Downsizing

What Have We Learned So Far

I think I can speak for most when I say this past few months has been an incredible learning experience. From the minute New Jersey went on “lockdown,” all my colleagues and I could talk about was how will we do our jobs?

We learned how to make great use of virtual house-tour apps and what to do to make an in-person home tour safe. We learned how to get houses inspected and close under the most arduous circumstances. But maybe most important, as a society we learned to stop all our hurrying about and start to understand what we care about and value. What we want to take into the future with us.

Many of my clients adopted a more inward focus. Buyers started to care more about “comfort,” less about “image.” Grand spaces for entertaining became less important than a garage loft that could be converted into a home office. Also, short commutes to work from an apartment on the Upper West Side became less important than outdoor space.

We’ve also seen how size came to matter in a different way. Some sellers looked at their big houses as a welcome oasis, someplace where they could work and school their kids and have a little privacy from everyone else. Others began to see their big house as too much to take care of since they’d become the ones cleaning it every week.

Buying and selling decisions have become far more about “quality of life” – though not just about a person’s individual life. We’ve seen more people looking for quality of life in a community that’s consistent with their beliefs. A community’s dedication to welcoming all people has become a selling point like never before. I know as a society we still have a long way to go, but as someone raised in Manhattan, I can personally vouch for Montclair’s continued commitment to making our town feel like it’s a place where everyone belongs.

Helping people buy or sell a home has always been a very personal experience, and now it feels like an even deeper one. As always, I’m here to talk about any and every aspect of home buying or sales. Talk or text: (973) 809-5277

Montclair to Bloomfield – A New Cozy Community

Carol and John moved to Montclair in 1995. They have three grown children, two of whom are out on their own; the youngest is living at home. John works from home, a partner in a media marketing company. Carol commutes to New York City four days a week for her job at a non-profit. This past summer, after 24 years in their Montclair home, they sold and bought a home in Bloomfield.

Why Bloomfield?

We wanted to stay in the Montclair area – close to friends and all the places we like to go. Our original plan was to downsize, but the house we bought is not much smaller than what we had been in. However, it was less expensive, and it’s also a much better configuration for our current situation. We wanted to be close to the New York bus and able to walk to things, and we were lucky enough to get a house in the Brookdale section, right off the park.

What’s your favorite thing about living here?

We love the neighborhood. Not just the proximity to the park, but also the coziness of block. It’s a dead-end street, so the only people driving on the block, live here. The houses are closer together and closer to the street, so it feels more like a little community. Everyone is extremely friendly, so it just feels really good to be here. 

Any challenges along the way?

We bought and sold with Lina, and for us, the buying was very easy. We went to an open house that checked off all our boxes; she came back with us the next week and everything fell into place quickly and smoothly, even in this neighborhood where houses go fast. The selling was more complicated for us, and there, Lina was amazing. We had her come over almost a year earlier and advise us what we should do to prepare the house. We discovered there was a lot that needed updating, projects we often did ourselves. (That was the hard part.)  Our prep work included repainting every room, refinishing floors, finishing off the 3rd floor more completely, updating kitchen cabinets and counters, and installing some new light fixtures. Lina’s advice was spot on. She really understands the market and what it takes to make a house marketable. From the timing, to the paint colors, we just did everything she told us to do and it worked. Our Montclair house was our nest egg and she helped us maximize what we could get for it. 

What’s turned out better than you expected?

Our other challenge was the endless decluttering. We had to get rid of so much! It was hard to let go of what we’d held onto for decades. For months, we spent most weekends giving things away and filling up a dumpster. But now, it feels so good to live a more streamlined life. It’s been great to learn that we can make do with a lot less “stuff.” The fact that we didn’t have to let go of our relationships in the area probably made the whole move a little easier.

Photos: Top - Carol and John in front of their new home; Bottom - their former Montclair home. 

Don't Buy A House For Your Furniture

Not long ago, I showed a couple a house that was perfect in every way. Perfect size. Perfect location. Perfect price. They were visibly interested as they moved from room to room. When we got back in the car, I was waiting for one of them to ask what I thought they should offer. Instead, the woman said, “I don’t think this house is for me. My armoire isn’t going to fit.” 

I understand someone being attached to a piece of furniture with great sentimental value, but this wasn’t that. It was just a cabinet she’d bought to keep sweaters in.  

“Donate it,” I suggested. But to some, this is unthinkable.

Like most people, I love most of my furniture. But buying and selling houses reminds me that the real goal in house shopping is to find a home for you. Not your furniture. 

Many of the houses in the areas I show most often – Montclair, Glen Ridge, the Oranges, Verona, Cedar Grove, Livingston, the Caldwells – have unique layouts, quirky shaped rooms, or architectural details that could be enhanced (or diminished) by the right (or wrong) piece of furniture. When clients say they’ve had a hard time finding a home for their 94-inch sofa, to me, the solution is simple: buy the furniture that the house needs. Not the other way around.

I had a client who was selling a house with a long, skinny living room. I had my stager come in and replace his living room furniture with pieces that enhanced the space. He said, “I’ve lived here for 20 years and had no idea how to furnish this room. Until now.”

I had another client who was moving from a 7-bedroom house in Montclair to a 3-bedroom condo in West Orange. “I’m not taking any furniture with me,” she said. I was inspired by her attitude, as I know that sometimes not wanting to let go of our furniture is really a metaphor for not wanting to let go of our old house. She moved in with all new furniture and everything she bought was exactly the right size and proportion for her new space. And guess what? It looked amazing!

One thing I hope I can always offer my clients – both buyers and sellers – is the ability to offer perspective on which things are actually worth worrying about in a home sale. And which, like furniture, are often not worth a second thought. 

Photo: This unusually narrow living room, with its off-center fireplace, never looked quite right to the homeowner, until our stager set up furniture that was the right scale for the space.

My 5 Tips for Clutter

Clutter is a topic that my clients and I can talk about for hours. 

It’s no secret that one of a real estate agent’s first directives to a potential seller is “Get rid of the clutter.” This is obviously easier said than done.

I just came across some research studies that tie an organized, uncluttered home to feelings of well-being, particularly in women. I have definitely found this in my own life. A few years ago, I downsized and had to deal with a lot of my stuff for the first time in a long time. I like “things,” so since then, I have had to adopt some new habits to keep may spaces streamlined. I can personally attest to the fact that, in stressful times, a calm, organized environment can act as a salve.

Here are some of my suggestions for getting started on your own Decluttering Journey.

1. Binge Watch Marie Kondo on Netflix – I know many roll their eyes about her, but she has been a motivator for many of my clients. I read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a few years ago, but the TV show seems more relatable. People can see their own “issues” in the stories of her clients and are inspired to overcome them.

2. Read The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson – I have not read this book yet, but my mother was Danish and essentially lived by the philosophy, “Don’t leave a big mess for your family to sort out after you pass.” Mom would come to visit, happily toting my old soccer trophies from seventh grade. She didn’t want them and neither did I. Sometimes we hold onto things thinking our children will want them in their future. And oftentimes we are mistaken.

3. Declutter By Time Rather Than By Area – Sometimes, just the idea of decluttering an area – the closet, the pantry, the basement – can feel overwhelming. Some people have luck with allotting successive amounts of time to an organizing project. I might set my timer for 30 minutes and then tackle whatever I can get done with the linen closet in that time, giving myself permission to spend ONLY 30 minutes today and come back to it for more 30-minute intervals during the week.

4. Hire a Professional – My assistant, Jodi,  is a professional organizer and she has been a life saver in helping people who cannot find the time to declutter on their own. I actually use several different organizers, each with their own super-power, so I can pair a client with the organizer that will best suit them. One organizer is so lovely and patient, she will listen to a client's every anecdote about each teacup as they goes through the cabinets.

5. Stage to Stay – Many think of professional stagers as people who bring things into a home to make it look a certain way. But most of “staging” really involves taking things away. When a house is going to market, there is usually a time-line and an urgency for staging. However, if you just want to make your home more streamlined, stagers are a wonderful resource for simplifying spaces. Again, I use different stagers for different clients, depending on their needs.

Most of us own at least twice as much “stuff” as we need. Not only does decluttering make a house present better, it makes the owner feel better – so much so that, on a few occasions, my clients decided they liked their home so much more they wanted to stay there for a few more years!

If you want to talk clutter, give me a call: 973-809-5277

New to Market:82 Cumberland Ave, Verona, NJ

OPEN HOUSE

Saturday 3/16 & Sunday 3/17

2 - 4 PM

Offered at $399,000

Downsizers and starters, your new home awaits!

82 Cumberland Ave in Verona is right-sized for smaller households with two bedrooms and easy, one floor living. On the lower level, a bonus in-law suite with its own entrance and screened in porch is perfect for overnight guests or extended stay visitors alike. 

Charming and surprising details abound in this bright, vintage cottage. In the living room, decorative shelves next to the wood burning fireplace double as a hidden coat closet. A nostalgic kitchen with Linoleum floor, Formica countertops and an antique cooker may remind you of grandma’s butter and jam thumbprint cookies.  Work from home? The sunny corner office with built-in bookshelves and glass pane door guarantee privacy and light.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Have a dog?  The large fenced in yard will keep Rover entertained for hours.
 
Ideally located and walkable to NYC bus stop, downtown Verona shops and restaurants as well as Verona Park, this Goldilocks home (not too big, not too small) will not be on the market for long!

Don’t miss the Open House:  Saturday and Sunday from 2-4 .

or call me to schedule a private showing: 973-809-5277

 
 

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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From Montclair to East Orange: Ready For A Change

 

Their nest was empty, but these downsizing buyers did not want to go small. 

“My husband and I weren’t the typical ‘downsizers.’ We weren’t looking for ‘smaller’ as much as for ‘different.’ And we weren’t in a big hurry to move, which gave us the opportunity to become curious about what other our options might be.

We wanted to stay in the general area, a home with a similar amount of space and an easy commute to the city. We wanted an interesting community where people seemed invested in where they lived. Really, most of the things that brought us to Montclair in the first place.  

But that was 20 years ago, when we also wanted a progressive school system for our young children. Now we needed to pay college tuition.  

I started looking at listings all over North Jersey. I became intrigued by a house in East Orange and called Lina to get her opinion. She said it was already under contract, but another house in the neighborhood was coming on the market the following week.

Long story short: right away, we felt that house could be “the one.” Then Lina provided us all the information we needed to make our decision. 

Lina knows about houses – especially architecturally. This one had great bones and an open layout. She helped us understand what and how we may need to renovate.

She knows about neighborhoods. This house was right next to Bloomfield’s Watsessing Park. We had lived adjacent to Brookdale Park – also an Olmsted designed space – when we were in Montclair, so Lina gave us the rundown on this park. I joined the conservancy not long after we moved! Also, as a true champion of the walkable lifestyle, Lina also sold us on the nearby train and bus, but also the walkable shopping and restaurants

She knows about communities. A good realtor has the kind of inside information you simply cannot get from just reading listings. Our new community is ethnically diverse, with residents of all ages. The people are extremely welcoming, and very proud of their neighborhood. Because Lina is a great listener, she knew we would respond to all those things.

Our new home is not far from Montclair – maybe a 15 minute drive. Early on, I considered that a major selling point of the new house -- the ability to keep my entire Montclair life intact. But now, most of my Montclair travels are to see friends. I do everything else here, in our new home!"

— Nancy, from East Orange

Free Consultation For Down-Sizers

TypewriterOnce upon a time, I lived in a big house by the park. It was the perfect place to raise my children. Then one day, with my children older and beginning to leave home, my house seemed too big for my life. So I moved to a smaller place.

This is not an original story. Most people will tell this story one day, or one just like it. It’s common for people to downsize. But the difference these days is that it’s become more difficult to get rid of our “stuff.”

I came upon a blog post the other day – “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff” – and it was as if someone looked into my mind and recounted many of the conversations I’ve had with my seller clients. People get ready to move themselves, or their elderly parents, and discover that all those “valuable” belongings – books, china, heirloom furniture, art – that they’re finally ready to part with, don’t have anywhere to go.

I happen to enjoy the activity of figuring out “what's next” for possessions that don’t serve me any longer. But many of my clients do not!

I offer my listing clients a free 4-hour consultation with a professional home organizer who will help them decide what to keep, what to throw out, as well as arrange for appraisals, donations, and even online sales.

Once upon a time, it used to be so easy to find a new home for our “stuff,” and now, not so much. But the real story is this: if you have the support of someone who is both knowledgeable and likes the process, you can enjoy those happily-ever-after moments that arise when your lifestyle and your possessions are once again in sync.

Contact me to get started today!

New Listing: The Perfect Commuter Home - Bloomfield, NJ

What does it take to make a perfect commuter home?

o New York bus one block away! o 21-minute commute to midtown! o High end cook's kitchen! o Central air conditioning and outdoor hot tub! o Big bright family room! o Cozy fireplace! o Basement Rec Room! o Quiet neighborhood! o Easy highway access!

kitchen fam room hot tub

10 Bolton Place was just listed for $399,000 and will not last long on the market.

With ample room for relaxation and entertaining, this sweet home is perfectly placed for you to take advantage of quick, easy access to NY Port Authority. Whether your family is growing out of an apartment into a house, or downsizing into a simpler lifestyle, you have everything to gain in this 3-bedroom gem.

If you'd like to see this or any other homes, please call or text: 973.809.5277

Just Listed: 33 Mountain Ave, Bloomfield

mountain ave houseLovely starter or downsizer -- cute and walkable!

This charming home in the Brookdale section of Bloomfield is an ideal starter home, or could be perfect for someone looking to downsize.  Two bedrooms plus an office (or nursery), beautiful built-in cabinets (in one of the bedrooms, which was once used as a sewing room), newly renovated kitchen, and fully finished basement.

This is exactly the type of house I would seek out once I sent my last kid to college, mainly because of the backyard. It's big and flat, and I could finally have the vegetable garden I've always pined for. Plus, I love having people over in the summer and the back deck is a truly great entertaining space.

This house offers all the simplicity of an a town house with all the privacy (and pet-friendliness) of a private home. But you know what's most appealing to me? It's walkable!

An easy walk to Brookdale Park, homeowners can take full and convenient advantage of one of the county's most "happening" parks. Soccer stadium, tennis courts, walking trails, rose garden, new playground, dog park, archery field, summer concerts, fireworks and open fields galore, Brookdale Park has it all. And it's also an easy walk to restaurants and the supermarket on nearby Broad Street.

Listed at $339,000, this sweet home is not likely to linger. If you'd like to take a tour, please don't hesitate to call: