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Lina Panza

Musical Montclair

I admit, I don't think of myself as a “jazz person.” So, every time I tell my clients about this amazing festival taking place here each summer, I feel like I may be speaking a bit out of my element. This year, aside from the music, I realized that one of the most special things about the Montclair Jazz Festival is that it’s such a far-reaching community event. This year, the theme was “Bringing Us Back Together Again!” 

Honestly, I don’t think anything is able to do that better than outdoor music!

The 2021 festival took place in a different (more central) part of town than in years past, and it was spread over several weekends, rather than just one – changes that I think made the event even better. I stopped by one day and listened to trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, a musician I was wholly unfamiliar with, and was blown away -- moved by the music, which was great, but also by all of us being together again. With hundreds of people relaxing on a beautiful August day, it almost felt like the pre-pandemic days.

There have been outdoor music events that I’ve come to rely on for igniting that feeling of community fun I always equate with living in Montclair. Weekend blues on the back patio of Ruthie’s BBQ on Chestnut Street. Live music on Saturdays at the Montclair Farmers Market. The mini outdoor concerts at Center Stage on Church Street (which don’t seem to be up and running again this year – but soon!).

Then there are all the surprising “concerts” that I seem to happen upon accidentally, either strolling through Edgemont Park or grabbing a coffee in Watchung Plaza. The other day I saw a flyer for an outdoor concert by the Chamber Music Society of North Jersey (Saturday, Aug 28 at 7pm in Anderson Park – bring lawn chairs/blankets!) which looks like it will be magical.

This is one of the things I absolutely love about Montclair: it is a community of people who love to use their talents to strengthen community.  

In addition to the return of live music, another things that has been feeling like the “old days” is that the highly aggressive bidding on homes seems to be starting to wane. People don’t have that “at any price” attitude that has prevailed over the last year. The market will shift yet again, and I am always available to go through the implications of those shifts, for buyers or sellers, in practical, actionable terms. 

Call or text anytime to talk about Montclair market conditions, musical events, or anything thing else I can help you with regarding my favorite Walkable Suburb!    973-809-5277 

How to Get Your Offer Accepted and Not Screw It UpĀ 

We are in a fierce seller’s market. This is no surprise to anyone. When the market is like this, an offer needs to be competitive, obviously, but also it needs to be bulletproof once the offer has been accepted. 

That means it must be able to withstand a lot of back-and-forth in order to make it to the closing finish line.

Sellers typically want three things: high price, low risk, few hassles. They are looking to minimize uncertainties about the sale going along as planned and don’t want to run around repairing a long list of minor cosmetic defects. Many buyers will offer a competitive price, but those who approach their negotiations with “smooth transaction” in mind are, in my opinion, the most likely to actually own the house at the end.

MINIMIZE CONTINGENCIES

Buyers can make their offers less risky to the seller – i.e, less contingent on third-party assessments – by minimizing those contingencies.

They can offer a “cash” deal, meaning, they don’t need to secure a mortgage in order to close. Or they may add appraisal or inspection language into the contract that, in essence, is saying: “Even if the bank thinks the house is worth less than I offered for it, I will proceed with the contract and not seek to renegotiate the price.” Or: “It’s okay if the house has some problems that were not evident when I toured. I’ll take on the burden of all that and still pay you what we agreed upon.”

However, in order to really secure the deal, the buyer may need to do more.

GET EVERYONE ON BOARD

I’ve seen many deals fall apart when a buyer’s attorney crosses out all the carefully negotiated aspects of the offer simply because the buyer did not communicate to their attorney that these were intentional concessions.  If the seller had received multiple offers on their property, they may look at the contract and say, “Sorry. Deal’s off. I’m moving to the next buyer in line.”

This can be a devastating moment for a buyer who has just spent weeks – or months – looking for, finding, and attempting to purchase a home. Besides being closed out of the home they had their heart set on, they now need to start all over.

The truth is, the vast majority of homes do appraise for the mortgage amount. And most often a deal is still worthwhile even if the buyer takes on the cost of repairs. 

A GOOD AGENT HELPS MAKE GOOD DEALS

I’m not suggesting going into a house deal ready to give away the store. But a good agent can provide a lot of support in decoding these aspects of a negotiation as well as a variety of options in structuring an offer so you are both protected and making an offer that is low risk for the seller. These are conversations worth having while you’re looking for a house rather than during that stressful period of bidding and trying to make sound decisions in an instant.

 

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Walking Montclair - A Step By Step Account

If there’s one thing the pandemic showed me about my community, it was that having a nice place to walk is priceless. My friend really illuminated the essence of what it’s like to live in this walkable suburb when she described her now-daily ritual of hitting the sidewalks. She agreed to let me share it here:

We’ve lived here for nine years and part of what drew us to Montclair was being able to walk places. So, my partner and I often took walks. But last year when the gyms and yoga studios closed, we decided to do a daily four-mile walk for exercise. We do the same route every day, but on Saturdays, we do it in reverse because I like to start at the Farmer’s Market, which is one of my favorite places to people watch. 

From there, we head to Watchung Plaza, which is invariably lively and full of people. This is always the highlight for me. I like to see what’s going on there, what new stores are opening up. I stick my head into Local Coffee and wave to Robert, and I usually run into someone I know outside Bluestone Cafe

Besides watching people, I like to look at people’s gardens and see how they progress over time. And I like looking at the houses. One thing I love about Montclair is that the houses are all different from one another. We usually walk on Midland Ave, which has a lot of nice houses and gardens. 

Once we hit Walnut Street, we head back toward the market and invariably stop at Cucina for a chicken parm sandwich, or sometimes I go into Curated Home and Living, which is an amazing place to buy gifts. Walnut Street itself is usually hopping, so there’s more people watching to be done. 

If it’s an especially nice day, we sometimes make a pit stop at home and then head out in the other direction for a second walk. This time we go up Glenridge Avenue toward Church Street because: People! 

When we’re in that neighborhood, we usually check out the progress of the new arts center by The Wellmont theater. I’ve been watching that area come together from the beginning and I’m really excited about it. 

Sometimes we walk up to the art museum and then swing by Whole Foods on the way back home. Other times, we loop around and visit the beautiful public garden behind the United Way building on South Fullerton. This is one of my other favorite places in town. 

Each walk usually takes a little over an hour. We walk at a good pace, but it never feels like we’re doing “exercise” – it feels like we’ve having an outing.

If you have a favorite place to walk in Montclair, please share it in the comments! And if you want to take a walk around town with me to get a sense of this walkable suburb, call or text! I love showing off my town. 973-809-5277

My Favorite Montclair Tradition

Last Thursday night was the bus parade. And, of course, I got teary. 

As always, a string of school buses load up the 500 or so high school seniors who had just graduated that day, ferrying the class to some undisclosed location for a party that lasts into the morning. But first, they drive through the town. 

They say the route is a secret, and maybe at one time it was, but most everyone now knows that the caravan takes the kids past each of the seven elementary schools and two of the middle schools as they make their way out of town. 

Every year, the parade is joyous mayhem – with flashing police cars leading the pack and fire trucks tooting horns, and bus after bus carrying freshly minted grads who are hanging out the bus windows screaming and reveling and being met with screaming, reveling onlookers. 

People come out of their homes and stand at the curb, clapping for the kids, banging pots with wooden spoons, shouting and yelling at the passing bus line as if they were at a championship game and the home team just took the pennant. People gather at the elementary schools. They throw lawn parties. It’s so loud and siren-y that I often warn my new-to-town clients that it’s about to happen so they don’t think we’re in the middle of an air raid.

I don’t know of another town that does this and it feels so special to me. It’s not just for the parents of the grads, or for parents in general, it’s for everyone. 

Last year, there was no bus parade, and I really missed it. It’s my all-time favorite community event. If you’re a spectator, it lasts only a few minutes as the buses drive by – 10 maybe. But it is unbridled jubilation, and in that way it feels like 10 hours of glee. 

This year, there was even more glee than usual.  And more tears. It was really moving to see this tradition restored after our year of having to put so many traditions on hold. The bus parade isn’t just a graduation thing…it’s a community thing. One of the many ways this big, vibrant, walkable suburb feels like a family.

If you want to see the parade starting off, here's a video from our local paper.

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