Blog :: 08-2011

And the Survey Says...

As a New Jersey Realtor, I am a member of the National Association of Realtors, and I regularly read its publications. Recently I came across one that I found interesting and worth sharing.

In March of this year, the National Association of Realtors commissioned a market research firm to conduct a survey regarding Americans' housing and community preferences.  Over 2,000  randomly selected adults took part in this updating of a 2004 survey. In both cases, a significant portion of adults indicated that living in a community where they could walk to shops was either "important" or "very important."

The economy  has seen big ups and downs over the past seven years, and people's housing priorities have changed in certain areas. I was interested to see that 66% (two-thirds) of the adults  polled this year said that being within an easy walk to places in their community was important to them.

Clearly, walkable suburbs are still seen as very desirable places to live. I'd love to show you some of New Jersey's finest.

Can You Walk to a Restaurant from Your Montclair Home?

Walkablilty makes no sense unless we have somewhere interesting to walk to. Walking around the neighborhood in loops is only valuable if you're looking for an exercise regimen. Destination walking is where it's at and shops, stores and restaurants are at the top of the list. Have you ever tried to find parking in downtown Montclair on a Friday or Saturday night? Well, it takes some strategic planning to score a prime spot across from your favorite haunt. Imagine those lucky ducks who just stroll out their front door, walk a few blocks and BAM!- they're in the hub of Montclair's dynamic restaurant scene with 130 of New Jersey's most fabulous places to eat.

Well guess what? It turns out commercial real estate benefits from walkability too.  Not that I'm surprised.  According to The Harvard Business Review, an increase of 10 points in walkability out of a score of 100 increases the value of the property by 9%.  What does this say to me?  That houses and retail have a symbiotic relationship and it's good when they're not too far away from each other.

Montclair NJ is a great example of how well this works.  Montclair has 5 thriving business districts all of which are nicely nestled among our neighborhoods.  From north to south there's Upper Montclair Village, Watchung Plaza, Walnut Street, Montclair Central and South End Village. If you live in Montclair, what restaurant do you walk to?

 

Solar Panels on my Montclair Home

I've always liked the idea of solar energy: it's non-polluting, infinitely renewable, and available domestically. Now, thanks to a 30 % federal tax credit  and the ability to sell SRECs (solar renewable energy certificates) to power companies, it's also financially feasible. So I am having solar energy panels installed on my roof.

As part of the solar panel system, I also needed to install 3 inverters in my home. Inverters convert the solar energy produced into usable voltages; Call me weird, but I really enjoy going down to my basement to watch them count up the kilowatts of energy being generated.

The panels are just about done; once I have the final approvals in place, they will generate around 1/3 of the electricity I need to run my house. This project has not been cheap, but I expect to recoup the cost in around four years. After that,  it will provide me with an annual cash flow of several thousand dollars. Putting solar panels up is a win-win situation: I will ultimately save money while I do my small part to save our planet. It's something that anyone with a south facing roof can do - There are even free options if you don't have the cash to pay for the panels.  If you'd like to know more about it email me or read more on the piece from Baristanet.

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    Selling Your Montclair Home? 9 Low-Cost Upgrades to Increase Your Home's Value

    Some of my seller clients spend several months and thousands of dollars upgrading a home before putting it on the market.  But for homeowners who are short on time and cash, there are some very effective smaller  projects that will increase value and reduce time-on-market.

    1. Expose hardwood floors..  There is a decided preference for hardwood floors in Montclair. Worn carpet is a real turn off to buyers and they often fret about what might be underneath.  With a hammer and a sharp knife,  carpet removal is an easy and free DIY project to raise the value of your home.

    2. Paint rooms in a light neutral color with white or off-white trim. Montclair's 1920s colonials look fresh and modern with this simple combination. Wall paper and dark colors can be an obstacle for some buyers and a new coat of paint is one of the best investments you can make for $25.

    3. Hire a professional cleaning service right before the home goes on the market.  Even if you're a clean freak and consider your home to be spotless, a professional cleaner will do things that are not part of your routine and make you home sparkle like never before. Cost: $100 to $300.

    4.  Have the windows washed by a professional.  Most services will do inside and out as well as the storm windows.  Have them remove the screens from windows that you usually don't open.  Shiny windows and a clear view let in more light and make a world of difference. The cost should be about $6 per window.

    5. Power wash your house, front steps and deck- and the gutters too. Moss and dirt make a house look uncared for.  You can buy a small washer for under $200 or rent one for $50/day.  Or hire a professional for about $500.

    6.  Remove dark, heavy drapes and vertical blinds and replace with wood blinds or sheer curtains - or just leave the windows bare if privacy is not an issue.  Let as much natural light in as possible.

    7. Spruce up the bathroom with a new, high quality, white shower curtain. Recaulk the shower and tub.  Replace the toilet seat if it is yellowed or worn.

    8. Refresh the front door with a new coat of paint in a complementary accent color.  Replace the mailbox, house number and door hardware to update the look.

    9. Hire a landscaper to do a "spring clean-up" of the yard, even if it's summer or fall.  Professional crews employ equipment and skills that most homeowners don't have. It's like doing a deep cleaning of your front yard. Having last season's sticks, leaves and yard debris removed will boost your curb appeal and your home's value.