December 1, 2022 | Issue 01 WHAT IS THIS? Hi - When I moved with my wife and three kids from South Florida to Westfield in 2000, we felt as if were dropped into a small town movie set. There wasn't a traffic light at the busiest intersection in the center of town. Instead, a police officer stood in a painted circle directing traffic in front of the Rialto movie theater and Baron's pharmacy. Baron's had a handmade poster in the window advertising, "We Repair Lionel Trains." Two years later during a very cold winter, we ice skated on Mindowaskin Pond. Living here was a dream. We fell in love with Westfield. The Town Council issues that we discussed at the Tudor Oval block parties seem quaint today – Should the town add a traffic light at Broad and Central? Is it appropriate to have a Victoria Secret downtown? What about the pastel painted James Ward buildings? Today, the issues before the Town Council are significant and transformative. They are also complex. I thrive on digging into complex topics and then sharing what I've learned. That is what I'll be doing with this newsletter, Important Stuff in Westfield. I'm Rich Hopen and I'm a real estate broker with COMPASS, committed to Westfield. In addition to writing about the significant real estate issues in front of the Town Council, I'll cover real estate trends and transactions. I will dive into important topics in the Explainer section. Some topics, like this issue's look at real estate wire fraud, will require a longer analysis and I will link to a blog post. For example, in Commuting to NYC From Westfield, NJ I looked at 12 ways Westfielders commute and compared the time and cost. In Cyber Criminals Are Targeting Home Buyers and Sellers I discuss what home buyers and sellers can do so they don't become a victim of wire fraud victim (like I was). Let me know what you think of the newsletter and reach out to me with any ideas you might have. If there is anyone you know who would enjoy reading the newsletter, please reply to this email and send me their name and email. Or, you can forward this newsletter to them and they can subscribe here. I hope you enjoy this newsletter. Thank you! Best, Rich Hopen email@example.com | 908.917.7926 PS. This newsletter is supported by home buyers and sellers in NJ who retain me as their real estate agent. If you know of anyone looking to buy or sell a home, please reach out to me.
WESTFIELD NEWS ▸ Town Council Approved Edison Field Project. Now what? After a long 16 months, the Westfield Town Council approved entering into a shared services agreement with the Board of Education to install an artificial turf field and lights at Edison Middle School. The "Edison Field Project" is estimated to cost of $9M. There was widespread agreement that Westfield's existing athletic fields did not meet the demand of the local athletic teams. The disagreement and debate centered on three issues: 1) Should a new field be artificial turf or natural grass? 2) Where should the field be located? 3) How should the fields be used? The Town Council received professional guidance from Brandstetter Carroll, who led the Strategic Parks Plan and Spiezle Architectural Group, who led the Edison project design. The Council also retained an independent assessment from the engineering firm, CME. CME examined the following issues: expense, capacity, reliability, maintenance, synthetic turf concerns, stormwater management, surface temperature, field scheduling, and field lighting, CME's report recommended synthetic turf fields. The report concluded, "Based on the demand for fields within the Town and the fact that recreation teams, especially soccer and lacrosse, are currently using fields out of Town for practices and in some cases home games, a synthetic turf project is the best way to maximize field usage for both the Board of Education and Recreation Leagues." In Mayor Brindle's "Mayor's Update: Week Ending November 4" she said, "I personally spoke to turf and grass fields experts, as well as municipal and county Recreation Directors whose grass fields maintenance programs were those Westfield could emulate. Interestingly, each of them concluded that maintaining proper multipurpose grass fields was not sustainable and mentioned that their sports teams often sought artificial turf options over time due to the deterioration of their grass fields." Not all council members supported the project. Town Council members David Contract and Mark LoGrippo voted against the Edison Field proposal for several reasons. Among their objections, they disagreed with CME's assumptions on replacement and disposal costs, the lifespan of the field, maintenance costs, and playable hours. Brindle acknowledged the vote was not unanimous. "While the majority of the Council has been satisfied with the documentation, research, and financial analysis on this project, it’s no secret that not all of the Council members agree. But to say that our conclusions are biased or ill-informed, simply because they don’t produce the desired outcome some seek, does not make it so. There will never be full consensus on any field project because it is always safer to say no than yes. This is exactly how we got here. But with the plan now in front of us, I’m confident that we can forge ahead with a safe and fiscally responsible solution that strikes a balance between the needs of our students, athletes, and the neighboring residents." The next steps for the project include: ● Financial bonding for final project design ● DEP permit for stormwater runoff ● County report on additional fields in Tamaques.
▸ One Westfield Place Traffic Analysis The One Westfield Place project will attract people to live, work, and shop in Westfield. More people means more cars and traffic. This week, the project's developer, Streetworks Development, has invited the public to learn more about its traffic report.
Streetworks submitted a preliminary traffic impact study ("TIS") to the Town and a draft report is targeted to be released over the next few weeks. The TIS focuses on 18 intersections including the project's entry and exit points – ■ South Ave & Boulevard ■ North Ave & Clark ■ North Ave & Elm ■ South Ave & Central There will be a Facebook Live session on December 12 at 5:30 pm with Mayor Brindle, Chris Colley of Topology, the Town's redevelopment planning firm, and John Federico of WSP, the Town's traffic consultant. Additional public sessions covering the planned office space and the project plan and design are scheduled. Go to One Westfield Place's scheduling page to attend.
In 2021, the average mortgage rate on 30-year fixed mortgage was 2.96%. A few weeks ago it was over 7%, the highest level in 20 years. Higher mortgage rates forced many buyers out of the market. When mortgage rates started climbing beyond 3% early this year, the house buying frenzy slowed down. In Westfield, there were fewer homes sold each month in 2022 than in the same month in 2021. Looking at January through November, 30% fewer homes were sold this year compared to the same period in 2021. However, the average sale price in 2022 ($1,051,951) increased by 9.16% over 2021 ($963,665). This is because of the low inventory of homes for sale. In a stable real estate market, the sweet spot between a buyers' market and a sellers' market, has four to six months of homes on the market. For example, if an average of 40 homes are sold per month in Westfield, a stable market would have 160 to 200 homes for sale. For most of 2022, there was barely one month of inventory. Homes typically sold within 25 days of being listed. This means that Westfield is an extremely strong sellers' market. It is a great time to be a seller. In November 2022, 29 homes were sold in Westfield. Twenty-two were single family homes and the others were town homes, duplexes, or condos. Here are six homes that sold.
EXPLAINER – Real Estate Wire Fraud When my wife and I sold our house in Westfield, NJ in 2017, our $239,000 mortgage payoff was stolen. The money was never recovered from the criminals. We were victims of real estate wire fraud. I’m not only a victim, I’m also a real estate agent and lawyer. Shame on me for not knowing about wire fraud when I sold my house. Shortly after I sold my house, a Westfield client was also targeted by criminals, they came very close to losing their $225,000 down payment. After this occurred, I vowed to learn about wire fraud and educate my clients and other real estate agents about the problem. Over the past five years, I have written about wire fraud prevention and educated real estate agents around the US. I sat on a wire fraud panel with a U.S. Senator, participated in a roundtable discussion with the FBI in Washington, and was interviewed and quoted by the Wall Street Journal and other publications. Unfortunately, real estate wire fraud is still unknown to most consumers. There is not an effective consumer education program and there are no bank wiring safeguards in place to ensure home buyers and sellers are safe from scammers. Also, real estate agents are not required to discuss wire fraud with their clients. Instead, brokerages and Realtor associations have clients sign wire fraud disclosure forms. These are ineffective. Real estate wire fraud is becoming more prevalent. According to the title industry’s trade association, ALTA, one in three real estate transactions are targeted by wire fraud criminals. Wire fraud experts estimate that the average real estate wire fraud loss is $360,000. If you are in a real estate transaction or about to buy or sell a home, here is my blog post, Cyber Criminals Are Targeting Home Buyers & Sellers, which details how your money could be stolen and what you can do to protect yourself. Also, here is a video where I was interviewed by Jon Steingraber of Signature Realty about the details of my wire fraud incident.
Reach out to me if you have ANY questions about real estate. Thanks for reading this first issue!! PLEASE let me know what you think and if you have any ideas. If you want to read more about Westfield and other topics that interest me (like crypto), check out Rich's Blog. Rich Hopen | 908.917.7926 firstname.lastname@example.org