Blog :: 10-2010

The Current Kitchen: What Montclair Home Buyers Want

Heard this weekend while showing some Montclair houses for sale: "disappointed by the kitchens in the current inventory of Montclair real estate - even some of those that have been renovated"

It seems today's Montclair home buyers expect more out of the kitchen than they did in years past. The dream kitchen of today is not just equipped with Sub-Zero and Viking appliances; it is also centrally located within the house and versatile. Susan Serra, a home designer on Long Island, explains in this month's issue of Realtor magazine that "Living room and family room activities are merging into the kitchen, and it's changing how kitchens look." The kitchen has become the nerve center of the house, where party guests congregate and kids do their homework.

Homeowners are knocking down the walls separating the kitchen from the dining room and even the living room, creating a more open, inviting space. For sellers not looking to do such a drastic overhaul, there are a number of smaller steps that will create the same feel. Serra suggests using sconces and small lamps rather than overhead lighting, for a softer effect. Buyers love extra storage space, so adding a cabinet or wall shelving will add appeal. And most important, don't skip the basics: make sure the countertops, flooring, etc. are in good condition.

Before you renovate or sell your Montclair home, give me a call or send me an email and I'd be happy to discuss what many of my buyer clients are looking for in the "current kitchen".

Neighborhoods: Montclair

I'll be doing a series of posts that will look more closely at the neighborhoods of these walkable suburbs. Every neighborhood has something  unique to offer. Montclair's Neighborhoods:

  • Upper Montclair Village: Visitors to Montclair can explore what the township has to offer by driving down Valley Road, one of Montclair's main streets, anchored by Montclair State University on the north end. A few blocks south of the University is the business center of Upper Montclair, a charming Tudor-style cluster of shops, restaurants and a movie theater, that fan out from the corner of Valley Road and Bellevue Avenue, and includes lovely Anderson Park just across from the Upper Montclair train station.
  • PaNaMa: The combination of Patton, Nassau, and Macopin Streets, the northernmost part of Montclair between Valley and Park. This lovely residential area of bungalows and smaller Colonials, many with Toney's Brook running through their backyards, has a real sense of community. Bradford School is just around the corner on Mt. Hebron Rd.
  • Yantacaw: East of Valley, past Grove and north of Bellevue is Yantacaw Park, on a former golf course characterized by rolling hills, winding roads, and large lots of mostly rambling mid-century ranches and large split-levels. Yantacaw includes Windermere Road, Yantacaw Brook Road, Club Road, Heller Drive, Woodmont Road, and Capron Lane.  Northeast School, the international magnet is in the neighborhod
  • Tuers Park: A smaller neighborhood tucked in between the Yantacaw neighborhood and Alexander Avenue. Smaller split-levels of the 1950s and '60s sit next to Colonials of the 1940s. Streets include Stonehenge Road, Squire Hill Road, Lane Court, and Tuers Place.
  • Fairway: South of the Yantacaw neighborhood, mainly large Tudors of the 1920s and '30s on smaller lots. The Fairway section includes The Fairway, Greenview Way, Bellegrove Drive, and Glenside Terrace.
  • Watchung Plaza: From there continue south on Valley Road to Watchung Avenue. Turn left on Watchung Avenue (or arrive by train at Watchung Station) to enjoy the centrally located Watchung Plaza, with its boutiques, independent bookstore, cafés and signature gazebo and historic flagpole.  Streets in this neighborhood include Fairfield, Waterbury, Beverley and Gordonhurst among many others.  Watchung School, the science and technology magnet lies between North Fullerton and Essex, just south of the plaza.
  • Erwin Park: A secluded neighborhood near Edgemont Park with easy access to Watchung Plaza.  Streets include Holland, Erwin Park, Brunswick, Wendover and others.
  • Marlboro Park: An historic district of Montclair which includes Christopher Court (a development of new homes built on the site of old Marlboro Inn), Fairfield Street, Waterbury Road, The north ends of Montclair Avenue and Christopher Street, Watchung Avenue between N. Fullerton and Grove Streets. Edgemont Park: Streets near this historic memorial park are loved for being centrally located and a stone's throw from Edgemont Montessori School, Watchung Plaza shopping, train and bus stops.  These include Berkeley, Edgemont and Parkway.
  • Frog Hollow: Heading south on Valley Road, pass Edgemont Park's pond and stop in at Frog Hollow's stores and eateries, anchored by historic Tierney's Tavern. Turn right on Van Vleck Street and enter the Van Vleck House and Gardens, which are especially fragrant in the spring when the wisteria are in bloom.
  • Walnut-Grove District: Continue down Valley, when The Montclair Times office is your right, turn left onto Walnut Street and discover the Walnut-Grove District, where you can pick up great bread and pastries, have a drink at Egan's, eat at one of the area's terrific restaurants, or listen to jazz at Trumpet's. If you're traveling by train, the Walnut St. Station is right there. In the winter, you can even catch a youth hockey game at nearby Clary Anderson Arena.
  • Montclair Town Center: Return to Valley Road, turn left and proceed south; you will reach Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair Town Center. Up the avenue to the west, take in an art exhibition at the renowned Montclair Art Museum. Down Bloomfield Avenue, to the east, explore the Historic District: many retailers, the multi-screen cinema, and one of the largest collections of restaurants in northern New Jersey.
  • The Estate Section: South of Bloomfield Avenue lies a neighborhood of mansions and stately historic homes, many on lots larger than an acre.  Prominent streets include South Mountain Avenue, Llewellyn Road, Stonebridge Road and Clinton Avenue. NJ Transit operates a shuttle from the Estate Section to the Bay Street train station.
  • South End Village: Last, but certainly not least, go east on Bloomfield Avenue and turn right at Elm Street. Follow Elm as it turns into Orange Road to reach the South End shopping area shops and services, just a few blocks from beautiful Nishuane Park to the west and the recently renovated Canterbury Park to the east. Nishuane School, the gifted and talented magnet resides on Cedar Street in this neighborhood.

Short Sales

A recent New York Times article discusses the rise in short sales in Manhattan due to the recession. One market analyst said "2010 might well be dubbed the Year of the Short Sale nationally. 'A short sale is going to be the only way for many people who bought at the peak and who are now underwater to move on with their lives if they have to relocate or downsize.'" Like Manhattan, Montclair, Glen Ridge Maplewood and the rest of Essex County have seen the number of short sales rise. When the alternative is foreclosure, selling a house through a short sale is a way for the owner to come out of the deal relatively unscathed. I discuss the issue of short sales further in Short Sales for Buyers and Short Sales for Sellers. If you have any questions about short sales, either because you're thinking of selling your house short or you're interested in buying a house that's  a short sale, please email me for more information.

The Cleanest Energy of All

On September 14, the Star-Ledger ran an article about electric car charging stations; Montclair is one of four towns in New Jersey that received a grant from Walmart to install them. I have mixed feelings about these stations. On one hand, electric cars reduce our dependence on foreign oil, so anything that makes them more convenient to drive is probably a good thing. On the other hand, electricity itself is often derived from non-renewable fossil fuels, so generating it still pollutes the environment.

There is, however, a form of energy that is safe, cheap, and absolutely clean: human kinetic energy (walking). For families with school-aged children, October is International Walk to School Month; next Wednesday, October 6, is International Walk to School Day. This was started in 1997 by the Partnership for a Walkable America and quickly grew into a nationwide movement. There are so many benefits to walking to school: less gasoline used, safer and less congested streets, more fresh air and exercise, even an increased sense of community. Of course, walking to school isn't always feasible, but if you can do it, why not give it a try? Let me know how it goes!