Greater Princeton homes for saleNo, you cannot have a new house for what you’re willing to pay. I get this over and over. And over. Buyers want a large, immaculate, pimped-out house with a finished basement in South Brunswick, all for the reasonable price of under $600,000. It’s not happening, folks. That ship sailed years ago. If you’ve been following the local real estate market, you know that several TOWNHOUSE developments are being built with prices starting at $500,000, and all the new construction of houses in the township is aimed at buyers willing to cough up $800,000 or more.

Are there lower-priced homes around? Sure. Timber Ponds. Highgate Manor. Summerfield. “But those are old houses!” you say. So is the White House and most homes in Princeton. Look, face reality—you need a place to live, you want to be in South Brunswick and you’re on a budget. Buy a nice house that will suit your lifestyle and redecorate it to your liking over time. That’s what everyone else has done for years. But don’t shoot for the stars with a popgun; that’s just not gonna happen.

Welcome renters! You may be in a position where buying a home is not feasible at this time, and renting is the way to go. I’ve helped dozens of current tenants find homes in Middlesex, Somerset and Mercer Counties. The process is not complicated if you know what to expect, and I’ve created a page for potential tenants that offers links to renting advice, laws applying to tenants and landlords and a sample lease contract. Please check it out and contact me to discuss your search.

Are additional pet deposits legal? In a word, no. Many landlords and real estate agents are oblivious to the law that clearly states that a security deposit may not exceed one-and-a-half times the monthly rent. If a landlord wants to hold one month’s deposit as security and another half as a pet deposit, that would be legal of course, albeit silly.

So what is a legal way for a landlord to cover himself in case of pet damage? Increasing the rent by a small amount for pet owners is certainly legal. Some tenants may not like that, but others may just be relieved that Fluffy and Bowser finally have a home. When in doubt, refer to the NJ Truth in Renting Guide that all landlords have to give tenants by law. Didn’t get that? Complain to your agent and landlord, then download a copy from here.

Are two-year leases a good idea? I hear this question asked every now and again, and the reason is obvious: landlords don’t want to pay commissions every year if they can avoid it, and tenants want the security of no rent increase after the first year. But that only works if all the planets align correctly and the moon is in the seventh house. What if the tenants turn out to be the Renters from Hell or decide that they want to move elsewhere after a year or buy a home? Then everyone is in a pickle and I get calls about the best way to break a lease.

Here’s my suggestion: sign a lease that guarantees no rent increase after the first year and call it good. That way everyone is happy and if either party has second thoughts, there’s a path out of the relationship. By the way, I speak from an ugly client experience. When things go south between a landlord and tenant, they go there in a big hurry.

No down payment USDA mortgages available in Greater Princeton Property address, income limit and other restrictions apply, but it is possible to purchase a condo, townhouse or house in many areas of New Jersey with no money down. Visit the USDA website or contact Finance of America Mortgage (609 586-0020) or First Choice Loan Services (609 498-7747) for more details.

Mortgage rates to qualified buyers as of May 26, 2017*
30 year fixed rate – 4.125% with 0 points
FHA 30 year fixed rate – 4.0% with 0 points
Jumbo 30 year fixed rate – 4.375% with 0 points

Current FHA mortgage amount limits
Middlesex, Somerset and Monmouth Counties – $625,000
Mercer County – $440,000

Save $595 First Choice Loan Services (609 498-7747) waives mortgage application fees for RE/MAX customers. Woot!

*As quoted by Finance of America Mortgage. Interest rates and terms are subject to down payment and FICO score adjustments.