Montclair

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.

 

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.

 

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!

Learn More About Montclair

Get Healthy: Run Your Errands in a Walkable Suburb

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I live about a mile from the drug store. A post office and a Starbucks are across the street. One block north is one of my favorite gift shops.

When I walk "uptown" to run some errands, it absolutely takes more time than if I drive. But the experience is 100 times better.

I love looking at people's gardens on my way to do my errands. I'm a sucker for pretty flowers - they remind me to pay attention to what's beautiful in the world.

I'm also bound to run into friends or acquaintances on my way there or back. We may not have time to sit and catch up over coffee, but a spontaneous 15-minute chat in front of the firehouse can be almost as soul-filling.

Plus, when I walk, my body feels better. Soaking up some sunshine, moving rather than sitting, taking in the fresh air. Turns out all the things my grandmother told me were good for me really are.

The medical community says when we're running our errands on bikes or on foot, we're healthier. When I do it, I'm happier.

With 7 train stations, myriad bus stops, 5 distinct retail centers and several more smaller clusters of shops, restaurants and services, Montclair offers plenty of opportunities to show up on foot. Wherever you live, there's always somewhere to walk.

If you want to find out more about this Walkable Suburb or even take a walk around town with me, please call! 973.809.5277

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New Listing: 182 Alexander Ave. Upper Montclair

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Sometimes Things Go Sideways

One thing I love about this area is how individual the homes are. Even within broad categories like Colonial or Tudor, there are so many variations. And even within all that individuality resides an extremely small subcategory.

I'm talking now about the Sideways House.

Sideways Houses are homes that have been built so the front entrance faces the side yard, rather than the street. This orientation gives the home a decidedly Country House feel, as it overlooks only landscaping. From the inside, Sideways Houses tend to feel very private and secluded, even though they might be smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood.

And that's exactly the case for this wonderful 5-bedroom 2-full/2-half bath home in beautiful Upper Montclair. Wonderful because it looks out on a big, open yard, wonderful because it offers a coveted wrap-around porch, and wonderful because the renovated kitchen has an unusually "artsy" vibe, featuring a large custom banquette for lazy Sunday brunches with family and friends.

Other features include: oversized rooms, central air conditioning, newly renovated, ensuite master bathroom,

This home is a 3-minute walk to the New York City bus; the train station about a 10-minute walk. It's also located at the Northern end of town, with quick and easy access to the highway.

Because they're so few and far between, Sideways Houses don't come on the market very often.

Priced at $799,000, this special house will not last. If you're looking for a wonderful family home in a remarkable community, please call me and let me show you the magic of Sideways Living.  973.809.5277 

Montclair Fireworks and Footpaths

I love fireworks.fireworks

My mother grew up in Copenhagen near the Tivoli Gardens where there are fireworks every Saturday night. It was a source of great joy to her and I think she "infected" me because, come July 4th Weekend, there's nothing I'd rather do than sit back and watch the sky explode.

When I first moved here, the town fireworks display took place at the high school football stadium. My young family could easily walk there - it was about a mile away if you drove on the streets but the walk was made easier by some of the "shortcuts" between my house and the field.

When my kids were young, we referred to these shortcuts as "secret pathways," but with their own street markers, they are anything but. These little paved footways were created so that people walking to the bus or train didn't have to go all the way around a long block to reach the bus line. They allow you to "cut through," as if you were going through someone's backyard to take a more direct route to the bus line. There are about half a dozen of these little corridors throughout Montclair, and if you live in the middle of one of the longer avenues, they can cut your walking time in half.

We used to call them secret pathways because we often discovered them accidentally, while on a walk. This has been one of my great joys - discovering the quiet amenities of a town that upholds a commitment to walkability.

The fireworks have moved from the high school stadium to the stadium at Montclair State University - too far for us to walk, although there are always non-car options. That show always takes place on July 4th. There's another show each year at Brookdale Park - this year it's on Friday, July 1st. I, of course, go to both, because I can't get enough fireworks. If you're like that too, here's a list of all the surrounding fireworks shows this weekend.

And if you want a tour of Secret Pathways, or to talk about any of the other ways Montclair rules as a walkable suburb, please call me. It would be my pleasure to walk you through them! 973.809.5277

 

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4 Ways to Avoid Paying Too Much for a House in Montclair

Version 2Right now in Montclair, houses are selling for 103% of asking price. Meaning: on average, most sellers are getting 3 percent more than they list their home for. This is great for sellers! But how do buyers protect themselves from considerably overpaying for a house?

I tell my clients there are four things to seriously consider when buying.

1 - Understand the Market Conditions Most of us are familiar with the concept of supply and demand: The fewer there are of something, coupled with the more people who want the thing, the more expensive the thing is likely to be. In housing, this can be a function of many variables, but I advise buyers to become familiar with the Buyer to Seller Ratio and the Absorption Rate.

The current Buyer to Seller Ratio in Montclair is 37/100, or for every 100 sellers, there are 37 buyers. That's a lot of buyers for not much housing selection, which means the prices of "desirable" properties are likely to be bid way up.

The Absorption Rate right now is 2.7 months, which means that if no new houses come on the market, the current number of homes will sell out in less than 3 months. An Absorption Rate of under 6 months means that home prices are appreciating; under 3 months means that prices are escalating at approximately half a percent per month. In practical terms: if you bid on a house and lose it, by the time you put in a bid for the next house, it could be 1-2 percent more than it would have sold for a couple of months ago.

The lesson here is, if you find a great house in a rising market, don't underbid. You may end up paying more in the long run.

2 - It's Not Only About Price When you have to compete for a house, you can make your offer stronger by adjusting some of the terms in your contract. If you are savvy about home systems or have family who are in the trades, you might consider waiving your inspection contingency. This can be attractive to sellers for two reasons. 1. They know they won't be nickel-and-dimed for multiple repairs, and 2. They do not have to be bothered with estimates and scheduling contractors.

If you have the liquidity and you don't need a mortgage, you can make a cash offer, and waive you mortgage contingency, but you will likely have to show "proof of funds." Be mindful, however, that in the absence of a mortgage you will not need a bank appraisal, a measure that ensures that the bank is not loaning on a house for far more money than it's worth.

You can also increase the chances of your offer being accepted by writing a letter to the owners - sometimes an emotional appeal for a beloved house makes you a more popular candidate, especially if the seller has a home that's been in the family for years and is looking for just the right steward.

3 - Be Aware of Escalation Clauses and Buyer Fatigue Obviously, if you significantly overbid, you may get the house, but you'll be stuck with a big price tag. Some buyers include an Escalation Clause in their offer - agreeing to pay, say, $5,000 over the highest bidder. This can work well for some, but it wrests a lot of control from the buyer and often results in Buyer's Remorse, so most seller's agents advise against it.

If you underbid consistently, you put yourself at risk for Buyer Fatigue. You've lost 10 houses and a contender comes along and, no matter what, you will NOT lose this house. I don't have to tell you what happens in this scenario. Suffice it to say: you get your house, but at what cost?

4 - Make Your Offer Based on Your Expected Residency If you pay a bit more for a home than it's technically worth, you will feel it much more acutely if you're planning to put it back on the market in 5 years. However, if you're planning to stay for the long haul, and can ride out market conditions and amortize your investment, most consider the extra money far less of a "real" concern.

One of the things my clients seem to like about me is my interest in educating them about the housing market - in addition to finding them a great home. If you'd like to learn more or have questions about Absorption Rates and Buyer/Seller ratios in other towns- call me! 973.809.5277

May in Montclair 2016!

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I'm practically breathless, and it's not from the pollen. May in Montclair is in full bloom and there is truly not enough time in my days for it all.

"May in Montclair" is not simply a town during the spring. "May in Montclair" became a "thing," in 1979, when the town first distributed a calendar of events listing everything to see and do. From the Presby Iris Gardens to the blossoming Van Vleck estate, it's a month-long celebration of one of the most beautiful places in New Jersey during one of its most beautiful moments in time.

Do I already sound like a commercial? It may get worse.

As I write this, we're in the middle of the Montclair Film Festival, a 10-day extravaganza of screenings, discussions and parties that has grown so much since its inception in 2012,  it's hard to believe it hasn't been part of May in Montclair forever.

There are parent workshops, lectures, lunches, garden tours, walking tours, dance performances, choral performances, cooking demos, book sales, art talks and art walks. And garden events galore!

Also, over the next two weekends, the high school is staging Pippen on Friday and Saturday nights. Aside from being a wonderful show, this is a great way for parents to get a sense of the amazing arts education available in the district.

There's a bike tour and dining alfresco and Saturday night music on Church Street - and even though that kind of thing happens even in non-May months - well, it just feels more special in May.

If you're considering buying here, please spend some of your May in Montclair. It's like seeing our town in its most flattering outfit and having its best possible hair day. I know you know what I'm talking about. Dig in!