So much joy in my town today. I had tears in my eyes when I came upon this:
So much joy in my town today. I had tears in my eyes when I came upon this:
Here we are, well into September, and it's still a bit mind-boggling what we've all been through. The parking lots in Montclair's train many stations, went from packed to empty in a day -- then stayed that way for months. There were days, early on, when I wrote about all the precautions we, in the real estate business, had adopted. I really had no idea what my life would become going forward.
It's no news to anyone that buying and selling homes has become crazy. It's been a blessing to be busy -- to keep my mind off all the things in our world that no one can control. But even in this busy-ness, I've had time to do what everyone else seems to be doing...walk.
One of my favorite walks was around Downtown Montclair recently. Church Street, Park Street, Midland Avenue -- favorite blocks were again bustling with people having dinner or just enjoying being outside. It felt like the "old days”…and in some ways even better. Restaurants that had never offered outdoor dining now had tables set up on the sidewalk, and places the used to have tables outside had many more. It gives the whole town a European vibe and feels really special in a way that I think I’m going to miss once we all go back indoors.
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
Rachel and Tom just celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary last September and had their first child in December. Rachel was born and raised in Washington, DC and Tom grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Both went to college in Boston and when they graduated, moved to NYC to begin their careers -- Rachel in sales & marketing and Tom as an accountant. Last August, they left their 1-bedroom apartment in Chelsea and moved to a 3-bedroom home in Montclair, NJ.
We explored several neighborhoods in the area and decided that Montclair was the place that we wanted to start our family. We fell in love with the downtown area and all of the villages throughout the town. We love the history and charm of all the homes, and we had heard nothing but great things about the people and the schools, which was really important to us. We also picked it because of the close proximity to Manhattan and have since found that the commute is very manageable.
What’s your favorite thing about living here?
We love how walkable the neighborhood is and have really enjoyed exploring Upper Montclair village and all of the restaurants this town has to offer.
Any challenges along the way?
Before we got pregnant, we knew we wanted to buy a house, but in our minds, we had a longer timeline. The pregnancy definitely expedited the process. We were slightly nervous that the home buying process would be very overwhelming and stressful; since we had been renting an apartment, there were a several things we had to learn about home ownership in general. There were also times we got a bit discouraged that we might not find something in our budget in the neighborhood we wanted, but in time, we ended up landing on the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood and we couldn't be happier.
What’s turned out better than you expected?
We’ve found the move and transition to be fairly easy and were so pleasantly surprised with how seamless the process was. This was thanks to Lina, who we’d met at an Open House. She made the entire home buying process so enjoyable for us. We had never worked with a real estate agent before and didn't really know what to expect. She was so patient, answering all of our questions, and, as first-time buyers, we had a ton of questions. All along, she was a calming and reassuring resource. We always felt like she had our best interest in mind and never felt pressured. We are so grateful for her guidance and advice and would recommend her a million times over!
Saturday 9/28 & Sunday 9/29
2 - 4 PM
Offered at: $869,000
Montclair has tremendous diversity among the style, size and age of its housing stock. In fact, one of the best things about Montclair is that no two houses are alike.
142 Haddon Place is a perfect example of this. Built in 1883, this house is historic and unique. It maintains many original details such as fully functioning pocket doors, natural wood trim and original built-in linen room. Still, it has been thoughtfully updated to offer many modern conveniences.
An over sized front porch was surely used at one point for cooling down on hot days. Now it is still there to enjoy, but no need to suffer inside because there are two zones of central AC. The kitchen has been updated, the master bathroom newly renovated and the house has been freshly painted from top to bottom. There's also a natural gas hookup on the backyard deck for your grill, so no need to cook dinner over an open flame like they did back in the day!
Stop by this weekend for a visit at one of the open houses on Saturday and Sunday from 2 -4 or call me to schedule a private showing: 973-809-5277.
Earlier this month, I was on Facebook and noticed a post on the “Montclair Watercooler” page from a woman about to move to town. She asked what were people’s favorite way to be involved in the community. This woman's story was similar story to many of my clients': she grew up in a close-knit city community, hadn’t been able to find that same feeling in other NJ suburbs, commutes into the city for work, and hadn’t yet started a family.
The Montclair Watercooler is an online community group where members can ask for advice, recommendations, or guidance about all things local. By the time I’d come upon this post, there were nearly 100 responses.
I wasn’t super surprised by the suggestions. People pointed her toward running clubs, volunteer opportunities with music organizations like Montclair Jazz Festival or Outpost in the Burbs, or classes at the Adult School. A few suggested joining The Study Hall Gang, a Friday night social gathering started a few years ago by a husband and wife looking to meet people, which has grown into a 250-member friend group.
There were invitations to join a local women’s group, a kickball league, and the YMCA. The library and art museum were popular suggestions, as was the Farmer’s Market, which usually hosts live music and has become The Saturday Morning Place to Go.
One commenter said her neighborhood does a Wine O’clock on warm Friday evenings. (That sounds pretty fun!)
What did surprise me about the comments was something altogether separate from the suggestions themselves: namely, the community building that was happening right on the thread. People were reading the suggestions and thanking each other for telling them things they never knew about. Someone who lived in the poster’s neighborhood suggested they meet and hang out. In fact, people all over the thread were inviting each other to things left and right.
One person suggested to the poster, “Strike up a conversation everywhere you go,” and I thought, “Yes! Montclair is absolutely a place where you can do that!”
I, of course, think we are more able to connect with each other here in Montclair because we have ample opportunities to walk the town. Without the constant barricade of a car enclosing us, we are naturally more open to meeting each other.
The whole post reminded me of that old saying that, for me, always sums up our town, (and yes, I've taken some liberties with the wording): There are no strangers here in this walkable suburb; only friends you haven’t met yet.
I just came across this photo on Facebook the other day – an illustration taken from the children’s book Reaching for the Moon, by Buzz Aldrin. I’d walked past this house hundreds of times before I knew it was the home that he grew up in.
In the post, it recounts Aldrin once saying, "I'd climb out the 3rd floor and walk along the roof with a candle. Was I crazy?"
Maybe. But it seemed to have worked out.
Montclair has always been home to a good number of “famous” people. We are so close to New York City, and also so away from the city, that it’s always been a top choice for actors, musicians, writers, professional athletes – people whose names I sometimes drop when I drive my clients around town. (Yes, I do sometimes do that.) Linking my town with people who have become household names is often a shorthand way of communicating, “This person could live anywhere, and they’ve chosen to live here.”
But there’s something different about knowing that Buzz Aldrin grew up here. About knowing that his dreams were formed while gazing at the moon from the same vantage point as my own children do. That his courage and curiosity developed in a community where the impossible maybe didn’t seem all that far-fetched. A community in which, to me, it has always felt safe to be exactly who you are.
These are all ideals that cannot be seen within the homes I show or on the streets I drive along with my clients. But they’re here.
I’m not suggesting that we are a town of roof-climbing children. (I really felt for his mother when I read that!) However, I have heard from so many people that growing up here shaped them in remarkable ways – ways they never understood until they left.
It's an amazing gift to give our children. The opportunity to grow up in a place where they can have wondrous dreams, and then become those dreams. That’s what I see in this photograph. In this town.
I have to be honest: when I moved from Manhattan to Montclair, a part of me worried. I’d grown up in New York City – I was, by all accounts, a City Person – and I wasn’t sure I’d ever be happy living in the suburbs. I knew it would be good for my kids to live somewhere with a yard, and my then-husband had grown up here. There were lots of reasons Montclair seemed like a good idea. But it wasn’t “the City.”
I was surprised how quickly I took to the ease and convenience of suburban living. And I was even more surprised how happy I was.
Over the years, I started to pay attention to what exactly made me happy here and found it nearly always circled back to the same thing. The incredible sense of community.
I’ve always attributed the great community feeling here to Montclair’s walkability. It’s the main thing I talk about with my clients. So, I wasn’t super surprised to read this article in The Atlantic Monthly, "Having a Library or Cafe Down the Block Could Change Your Life," about a new study out that confirms all of it:
1, People who live in high-amenity suburbs – that is, a suburb where you can walk to the grocery store, a movie theater, the library, a park – are three times happier than suburban dwellers that have to drive 20-plus minutes to get anywhere.
2. People in walkable suburbs feel more trusting of their neighbors and more a part of their community.
3. A strong sense of community inspires local businesses to create more community-focused spaces and events, which strengthens that feeling even further.
Many of the towns I show are considered high-amenity suburbs – places like Maplewood, South Orange and Bloomfield that have vibrant downtowns with plenty of restaurants and shopping that can be done on foot. Even Glenridge, despite not having a big downtown of its own, has so much to walk to, it is considered a high-amenity suburb as well.
Here in Montclair, the great focus on community has resulted in the creation of parklets, free outdoor music on Church Street, lots of al fresco dining, more work-share spaces, and one of my favorite additions, Cornerstone, a recently transformed building “uptown” that was designed with an eye toward inclusion. There’s an indoor play/party space for differently-abled young people, an art gallery, rentable event space and an incredibly fun “general store” (a great place for kid gifts).
Like so many others who have moved here, the owner of Cornerstone quit her day job and began adding to the fabric of the community. You see that here everywhere you turn.
I’m always excited to show houses, but please make time to let me show you some of the magical parts of Montclair or our neighboring towns. My office is right in uptown Montclair, and you can feel the “happy” even in a very short walk.
Early last Friday evening, on Montclair’s cobblestoned Church Street, I met an old friend for a glass of wine at Amanti Vino’s outdoor wine café. The wine was delicious, the night was clear and cool, and we were surrounded by hundreds of friends and neighbors.
This area can get busy on a clear summer night, but Friday pulled a crowd that was sizable even by Church Street standards, with the entire block closed to traffic in order to host a community dinner – the first of its kind.
The dinner was one of the launch events of a brand new, week-long local festival called “Bounce,” designed to celebrate resilience and optimism. There were dozens of long tables set up end-to-end, running the length of Church Street like a spine. Each “place setting” had a festival brochure listing all the events for the week – art exhibits, musical performances, dance, lectures, and tons of “experiential” activities for both adults and kids – as well as a simple, typewritten message of positivity that was taped to the paper table cloth. People could pick up a free sandwich and pasta salad at one of the serving tables or buy a to-go meal from one of the many area restaurants and eat family-style with others from the community.
It was actually very cool.
I was struck by many things that evening. One was that, even though I’ve made this town my home for 20 years, there were lots of people I had never seen before. Another was that, after making this my home for so long, it was great fun to run into people I use to work with on PTA committees or work out next to at the gym.
I was also amazed – as I usually am – at how people in this town are continually motivated to put together yet another engaging community event. Since I’ve moved here, Montclair has launched a Film Festival, a Jazz Festival, an Art Walk, a town-wide Music Day, an outdoor public Dance Performance, a Farmers Market, a few Road Races and Garden Tours, and a host of other free entertainment offerings designed with a single goal in mind: creating a strong sense of community.
And, as far as I can tell, it’s worked.
There are always so many people here working hard on everyone else’s behalf. I love that about our community. There’s always something to do.
If you’re interested in a vibrant town with direct NYC access and something for everyone, let me take you around. Beyond all our fabulous festivals, we have some pretty great houses for sale too.
TALK OR TEXT: 973-809-5277
Saturday 5/18 & Sunday 5/19
2 PM - 4 PM
Offered at $689,000
It doesn't get more walkable than 12 Wilde Place! Located on one of Montclair's favorite blocks, this home offers the best of urban and suburban living in a move in ready, authentic Craftsman Colonial.
A charming stone walkway leads you through specimen plantings and mature Japanese maples to an inviting solarium. Special details like a stained-glass transom welcome you into a well appointed living room with a wood burning fireplace and custom oak built-in shelving.
This jewel box of a house has several bonus features throughout including the 2nd floor sun porch - ideal for your morning coffee and watching the sunset at dusk. The private backyard deck with under-deck storage is also not to be missed.
Just steps to Church Street, The Wellmont Theater, Montclair Public Library and countless other downtown cafes, restaurants and shops you can leave your car in the driveway and start exploring all that walkable Montclair has to offer.
Join me at one of the two public open houses on Saturday 5/18 & Sunday 5/19 or call me to schedule a private showing: 973-809-5277.