May 10, 2021

Bereza Fire

Glorious home improvement

It’s Game of Homes in N.J.’s wild real estate market | Letter from your editor

We made it to another Saturday, friends, and I’m glad you’re back!

Last week’s Letter From Your Editor included a note about how our reporters were looking into the residential real estate market in New Jersey and looking for agents, buyers, sellers and others to share their stories.

Whoo, boy, did you folks share some stories.

Fistfights at the open house. Cash incentives out of the pocket of agents hoping to close a sale. Full price, sight-unseen offers. Love letters, free Netflix, and tacos for everyone! It’s a full-on Game of Homes out there.

And this isn’t even counting the houses that change hands before they ever have a sign in the yard — check out your town’s Facebook or Nextdoor page. If your school district is any good, it’s a safe bet buyers are in there schmoozing around looking to get an early chance at a deal.

My husband and I are watching all this warily, as we’re getting closer to time-to-downsize, and thinking about how bizarre the market was the last time we sold and bought.

Back in 2004, the housing market in Ocean County was flush with easy mortgages and bloated with folks from Staten Island moving to Jersey. The market was so competitive that the first buyer’s agent knocked on the door before the house even hit the MLS. She tried to wheedle her way in for an early look while I was shampooing carpets with a toddler underfoot. It didn’t work.

But within a week of listing, we had multiple offers above asking price. When one of the bidders wrote us a letter complimenting the genuinely terrible faux-finish paint job I’d done on the dining room, I knew things were getting ridiculous.

Fortunately for us back then, we were moving from rapidly-developing Jackson to a still mostly rural part of Gloucester County, where housing prices and taxes were lower. We knew our house would sell quickly, and that we could afford to buy the next one.

Now, with every corner of the state sizzling — even in the tiny, not-upscale Delaware Bay town where my Mom lives, knock-down cottages are commanding big money — the next move isn’t so clear.

I’m not sure what the next house will look like, though as our Allison Pries notes here, our turn-of-this-century center hall, open floor plan colonial is definitely out of style with today’s buyers. I could definitely handle a fancy outdoor kitchen, though.

How about you? We still want to hear your Game of Homes tales, so if you’re buying, selling or are an agent dealing working in today’s market, get in touch with us here.

Also this week, a holy relic of rock n’ roll could be yours, people like money, and all the wrestling:

  • AN ACTUAL ICON: The word ‘iconic’ gets tossed around way too much lately, but here’s a situation where it really fits: the late Eddie Van Halen’s custom, Jersey-made “Frankenstrat” guitar — you know the one — is going up for auction.
  • IF YOU PAY THEM, THEY WILL COME: Proving once again that people like to be paid fairly for their time, one school district has learned that paying substitute teachers more than $100 a day will help you hire more and better substitutes. It’s math!
  • J&J’S VERY BAD WEEK: Bottom line? The Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is safe and if you received it, there’s no reason to panic. Still, between the reports of rare blood clots and this story of a guy who tested positive after receiving the shot, there’s a lot of heat and scrutiny around the New Brunswick-based company, once one of the most recognized and trusted brands in the world.
  • WE HAVE ALL THE WRESTLING: It’s the biggest month of the year in scholastic wrestling, and you know NJ.com is the only place to get all the action from the NJSIAA / Rothman Orthopaedics 2021 State Regional Wrestling Championships. With no spectators allowed, here’s your guide for to how to watch matches, from every region and round, live and for free.
  • LOVE IS DEAD: Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez have really, officially broken off their engagement, and folks, if these two stunningly beautiful, obnoxiously rich celebrities can’t make it work, I just don’t know what to think. Seriously, though, she can do better, amiright ladies?

Finally this week, did you miss the part above where I mentioned you can watch live matches from the state wrestling tournament, for free, only on NJ.com? Our subscribers make this possible, and you can become one right now for just $1 a week.

P.S.: We love you, Painless Pete!

Amy Z. Quinn is NJ.com’s Audience Editor, Newsletters and Briefings. To get a Letter From Your Editor every Saturday, add your email here.