishments, latest updates on community events and what's going on with the pricing of homes in your area that I serve.  I look forward to providing award winning service, relevant information, and it all begins with establishing great links of communication.



Keon Carpenter

Oct 14, 2014

6 Tips for Choosing the Best Offer for Your Home

Posted by: Keon Carpenter

By: G. M. Filisko

Have a plan for reviewing purchase offers so you don't let the best slip through your fingers.


You’ve worked hard to get your home ready for sale and to price it properly. With any luck, offers will come quickly. You’ll need to review each carefully to determine its strengths and drawbacks and pick one to accept. Here’s a plan for evaluating offers.

1. Understand the process

All offers are negotiable, as your agent will tell you. When you receive an offer, you can accept it, reject it, or respond by asking that terms be modified, which is called making a counteroffer.

2. Set baselines

Decide in advance what terms are most important to you. For instance, if price is most important, you may need to be flexible on your closing date. Or if you want certainty that the transaction won’t fall apart because the buyer can’t get a mortgage, require a prequalified or cash buyer.

3. Create an offer review process

If you think your home will receive multiple offers, work with your agent to establish a time frame during which buyers must submit offers. That gives your agent time to market your home to as many potential buyers as possible, and you time to review all the offers you receive.

4. Don’t take offers personally

Selling your home can be emotional. But it’s simply a business transaction, and you should treat it that way. If your agent tells you a buyer complained that your kitchen is horribly outdated, justifying a lowball offer, don’t be offended. Consider it a sign the buyer is interested and understand that those comments are a negotiating tactic. Negotiate in kind.

5. Review every term

Carefully evaluate all the terms of each offer. Price is important, but so are other terms. Is the buyer asking for property or fixtures—such as appliances, furniture, or window treatments—to be included in the sale that you plan to take with you?

Is the amount of earnest money the buyer proposes to deposit toward the downpayment sufficient? The lower the earnest money, the less painful it will be for the buyer to forfeit those funds by walking away from the purchase if problems arise.

Have the buyers attached a prequalification or pre-approval letter, which means they’ve already been approved for financing? Or does the offer include a financing or other contingency? If so, the buyers can walk away from the deal if they can't get a mortgage, and they'll take their earnest money back, too. Are you comfortable with that uncertainty?

Is the buyer asking you to make concessions, like covering some closing costs? Are you willing, and can you afford to do that? Does the buyer’s proposed closing date mesh with your timeline?

With each factor, ask yourself: Is this a deal breaker, or can I compromise to achieve my ultimate goal of closing the sale?

6. Be creative

If you’ve received an unacceptable offer through your agent, ask questions to determine what’s most important to the buyer and see if you can meet that need. You may learn the buyer has to move quickly. That may allow you to stand firm on price but offer to close quickly. The key to successfully negotiating the sale is to remain flexible.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has survived several closings. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

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Oct 14, 2014

4 Leaf Removal Tools that Clear Yards of Fall Debris

Posted by: Keon Carpenter

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon


Just for fun, take an inventory of all the leaf removal tools cluttering your garage.


Just for fun, take an inventory of all the leaf removal tools cluttering your garage.

If you’re like me, you’ve got a half-dozen rakes of different sizes and materials, a couple of blowers in various states of repair, and a couple of infomercial gadgets that promise to make annual leaf gathering faster and easier.

In fact, you need only a few essential leaf removal items in your landscape tool collection to accomplish your autumn goal — removing the heavy leaves that smother grass and make your lawn a splotchy mess in spring.

Fewer gizmos and more elbow grease help home owners remove leaves and keep up with lawn maintenance, says Brett Lemcke of R. M. Landscape Inc. in Rochester, NY.

“The reality is, you can’t avoid hard work” when it comes to fall landscaping chores, says Lemcke. “There are some tools that will help us, but the best help is family and friends. The more hands, the better. Doing it yourself is daunting.”

Unless you tether a mower to a stick and let it mulch leaves all by itself. 
Whether you rake, blow, or tie a mower to a stick, you should remove leaves at least twice each fall.

“Some people wait until every last leaf falls, and then they pick them up,” Lemke says. “You should pick them up throughout the season. Don’t wait until the last minute.”

Here are four essential leaf-removal tools that’ll help you clear your lawn before winter sets in:

  • Rigid leaf rake. This plastic, fan-shaped rake is your go-to rake for collecting leaves. Pick one with a cushion handle and a 30- to 36-inch fan. Avoid the super-wide fans that can spread to 48 inches; they’re too big to rake between shrubs and in flower beds. Cost: $10-$20 (30-inch fan).
  • Leaf tarp. Instead of scooping leaves into a million plastic bags, rake or blow them into a big pile on top of a polypropylene leaf tarp. Then drag the tarp to the curb and dump. Cost: $22 for 12.5-by-10-ft. tarp.
  • Leaf blower. Select a two-cycle, gasoline-powered blower to collect leaves in tarps or blow them directly to the curb. If you have a large yard, buy a backpack model, which is more expensive but more comfortable than handheld blowers. Cost: 2-cycle handheld blower: $180; 2-cycle backpack blower: $300.
  • Yard vacuum. This tool vacuums, shreds, chips, and bags leaves and other yard debris. Once leaves are ground up, they’ll decompose quickly in your compost pile. Cost: $400-$650.

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Oct 6, 2014

Staging Mistakes that Will Sabotage Your Home Sale

Posted by: Keon Carpenter

According to the Real Estate Staging Institute, a staged home sells 70 percent faster than a non-staged home. Are your listings staged to sell? Or are you sabotaging the sale? Expert stagers share the most common staging mistakes below. Help your sellers avoid these mistakes so you can sell their home faster.


1. Mistake: Not creating space. “People often move because they want more room, so make sure the house feel as spacious as possible,” says Egypt Sherrod, host of HGTV’s “Property Virgins.” “Clutter robs a home of valuable space. Make sure everything is cleared from the countertops and remove at least two-thirds of books on the shelves.”


“Furniture, art and accessories that are not scaled correctly for a room are a big mistake,” says Dawn Alpern, associate designer at Interior Transformation, Inc. “These items need to fit the room. It doesn’t work if they are too big or too small.”


“Closets should be half full, and buyers should be able to see the bottom of the closet. If they see a jam-packed closet, they will think it’s too small for them. Bedrooms should contain only a bed, nightstand and dresser. In the master bedroom, swap out the king-size bed for a queen-size bed to create more space,” says Sherrod. “Throughout the house, pull furniture two or three inches out from the walls and allow the corners of a room to be visible.”


2. Mistake: Excessive furniture. Too much furniture, or oversized furniture, can ruin a home sale. There needs to be enough room for buyers to walk in and out of all the rooms in your home. If there is any doubt that a piece of furniture may be too big or distracting, take it out, says Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty.


“Remove the seller’s giant family-size couches, chairs and tables and replace them with rented mid-size or small furniture to make the room feel more spacious,” says Scott Sorrell, CEO of Sales Adrenaline.


3. Mistake: Household smells. “The only thing as important as decluttering is having an immaculate house. A house that smells odd to a prospective homeowner, whether because of a cat’s litter box, dogs, or exotic food can easily be a deal breaker,” says Sherrod. “Don’t try to mask anything with potpourri, or by baking cookies. Just open windows a few minutes before a showing to let in fresh air.”


“Having a professional cleaning company come in to scrub walls, floors, carpets and windows can make an amazing difference, both in general appearance as well as removing odors. If the smell persists after the cleaning crew has finished, consider replacing any carpets used by animals,” says Russ Tybus, co-owner of Morris Organizers.


“We were recently in a listing with a newer kitchen, updated utilities and very little clutter. The real estate agent did a nice job staging the house, but what they missed was overwhelming. There was a very distinct smell of animals. Candles were lit, which only drew more attention to the fact that they were trying to cover something up. On top of that, most of the floor moldings were filthy, covered in everything from scuff marks to food splashing and slobber. That home was likely to be known as the dirty animal house, when the home was staged very nicely,” says Tybus.


4. Mistake: Failure to edit. “The failure to edit can include too many personal items, clutter or disastrous decor. If your seller thinks the home is edited as much as it can be, tell them to edit again. The goal should be to remove virtually everything that would allow a buyer to picture the current owners in the home,” says Rhonda Duffy, owner of Duffy Realty of Atlanta.


Sherrod encourages using vignettes throughout the home. Vignettes are groupings of accessories, usually in threes. It could be three pieces of art on the wall, candlesticks, something tall, medium and short. The shapes and colors can help draw the visitor through the room and make the room visually interesting.


5. Mistake: Having more than one focal point in a room. “Every room needs a focal point, but most people never figure out what it actually is,” says Alpern.


“As a rule, in the bedroom it is the headboard, in the bathroom it is the vanity area. The living room’s focal point can be the television, the fireplace or the window, says Karl Lohnes, interior designer and co-host of HGTV’s “This Small Space.


6. Mistake: Color Faux Pas. Lauren Schreyer, broker at Related Realty cautions sellers not to choose drastic shifts in color from one room to the next. “It’s critical to maintain a continuum of a neutral paint color throughout the main areas of the home to provide a sense of openness and flow. This also helps make a home feel bigger,” says Schreyer.


“Neutral doesn’t have to be bland and boring. Everything doesn’t have to be tan or beige—certain shades of grey, green and even purple can be neutral,” says Alpern.


7. Mistake: Covering up the light. Lighten up! “You want as much light to come in as possible. Remove unneeded blinds. If there’s drapery, pull it to the side. You want people to come in and say, ‘I could live here. It’s nice and bright,’” says Sherrod.


8. Mistake: Skipping the walk-through. “Make a trip through the home with your sellers and test all cupboards, cabinets and drawers for proper opening and closing,” says Christian. “Buyers will hear squeaky cupboards or see jammed drawers as something they will have to fix if deciding to buy the home. Replacing hinges or greasing drawer tracks is inexpensive and quick.”


“If there’s a door that needs fixing, or wall that needs painting, now’s the time to address it,” says Jay Hart of Sold with Style


“When buyers see these repairs, they will speculate about the ones that they don’t see. It sends the message that the home is not well maintained or cared for.”


9. Mistake: Neglecting the exterior. “The front porch is the home’s first impression. Encourage your sellers to paint the front door, place seasonal planters on each side of the door, keep lawns freshly mowed and remove garbage cans immediately on trash day,” says Sherrod. “Pressure-washing outdoor decks and aluminum siding can also do wonders for a home’s first impression and boost a home’s value.”


Looking for more staging tips? Learn the Luxury Home Staging Secrets that Sell.

Aug 3, 2014

Can Your Facebook Friends Really Influence Your Credit Score?

Posted by: Keon Carpenter

By: Dona DeZube

Published: October 24, 2013

Recent news reports suggesting your Facebook and other social media friendships could someday influence your credit score left out a few details -- like why that’s not going to happen in the U.S.


After reading news headlines from CNN to suggesting that it’s just a matter of time before credit reporting bureaus begin using my social media footprint and friendships to rate my credit, I felt sad that I was going to have to drop all the old friends I reconnected with on Facebook after my high school’s 30th reunion.

After all, I did meet them in my school’s smoking lounge in the late 1970s. Who knows what kind of credit they have now. What if they grew up to become financial lollygaggers?

I put in a call to Experian Director of Public Education Rod Griffin to find out the best way to figure out my friends’ credit scores so I’d know who to unfriend, lest they tarnish my stellar score and prevent me from getting a mortgage

Griffin told me to take my finger off the unfriend button. Turns out, those companies trying to use social media to determine creditworthiness are in other countries.

Here in the U.S., social media isn’t used for consumer credit scoring. Why not? Because there are some pesky consumer laws in this country that require credit reporting companies to use data that actually predicts whether you’re likely to pay a debt. The data has to be about your behavior, not your friends’ behavior, and it has to be related to repayment, not what you think of Obamacare.

Even if someone could show that posts about hating pink houses corresponded to hating to pay your bills on time, Experian wouldn’t use your hatred of pink houses to calculate your credit score because it’s not related to actual bill-paying behavior.

The data most relevant to credit scoring isn’t who you’re interacting with on social media, it’s your financial track record. A late payment on a car loan is a strong indicator that you’re not going to pay another debt, like your mortgage.

We Americans have other consumer rights that would make using social media in credit reporting tough — like the right to fix mistakes in our credit reports.

If social media information was used in credit scoring, can you imagine the letter you’d have to write to get errors fixed? And how would the credit bureau try to correct errors? Maybe we would write a letter like this:

Dear Social Media Credit Reporting Firm:

I don’t know where you got the idea I’m good friends with Joe Johnson. I’m not. He contacted me after my 30th reunion and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by refusing his friend request. Please make the correction in your files as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

It Doesn’t Work for Loans, Either

A second federal law would make it really tricky to use your social media postings to decide whether to give you a loan. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act says you can’t discriminate against me because of my gender, ethnicity, marital status, or age.

All of those characteristics appear on the average mom’s Facebook feed. If you stripped out pictures of me (I’m pretty obviously white), my husband (yes, I’m married), and my girls’ nights out with friends (I’m pretty obviously female), there’d be nothing left but pictures of my daughter playing field hockey. And a headshot of me that’s so digitally altered you might not realize you should be discriminating due to my age.

So for now, I’ll remain friends with my fellow Wilde Lake High School Wildecats because finding out what happened to old classmates is what social media was meant to do. But credit scoring? Not so much.


6 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

Stats on Credit Report Disputes

Read more:$Xx&om_ntype=NARWeekly#ixzz39L5tljIe 
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Aug 2, 2014

3 Goal Setting Tips That Work

Posted by: Keon Carpenter

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” ― Albert Einstein


Setting goals is a great way to get things accomplished. Goals are like a map… they provide you with direction and give you something to move toward. Without them, you can do a lot of work, a lot of striving, and a lot of trying… but if you don’t know which direction is the ‘right’ direction, you may very well end up wasting a lot of your energy crossing and then re-crossing the same old ground.


This can eventually lead to burnout, frustration, or even worse… it could tempt you to give up altogether on what you wanted to accomplish.


So without further delay, here are 3 goal setting tips that actually work! All of these tips can add value to your goal-setting experience, and can help to make your efforts more streamlined and efficient.


1… Set short, medium, and long term goals

When you set a long-term goal, it is always a good idea to set a series of medium and short term goals along with it as well. This will help to keep you from experiencing the frustration that can set in when you try to achieve a big goal all at once. Short and mid-term goals serve as destination markers along the path that lead toward where you eventually want to be. Making a plan is a good thing, but setting these short and medium-term goals along with it can make it even easier to stay focused and on track.


2… Set realistic goals

Every successful goal-setter knows that setting goals that are unrealistic usually results in failure. This doesn’t mean that you should ‘aim low’ or doubt your ability to achieve what you set out to do, but it does mean that you should be rational and settle in for a long-term commitment as opposed to adopting the ‘fast and furious’ mentality. Remember… slow and steady wins the race!


3… Write down your goals and look at them every morning

Reviewing your goals when you wake up in the morning is one of the best habits that you can get into because it will help you to get your priorities in order as you start your day. Keeping your goals fresh on your mind will remind you to work hard because it will remind you of what you will achieve if you stick with it. 

Jul 11, 2014

How to Close on a House

Posted by: Keon Carpenter

First-Time Homebuyer Tips: Closing 101 - How to Close on a House

The time has come for you to close. There are just a few simple tasks that stand between you and the threshold of your very first home. Here are some pointers to help you, as a first-time homebuyer, keep your cool and cross the finish line successfully.

Be Flexible

Although it’s a date that you’ve been counting down to for the last thirty days or more, it’s a date that often gets pushed back and adjusted at the last minute.

At this point, you are at the mercy of the lender, the underwriters, and/or the closing attorney. Try to allow for some flexibility in the initial planning of your move so that you can easily adjust accordingly. If you have a moving truck lined up, people in place, and other things scheduled, try to have a back-up plan just in case there’s a subtle bump in the timing of your closing. Prepare yourself to be patient and flexible.

Final Walk-Through

Before signing on the dotted line, make sure that you’ve conducted a final inspection of the property. The purchaser has the right to make sure that the property has not dramatically changed in its condition since the time that the contract was fully ratified. Normal wear and tear is to be expected, but if there’s a large patch of carpet missing underneath where a couch once sat, make sure to bring up this concern with the sellers. Make sure that all major appliances and fixtures that were included in the contract have been conveyed with the property. This is your last chance, so take a careful look at the home. - Closing 101: Final Walk-through


In the final hours, be sure to be in close communication with your closing attorney to get an exact amount of funds that will be needed at closing.

Also, be sure to ask the attorney about the delivery of funds. If the attorney expects funds to be wired, you’ll need to know your bank’s deadline for wire transfers on the day before closing. If it’s a cashier’s check, make sure that you have all the information you need to complete the transaction.

Signing the papers

Be forewarned that if you finance the purchase of your first home, there will be a lot of paperwork at closing. It’s a relatively fast appointment, but there are a ton of documents involved. Take your time reviewing all the documents that you are authorizing. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if there are items that seem unclear.

As you approach your closing date, keep your eye on the prize. You’re so close to becoming an official homeowner! Remember that patience, flexibility, and taking the time to do your due diligence leading up to the final transaction will pay off when the keys to your new home are placed in your hand. For more homebuying tips for a first-time buyer, visit the Idea Gallery.


Jun 16, 2014

5 Step plan for house hunting success.

Posted by: Keon Carpenter

When you are ready to purchase a new home, it's important to know what to expect throughout the loan process. With the right knowledge, the road to home ownership is just ahead.
Choose A Home
Some lenders may offer a pre-approval, but others require that you have a specific home chosen before they will discuss loan options. Therefore, the first step to obtaining a home loan is to first select a home. Some sellers may require you to provide an earnest money deposit, which secures the home while you obtain financing and have the necessary inspections completed in order to finalize the purchase.
Check Your Credit
Before you even think about applying for a mortgage, it's important to know where you stand from the lender's point of view. Checking your credit report is a good idea for many reasons, but it's an essential step in your journey toward buying a home.
Every 12 months, you can request a free copy of your credit file from each of the three major credit reporting agencies - Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Look for inaccuracies, outdated information or anything that requires your attention. If you spot anything, file a dispute right away to get the information corrected. A free credit report does not include your FICO score, which is available from the credit bureaus for a small fee. Most lenders use this number in determining your interest rates and creditworthiness, so it may be a good idea to check it out for yourself first.
Gather Your Documentation
When you apply for a loan, you will be asked to provide certain documentation and/or information relating to your current financial status, employment, assets (including both real and personal property) and liabilities. Before meeting with your lender, make sure to have your current paystubs, bank statements, tax returns for the two years preceding your application and information relating to any debts that you currently owe. If you are self-employed, you will also be asked to provide a year-to-date profit/loss statement, which is also known as an income statement.
Meet With Your Lender
Now that you have your documentation together, it's time to meet with your lender. At this point, you will complete a mortgage application and submit it for approval. Depending on the lender, it may take anywhere from several hours to several days before learning whether or not you are approved. In most cases, however, a lender can provide you with an answer within 24 hours.
Last Minute Details
If your loan is approved, it's time to move forward to the next step in the mortgage process. Your lender will order an appraisal and inspection to be completed on the property. This is just as much for your own protection as it is for the lender because it may reveal hidden problems within the home. The inspection and appraisal can take up to 30 days, at which point the results will be forwarded to the lender. If all goes well, you will close on the loan and get ready to move into your new home.

May 25, 2014

3 Tips to successfully working with an agent.

Posted by: Keon Carpenter

As I think back on some of the conversations I've had with frustrated sellers, buyers and renters I notice 3 themes that continue to come up.  To be sure, the sign of a good Realtor is one who listens.  Listens for your input, motivation, and reads your body language.  Remember what we say is only a portion of how we communicate.

Here are three tips to ensure that you get the best results from your relationship.

1) Agents are not mind readers!  While some are very skilled at drawing information out of you, others may need a little help.  If you notice the conversation drifting away from topics that are important to you, you may need to steer the conversation back to your points.  Remember, you are hiring this agent to represent you and what's important to you.  At the end of the discussion have the agent recap and recite back to you what their understanding of the major points you just discussed.

2) What you hold back get's held back.  Sooner or later the delinquent payments, bankruptcy or that small leak that was never addressed will come up.  We want you to have the desired outcome that you are looking for, so it is better to put it all on the table upfront.  If you’re not comfortable divulging that kind of information then this may not be the right agent for you.  Release them and keep moving.  Your shared goal is to provide you with the strongest negotiating position possible and that comes from putting it all on the table.  Agents with life experience and not just in real estate bring a lot to the table because they can show you positive ways to present the same information and minimize any negative impact.

3) Live accountably.  Be a man or woman of your word and expect the same.  What I love about this profession is that is all about bring groups of people together to accomplish a goal.  And it has an ending point.  I have always said, buying or selling a home is a process, not an event.  So in all the highs and lows make sure you are living up to your part of the agreement.  If you say you will make your home accessible for showings, do it.  If the agent says she will have something to you by a certain date, expect it and if not hold them accountable.  If the contractor get the job and then changes his tone after the first disbursement, have some serious upfront consultation before your three weeks behind schedule.


I wish you much success and see you at the table!

Keon Carpenter