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Blog :: 06-2015

Confession: I Have Garage Issues...

Panza HouseI consider myself a very accepting person, but I also hold some very strong opinions. One of them relates to attached garages.

First, please let me say that if you have an attached garage, this is in no way meant to disparage you or your carport. But if I'm being honest, I've never really liked the way a garage looks when it's attached to a house. Whenever that big door is open it looks like a gaping mouth to me. Plus, philosophically, I've always considered houses a place for people to live in, not cars.

And yet, the house I live in now has just that amenity.

Last year, when I downsized, I made a list of the things that were important to me in a home. After looking for a while, I found a house that met virtually all of my criteria. I truly believed that buying this house was going to require some big concessions on my part, as the attached garage is quite a prominent feature from the street. I was wrong.

With my background in architecture, I am always brainstorming with my clients about change they might make to suit their aesthetics. But I also now try to impress upon them that if we give our aversions too much power, we run the risk of passing up a home that is actually pretty perfect.

Am I saying that I now like the look of attached garages? No, not at all. But I do love getting out of my car on a rainy day and taking four bone-dry steps into my house. And I'm grateful that I didn't allow my once hard-line garage stance prevent me from moving into one of the happiest homes I've ever owned.

My Ode to Midland Ave in Montclair

P1000940When I take clients around Montclair, at some point they always ask, "Which area is the best?" Of course, "best" is relative. If you're a commuter, living near one of Montclair's 7 train stations might be best. If you have small children, maybe it's living near one of the many parks. Or near Applegate Farms (now you know my favorite indulgence!). Some people want to live near one of the movie theaters, others prefer a New York City view.

But central to it all, is Midland Avenue. In fact, there's a plaque on Midland denoting the exact center of town. As spring turns quietly into summer, it always feels like Midland comes to life.

At the end of June, a truly magical tradition takes place. After receiving their diplomas, all the new high school graduates board a small fleet of school buses and are driven throughout the town. They begin their trek on Midland and little crowds of well-wishers gather on the sidewalks, banging pots and pans with old metal spoons to celebrate them. It's noisy and jubilant and a perfect way to lead into another one of my very favorite Montclair traditions - the July Fourth Parade. On that day, everyone in town flocks to Midland, lawn chairs flanking the block. There are vintage cars and marching bands, baton twirlers and Boy Scouts. The highlight, for me, is the bagpipes. Vendors sell balloons and pretzels, and if you're not sitting (or marching) you're wandering on the sidewalk, running into friends and neighbors as if you're at the world's biggest block party. It's hard to imagine another community with as much soul and revelry.

I can't really say where the "best" part of Montclair is. Only that there's nowhere I'd rather be.

Making Improvements to Your Montclair Home? Save Your Receipts!

I just came across this article the other day and wanted to share it. Clients (past, present and future) regularly consult with me on how much value they may see in a home improvement project when they go to sell their home. The answer is often a double-edged sword, as I remind them that improvements that increase the value of a home can also increase the owner's tax liability.  Your capital gains tax liability (based on how much more your sale price is than your buying price was) is complex, but can often be offset by the cost of the improvements you made to your home while you owned it. My advice -- always -- is, whatever you do, save receipts.

I love when a reputable news source like the New York Times runs a piece like this, mostly because the information is so comprehensive - containing valuable links and answering almost every question that may come up.

For example, simply the listing of what we can deduct is very helpful: "...decks and patios; landscaping, including sprinkler systems; pools; a new roof or siding; insulation; and kitchen remodeling. Some smaller and perhaps surprising things are there, too: installation of utility services, which could include any fiber charges from Verizon for FiOS or money you paid to the person who hard-wired your Apple TV to your cable modem. Each additional electrical outlet should count, too. Also, you can add in many legal, title and recording fees (plus transfer and certain other taxes) from your closing."

I especially like the suggestion to photocopy "thermal receipts," as they can fade over time.

I'm always happy to answer questions about improvements, so please feel free to call upon me -- for all your real estate needs! 973-809-5277

Walking Around Town is Good For Your Brain

edgemont fountain Soon after starting a family, we moved into our first house in Montclair, which was across the street from a park. And although the playground was in need of a facelift back then, the park had a paved path, a climbing tree, a baseball diamond, a big pond, a fountain and a few weeping bushes that kids could tuck themselves into for hide-and-seek, making it a premiere destination for neighborhood strolls. Even before the playground renovation made Edgemont Park the place to be with toddlers, it was super easy to meet neighbors and potential playmates for my twins. This is one of the most obvious advantages of a Walkable Suburb - people are out walking with their kids and usually happy to socialize.

But now and then I stumble upon less obvious benefits of living in a walkable environment, like the one I came across recently about walkability and brain health. It seems that a recent pilot study showed that living in a walkable town - a place where you can navigate on foot - may foster better cognition abilities as we age. Specifically, the article said, "the sample of older adults who lived in more 'walkable' neighborhoods performed much better on cognition tests." This is an area that researchers are just beginning to explore, so I wouldn't delete that Lumosity app just yet, but there are early indicators that Walkability is not just for kids anymore!