Enjoying 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.

Plant. Shred. Recycle. Upcoming Events To Make Your Spring Cleaner

Whether you’re buying, selling, or just staying put, spring always feels like the right time to clean up. Still, sometimes we could use a little extra motivation. Here are a few upcoming events that may inspire you to tackle one of those spring-cleaning projects sooner rather than later. 

 

Paper Shredding – two low or no-cost options.

April 20 Montclair Shred-fest - 9am - 1pm at the Community Service Yard 219 N Fullerton. Montclair residents only. Free.

April  27 - Homecorp Shred Day - 9:30am - 12:30pm. 8 Hillside Ave. Open to the public. Donation requested.

 

Plant Sale - Annual event to benefit Van Vleck Gardens. Experts on-site for advice.

May 3 - 6 — Times vary. Van Vleck Gardens.

 

Hazardous Waste Collection - Goodbye old paint! (Oil paint, that is. And fluorescent light bulbs. And old fire extinguishers. And anti-freeze.)

May 4 - 8:30am-4pm at the Essex County Public Works site, 99 West Bradford Ave, Cedar Grove

 

Electronics Recycling - Computers, DVDs, 8-Track Tape players (don’t laugh, I still see some around).

May 18 - 9am - 3pm at the Essex County Public Works site, 99 West Bradford Ave, Cedar Grove

Saturdays - 9am - 4pm at Montclair Community Service Yard, 219 N Fullerton. Residents only. Also 2-4pm Wednesdays and Fridays.

 

Book Donations - Ongoing collections for book sales to benefit education.

Sep - May - Lacordaire Academy at Park St. and Lorraine Ave. Drop off this year before May 3, 2019.

May - August/Saturdays 8:30—11:30am -  Montclair College Women’s Club Book Sale. Collections at 26 Park Street, Montclair. Check website for May start-up dates.

 

Most websites will spell out what the organizations do and don’t accept as well as any other details you may need.

 

If you’re planning a garage sale, I always suggest timing it so you can take advantage of bulk waste pick up or any relevant recycling events afterwards. (Most towns require permits; here's info for Montclair.)

 

For anything else that you might want to sell (or buy) — furniture, clothing, sports equipment, old lawn mowers — I always check out the local swap pages on Facebook (here's one for non-clothing items). One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

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

Six Ways to Take a Prospective New Town for a Test Drive

You research the school system. You collect the train schedules. You drive around the neighborhood after an open house. 

Buying a house means buying into a community. So, of course, information about schools and transportation is important. However, a big part of what most of my clients are looking for is a particular vibe. And in my opinion, vibe needs to be evaluated firsthand. 

Here are my 6 favorite suggestions for taking a town for a test drive. Feel free to post your own in the comments!

1. Take a walk.

When you drive through town with an agent, they tend to take you through the nicest neighborhoods. So, if you’re looking at a particular house, in addition to circling the neighborhood, google directions to a nearby restaurant or school – and walk to it. Beyond getting a feel for the friendliness of fellow pedestrians, you’ll notice things that you’d never have access to inside your car.

2. Hang around after school.

Whether it’s the vibe of the school's neighborhood, or what your new neighborhood feels like when school gets out, you’ll get plenty of information about what your child’s after-school experience may be like. 

3. Take an exercise class.

Or a yoga class. Or visit the library. Or a church. Or a temple. Or the senior center. If there are things you love to do, take the opportunity to see what it’s like to do them in a new town. Obviously, walking into the Montclair YMCA was a different experience the first time I showed up there decades ago than it is now. I didn’t know anyone and, in fact, I got lost. But even then, the Y had an easy, welcoming vibe that made me feel instantly comfortable.

4. Go to the grocery store.

I spent a lot of time in the supermarket when I was raising my family. If that sounds like you, pop in and see what your home-away-from-home will feel like. Montclair has plenty of grocery options – I’m happy to guide clients to the 2 or 3 destinations that seem most right for them.

5. Take the train (or bus) in and out of town.

I have clients who do this as a matter of course – executing their entire door-to-door commute from a prospective neighborhood to experience it in real time -- and also to see what it will feel like. 

6. Check out the Saturday night scene.

Montclair has always been something of an arts and entertainment hub, a destination for people all over northern New Jersey. But there’s no better way to know if it will suit your own entertainment needs (or, at least, many of them) than having a meal, getting a drink, catching a movie, listening to a band. Meander down Bloomfield Avenue and see what speaks to you. There are plenty of restaurant options where reservations are not required.

Getting a clear feel for a town or a neighborhood helps buyers become more confident in their purchase. I regularly tell clients: You can always change a kitchen or an entryway – but you can’t change what a town feels like on a cool spring morning or after a quiet snow.

To me, taking a town for a test drive provides a buyer with more options. You may read things about Montclair or Glenridge or South Orange or Verona, but until you experience the town’s vibe, you won’t have information from the most reliable source: you. 

If you want some more ideas about how to test drive a town, don’t hesitate to call me: 973-809-5277

Photo: Montclair YMCA Large Pool 

How To Tour A Home

The other day during a house tour, a first-time buyer asked me, “What should I be looking for?”

This is such a great question.

As a buyer, you’re no doubt looking for specific things in a home: a certain number of bedrooms; a kitchen big enough to host brunch for your extended family every other Sunday; a backyard big enough that you can put up a swing set. Ideally, your agent would address as much of your “wish list” as possible when she provides listings. Or she may give you alternatives: “The yard may be small for a swing set, but the park is a block away.”

When the main items on your wish list have been satisfied, your next job is to imagine.

What does it feel like to be in this space?

Can you picture your furniture in the rooms?

Can you imagine family dinners here?

Can you imagine what it might be like to come back from a trip, open the door, and be home?

For some, it’s very important to have a feeling about the block or immediate neighborhood, for others, it’s important to have a yard with big, mature trees.

These are all things you cannot change, so if you don’t have the right feeling about a house, it’s probably best just to walk away. But if the vibe is right, you can (and should) consider proceeding to the next step.

Having owned many homes myself, I consider things like a squeaky door, a cracked garage window, or a drippy faucet “minor stuff” – barely worth discussing. A thorough going-over by a qualified home inspector will let you know whether there are important repairs needed on the home. The truth is, most of us buy houses that are “used,” but unlike shopping for, say, a used car, you don’t need spend your visit constantly on the lookout for little, easily-repaired things. I promise you: whatever house you buy will need a little something, if for no other reason than to make it what you want.

There’s no need to focus on what might be wrong with a house during a home tour — save that for the inspection! It’s much more important to tune into your gut and focus on what is right.

Hygge - You Know It When You Feel It

Living RoomPractically every time I open a magazine or click online these days, I am confronted with hygge. And my first thought is: Finally, someone is speaking my language!

Hygge is a Danish word that's started getting a lot more airplay lately, especially as winter comes upon us. Pronounced hue gah or hoog uh, it’s often translated as a kind of soothing coziness that, for Danes, is such a collectively held ideal it’s as if the concept is woven into their very being. I know this first-hand, as my mother was born and raised in Denmark. As a result, I grew up with the notion of hygge all around me.

There were some things my mother never quite “got” about living in the States – like American sandwiches. For example, she’d make PB&Js on rye bread. Or worse, she’d make peanut butter, butter, and jelly sandwiches! (Danes put butter on every piece of bread, regardless of what else is going to be added.)

But she did "get" hygge and, genetically, so did I.

The loveliness of hygge does not just revolve around warm fires and soft blankets – though that’s often how home design magazines illustrate the concept. It’s also tied to the profound goodness of being with people who nourish you. The deep pleasure and comfort that comes from hunkering down with the someone (or someones) you love.

I have always attempted to create a sense of hygge in the homes I’m selling. Not only because it makes buyers feel good when they tour the house, but also because it’s an idea that I feel so personally committed to. It’s even one of the reasons that I decided to make my home here. Montclair itself feels hygge to me.

Our clothing shops are hygge. Our yoga studios are hygge. Even our tattoo parlor feels hygge.

When helping people find their "right home," hygge is always a feeling I try to help someone identify (although I rarely ever call it that!). That space where they can truly sink into contentment. Their happy place.

Another Happy Client!

There isn't much more stressful in life than buying a home - and especially buying your first home. You can get a sense of what it's like to work with me if you spend some time reading reviews on Zillow. Here's a recent post that made me feel great about doing the work that I do:

"Lina helped us purchase our home recently. As first time homebuyers, we had many questions going in, but Lina patiently and confidently guided us through each step of the process. Lina was professional, reliable and very accessible, returning callskeep calm and addressing questions and concerns efficiently.

We very much appreciated that she took the time up front to learn about our family and the type of home and neighborhood we wanted. She did a very nice job of only bringing to our attention homes that met our criteria.

Lina was very well versed in the local real estate market and was able to teach us more about the geography and detailed attributes of the many different neighborhoods in town. From beginning to end, Lina was calm and patient but knew when to push, frequently offering the right piece of information and guidance at the right moment. It was a pleasure working with Lina, and we look forward to many happy years in the home she helped us purchase!"  -- K.T.

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

New Listing: 101 Darling Ave, Bloomfield, NJ

darling BR

I have a friend who, whenever she moved into a new place, always took one of the smaller bedrooms for herself (and her husband), giving the master bedroom to her young daughter. Since I've known her, she's lived in three different homes and has done this each and every time. I thought it was crazy, but she'd always explain that her daughter spends so much time in her room -- she has friends sleep over and all her toys are in there - it's more practical. "I basically just read for 10 minutes and then go to sleep in my room. What do I need a big space for?" she'd say.

While this was never a decision I would make, I could sort of see her point. However, if she lived in this home, none of that would have been necessary.

At 101 Darling Ave, two of the three bedrooms are so spacious, they're both considered "masters." In fact, the whole house is much larger than what you'd typically find in Bloomfield (2400 sq ft vs. 1600!). The kitchen and baths are renovated, it has a brand new great room, and the house is light and bright.

However, the feature that truly speaks to me is the backyard. One of the most expansive in the area, the flat property boasts a deep lot that you can look out on from the main deck or the Juliet balcony off one of the bedrooms (perhaps this is the master relegated to the grown-ups!). The backyard truly feels like a little park!

With its quick access to both Route 3 and the Garden State Parkway, and the bus to New York City at the corner, you will be well positioned for both adventure and recuperation in this extremely "darling" home! To find out more about this or other homes, please don't hesitate to call: 973.809.5277

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.)