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Blog :: 09-2015

Joe Walsh Plays Montclair High School!

joe walshAt the risk of sounding like a 14-year-old, OMG! Joe Walsh is playing at the high school this weekend!

I can't even say I am a huge Eagles fan, but still: OMG!

OMG because he's playing in the high school auditorium, a lovely but relatively small theater space, especially for Joe Walsh.

And OMG because, as a former Montclair High School student, Walsh is performing to benefit the high school - proceeds will be funding library renovations and helping to create a state-of-the-art media center.

But mostly OMG because I can walk to it! How many concerts have I been able to walk to since leaving the city?

Actually, there's plenty of live music here in Montclair and, depending what part of town you live in, much of it walkable. From big-ticket shows at the Wellmont Theater to folk artists in small, intimate settings from Outpost in the Burbs; from avant-garde performances at Montclair State University to Montclair's home grown music scene that pops up you-never-know-where.

Not a day goes by that I don't feel grateful to have found myself a suburban town that has the vibrancy (and walkability) of a city - a town in which my dancing shoes and my walking shoes are sometimes one in the same. It makes me so happy I want to do a little jig.

When You Come to a Fork in the Road...

IMG_7148One of my regular morning walks includes a route up the mountain where I come to a fork at the base of a big hill. If I go to the left, I end up eventually passing a house that used to be the home of Yogi Berra.

Montclair has been abuzz today with the news of Yogi's passing. Yogi moved to Montclair around 1960, at the time to a bigger house on the other end of town. He raised his family here, putting his kids through the public schools, and was always known as an active member of the community.

Whenever I pass by that house, it still blows me away that it belonged to the renowned Yogi Berra. Not because I'm so star-struck (although I am a little bit), but because it reminds me of how special this town is. Plenty of "celebrities" moved here early in their careers, no doubt because of Montclair's beauty, but also because of its proximity to Manhattan. However, many of them stayed, presumably because here they found a lively, vibrant community - a place that seemed perfect to start a family. To call home.

I'm a born-and-raised New Yorker - no stranger to famous people in my midst. Of course, when you become successful enough to live anywhere, who wouldn't choose to live in what's often regarded "the greatest city in the world?" Well, Yogi Berra, for one. Along with the host of others who found Montclair.

If you or someone in your world has found themselves at their own fork in the road - thinking of downsizing, upsizing, heading for the suburbs or heading out of town - you can do what Yogi suggested: "Take it." Or you can call me. I can help with forks, life changes, and all matters of real estate!

Surgeon General Calls - Montclair Answers

walking-web-buttonI just came upon one of those cute 2-minute videos where a narrator explains some broad concept while a high-speed hand renders an animated line drawing to illustrate the point - in this particular case, the point being:

We All Need To Walk More!

The walking information should come as no surprise to anyone - the health benefits of walking have been written about abundantly. What was surprising (and gratifying) to me was that Step It Up! - the campaign that the Surgeon General launched last week - involves not only a call to action for people to increase the amount of time they spend walking, but also for communities to become safer, more hospitable places to walk.

This means adding sidewalks, taking care of green space, and generally creating a vibe throughout the community that makes walking pleasant and appealing. For me, that often means having interesting destinations - coffee shops, boutiques, bookstores - that I can get to on foot. The good news is, Montclair already does all of that!

This video even included things that are already part of my life - like walking to the train or the bus if I'm going into the city, or structuring some of my social time around walking (I have as many walking dates as I do lunch dates to catch up with friends).

Do I feel proud of my town for being a poster child for the Surgeon General's most recent communique to create more walkable communities? I don't really have to answer that, do I?

To Stage or Not To Stage?

Bessida Before 2 Bessida After

In my opinion, this should not even be a question. According to the Real Estate Staging Association, "Professionally listed staged properties look better, spend 73 percent less time on the market, typically sell for more money, end up on buyers' 'must see' lists, are perceived as 'well-maintained,' and have fewer concessions requested of the seller."

Plus, who doesn't love a good make-over?

Staging is not decorating. In fact, in many ways it's actually un-decorating. It usually involves decluttering, repairing and (unfortunately) depersonalizing a home so that a prospective buyer can easily envision themselves living there.

Sometimes it requires eliminating odors from pets, cooking, or mothballs. Or freshening up the landscape - trimming or removing overgrown bushes (especially important in a walkable suburb!). Also, although not really staging, there are "fixes" that are best done before putting a house on the market, such as removing underground oil tanks or removing asbestos pipe-wrap.

Some homes can be staged in a day but others take weeks or months of planning, sorting, storing and executing.

I consider staging an activity with few downsides and huge potential returns. Probably the worst you can say about staging is that it can be a little sad to make your home look its very best only to pack up and leave it. I had one client who didn't want to spend money refinishing floors when they moved in and only went to the trouble to do it when they put the house on the market. "I can't believe how much better our house looks now!" I remember her saying.

So if you're thinking of selling in a few years, you may want to start in on some of those repairs or touch ups now, while you have time to enjoy them.

(And now for a moment of shameless self-promotion: The before and after photo above is a home that sat on the market with two different agents for a combined 728 days. Neither bothered to stage the house. When I took over the listing and staged it, the house sold in 45 days.)

No Wal-Mart in Montclair

valley roadAccording to a blog post on this past spring, these six things that have been shown to increase home value:

Living Near Parks, Golf Courses and Open Spaces Living Near a Wal-Mart Walkability (!!!) Additional Dwelling Spaces Living Near a Professional Sports Arena Lots of Mature Trees

Except for the Wal-Mart, this list has Montclair, NJ written all over it.

I have talked about walkability until I'm blue in the face, but I'm usually referring to a stroll to a restaurant or movie theater, or the ability to get to the bus or train on foot. Not nearly often enough do I mention the two reservations that sit on Montclair's western border - Mills at the north end of town and Eagle Rock at the south end. When my kids were younger, we'd go hike one of the reservations after school sometimes - they're that close.

I don't golf but if I did, I wouldn't have to travel much further than the reservations to find myself on a public or private golf course. There are probably 10 within a 15-minute drive.

Mature trees: check. Sports arena: check. Carriage house or in-law suite: not always, but many homes offer ample and independent space for guests.

Montclair does not have a Wal-Mart and I make no apologies for that. In fact, there's always a lot of debate about what type of chain establishments may or may not set up shop here. However, Montclair is flanked by two major highways, which can take you to Wal-Mart, Target or dozens of other fun places to spend money. In fact, there are six Wal-Mart stores within 10 miles of here. We Montclair dwellers don't mind these little away trips. It's nice to leave Shangra-la sometimes.