$117K can still buy you a house in Montclair

It is a fixer upper of course…

The tiny, circa-1890 frame house on the narrowest of lots — just 18 feet wide — is as modest as a single-family home can get so close to Montclair’s stately Estate section, where a handsome six-bedroom colonial with “old world craftsmanship” is listed at $1.49 million. The mini-house with its small red deck is also less than a mile from the town’s most expensive real-estate listing, the $7.75 million, 30-room mansion that was once home to former Giants star Michael Strahan. But this little old house on Cross Street is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It is, in fact, at just $117,500, believed to be the lowest-priced listing in town.

“I’ve been in business 20 years, and I’ve never had one that cheap. … It needs, hmmm, basically decor,” said Lenore “Lee” Robinson, the listing agent with RE/MAX Village Square. While it has a lot of traffic from potential buyers, it is still on the market, a sign of the real-estate slump. Its price has been slashed from its summer listing of $175,000. “I would have thought it would have sold right away,” she said. “I just think people are so afraid.” Last month, just eight houses went under contract in Montclair, compared with 25 in December 2007 and 21 in the same month a year earlier, said Linda Grotenstein of Coldwell Banker’s Upper Montclair office. About 85 single-family homes are on the market in Montclair — once a hotbed for multiple bids during the market’s more heady days. The number of listings swells to about 150 when condos are counted.

Still, Adriana O’Toole, a Montclair agent who serves with the West Essex Board of Realtors, said that’s about right for this time of year. And regardless, buyers, she said, are taking their time. “They’re very discerning,” she said. So discerning that the 16 single-family homes now under contract have been on the market an average 115 days, slightly ahead of the Essex County average of 107 days. The least expensive house offers a red deck off the first-floor living room and a single second-floor bedroom, with sliding-glass doors. “It looks like a little chalet,” Robinson said in real estate agent speak. “The Hobbit house” is how one interested party described it, Robinson said.

There have been open houses. Prospective buyers walked through the first-floor 9-by-13 living room and the kitchen. They ascended the staircase to the sole shower-only bathroom and single bedroom. They went around back to a stockade-fence enclosed yard, just a few feet deep, to enter the full basement. Just a week ago, RE/MAX agent Roy Castor showed the house to yet another prospective buyer. “He really liked the house. It’s like the perfect size for a single person.”

Little is known about the house’s history. It isn’t included in Montclair’s otherwise exhaustive 1981 historic preservation survey, and it hardly could qualify as a carriage house once capable of holding horses and wagon. But a larger house, just a couple doors away on Cross Street, is described as a place built for “servants of wealthy landowners on nearby Union and Gates avenues.” Ceil Adkins, who remodeled her larger Cross Street home down the block, said some homeowners on the street have connections going back generations. One of her elderly neighbors, she said, told her that her grandparents once lived in what is now being called a chalet, not far from the 2.25-acre Porter Park.

“It’s a very rare block. There is no other block like Cross Street. This is the only street for the servants that is right in the heart of the Porter Park area,” she said. “We’re surrounded by all these big beautiful mansions.” It’s something Robinson can relate to. Her 1897 St. Luke’s Place home, she said, once belonged to a coachman, a man who handled the bridles and such for a gentleman’s or lady’s transportation. One of those nearby mansions near Cross Street was once the home of James J. Fielder, who served as New Jersey’s governor after Woodrow Wilson assumed the presidency in 1913.

The little house’s listing does describe the place as a “fixer-upper,” something potential buyers seem to shy away from nowadays, said Roberta Baldwin, an agent at RE/MAX Village Square in Montclair. But just around the corner, on Orange Road, a 4-bedroom 1880 colonial being marketed at $650,000 “needs TLC,” according to the listing. Besides, someone might like the little “chalet” just the way it is.”Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Baldwin said. “A little love nest?”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s