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When You Want To Go Small

Many of my clients begin dreaming of a simpler, more streamlined life long before they feel able to do anything about it. And that is because most of them are overwhelmed by their “stuff.” 

I understand. So was I.

When I downsized a few years ago, it seemed as if I kept thinking the same few thoughts: How are we all going to manage in a small, cramped space. How will I fit all my furniture? How can I possibly get rid of these things that I love? And the loudest thought of all: How did I end up with so much stuff to begin with?

Going through a significant downsize myself taught me valuable lessons I pass onto my clients daily. Probably the most poignant of all being: My perfect living conditions have very little to do with my “stuff.”

In the move from big to smaller, clients often mistakenly focus on what they think they’re going to lose: spare rooms, storage, places for all their stuff. Having a life that has long revolved around the upkeep of a big home, they’re not quick consider how much is time and money is saved with less house to make repairs on, and fewer things to keep track of in general.

I never imagined how much better I would feel with a fresh start – the ability to imagine my daily life with all of the things I love around me, and without any that had become a burden.

As a student of architecture and design, I can help you envision your new living space. Together we can make a plan for what should come along. I have lots of tricks to make the most of modest spaces and a long list of vendors who can make it all happen. 

As a fellow down-sizer, I can help you envision your new life. My clients tell me that talking to me about what they imagine for their next chapter has helped them get to know themselves better and has also helped them attain the things they truly want. 

And as a life-long lover of second-hand selling, I can guide you through staging your current home, and moving that “stuff” you don’t need anymore into the hands of someone who may.

Going small can be an energizing, exciting journey when you have the right person to guide you. If you’ve been dreaming of simpler for a little too long, give me a call. I really can help. 

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    The Arts Are Alive and Well in Montclair

    It’s no secret: some of my clients start out afraid to leave the city. Of course they are! We live in cities because there is so much going on and it’s unsettling to think we’re giving that up.

    For those who have already taken the leap, there was plenty going on here last weekend, as is true most weekends.

    The Montclair Literary Festival launched in 2017. Given how many journalists, authors, playwrights and poets call this area home, it’s almost shocking that we didn’t have a weekend-long celebration of writers and writing before now. The festival included readings, talks, workshops and panels by writers of all genres. There were events devoted to politics and events devoted to rock’n’roll. There were lots of events for kids. Most everything was within an easy walk to everything else. And a lot of it was free!

    On Sunday night, we were graced by a reading and musical performance by Patti Smith who arrived with her longtime producer Lenny Kaye. The two took the stage in the sanctuary of the spectacular First Congregational Church and captivated the audience for nearly two hours.

    Being in that audience reminded most of us why we came to this area in the first place. It reminded us that we live in a community that can support two independent books stores, even in the age of Amazon and Kindle. It reminded us that, as a town, we believe that the arts are worth making room for – lots of room. And it reminded us how many of our friends and neighbors work so hard to fill our town with intellect and beauty everywhere you turn. Just like the city.

    When you take the leap, you will find yourself in a town with two libraries, an art museum, a film festival, a jazz festival, fabulous restaurants, an indie movie theatre, a concert venue, a jazz club, art galleries, art walks, avant-garde dance, opera and musical theatre, and a university with lectures, performance art, and minor league baseball. You’ll also find lots and lots of coffee shops!

    The other not so secret truth I remind my clients: Montclair is surrounded by plenty of great towns — Bloomfield, West Orange, Glen Ridge, Verona, Cedar Grove. If you’re looking for a community with easy access to the arts, these are towns that you should consider as well. 

    Patti Smith photo by Jacqueline Mroz

     

    From Montclair to East Orange: Ready For A Change

     

    Their nest was empty, but these downsizing buyers did not want to go small. 

    “My husband and I weren’t the typical ‘downsizers.’ We weren’t looking for ‘smaller’ as much as for ‘different.’ And we weren’t in a big hurry to move, which gave us the opportunity to become curious about what other our options might be.

    We wanted to stay in the general area, a home with a similar amount of space and an easy commute to the city. We wanted an interesting community where people seemed invested in where they lived. Really, most of the things that brought us to Montclair in the first place.  

    But that was 20 years ago, when we also wanted a progressive school system for our young children. Now we needed to pay college tuition.  

    I started looking at listings all over North Jersey. I became intrigued by a house in East Orange and called Lina to get her opinion. She said it was already under contract, but another house in the neighborhood was coming on the market the following week.

    Long story short: right away, we felt that house could be “the one.” Then Lina provided us all the information we needed to make our decision. 

    Lina knows about houses – especially architecturally. This one had great bones and an open layout. She helped us understand what and how we may need to renovate.

    She knows about neighborhoods. This house was right next to Bloomfield’s Watsessing Park. We had lived adjacent to Brookdale Park – also an Olmsted designed space – when we were in Montclair, so Lina gave us the rundown on this park. I joined the conservancy not long after we moved! Also, as a true champion of the walkable lifestyle, Lina also sold us on the nearby train and bus, but also the walkable shopping and restaurants

    She knows about communities. A good realtor has the kind of inside information you simply cannot get from just reading listings. Our new community is ethnically diverse, with residents of all ages. The people are extremely welcoming, and very proud of their neighborhood. Because Lina is a great listener, she knew we would respond to all those things.

    Our new home is not far from Montclair – maybe a 15 minute drive. Early on, I considered that a major selling point of the new house -- the ability to keep my entire Montclair life intact. But now, most of my Montclair travels are to see friends. I do everything else here, in our new home!"

    — Nancy, from East Orange

    Here's Why Montclair's New Hotels Are Good News for Home-Buyers

    I often tell my clients that Montclair has everything they need — top-rated restaurants, an indie movie theater, a concert venue, parks and hiking trails, public pools and tennis courts, public gardens, an art museum, a jazz clubtea shops, coffee shops, ice cream shops and just plain shopping galore

    But there’s one thing we haven’t had: a hotel.

    As of next month, that will change. Montclair resident and celebrity make-up artist Bobbi Brown has converted a turn-of-the-century inn into a the town’s first boutique hotel. In fact, the forthcoming George Inn was featured in January’s Vogue magazine, along with some of my favorite local haunts – namely my go-to for sushi: Dai Kichi

    On its heels will be a more traditional hotel right in the heart of downtown Montclair. The still-under-construction MC will be a luxury Marriot hotel that is also slated to open sometime this year. Both will provide guests the walkable experience of Montclair that we who live here so love. 

    I couldn’t be more excited about these much needed additions, especially for home-buyers. When you know there are wonderful accommodations for your guests right in the neighborhood, you have more options in your home search. You can purchase something smaller, foregoing that extra bedroom. Or you can go ahead and commit the sun-room to a home office without alienating the in-laws.

    If you’re coming from far off to give Montclair a look, The George will provide you lavish quarters while you’re here. Once it opens in March, we really will have everything we need.

    Montclair to Montclair - There's No Place Like Home

    These clients thought they'd need to leave Montclair to find the home they dreamed of. 

    “David and I lived in the Bay Area for seven years, before coming back east to be near my parents when our daughter was born. I picked Montclair because it reminded me of the Upper West Side, where I grew up. 

    We bought a unit in a side-by-side duplex and became very close to the family on the other side. We shared an interior wall, but also shared the driveway, the backyard, and the maintenance of the property. It was like a little commune – we even grew vegetables together! Eventually, though, we needed more space. So David and I decided to move back out west.

    We’d first met Lina through our duplex neighbors and she knew what we were struggling with – loving this community, but needing a bigger place of our own. She understood all the factors that made Oregon seem like a better choice for us than Montclair. One day, out of the blue, she called and said, “I have the perfect house for you!” And she did.

    I do not consider myself a religious person, but the way everything turned out was nothing short of miraculous. The new house was everything we were looking for and addressed almost every issue – issues that that had, earlier, seemed insurmountable. We were able to stay in this vibrant, creative community, and a major reason for that was Lina. She is so knowledgeable about every single aspect of the home-buying process that, each time an obstacle emerged (and unfortunately there were many), she was able to solve it. From top notch negotiation skills to being extremely well-versed in all aspects of financing, she went above and beyond when it came to helping us be able to purchase our perfect house and live in this community we adore.”

    Arielle Eckstut, Montclair

    A New Year, A New Listing

    13 White St in West Orange is my first listing to kick off 2018.  While it came on the market back in December I think most people were too busy preparing for the holidays to realize that this little gem slipped in.

    This 3 Bedroom, 2 Bathroom renovated colonial is right where all the action is.  Across the street from Llewellyn Park, steps to the Main Street Hardware Store and the heart of downtown West Orange you can walk to restaurants, entertainment, the West Orange Public Library and Thomas Edison National Park.

     

     

     

     

     

     

                                               

    The house boasts a NEW open concept kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite counters and marble tile floors.  NEW bathrooms; one with a Jacuzzi tub and updated plumbing & electric are just a few of the features this home has to offer.  Not to be overlooked is a deep back yard to house all of your friends and family for warm weather BBQ’s and entertaining.  Did I mention low taxes?

    Come to the Open House this weekend on Saturday 1/6 from 12 – 2, or give me a call to set up a private showing; I’d love to show you around! 

    Montclair: Walkable and Skateable

    As I write this, the snow is falling outside my window, blanketing my bluestone patio and starting to coat the bushes in the backyard. It will snow for hours, and it will be beautiful.

    The new year started cold. I don’t mind the cold, as long as I have a warm house with a fire to return to. Still, my first thought was: “How long until spring?” I’m not a big “resolution” maker, but one thing I want to try and do more of this year is notice what’s beautiful, and take the time to really take it in.

    As I was driving past Edgemont Park yesterday, I did just that. 

    Situated in the center of Montclair, Edgemont is one of the beautiful year-round gems of this town. Majestic trees, renovated playground, big fountain in the middle of the graceful pond. But when it gets cold — very cold — it turns into something right out of the Saturday Evening Post.

    The pond doesn’t freeze solid every year, but when it does, it’s magical. The ice becomes thick enough to skate on and suddenly, the park is transformed. People come from all over town to skate Edgemont Pond, gliding past the statue or zipping around with hockey sticks, aiming at one of the goals that someone has hauled over in their SUV.  There have been years when the town provides hot chocolate on the bank of the pond — the type of memory many of us have from when we were kids. The type of memory many of us dream of for our own children.

    I used to live right across the street from that pond. In fact, I taught all three of my children to skate at Edgemont. One thing I’ll admit, however, is that sometimes I took that magical view for granted. I love my new home, but my backyard is not a Norman Rockwell. 

    Some clients are reluctant to put their homes on the market in the winter. They think their house will show better in the spring. But the cold has its own beauty, and there are plenty of great reasons to list before the spring thaw — the main one being less competition in the marketplace. If you’re thinking of selling — or buying — right now, give me a call. I’d love to take you through more of this beautiful place and time.

    Photo credit: Michael Stahl at Portraits by Michael Stahl

     

    Tag, You're It!

    Most people I talk to have some kind of relationship with Facebook – they love it, or hate it, or…it’s complicated. I’m a Facebook enthusiast. My business page is a great, easy way to disseminate information about real estate issues; community pages provide quick access to all the local goings on; and local “swap” pages allow my clients to get rid of some of their excess stuff before putting their homes on the market. 

    But nothing quite compares to the Facebook moments where I’ve found myself “tagged” in someone’s post and then gone on to read a comment like this one:

    “If you want someone super smart, who doesn’t just know the market but has fully analyzed it (she has an MBA) AND who knows everything about things like the value of your particular boiler, then please choose Paulina “Lina” Panza – Walkable Suburb. I’ve sold a home and bought a home with her, my mother just bought a home with Lina, and one of my closest friends bought and sold with her. She is amazing.” 

    Reading that felt great. 

    If you know me at all, you know that it’s not really my style to point out a comment like this, but I’m biting the bullet today because I think it’s important for every buyer and seller to know that picking an agent to work with can be complicated – and checking out an agent’s areas of expertise can provide you with a partner that goes beyond merely showing homes and negotiating contracts. 

    First, I just want to go on record as saying I do not know the exact value of every particular boiler off the top of my head. But I usually get pretty close. I do not consider this a superpower as much as the result of my innate interest in houses and homes. My father, Paul Weidlinger, was a noteworthy architect and engineer – designing and teaching design at some of the world’s most respected universities. So, maybe it’s in my DNA. But the fact is, I was brought up by a man that saw the world through the eyes of a structural problem-solver. I think this is what led me to study architecture as an undergrad, and also what fostered my lifelong passion for understanding the structural aspects of renovation.

    Meaning: when I walk through homes with my clients, we can really get into what kind of changes can be made and how. 

    Helping people find their right home – and helping them make their home right for them – are two things I love spending my time doing. If you or someone you know could benefit from my expertise and passion, give me a call. I can help you find (or create!) the house of your dreams!

    Gratitude for Jodi Aishton (and Pie!)

    As Thanksgiving approaches, I (like most) spend a lot of time thinking about food, but even more time thinking about all I’m grateful for. Work-wise, I immediately think of the people who have entrusted me to help them buy or sell their homes. (Thank you!) And my colleagues, who offer advice and guidance when I’m faced with a challenging real estate situation. (Thank you!) And, of course, the friends and former clients who refer me to people. (Thank you!)

    But always at the top of that thanking list is Jodi Aishton. I seriously could not get through a single day without her.

    My office-mate, Tamima, and I have “shared” an assistant for years. The woman who held that position previously was amazing – 30 years of real estate experience and the ability to anticipate our every need. When she left, we never thought we would find someone to fill her shoes.

    Then, about eight months ago, Tamima happened upon Jodi at a fundraising committee meeting at their temple. Back in our office, Tamima said, “I met someone who would be a great real estate administrator -- if only she knew something about real estate.”

    If you have ever bought or sold a home, you’re familiar with the vast number of details required to see a real estate transaction from contract to closing. Appraisals, inspections, paperwork sent here and there. Everything needs to happen by a certain time, and Jodi seamlessly manages it all.

    She designs our postcards and brochures, gets them printed, coordinates photography shoots and attorney meetings. I am in awe of how she can set up six different Saturday showings that not only accommodate schedules of buyer and sellers, but also plan it all around the most efficient driving route. Working with her is like having our own personal 5-star app!

    I know Thanksgiving is a holiday for “family,” but in the short time she’s been with us, Jodi has become family, and I am so incredibly thankful for that. Because of Jodi, I can serve my clients better. And because of Jodi, our office runs smooth as a pumpkin pie. 

    (See how I moved right back to food?!)

    And speaking of smooth pumpkin pie, The Pie Store on Watchung Avenue makes one of the smoothest.  

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and those you cherish.

    My Trip to the Montclair Farmer's Market

    A few weeks ago, I was headed to Brooklyn for my brother’s 50th birthday, and on my way, I stopped at Little Daisy’s Bake Shop to pick up a birthday cake and some cookies for the occasion. Before I got on the highway, I decided to swing by the Montclair Farmer’s Market -- a regular Saturday destination, although usually one that I hit on my way home, not on my way out of town. 

    I can’t really explain what came over me, but the next thing I knew, I was buying my brother Brussels sprouts. For his birthday. I’d never given my brother vegetables as a gift before. I don’t think I’d ever gifted vegetables to anyone. But when I saw the giant stalk with funny little cabbages hanging from it, it seemed so preposterous and funny. (Carrots aren’t funny, certainly not in the same way.)

    I left the Farmer’s Market not even considering how I might present the Brussels sprouts. None of the farmers seemed to have gift wrap, so I just brought them along naked with the bakery confections. 

    If you’re looking for gifts, the Farmer’s Market has plenty of more traditional fare: pies, local honey, granola, plants, and flowers. Sometimes they have shearling throws and often they have a variety of interesting spices. I love the fishmonger and the fresh-baked bread, and I’m also kind of a sucker for the pickles-on-a-stick. That was an idea whose time could not have come soon enough for me!

    In the years since I’ve moved here, the Farmer’s Market has grown into a true marketplace, where people come to meet and gather. It’s like a party. And the Walnut Street eateries complete the scene, with Montclair Bread Company, Gina’s Bakery, Le Salbuen, Ray’s, Red Eye Café, The Spot, The Corner, and Egan’s offering all manner of delectable fare. 

    For me, the Farmer’s Market was a happy pit stop that Saturday, but it’s a ritual destination for many every Saturday. I love seeing people walk and bike there from all over town – singles, couples, families, pets. If you’re coming to check out Montclair one Saturday, try and stop by. The offerings may not make you laugh, but I bet they'll make you happy.

    Montclair Farmer’s Market
    Walnut Street Train Station Parking Lot
    Saturdays  8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
    June through November
    And some vendors stay throughout the year!