Searching/Buying Home

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!

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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.

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation!

Atlas Van LinesOne of the most frequent pieces of feedback I get from my clients is that I'm very knowledgeable about and good at explaining the ins and outs of real estate sales. I think that's probably true, largely because I believe the more people know, the better they are at both buying and selling.

So, today, I want to pass on some information about relocating.

If you or your spouse are making a work-related move, the employer may offer a relocation package. They may offer to pay for your closing costs, pay for your move, even buy your house if it sits on the market too long. Most of the big corporations use a relocation company, like Cartus, which provides various services and resources - one of which is to set you up with one of their contracted real estate agents, usually one from a corporate-owned real estate company.

However, you are not obligated to use their recommended agent or agency.

The reason I mention this is because it's often not made clear to sellers that Cartus will work with any agent, usually with no financial ramifications to the seller. Meaning, if you worked with a real estate agent that you really liked when you bought your house, you can use that same agent to sell your house - even if a corporate relocation package is part of the picture.

This comes as great news to many sellers who have already built a trusting relationship with a local agent. Or to those who prefer to use an agent recommended by a friend.

If you're selling your house for a business move and you've been offered a relocation package, let's talk. I can explain to you how the system works so you can make decisions that make you happy. I've been told I'm very good at that kind of thing! 973-809-5277

A Great Value in Glen Ridge: 8 Hathaway Place

8 Hathaway PlaceGood news for prospective buyers looking for homes in Glen Ridge: I have a new listing for a great house at a great price. 8 Hathaway Place is a very pretty four-bedroom Colonial in the north end of town. This home has all the charming architectural details one would expect from a home built in 1920, but it also has modern conveniences such as central air-conditioning, an open floor plan  and a finished rec room in the basement. Hathaway Place is a not a through street so this house offers a low-traffic location. It is available for $499,000.

8 Hathaway Place is also ideally located for commuters: it is walking distance to both bus and train service to New York City. The town of Glen Ridge boasts an excellent school district; New Jersey Monthly last year ranked its high school 12th overall out of 328 public high schools surveyed.  The town is also known for its charming gas lamps on every street corner. So if a lovely home at a reasonable price in a charming town with great schools appeals to you, don't hesitate to get in touch with me. I'd love to show it to you or join me at our open house Sunday 10/13 from 2 to 4pm.

A Prophet Speaks: When to Buy a Home

As someone who makes a living helping people buy and sell homes in New Jersey, I have a lot of respect for a former Goldman Sachs banker named John R. Talbott. Talbott clearly understands housing markets; he saw the coming collapse long before many industry professionals did. In 2003 he published The Coming Crash in the Housing Market and followed it up three years later with Sell Now! The End of the Housing Bubble. So when I saw his piece "Homes--Buy Now!" in the Huffington Post last month, I was intrigued.

Talbott notes that home prices have tumbled: adjusted for inflation, homes are currently selling for around what they were back in pre-bubble 1997. In addition, mortgage rates are at historic lows. Talbot doesn't necessarily think that these ultra-low rates are good for the American economy when our national debt is equal to our total GDP and more than four times the amount of total tax revenues. He foresees the return of  inflation and high interest rates as the only solution to our huge national debt. If he is correct, as he has been in the past, then this really is the best possible time to buy a home.

How Many Different Mortgage Lenders Should I Talk To?

Here's a scenario: New home buyer-client comes to me to find a house.  My first question to them is always "how important is it that you can walk to the train and to shopping?"  My second question is then "Have you been pre-qualified for a mortgage?".  If it's from a lender I'm familiar with we're all set to go look at houses.  If it's from a questionable company I may ask that they be "re-qualified" by a lender I've worked with before.

Most buyers are happy to have another company with which to compare rates, but some buyers balk at the prospect of having their credit pulled again because they fear it will damage a hard-earned high credit score.  This is a ploy that some mortgage guys use to stop the buyer from shopping around for a better rate.  Read this fantastic article by loan officer Dan Green (whom I've actually never worked with) to understand more about how much this will truly damage your credit score.

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      Two Dalebrook Road: Walkable in Bloomfield

      Sometimes a house just has the right combination of elements  --  location, price and space.  2 Dalebrook Road, in Bloomfield earns high marks on any walkability scale. It's close to Brookdale' s  interesting ethnic restaurants-- Stamna (Greek), Boonsong  (Thai) and Bar Cara (Italian).  Houses of worship-- Temple Ner Tamid and the Watchung Presbyterian Church-- are literally steps away, as is Bloomfield Middle School. For commuters, the DeCamp bus to New York City stops right around the corner, and Brookdale Park is a five-minute up Watchung Avenue.

      Location is not the only virtue of this property. 2 Dalebrook Rd is a well-maintained split-level with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a den and an oversized rec-room - great for table tennis, billiards or a child's playroom. Oak hardwood floors and lots of windows make the house bright and airy. A newly carpeted and painted rec room, a new shower in the master bath, new front steps, and central air-conditioning (you guessed it, also new) make this house move-in ready, all at an affordable $379,000. Happen to be looking for homes in Bloomfield?  Check out this great house in a great neighborhood at a great price.

      Perfect Schmerfect: Searching for your Montclair dream home

      When Voltaire said "The perfect is the enemy of the good," he wasn't philosophizing about buying real estate in Essex County NJ, but I often remind my buyers of the wisdom of his words and how it applies to their home search. During my years as a New Jersey real estate agent I have watched many good houses get passed over by clients who are looking for the perfect Montclair house. The houses that fall short are often the ones they later realize had lots of potential and manageable flaws. Perhaps the search for the perfect house is something all home buyers have to go through, and losing a few good ones along the way is just part of the real estate process. Still, I thought I would offer a strategy based on my own home buying experience. First, try to define the things that are non-negotiable. Perhaps lots of natural light is one of those things. Maybe you want to be in the Montclair school district. Or perhaps it's a walk of less than 10 minutes to the train station or an extra room for your mom to stay in.  List your top ten things.  Then get a fat black marker and be prepared to cross half of them out. When I bought my Montclair house there were 3 less-than-perfect things that I thought I could live with.  I used my fat black marker to cross off  1.) Quiet Street  2.)Lots of privacy  3.)Renovated kitchen and bathrooms.

      3 compromises and how I dealt with them when buying my house in Montclair:

      1. Busy road on side yard. Put up a nice fence all the way around the property and planted lots of trees and bushes.
      2. Too close to house next door. Put frosted glass in some windows, Put up a high fence. Planted trees. Got nice wooden blinds.
      3. Kitchens and bathrooms were old. Painted kitchen cabinets & got new hardware. Renovated the master bath. Changed fixtures in other bathrooms.

      But here's what I got that was important to me (and that was not always found in Montclair real estate in my price range):

      1. Near the park, village and transportation
      2. Lots of light, good flow, clean lines.
      3. Powder room on the 1st floor.
      4. Master bathroom
      5. 1st floor den/playroom/tv room for the kids

      No matter what your price range, there will always be something you want that is slightly out of reach. So get your black marker ready, work from your shortened list and you just might find the house that is actually the perfect house for you.