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Free Consultation For Down-Sizers

Once upon a time, I lived in a big house by the park. It was the perfect place to raise my children. Then one day, with my children older and beginning to leave home, my house seemed too big for my life. So I moved to a smaller place.

This is not an original story. Most people will tell this story one day, or one just like it. It’s common for people to down-size. But the difference these days is that it’s become more difficult to get rid of our “stuff.”

I came upon a blog post the other day – “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff” – and it was as if someone looked into my mind and recounted many of the conversations I’ve had with my seller clients. People get ready to move themselves, or their elderly parents, and discover that all those “valuable” belongings – books, china, heirloom furniture, art – that they’re finally ready to part with, don’t have anywhere to go.

I happen to enjoy the activity of figuring out “what's next” for possessions that don’t serve me any longer. But many of my clients do not!

I offer my listing clients a free 4-hour consultation with a professional home organizer who will help them decide what to keep, what to throw out, as well as arrange for appraisals, donations, and even online sales.

Once upon a time, it used to be so easy to find a new home for our “stuff,” and now, not so much. But the real story is this: if you have the support of someone who is both knowledgeable and likes the process, you can enjoy those happily-ever-after moments that arise when your lifestyle and your possessions are once again in sync.

 

 

Sweet Montclair

For salesignI’m not sure exactly when I became so interested in bees. But I do remember the day, a few years ago, at the local farmer’s market getting into a conversation with the honey vendor that kept me rapt for almost an hour.

We talked primarily about hive society and hive politics, but then he started explaining how eating local honey can be beneficial for seasonal allergies. Growing up in New York City, we did not have many local hives in the neighborhood, so it was a bit of a thrill for me to walk out the door the other day and stumble upon a sign for local honey right on my block.

I not only bought a jar, I also learned that many families around town host hives for local beekeepers – usually in exchange for honey. Hives need to be spaced a certain distance from other hives so the bees are not all trying to collect nectar and pollen from the same flowers.

My bee neighbor told me a funny story about how one day a whole swarm of bees came buzzing right down the length of our street, something I’ve never seen in the over 20 years I’ve lived here. He thought they might be coming from Van Vleck House – another beekeeping site – though frankly, I don’t know why they would ever want to leave there; it’s one of the most beautiful public gardens I’ve ever seen.

I love living in a town that is home to an art museum, an indie movie theater, an indoor soccer field, and strategically placed honey bee hives. And even more, I love being able to walk to all of them. If you want to find out more about the magic of living in a walkable suburb, give me a call!

What Millennial Home Buyers Are Looking For

open kitchen

When I moved to this area, close to 30 years ago, it was all about the detail. Whether a home was big or small, most of us were looking for craftsmanship -- a house with good bones. And this area is brimming with them!

But this generation of buyer isn’t looking for the same things most sellers were looking for when we purchased our houses decades ago. So, if you’re a seller who is considering doing some work before listing this season, you can really increase your home’s “appeal” by paying attention to what today’s buyers care about most.

If you’re going to renovate, open spaces are more desirable than lots of smaller rooms. For example, an open kitchen is a big draw. But it doesn’t need to be a big, fancy kitchen! Millennials seem to prefer cleaner lines and more light over fussy architectural details. Bigger windows, not bigger moldings!

In fact, it doesn’t have to be a big house at all. Millennials would rather have a home office than a formal dining room. They're drawn to things like energy efficiency, low VOC paint, smart tech accoutrements (WiFi-enabled lights, thermostats, locks, and garage doors). And, need I say it – walkability!

Also, the lower the maintenance, the better. Examples would be Hardie Board siding vs. wood clapboard exteriors, or Trex for decking over wood. This crop of buyers want to spend their weekends entertaining friends, not staining the deck.

I’ve been helping sellers prep their homes for years. I have a background in architecture and a passion for construction details. If you want to get ready for market, I’m delighted to partner with you in any way you need. 

And if you’re looking for a home in a great, walkable suburb, I can help you turn whatever you find into the home of your dreams!

 

 

Hygge - You Know It When You Feel It

Living RoomPractically every time I open a magazine or click online these days, I am confronted with hygge. And my first thought is: Finally, someone is speaking my language!

Hygge is a Danish word that's started getting a lot more airplay lately, especially as winter comes upon us. Pronounced hue gah or hoog uh, it’s often translated as a kind of soothing coziness that, for Danes, is such a collectively held ideal it’s as if the concept is woven into their very being. I know this first-hand, as my mother was born and raised in Denmark. As a result, I grew up with the notion of hygge all around me.

There were some things my mother never quite “got” about living in the States – like American sandwiches. For example, she’d make PB&Js on rye bread. Or worse, she’d make peanut butter, butter, and jelly sandwiches! (Danes put butter on every piece of bread, regardless of what else is going to be added.)

But she did "get" hygge and, genetically, so did I.

The loveliness of hygge does not just revolve around warm fires and soft blankets – though that’s often how home design magazines illustrate the concept. It’s also tied to the profound goodness of being with people who nourish you. The deep pleasure and comfort that comes from hunkering down with the someone (or someones) you love.

I have always attempted to create a sense of hygge in the homes I’m selling. Not only because it makes buyers feel good when they tour the house, but also because it’s an idea that I feel so personally committed to. It’s even one of the reasons that I decided to make my home here. Montclair itself feels hygge to me.

Our clothing shops are hygge. Our yoga studios are hygge. Even our tattoo parlor feels hygge.

When helping people find their "right home," hygge is always a feeling I try to help someone identify (although I rarely ever call it that!). That space where they can truly sink into contentment. Their happy place.

Walkability Is The New Black

Patio DiningI just read a piece in the New York Times about how today’s buyers are more interested than ever in homes “close to town,” further supporting my theory that walkability is, in fact, the new black.

On December 16, Marcelle Sussman Fischler writes, “With an uptick in buyers wanting to live within walking distance of restaurants, shops, schools, parks and train stations, single-family homes closer to town are selling better than ones that are farther afield, real estate agents say.”

She goes on to say that buyers think of walkability not just as a “convenience” but also as a “quality of life” choice. People want to run into friends on their way to the drugstore or a restaurant – and they’re not talking about fender-benders.

Being able to walk where you need to go makes life feel easy – at least it has for me. I live within a half mile of two of Montclair’s four main shopping areas -- Upper Montclair Village and Watchung Plaza --  and there are even more walkable “town hubs” beyond those. I love that I can walk to the movies, walk to great restaurants, walk to the post office, or the nail salon, or the bookstore. It’s one of the things that make the feeling of community here so very strong.

And you can feel the commitment of the community in keeping our “downtowns” lively and vibrant – not only by their patronage, but also in how very many residents open up their own shops or restaurants, creating the niche destinations that they want to see here.  

With so many “downtowns” in one town, it’s not too difficult to find a home that’s walkable to at least one of them. And the even better news is that if perching high atop a mountain with New York City views is more your thing, there’s plenty of off-the-beaten path homes to choose from too!

And I’m delighted to show you all of them – so you can find exactly the shade of black – I mean walkability -- you’re looking for.

 

The Bike Depot Cometh (To Bloomfield, NJ)

Bike ParkingThe other day, I drove into Manhattan on Saturday morning and headed to a block that, in the past, I’ve had good luck finding on-street parking. But not this time. Because, apparently, since my last time here, a big swath of curb space had been allocated for Citi-bikes.

Despite the inconvenience of an extended parking search, I was happy to see the city giving up parking spots in favor of bikablity. I am always on the lookout for examples of how walking and biking are supported.

So I was delighted to learn that our own Bloomfield Train Station is about to get a great bikability upgrade. It’s called a Bike Depot and, according to this month’s NJ Bike&Walk Coalition newsletter, it’s slated to be operational next month.

We already have a Bike Depot in the parking garage of the Bay Street Train Station in Montclair, and for many it has been a game changer. A portion of the garage is reconstructed to securely store bikes while their owners are away. Aside from keeping the bike safe and dry, there are also lockers where riders can stash bike shoes or helmets.

The Bloomfield Station Bike Depot is going up in the Glenwood Garage in downtown Bloomfield, so members can use it for commuting or while they’re shopping. Of course, I’m waiting for the day that every train station in the area has a section devoted to bike parking. But my habit of choosing to walk or bike over driving whenever I can has made me more patient overall.

If you’re looking for a home in an area that supports a smaller carbon footprint, let me tell you more about all the walkability and bikability benefits in living in Montclair and our surrounding towns. Next to finding people homes, it’s my passion. Call or text: 973-809-5277

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    A Walk To The Wellmont (in Montclair)

    Jim Gaffigan Tour PosterThe weekend before Thanksgiving, I went to see Jim Gaffigan at the Wellmont Theater. If you’re not a Gaffigan fan, all I can say is LOL. This guy is consistently hilarious without being crude and it was the perfect way to de-stress before the holiday.

    And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. People young and old were in attendance, which is not unusual for the Wellmont – our own local concert venue hosting everyone from Tom Jones to One Direction to Max & Ruby in the Nutcracker Suite. I think Jay Leno was there the night after Gaffigan.

    Growing up in the Manhattan, I loved being able to see live performances easily and locally. And living in Montclair, I’m afforded that same luxury. In addition to the Wellmont, we have a “grassroots” concert series called Outpost in the Burbs, bringing folk artists like David Bromberg and Joan Osborne practically into our living rooms.

    And Montclair State University has an incredible series called Peak Performances – interesting (and sometimes avant-garde) music, dance and theater events that are often written up in the New York Times as “not to be missed”. (By the way: tickets are usually $20 each and there is truly not a bad seat in the house.)

    But here’s the coolest thing for me: I picked up my Gaffigan tickets at the theater (rather than through Ticket-Master), because I happened to be walking around downtown when they went on sale. The night of the show, we had dinner at Fusion Empanada, window-shopped our way down to the theater, and returned hours later to our car where (unlike Manhattan) we’d parked easily (and freely) on the street.

    Just to keep it real: we don’t walk everywhere all the time. But we all relish that we often have the option of ditching the car and being out among our neighbors – doing fun things, eating good food, and having a few good laughs.

     

    We All Walk Together

    Walking on SidewalkEven though I’ve always inherently understood that “cities” tend to be more liberal than rural areas, I never really took any time to think about why. This New York Times piece was an interesting read on how liberals and conservatives tend to organize themselves geographically.

    Montclair is a decidedly liberal town. We are a village that tries to welcome all residents with open arms, but the truth is, conservative bumper stickers on these streets are not very typical fare.

    But the other truth is that we have plenty of conservatives living here – happily, I might add. I’d always wondered why a right-leaning homebuyer might choose this town (which is about as blue as they come). And, although I can draw plenty of conclusions from this article, I chose to read it as a kind of treatise on how walkability can be one of the great political unifiers. (I know, I know – I’m a walkability nut – but what else can explain the harmony we typically have here in Montclair besides the fact that we all really like that we can walk to Java Love for our morning coffee?)

    Over the years, I’ve worked side-by-side with many of my more right-leaning neighbors – on the PTA, on boards, and even in the business of selling homes – and I’ve noticed that, for the most part, our ideals are far more similar than they are different.

    Because the third truth is, it's simply a lot more difficult to have an “us versus them” stance when we’re all sharing the same sidewalks. (And bike racks. And train seats.) Or at least that’s how it seems to me. If you’re looking for a change – upsizing, downsizing, or a place to start a family -- I’d love to show you around my town; it can win the hearts and minds of practically everyone.

    New To Market: 152 Forest Hill Rd. West Orange

    This 4-bedroom renovated English colonial has so much going on inside. Majestic stone fireplace in the living room. New kitchen and formal dining room. Cozy den and a completely finished basement. Plus, a master bedroom suite with fireplace and dressing room. I happen to adore the third-floor retreat – a paneled enclave with a view of New York City.

    There’s a lot to love about living in West Orange. This home is very close to two of my favorite hiking destinations: Eagle Rock Reservation and South Mountain Reservation. When I hit the ridge of Eagle Rock, I look out onto the Manhattan skyline and marvel at how lucky we are here to be so close to New York City and still be able to spend hours hiking trails that are literally a few minutes drive from our house.

    This home has the added bonus of having quick access to Route 280 and is steps away from the commuter jitney. It’s also an easy drive to the nearly new South Mountain Recreation Complex (zoo, ice-skating, mini-golf, paddle boats, zip line, and reservoir walkway), an expansive Whole Foods Market and the inimitable Short Hills Mall.

    If you’d like to see this or other homes in the area, please call or text! I love showing people around!  (973) 809-5277

     

     

    Slow Down and Linger

    One of the reasons I like living in a walkable suburb is because it slows the world down a little bit. And one of the best things about slowing down, is having the opportunity to linger.

    Lingering is not something you can do very easily in a car. (And if you do, you’ll probably hear about it from the car behind you!) But when you're walking, you can linger on the foot bridge over Edgemont Pond if you happen to see the white heron strutting near the shoreline, or you can linger in front of the Montclair Bread Company because it smells so dang good out there.

    One of my favorite places to linger is Watchung Booksellers – and not just because it’s my neighborhood bookstore. It's just a delightful place to spend time. It’s cozy and unhurried. And everyone in there seems as if there’s no place they’d rather be. Add to that the fact that it's full of books and it just doesn't get any better than that.

    I came across a piece about Watchung Books  on Facebook (another place I sometimes like to linger) and the writer summed up the vibe so well.

    “The term ‘curate’ is often used for what booksellers do, but as [owner] Margot and I sat chatting about the business in the conjoined café, we agreed it is less like a museum collector than a chef or a matchmaker. What do you want to read today? With platters of book covers spread out before you, the store resembles a cocktail party of stories and ideas.”

    I loved reading Thomas Pluck’s ode to my favorite bookstore. I liked the way he provided so much context for its existence, and how he, himself, lingered over details about our town, painting a picture that feels authentic and true for all of us that have made our home here.

    Maybe it’s just the sweet melancholy of autumn, but it’s been feeling especially good to me these days to slow down and linger.