Always be (prepared for) closing

By Erik J. Martin
CTW Features

 The closing table is the last stop before you walk into your new home. Here’s how to prep for the process and avoid any last-minute homebuying headaches. The closing table is the last stop before you walk into your new home. Here’s how to prep for the process and avoid any last-minute homebuying headaches. When they announce “closing time” at a bar, it’s a cue to pay your tab and head home safely. Buying a home is no different, only this closing time comes with a lot more paperwork.

Knowing what to expect, though, in that pile of paperwork and how to be prepared can make the process go a lot smoother.

For starters, plan to have all your financial ducks in a row well in advance of your closing date, says Jeremy Gulish, a Realtor with Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, Morristown.

“With the extensive scrutiny that is now part of mortgage underwriting, I recommend that my clients have everything available to show the underwriter, short of their blood work and urinalysis,” Gulish says. Depending on state and lender requirements, count on bringing the following forms and documents to the closing:

 A driver’s license or state-issued picture ID

 Recent tax returns and pay stubs

 W-2 forms

 The two most recent monthly bank statements of all your financial accounts

 Proof of additional income (alimony, Social Security, rental income, etc.)

 The purchase and sale agreement and any addenda

 A cashier’s check or other “good funds” check for the balance due (the total of which you’ll be notified a day or two prior to closing).

At closing, you’ll be represented by a closer for the lender who will ask you to sign a set of standard federally regulated documents, which you should receive three business days prior to your scheduled closing to review with your attorney.

You’ll also receive a settlement statement showing details of all charges for completing the purchase. Items like property address, loan and payment amounts, dates and names will need to be reviewed carefully. Plan for a long sit-down; most closings last approximately one hour or longer.

“Be prepared to explain any major debits, credit inquiries and financial changes that are reflected in bank accounts,” Gulish says. “It’s also critical that buyers don’t have a career change or major financial debits incurred during the closing process, as their lender may not approve their loan if their financial situation changes.”

The cost of closing

So, what’s included in the closing costs? They usually include:

 A buyer’s home inspection report ($250 to $400)

 Appraisal (up to $500)

 Homeowner’s transfer and doc fees ($400 to $700, if applicable)

 Prorated taxes

 Insurance and mortgage interest (which can vary widely depending on purchase price)

 Escrow (varies by state)

 Title insurance (approximately $500)

 Attorney fee

 Mortgage origination fees, possibly (1 percent of purchase price).

Sellers often pay the agent commissions, netted from the seller’s proceeds, although the closing agent fee is part of the buyer’s total settlement charges. All funds you are required to provide are placed in an escrow account and disbursed to the appropriate parties by the closing agent. Closing costs and prepaid items like escrow accounts for insurance and taxes typically equate to 1 to 2 percent of the purchase price.

While you may not be obligated to have an attorney for the closing, depending on your state, it’s recommended to hire an attorney (expect a fee of a couple hundred dollars) to walk you through the paperwork before signing your signature.

“While most of the paperwork [at closing] is boilerplate documents, it is very important for the buyer’s attorney to make certain all of the terms were previously disclosed to the buyer and were agreed to in advance,” says Scott J. Clifford, an attorney with Epstein, Lipsey and Clifford in Hanover, Mass.

© CTW Features


Jamesburg Family Eyecare is a new, privately owned optometry practice that is located at 333 Forsgate Drive, Jamesburg.

The business offers comprehensive eye exams, contact lens fittings and designer eyewear. Most insurances are accepted.

There is also free coffee, tea, hot chocolate and snacks for all guests.

The optometry center is female-run, and has the American dream angle as Dr. Magdalena Spiewak moved from Poland in 1993, learned English within the first 12 months of arriving in the U.S. at 10 years old. She then went on to excel at academics, including a full scholarship to St. John’s University in Queens.

Spiewak is bilingual, and welcomes Polish-speaking residents

In addition, the eye care center is launching a year-long eyeglasses drive to collect 2,016 used eyeglasses in 2016 to donate to the local Lion’s Club. Residents can stop by the office, even without an appointment, to donate their old glasses.

Jamesburg Family Eyecare is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

For more information, email or visit or For a list of grand opening promotions, visit

Gold Medal Service, an award-winning heating, cooling, plumbing, waterproofing and electrical home service company, is adding a second office to accommodate its rapidly growing business.

The new office, which is near the company’s current location on Cotters Lane in East Brunswick, is a 10,000-square-foot building that will enable Gold Medal to separate its service and installation offerings.

Earlier this year, the company was awarded Contractor Magazine’s national Contractor of the Month Award, which recognized its superior ethics code and dedication to going above and beyond the typical call of duty.

For more information, visit

Stop and start

Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q: I read or heard there’s a mid-size American car (the U.S. part is important to us) — not a hybrid — that has an automatic cut-off/cut-on function for when you’re at stoplights. I haven’t been able to learn what car that is. Can you help?

A: The 2014 Chevy Malibu got a lot of attention for being the first mainstream midsize sold in the U.S. with what’s termed “stop-start technology” as a standard feature. Fact is, this feature is increasingly available, sometimes standard and sometimes for extra cash.

Here’s how it works: The engine shuts off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop (as when you’re stopped at a stoplight or in a traffic jam). The car turns back on in a fraction of a second once the pressure on the brake pedal is released.

It’s regarded as a fuel-saver (though, of course, that depends on the kind of driving you do — how many stoplights you regularly hit; how much stop-and-go traffic you encounter). Chevrolet reported that its first-year Malibu provided a 14 percent gain in city fuel economy. Most manufacturers say the savings is 5 percent to 10 percent or so.

It’s available from many carmakers, including some models of Chevrolets, Chryslers, Fords, Hondas and BMWs. It’s safe to say it will be offered on an even greater proportion of the 2016 crop of vehicles that’ll be at dealerships soon. Ford, for one, said last year its stop-start technology would be on about half of its models by 2017.

Some who have purchased vehicles with the feature have loved it; others have said it has taken much getting used to (especially when parking). Worse, some hapless buyers have reported that they wound up with this feature without realizing it (poor sales people?) and believed the car was acting up or breaking down within minutes of driving away from the lot.

So, note to all soon-to-be buyers: ask whether this is on the car you’re buying, on the chance that your salesperson might not think to mention it. (The function can be switched off — at least in the vehicles that have offered so far — but you’ve got to be aware of its existence to know it’s possible to make it disappear.)

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email

New rules for mortgage interest deduction

By Marilyn Kennedy Melia
CTW Features

 IRS requiring more info from lenders to confirm the mortgage interest owners can deduct IRS requiring more info from lenders to confirm the mortgage interest owners can deduct The Internal Revenue Service has a keen interest in your mortgage interest. One of the big perks of homeownership is the deductibility of mortgage interest, allowing owners to whittle down the amount of their gross income subject to tax.

That’s the broad-brush rule, but like just about all tax matters, there are exceptions. For those lucky owners of more than one vacation home, for instance, interest is deductible on the mortgage of only one home beside a primary residence.

Moreover, whenever interest either on one mortgage or two totals more than $1.1 million, the overage is not deductible, explains Melissa Labant, a tax specialist with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Another wrinkle that impacts people in all income brackets, is that any “points” paid up front when buying a home are completely deductible the year of the purchase.

But if you’re refinancing and pay points, the sum “must be amortized over the life [of the new, refinanced] mortgage,” says Labant. (A point is 1 percent of the total mortgage amount borrowed, and paying points up front lowers the rate on a mortgage.)

Confusing, yes. But if it’s any consolation, the IRS needs more help to keep track of who’s taking the right deduction. That’s why starting in 2017, for the 2016 tax year, lenders will have to send the IRS more info than the currently required for the total annual mortgage interest each loan holder pays.

Lenders will be required to include the loan’s origination date — that will help identify refinances from purchase loans, says Labant. And, they must identify the amount of outstanding principal at the beginning of the year, in addition to the address of the property.

Getting the mortgage interest deduction right is important, especially because the IRS, once it finds an error — improperly deducting points paid on a refinance, for example — will recover any tax amount due. Although new rules kick in for the 2016 tax year, mistakes made in the past, once discovered, will trigger a bill.

CTW Features

Patrick Ewing selling New Jersey home for more than $6.9 million

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y. announces that Michele Kolsky- Assatly, an award-winning affiliated sales associate, has been selected to market and sell a private manor owned by retired Hall of Fame basketball player and NBA coach Patrick Ewing. The luxurious property is situated on 1.8 acres in Cresskill.

Located in exclusive Tamcrest Estates, the magnificent all-brick manor home is being offered at $6,998,000. Among the features are a residence offering seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms, outdoor recreation areas including a basketball court, swimming pool with spa and luxury amenities.

Classic and contemporary best describe the manor, which combines traditional design with contemporary architectural details. The home features an open floor plan with hardwood flooring throughout, a grand foyer, and two-story great room with doublesided fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Other amenities include a library, sitting room and private deck overlooking professionally landscaped grounds.

The spacious kitchen features custom marble counter-tops, high-end stainless steel appliances, a dining area, sunroom and butler pantry.

The second floor, which can be reached by elevator, offers a private sitting area and balcony overlooking the great room. The master bedroom suite features a gas fireplace, ample closets and private deck. The luxury master bath offers a steam shower, soaking tub, and his and hers vanities. In addition, there are four sizable bedrooms all with their own private bath. Numerous entertainment facilities include a sizable bar and movie theatre.

“I am honored to represent this spectacular, custom home,” said Kolsky-Assatly, who is affiliated with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Fort Lee. “This is truly a premier residence that offers the discerning buyer immense privacy only minutes away from New York City.”

With more than $1 billion in sales during her storied career, Kolsky-Assatly is one of the leading Coldwell Banker residential real estate brokers internationally. She has been ranked as the No. 1 real estate agent in New Jersey, achieving the honor for 18 years, and has been the No. 1 agent in Bergen County for 21 years. She has earned every meritorious award offered by Coldwell Banker including the prestigious International President’s Premier, the highest honor presented to the top one percent of the company’s more than 82,000 sales professionals worldwide.

She has established one of the most effective teams in the real estate industry, which includes her son Michael Kolsky. Their commitment to their clients is renowned and their expertise is highly sought after. Together, they serve all of Bergen County specializing in luxury hirises, town homes, land and estates, and representing custom builders, developers, celebrities and designers.

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y., a leading residential real estate brokerage company, operates 55 offices with more than 3,100 affiliated sales associates serving all communities from Rockland County, N.Y. to Monmouth County. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y. is part of NRT LLC, the nation’s largest residential real estate brokerage company. Visit https://www.Coldwell- for more information.


Richard Salvatore has joined CW Solutions, a national real estate services firm in East Brunswick, as a right-of-way and land research associate. “We are focused on becoming a leader in the industry, and we need the best possible talent to drive our growth,” said Stacie Curtis, the firm’s president and founder. “Richard brings extensive experience and commitment to solve any right-of-way challenges that our clients may encounter. His skills will enhance our team of qualified and knowledgeable professionals, each of whom is dedicated to saving clients time and money.” Salvatore of North Arlington, comes to CW Solutions with 20 years of experience in the right-of-way and title examination industries. To ensure the success of projects, he will be working with transmission and power companies to secure real estate approvals and right-of-way acquisitions. He holds a New Jersey Title Insurance Producers license and a paralegal/ legal assistant certificate. Curtis and business partner Robert Weible founded CW Solutions in 2002. The firm has grown from a local New Jersey land acquisition company to a nationwide corporation offering a range of services that includes right-of-way, site acquisition, title research, zoning, permitting, regulatory compliance, project management, GIS mapping and landman services. The company’s title professionals provide clients with the research documents required, ranging from ownership reports to full title searches.

Gloria Zastko, Realtors met its goals and marketshare for November. Leading the team for sales was Mark J. Schmidt, broker-associate, and Jayakrishnan (Jay) Maniyil, Realtor-associate. Schmidt let the firm in listings taken in November. He can be reached by calling 732-297-0600, ext 37, or 908-705-5110, email, or visit Maniyil led the firm in sales for November. He can be reached by calling 732- 297-0600, ext. 52, or 732-501-8643, email, or visit

The benefits of townhome living

By Jane Mueller

The condo you once thought of as a dream come true — your own place — now feels too much like an apartment and just not enough space. Now it’s time to make a decision: a single family or townhome.

Why choose a townhome? It is an opportunity to have the space and amenities in a younger home affordably priced. It can offer limited or extensive maintenance, depending on the type of ownership. With fee simple ownership you own the land and the building; with condominium ownership only the interior walls are owned, offering more services by the association besides common area, snow and trash removal, blanket insurance and capital fund. Very often recreation facilities are also included besides the building exterior. Along with these services covered by a monthly maintenance fee, there can be a special assessment for capital improvements in the community for sidewalks, roads, roofs, siding, railings and fences, and water and sewer lines beyond normal occurrence, as well as excessive snow removal. The benefit to the owner is that these routine expenses are bought in bulk at a much-reduced fee than would be available to an individual. Although one may look at this as a loss of control, these routine expenses are necessary occurrences and not optional, in order to protect the investment and maintain the integrity of the community. The benefit is that someone else will handle the logistics.

One can expect a townhome to be younger, with more amenities than a single family home, in the same price range, and yet provide a spacious living area and the freedom from the chores.

East Brunswick experienced a proliferation of townhome developments starting in the early ’80s and continuing well into the 2000s, and they provide a variety of styles on multiple levels, and amenities from the very basics to homes with garages and basements as well as yards. Now add to this the easy lifestyle of some country club amenities such as pool, tennis courts and club house. Sounding better? If a move is in your forecast, don’t overlook the many benefits of the ease of townhome living.

Jane Mueller is an agent with RE/MAX First Realty, 385 Route 18, East Brunswick. For more information, call her at 732-257-3500.

Where motorists spend the most time in traffic

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

 With more cars and trucks on the road, commuters are paying the price with increased travel times. Here’s where to find (or avoid) the worst gridlock while driving. With more cars and trucks on the road, commuters are paying the price with increased travel times. Here’s where to find (or avoid) the worst gridlock while driving. It should come as no surprise to commuters that traffic on our nation’s highways is worse than its ever been, due largely to the increase in cars and trucks on the road spurred by a healthy economy. Unfortunately, what’s good for the nation’s financial fortunes can be bad for both car- and truck-drivers alike, and it’s shocking to see the actual impact — both personal and financial — of the country’s growing gridlock.

According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard compiled by traffic information and driver services provider INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, motorists wasted a collective 7 billion extra hours last year sitting in traffic — that’s 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. What’s more, all those vehicles burned more than 3 billion gallons of fuel crawling their way to and from the office.

For many motorists, that amounts to a week’s vacation time and income down drain each year, and that’s not counting the potential productivity wasted just sitting in a car. Add up the numbers and the total value of time and fuel wasted amounts to an annual $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.

Findings from the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard are based on traffic speed data collected by INRIX on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways, along with highway performance data provided by the Federal Highway Administration.

By comparison, INRIX reports that back in 1982, when there were fewer vehicles sharing the road, the average traffic delay per consumer was just 18 hours per year with 0.5 billion gallons of fuel burned at a total cost of $42 billion. Though extreme gridlock affected only one out of every in nine commutes in 1982, it caused delays in an average of 25 percent of automotive excursions during 2014.

What’s more, the study found that traffic is getting so onerous in big cities that drivers find they have to allow more than twice as much travel time as they would otherwise require just to account for the unforeseen effects of bad weather, collisions, and construction zones. Drivers traversing America’s most congested roads typically waste 84 hours — that’s 3.5 days a year — sitting in traffic, which is twice the national average.

And the report’s findings indicate that the nation’s clogged arteries are spreading beyond the most populated areas. Though the average travel delay per vehicle is more than double what it was in 1982, it’s gotten four times worse in cities having populations with fewer than 500,000 people. And INRIX predicts commuters will be spending more time behind the wheel in the years ahead. Assuming the nation’s economic fortunes remain strong, by 2020, the annual rush-hour delay per U.S. motorist will swell to 47 hours, with a shared nationwide delay of 8.3 billion hours at a cost of $192 billion.

According to INRIX data, Washington, D.C. is the nation’s most traffic clogged city, where commuters suffered an average of 82 hours of delay last year, with Los Angeles coming in a close second at 80 hours, followed by San Francisco at 78 hours, New York City at 74 hours, San Jose, Calif. at 67 hours, Boston at 64 hours, Seattle at 63 hours and Chicago and Houston tied at 61 hours.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way for the nation to simply build its way out of its traffic woes. “Our growing traffic problem is too massive for any one entity to handle — state and local agencies can’t do it alone,” says Tim Lomax, a report co-author and Regents Fellow at TTI. “Businesses can give their employees more flexibility in where, when and how they work, individual workers can adjust their commuting patterns, and we can have better thinking when it comes to longterm land use planning.”

© CTW Features

Davis Realtors collecting teddy bears for young cancer patients for the holidays

Davis Realtors is collecting new teddy bears for young cancer patients at the Rutgers Institute of New Jersey. There is still time to give a child a smile and a friend to hug this holiday season. Drop your teddy bear off at Davis Realtors’ East Brunswick office, 288 Summerhill Road, by Dec. 10. Only teddy bears will be accepted. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and through 5 p.m. on weekends.

For more information, call 732-254-6700.

Coldwell Banker hosts regional CBRB Evolution business, technology event

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage welcomed approximately 1,500 affiliated real estate agents from New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y. to the recent CBRB Evolution business and technology event, which encompassed the entire 16-screen AMC movie theater at Clifton Commons in Clifton. The excitement attendees felt about the educational event made an impact on social media, trending on Twitter with the hashtag #CBEVOLVE.

CBRB Evolution brought together real estate agents from across the region and gave them an opportunity to network with each other on a larger scale. Approximately 60 Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage sales associates and other real estate experts presented topics designed to help agents raise their business to the next level, enhance their skills, and provide expanded services to clients in today’s online and technology-driven marketplace.

Over the course of 40 sessions held throughout the day in individual theaters, agents learned about subjects such as how to enhance listings with photos and video, strengthen personal marketing, capitalize on networking and leads, build an effective social media presence, serve the luxury housing market through Coldwell Banker Previews International, and use the array of technological resources offered through Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

“Real estate is constantly changing and we are dedicated to offering affiliated agents every available resource to stay ahead in the industry. At CBRB Evolution, experts directly shared new strategies that have helped them succeed in the current marketplace, as well as best practices that have served real estate agents and their clients well in every market. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage is always on the move, always evolving,” said Hal Maxwell, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y.

Visit for more information.