NJ Real Estate

UPDATE - NJ Real Estate During Pandemic

People have been asking what I’m seeing in New Jersey real estate these days.

There’s been a noticeable increase in people from the city interested in moving to the suburbs. People want to leave their apartments and are looking for lower density population areas and with more outdoor space. This is especially appealing now that so many people are working and schooling their kids at home. And as employers consider expanding telecommuting options in order to meet social distancing requirements in cramped NYC offices, people may be able to work from home several days per week. This makes a New York City commute seem much less daunting.  

Also, living in the suburbs lowers the cost of living for many people, another draw in a slowing economy.

So even though we’re seeing a slow down in the number of houses being sold, it’s mostly due to very low inventory. Prices remain solid and a good number of houses are still seeing multiple offers. 

However, this is not to say it’s easy to sell a house right now. Or to buy one.

There’s a lot more screening taking place before an agent can show a house in person. Updated mortgage pre-apps are required before setting up appointments as well as current pay stubs or statements from employers verifying that the person has not been laid off or furloughed.  

We’re using a lot more virtual tours, virtual open houses and “doll house” or 3D Matterport tours. If someone wants to see the town, we drive in separate cars and talk about neighborhoods over the phone.

It’s a little harder to do things like home inspections, title searches, or obtain a certificate of occupancy. Anything requiring people being in certain places at certain times is more complicated. This is why when a contract is written, a Covid Addendum is now attached, recognizing the uncertainty and difficulty of meeting the contract timelines. 

Even with all this, business is still getting done. People are buying, selling and moving. It all speaks to our resiliency and ability to adapt — something I think we should all feel good about.

Together Apart

Things are changing so rapidly. Last weekend we did open houses that were well attended. The houses were vacant, and we took precautions like opening all closet and interior doors to eliminate touching. We required everyone to sanitize their hands and wear booties and asked them to refrain from coming in at all in if they had recently traveled abroad or were feeling unwell.  We also limited the number of people in the house to one family at a time. 

This weekend, I would not dream of doing an open house. 

Each new day brings its own interesting challenges. Yesterday, a painter cancelled. If county offices close, title searches will come to a grinding halt. Tomorrow, Governor Murphy may even ask everyone to stay home.

Our current situation requires extreme flexibility, creativity and the ability to be nimble. And no amount of foresight can predict what’s next for the real estate market. We are working with our clients, buyers and sellers alike, to determine what the best way is to proceed in each scenario.

We are setting up video tours and also using a product called Matterport, which is like a 3D floor plan that lets you virtually walk through a house as you please, turning left here, going up the stairs there.

I suspect our current state of uncertainty will push the spring market into summer or perhaps fall. There may end up being a surge of home buying because of pent up demand. At this point, it’s impossible to predict anything.

In the meantime, I think people who have been tossing around the idea of selling should use this time to get their houses ready for market (whenever that may be).  Clean out the garage, declutter, go through closets and donate, change your furnace and AC filters, make all the minor repairs you've been meaning to do, like fixing that dripping faucet, tightening that loose doorknob, and tending to your landscaping. Hire any tradesperson that can work on the exterior of your house, like gutter cleaners, exterior painters, landscapers, tree surgeons, power washing companies, chimney repair people and brick re-pointers. And get that darn oil tank out of the ground. 

For sellers, I’m happy to do Zoom or FaceTime appointments to give direct advice on what needs to be done to get a house ready. We have two team members that can do Zoom meetings to guide people through organizing and decluttering. 

For buyers, screen houses that you may want to visit by first asking if there are any virtual tours or Matterport tours available and if not, ask the agent to do a FaceTime walkthrough of the house for you. 

Our top priority, as always, is to make buying or selling as safe and stress-free as possible. Call or text to chat about how we can work together creatively in these new circumstances.  (973) 809-5277

New To Market: 152 Forest Hill Rd. West Orange

This 4-bedroom renovated English colonial has so much going on inside. Majestic stone fireplace in the living room. New kitchen and formal dining room. Cozy den and a completely finished basement. Plus, a master bedroom suite with fireplace and dressing room. I happen to adore the third-floor retreat – a paneled enclave with a view of New York City.

There’s a lot to love about living in West Orange. This home is very close to two of my favorite hiking destinations: Eagle Rock Reservation and South Mountain Reservation. When I hit the ridge of Eagle Rock, I look out onto the Manhattan skyline and marvel at how lucky we are here to be so close to New York City and still be able to spend hours hiking trails that are literally a few minutes drive from our house.

This home has the added bonus of having quick access to Route 280 and is steps away from the commuter jitney. It’s also an easy drive to the nearly new South Mountain Recreation Complex (zoo, ice-skating, mini-golf, paddle boats, zip line, and reservoir walkway), an expansive Whole Foods Market and the inimitable Short Hills Mall.

If you’d like to see this or other homes in the area, please call or text! I love showing people around!  (973) 809-5277

 

 

Tax Appeals Due April 1 !!

tax season

I pride myself on being with my clients for the long haul. Not just showing properties and taking someone through the sale, but also helping them get acclimated to the town. The schools, the arts scene, the night life, the outdoor recreation - this area has so much to offer (truly SO MUCH) that I often feel like I get to know some of my clients better after they're settled in and they call on me for info.

This time of year is especially busy as the market starts to explode with listings, and also as the deadline looms for filing tax appeals. Many of my clients call on me for comps - one of the many factors involved in filing an appeal. The deadline for filing is April 1.

I'm also happy to talk to my clients about what kind of improvements will yield the best return when it's time to sell. Some folks worry that they're asking me for too much extra customer service. Hardly. In fact, that's what I've built my reputation on!

A Great Value in Glen Ridge: 8 Hathaway Place

8 Hathaway PlaceGood news for prospective buyers looking for homes in Glen Ridge: I have a new listing for a great house at a great price. 8 Hathaway Place is a very pretty four-bedroom Colonial in the north end of town. This home has all the charming architectural details one would expect from a home built in 1920, but it also has modern conveniences such as central air-conditioning, an open floor plan  and a finished rec room in the basement. Hathaway Place is a not a through street so this house offers a low-traffic location. It is available for $499,000.

8 Hathaway Place is also ideally located for commuters: it is walking distance to both bus and train service to New York City. The town of Glen Ridge boasts an excellent school district; New Jersey Monthly last year ranked its high school 12th overall out of 328 public high schools surveyed.  The town is also known for its charming gas lamps on every street corner. So if a lovely home at a reasonable price in a charming town with great schools appeals to you, don't hesitate to get in touch with me. I'd love to show it to you or join me at our open house Sunday 10/13 from 2 to 4pm.

Tips for Montclair Bicycle Commuters

bicyclecommuterAccording to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans are increasingly choosing to live in walkable communities, like Montclair, where there are more transportation choices that allow residents to live free of traffic jams and closer to their jobs, shopping and schools. The personal freedom, minimized carbon footprint, and cost-saving routines combine to create a vibrant and less stressful way of life.

While the notion of commuting at least part way by bike sounds idyllic, forewarned is definitely forearmed. Here are some tips to consider before strapping on your helmet and loading your briefcase onto the luggage rack.

Unless your office has a handy shower available to you, consider carefully what you to choose to wear on your commute. There's nothing worse than arriving sweaty with no reasonable way to freshen up. Ride slowly, and choose clothing that breathes. Always carry a packable rain jacket, preferably one with armpit zippers, which you can throw on quickly in the event of rain or brisk winds.

Saddlebags are a great way to carry your gear - lock, pump, tools, raincoat, lunch, laptop, what have you. Choose a model that's weatherproof. It will keep rain, snow and puddles at bay. They also keep the weight off your back, letting you balance your bicycle for optimum stability. Most come with quick release catches, allowing you to grab and go once you've parked the bike for the day.

Don't forget about the bike. Keeping your bike in good condition and well-tuned is the best way to minimize the amount of energy it will take to ride back and forth to work or the station. Check your tire pressure regularly, and make sure that your gears are properly adjusted.

Bicycle or multi-modal commuting is a great way to enjoy both the urban experience as well as the great outdoors, and Montclair offers the best of both. Built before the advent of the automobile, it is pedestrian-friendly and architecturally eclectic, and I'd love to help you make it your home. Visit my website, give me a call on my mobile at 973-809-5277, or send me an email at info@walkablesuburb.com, and let's find you the perfect Montclair home.

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      Living Green with Gray

      gray_russell_01_5x71Yet another reason why I love Montclair: Gray Russell, our Environmental Affairs Coordinator (how many towns even have an Environmental Affairs Coordinator?), was recently honored as New Jersey's "greenest" public official. According to an article on Baristanet.com, Russell received his Garden State Green Award on May 18 at Kean University. The award is also known as a Boggie, a reference to the bog turtle, once abundant in New Jersey and now endangered.

      At the awards ceremony, Russell said, "We've come a long way in our efforts toward lowering our carbon footprint, but there's much more that we can do," which really resonated with me. I love that, with its bike lanes and EV charging stations, Montclair is trying to move away from fossil fuel-dependent cars.

      Another factor in our becoming known as a green community is our layout. Unlike newer towns, where residential and commercial areas are often separated by highways, Montclair has always integrated the two. Many of my clients have told me how much they enjoy being able to walk to restaurants, shops, even a movie theater. While we wait to see what new initiatives Russell is planning, this Montclair Realtor will be reducing her own carbon footprint just by using her feet.

       

       

      There! I Said It: You'll Be Happier Living in Montclair...

      You'll be happier living in Montclair than in  most other suburbs - A bold statement, I know. It's subjective, but there are in fact, a three key predictors of happiness -  1. health 2. wealth and 3. social connectedness.  Because of its  street layout, design and diversity of housing  Montclair offers  opportunities to foster all three.  Here are some examples.

       

       

      • Many parks and sports facilities where you can exercise and meet people.
      • Places to walk and bike to.
      • Streets with sidewalks so you can interact with other walkers.
      • Mixed-use and diverse housing styles/prices - from thrifty to extravagant.
      • Good public transportation so you don't always need to take your car.
      • Small, owner operated businesses - where they know you by name.
      • Lots of cultural venues for music, art and entertainment
      • A certain density of population so you don't feel isolated

      I'm sure there are some die hard cul-de-sac fans out there as well as few Office Max aficionados.  So for those of us whose suburban dream is a three car garage and good access to the mall, I propose that Montclair may not be a good fit.  There's always Mt. Olive though.

      A Prophet Speaks: When to Buy a Home

      As someone who makes a living helping people buy and sell homes in New Jersey, I have a lot of respect for a former Goldman Sachs banker named John R. Talbott. Talbott clearly understands housing markets; he saw the coming collapse long before many industry professionals did. In 2003 he published The Coming Crash in the Housing Market and followed it up three years later with Sell Now! The End of the Housing Bubble. So when I saw his piece "Homes--Buy Now!" in the Huffington Post last month, I was intrigued.

      Talbott notes that home prices have tumbled: adjusted for inflation, homes are currently selling for around what they were back in pre-bubble 1997. In addition, mortgage rates are at historic lows. Talbot doesn't necessarily think that these ultra-low rates are good for the American economy when our national debt is equal to our total GDP and more than four times the amount of total tax revenues. He foresees the return of  inflation and high interest rates as the only solution to our huge national debt. If he is correct, as he has been in the past, then this really is the best possible time to buy a home.

      2011: Healthy Homes and More Walking

      I wanted to share this link to home design trends for 2011, which I found on the "Greenhouse" blog on usatoday.com.  This Montclair Realtor is happy to report that among the trends listed is a growing interest in urbanism, and correspondingly, walkable suburbs.

      The New Urbanism movement originated back in the early 1980s as a reaction to suburban sprawl; now it appears to be going mainstream.  According to Jenny Sullivan, a senior editor at  Builder (a construction industry publication), "suburbs are starting to feel more like little cities as planners and developers find ways to weave density and walkability into existing hot spots."  Obviously I'm a huge proponent of walkability, so I find this development very encouraging. A walkable suburb provides more opportunities for exercise and interaction with one's neighbors, not to mention less air pollution from car exhaust fumes.

      Another major trend is a push for environmentally friendly homes. According to Sullivan, today's homebuyers want to "extend their wellness equation to where they live." As a result, they are increasingly demanding low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, stains and sealants, as well as cabinets and furniture made of  sustainable natural materials such as bamboo and eucalyptus. For more on 2011 home design trends go to the Greenhouse blog on the USA Today website.

      Wishing you a happy and healthy 2011.