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Montclair's Magnet School System

One of the truly interesting aspects to Montclair is that there are no “neighborhood schools.” I mean, there are schools in various neighborhoods, but the student body of a school does not necessarily hail from the surrounding blocks.

Montclair is a magnet school system – one of the premiere magnet systems in the nation. When parents enroll their children, they have the opportunity to tour the schools rank their preference. In addition to their differences in size and population (for example, one school is designed only for K-2nd grade) each of the 7 elementary schools has a magnet theme around which the school day is structured. So even though all the schools teach the same district-wide curriculum, each feels distinctive, with its own “personality” or “vibe.”
Not surprisingly, clients always ask: which is the best one?

I’m sure I sound like a diplomatic mother who’s just been asked which is her favorite child. But I honestly believe all our schools are great. The real question is: which one is best for you?

Montclair’s Magnet School System

allows you to pick the home you want —

wherever it may be.


The elementary schools have varying start and end times. And depending where you live in relation to the school, your child might be eligible to ride the bus. Some families need early schools so parents can get to work. Others need a late day for their kids. Some kids thrive with a schedule where they’re on the move throughout the day, others if they’re in a more structured environment. This has never been a one-size-fits-all town and we don’t have a one-size-fits-all school system.

One of the things I love most about this system is that in the few instances where a child really is not thriving at a school, they can be moved. The other thing I love about it is that, unlike most towns, you don’t ever have to choose a house based on a school. In fact, I’ve known plenty of families that have sent siblings to different schools!

What this means for home-buyers is that you can find the house that suits your own family’s needs — commuting needs…privacy needs…walkability needs-- independent of where your child might go to school.

If you’d like to understand more about Montclair’s magnet system, give me a call. It’s one of the many Montclair offerings that make this family-friendly town so beloved.

NEW To The Market: 4 Old Salem Road, West Orange

Everything about 4 Old Salem Road is so inviting. From the pristine wood floors and elegant palette to the renovated kitchen with all new appliances. What I love about this home is how it feels built to welcome guests. Cozy fireplace. Light streaming through French doors. Wet bar in the finished basement – the type of family room that can truly grow with a family. This house has great “flow” -- everything feeling easy and just as it should be – and when you “flow” out to the back yard, it feels as if you’ve entered a whole new living space. This is truly one of the loveliest back patios I’ve ever seen, expansive and intimate all at once.

The neighborhood – St. Cloud – has its own perks: the 45-minute bus to Manhattan stops two blocks away, and the free West Orange jitney brings you to the train station from the corner.

Best of all, this home sits on one of the most desirable blocks in the neighborhood, a short drive to New Jersey’s most elegant shopping mall and a short walk to one of the most impressive features of Essex County – the newly reconstructed South Mountain Recreation Complex, which includes skating at South Mountain Arena, mini golf, the Turtleback Zoo, a gorgeous waterfront promenade, boating, restaurants, and then miles of hiking in South Mountain Reservation.

Oh, did I mention the screened-in garden porch, central AC and attached garage? This house has it all going on.

Come to the Open House Sunday, September 3rd, or we can set up a private viewing by appointment. Call me! I’d love to take you around!

How To Tour A Home

The other day during a house tour, a first-time buyer asked me, “What should I be looking for?”

This is such a great question.

As a buyer, you’re no doubt looking for specific things in a home: a certain number of bedrooms; a kitchen big enough to host brunch for your extended family every other Sunday; a backyard big enough that you can put up a swing set. Ideally, your agent would address as much of your “wish list” as possible when she provides listings. Or she may give you alternatives: “The yard may be small for a swing set, but the park is a block away.”

When the main items on your wish list have been satisfied, your next job is to imagine.

What does it feel like to be in this space?

Can you picture your furniture in the rooms?

Can you imagine family dinners here?

Can you imagine what it might be like to come back from a trip, open the door, and be home?

For some, it’s very important to have a feeling about the block or immediate neighborhood, for others, it’s important to have a yard with big, mature trees.

These are all things you cannot change, so if you don’t have the right feeling about a house, it’s probably best just to walk away. But if the vibe is right, you can (and should) consider proceeding to the next step.

Having owned many homes myself, I consider things like a squeaky door, a cracked garage window, or a drippy faucet “minor stuff” – barely worth discussing. A thorough going-over by a qualified home inspector will let you know whether there are important repairs needed on the home. The truth is, most of us buy houses that are “used,” but unlike shopping for, say, a used car, you don’t need spend your visit constantly on the lookout for little, easily-repaired things. I promise you: whatever house you buy will need a little something, if for no other reason than to make it what you want.

There’s no need to focus on what might be wrong with a house during a home tour — save that for the inspection! It’s much more important to tune into your gut and focus on what is right.

Brooklyn to Verona: One Year Later

After a year in Verona, a client reflects on his move:

I just celebrated my one-year anniversary in this house. I thought it would be a bigger transition, moving here from Brooklyn, but it’s gone a lot smoother than I expected.

I wanted more space – inside and outside – than what we had in our Park Slope apartment. This house had been bought by a developer and completely renovated to sell. There was barely anything to do inside, basically just move in.

I’ve been tackling the outside slowly over the course of the year. I had the house re-sided, built a small vegetable garden (including watermelon and muskmelon), and put in outdoor lights and plantings. Just last week they finished the stone patio in the back and I set up the bistro table and chairs that were moved from the Brooklyn patio. That set practically took up the whole “backyard” before; here it’s a little too small.

Verona is just right. We can walk to the main shopping street, the town pool is great and the school system is amazing. My middle-school-aged daughters had a very easy first year here.

I feel compelled to give a little shout out to Anthony Franco Pizza and The Verona Inn, two of our go-to’s. (Verona Inn short ribs are not always available, but they’re amazing.)

I spend a lot of time in the backyard, relaxing with a beer and the local wildlife – squirrels, bunnies and the occasional deer, something we didn’t get much of in Brooklyn. My new neighbors just moved here from Montclair with their twin toddlers. It just seems alike a great town to raise a family. 

I’d been looking for a commuting suburb, and initially Verona wasn’t even on my radar. I have to thank Lina Panza for pointing me in this direction. One year later, it feels even more like the perfect move.

--Steve from Verona

 

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!