Downsizing

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

Comments

  1. No comments. Be the first to comment.

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:

 

 

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!

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.