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Lina Panza

How Little Improvements Can Help Squeeze All the Equity Out of Your Home

In a recent post, I shared some reviews from sellers I worked with in the past year, all of whom were very pleased with the sale price they got on their home. As I mentioned, getting top dollar for a home often requires an upfront investment on the part of the seller. Meaning, you may need to spend some money to shine up a house you’re about to leave. Believe me, this is not something anyone is eager to do.

When I meet with you about marketing your house, I’ll explain all your options. I will tell you what could be done to your house before listing it, and what type of return you are likely to see from doing those things. Similarly, I will lay out what it will cost to not do certain things. For example, that $1,000 paint job the seller opts not to do often turns into a $2,000 deduction they need to give the buyer to seal the deal. It’s almost always better for you if you get the work done yourself!

Even if you bought your home five years ago and you moved into a house that was perfect and newly done, that pristine space is now “lived in.”  Before going to market, it is worth it to take care of the fingerprints on the walls and the dings on the cabinets —things you might not bother doing if you were going to stay in the house.

Together, my clients and I strategize how to best use their resources. It’s not unusual for a family to take out a short-term loan for $10,000 of improvements and have that yield an extra $50,000 in the sale. In fact, I just read a statistic about one of the big real-estate portal companies that has gotten into the home-buying business. This company will buy a home for, say, $310,000 and spend $10K doing painting and minor repairs. They then turn around and immediately sell for $350K.

This practice is not considered “flipping.” They’re just jumping on an opportunity to buy houses in which the sellers failed to do some very basic maintenance before going to market; they make a nice, quick profit on easy fixes. 

Most everyone has the same initial reaction: I want to save my money and spend it on fixing my new house. As far as I’m concerned, you should not feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to. But as your marketing partner, it is my job to present you options and educate you on how you can benefit from this tried-and-true equation. This gives you the information to make the best choice for you.

And it is a choice. Once upon a time, making small improvements may have made a difference between a house selling and not selling. Not these days. In this market, Your house will sell whether you fix it up or not. Instead, it has become a matter of how much more you can get for it.

If you'd like to talk about how to squeeze out all the equity your home has to offer, call or text! 

973-809-5277

First Time Home Buyers Say They Appreciate My Experience

One of my clients purchased a single-family home in Montclair recently and left a really nice review about working with me. Part of what he said was this:

Lina combines 3 qualities that made working with her perfect for us:

  • She has a lot of experience and during walk throughs she was able to help us understand the overall state of the house (approximate age of the roof, age of the different areas - kitchen, bathrooms - and general appliances - boiler, etc).
  • When it came to appraisals - before making an offer - we saw that all her estimates were really on point.
  • Lina is not pushy or judgmental. This was really a great thing for us because we don't want to feel rushed or pushed to make a decision. She accepted, no questions asked when we didn't want to make an offer and was very responsive when we did want to.

Like Barnardo's, many of my online reviews mention my experience. At the risk of tooting my own horn, this does not surprise me. I really like providing an education to buyers – especially first-time buyers, or someone upsizing to a gracious, older home. In addition to giving someone time to take in the “space”, we talk a lot about things that many people never give a thought to before buying a house: boilers, French drains, knob-and-tube wiring. It can all feel very intimidating.

I've been working with buyers and sellers for over 20 years and have been on too many home inspections to count. I’ve also done plenty of renovations in my own homes. All of this has provided me with a very solid knowledge base as to which type of “home work" is worrisome and which is a breeze. Giving people a context in which to think about repairs or upgrades allows them to make confident decisions.

My goal with buyers is to provide them with the information they need to find the right house for them. I have very few buyers that ever feel the need to back out of a deal. I credit this to giving them what they need so they truly feel sure.

If you’re looking for a new home and you’d like to take advantage of my experience, please reach out. And feel free to check out my reviews. I’ve worked hard for them. 

Talk or Text: 973-809-5277

 

 

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What My Listing Clients Have to Say

Sold: Single-Family home in West Orange, NJ - July 2020

“We began the process early in 2020, meeting and discussing how the process would go. We signed the contract and set a date the house would go on the market. Unfortunately, Covid 19 hit and all our plans had to be put on hold. Throughout this time, Lina stayed in touch and kept us in the loop about the marketplace and what was going on. When the time was right, Lina got our house on the market. It started with the professional staging, the photographs and the virtual tour. The house went on the market as planned and to our shock it sold in 4 days for well above our asking price.”  –NT 


Sold: Single-Family home in Bloomfield, NJ - Dec 2019

“When I first met Lina, I already felt confident in the way she presented her plan on how to market my house. She took a look at my property and told me exactly what has to be done to make it appeal to the buyers. And indeed, it worked. She was hands-on in prepping my house for open house. I was impressed that after only 3 days on the market I got multiple offers. She helped me all through the process until my house was finally sold. I would highly recommend her to my friends, due to her expertise in her business.” – AL


Sold: Single-Family home in Glen Ridge, NJ - May 2015

“I could not have dreamt of a better realtor than Pauline Panza. Her exceptional skills, drive and pleasant demeanor resulted in delivering a successful and lucrative sale. With this being our third home sale, our experience with Pauline has been hands-down the most professional and profitable transaction. I highly recommend Pauline Panza to sell homes, especially in the high-end range.” –BB

Selling Your Home

I wanted to share these reviews from sellers over the years to illustrate my philosophy as a listing agent. When I’m marketing your home, I have a very specific goal: Get as many people as possible to look at your house in the shortest period of time. 

That’s the key to a profitable sale.

Some people have a misconception about what listing agents do. A good listing agent does not “sell” a house through “salesmanship.” Selling houses is about knowing how to present your home in its most flattering light. How to position your house so it’s priced to create excitement. And how to market your house so that a maximum number of buyers know about it. 

Experience Pays Off

My team’s success in “selling” homes rests on decades of experience, knowing exactly what to do to draw buyers to your home and bid on it, and then understanding the finer points of negotiation so that everything comes together at the closing table. This is has been our approach year after year, and it always works!

My most successful sellers are those who take our advice and let us do what needs to be done to bring eager buyers to their home. Even during this challenging year, with the whole family working and going to school from home, we have helped sellers get their house on the market quickly and lucratively. 

If you’re thinking about selling, I’d love to share my expertise with you.

973-809-5277

3 Things To Do To Your House For Spring

1.    Declutter

2.    Declutter 

3.    Declutter

No one wants to hear this, because it’s not an easy thing to do. But if you’re thinking of moving – particularly if you’ve been in your home for a while – this is the absolute best place to put your resources. 

Here’s my philosophy on this in a nutshell:

If you have the slightest notion that you may want to sell in the next five years, start the very liberating process of decluttering as soon as possible. If you end up putting your home on the market in a year, you’ll already be halfway to making your house ready to show. If you dont list your house for another five years, you can enjoy living in a calmer and more orderly environment. 

We’ve all just spent so much more time in our homes this past year, doesn’t a more serene space seem so very appealing? It does to me!

Decluttering isn’t easy for many reasons, most of them having to do with memories. Besides the physical toll, it takes a lot of mental energy to make decisions about all our “stuff.” This is why, when I need to declutter my own space, I call in the big guns: my associates Jodi or Linda. 

While my Scandinavian sensibility is very streamlined and spare, my actual living space veers from that ideal. Jodi or Linda can wrangle any kind of disorganization and clutter that may have crept into my space. They take what has become chaotic and make it make sense. 

I’ve turned each of them loose on my garage, attic, and the closet into which I’ve been stuffing the loot from too much Costco shopping. For my clients, they have made molehills out of mountains in an impressively short time. 

I know one obstacle to decluttering for many people is: How do I get rid of my stuff?

If you’re in Montclair or nearby, I just found out there’s a one-day Clothing Drive at Montclair High School (Chestnut St.) on April 3rd from 9AM-1PM. They’re taking clothing, shoes, accessories and household items like blankets and towels in good condition. (No furniture, only soft goods. Items must be in a plastic bag and you can drive through the circle and drop from the car.)

If you’d like me to send you a list of my regular top places to donate, drop me an email! Or reach out even if you just need a pep talk!  lina@walkablesuburb.com

 

One Year Ago

 

One year ago, I watched my beloved town close down. Like everyone else, I thought it would be temporary. Like everyone else, I was worried for my family and the people I loved. Like everyone else, I had no idea what to expect. 

A year ago, I couldn’t fathom the idea that we all would be spending a whole year figuring out a new way to do the things that we’ve always taken for granted. How would we do our work? How would we be with our friends? How would we take care of our kids?

Two fire pits and a case of hand sanitizer later, I have learned a lot. I’ve learned that you can get homes inspected without touching anything and that you can do closings from separate cars in parking lots. But the most powerful lesson I’ve learned is how much a community can truly pull together in a time of great unrest. 

I want to commemorate this “anniversary” by sharing some of the things that have moved me over this year. 

The many restaurants that quickly began providing groceries. Montclair Bread Company, Le Salbuen, Sal's Gastro, and Jackie’s Grillette all pop immediately to mind. I’m sure there were plenty others!

I remember there was a local woman who collected donations from residents in order to pay a restaurant to make dinner for all the healthcare workers. It was a great way to be able to support the restaurants and the local hospital in those early, unrelenting weeks. 

Local social media pages sprung up where people could crowd-source up-to-the-minute information on everything from Lysol Wipes to testing sites to which restaurants were offering easy, affordable family meals for curbside pick-up.  

I loved seeing how exercise studios and other group gatherings figured out how to make it work outdoors. How DFit erected a huge canopy in the parking lot and blasted workout music so loudly you could hear it across the train tracks. I loved seeing yoga classes in Anderson Park and the senior group’s knitting circle set up near Edgemont Pond.

We had protests and marches in ways that kept people safe, and still heard.  

I loved reading about kids making masks, and creating a program where teens were matched up with seniors and wrote them notes and letters while they were all alone. A group of kids launched Montclair’s first skate park in the early days of the pandemic. Others painted hopeful messages on rocks and placed them all over town.

I’m so proud of how this community was able to provide for each other. 

I remember a year ago, walking down Parkway and right in front of my old house (coincidentally), someone had chalk-written across the road in big, hopeful letters: We Got This!

One year later, I have to say: We really did.

The Value of In-Home Exercise SpaceĀ 

I talk a lot about the benefits of living in a walkable suburb – the ease of meeting neighbors and the way you can really engage with a community when you’re on foot.

Talking with clients this past year about what they’re looking for in a house – or a in a town – I’ve had more conversations about mental well-being than I think I’ve had in the past 20 years combined. And the number one thing that comes up for practically everyone is not surprising: Exercise.

We all know that walking and being outdoors feels good and is good for your health. I love that there are exercise studios and programs in town that have moved completely outdoors during the pandemic, like the socially-distanced yoga class in Anderson Park or the Tae Kwon Do studio on Glen Ridge Ave that held classes in the parking lot. 

Unfortunately, those solutions don’t work as well when there’s a foot of snow on the ground.

Whether you are buying or selling, I recommend that my clients think about the space in their home with an eye toward exercise space. I wrote a post exactly a year ago, pre-pandemic, about seeing “extra” bedrooms as home offices or workout spaces (a post that seems especially prescient these days!). Now I add to that: basements, sun-rooms, garages!

[Small sunrooms make great workout spaces.]

[A simple basement set up.]

You don’t need much square footage to dedicate to a physical regimen, and it doesn’t need to be fancy.  After gaining a bit of weight late last spring, my own son set up a humble exercise area in the garage and lost over 50 lbs.

[My son's garage workout space.]

Of course, when the space is little fancier, it may be more inviting and more profitable. My colleagues and I have been surprised on occasion how much a house has sold for, and it seems like those with an attractive Home Gym area are particularly appealing. 

[Garage-turned-exercise studio.]

My background in architecture has come in quite handy, helping buyers and sellers envision a living space that focuses on well-being, indoors or outdoors. Call or text: 973-809-5277

5 Winter Things To Do With Kids That You Might Not Expect Only 12 Miles West of NYC

Oh, the winter is long when you have to entertain those little balls of energy -- otherwise known as Children. That’s why it’s key to find a suburb that offers a lot of outdoor fun even when it’s cold out. I’ve loved raising my kids in Montclair, and the prevalence of winter wonder is one of the many reasons why.

Here’s how we do winter:

Sledding at the Iris Garden Hill. This hill is long and not too steep, and the town closes the road when it snows to make it super safe. Also, there are plenty of other sledding hills all over town.

Ice Skating at Edgemont Pond. Of course, it has to be cold enough for skating, but this big pond is a magical experience – and free!

Snow Shoeing at Eagle Rock Reservation. Ok, I admit, I have never personally snow-shoed. But I have friends who have, and they've also gone cross-country skiing in this miles-long reservation at the south end of town. 

Nature Walks at Mills Reservation. My kids and I would make a list of stuff to find, kind of like a Scavenger Hunt, and spend a happy hour-and-a-half on the big, easy trail looking for “tee-pees” and “ice formations.” 

Laps at Brookdale Park. There’s a running track that’s great for “races” and a walking path where you can lap this whole beautiful county park. My kids would do bike laps or scooter laps or sometimes just run laps around the excellent playground. If they needed further tiring out, I would send them up and down the grand stadium steps or chasing after a soccer ball in the field. Brookdale Park in the winter is a gem.

If you ever want to hear about all the other reasons I’ve loved raising my kids in Montclair, please reach out. I love to talk about the town I love so much. Talk or Text: (973) 809-5277

Silver Lining Socializing

I just read a post on social media by a friend who was lamenting that her daughter’s college pushed back the start date for spring semester. The family lives in New York City and she wrote something like, “They’re sending the kids home before Thanksgiving and they’re not having them back on campus until February! What is she supposed to do here for two-and-a-half months!?”

This is of course not a “city” problem, but it’s a bigger problem in the city right now than here. And that is because here, in the backyard, many of us can and do avail ourselves of a simple but sanity-saving invention: 

The fire pit.

I can’t even remember the days before I bought myself one of these delightful accessories, and now I have two: a wood-burning fire pit for the kids and a gas-powered one for adults. Neither is super fancy – I have not yet sprung for the “outdoor heater” – but both have allowed my family to extend our social visits later into the evening and later into the season.

Pre-Covid, we'd use our fire pit in the middle of the winter. It was as cozy and intimate as my living room fireplace – and in some ways even more so. Chilled wine or hot cocoa around a backyard fire is a perfect way to unwind on a Friday night.

Like everyone else in the world, my social life has taken a big hit in the last six months. But I’ve been to several Fire Pit Soirees over the last many weeks, and it’s so rejuvenating to do some socializing that feels close to normal. 

If you’re a new homeowner, I highly recommend this simple, life-enhancing addition to your outdoor space. And if you’re selling, I highly recommend setting up a fire pit area in your yard so buyers can envision what their lovely autumn nights might look like. 

I put Fire Pits on my Pandemic Silver Linings list – one of the things that we all have discovered the beauty of and a way of socializing that I believe will endure. 

If you’re a buyer OR a seller who wants to know more about how outdoor spaces can be transformed into a little mini paradise without spending a lot of money, give me a call! 

973-809-5277 (talk or text!)

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