Lina Panza

5 Things To Look For If You're Moving From The City

Montclair has been a popular destination for people coming from the city – New York City or any city – for a long time. But unlike most commuter suburbs, Montclair offers certain benefits that make the transition very easy.

Here are the top 5 things most of my clients are looking for – and find! – when moving from a big city to a suburb.

1. Train and Bus Lines into the Nearest City 

People who work in New York City have access to inbound and outbound trains throughout the day from 7 different stations. There are also trains to Hoboken. Two bus lines can take you to Port Authority almost hourly, with pick-ups throughout town. Access to both train and bus means even the occasional transit delay (sadly, that’s a reality) can sometimes be averted by simply going for a bus rather than a train, or vice versa. 

2. Public Transportation Options in Town

Montclair is a very walkable suburb, however, sometimes traveling by foot is not ideal. A bus runs through town, however most people rely on Uber, Lyft or local cabs if they don’t want to drive. In fact, I know a few people who have downsized to a single car for the family and now rely on bikes or cabs rather than pay insurance for a second car. 

3. Able to Walk to Restaurants

I would estimate that half the homes in town are within a 15-minute walk to a restaurant. That’s because there are so many distinct shopping hubs throughout Montclair. There are parts of town where walking is easier, and that’s part of the beauty of this town: there are plenty of choices for people who want a completely walkable lifestyle as well as for people who crave a bit more seclusion. 

4. Nearby Entertainment and Cultural Events 

There is always something to do here. There’s a big music scene -- from Outpost in the Burbs shows to Jazz at Trumpets, from concerts at the Wellmont to bar bands at Tierney’s. There’s a great movie theater and additional screenings from Montclair Film. There are live performances – local theater, opera, improv, and Montclair State University's Peak Performances series, which offer world renown dance and music in an intimate setting. Yogi Berra Stadium is also located at the college if you want to catch a baseball game. And the public library hosts a lecture series that’s often standing room only. All in town!

5. Close Enough for Friends to Visit

We are only 12 miles (as the crow flies) from midtown. Friends can take the bus out on weekends (or the train to Bay Street), or they can drive from most of Manhattan in under an hour. My New York friends still consider a trip out here like “going to the country.”

What To Do After You Sell Your Big House

When my oldest kids started college, I put my big house on the market. Yes, they’d be coming back for summers and breaks, but we just didn’t need that space anymore. I opted for a smaller house in the same town (practically in the same neighborhood), but there are plenty of choices if you’re ready to down-size. 

Here are some of my favorite:

RENT SHORT-TERM. If it’s a seller’s market, take a short-term approach. Put your house up when the market is in your favor and simply rent somewhere until you figure out what you want to do long term. Renting allows you to get a more realistic sense of exactly how much space your family requires and also gives you time to reflect on things like outdoor space or garage space, two amenities you may change your opinion about if you do without for a few seasons.

RENT LONG-TERM. Some of my clients have always wanted a home at the beach or in the mountains but keeping up their big house prevented them from buying a second home. Renting a smaller home or apartment in the area can free up some money for a down-payment on that place in Woodstock. Even if your new rent is close to your old mortgage payment, there is often plenty of savings when you no longer have to maintain your big house.

BUY A CONDO IN THE AREA. Many down-sizers have enough equity in their house to buy a condo for cash, leaving only the monthly property taxes and association fees. Condo owners usually enjoy far fewer home maintenance fees with shared services like lawn care, snow removal. Many developments have clubhouses or a swimming pool for entertaining. There are also several new-ish Adult Only communities nearby that cater to empty nesters with an on-site social coordinator and plenty of stuff to do (most including wine!).

BUY A SMALL HOUSE IN A NEIGHBORING TOWN. I know I sing the praises of Montclair’s walkability until I’m blue in the face, but there are plenty of other towns that offer a similar NYC commute and are walkable to restaurants and shopping. The houses are typically less expensive, the taxes are less, and you’re still a 10-minute drive from all your favorite places to go. It’s worth taking a look at what your money can buy right around the corner!

BUY A MULTI-FAMILY HOME. One of my client’s just did this as soon as his son graduated college. His portion of the house was a good size, he still had a yard and garage, and he now has income. Few people realize that close to 40 percent of Montclair residents are renters, a fact that is not evident because many of the rentals look like single family homes from the street. If you are loathe to give up the charm of an older house, you may not have to! Plus, sometimes you can even end up with a sweet front porch. 

I’d love to help you figure out your best down-sizing option – or anything else you may want to talk through. Give me a call: 973-809-5277

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Shopping (on foot) In Montclair

At the end of this summer, we moved to the heart of “Uptown.” By “we,” I mean Keller Williams Real Estate, and by “Uptown,” I mean the northernmost shopping district of Montclair’s five retail hubs.

My office used to be on the edge of town – a perfectly nice place, but not nearly as walkable as most of Montclair tends to be. I was excited to move, not only because I would be able to easily walk to work, but mainly because I love being in a neighborhood where I can get most of my errands done – including my holiday shopping -- without getting in my car. 

Our big, bright office space is steps away from Valley Road with its lovely boutiques like Jaffa Gems and Ampersand for home décor or gifts, and Marcel’s or Jackie’s for breakfast or lunch. There’s a Gap on one corner and a Williams Sonoma on the other. Pizza, bagels, coffee, jewelry, clothing, office supplies, sushi or ice-cream – it’s all a two-minute walk. There’s a toy store, a hardware store, a shop to buy scented soaps and another to buy baby gifts. I often stop at Gus’s for fresh fish and pop across the street for a bottle of wine on my way home. 

And Montclair’s other retail hubs are just as vital, with new, fun shops popping up among older, beloved Montclair institutions.  

The point is this: living and working in an environment where a car can be optional is a wonderful experience. You can spend time with your partner or your children walking and talking. When shopping is close to home, it feels easier to wander in and explore. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know many local shop owners in this natural, unhurried way and I can say that few things make you feel part of a community more than walking into a store and being greeted by name.  

If you want to stop by our new home, we’re at 237 Lorraine Ave. The entrance is in the back, and there’s a covered bike rack back there, too. We’re steps away from the bus and the train, but if you need to drive, no worries – we have plenty of parking behind the building. 

Santa Claus is Coming to Montclair

One of the best things about living in a walkable suburb is getting visitors at your door throughout the year. 

A favorite Montclair tradition is the Police Department’s Santa visit. On a night in early December, kids around town are treated to a visit from Santa and his entourage of decorated police and ambulance vehicles decked out in lights and blasting holiday music. Not only will Santa arrive at your door but his elves and reindeer and assorted other helpers come too. You can either sign up to have a personal visit or sign up with neighbors and end up with a seemingly impromptu hot chocolate block party.

How do you get on that ‘nice’ list? You have to register in advance, drop off a wrapped gift for your recipient and a gift to donate for every gift your are giving at the Montclair Police Department by November 30th.

    

With the holidays rapidly approaching, it’s a good time to celebrate community and give back at the same time.

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    Park Slope to Montclair – It's so much easier to play with our kids! 

    “Miro and I just moved from an upper duplex in Park Slope to Montclair Avenue last July. We wanted more space for ourselves and our two young daughters – especially outdoor space. My sister has lived in Montclair for the last four years and whenever we’d come to visit, she really talked the place up. So, after researching a few different towns in the area, we decided to start looking here. One of the many things I loved about Montclair was how it reminded me of the Pittsburgh suburb I grew up in – beautiful old houses and lots of trees.

    Neither of us grew up in a city, so moving to a suburb was not a hard choice, but there were specific things we were looking for. Good public schools. Someplace where we could walk to parks and restaurants. And the most non-negotiable requirement – a maximum 75-minute door-to-door commute to Miro’s job in the Flatiron District. 

    We learned about Lina from her Walkable Suburb site. After one phone call, we could tell she was very level-headed and knew her stuff – not only about the area but about how houses work. She let us know exactly what to expect when buying an old house, specifically, what types of post-purchase expenses we might encounter. Lina was unbelievably knowledgeable about how to restore the chimney of one house we looked at, providing a level of detail as if she were the contractor. 

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    She also prepared us for Halloween on Montclair Avenue – at least as much as anyone could have. ‘Just to let you know, you’ll be giving out a LOT of candy!’ she said. The people we bought the house from left us a stipend of 300 pieces of candy and, because of Lina’s advice, we bought another 1200 pieces. Still, we ran out by 7 p.m., but our girls had a blast handing out candy on the porch.

    There have also been a few surprises that we hadn’t anticipated. For example, how much easier it is to play with the kids when you can just run out into a backyard. But also, how many awesome playgrounds are around, many strollable from the house. We found a great preschool that’s also an easy stroll. And we found a favorite restaurant – Turtle and Wolf -- that’s easy to walk to. We also found that Montclair’s BYOB culture has brought our restaurant tabs way down. 

    And then there’s the leaves.

    One day, we woke up and autumn had happened! It was spectacular – like a crazy technicolor brochure for fall. It seems like a little thing, but when you’re coming home from the city, it’s really great to have your own leaves to jump into.”

    --Jeremy, new Montclair resident

    Happy Halloween

    What's the one day of the year when it seems almost everyone is out walking door to door? Halloween! Walkable towns like Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield and Maplewood are made for this activity. But if trick-or-treat is not your thing, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the spooky season.

    Friday October 26th - 6-9 PM  Gardens Aglow at the Presby Iris Garden

    Saturday October 27th - 2-4 1st Annual Zombie Walk @ East Side Mags

    Sunday October 28th- 1:30 Rosedale Cemetery Tour

    7:00 PM - Film on the Lawn at St. Luke's Episcopal Church - "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"

    Wed October 31st  4:00-7:00 Montclair Police Department on Valley & Bloomfield Ave, rear parking lot 2nd Annual Trunk or Treat.

    My First Visit to Cedar Grove Park

    The other day, a friend invited me to join her on a walk in Cedar Grove Park, a beautiful expanse that I’d passed once while driving but hadn’t yet made time to visit. 

    We pulled into the ample parking lot, made a quick stop in the immaculate restroom, wandered over to the pristine bocce ball courts and playground, and all I could think was: Why isn’t anyone here?

    We were not completely alone. There were a few runners and a mom with her toddler on the swings. But if we’d been at Brookdale Park on this sunny morning, there would have been people everywhere. True, it was a weekday and the park is relatively new – only just completed in 2016 – but I started wondering how long it takes a public space like this one, slightly tucked away as it is, to become a regular destination. I lived across from Montclair’s Edgemont Park when its tired, old original playground was renovated into the kid magnet it has become. I remember it taking a little while for people to discover it and make it part of their lives.

    How long? I don’t recall. But, like Edgemont, there are plenty of reasons to check Essex County's newest park out sooner, rather than later.

    The park sits on either side of Fairview Avenue, which intersects Bloomfield Ave in Verona. On the east side: bocce ball courts, all-access playground, and club house – all brand new and all designed with plenty of shaded areas to sit. Beyond the parking lot (also on the east side) there’s a paved walking path that loops down and around a lovely landscaped hill. 

    On the west side of Fairview Avenue is another walking path that meanders over foot bridges and past little “workout stations.” There’s even a place to enter the woods – we hiked for about 10 minutes on the wide dirt trail up to the top of the hill before turning back. We probably could have gone on for an hour, but we didn’t have the time. 

    Although Cedar Grove Park is not a park that many can walk to, it's a wonderful environment to walk in. I also noticed a sign for a Farmer’s Market - Tuesdays from 10am - 3pm.! If you’re a runner, cyclist, or just like being outdoors, I encourage you to stop by. I predict that, like me, your first visit to Cedar Grove Park will certainly not be your last. 

     

    Cedar Grove Park

    199 Fairview Avenue

    Cedar Grove, NJ

     

     

    The Spirit of Glen Ridge

    Glen Ridge has always been an easy sell. Tucked between Montclair and Bloomfield, it has always felt like the sweet, quiet, sister-town – pretty and quaint, with old gas streetlamps, manicured lawns, and its own Manhattan-direct train station. But, to be honest, although it’s a wonderful place to live, it’s not usually a destination

    Many homes in Glen Ridge are super close to Montclair or Bloomfield restaurants, sometimes even walkably so. Their great town pool is a destination, but largely for residents. So, it’s especially fun and festive when all of Glen Ridge turns into The Place To Be, as it did last weekend during its third annual Town-Wide Yard Sale.

    Anyone who knows me knows I love a good yard sale. And on Saturday, there were over 100! 

    The event was created by the Glen Ridge Library as a fundraiser. Residents who participate are allowed to waive the town's yard sale permit fee if they make a small contribution to the library. The hub of the event also takes place in a big commuter parking lot on Bloomfield Avenue, where the library "sells" spots for vendor tables. A few merchants had professional looking displays, but most were just regular people who had some swag to unload. 

    There were kids selling lemonade and tables set up for local sports clubs. Someone was even selling a Glen Ridge-opoly game (which I did pass up, but not without second thoughts). And throughout the town, there was a yard sale everywhere you turned. (Truly! They even gave out maps!)

    The thing that struck me most about the event this year was when I asked the library director how she came up with the idea. She said they “borrowed” it from a neighboring town that tried it a few years ago. Apparently it was a flop there, but it has been a resounding success in Glen Ridge. 

    And that’s really the thing about Glen Ridge – it’s a town full of fierce community spirit, but it’s not an in-your-face kind of spirit. It’s more of a quiet, sustaining spirit that's woven deep into the old bones of this strikingly beautiful town.

    New to the Market, 75 Essex Ave, Montclair

    OPEN HOUSE

    Saturday & Sunday 9/29 & 30

    1:00 - 4:00

    75 Essex Ave, Montclair

    Offered at: $899,000

    If you or someone you know is in the market for a completely renovated quintessential Montclair “old home made new," look no further than my new listing: 75 Essex Ave in Montclair.  

    This inviting center hall colonial is ideally located in the Watchung Plaza neighborhood and is steps away from transportation, restaurants, schools, playgrounds and many of the walkable amenities that Montclair has to offer.

    On the first floor you’ll be impressed by a large kitchen with breakfast nook that overlooks a sunny family room.  Formal, wainscoted dining room, living room with built-ins and wood burning fire place plus a bright office with french doors complete the main level. From the lush outdoor landscaping with underground irrigation system to the finished 3rd floor carpeted loft/secret hideout, no detail has been overlooked.  There are enough bedrooms, bathrooms and shared spaces for a quiet retreat or to enjoy time with family and friends -- five bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half baths, to be exact.

                    

    One of my favorite rooms in this house is the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, exposed brick wall, lighted tray ceiling and spa like bathroom.  Overlooking the back yard, this private oasis is a great place to relax and recharge.

            

    Come take a look and see for yourself. You won't want to leave, but when you do, stroll over to Watchung Plaza for a coffee at Bluestone Coffee, browse the shelves at Watchung Booksellers or pick up a sweet treat at The Pie Shop.  

    Open Houses on Saturday & Sunday 9/29 & 30 from 1-4 or call me to schedule a private showing: 973-809-5277.

     
     
     

    Montclair is Made for New Families

    Recently, I went to the Upper Montclair Sidewalk Sale – an annual event that has been going on for at least as long as I’ve lived here. I remember packing my young kids into the stroller and cruising up Valley Road, hoping there was enough to entertain them for a while before their nap. Back then, Montclair was just starting to become a popular destination for young families from the city and didn’t have as many things to do with small children. There was Kinderkickers Soccer, Music Together, the Studio Players Theater group, an art class here and there, a tumbling class that would pop up in a church, and a small “Baby YMCA” on the South End.

    When I think of how much has changed, it’s hard to believe it’s the same town.

    All the old favorites still exist, but there is now so much more. The new Kids’ YMCA on Glenridge Avenue is newer and more centrally located. Music Together has had a new, permanent headquarters in the middle of Upper Montclair, steps away from a great toy store, kids clothing store, wonderful bagels, pizza, tacos, and the world’s nicest fire station! In addition to more coffee shops, tea shops, and noodle shops, all over town, there’s now an inclusive movement facility uptown and a pre- and post-natal support center on Walnut Street. 

    It’s actually hard to imagine walking ten minutes without running across endless places to go with young children: indoor gyms, story times, art classes, martial arts, and bake shops galore! I mention this last upgrade because a couple bake shops in town have grown into institutions.

    Montclair Bread Company has become famous for their donuts (maple bacon, OMG) and also for sponsoring road races and fun runs throughout the town. 

    Little Daisy Bake Shop, which may be the first place in town to specialize in nut-free baked goods, sponsored the Pie Eating Contest that captivated me over the weekend. There’s something about grown men dipping their faces into blueberry pie that can just lift your mood for the whole day.

    Initially, I was going to just write about the Sidewalk Sale, how fun it was to gather on the street and run into old friends – people who, like me, were all once trying to find ways to create little communities for our young’uns. But I realized that there are now myriad places and ways to do that here – that we’ve grown even more into a town that offers plentiful opportunities to meet others in that same wonderous life stage of young parenthood.

    If you ever want a tour of walkable, kid-friendly destinations, let me know. And block out a big chunk of time!