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Montclair Real Estate

Perfect Schmerfect: Searching for your Montclair dream home

When Voltaire said "The perfect is the enemy of the good," he wasn't philosophizing about buying real estate in Essex County NJ, but I often remind my buyers of the wisdom of his words and how it applies to their home search. During my years as a New Jersey real estate agent I have watched many good houses get passed over by clients who are looking for the perfect Montclair house. The houses that fall short are often the ones they later realize had lots of potential and manageable flaws. Perhaps the search for the perfect house is something all home buyers have to go through, and losing a few good ones along the way is just part of the real estate process. Still, I thought I would offer a strategy based on my own home buying experience. First, try to define the things that are non-negotiable. Perhaps lots of natural light is one of those things. Maybe you want to be in the Montclair school district. Or perhaps it's a walk of less than 10 minutes to the train station or an extra room for your mom to stay in.  List your top ten things.  Then get a fat black marker and be prepared to cross half of them out. When I bought my Montclair house there were 3 less-than-perfect things that I thought I could live with.  I used my fat black marker to cross off  1.) Quiet Street  2.)Lots of privacy  3.)Renovated kitchen and bathrooms.

3 compromises and how I dealt with them when buying my house in Montclair:

  1. Busy road on side yard. Put up a nice fence all the way around the property and planted lots of trees and bushes.
  2. Too close to house next door. Put frosted glass in some windows, Put up a high fence. Planted trees. Got nice wooden blinds.
  3. Kitchens and bathrooms were old. Painted kitchen cabinets & got new hardware. Renovated the master bath. Changed fixtures in other bathrooms.

But here's what I got that was important to me (and that was not always found in Montclair real estate in my price range):

  1. Near the park, village and transportation
  2. Lots of light, good flow, clean lines.
  3. Powder room on the 1st floor.
  4. Master bathroom
  5. 1st floor den/playroom/tv room for the kids

No matter what your price range, there will always be something you want that is slightly out of reach. So get your black marker ready, work from your shortened list and you just might find the house that is actually the perfect house for you.

Crossing the Freedom Threshold; Staying in Montclair


I just came across this graph of the Freedom Threshold and thought it provided a great visual for what I've been telling my clients for years: investing in this community is often more than just an investment in their childrearing years. The Freedom Threshold is the point where you no longer need to live somewhere for family obligations (say, a great school system) and can now live wherever you choose. The graph shows age 61 as the point at which most cross the threshold.

In addition to being a town of nuclear families (about 30 percent of the families here are raising children), Montclair is home to many households of young adults (because of our reasonably priced rental housing and easy access to New York City) as well as older adults. People here don't necessarily move out of town when their kids have grown and left home, and those who stay have plenty to fill their days.

With two movie theaters, a matinee club, an art museum, a smorgasbord of art classes, a vibrant and affordable adult school, performance spaces for dance, drama, opera and music, dance classes, meditation classes, exercise studios, book groups, discussion series, writing groups, garden clubs, knitting circles, martial arts, volunteer opportunities, tennis courts, three town pools, manicured parks, woodsy trails, and restaurants to suit every imaginable palette, this town offers almost everything you could want short of a hot, sandy beach - and much of it easy to access on foot.