Let’s Talk About Racism

Its hard to watch so much civil unrest in cities across the nation without having compassion for those who are protesting police brutality. We are fortunate to live in diverse communities where our police departments seem to be fair minded. In South Orange police personnel actually write tickets for “good behavior” so that youngsters will have a positive interaction with them and to show they are not only “out to get you.”

But, our reality is not everyone’s reality. We still have so much work to do so that black youth are not marginalized and profiled across the country. That’s why I find my work at The Community Coalition on Race so critical. We strive to keep the balance of diversity with true integration. Not only do we live side by side, but we also pray and socialize together as well.

The Community Coalition on Race

One of the most important programs we run is our “Conversations on Race.” It’s not enough  to have diversity in our community, we also need to have the right platform to talk about it. Our next big conversation will feature the topic Micro Aggression – a term used to define everyday racism, or those small, unconscious racist expressions that offend. A good example is a woman holding her purse tighter when a young black man steps into the elevator with her. Believe me he saw her reaction and was offended. I admit I have done this at one time or another and maybe you have too. That’s why we need to talk. So please join the discussion on May 13th at our Conversations on Race event (see details here).

Our country still has a great deal of work to do with regard to civil rights, but watching all of the protests on television makes feel proud and optimistic about their resolve.  Change on a large scale only happens with effective protesting. Make your voices heard.

What Do You Get For $5,000,000 or More in NJ?

Have you ever wondered “what do you get for $5,000,000 or more in the high end neighborhoods of Short Hills, Livingston and Summit NJ?” Well, wonder no more. Below are all the homes currently listed for $5,000,000 or more in these 3 towns.

Listed for $5,000,000+ in Short Hills

Short Hills home for sale

In Short Hills there are currently two properties for sale priced at $5,000,000+. This one is at 44 Montview in the Old Short Hills section that was built in 1908 and sits on 2.3 acres, has 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths, 4 half baths and 12,500 of living space. No Dorothy, we are not in Beverly Hills- we are clearly in Short Hills. Listed for $7,995,000 this estate has a salt water pool, putting green and formal gardens.  View details here.

 

 

Homes for Sale Short HillsThis estate is also located in the Old Short Hills section and has been on the market for an extended period of time. It is listed at $5,999,000 – a major price reduction – and has 17,000 square feet of living space. Unfortunately it does not have a pool, but it does have 7 bedrooms, 6 full baths, 3 half baths, a formal music room, a conservatory,  a library, and 2 master baths. This home is ideal for a couple who like their independence. View more pics and details here.

Listed for $5,000,000+ in Livingston

Listed for $5,000,000 or more in Livingston NJOnce the home of Governor Kean’s father, you can have this 5 acre estate in Livingston for $7,888,002 . It is a Georgian style stone mansion also built in 1900. That’s pretty rare for Livingston when much of the town’s housing stock was developed in the 1960’s-1970’s. This home offers 14 bedrooms, yes 14, 7 full baths, 2 full kitchens, 15 fireplaces and an elevator. It comes with a pool, tennis court, garden house, indoor squash court and a 6 car garage.  View more pics and details here.

 

 

homes for sale in livingston

Want to live like you are on a permanent vacation? Then this estate in the very exclusive Bell-Air section of Livingston may be just right for you. It has 20,000 square feet of living space including 10 bedrooms and 11 full baths. The amenities include a full sized in-door pool, full sized racquetball court and a Jacuzzi tub.  All of this and so much more for $6,800,000. View details and pics here.

 

 

 

Listed for $5,000,000+ in Summit

summit home for saleLocated in the desirable Northside neighborhood of Summit is this Spanish colonial revival estate that sits on 2.3 acres. There is 13,000 square feet of living space including 7 bedrooms and 9 full baths. Aside from the high ceilings, carved moldings and mahogany floors, this home also includes a recreation room, pub room, exercise room and locker room. Not bad for a list price of $8,250,000. See pics and details here.

 

 

 

home for sale in Summit designed by Henry BacThis estate offers the unique opportunity to own a piece of history. Designed by famed architect Henry Bacon – best known for designing the Lincoln Memorial, this home comes with a name- La Ferta.  It was built in 1901, in the Beaux Arts style that Bacon was famous for.  It offers 10,000 square feet of living space including 9 bedrooms, 7 full baths listed for $6,900,000.   Enjoy the gallery of photos here.

 

 

 

homes for sale in summitThis listing is for a home to be custom built in the Northside neighborhood of Summit. It will offer 9,000 square feet of living space on 1.9 acres with  a pool and unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline.  List price- $6,000,000. View more details here.

Finding a Local Real Estate Agent – South Orange, Maplewood, Millburn, Livingston

Resources for home buyersTo home buyers and sellers, finding a local real estate agent can feel a lot like finding a needle in a haystack. So many buyers and sellers are leery of the negative  stories they have heard from friends and family members about their own personal experience with their agent. However, in the areas I serve – South Orange, Maplewood, Millburn and Livingston (among others) agents are quite professional and seriously committed to their businesses.

 

 

So chances are you will have a good experience – but how do you find the one that is right for you ? Here are 5 key factors you may want to consider before making your final decision:

  • How they represent themselves in large part reflects their own personal brand. How they dress, their business card, website etc. are all important elements to consider – especially for sellers, since that is how they will represent your brand (your home) in the listing process.
  • Relating to today’s buyers – ask yourself does the agent have credibility with today’s buyers? This is important for both buyers and sellers since buyers make the market. Ask yourself questions like do they speak their language, do they know how to reach and engage them?
  • Adept at Technology – today’s agents need to have strong technology skills in order to create effective advertising and marketing as well as to provide all the necessary resources to buyers.
  • Bigger is not necessarily better. Many top producing agents work as part of a team. That means the person you meet initially may have nothing to do with your transaction again. Many “teams” have their top agent present listing presentations to their potential sellers, but once the listing is signed it is handed off to a team member. Its a very lucrative model for the agent, but ask yourself – will I receive the best service with this type of organization?
  • Local Insights – make sure your agent is immersed in the towns you are either looking to buy in, or sell in. This is so critical to ensure you get the best possible price either as a buyer or a seller.

I hope this helps to make a tough decision just a bit less stressful and remember, I offer “concierge” service to my clients  from beginning to the close.

How are the Schools in South Orange and Maplewood?

Almost every single day I am asked by prospective home buyers who are considering moving to the area “how are the schools in South Orange and Maplewood?”  Although it is phrased like a question, it feels more like a negative accusation. Its as if they have unequivocal proof that the schools are terrible and they wonder why I am recommending they consider these communities at all.

As a real estate agent I must obey the real estate laws and therefore I am not aloud to voice an opinion about the schools here or anywhere else. All I can do is lead those inquiring to a third party website or article to see the rankings for themselves.

Unfortunately, the rankings  do not measure students on a very three dimensional basis and therefor, in many instances, the  South Orange/Maplewood district (SOMA) doesn’t rank as high as it should. For instance, the district was recently named one of the Best Communities in Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). None of the rankings ever rank this critical dimension of education.

However, today there is amazing news from the halls at Columbia High School in Maplewood that deserves celebration. Twelve students from the senior class received perfect scores on their SAT’s. Perfect scores? Yes as in 800 out of 800 in a variety of subjects.

In no way does this mean the South Orange/Maplewood school district is any better than it was yesterday or the day before. It simply means that all districts reflect the communities they serve and South Orange/Maplewood gets penalized for serving a very diverse one.

These perfect scores reinforce something residents know to be true — the kids at the top in South Orange/Maplewood are as well educated as the top kids from any other New Jersey district. The big difference is South Orange/Maplewood’s student body is inclusive of  kids from all backgrounds –socially, economically and racially– and that is something we value in our 2 communities, something we think is as (or more) important as test scores.

Mid-Century Modern – Perfection

If you like mid-century modern architecture, this home is perfection. Designed by leading architect, Milton Klein in 1967 (see examples of his other works here) it is every bit as modern today as it was when it was built. It was thoughtfully planned and designed to seamlessly blend with its environment by being nestled into a steep side of a mountain with a wooded landscape on all sides.

This home has a sliding door from every main floor room to the terraced courtyard in the back or to the expansive wrap around deck in the front. This includes the master suite, living room, dining room and kitchen. With so many glass walls, it is no wonder this iconic home is filled with an abundance of light even on the gloomiest days (which I personally witnessed last week). The view from the deck offers off-season views of the New York City skyline.

mid-cen

 

mid century modern homeThis is a view of the rear courtyard and the sliding doors lead to the master suite.

This architect planned extremely well so that the home’s beauty would equal its practicality. The floors are basically maintenance free since they are all travertine.  Almost every wall has panels with built in closets. The doors are heavy solid wood and the amount of space is expansive.

The living room is perhaps the most dramatic space of all. There is a stone wall about 24 inches thick that separates the living room and dining room and continues all the way down to the lower level. There are 2 built-in wood burning fireplaces, a travertine built-in bench and a built-in bar. The ceilings are super high (maybe 11 feet) with recessed lighting and wood walls that have hidden doors for more storage. It has 2 walls of complete glass with sliding doors to the deck in the front and the courtyard in the back and makes an ideal space to entertain.

alt view living room

The living room – fireplaces are side by side and the slider goes to the deck 

mid-century modern living roomAlternate view of the living room – sliders to the patio

mid-century modern living roomYet another view within the living room

alt view courtyardA close up view of the back patio from the living room

mid-century dining roomFormal Dining room 

alt view dining roomAlternate view of the formal dining room 

kitchenThe kitchen is probably the only space that needs to be modernized to better suite today’s lifestyle.

mid-centruy modern breakfast roomThe kitchen eat-in area – includes sliders to the deck

stairwellThe back of the stone wall in the living room serves as the centerpiece of the main stairwell which goes to a lower floors equally as sun filled.

The master suite includes a wall of closets as well as 2 large walk in-closets with built-in dressers. It also includes “his and hers” separate baths and sliding doors to the stone patio.  This amazing piece of modern architecture will be coming on the market soon and I feel privileged to have seen it a few times before it does.

Baby Boomers Find Freedom in Retirement

In a recent article on KCM Matters a trusted real estate related website and blog they used a term, “crossing the freedom threshold.” The term was coined in a Meryl Lynch study, “Home in Retirement: More Freedom, New Choices. ” In it  they surveyed nearly 6,000 adults ages 21 and older about housing.

They found that Baby Boomers have always chosen where to live based on their responsibilities. This can be determined by commuting distance to work, school districts, proximity to family etc. But what they found is that at age 61 there is a major shift. With kids out of the house and either working part time/consulting there is a whole new sense of freedom about where Boomers decide to live. This is the pivotal moment when you cross the “Freedom Threshold.” They have a new sense of freedom to live where they want, not where they need to be.

Baby boomers crossing the freedom threshold

 

Where Are Baby Boomers Going?

With this new found freedom, many Boomers are choosing to make major lifestyle changes.  Some are choosing a destination they’ve enjoyed vacationing in, some are choosing college towns where there is access to cultural events (see The Baby Boomers Guide here for a full list of options). Some are upsizing to larger homes to accommodate family vacations. One thing you can be sure of, Baby Boomers will do “retirement” on their own terms.

 

154 Hawthorne Avenue, Springfield, NJ 07081

154 Hawthorne Avenue, Springfield, NJ 07081

I’m thrilled to announce my exclusive new listing at 154 Hawthorne Avenue, Springfield, NJ 07081. This ranch style home is the perfect option for a buyer thinking of purchasing a condo/town home, but wants more privacy and a great backyard. The flat, square property is surrounded by high trees a newer paver patio, and mature plantings.

This 2 bedroom / 1 bath home has an eat-in kitchen,  a large formal living room, and a 3 season “Florida” room. The laundry room is conveniently located right off the kitchen. The house has central air and gas heat and is listed for $318,000.

Springfield, NJ park

Location, location, location. The house is located close to houses of worship, town and across the street from one of Springfield’s beautiful parks which has a newer playground, tennis court,  a full court basketball court and open space.

Springfield is a great commuter town that offers a “park & ride” option. Residents drive and park at the Springfield Community Pool and take a 10 minute jitney ride to the Short Hills train station. The train ride to Midtown is approximately 35 minutes and to Hoboken about 25 minutes.  You can view the jitney schedule here and the train schedules here.

More pictures and details to come. To preview this house in person call/text Amy Harris (917) 327-0701 or email her at [email protected]

The South Orange – Maplewood School District Ranks Highest on Music Education

You have probably been reading how the South Orange – Maplewood school district ranks highest on music education. Well its about time a school ranking measured something other than test scores to evaluate a district’s success.

pianoI have used my blog platform in the past to discuss the inequities of school rankings by third parties such as magazines and web based organizations. (view here). These rankings or “Best Of” lists basically just use test scores and don’t measure any intangibles like diversity. Test scores are important, but a quality education needs to be measured by more than a student body’s ability at test taking. For my kids, I wanted an education that went beyond what they learned in the classroom. Equally, or more important to me is learning to navigate with their social groups that were both racially and socio-economically diverse. I felt this would prove to be far more important in their adult years when they have to navigate the real world. That’s why we chose to live in a community like South Orange that has a very diverse population.

Unfortunately, the diversity of South Orange’s student body consistently works against the district when it comes to the ranking of the town’s school system by sub par, often salacious magazine articles titled “NJ Best Schools.” Well, now something equally important has finally been given attention by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAAM).

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 10.20.20 AMThe NAAM Foundation celebrates and promotes the intrinsic value of music education. They support active participation in music making across a person’s lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service. They have an annual “Best Community for Music Education” list (see full list here) of schools across the country. It is comprised of multiple points to evaluate and rank schools on their music programs. It is no surprise that on this scale the South Orange – Maplewood School District gets the highest ranking. After all, music is a great equalizer. You don’t have to be rich or a certain color to be a good musician.

Why the South Orange-Maplewood School District Ranks Highest on Music Education

But more importantly, I salute the Board of Education and the generous parents in the community for their continual commitment to supporting the music programs throughout the South Orange – Maplewood school district. Many performing artists, musicians and singers choose to make South Orange and Maplewood their home (read more about it here). In my opinion, these vital community members, in turn, vocally and financially support the emphasis on music education for their children. Congratulation South Orange -Maplewood school district — well done!

First Time Home Buyers Give Me A Shout

First time home buyers give me a shout because I adore working with you. I find first time home buyers to be so incredibly appreciative of my services and truly grateful when the transaction completes. I always stay in touch long after the papers are signed and try to be a good resource as they transition to their new home and neighborhood.

There are a lot of real estate agents that don’t really enjoy working with first time home buyers, because they can be fickle and require much hand holding which in turn takes up a lot of time and therefore less profitable. Some of the really big agents just pass of first time home buyers to less experienced agents on their team. I believe this is a true disservice to the buyer.

Last week, the Goldstein’s closed on their new town home in West Orange.  It was such a great decision they will be happy with for years to come. I took them to see quite a few area developments to compare and contrast the values within the same neighborhood and surrounding areas.  I followed up with an in-depth market analysis to determine a fair market value of each property after we previewed them. This is what they deserved, and I was happy to provide it.

first time homes buyers

Additionally, house hunting in the suburbs can be quite a challenge if you are coming from a city (which most buyers do) and don’t have a car. Renting one can get quite expensive since the average buyer searches for homes for 6 months prior to purchasing one. So I extended my services to include picking them up and dropping them back off at the nearest train stations each time we went out. Time together in the car meant I could better familiarize them with the various neighborhoods and we got to know each other better, shared some very funny stories and well–became friends.

I’m not sure if I’ve just been lucky or have some sort of winning personality (ha), but I connect incredibly well with first time buyers. I guess in part it is because I can empathize with their position. It’s not so long ago that I too was a first time home buyer. And I would have wanted to be treated the same. Good luck Ashley and Aaron.

 

 

 

Amy Harris Real Estate To Help Build Homes for Families in Need

Amy Harris Real Estate official member of Give Back homes

Amy Harris Real Estate will help build homes for families in need by becoming a member of  “Give Back Homes.” I am so excited to finally marry my business goals with my personal goals.

Similar to the program at Tom’s Shoes, every time I sell a home, I have committed to donate money towards the cost of building a new home for a family in need in either in the United States or Central America. The network is tied directly to Habitat for Humanity which has successfully built thousands of homes for people in need all over the world.

The way it works is that in order to donate, I pay a monthly fee  to become a member of the network. These monthly fees are used to defray the cost of running the network so that all donations go directly to the cost of building homes. Hopefully, home buyers and home sellers who are in the market to purchase or market their homes will consider using a member of the Give Back Homes network to generate more donations to build more homes. Currently, they have projects going up in Houston, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Nicaragua, Denver, New York City and Las Vegas.

A cool element of the network it that it allows the real estate professional to donate directly to the project in the city of their choice and shows how much has been donated and how much more is needed to begin the project. See example below.

Give Back Homes current projects

You can view the full list here

Once there are enough funds, I will actually have the opportunity to help build the home itself. I love the combination of both the monetary as well as the physical contribution to making these new homes a reality. I look forward to making the program an integral part of my business. You can learn more about Give Back Homes here.

amy harris real estatejoins Give Back Homes