Suburban Living

We All Walk Together

Walking on SidewalkEven though I’ve always inherently understood that “cities” tend to be more liberal than rural areas, I never really took any time to think about why. This New York Times piece was an interesting read on how liberals and conservatives tend to organize themselves geographically.

Montclair is a decidedly liberal town. We are a village that tries to welcome all residents with open arms, but the truth is, conservative bumper stickers on these streets are not very typical fare.

But the other truth is that we have plenty of conservatives living here – happily, I might add. I’d always wondered why a right-leaning homebuyer might choose this town (which is about as blue as they come). And, although I can draw plenty of conclusions from this article, I chose to read it as a kind of treatise on how walkability can be one of the great political unifiers. (I know, I know – I’m a walkability nut – but what else can explain the harmony we typically have here in Montclair besides the fact that we all really like that we can walk to Java Love for our morning coffee?)

Over the years, I’ve worked side-by-side with many of my more right-leaning neighbors – on the PTA, on boards, and even in the business of selling homes – and I’ve noticed that, for the most part, our ideals are far more similar than they are different.

Because the third truth is, it's simply a lot more difficult to have an “us versus them” stance when we’re all sharing the same sidewalks. (And bike racks. And train seats.) Or at least that’s how it seems to me. If you’re looking for a change – upsizing, downsizing, or a place to start a family -- I’d love to show you around my town; it can win the hearts and minds of practically everyone.

Montclair: One of the Best Main Streets in NJ!

Main-Street-Fights-BackIf, like me, you are a fanatic about walkability, you will love this article I came upon in Huffington Post. It's very comprehensive and includes almost anything you want to know about who wants to live in a walkable area and why. The biggest takeaway for me was neither revolutionary nor surprising: people who live in areas where they can easily walk to things are reportedly more satisfied with where they live than those who have fewer walkable options.

This makes sense. Walking makes people happy.

The piece cites a few things that you should consider when looking for a walkable area to settle in.

1. Well-connected streets. The smaller the block size, the more easily and directly you'll be able to get from one place to another. 2. Things to walk to, like movies, stores, cafes, parks. Part of the satisfaction, it seems, is having a destination. 3. Good infrastructure for safe walking. If you're looking for housing in an area that doesn't have sidewalks, there's a good chance there won't be a lot of pedestrian street life.

This seems the perfect segue for another article I came across last month: These 12 Towns in NJ Have the Best Main Streets.

Montclair is number two! Restaurants galore. Cute stores. Movie theaters. Activities.

This time of year - when people are all out and about doing their holiday shopping - is when I truly appreciate having options other than the mall. I might be crazy, but being able to do my shopping locally, on foot, makes the holidays feel more special to me.

Ok, maybe not that's not so crazy coming from a Walkability Fanatic!

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

Montclair: More Trees Than People

IMG_6288I often tell clients how living in a walkable suburb just feels better, but have never given much thought to quantifying it. However, others apparently have! There's an article in the New Yorker ("How Trees Calm Us Down") that talks not only about how people feel healthier the more trees are around, but also goes on to say that the benefits come mostly from trees in front yards and those planted at the curb - trees that can be enjoyed by people who walk by.

The scientists said that ten additional trees on a block had the effect of people feeling better to the degree that they would if they were seven years younger - or were given $10,000. That's pretty darn good in my book.

They can't really say what it is about trees that provides such solace and healing, but it seems that the benevolent power of trees will uplift you whether you're a nature lover or not. The "softly fascinating stimulation" of trees, according to the article, is good for our soul. And just being around trees is beneficial to memory, attention and mood.

Wait...did I mention Montclair has more trees than people? Close to 40 thousand! That's a lot of feel good trees. I guess it goes without saying that I'd be delighted to take you around to see some of them - and of course the houses that go with them!

So Proud

Montclair has long been seen as a destination for families of all shapes and colors. Those of us who have raised children here know that our kids all have friends with two momgay marraiges or two dads - as far as they're concerned, it's just another family. How heartening it is to think that soon that may become the sentiment in suburbs all across America.

The Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage last week has far reaching implications in so many sectors, and real estate is certainly one of them. Making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states makes it easier for LGBT couples to get approved loans as a couple - and in towns like Montclair, where lenders often need to see two incomes to qualify buyers, it can be a game changer.

My colleagues and I are so happy to finally be able to leave behind those particular obstacles for so many of our clients. Finding the right house for your family should be fun and exciting, not a series of hoops to jump through.

Will it be sad to one day wake up and realize that Montclair's inclusive nature is no longer its unique selling proposition - that towns everywhere have finally started to regard LGBT couples as just another family? No. It will be awesome!

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.

Walking Around Town is Good For Your Brain

edgemont fountain Soon after starting a family, we moved into our first house in Montclair, which was across the street from a park. And although the playground was in need of a facelift back then, the park had a paved path, a climbing tree, a baseball diamond, a big pond, a fountain and a few weeping bushes that kids could tuck themselves into for hide-and-seek, making it a premiere destination for neighborhood strolls. Even before the playground renovation made Edgemont Park the place to be with toddlers, it was super easy to meet neighbors and potential playmates for my twins. This is one of the most obvious advantages of a Walkable Suburb - people are out walking with their kids and usually happy to socialize.

But now and then I stumble upon less obvious benefits of living in a walkable environment, like the one I came across recently about walkability and brain health. It seems that a recent pilot study showed that living in a walkable town - a place where you can navigate on foot - may foster better cognition abilities as we age. Specifically, the article said, "the sample of older adults who lived in more 'walkable' neighborhoods performed much better on cognition tests." This is an area that researchers are just beginning to explore, so I wouldn't delete that Lumosity app just yet, but there are early indicators that Walkability is not just for kids anymore!

A Winner on Watchung Ave

41 watchung ave.Regular readers of my blog know that I tend to write about general trends and issues of interest to home-buyers and sellers; Occasionally I write a post about a specific piece of real estate. Today I have a listing for a home that strikes me as quintessential Montclair real estate, and I want to let everyone know about  it.

While Montclair has a wonderfully wide variety of neighborhoods and architectural styles, many Montclair homes do have two features in common: They tend to have been built in the first half of the 20th century, and they are often located within walking distance of shops and schools. 41 Watchung Ave. has both of these characteristics. It is a very pretty side-hall  Craftsman Colonial built in 1925, which means that it has natural wood trim and  hardwood floors. It also has a formal dining room, a large eat-in kitchen, and a beautiful wood-burning fireplace in the living room.

The other terrific thing about 41 Watchung is its location between Valley and Edgemont Rds. The buyer of this home will enjoy being able to walk to bus and train stations, shops, restaurants, schools, and Edgemont Park. I genuinely love this particular neighborhood; it's been my home for 15 years. Give me a call or send an email; I'd love to show it to you.

 

Living in Montclair? These Streets Were Made for Walkin'

"Let's go for a walk." Now that spring is here in earnest, you may find yourself  frequently uttering this phrase. There are many good reasons to go for a walk--to get some fresh air, burn some calories, enjoy the trees in bloom. And, depending on where you live, you can accomplish all of this while actually getting someplace you need to go.

In most of suburbia, walking is a recreational activity and driving is a functional one. In certain towns, though, feet are a  perfectly viable mode of transportation. I am fortunate enough to live in Montclair, New Jersey, where I can walk to the supermarket, the bank and the post office. My teenage sons ride their bikes to school and to their friends' houses.

As gasoline prices continue to climb, I love that I have a free, non-polluting way to accomplish many of my daily tasks. I suspect that there are many folks who feel as I do. Maybe that's why, despite a  sluggish economy and a generally weak housing market, Montclair real estate continues to be highly desirable. I'd love to show you around; let's take a walk.

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.