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Is There Really A Shortage of Homes For Sale in Montclair?

You may have heard tales of frequent bidding wars in Montclair and Maplewood due to a shortage of inventory. However, the truth is, there's plenty of inventory to go around. In this case, “shortage” doesn’t necessarily refer to “number of homes” as much as it does to “what a buyer is looking for.”

I’ve written here about the misconception that sellers often have about what is “valuable;” this discrepancy between perception and reality comes into play regularly when some of us try and sell our parents’ china sets or old books. Generally speaking, today’s buyers don’t want Old Stuff. And when it comes to houses there are certain things they’re looking for: smaller spaces, new renovation, and walkability.

Unfortunately, not all the homes in these towns are small and “steps away from everything.” But this does not necessarily mean a seller won’t be able to sell or buyer won’t find a satisfactory home.

Smart sellers need to understand their customer base and do what they can to increase the appeal of their home – even if their home has been fine for them the way it’s been for 25 years.

And smart buyers need to be open to hidden opportunities and value that might not be evident from a simple walk through – for example, understanding the “value” of a location beyond merely how many steps it is to the nearest coffee shop.

A good real estate agent will help you find what you say you’re looking for – whether that means getting the price you hope to get or being able to check all the boxes on your wish list. A great real estate agent will educate you and make you smarter about a town or a process that you may not be so familiar with. That’s my job. I do it every day, often 7 days a week.

Whether you’re ready to buy or to sell, allow me to share my expertise with you.

Montclair's July Fourth Parade Is No Joke!

If you’re moving to Montclair and you happen to purchase a house on Midland Avenue, there will be a rider in your contract about the 4th of July – namely that you’re required to have a lawn party for the parade.

Okay, I’m kidding about the rider but you’d never know it if you lived here.

For as long as I’ve lived in Montclair, our July 4th Parade has been one of my favorite events.  The parade starts around 11 o’clock at the library on South Fullerton Avenue, turns onto Bloomfield Avenue, and then travels the entire length of Midland Ave, ending up at Edgemont Park. It always begins with antique cars, then come the marching bands, local groups and businesses -- the beloved Community Pre-K marchers, the always-festive Egan and Sons’ float, the high school football team, the Boys Scouts, Bike and Walk Montclair, School of Rock. The list goes on and on.

Midland Avenue is an extra wide street, centrally located and easily accessible. Some families pull a few lawn chairs to the curb and settle in for the festivities. Others set up food and drink for dozens of guests. For nearly two hours, this usually-quiet, mile-long block turns into a massive party – a meandering mingling, of happy and fun.

If you happen not to buy a house on Midland, your first order of business should be to make friends with someone on the block so you have a parade perch. Actually, I’m kidding again. People from all over town stroll Midland’s sidewalks and can plop down on a curb anywhere.

Still, I’ve heard of Midland Avenue sellers adding a clause in their contracts reserving a curb spot for their family in perpetuity. Here, I’m only half-kidding. Families often do return, year after year, to take in the music and merriment that is the Montclair July 4th Parade. We have so much pride in our town and community, and at the parade, it's like you can taste it.

 

Montclair Makes Music Today!

I discovered Make Music Day by accident, it somehow having slipped by me for the last few years. In fact, when I walked past the string duet in front of Montclair Local, it still didn’t occur to me that I’d stumbled upon a town-wide event. But then I walked over to watchung booksellers, saw the amps and microphones set up outside the shop, and became more curious.

Make Music Day has been going on in Montclair for the past three years, our own local event inspired by Fete de la Music – a “music holiday” that began in France in 1982 and has become a worldwide phenomenon. Celebrated on the Summer Solstice, Make Music Day is a day-(and night-)long offering of free musical performances all over town.

I got myself a schedule and was even more excited to learn that many of the free evening gigs were taking place on and around Church Street – in other words, all walkable to one another!

The other thing I loved was how many young people were participating.

If you’ve already made your home here, you’ll know that this event feels “so Montclair.” This is an artistic community with a wealth of residents committed to bringing the arts to the public as often and awesomely as possible.

If you’re considering Montclair as your future home, you’ll find that this is just one example of how festively we roll here: free music days, yoga in the street, food fests, jazz fests, art walks, and one of my personal favorites, the bus parade of high school graduates that wends its way through town after the commencement ceremony so that the rest of us can bang pots and scream out our congratulations – a spectacle that can feel like New Year’s Eve.

If you’d like to find out more about Montclair or our also-festive neighboring communities, please reach out. I love showing off my town.

New Listing: 19 Norwood Ave Upper Montclair ? Private and Walkable!

19 Norwood Ave Montclair - seating areaWhen it comes to 19 Norwood Ave, I’m not sure whether to gush first about the house itself or the location.  

This house is the perfect size for a growing family. Four bedrooms on the second floor (two connected by a sleeping porch that can serve as a playroom!) and a fifth up on the top floor that can accommodate family or guests, 2.5 baths, eat-in kitchen, central air and a beautiful, open layout that feels inviting and warm. Windows and French doors abound; gorgeous hardwood floors throughout. This house has been meticulously maintained.

The backyard is like a private park, thoughtfully designed to accommodate both play and contemplation. Private and lush with mature trees and plantings, it makes you 19 Norwood Ave Montclair - yard feel as if you’re on vacation in your own home.

But 19 Norwood offers more than grace and beauty. Situated a few blocks from Upper Montclair Village, it has a Walk Score of 81. The train and bus are about 8 minutes away on foot, as is Anderson Park, the Bellevue Theater, restaurants, ice-cream shop, toy store, clothing boutiques, pharmacy, banks, exercise studios, hardware store, hair salons – the list goes on and on.  

When you visit this home, try and schedule enough time to walk the neighborhood. It’s remarkable to experience how “away from it all” this house makes you feel while you’re so close to town.

Listed at $779,000, this home is not likely to last. Give me a call – I’d be delighted to walk you through it!

New Listing: 4 Hickory Road, Nutley NJ

4 Hickory Rd Nutley - kitchenThere’s so much I love about this gorgeous split level in Nutley! The layout is open and airy. It was kept immaculately, so you feel calm as soon as you step inside. The floors are beautiful and the renovated kitchen is both elegant and inviting. I’m a big fan of outdoor entertaining and the deck/patio combo here is perfect for weekend barbecues or kicking back on a summer evening. There’s even a view of the Manhattan skyline from the oversized deck.

Hickory Road is a great, quiet location -- a tucked away side street with very little traffic, that also offers quick access to the Garden State Parkway as well as local shopping.4 Hickory Rd Nutley - living room

Central air, attached garage, cathedral ceiling, renovated bath and a family room that’s like a little oasis. At $399,000, this home is likely to go fast.

Whether you’re moving from an apartment or downsizing from a larger space, this house will call to you. Some homes just have a great vibe, and this is one of them.

Come see for yourself at my OPEN HOUSE this Sunday, May 21 from 2-4pm.

4 Hickory Rd Nutley - deck

New Listing: 12 Yale Terrace, Montclair - Walkable to Everything!

I love this bright, welcoming home. It’s one of my favorite neighborhoods and the whole block just feels good to walk down. Four bedrooms, 3 full baths, family room, deck, beautiful hardwood floors, AC, 2-car garage, lovely yard with sprinkler system.

If walkability were an Olympic sport, this house would get all 10s! This home is steps away from the train, bus (DeCamp 66), schools, banks, post office, bagels, book store, hardware store, clothing shops, restaurants, hair and nail salons, fitness studios, and one of my very favorite sandwich shops. There’s also a new coffee house that has already distinguished itself as “the place for coffee.”

Please stop by my OPEN HOUSE: 12 Yale Terrace, Montclair --  Sunday, May 14 between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m.  

Offered at $689,000. This home will not last, and I’d love for you to see it!

Contact me if you have any questions about 12 Yale Terrace!

Stepping Out For A Movie ? The Magical Montclair Film Festival

There are plenty of things I’m proud of about Montclair. We have a magnet school system that is held up as a national model of how to provide integrated education in a diverse town. We have a volunteer-run online message board that allows thousands of people to provide  recommendations for services or help find the owner of a lost dog. We have an adult school that makes lessons about everything from interview skills to Qigong available to everyone in the community. This is a town that strives to bring people together, and it's a place where people want to be together. One of my favorite examples of this is the Montclair Film Festival.

For 10 days in May, Montclair turns into Movie Heaven. There are screenings everywhere, practically all the time – films that have been at Sundance as well as home-grown gems. The number of people who turn out to volunteer – as ushers, ticket takers, etc. – is amazing. It makes going to the movies a bigger, funner event.

On opening night, I went with friends to see “Step,” a documentary about teen girls from Baltimore whose step dance classes transformed their lives. This is the type of movie that I love, a story that reminds us how strong we can be when we band together for a common goal. There were live steppers who performed before the film and then afterwards, two people from the movie took the stage and spoke. And even though we were at the Wellmont Theater, probably the largest venue at the festival, it felt very intimate. We were all touched.

Before the show, my friends and I had dinner at one of Montclair’s newest additions: The Crosby on Glenridge Avenue. The place was hopping and it was only a short walk to the theater – another thing I love about this town that I may have mentioned once or twice.

So many of my clients come from the city at a time in their lives when they want a bit more space of their own, or maybe to grab a little privacy. But they come here because they want to feel a part of something too. And I’m so proud that Montclair can provide all of that. I don’t think I’m being overzealous when I give us five stars.

 

QUESTION: My best friend just got her real estate license. Should I list with her?

handshakeI read somewhere that the average person is friends with 5 real estate agents. If that’s true, the good news is you'll have 5 people you know and trust who can help you buy or sell your house. The bad news is you can really only work with one of them.

The other bad news is that most newbies don't last very long in the business. The attrition rate is high, with 87% dropping out in the first 5 years. And of the agents currently working, most of the real estate “business” that you see around you (an estimated 80%) is being conducted by the top 20% of the agents in the area.

Listing with a friend can be a high-pressured situation, especially if he or she is new to the business. Of course, you want to help them but the truth is, they are learning the ropes on your largest financial asset – and that’s something you need to be aware of going in. Because an agent’s “education” can hit a seller in their wallet.

We’ve all gotten the call from someone we adore: “Hey, I just got my real estate license!” But it’s still wise to ask ourselves: Of the 5 real estate agents you may know, who's still learning on the job? Who's getting ready to drop out because it just isn’t as easy as it looks? Who's in the 80 percent, struggling to put together a few deals a year?  Who's selling real estate only on weekends and after their day job on Tuesdays?

I can tell you from my 13 years experience and over 200 homes I’ve sold, the more you’ve “seen” in real estate deals, the better equipped you are to service your clients. Contact me to learn more about what I can do for you whether you're buying or selling. 

Your Questions Answered: What's the Deal with "Teams"?

People often ask me to explain how “teams” work in real estate agencies, and what it means for them as clients. The short answer is, it depends what kind of team it is.

“Small Teams”
Many agents discover that, while they may be great at educating clients about homes and negotiating deals, they are not as well-suited to the administrative work. So once they become established enough, they quickly hire an assistant to take on non-sales tasks. This is great for the agent, freeing her up to do more face-to-face client work. And it’s great for the client, because the support person is usually very detail- and deadline-oriented. This arrangement is technically a “Small Team”, however it’s usually not referred to as a “team” at all because even though there may be several people working on the client’s behalf, there is only one “public-facing” agent.  

“Named Teams”
Named Teams are typically bigger and advertise themselves as a "team." This structure is often comprised of an experienced lead agent (whose name is in the "team name"), one or more less experienced “buyer’s agents,” and an administrative assistant. Sometimes the lead agent will handle mostly sellers and the newer agents may handle mostly buyers, especially those looking in lower price ranges.

The newer agents are provided prospective buyers and mentorship from the lead agent and in exchange, any clients they bring to the “team” become the “property” of the lead agent. As a buyer or seller, this type of team may or may not be beneficial to you – it largely depends on the experience level of the specific agents handling your business and the ability of the lead agent to oversee the quality of the team’s work.

“Family Teams”
This might be a husband and wife team, a mother-son team, or a man and his nephews. The implication is: we’re family, so we’re close and work well together. Sometimes that’s true. But these “teams” can often form because a successful agent is trying to help out a loved one who’s in transition (unemployed, new to the area, etc.). And in those cases, a client isn’t always getting someone who’s fully committed to this very service-oriented business.

Pros and Cons
There are definite advantages in working with a team. Namely, that people are usually doing the jobs they are best suited for. The main disadvantage is the confusion around not having a “single” person accountable for your business. Who do you go to with a problem? The administrator? The lead agent (whom you may never have met)? The person showing you around?

In my opinion, the agent/client relationship is more important than who or how many are on a “team.” If you’re looking to buy, look for an agent who can educate you about every aspect of the process: the market climate, the town, the neighborhoods, renovations and remodeling, and the context in which to determine the value of your purchase.

If you’re looking to sell, seek out an agent who is knowledgeable about the town’s real estate culture, is an experienced marketer and pricing strategist and one who can also guide you through the difficult process of getting your house ready for market.

And, if on top of all that, you find an agent who understands a perspective that can add even more value to your purchase or sale – say, the walkability perspective – well, that person may be your MVP. :)

 

Montclair New Jersey: Your Vibe? Your Tribe?

As a destination suburb, It’s not unusual to find an article that features Montclair in the New York Times real estate section. But it’s not often that I come across two pieces on the same day.  

The first — How to Pick the Right New York City Suburb — is about how to “get the vibe” and “find your tribe” when you’re looking to move out of the city. I have long suggested to my clients to spend time here — as much time as you can manage — before committing to a home. Visit the schools, or better yet, take in a performance at one of the schools. As a magnet school district, families “request” particular elementary schools for their children, and each school is theme-based. If you have a little one who is drawn to the stage, there are plenty of stages here for him or her!

Last weekend was the Dance Show at the high school, which was simply outstanding.

This coming weekend is the first Montclair Literary Festival. As a town full of writers (and readers), it not only makes perfect sense to launch an event around the written word, it’s a bit surprising no one has done it until now.

The second piece  — Suburban? Just Don’t Call Her a “Jersey Girl” — reads like an ode to Montclair. A New York Times writer somewhat reluctantly left Brooklyn and, drawn here by the vibe and her tribe, goes on to name practically every amazing thing about living here.

Jodi Rudorun writes, “Maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I see Montclair as a city person’s suburb. It is filled with some 85 restaurants, ethnic and cheffy and twee. Fast-food chains are banned, and the Saturday farmers’ market goes year-round. We have an art museum (where my daughter went to digital photography and green-screen camp) and a film festival (through which my husband teaches improv). There are no cul-de-sacs or cookie-cutter developments; Montclair became a township in 1868, so our hundred-year-old home is in good company.”

If any of that sounds like your vibe or your tribe, let me show you around…or give you some ideas about how to spend some time here. I love to educate people about this special town -- contact me today!

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