Op-Ed: Toms River Realtors Say New Law Shakes Down Home Sellers

3 mins read
Home inspector. Photo 39175399 / Home Inspection © Mike2focus | Dreamstime.com

by Michael Barone, Kimberly Bell, Mary Bueti, Carmela Lerro Calantoni, Rosa Cavallaro, Ed DeBiase, Maria “Marisa” Matarazzo, Lori O’Connell, and Dana Romero.

TOMS RIVER, NJ – Toms River has been and should remain one of New Jersey’s most desirable towns to live in.

Our schools are exceptional, our proximity to America’s best shoreline is enviable, and our neighborhoods are safe and walkable.

Unfortunately, recent regulations by the Township Council threaten to undermine Toms River as a destination and devalue our homes and properties.

In December 2021, the council voted against the well-being of Toms River taxpayers by placing impossible burdens on homeowners trying to sell their homes.  This Municipal Certificate of Continued Use and Occupancy Ordinance, (MCCUO), didn’t take effect until July 1, but since then, it has wrought havoc in our real estate market and in homeowners’ lives.

Until now, a homeowner wishing to sell his or her home, simply listed the home for sale, scheduled a fire inspection with town hall, and worked with the buyer to negotiate or repair any issues identified in the buyers’ home inspection report.

The age-old maxim, ‘Let the Buyer Beware’ reigned and the system worked well for buyers and sellers.

But the new ordinance is nothing more than a convoluted ‘solution’ in search of a problem.  It creates a maze of bureaucratic hurdles for sellers to surmount just to get to the closing table.  

Where there had been a reasonable $75 fire inspection, the process now begins with $375 in fees up front — a whopping 400% increase.  If the home fails to pass inspection in any one of a myriad of invasive and inconsequential categories, the seller must fix the problem and pay an additional $150 re-inspection fee every time a new defect is found.

What shortcomings can stop the sale of a private home dead in its tracks?

  • improperly “functioning windows” that won’t stay open for 10 seconds;
  • a house number not “properly sized and visible;” or
  • unrecorded construction done decades ago — potentially before the current seller even owned the home.

And there are more — many more.  A MCCUO permit was recently denied when an inspector failed to find a garbage can matching the address of the home.  The realtor was given the option of spending an afternoon snooping around the neighborhood to locate the missing can or buying a new one — only then would the permit be issued.

Is this ordinance truly about safety or is it just a money grab?

Some sellers are being forced to spend thousands or even ten of thousands of dollars to make repairs that aren’t in the buyer’s interest.  How many of us were able to buy our first home specifically because it was a fixer-upper?

Now slightly uneven sidewalks could be deemed a “tripping hazard” by one inspector but not another.  Under this ordinance, homeowners could be forced to wait weeks until a contractor is available.  But if the “hazard” is found in the winter, the homeowner will have to wait MONTHS until the weather breaks and fresh concrete can be poured.

The practical problems created by this ordinance are boundless.

Worst of all, the uncertainty, expense, and delays associated with the new process mean that realtors like us won’t be able to bring many prospective buyers to Toms River at all.  

Some buyers have tight turnaround times because their line of credit offer from the bank is only good for 45 days or because their employer is relocating them for a time-sensitive start date.

Many simply won’t want to live in a town with such poor protections for fundamental private property rights.

As we’re forced to reduce the pool of prospective buyers, Toms River sellers will see their sale prices fall from lower demand while sellers in Berkeley and Brick benefit.

The good news is, this can be fixed quickly.  The Township of Old Bridge made a similar mistake enacting an ordinance like this one.  But, they saw the problems that were created and they repealed it.

The Toms River Council should do the same.  An effort was made at the last Council meeting to begin the repeal process but the township attorney delayed it on a technicality.

Now is the time.  A repeal ordinance has been drafted by Councilman Justin Lamb and is circulating.  We support it and we call on the entire council to speak with one voice in defending Toms River property owners from the cumbersome and costly consequences of this ordinance.  Toms River taxpayers deserve nothing less.

Michael Barone, Kimberly Bell, Mary Bueti, Carmela Lerro Calantoni, Rosa Cavallaro, Ed DeBiase, Maria “Marisa” Matarazzo, Lori O’Connell, and Dana Romero.  All are Toms River-area realtors who live and pay taxes in Toms River.