Home LifestyleCareer Current Trends in the Montclair Real Estate Market Explained by Local Agents

Current Trends in the Montclair Real Estate Market Explained by Local Agents

by Brooke Nuzie
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2020 was an unpredictable year in many ways, and one thing few people expected heading into the year was a surge in the real estate market. Montclair, and Essex County in general, has been a tough market for buyers in recent years, but 2020 and 2021 have hit new heights. It is certainly a seller’s market, but don’t give up hope if you’re a buyer on the hunt. Some of Montclair’s top real estate agents have weighed in on everything you need to know to help you secure a new home this season.

montclair real estate market explained

Montclair is no stranger to bidding wars when it comes to real estate. With its close proximity to New York City,  plentiful commuting options, and beautiful locations, Essex County is a prime location for both younger people leaving the city and established families alike. “The real estate market has been consistently competitive for buyers in the $500k – $800k price range, but, in past years, buyers could reasonably expect to find something in their price range, albeit maybe a bit smaller or needing a bit more work.” Richard Stanton of the Stanton Company said. 

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The Ivy at Chatham

When asked about the past few years, Roberta Bladwin of Keller Williams NJ Metro Group noted, “These local markets pulled up and out of the cataclysmic housing crash that bottomed in 2009 and took the better part of a decade to bounce back. We’ve always had multiple offers and bidding situations in Montclair, Glen Ridge, and Maplewood, to name 3 uber-destinations.”

Of course, 2020 was a year that changed everything. 

How much the recent pandemic affected the local housing market and the difference from March 2020 to March 2021.

Jocelyn Russo of Jocelyn Russo Group at Caldwell Banker Realty compared the two years, saying “It’s just as crazy, probably even crazier. We’re talking 17 to 25 offers {per house}.” Comparing this to the 3 – 5 offers houses were getting in the pre-COVID-19 market just emphasizes the point. Chris Lane and Brittany Forsyth of The Lane Team added more statistics, responding that “housing prices have increased approximately 20% with multiple offers on homes being the rule of thumb. Housing inventory is at an all-time low.”

It wasn’t an immediate spike once COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic in the U.S. in March 2020. When asked for a comparison, Richard Stanton shared that “COVID-19 shut down the real estate market entirely in March and April 2020… the market came roaring back with large demand from people leaving urban areas, but sellers have been slow to meet demand. There were 74 active listings in February {2020} vs.105 {in February 2021}.  Average sales prices exceeded ask by 12% over the past 12 months vs 5% in the prior 12 months.”

With houses going that much higher than asking, any buyer — but especially a first-time buyer — can feel the pressure. But don’t get discouraged, there is still hope.

Top tips for first-time buyers who are trying to navigate this crazy market.

Most real estate agents agree — a top tip is to make sure you are working with someone experienced who is well versed not only in real estate but in this particular market. “Align yourself with a proven, local Realtor, someone who really knows how to craft an offer in the community you’re searching in; someone who has amassed data on recently transacted neighborhood properties.” Roberta Baldwin advises.

On top of aligning yourself with the proper help, Jocelyn Russo suggests “you want to be preapproved before you start looking,” and to make sure you go in with the right mindset. “Be patient, don’t get discouraged, and stay positive.” Chris Lane and Brittany Forsyth agreed with making sure you have pre-approval, also adding in to “understand the buying process and be prepared to compromise on {your} “wish list” in order to make a purchase in this climate. A buyer must also be aware of list-to-sale price ratios in the area that you are looking for so that when you make an offer it will be competitive.”

Michele Chiles-Hickman + Sharon Gill of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties gave the advice to “be prepared to be patient, persistent, and decisive,” adding in to make sure you have as much data as possible. “I advise watching the market data for a few weeks before making a move.” 

Roberta Baldwin has a tip for anyone looking, not just first-time homebuyers, “Never become so obsessed with buying that you overreach financially and fail to plan for maintaining that potential home.” It’s easy in this market to do what you feel you have to do to get the house, but it’s important to be practical at the same time. A helpful way to think about it is to “try to prioritize your buying “checklist” — because, after all, when in life is every single thing you want available to you at the same time?”

Another almost unanimous thought is to remain flexible — both in timing and location. “Be flexible in your timing and have confidence that inventory will eventually open up,” Richard Stanton suggests.

If you aren’t having luck in Montclair, there are plenty of other great towns nearby.

Are there other towns nearby that are worth looking at?

There is no shortage of towns around Montclair that have great downtown areas, beautiful parks, and are in close proximity to Montclair’s restaurants. Little Falls, Cedar Grove, Verona, West Orange, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, and Clifton are just a few of the local towns that are also seeing a surge of buyers. Jocelyn Russo sold many houses in Bloomfield recently, and emphasized that “they all are within walking distance from Montclair.” 

Sharon Gill suggests checking out Niche.com. “{It} is a great resource for school data, something most buyers ask about, with children or with children planned.” 

The rental market — is that a good option for people who aren’t ready to buy or can’t find anything? 

The rental market is just as active as sales but could still provide a good alternative for anyone who can’t find their dream home in their budget or want to test out the area before taking the plunge. 

“The rental market for single-family homes {is} very tight. The apartment rental market is strong with more inventory than home rentals.” Chris Lane and Brittany Forsyth caution. 

“The rental inventory is much more forgiving and a good option to consider to afford you time to shop for the right house,” Richard Stanton responded when asked about rentals. 

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If you are interested in renting, Roberta Baldwin has a few words of advice. “The options to rent a 1-family home are pretty narrow — most apartments are smaller than residential buyers would expect. However, there are some new rental buildings near here that will entertain 3-4-6 month leases, so ask about that.” 

Jocelyn Russo added her advice too, recommending that you “make sure you have your application ready, have your employment-ready, have your credit score ready. When you find something you have to jump on it.”

The best advice for anyone looking to buy in the Montclair/Essex county area.

Jocelyn Russo’s best advice would be to “be open to other areas. Because you do get more for your money just one town away. You can go just one block over to another town.” 

Chris Lane and Brittany Forsyth want all buyers to “be educated and understand the marketplace in which you are looking. When you find a home that works for you and your family, be prepared to make a competitive offer.”

Richard Stanton warns, “Don’t be afraid to see as many houses as possible so you’re ready to move quickly when the right one comes along.” 

Michele Chiles-HIckman notes the most important trait in this process is “patience. Know what you are willing and able to do to get a home.” 

Sharon Gill says, “it’s important to manage expectations… I advise buyers to make financial decisions that make sense.”

Roberta Baldwin’s “message is that the most important element of a home search is that these four walls you are bidding on will be your comfort and your grace in the future. It’s not really about whether the appliances are stainless steel!” 

Whatever you decide to do, and wherever you decide to look, it’s important to know all of your options to make the best and most informed decision for yourself. Of course, real estate agents are there to guide you in this process, but only you know what the right choice is. 

Thanks to the below real estate agents for all of the information provided.

Chris Lane + Brittany Forsyth
The Lane Team

Jocelyn Russo
Jocelyn Russo Group, Caldwell Banker Realty

Richard Stanton
Stanton Company

Michele Chiles-Hickman + Sharon Gill
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties

Roberta Baldwin
Keller Williams NJ Metro Group

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