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Silver Lining Dining In Montclair

Here we are, well into September, and it's still a bit mind-boggling what we've all been through. The parking lots in Montclair's train many stations, went from packed to empty in a day -- then stayed that way for months. There were days, early on, when I wrote about all the precautions we, in the real estate business, had adopted. I really had no idea what my life would become going forward. 

It's no news to anyone that buying and selling homes has become crazy. It's been a blessing to be busy -- to keep my mind off all the things in our world that no one can control. But even in this busy-ness, I've had time to do what everyone else seems to be doing...walk.

One of my favorite walks was around Downtown Montclair recently. Church Street, Park Street, Midland Avenue -- favorite blocks were again bustling with people having dinner or just enjoying being outside. It felt like the "old days”…and in some ways even better. Restaurants  that had never offered outdoor dining now had tables set up on the sidewalk, and places the used to have tables outside had many more. It gives the whole town a European vibe and feels really special in a way that I think I’m going to miss once we all go back indoors.

#silverlinings

 

What Have We Learned So Far

I think I can speak for most when I say this past few months has been an incredible learning experience. From the minute New Jersey went on “lockdown,” all my colleagues and I could talk about was how will we do our jobs?

We learned how to make great use of virtual house-tour apps and what to do to make an in-person home tour safe. We learned how to get houses inspected and close under the most arduous circumstances. But maybe most important, as a society we learned to stop all our hurrying about and start to understand what we care about and value. What we want to take into the future with us.

Many of my clients adopted a more inward focus. Buyers started to care more about “comfort,” less about “image.” Grand spaces for entertaining became less important than a garage loft that could be converted into a home office. Also, short commutes to work from an apartment on the Upper West Side became less important than outdoor space.

We’ve also seen how size came to matter in a different way. Some sellers looked at their big houses as a welcome oasis, someplace where they could work and school their kids and have a little privacy from everyone else. Others began to see their big house as too much to take care of since they’d become the ones cleaning it every week.

Buying and selling decisions have become far more about “quality of life” – though not just about a person’s individual life. We’ve seen more people looking for quality of life in a community that’s consistent with their beliefs. A community’s dedication to welcoming all people has become a selling point like never before. I know as a society we still have a long way to go, but as someone raised in Manhattan, I can personally vouch for Montclair’s continued commitment to making our town feel like it’s a place where everyone belongs.

Helping people buy or sell a home has always been a very personal experience, and now it feels like an even deeper one. As always, I’m here to talk about any and every aspect of home buying or sales. Talk or text: (973) 809-5277

What Buyers Want Now – A Great Outdoors 

Many sellers are taking advantage of the increased interest in moving from city to suburbs, streamlining their belongings and trying to get their home into “move in condition.” This is really smart. When my colleagues and I discuss big picture issues in the market right now, we are all seeing an even stronger desire in buyers for turn-key experiences. The less work they have to take on, the more valuable the home is to them.

The other most valuable aspect of a home these days is “nice, private outdoor space.”

What I’ve been seeing is that you don’t need a grand or fancy yard to hold appeal for a buyer. Recently, there was a house listed that was the size of a 2-bedroom apartment, but it was on a nice enough piece of property and the owners had turned half the 2-car garage into home office space. The yard was not huge. It was big enough to eat outdoors, toss a ball, maybe grow a vegetable garden. They received 8 offers, which is more interest than a house like this would typically attract.

Right now, most any home with a little green space is a sought-after commodity. Even homes with pools, which are sometimes slightly more difficult to sell, now hold extra appeal.

This is the time to attend to your outdoor space, either for putting on the market now or for selling in the future. Patios and decks are a plus, but not a necessity. String some lights and buy a fire pit for a cozy evening vibe. 

My biggest piece of advice: Plant some trees! Trees and shrubs are some of the few investments you can make in a home that actually get better with time.

If you’d like to take a tour of your yard together, I’m happy to offer my perspective on what exterior improvements will pay off. Talk or Text: 973-809-5277

UPDATE - NJ Real Estate During Pandemic

People have been asking what I’m seeing in New Jersey real estate these days.

There’s been a noticeable increase in people from the city interested in moving to the suburbs. People want to leave their apartments and are looking for lower density population areas and with more outdoor space. This is especially appealing now that so many people are working and schooling their kids at home. And as employers consider expanding telecommuting options in order to meet social distancing requirements in cramped NYC offices, people may be able to work from home several days per week. This makes a New York City commute seem much less daunting.  

Also, living in the suburbs lowers the cost of living for many people, another draw in a slowing economy.

So even though we’re seeing a slow down in the number of houses being sold, it’s mostly due to very low inventory. Prices remain solid and a good number of houses are still seeing multiple offers. 

However, this is not to say it’s easy to sell a house right now. Or to buy one.

There’s a lot more screening taking place before an agent can show a house in person. Updated mortgage pre-apps are required before setting up appointments as well as current pay stubs or statements from employers verifying that the person has not been laid off or furloughed.  

We’re using a lot more virtual tours, virtual open houses and “doll house” or 3D Matterport tours. If someone wants to see the town, we drive in separate cars and talk about neighborhoods over the phone.

It’s a little harder to do things like home inspections, title searches, or obtain a certificate of occupancy. Anything requiring people being in certain places at certain times is more complicated. This is why when a contract is written, a Covid Addendum is now attached, recognizing the uncertainty and difficulty of meeting the contract timelines. 

Even with all this, business is still getting done. People are buying, selling and moving. It all speaks to our resiliency and ability to adapt — something I think we should all feel good about.

Together Apart

Things are changing so rapidly. Last weekend we did open houses that were well attended. The houses were vacant, and we took precautions like opening all closet and interior doors to eliminate touching. We required everyone to sanitize their hands and wear booties and asked them to refrain from coming in at all in if they had recently traveled abroad or were feeling unwell.  We also limited the number of people in the house to one family at a time. 

This weekend, I would not dream of doing an open house. 

Each new day brings its own interesting challenges. Yesterday, a painter cancelled. If county offices close, title searches will come to a grinding halt. Tomorrow, Governor Murphy may even ask everyone to stay home.

Our current situation requires extreme flexibility, creativity and the ability to be nimble. And no amount of foresight can predict what’s next for the real estate market. We are working with our clients, buyers and sellers alike, to determine what the best way is to proceed in each scenario.

We are setting up video tours and also using a product called Matterport, which is like a 3D floor plan that lets you virtually walk through a house as you please, turning left here, going up the stairs there.

I suspect our current state of uncertainty will push the spring market into summer or perhaps fall. There may end up being a surge of home buying because of pent up demand. At this point, it’s impossible to predict anything.

In the meantime, I think people who have been tossing around the idea of selling should use this time to get their houses ready for market (whenever that may be).  Clean out the garage, declutter, go through closets and donate, change your furnace and AC filters, make all the minor repairs you've been meaning to do, like fixing that dripping faucet, tightening that loose doorknob, and tending to your landscaping. Hire any tradesperson that can work on the exterior of your house, like gutter cleaners, exterior painters, landscapers, tree surgeons, power washing companies, chimney repair people and brick re-pointers. And get that darn oil tank out of the ground. 

For sellers, I’m happy to do Zoom or FaceTime appointments to give direct advice on what needs to be done to get a house ready. We have two team members that can do Zoom meetings to guide people through organizing and decluttering. 

For buyers, screen houses that you may want to visit by first asking if there are any virtual tours or Matterport tours available and if not, ask the agent to do a FaceTime walkthrough of the house for you. 

Our top priority, as always, is to make buying or selling as safe and stress-free as possible. Call or text to chat about how we can work together creatively in these new circumstances.  (973) 809-5277

Montclair to Bloomfield – A New Cozy Community

Carol and John moved to Montclair in 1995. They have three grown children, two of whom are out on their own; the youngest is living at home. John works from home, a partner in a media marketing company. Carol commutes to New York City four days a week for her job at a non-profit. This past summer, after 24 years in their Montclair home, they sold and bought a home in Bloomfield.

Why Bloomfield?

We wanted to stay in the Montclair area – close to friends and all the places we like to go. Our original plan was to downsize, but the house we bought is not much smaller than what we had been in. However, it was less expensive, and it’s also a much better configuration for our current situation. We wanted to be close to the New York bus and able to walk to things, and we were lucky enough to get a house in the Brookdale section, right off the park.

What’s your favorite thing about living here?

We love the neighborhood. Not just the proximity to the park, but also the coziness of block. It’s a dead-end street, so the only people driving on the block, live here. The houses are closer together and closer to the street, so it feels more like a little community. Everyone is extremely friendly, so it just feels really good to be here. 

Any challenges along the way?

We bought and sold with Lina, and for us, the buying was very easy. We went to an open house that checked off all our boxes; she came back with us the next week and everything fell into place quickly and smoothly, even in this neighborhood where houses go fast. The selling was more complicated for us, and there, Lina was amazing. We had her come over almost a year earlier and advise us what we should do to prepare the house. We discovered there was a lot that needed updating, projects we often did ourselves. (That was the hard part.)  Our prep work included repainting every room, refinishing floors, finishing off the 3rd floor more completely, updating kitchen cabinets and counters, and installing some new light fixtures. Lina’s advice was spot on. She really understands the market and what it takes to make a house marketable. From the timing, to the paint colors, we just did everything she told us to do and it worked. Our Montclair house was our nest egg and she helped us maximize what we could get for it. 

What’s turned out better than you expected?

Our other challenge was the endless decluttering. We had to get rid of so much! It was hard to let go of what we’d held onto for decades. For months, we spent most weekends giving things away and filling up a dumpster. But now, it feels so good to live a more streamlined life. It’s been great to learn that we can make do with a lot less “stuff.” The fact that we didn’t have to let go of our relationships in the area probably made the whole move a little easier.

Photos: Top - Carol and John in front of their new home; Bottom - their former Montclair home. 

NEW TO MARKET: 85 Undercliff Road, Montclair

OPEN HOUSE

SATURDAY 2/29 & SUNDAY 3/1

1:00 - 4:00 PM

Offered at $1,079,000

If you're not a fan of Tudor style homes this one will change your mind the minute you walk through the front door.

Dark, no. Tiny nooks and crannies, not here.

85 Undercliff is the complete opposite. With generously scaled rooms and light flooding in through the countless windows, this home was made for both living and entertaining. The award winning kitchen was thoughtfully designed for cooking, prepping and socializing. Ultra grade appliances, smart storage details and a custom over sized marble topped table for eight will delight everyone. Curved archways and French doors flow from the formal dining room, family room, living room and porches on the rest of the first floor.



Four bedrooms, including two master suites and three bathrooms make up the second floor along with impeccably maintained built ins for plenty of storage. The third floor allows more space for spreading out with two additional bedrooms, additional full bath and a large cedar closet.

Got cars? Plenty of parking in the long freshly coated blacktop driveway and attached four car tandem garage.

Open to see Saturday 2/29 & Sunday 3/1 from 1-4 or call me for a private showing 973.809.5277.

NEW TO MARKET: 9 Windermere Road, Upper Montclair

OPEN HOUSE

Saturday 2/22 & Sunday 2/23

1 - 4 PM

Offered at: $689,000

Living in a smartly designed home makes a lot of sense and 9 Windermere Road will make any buyer feel like a genius.

Right-sized throughout with ample, open living spaces and an efficient floor plan, you'll feel right at home the minute you open the door.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entire house is bright even on the cloudiest of days thanks to the
over sized picture window in the entryway, south facing living room windows and skylight in the kitchen.
The wall of built ins in the living room makes for clever storage and 
all three renovated bathrooms are sleek and simple. (Two upstairs and
one down).

The ground level is a haven unto itself with a separate
entrance plus an additional bedroom and living area to give guests or an au
pair the privacy they need.

Open on Saturday 2/22 & Sunday 2/23. Come take a look or give me a call
for a private showing 973.809.5277. You’ll feel smarter by just taking a look!

Home-buying and How To Think About Bedrooms

I have had clients who look at a listing I send them and say, “We’re only two people, why would we want four bedrooms?” There was a time I'd have made the same comment.

It wasn’t until I downsized myself that I started thinking about bedrooms differently.

In my first house, I had a spacious bedroom with plenty of room for dressers, an upholstered chair, and an exercise bike. I never sat in the chair; it was a place I tossed my clothes. If I’m being honest, the exercise bike was a clothes rack as well. When my kids got older and started moving out, I downsized and bought a house with smaller (and fewer) bedrooms, matching the number of bedrooms to the number of people who would be sleeping there.

But some days, I wish I had an extra bedroom – or two.  I would set one up as a little yoga room and another as a dedicated room for my son, who ends up coming home to visit more than I expected.

Trends in housing over the last 10 years have shown that the most popular homes were those with lots of communal or shared spaces -- open layouts. But housing trends change, and then change again.

Now that more and more people work from home, a laptop at the kitchen island isn’t always adequate. I find that more people seem interested in having rooms they can use as private spaces. They need a dedicated office where they can close the door and Skype with clients.

If you’re planning to buy, don’t just think about bedrooms for sleeping.  Think about a home’s space configurations and what it is you might want in your home.

Do you need a home office?

Two home offices?

A guest room? 

A Peloton room?

A dressing room?

Many of these “luxury” amenities can be accomplished easily once you see all the possibilities a bedroom can offer. 

Manhattan to Montclair – “No pressure with Lina”

 

Rachel and Tom just celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary last September and had their first child in December. Rachel was born and raised in Washington, DC and Tom grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Both went to college in Boston and when they graduated, moved to NYC to begin their careers -- Rachel in sales & marketing and Tom as an accountant. Last August, they left their 1-bedroom apartment in Chelsea and moved to a 3-bedroom home in Montclair, NJ. 

Why Montclair?

We explored several neighborhoods in the area and decided that Montclair was the place that we wanted to start our family. We fell in love with the downtown area and all of the villages throughout the town. We love the history and charm of all the homes, and we had heard nothing but great things about the people and the schools, which was really important to us. We also picked it because of the close proximity to Manhattan and have since found that the commute is very manageable. 

What’s your favorite thing about living here?

We love how walkable the neighborhood is and have really enjoyed exploring Upper Montclair village and all of the restaurants this town has to offer. 

Any challenges along the way?

Before we got pregnant, we knew we wanted to buy a house, but in our minds, we had a longer timeline. The pregnancy definitely expedited the process. We were slightly nervous that the home buying process would be very overwhelming and stressful; since we had been renting an apartment, there were a several things we had to learn about home ownership in general. There were also times we got a bit discouraged that we might not find something in our budget in the neighborhood we wanted, but in time, we ended up landing on the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood and we couldn't be happier. 

What’s turned out better than you expected?

We’ve found the move and transition to be fairly easy and were so pleasantly surprised with how seamless the process was. This was thanks to Lina, who we’d met at an Open House. She made the entire home buying process so enjoyable for us. We had never worked with a real estate agent before and didn't really know what to expect. She was so patient, answering all of our questions, and, as first-time buyers, we had a ton of questions. All along, she was a calming and reassuring resource. We always felt like she had our best interest in mind and never felt pressured. We are so grateful for her guidance and advice and would recommend her a million times over!