Meet the SOMa Coalition on Race

If you’re moving to South Orange or Maplewood chances are you’ve heard of the
South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race - but what is it exactly? Well, the Coalition is a grassroots community non-profit that started 20 years ago with a mission: to work on what they call intentional integration.

Back in the late 1990s a bunch of residents got together to figure out how to make people view the quickly happening demographic changes in the community as a positive aspect of life in the two towns: South Orange and Maplewood. “It was about how do we make this a positive aspect of our community and not see this community go in some patterns where flight happens, that was the motivation,” explains Nancy Gagnier, Executive Director with the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race.

At first the real focus was on residential integration but as with all things, the focus had to change to keep up with the community. Now it’s more about maintaining a population and education newcomers, says Nancy.

So, how did the Coalition successfully accomplish its integration in the first place? Well, in the very beginning, the group met with realtors to encourage them to show all areas to prospective buyers and not have pockets of different groups. “In 20 years realtor practices have changed. Steering is a lot less of a problem,” says Nancy. “Marketing was a main focus in those early days. It still is actually, you have to market to all people to build this vision of stable integration.”

Maintaining housing prices (or growing them) over comparable communities was a big deal and a success in the middle years stretching into the present. “Now the schools always have to be attractive. When you’re selling a home you’re selling a lot based on quality of the main school system. Once we’ve established stability then we can look at how are we serving people,” explains Nancy, who says she asks herself things like: Do we serve everyone well? Will they stay? Are all children receiving equity and excellence? Are there more or enough programs that talk about topics like race and racial tension? Is leadership among all people, across racial barriers?

“You don’t just do one thing,” says Nancy. “It’s not about one event or one program. This is a full out effort on all aspects of community life, real estate, schools. You have to look at how you market the towns as welcoming and inclusive. You really have to look internally at what is the tone of the town, how do people talk to one another, do they have opportunities to build here? Does the  leadership reflect the population of the community? And if not, what can you do to create pathways to share leadership on the school board, etc. We’ve continued to do that to this day.”

Nancy became Executive Director of the Coalition in 2008. She says many on its Board are founding members. She also says it’s important the Board itself is diverse and represents both towns in age range and racial diversity.

While the programs offered by the Coalition evolve, or are built upon, they all center around four areas: school, community engagement, residential, and marketing. 

Some sample initiatives include a fairly new integrated playgroup, which started about a year ago. The group meets once a month at a preschool on a weekend day and encourages families to build relationships across racial lines in the very early stages.  Conversations on Race was an annual discussion on racial topics that grew in popularity and spun into the now quarterly Coffee Shop Discussions to provide residents more opportunities to discuss emerging issues.

The schools committee has also initiated forums where parents are talking with children about race as a way to respond to looming questions children have on why families look or behave differently and how interracial relationships work. Also, just as importantly, how to discuss race and racism amongst each other without inadvertently saying the wrong things.

If you’re considering moving to the area check out http://www.twotowns.org to familiarize yourself with the different programs and volunteer opportunities. If you have any additional questions or want to meet some locals, call the Coalition at 973-761-6116.

Where to Find Big Savings in Montclair

Looking for a home in Montclair, New Jersey, can be a lot of fun or it can be quite challenging – a lot of it has to do on your budget and your expectations. Town Hopper Tours recently spoke with Gary Martin, Sales Associate at Halstead Property NJ’s Rhodes Van Note Group. Gary says the real trick for people who want to see the greatest gain or lowest price tag, is to know where to look.

“A lot of people don’t know about the South End of Montclair,” says Gary. “They have friends who’ve said ‘stick with Upper Montclair Village, the estate section, Watchung Plaza, Walnut Street’ but the truth is if you want to stretch what you can get for your dollar, you should check out the South End.”

South of Bloomfield Avenue, the South End is nestled by Glen Ridge and West Orange. The area offers the lowest taxes within Montclair and still allows parents their choice of elementary school (In Montclair parents and students choose the schools they are most interested in and then enter into a lottery system to assign each child a school track. Where you live in Montclair does not determine where you will go to school).

Colonials, Victorians, craftsmen, split-level, and late 19th century farmhouses make up the South End. Homes here can start in the high $300Ks/early $400Ks, compared to the upper $700Ks elsewhere in town.

“We’re not anywhere near walkable hotspots of Montclair. If you can deal with getting in your car and driving about 5-to-10 minutes then this is definitely the value section,” says Gary, whose lived in the South End with his wife and children for at least a dozen years. “We’ve got larger lots and lower taxes. The difference is a few of these homes are not turnkey. A few need to be brought into 2016 but if you’re willing to put your stamp on it, it’s the most budget-friendly area available and a great place for first-time home buyers.”

The South End is the type of neighborhood where the kids run down the street to play at each others houses, and you see lots of joggers, dog-walkers, and cyclists. A 4-bedroom, 2-bath home with a big back yard could run you $475K-$499K in the South End, says Gary, whereas the same home in Upper Montclair would start at $675K, have a smaller plot, and would likely go into a bidding war.

So, what streets should you look for in listings? Take a peek at: High Street, Pleasant Avenue, Linden Avenue, Madison Avenue, Franklin Place, and Grenada Place, he says. “It’s definitely worth checking out.” 

Alphabetical list of resources in this blog post:

Gary Martin
https://www.halstead.com/real-estate-agent/gary-martin

Montclair schools
http://www.townhoppertours.com/blog/2016/7/1/schools-in-montclair-new-jersey

South Orange and Maplewood 101

South Orange and Maplewood are two towns that are often packaged together as one community. Town Hopper Tours spoke with Robert Northfield, realtor and a team leader with the Keller Williams Mid-Town Direct office in Maplewood. We wanted to learn more about these towns, what makes them similar, and what makes each individually unique and Robert had a wealth of information.

“Maplewood and South Orange both offer diverse neighborhoods. They’re very welcoming,” Robert explains. “The towns share an excellent school system, and they have great parks. They’re both about 30-minutes by train to New York City.” 

Both towns; for instance, border the South Mountain Reservation, a 2,112 acre reservation, preserved primarily in its wild state, in the central section of Essex County. South Mountain has many hiking and biking trails as well as a popular dog park. The reservation’s vistas can see as far as New York, Elizabeth, Union, Staten Island, and Newark from the eastern ridge, 550 feet above the community of Millburn. A 25-foot waterfall, deep in the woods at Hemlock Falls, is a must-see dramatic feature.

As far as what sets each one apart – it’s the landscape and the distinct neighborhoods, and well, the gaslights. South Orange is one of only a few towns in New Jersey to retain gas light street illumination, offering at times a nostalgic feel. South Orange has multiple buildings listed on the State and National Historic Registers. The Montrose Park area features many stately homes. The Montrose Park Historic District Association hosts a yearly historic tour each Fall. South Orange also features the South Orange Performing Arts Center and a downtown area with shops and dining right around the South Orange NJ Transit train station.

Other homes in the area include colonial, tudor and craftsman-style bungalows, along with newer condos and luxury rentals. Floods Hill is a busy spot in wintertime where neighborhood children like to sled. Homes in South Orange can range from $300,000 up to $2 million.

“First time home buyers, if they’re on a tighter budget, might want to look at the Tuxedo Park neighborhood or around and behind Seton Hall University,” says Robert. “The areas have a beautiful collection of small to mid sized homes.”

The homes tend to increase in size and cost along Wyoming and Upper Wyoming. Though there are also some homes closer to the Maplewood border that are mid-sized, which might be more budget-friendly.

Maplewood has Maplewood Village across from the Maplewood NJ Transit train station. The village has many shops and restaurants. Homes in the immediate area range from $400,000 up to $2 million. The Hilton neighborhood has a good collection of starter homes, some between $250,000-$400,000. The Tuscan area is another great place for a beautiful home at a conservative cost, since prices start in the $400,000 range.

Robert says when looking for a home it’s very important that buyers are financially qualified. “It is a competitive market and you really need to have a pre-approval from a lender.” He stresses your pre-approval should be from an experienced processional. “Don’t get pre-approved online and don’t go to a friend that just started in the lending business,” he warns.  “Lending today is a very complicated and involved process so you need someone who is experienced that can help you navigate the process and sort through any special circumstances that you may have.”

He also says working with a knowledgeable local realtor is key. “You need to work with a strong, local, realtor who will represent your best interest and has the contacts and the inventory within the realtor community.” This means, they know inspectors, handymen, and all the contacts you’ll need before, during, and after your home purchase.

 

Alphabetical list of resources in this blog post:

Montrose Park Historic District Association
http://sohps.org/

Robert Northfield – Keller Williams Realty
http://www.midtowndirecthouses.com/

South Mountain Reservation
http://www.essexcountyparks.org/parks/south-mountain-reservation

South Orange, NJ - Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Orange,_New_Jersey

South Orange Performing Arts Center
http://www.sopacnow.org/

 

 

South Orange Train Station Celebrates 100th Birthday

Photo credit: SouthOrange.org

The South Orange Train Station is celebrating its 100th birthday this year! To mark the special occasion, the South Orange Village and New Jersey Transit are hosting a 1920s-themed Centennial Celebration this Saturday, October 1, 2016 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.  

Photo credit: SouthOrange.org

The station was built in 1916 by architect Frank J. Nies in the Renaissance Revival style. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Today, it’s the busiest stop on the Morris & Essex Line with more than 4,000 boarders each day.

Photo credit: SouthOrange.org


Attendees are encouraged to wear period attire, as they sip on classic cocktails and enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres.  Dancing to live jazz music will follow a brief yet formal ceremony at 7 pm. 

Photo credit: SouthOrange.orgPhoto credit: SouthOrange.org

Tickets may be purchased online at www.sostation100.com for $25 or $30 at the door.   All ticket sales proceeds will go directly to a newly established “Fund for South Orange Station,” dedicated to improving and beautifying the South Orange Station as it begins its second century of service.

Image credit: SouthOrange.org

Image credit: SouthOrange.org

 

 

New to South Orange or Maplewood? Meet People on Swap SOMa Lounge

Ever wish you could move to a town and know people off the bat? That’s pretty much the experience with Swap SOMa Lounge; except since this group is online, you can meet the neighbors before you even move to town, which could be an invaluable resource. The private Facebook group is a local social group for South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey, and has more than 8,000 members and counting.

Kristen Cook Tyler, a SOMa resident, started the group to create a place where other residents could be silly, get referrals, post pet pictures, question authority, and ask questions only locals could answer. The idea for the group came about after the success Kristen had with another group she’d created where locals could exchange – or swap – items, mainly by selling or giving away, but occasionally by bartering.

“I do estate and moving sales,” explains Kristen, owner of MT House Estate and Moving Sales, who is typically hired to go into a house and sell everything.  “Sometimes people would have one or two items they wanted me to sell, so I wanted to create a way for them to be able to sell just a few items.” 

First, she created Swap/Meet SOMa, a closed Facebook group that now has more than 14,000 members. The group let’s you buy and sell items, clothes for kids, etc. “but we saw people wanted to just make jokes and chat too, so we opened the Swap/SOMa Lounge for town information and networking, and to promote local businesses and local things.”

Kristen says both Swap SOMa Lounge and Swap/Meet SOMa have helped neighbors connect in many ways.  Swap SOMa Lounge serves more like a private community bulletin board/lounge and has helped everyone from newbies seeking local opinions on schools and local businesses to seasoned regulars who’ve used the platform to create their own offline interest groups, like a basketball get together for adults.

There are a few basic rules to join these groups. Here’s a sampling:

  • Be nice
  • If you are a relative, employee, owner of a business you are referring, please state this clearly
  • Fundraising and donation requests must be approved by a group administrator before posting and will be limited to schools, libraries, food pantries, or charities in South Orange and Maplewood

The ground rule: you must be local.

That said, the group is welcoming to people who are considering moving to South Orange and Maplewood and will often allow temporary access, which is an incredible way to get a flavor for the community, ask questions about a school, your potential commute, out-of-pocket costs that don’t fall within general taxes, parking permit situations, and more.

To get a temporary membership is simple; just click to join the group then send a private email via Facebook to Kristen or one of the other group administrators, explaining that you’re considering buying a home in the area and have questions about x, y, and z, and that you’d like to join the group for a little while; chances are you’ll get accepted. This is a crucial step toward acceptance since the group works hard to make sure members local and keep scammers at bay.

Alphabetical list of resources in this blog post:

MT House Estate and Moving Sales
http://www.facebook.com/mthousesales

Swap/Meet Soma
https://www.facebook.com/groups/SwapMeet.SOMa/

Swap SOMa Lounge
https://www.facebook.com/groups/SOMabusinessfriends/

 

Run to this Club to Make New Friends

New to Essex County and looking for a running buddy or a friend? What about a whole troupe? You’ll want to check out the Essex Running Club.
 
“ERC is a powerful running community in Northern New Jersey. Anyone is welcome to join us,” says Tracy Keller, president. Now into its 33rd year, the Montclair-based club is well known throughout Essex County. “We’re not just about racing or running fast. We are a group of active people who want to be around others that share our same interest or passion for running—and even for walking. Some people may be intimidated by a running ‘club’ but there’s no pressure here. We have members that train to improve through speed work and long runs and we have members that simply want to stay fit and have fun.”
 
The group is a great way for people new to the area to make friends. In fact, members often plays matchmaker.
 
“Being part of ERC is a cool way to meet people and learn about the area—and to find your way around the streets of town. We can always connect you with someone that runs the same pace,” she explains. Tracy also helps connect people with similar schedules. So, if you need to run before work, there’s a good chance she knows others who need to do the same.
 
Every Summer the group gets together on Wednesday evenings at a runner’s home for a weeknight run/walk followed by a social hour. In the Winters they do the same but on a weekend morning. “The host maps the route options (2, 4, or 6 miles) and everyone meets at the house to head out together, then afterward they gather to socialize—and eat.” Hosts provide everything from bagels and coffee to pretty impressive, homemade spreads with seasonal themes.

Membership to the group costs $25 for the year though not all of the events are members-only. The annual dues get you access to coached speed workouts, the monthly e-newsletter, the club’s private Facebook page, special events like the annual Wine & Cheese Party, and a discount on the ERC Marathon Bus that transports runners and spectators to the NYC Marathon each November.
 
To find out more about other weekly run options, trail runs, and activities visit EssexRunning.org.

Navigating Property Taxes in New Jersey

Thinking of buying a home in New Jersey but not sure how to figure out your property taxes? You’re not alone. Taxes anywhere can be a mystery but for some reason they seem extra complicated in the Garden State.

Town Hopper Tours recently spoke with David Wolfe, an attorney at Skoloff & Wolfe, P.C., one of New Jersey’s best-known law firms focusing on complex property, real estate, matrimonial, trusts and estates, and litigation matters.  Wolfe, who was appointed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey to serve as a member of its Committee on the Tax Court, and has served as the co-Chair of the Real Property Tax Practice and Procedure Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association since 2004, also serves on the Board of the National Association of Property Tax Attorneys. 

Wolfe says the tax rates vary dramatically by town in New Jersey, simply because they’re a function of local government and county government, and the biggest expense is typically school expenses within each town. 

“Maplewood would be around $3.60 versus Millburn would be around $2.10, so there can be a big spread,” explains Wolfe. “South Orange is all the way up around $3.70 per $100,000 of assessment, so obviously the first place to start is the tax rate.” To look up the general tax rate for a particular town in Essex County, click here (To look up the tax rate for a town in another county, click here, then choose your county and select your town).

“In addition, New Jersey municipalities are required to assess at 100% of the value, and since municipalities are only theoretically at 100% in the year in which they perform the municipal-wide revaluation or reassessment, the further you get away from a revaluation and reassessment, the further you can be from that 100% value,” Wolfe explains. “So what you need to know is what the average ratio or chapter 123 ratio  is in whatever municipality you’re looking at in order to understand your assessment.”

So, what does that mean to us non-tax pros? It basically means you need to have two important pieces of information to calculate your taxes:

  1.  The chapter 123 ratio for your town 
  2.  The general tax rate for your town

Let’s say you’re considering a home in South Orange and in 2016 it’s being assessed at 85% of the value, that would imply is that if you had a property that was assessed at $1 million you’d be paying taxes as though that property was worth $1,172,000. “The Division of Taxation publishes by county each of the common level ranges, or the average ratio, that you need to know for every municipality. In order to understand whether or you’d be over-assessed, or properly assessed, or under-assessed, you need to know both your assessed value and those ratios because without those ratios you have no way of knowing what the implied value of your assessment is. In some counties, ratios can be as low as in the 20% range so those assessments don’t really mean anything. What you desperately need to know is the ratios and there’s a big difference between 85% and 100%,” says Wolfe. 

So, say you decide to go with a $500,000 for a home in South Orange instead, multiply that sales price by the average ratio (which we know from the chapter 123 ratio is 85.28… so we move the decimal point over twice to get 0.8528) you’d be entitled in theory to an assessment of $426,400. If you could prove that the assessment was indicative of fair market value, and the value of your property succeeded in proving that was the value of your property, the law would say you’re entitled to an assessment of $426,400, explains Wolfe. Now to calculate your actual taxes you’ll have to multiply this new amount of $426,400 by the tax rate (which we know from the general tax rate for 2016 is 3.739… so we move the decimal point over twice to get 0.03739) and we reach an estimated tax bill of $15,943.096.

In other words, the formula to calculate what your taxes looks like this:

  • STEP 1

Multiply the Chapter 123 Ratio by the home purchase price to reach the Assessed Value.

  • STEP 2

Then multiply the Assessed Value by the General Tax Rate  to calculate what your taxes are likely to be.

“The one thing that’s very important for home owners to do when they’re looking at any particular municipality is to find out if the town is looking at performing a municipal revaluation and if all of the assessments are about to change,” stresses Wolfe. “That’s’ certainly something that I would want to know.”

For example, Millburn township assess at 86% this year but for 2017 they’re going to be at 100% because every assessment in that municipality is going to be redone, revalued, and brought to 100%, he explains. The Essex County Board of Taxation is a good place to call to find out if a particular municipality will be revaluing for the coming year. The site also features a free guide to property taxes in New Jersey and has additional information on what the process is like.

While Wolfe does not counsel on permits, in regard to home improvement projects he does say that obtaining a permit and closing out a permit for a home renovation can trigger an analysis by an assessor as to whether on not an increase in the assessment is warranted. “If a property is under-assessed, certainly there can be a significant increase from only a modest improvement,” says Wolfe. “The job of the assessor is to value the property as a whole, not just the increase in value attributed to the new improvement. So if you add a deck, it’s not that they just value how much is the deck is worth. They’re supposed to value the entire property and then look at the difference between the current assessment and the new assessment with the deck.”

Sure, there’s a chance that if your property is already over-assessed, an assessor will not add anything, even though you’ve done an improvement but that’s rare. “It’s certainly the norm that improving your property leads to increasing the assessment.”

Separately, keep in mind – especially if you’re renting an apartment in New York City and making the switch to home ownership in New Jersey – that what’s covered in the general tax rate can vary from municipality to municipality. This means that in some towns garbage collection and sewer costs may be separate out-of-pocket expenses; in addition to your water bill. To find out what might be an additional expense for you, call or visit your local municipality’s tax collector website. Also note that in some counties and municipalities there may be additional taxes to pay depending on your neighborhood.

If you buy a home in New Jersey and feel your taxes are too high. You can appeal them. That’s where someone like David Wolfe would come in. “The best way that I can help is to help them figure out if they have a meritorious tax appeal, and if so file an appeal on their behalf.” 

Wolfe says in New Jersey, unlike in New York, “you appeal at your peril so you should not just automatically appeal your taxes because you don’t want to pay $15,000 or $20,000 or whatever it is. You need to have a merit to your case otherwise you risk potentially having an increase in your taxes as a result to the appeal,” which is why it’s important to screen your case with a tax attorney first. 

“When you have a recent purchase price for a single family home that’s typically the best indication of the value of that property, unless you’re looking at a distressed sale, foreclosure, or short sale,” he adds.

As for what’s the most important takeaway in regard to taxes – find out the current year’s assessments. 

“Frequently on real estate listings they have the prior year’s property tax assessment and taxes, and there can be great variations from one year to the next, especially if there has been a revaluation and the property or the home has been on the market for some time, so it’s vital that you know the latest year the current year’s assessment,” says Wolfe. 

it’s also crucial that you know if it’s a town in which there is an ongoing revaluation, which some of these municipalities in Essex County are undergoing,” he says, pointing at South Orange and Maplewood. Wolfe suggests you ask the municipality if the homeowner is allowed access to the revaluation firm and whether or not they’ve received notice of what their potential assessment is going to be for the following year.

For additional articles with New Jersey tax information, check out the publications page at Skoloff & Wolfe: http://www.skoloffwolfe.com/Publications.html

Alphabetical list of resources in this blog post:

Chapter 123 Ratio
http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/lpt/chapter123.shtml

David Wolfe - Skoloff & Wolfe, P.C.
http://www.skoloffwolfe.com/DavidBWolfe.html

Essex County Board of Taxation
http://www.essextaxboard.com/municipal.html

Essex County Board of Taxation - free guide to New Jersey property taxes
http://www.essextaxboard.com/pdfs/brochure.pdf

General Tax Rates - Essex County
http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/pdf/lpt/gtress15.pdf

Tax Rates by Municipality in New Jersey
http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/lpt/taxrate.shtml

 

 

Montclair 101

You’ve heard great things about Montclair, maybe you’ve even had a friend or two move into the area but you just don’t feel like you know enough to really consider it yet?

Well, Town Hopper Tours recently spoke with Roberta Baldwin, partner at Keller Williams NJ Metro Group/Montclair, NJ and principal of The Baldwin Dream Team. Roberta, a New York City dweller turned long-time resident of Montclair, has been featured on two seasons on the HGTV hit show Bought & Sold, as well as "Super Realtor" on ABC's Nightline. Roberta, a true expert, gave us a crash course.

“Regarding Montclair, it's important to stress that the township has two zip codes - 07042 (Montclair) and 07043 (Upper Montclair), but it's one town, one municipal government, one public school system, one way of life, so to speak,” she says. Adding that “Upper” Montclair doesn’t necessarily mean better, it just means it is on one side of Watchung Avenue and not the other.

Roberta (who is also a published author) has such an in-depth knowledge, we asked her to put pen to paper, and here’s what we got:

Upper Montclair, at its core, offers beautiful homes long the “wood” streets – Oakwood, Inwood, Fernwood – that are adjacent to Upper Montclair Village shops and eateries. Traveling North toward Rt. 3, there are other very pretty streets, including (but not limited to) Marion, Elston, and Macopin. Upper Park Street, running perpendicular to those streets, has become especially high end, as has the Fairway Section bordered by Watchung, Grove, Alexander and, on the Eastern side, abutting Bloomfield and the ShopRite there.

Many of the homes in this neighborhood were built in the 1960 and 1970s and feature ranches, bi-level, and split homes; architecture that’s different from the rest of Montclair. Many of these homes are now being turned into expanded luxury homes upward of the $2-million range. The streets here include Heller Dr. and Heller Way, Club Rd, and Yantacaw Brook. On the Southern edge of that neighborhood are its older homes - handsome Tudors and stone-fronted colonials that share a beautiful lake in the private Yantacaw Brook Park. Also at that Eastern edge this neighborhood, is Brookdale Park, with a beautiful playground, rose garden, public tennis courts, walking paths, and public parking.

Upper Montclair to the West has a good stretch of Upper Mountain Ave. and its lineup of architecturally impressive homes that run all the way to Bloomfield Ave. downtown. Above Upper Mountain Ave is Highland Ave, which, has become a very popular destination, not just because of the views of the City, but because these homes lend themselves to expansion. Above Highland is Mills Reservation, protected land with walking paths. Just South of this neighborhood, bordering Grove St., are many blocks that dead-end into Brookdale Park.

The cluster of homes around Edgemont and Anderson Parks, one straddling each side of Watchung Ave., are sometimes collectively referred to as the Watchung section. The Watchung primary is off of Watchung Plaza; Edgemont School is located behind Edgemont Park.

Montclair proper, the 07042 side of town, is large and full of interesting homes, too, so buyers have to realize that the great thing about Montclair is that all four quadrants are rich in beautiful inventory and shopping, and there are multiple business districts - Montclair Center (downtown), Walnut (Woho) St (home of the farmer's market and great dining experiences); Watchung Plaza, with its cute shops and bagel and pizza options; and Upper Montclair Village.

The streets just East of Grove St, and South of Watchung Plaza, (Clairidge, Dodd, Glen Ridge Ave., Tuxedo, etc.), run the gamut in price, from the high $400,000s to near $1-million, depending on the block. Those blocks run into Glen Ridge's Ridgewood Ave. at the other end of their blocks. Grove St., itself, may be busy, but it affords newcomers one of the best options for "getting into town" at a reasonable price.

The South End Shopping Plaza is a one-block area with a pizza takeout, hardware store, liquor store, and-medical office, (and soon to be daycare), convenient to those living near Nishuane Park. The South End is in the midst of quite a bit of housing renovation right now.

Also worth noting, is another area in Montclair proper, affectionately called the "In Town" section. It’s just South of downtown shops, a very beautiful Georgetown-like area with big, old houses, pre-war condos, the public library main branch (now with a Montclair Bread Co. café inside), and tons of downtown boutiques and restaurants.

Just West of that area is Montclair's hidden gem of a neighborhood - the Estate Section, bordered by Harrison Ave., Bloomfield Ave., the Verona border on the West side, and West Orange on the South Side. Many of Montclair's most expensive homes are in this section, some with up to 2-3 acre properties and multiple amenities. Some of these homes on the mountain have superior views of New York City. Arguably, the showpiece streets in the Estate Section are South Mountain Avenue and Lloyd and Undercliff Roads, up above, adjacent to the Eagle Rock Reservation, with gorgeous homes perched atop the hill.

Montclair also has many side streets with more affordable homes, many of which are no more than 1.5 miles from the train. Many commuters walk 10 or 15 minutes to catch a train. There are six NJ Transit train stations (seven if you could the Montclair State University Station, which is technically in Little Falls). Note: only the Bay Street station operates on weekends.

Parking at the train station is by permit only, and there’s a large backup of applications, so don't presume you will be able to park. If you want to park sometime in the future, apply immediately upon moving in. The downtown Bay St Station does have a garage where there are day passes available but you will need to get there before 7 am to obtain a spot.

Other areas worth checking out include: Montclair Center, which is a mile of shops and restaurants, centered around Bloomfield Ave at the Church St-Fullerton intersections. The Art Museum and Whole Foods (and forthcoming Montclair Hotel at the corner of Bloomfield Ave. and Orange Rd) at one end; the other end is Lackawanna Plaza, now awaiting a total renovation.

Click here to view a street map of Montclair and check out the below video on Montclair:

 

Alphabetical list of resources in this blog post:

Baldwin Dream Team
www.FindBestNJHomes.com

Montclair Street Map
http://www.montclairnjusa.org/dmdocuments/street_map.pdf

Roberta Baldwin
http://www.kw.com/kw/agent/robertabaldwin

Transportation between NYC and Montclair
http://www.townhoppertours.com/blog/2016/7/2/transportation-between-nyc-and-montclair-nj