Lina Panza

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 fish monger 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!

 

Queens to West Orange - We're 2 minutes from the New York bus!

We moved to this house about 10 months ago from Queens. I grew up in New Jersey but my husband was born and raised in Queens so this move was a big leap of faith for him. We had been renting, started looking to buy, and quickly discovered that the $450,000 we were considering spending on a 1-bedroom in Queens could get us a house in New Jersey.

We started looking in Maplewood and South Orange because they were on a train line, but Lina showed us some homes in West Orange in the same price range that were bigger and had more updates. Our house is 2 minutes from the New York bus – it’s super easy and in some ways more reliable than the train!

I love being in West Orange. Getting around is simple. The schools are great. There are plenty of parks and activities – including the zoo! – and we are constantly taking our two young children with us on hikes in South Mountain or Eagle Rock Reservations, or out to visit farms in New Jersey.

I love the proximity to Livingston and Montclair – two places we often go out to dinner or to shop. I love our neighborhood, which happens to be full of people like us – young families who moved from the city for more space. But mostly, I love walking into a house with a new kitchen and a finished basement. I’m excited to come home every day.

My friends come to visit from the city and they are shocked at the amount of space we have. I tell them, “You can have this too!”

 - Mary Kate, West Orange

New To The Market: 71 Beach Street, Bloomfield

 

 

 

 

Have you heard of the "Historic District," in Bloomfield?!  It's tucked away yet close to everything.  Classic colonials and Victorians, wide lots with mature trees and gardens abound on streets with names like Beach, Elm, Oak and Spruce.  This part of town feels more like Glen Ridge or Montclair than the rest of Bloomfield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

71 Beach St is my newest listing in this friendly neighborhood.  As soon as you pull up to the front of this charming property,  you feel like you're miles away from the downtown hustle and bustle, (but really you're just steps from shops, restaurants and NYC transportation).  Oversized bay windows and a well maintained garden in the front welcome you in to an easy flowing center hall colonial.  The living room boasts built-in bookcases, a colonial style mantle surrounding a wood burning fireplace.  Off of the living room is a French door leading to a private screened in porch with a paver stone patio and a lovely private yard with more lush greenery.

Walk out of this home and you're a few steps away from the Bloomfield Public Library, High School and College.  Bloomfield and Glen Ridge train stations are also a quick stroll away and with a 29 minute train ride, you'll be in midtown Manhattan before you even have a chance to doze off. 

Charm and convenience in one turn of a key.  This one is going to go fast! 

Come to the Open House Sunday, October 29th, or we can set up a private viewing by appointment.  Call me - I'd love to take you around!

Montclair - No Shortage of Porches

“Look at that porch!” says practically every client on our first tour of the town. “Oh, look at that one!”

Montclair and Glenridge are full of porches, and it stands to reason that my clients moving from the city would be drawn to them. A porch is the suburban version of a front stoop – it’s a way to be at home and be out in the world at the same time.

But it’s not just city dwellers who are drawn to porches. The National Association of Home Builders said earlier this month that of the 780,000 single family home constructions started last year, over 65% of them included porches – 10% more than a decade ago.

To me, there’s nothing better than a porch with a roof. I can’t think of many things as relaxing as an early autumn Sunday morning – watching the leaves dance around the yard or even listening to the rain – while sipping coffee in a big-cushioned chair on a cool, dry porch. I’ve seen many homeowners add a front porch and it completely transforms the feeling of the house. It just seems more welcoming.

A gracious front porch can be set up like a second living room, with rugs, table lamps, and ceiling fans. I have a friend who keeps a tea cart on her porch; it’s always stocked with glasses and an ice bucket for an impromptu evening gathering. Someone shows up with a bottle of wine and suddenly it’s a get-together. She says it’s been a great way to get to know her neighbors.

As you can tell, I’m pro-porch, even though I don’t have one of my own. But in this walkable suburb, I feel as though I benefit from the porches of others – for an evening chat or just a walk-by wave. It one of the many things that make a bustling town like Montclair truly feel like a tight community.

NEW To The Market: 127 Stratford Drive, Nutley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm proud to present to the market this perennially popular "Buckingham" style townhouse in the desirable Cambridge Heights community in Nutley.  127 Stratford Drive has it all.

Walk right up to the front door (no steps) and into the main level of this stylishly updated move in ready home.  The first floor has a welcoming living area and open Dining Room / Kitchen space with sliders going out to a cozy outdoor patio with gas line for bbq grill.  Upstairs you'll find a master bedroom with vaulted ceiling, en suite bathroom and spacious walk in closet.  In addition, two more bedrooms (or one that can be used for a den/office) one more full bathroom and laundry room complete the layout.

Community amenities include clubhouse, pool, tennis courts, playground, jogging path and fitness center.  Steps to Clifton Commons shopping center and NYC transportation.

Come to one of the Open Houses Saturday October 7th & Sunday October 8th or we can set up a private showing by appointment.

Hillary Clinton Visits Montclair

Last night at Back to School Night, I sat in on my daughter’s 8th period class and turned to a mom sitting nearby, “This class seems so empty.”

“It’s because of Hillary,” she said.

I was not one of the lucky 1,000 people to score a ticket for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book signing here at our own Watchung booksellers. Apparently, they sold out in an hour.

A friend went and was telling me about it this morning: people started showing up at 2:00 pm for Clinton's 6:00 pm arrival. Over the next few hours, the line wound around the corner to Watchung Field.  “You could feel the love,” my friend said. “Grown-ups. Children. There was such a sense of camaraderie.”

One of the things I love about Montclair is how that camaraderie shows up everywhere. Exercise classes. Library events. Town soccer. The Van Vleck Plant Sale. We have big town amenities (art museum, indie movie theater, a minor league baseball stadium) and a small town vibe.

In my opinion, Watchung booksellers contributes a lot to the overarching feeling of community. They support all the local writers (of which there are many!) through readings and book events, they host tons of book groups and children’s programs, they always have enough staff available to advise and recommend.

And last night they brought us Hillary.

In fairness, Back to School Night provides its own brand of camaraderie, especially at the high school. People you’ve seen throughout the years watching your kids play sports, serving together on PTAs, sitting against the window of Montclair Music Studio waiting for Abigail’s violin lesson to end – all come together for a few hours. Clumps of old friends convening in front of the Nurse’s Office or outside one of the stairwells during their children’s lunch period. It honestly feels like a great big cocktail party (although without any cocktails).

I’m the mom who always looks forward to Back to School Night, especially for the feeling of community. But I will admit this: If I’d gotten a Hillary ticket, I would have happily cut class.

 

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.