Enjoying Home

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.

Another Happy Client!

There isn't much more stressful in life than buying a home - and especially buying your first home. You can get a sense of what it's like to work with me if you spend some time reading reviews on Zillow. Here's a recent post that made me feel great about doing the work that I do:

"Lina helped us purchase our home recently. As first time homebuyers, we had many questions going in, but Lina patiently and confidently guided us through each step of the process. Lina was professional, reliable and very accessible, returning callskeep calm and addressing questions and concerns efficiently.

We very much appreciated that she took the time up front to learn about our family and the type of home and neighborhood we wanted. She did a very nice job of only bringing to our attention homes that met our criteria.

Lina was very well versed in the local real estate market and was able to teach us more about the geography and detailed attributes of the many different neighborhoods in town. From beginning to end, Lina was calm and patient but knew when to push, frequently offering the right piece of information and guidance at the right moment. It was a pleasure working with Lina, and we look forward to many happy years in the home she helped us purchase!"  -- K.T.

New Listing: The Perfect Commuter Home - Bloomfield, NJ

What does it take to make a perfect commuter home?

o New York bus one block away! o 21-minute commute to midtown! o High end cook's kitchen! o Central air conditioning and outdoor hot tub! o Big bright family room! o Cozy fireplace! o Basement Rec Room! o Quiet neighborhood! o Easy highway access!

kitchen fam room hot tub

10 Bolton Place was just listed for $399,000 and will not last long on the market.

With ample room for relaxation and entertaining, this sweet home is perfectly placed for you to take advantage of quick, easy access to NY Port Authority. Whether your family is growing out of an apartment into a house, or downsizing into a simpler lifestyle, you have everything to gain in this 3-bedroom gem.

If you'd like to see this or any other homes, please call or text: 973.809.5277

New Listing: 101 Darling Ave, Bloomfield, NJ

darling BR

I have a friend who, whenever she moved into a new place, always took one of the smaller bedrooms for herself (and her husband), giving the master bedroom to her young daughter. Since I've known her, she's lived in three different homes and has done this each and every time. I thought it was crazy, but she'd always explain that her daughter spends so much time in her room -- she has friends sleep over and all her toys are in there - it's more practical. "I basically just read for 10 minutes and then go to sleep in my room. What do I need a big space for?" she'd say.

While this was never a decision I would make, I could sort of see her point. However, if she lived in this home, none of that would have been necessary.

At 101 Darling Ave, two of the three bedrooms are so spacious, they're both considered "masters." In fact, the whole house is much larger than what you'd typically find in Bloomfield (2400 sq ft vs. 1600!). The kitchen and baths are renovated, it has a brand new great room, and the house is light and bright.

However, the feature that truly speaks to me is the backyard. One of the most expansive in the area, the flat property boasts a deep lot that you can look out on from the main deck or the Juliet balcony off one of the bedrooms (perhaps this is the master relegated to the grown-ups!). The backyard truly feels like a little park!

With its quick access to both Route 3 and the Garden State Parkway, and the bus to New York City at the corner, you will be well positioned for both adventure and recuperation in this extremely "darling" home! To find out more about this or other homes, please don't hesitate to call: 973.809.5277

To Stage or Not To Stage?

Bessida Before 2 Bessida After

In my opinion, this should not even be a question. According to the Real Estate Staging Association, "Professionally listed staged properties look better, spend 73 percent less time on the market, typically sell for more money, end up on buyers' 'must see' lists, are perceived as 'well-maintained,' and have fewer concessions requested of the seller."

Plus, who doesn't love a good make-over?

Staging is not decorating. In fact, in many ways it's actually un-decorating. It usually involves decluttering, repairing and (unfortunately) depersonalizing a home so that a prospective buyer can easily envision themselves living there.

Sometimes it requires eliminating odors from pets, cooking, or mothballs. Or freshening up the landscape - trimming or removing overgrown bushes (especially important in a walkable suburb!). Also, although not really staging, there are "fixes" that are best done before putting a house on the market, such as removing underground oil tanks or removing asbestos pipe-wrap.

Some homes can be staged in a day but others take weeks or months of planning, sorting, storing and executing.

I consider staging an activity with few downsides and huge potential returns. Probably the worst you can say about staging is that it can be a little sad to make your home look its very best only to pack up and leave it. I had one client who didn't want to spend money refinishing floors when they moved in and only went to the trouble to do it when they put the house on the market. "I can't believe how much better our house looks now!" I remember her saying.

So if you're thinking of selling in a few years, you may want to start in on some of those repairs or touch ups now, while you have time to enjoy them.

(And now for a moment of shameless self-promotion: The before and after photo above is a home that sat on the market with two different agents for a combined 728 days. Neither bothered to stage the house. When I took over the listing and staged it, the house sold in 45 days.)

Axes to Grind/Knives to Sharpen - Montclair Watercooler Offers It All

Montclair Watercooler Digest Number 8046 arrived in my email on Monday at 7:49PM. It contained questions and answers about water bill rates and a question about ease of parking at a nearby commuter park and ride. Also, someone found a pair of glasses on Church Street, someone else was looking for a good employment agency to hire temps, and various people needed a professional carpet cleaner, a contractor to build a deck, and a line dance teacher. Someone was selliOil and Waterng a car. Someone else lost a cat. Then found it.

I also learned about a free film, a Coffee and Conversation, and more than I ever could imagine about solar panel installation.

The Montclair Watercooler is a Yahoo group that started 15 years ago and now has almost 3,700 members and a Facebook Page. To me, this online group functions like a big backyard barbeque where people drift in and out of conversations about every imaginable topic, gathering information and sharing what they know. Sometimes the conversations get heated, sometimes they warm your heart. I remember once after a terrible storm, a member of the group offered his Wet-Vac to anyone that needed to pump their basement. People created an online queue and passed vacuum along, one to another. There's also a member who occasionally offers to sharpen people's kitchen knives - for free. That spirit abounds here, making the Watercooler both invaluable and beloved -- and another one of the things that makes this community so special.

Confession: I Have Garage Issues...

Panza HouseI consider myself a very accepting person, but I also hold some very strong opinions. One of them relates to attached garages.

First, please let me say that if you have an attached garage, this is in no way meant to disparage you or your carport. But if I'm being honest, I've never really liked the way a garage looks when it's attached to a house. Whenever that big door is open it looks like a gaping mouth to me. Plus, philosophically, I've always considered houses a place for people to live in, not cars.

And yet, the house I live in now has just that amenity.

Last year, when I downsized, I made a list of the things that were important to me in a home. After looking for a while, I found a house that met virtually all of my criteria. I truly believed that buying this house was going to require some big concessions on my part, as the attached garage is quite a prominent feature from the street. I was wrong.

With my background in architecture, I am always brainstorming with my clients about change they might make to suit their aesthetics. But I also now try to impress upon them that if we give our aversions too much power, we run the risk of passing up a home that is actually pretty perfect.

Am I saying that I now like the look of attached garages? No, not at all. But I do love getting out of my car on a rainy day and taking four bone-dry steps into my house. And I'm grateful that I didn't allow my once hard-line garage stance prevent me from moving into one of the happiest homes I've ever owned.

Driving Less: Sign of the (NewYork) Times

300px-Waldwick,_NJ,_train_station_from_pedestrian_bridgeEarlier this week, I came across an intriguing headline in The New York Times: "Young Americans Lead Trend to Less Driving."  As aNew Jersey Realtorwhose home-buying  clients tend to be New Yorkers looking for urban convenience along with leafy yards and good schools, I've been a witness to this phenomenon locally. Apparently it's happening nationwide as well.

According to Phineas Baxandall, the author of a report mentioned in the article, "Millennials  (those born in the 1980s or '90s) aren't driving cars".  This is a major change from past generations, when teenagers everywhere saw a drivers license as a symbol of independence. A drop in the number of  licenses issued nationwide is partly the result of a weak economy (fewer jobs to drive to, a desire to save on gas), but also the result of increased environmental awareness and improved mass transit options nationwide. On the other end of the age spectrum, Baby Boomers are "aging out of the daily work force and need to commute less," according John Schwartz, the author of the article.

I believe that the trend toward increased use of buses, trains and feet (for walking and biking) will continue. And whether you are a Millennial, a Boomer, or somewhere in between, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. I'd love to show you homes in New Jersey communities such as Montclair, Glen Ridge and Maplewood that are already less car-dependent.

 

 

Is Montclair a Safe Community? Walkability Helps!

Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows that I consider walkability very important to both the environment and one's general health, both physical and mental. According to an interesting post on the AARP website blog that I read recently,  walkable communities also tend to be safer communities. The author, Dan Burden, is the Executive Director of the unities Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.  His thinking is: In a neighborhood where residents barely see each other, how can they look out for each other?

In the post, Burden recounts his visits to gated communities and more open, accessible ones. Contrary to expectation, gated communities, built for seclusion and isolation, are not safer. He explains that "Neighbors in neighborhoods designed for inclusiveness watch over their streets naturally and consistently...They use the sidewalks and trails and open space as more than just a place to pass by in their cars  but rather as a way to connect, and yes, as a way to create natural surveillance of their neighborhoods."

I have to admit that before reading Burden's post, I had never thought of walkability as a boon to public safety . It makes a lot of sense, though, and also makes me even more glad that I live and work in Montclair, New Jersey.  

 

Just Say No to Suburban Sprawl (and Yes to Towns Like Maplewood)

Here's a short quiz:  What do the diner, the fast-food drive-thru, the turnpike and the mall have in common? Apparently, these icons of suburbia all had their beginnings in New Jersey. I  learned this bit of historical trivia from an interview with Dr. Richard Jackson published last week on NJ.com.

Jackson is a physician who believes that our environment, specifically suburban sprawl, is making us sick. Born and raised in New Jersey, he remembers when neighborhoods were arranged around downtown: a central area with schools, shops, and religious and civic buildings (towns like Bloomfield, Maplewood and Montclair). At some point however, the American Dream came to mean "getting away from it all."  Homes were built further and further away from downtown areas, which meant a new dependence on the automobile.

As Americans are driving more and walking less, Jackson claims, we are becoming heavier, which leads to complications ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes. We are also living further from each other - this isolation may well have something to do with the huge increase in diagnoses of depression over the past several decades.

Like any good doctor, Jackson has a cure for what ails us. He prescribes a return to traditional neighborhoods: "We need to stop making the car the first priority in everything we build." Sounds like a walkable suburb to me.