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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!

Improvements for the New Year

If you’re thinking about selling your home, this is for you.  

I just had a conversation with a client that made me realize some sellers may not understand why a real estate agent (namely, me) might dig in her heels about certain home improvements. Why we may seem unrelentingly insistent about paint colors or getting rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedroom. 

It’s not that we don’t like your wall colors or your carpeting. 

It’s that our experience allows us the vantage point of knowing what most buyers will respond positively to.

I know it’s hard to spend money to make aesthetic improvements in a house you’re about to leave. Especially if you think the house is perfectly fine the way it is. And I know it’s even harder to discover (as one of my clients did) that the wood floors you just refinished are now going to be replaced by carpeting – similar to what had been there in the first place. 

Please trust me: it was not a mistake to refinish the floors.

Successful marketing requires positioning your home in a competitive environment, and that means making it appealing to the most people possible. Not trying to anticipate what a single buyer might want.

A good agent is not trying to make your home consistent with his or her own taste. They’re using their experience in the marketplace to help you create more value in the eyes of all buyers.

If you want to get the very best price for your home, making aesthetic improvements is the right way to go. Even if the new owners re-installs carpeting. Even if it’s the same color. Even if it’s the same pile. 

If you’re thinking of selling and want to do a walk-through about what’s worth improving (and when), call or message me at: 973-809-5277

How To Adopt a Homeowner's State of Mind

Over the summer, I got a call from clients after the home inspection. “There are roots in the sewer pipes!” they said, panicked and dejected.

“That’s not uncommon,” I said.

“Should we pass on this house and look for another one?”

No. No. No.

As a longtime homeowner, it sometimes surprises me how home repairs can seem so ominous to new buyers, and how easily they can get cold feet. Coming from an apartment, this couple had no idea that clearing the sewer line is a typical aspect of owning a home in a town full of old trees.

Buying a home is an event. Maintaining a home is a process.

With a Maintenance Mindset, you can just assume that there will always be something to contend with. A new roof. A leaky pipe. A squirrel in the attic. A crack in the plaster from settling. A tree that falls in a storm. Appliances need repairing and bushes need pruning. Everyone deals with this stuff. It’s all part of owning a home.

For example, I just had a fence put up to keep my cats in the yard. The workers didn’t construct it properly, and within six months, one section of the fence separated and my cat was again able to get out of the yard. This was especially frustrating because during their installation, I had pointed out this potential problem and suggested a way to avoid it. However, the fence installers did not take my advice, and now they need to come back and fix it. When I was a new homeowner, I’d have found this entire process — getting stuff fixed and fixed again — overwhelming. Now, it’s simply another call to make, another thing to check off my list.

All houses need maintenance. And if you’re buying a new home, there may even be things your home inspector points out that need maintenance right away. Don’t worry — this is not uncommon. I have enough experience to let you know what you actually have to worry over as far as home repair goes, and I have many resources that can make what might seem like gigantic challenges into manageable tasks. I help buyers and sellers make molehills out of mountains every single day. And I’m happy to do that with you, too!

NEW TO MARKET: 56-60 Old Indian Road, West Orange

OPEN HOUSE

Saturday 12/7 & Sunday 12/8

2 - 4 PM

Offered at: $999,000

Slow season?? What slow season...

Introducing my latest winter listing, 56-60 Old Indian Road: a spectacular, renovated home with its own indoor ice skating rink, right in the back yard.

            

Set on over two private acres, this updated colonial, expanded and refreshed, with over 5000 square feet of living space will wow you with all of its custom finishes and thoughtful details.

On the east wing, you'll find a breathtaking two story library inspired by Thomas Edison's own in Llewellyn Park.

On the west wing, a first class kitchen with a wide array of professional appliances overlooking a dramatic family room. Connecting these two spaces is a sun-filled enclosed loggia that opens to an over-sized brick patio and lushly landscaped back yard. The radiant heated floors in the family room, kitchen and loggia, built in espresso machine and 130 bottle wine fridge are just a few of the luxury touches.

          

Upstairs, you’ll enjoy a fantastic master suite with sitting area, separate dressing room and five fixture bathroom in addition to a second floor laundry room, two additional bedrooms and an updated full bathroom with marble finishes. The third floor offers a perfect guest suite with its own bathroom and views over the expansive property.

The true definition of a turn-key home! You truly have to see it to believe it.

Can't make it to the Open House this weekend Sat and Sun 2-4? Call me and I will arrange a private showing: 973-809-5277

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    Long Island City to Bloomfield – The Scootable Suburb

    Nicki and Dani both grew up in Florida, moving to the New York area where they both went to law school. After renting in the East Village, Astoria, Ossining, and Long Island City, they bought a house in Bloomfield, NJ in November 2018. Both commute to NYC for work, Nicki to her midtown law firm, Dani to her sales job in Soho.

    Why Bloomfield?

    We’d visit friends who live in Bloomfield and we thought the town was cute. When my mother moved into our apartment with us, Dani and I decided it was time for more space. We chose this area for its proximity to Montclair, which was a town that had a lot going on. Coming from the city, we wanted to live somewhere that felt lively. 

    What’s your favorite thing about living here?

    It’s great to have outdoor space to entertain friends. Dani had wanted a backyard for a while and we even “renovated” our garage to be a hang-out space, which includes an inflatable hot tub! One of the very best things we did was, after a recent trip to Europe, bought ourselves each an electric scooter, which people ride constantly over there. It’s insanely fun to ride up and down Ridgewood Avenue, and we often scoot over to Rita’s Ices or to have breakfast at The Corner in Montclair. 

    What was your buying experience like?

    Even though our friends had recommended Lina as an agent, Dani actually discovered the house herself on Zillow, where she had, coincidentally, once worked. We went to an Open House and really loved the Bloomfield place, but it was more than we could afford, and we weren’t in a position to move so quickly. A few weeks later, we got in touch with Lina and she took us to a few houses in different towns so we could see the variety of what was available. They dropped the price on the first house and Lina counseled us on how to bid. Then she counseled us on everything else, including attending the home inspection and asking all the follow-up questions that we had no idea to ask. She was a great resource every step of the way, including after the sale when we had water in the basement. She actually came over on a Saturday during the holidays to help us figure out how to solve our problem. 

    What’s turned out better than you expected?

    Getting to and from the city is easier than we thought. The bus is a few houses away. It’s a longer commute than from Long Island City, but we don’t mind it. A lot of our social life involves our city friends, so we’re often there, or our friends come here. If we’re out late, we don’t typically splurge on Ubers from the city. Instead, we figured out that if we miss that last bus, we can take a slightly later train to Secaucus and Uber from there, which is a lot cheaper. And if we’re driving, it’s so much quicker than Ossining (which was our “test suburb”). Here, we're close to New York, close to big box stores (which, I’m embarrassed to admit, is a plus!), and close to anything we want to do in Montclair. Our next purchase may be a guest scooter.

    From Brooklyn to Maplewood with Jersey

    Rebecca works in a Brooklyn-based consulting firm and Dave is a freelance musician. They were living in an apartment in the Kensington section of Brooklyn with their dog, Jersey, for 7 years. In February 2019, they moved to Maplewood and into their first house. 

    Why Maplewood? 

    After years of renting, Dave and I decided we needed more space. We looked at towns that were on the train line, relatively close and affordable, which ruled out most New York suburbs. I grew up in Edison, NJ and, in my mind, all New Jersey towns were like that – kind of bland suburbia. I know it seems crazy, but I didn’t even know New Jersey had cute, fun towns like Maplewood.  

    What’s your favorite thing about living here?

    I love walking Jersey around town, with all the trees and greenery. (Coincidentally, we named our dog Jersey long before we ever moved here.) I now work from home four days a week, and there’s a coffee shop that I can walk to from my house, which I love. We both love Maplewood’s downtown, and it’s been easy to become a part of the community. I joined the planning committee for our block party, which was a great experience. We didn’t have anything like that where we lived in Brooklyn.

    Any challenges you care to share?

    As first-time buyers, we knew very little about the process of buying a house. When you have no clue what you’re doing, it can feel like you’re constantly jumping through hoops. Lina was this extremely knowledgeable presence, guiding us every step of the way. She kept us on our deadlines. She knew what to do when, who to hire for what. She is frank and direct and completely no BS, which we both really appreciated. If not for her, we would have thrown up our hands. 

    What’s turned out better than you expected? 

    I didn’t realize how great it would be to have jitney service to the train. We could walk, but it’s a long walk, especially if it’s raining. Dave is super psyched to have a driveway where he can now easily load all his equipment for a gig. I think the biggest surprise, though, was how easy the transition was. It felt like no adjustment at all. We moved in, and we were like, ok, we’re home. 

    Don't Buy A House For Your Furniture

    Not long ago, I showed a couple a house that was perfect in every way. Perfect size. Perfect location. Perfect price. They were visibly interested as they moved from room to room. When we got back in the car, I was waiting for one of them to ask what I thought they should offer. Instead, the woman said, “I don’t think this house is for me. My armoire isn’t going to fit.” 

    I understand someone being attached to a piece of furniture with great sentimental value, but this wasn’t that. It was just a cabinet she’d bought to keep sweaters in.  

    “Donate it,” I suggested. But to some, this is unthinkable.

    Like most people, I love most of my furniture. But buying and selling houses reminds me that the real goal in house shopping is to find a home for you. Not your furniture. 

    Many of the houses in the areas I show most often – Montclair, Glen Ridge, the Oranges, Verona, Cedar Grove, Livingston, the Caldwells – have unique layouts, quirky shaped rooms, or architectural details that could be enhanced (or diminished) by the right (or wrong) piece of furniture. When clients say they’ve had a hard time finding a home for their 94-inch sofa, to me, the solution is simple: buy the furniture that the house needs. Not the other way around.

    I had a client who was selling a house with a long, skinny living room. I had my stager come in and replace his living room furniture with pieces that enhanced the space. He said, “I’ve lived here for 20 years and had no idea how to furnish this room. Until now.”

    I had another client who was moving from a 7-bedroom house in Montclair to a 3-bedroom condo in West Orange. “I’m not taking any furniture with me,” she said. I was inspired by her attitude, as I know that sometimes not wanting to let go of our furniture is really a metaphor for not wanting to let go of our old house. She moved in with all new furniture and everything she bought was exactly the right size and proportion for her new space. And guess what? It looked amazing!

    One thing I hope I can always offer my clients – both buyers and sellers – is the ability to offer perspective on which things are actually worth worrying about in a home sale. And which, like furniture, are often not worth a second thought. 

    Photo: This unusually narrow living room, with its off-center fireplace, never looked quite right to the homeowner, until our stager set up furniture that was the right scale for the space.

    NEW TO MARKET: 142 Haddon Place, Upper Montclair, NJ

    OPEN HOUSE

    Saturday 9/28 & Sunday 9/29

    2 - 4 PM

    Offered at: $869,000

    Montclair has tremendous diversity among the style, size and age of its housing stock.  In fact, one of the best things about Montclair is that no two houses are alike.  

    142 Haddon Place is a perfect example of this.  Built in 1883,  this house is historic and unique.  It maintains many original details such as fully functioning pocket doors, natural wood trim and original built-in linen room. Still, it has been thoughtfully updated to offer many modern conveniences. 

    An over sized front porch was surely used at one point for cooling down on hot days. Now it is still there to enjoy, but no need to suffer inside because there are two zones of central AC. The kitchen has been updated, the master bathroom newly renovated and the house has been freshly painted from top to bottom. There's also a natural gas hookup on the backyard deck for your grill, so no need to cook dinner over an open flame like they did back in the day!

    Stop by this weekend for a visit at one of the open houses on Saturday and Sunday from 2 -4 or call me to schedule a private showing: 973-809-5277.

     

     

    NEW TO MARKET: 18 Beverly Road, Cedar Grove

    It's not every day that you come across a home that still belongs to the original owner, but we've got one as our newest listing.

    18 Beverly Road, a 1954 split level in Cedar Grove is a true mid century modern marvel. The flow of the home, the slant of the roof and the way the levels are divided were ahead of their time in the mid 20th century but still make perfect sense for today's lifestyle.

    With the right vision, a buyer will see all the possibilities that this opportunity offers.

    Offered at $425,00 - OPEN HOUSE SUNDAY AUGUST 25th from 1 - 4 PM

    Can't make it to the Open House? Call me and I will arrange a private showing: 973-809-5277

     

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