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We recently sat down with Burch & Burch of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, our Hoboken and Jersey City experts. We talked about what NYC Commuters need to know about NJ Suburbs.


MARKET EXPERTS: What NYC Commuters need to know about NJ Suburbs with S. Adamson & B. Ramsey




Morgan Burch:             I’m Morgan.

Bill Burch:                    I’m Bill. And this is the Burch & Burch podcast. And we have some people that we work with that we love in Bonnie and Susie here. So if you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about yourselves and of course realty.

Morgan Burch:             Just like a quick hi. Maybe just say a hi.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Hi.

Morgan Burch:             I hate that question in an interview, so say whatever you want. It could be as short or long as you want.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Okay. I’m Bonnie Ramsey and…

Susie Adamson:            I’m Susie Adamson.

Morgan Burch:             Perfect.

Bonnie Ramsey:            And together we are Adamson Ramsey Homes.

Morgan Burch:             Yes.

Bonnie Ramsey:            We’ve been a partnership for two years now and with Hearth Realty group, which is a boutique realty or boutique agency.

Bill Burch:                    With great coffee.

Bonnie Ramsey:            We’re based out of South Orange, New Jersey. We serve a lot of towns in Essex County. And we came to this boutique brokerage from a much larger brokerage because we like to think outside the box. We liked the flexibility. We love our broker, and it’s just been a really exciting two years.

Morgan Burch:             Sweet. Okay, well that was well done.

Bill Burch:                    And it’s great to have friends that are in different areas because, like you guys, we all have clients that we absolutely love but sometimes they’re not in our area. And you don’t feel comfortable trying to be an expert in some area that you’re not an expert.

Susie Adamson:            Absolutely.

Bill Burch:                    So you need to have friends that you trust, that you can hand your people off to because you don’t want anything bad to happen to them. So that’s how we met you two.

Morgan Burch:             Yes.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Right.

Susie Adamson:            Absolutely.

Bill Burch:                    And that’s why we’re here today. So we’re in South Orange.

Morgan Burch:             What area do you cover? So you’re based out of South Orange? But what else? What other towns, cities, area?

Bill Burch:                    Yeah, what are you really good at?


Susie Adamson:            Right. So we focus on Maplewood and South Orange, which are really one community even though they’re two towns. Millburn and Short Hills, which is one town, West Orange, Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, and Livingston. Most of the commuter towns, the New York city commuter towns in Essex County.

Bill Burch:                    So a lot of the people that you deal with when they come here, they’re looking for proximity to the train?

Susie Adamson:            Definitely.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Right. They’re thinking, “I work in the city, I need to commute, but I’d like to buy a house and pay roughly what I’m paying in rent.” Or, “I want my kids to have a yard,” for example. So generally they look on the Midtown Direct train line, which encompasses those towns we just named. As you go further west, we do serve a little bit of Summit. But as you go into Madison, Chatham, again we have partners that we would then pass you on to.

Bill Burch:                    Yeah, it just goes onto… Yeah.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Because we really want to be experts and we want to share our expertise with our clients. So if we don’t know where the best local place to eat is and how you get-

Susie Adamson:            Or doctors.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Or doctors, and we really feel like we can’t pass that information on to you, then we’ll just pass you on to another local expert. But the towns we do serve, like we, for example, live in Maplewood and South Orange so we are hyper-experts because we are hyper-local but we also utilize and use and know these surrounding towns to us.

Morgan Burch:             [inaudible 00:02:56]

Susie Adamson:            And we are finding that people are making the hop from sometimes Brooklyn and Manhattan to Hoboken and Jersey City, which is also part of why we wanted to partner with you guys…

Morgan Burch:             Yeah, it’s a step-by-step process.

Susie Adamson:            … as like a little baby step toward the suburbs. And then they move into the suburbs. Because these particular areas are very urbane, and so people feel like it’s a safe place to go in the suburbs.

Morgan Burch:             Because it’s still so accessible so they don’t feel like they’re losing…

Susie Adamson:            Yeah, and most of the people in these areas have moved from the New York City area. So they’re like-minded.

Morgan Burch:             Yes.

Bill Burch:                    There’s like this movement. They love the city and they want to be close to the city.

Susie Adamson:            Right.

Bill Burch:                    Then they want a lawn and a garage and a PTA association.

Susie Adamson:            Right, right. And that is one of the other things that people like about these towns that we serve is that they’re still kind of walkable. So of all the thousands of New Jersey towns there are, and it can be kind of overwhelming because there really are so many New Jersey towns and cities, these particular towns that we service mostly have downtown areas. And so they’re kind of walkable…

Morgan Burch:             [crosstalk 00:04:02].

Susie Adamson:            … and they still have that community feel. And so that’s one of the hallmarks of the towns that we-

Bill Burch:                    And you can park.

Bonnie Ramsey:            And you can park.

Susie Adamson:            Yes, and you can park and have a yard.

Bill Burch:                    Every time we come, like today, we came to your office and we parked right across the street.

Susie Adamson:            Right.

Morgan Burch:             And we were very excited about it.

Bonnie Ramsey:            And you had a sigh of relief.

Susie Adamson:            Yes.

Bonnie Ramsey:            I was just telling Susie, I moved with my family six years ago from Brooklyn. And one of my favorite things about living out here is the accessibility to grocery shopping and parking. So when we used to shop at Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn, my husband would drive the car in circles while I shopped because there was nowhere to park. And then I would load out all my groceries. He’d somehow pull up to the curb, we’d quick load it up while everyone’s honking at us. And then again, when we got back to our apartment in Brooklyn, he would have to somehow pull up, we’d unload while we had babies and kids, and then he’d have to go find a parking spot. The whole ordeal took like three hours. And now if I want to run to Trader Joe’s, it’s a quick five minute down the road, pull into the parking lot, run in, run out, home 20 minutes later, and you have a lot more extra time on your hands.

Susie Adamson:            Just one less stressful thing, yeah.

Bill Burch:                    Right. Everyday life is a little bit easier there.

Susie Adamson:            That’s right.

Bonnie Ramsey:            It’s definitely much easier.

Morgan Burch:             Which is actually a really big… I think some of the fears that I hear about people who are torn, they like the city because they feel like everything’s convenient, but they want to move out and they like the vision of having the house and the car and the yard.

Susie Adamson:            Right.

Morgan Burch:             But they’re like, “Oh, but the time for commuting is so much, and that’s what my big concern is.” But you do actually save a lot of time. Because if you live in the city and you have an errand to run, it’s very rare that the errand’s actually just on your way home. It’s often, “Okay, this could be an adventure of getting an Uber to get there and then and Uber back.” Or if you have a car…

Bonnie Ramsey:            Moving it or parking.

Susie Adamson:            And that is one of the things that we hear from people who buy out here is, “Yeah, the commute might be a little bit longer and it’s a little bit more challenging, but it’s well worth it because I’m getting so much more time with my kids on the weekends. I’m getting so much one time once I’m looking for a grocery store or whatever.” Everything else is easier so it makes up for the balance of the commute time being a little bit different.

Morgan Burch:             That’s not a thing that I think about very often either. And I’m in Hoboken myself and don’t drive unless I’m… I drive for work and then everything else I’m usually walking.

Bonnie Ramsey:            A lot of walk, right.


Susie Adamson:            And most of the people around here are commuting into the city. So this is an area that people come to specifically because of the proximity to the city. Most of these areas that we service, almost all of the towns, have direct trains into the city.

Bill Burch:                    Right. And from a social aspect, you’re not moving to Egypt and then all of your friends are now new and they don’t do the same thing. You may have new friends but they’re doing the same thing you are. They’re still commuters. They still have great jobs. They’re still-

Bonnie Ramsey:            And you can also keep your friends…

Bill Burch:                    And you can keep your friends.

Bonnie Ramsey:            … from the city in addition to making new friends. I think people feel like we’re so far away, but really we’re not. So we often will meet friends for dinner in Manhattan who maybe are coming from Brooklyn, or we’ll go to Jersey City and our friends from Manhattan might meet us in Jersey City. And then everyone only has like a 30 minute commute to meet up, which, if you think about it, that’s how far you travel anyway to meet friends for dinner no matter where your friends are from.

Morgan Burch:             Yeah, that’s definitely true.

Bill Burch:                    Well on our way here today, we left the Hoboken waterfront and we were here in-

Morgan Burch:             30 minutes, 32.

Bill Burch:                    Less than that probably.

Susie Adamson:            Yeah.

Morgan Burch:             Oh yeah, because we reduced the time because of the traffic.

Bill Burch:                    Yeah.

Morgan Burch:             [inaudible 00:07:33] of traffic.


Bonnie Ramsey:            To add also, just in talking about cars and stuff is that a lot of people are afraid that they’re going to move to the suburbs and they’re just going to be in their car all the time, driving everywhere. And I would say what’s different about the towns we serve is that that’s not the case. So I walk into town all the time to grab a coffee. My kids walk to the middle school and then they’ll go to Starbucks and hang out with their friends or grab a slice of pizza. And it is kind of that urbane suburb, and then they walk home. And so there still is that feeling of we live in this urban situation.

Susie Adamson:            It’s kind of the best of both worlds. You get the small town feel you want in the suburbs, but you still have much of the urban conveniences. So it’s great.

Morgan Burch:             Yeah.

Bill Burch:                    They’re both fruits, one’s apples, one’s oranges.

Bonnie Ramsey:            That’s right.

Bill Burch:                    Just tell them the difference.

Morgan Burch:             Which one do you want today?

Bill Burch:                    So, if you don’t mind me going a little off track.

Morgan Burch:             I love it.


Bill Burch:                    So maybe you can think in your mind about a past client that moved from a little further East, Hoboken, Jersey City, West New York, somewhere like that, and they moved here. Can you think of a client and what they moved into and what they moved from and what those price points are and what the differences were between those?

Bonnie Ramsey:            Yeah. I mean…

Bill Burch:                    So if I were somebody who’s listening to this and they happen to think, “Oh, I wonder what that would be like. What’s my life change?” Let’s say that they’re in a million dollar condo right now and they live at 77 Hudson or at Nine on Hudson and they’re thinking, “You know, we want that suburban. we want to get out west a little bit,” and their place is going to sell for about a million. What are they going to get here for that amount of money?

Bonnie Ramsey:            Okay, so they own you’re saying.

Bill Burch:                    They own and they’re going to sell.

Bonnie Ramsey:            And they’re going to sell a million dollar apartment.

Bill Burch:                    Right.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Well, tell us real quick what $1 million apartment, what does that look like to you square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms?

Bill Burch:                    2000 square feet, two to three bedrooms, two to three bathrooms maybe has a nice view. Maybe has a view, maybe not, depends.

Morgan Burch:             At a million, with a view?

Bill Burch:                    Maybe. It depends on which building you’re in. If it’s a new construction, not so much.

Susie Adamson:            I mean, I can tell you…

Bill Burch:                    If it’s older stuff, think about Galaxy Towers for example.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Well,…

Morgan Burch:             Okay, so if you’re going up.

Bill Burch:                    West.

Morgan Burch:             I’m saying in Jersey City, what?

Bonnie Ramsey:            What view?

Susie Adamson:            I can’t give you a specific example.

Bill Burch:             I think the key is that if you’re at $1 million price point. I chose that number because it’s easy to remember…

Bonnie Ramsey:            A million, yeah.

Bill Burch:                    … and I think how you [inaudible 00:10:08] where you’re at.

Bill Burch:                    Yeah, like the Galaxy Towers area.

Bonnie Ramsey:            So you definitely get more than a two bedroom for $1 million out here, depending on which town. So because we serve a lot of different towns, $1 million in Montclair gets you one thing versus in South Orange versus further west out in Short Hills.

Susie Adamson:            Summit, right.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Or Summit.

Susie Adamson:            But I can tell you that our closest friends moved from Hoboken. They sold a two-bedroom apartment in one of the newer developments, so I think they sold it for a million or so. They had three kids in that two-bedroom apartment.

Morgan Burch:             Goodness.

Susie Adamson:            And it was jam packed with stuff. And they moved to a house in Short Hills, which is one of the more expensive areas in what we serve. And they have a I think 2000 square foot house, five bedrooms, master bath, central air, finished basement, nice backyard, great school systems, and they’re very happy. They kind of came kicking and screaming. We told them for years to move out here. It took them a long time. And that they’ve been there for probably maybe 10 years.

Bill Burch:                    They might have added 10 or 15 minutes to their commute.

Susie Adamson:            Maybe, yeah. They live right near the train station in Short Hills, right near their elementary school.

Bill Burch:                    Perfect.

Susie Adamson:            Walking distance from the high school. And they take the-

Morgan Burch:             That’s a really good example.

Susie Adamson:            Yeah, it’s amazing.

Morgan Burch:             Damn.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Yeah. And even that’s Short Hills, which you get less for your money there than you might in another town like in Maplewood, for example. You can buy $1 million house that’s-

Susie Adamson:            3000 square feet.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Yeah, 3000 square feet, five minute walk to the train, big yard. You might even get a pool or two or three car garage, big fenced-in backyard,…

Morgan Burch:             My god.

Bonnie Ramsey:            … big finished basement for that same amount. You get less for your money the closer you are to the train because you’re paying for that convenience.

Morgan Burch:             Right.

Bonnie Ramsey:            But if you’re willing to walk 12 minutes to the train or so, that’s about a mile out, up to a mile out, 12 to 15 minute walk, then you can just get more and more for your money.

Morgan Burch:             Yeah, sweet.


Bill Burch:                    So what’s the market like here now?

Morgan Burch:             Yeah.

Bill Burch:                    What’s it feel like? I mean here were approaching the middle of December, Christmas is coming on. We’ve gone through Thanksgiving. Usually it’s pretty slow right now. We’ve been a little bit busier than normal. What about you two? What’s everything feel like here?

Susie Adamson:            We have pending contracts right now, which is very busy for November/December.

Bill Burch:                    Wow, that is very good, yeah.

Susie Adamson:            We’re very excited for all of our clients. And they’re from 300,000 to a million. So we are working with…

Bonnie Ramsey:            A million plus.

Bill Burch:                    Super.

Susie Adamson:            … single buyers and young couples and people who are moving from the city to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

Morgan Burch:             Oh, right.

Susie Adamson:            I mean we’ve got the whole gamut, young families.

Bonnie Ramsey:            We just moved a family here from California.

Morgan Burch:             Oh, really?

Susie Adamson:            And we really urge buyers to look in the off-season where it’s a little bit slower. Spring market typically around here starts at the end of February and goes until about July, I’d say, early July.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Yeah, and that’s really based on people want-

Susie Adamson:            The school year.

Bonnie Ramsey:            The school year and trying to move maybe in June, July, August.

Morgan Burch:             Right, right. So you want to close, yeah.

Bonnie Ramsey:            So they start looking in February, they want to close when their kids are out of school so they would move then.


Susie Adamson:            That’s the frenzy of the market here. And, in that season, you can expect any home that’s move-in ready and in good condition, in a good location that’s priced right, to go in the first weekend. And you’re going to compete.

Morgan Burch:             How long has that been true?

Susie Adamson:            I’ve been in the business for about six or seven years and it’s been true the whole time that I’ve been in business. So we’re about to-

Bill Burch:                    Priced right though is the key.

Morgan Burch:             Yeah, priced right is the key words there.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Priced right.

Susie Adamson:            Priced right, absolutely. And most of the agents around here know how to price well, so we typically find that the homes do go. Even if they’re not priced right in the spring market, you’re going to expect some competition. But in the summer months, maybe around August and then right around the holidays now can be a great time to buy.

Bonnie Ramsey:            August and September are typically very slow. Then there’s a little uptick in our fall market, we call it. And that’s basically September/October, people who are trying to close maybe by Thanksgiving or so. Most people don’t generally think, “Oh, I want to move in December/January when it’s snowing, when it’s Christmas.”

Morgan Burch:             Right.

Bonnie Ramsey:            However, there are people who still need to move. So there are homes on the market and you can find a really great house with less competition. So there might be one or two homes.

Morgan Burch:             We never see that.

Bill Burch:                    And the sellers are probably feeling a little more Damson.

Bonnie Ramsey:            They’re motivated.

Susie Adamson:            That’s right.

Bonnie Ramsey:            They’re moving for some reason. They’re transferred or they need to sell for one reason or another.

Susie Adamson:            Right. We always say most people don’t put their houses on the market in November or December unless they need to move.

Bonnie Ramsey:            So we are feeling the market soften slightly over the last year I’d say. The spring was a little slower than it has been in years past.

Susie Adamson:            And a little bit slower to get going, started in March.


Bonnie Ramsey:            Yeah, it usually is starting in February and this past year it was really March, even towards late March, before the inventory really picked up. We are seeing a little less competition than we’re used to. On a really beautiful house that we thought we should have maybe eight offers, or historically it might’ve had that many offers, might have three, and maybe won’t go 15% over asking. Instead, it only went maybe 7% over asking. So there’s a lot of factors we think that play into that.

Susie Adamson:            Yeah, and we’re also finding that it’s still a seller’s market for the most part.

Bill Burch:                    For you.

Morgan Burch:             Okay.

Susie Adamson:            For us, for most of the commuter towers.

Bill Burch:                    Our area is totally different.

Bonnie Ramsey:            It’s slower.

Bill Burch:                    Yeah.

Susie Adamson:            So in our commuter towns, it’s definitely still a seller’s market for the most part, for the homes that are priced right. But the buyers actually have a lot more power during the negotiations in the middle of the contract…

Morgan Burch:             Oh, right.

Susie Adamson:            … than we’re finding was the case five years ago, even three years ago. So they’re pushing more.

Morgan Burch:             So neither of them have a quick close on the back burner.

Susie Adamson:            Right. So it’s typically a 45-day closing period.

Bill Burch:                    So is that happening during the home inspection process?

Susie Adamson:            Home inspections, right.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Home inspection.

Susie Adamson:            So in the past where there were eight buyers, the sellers could say, “Well, we have a lot of backup offers,” so you have to behave yourselves.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Yeah. And, “You’re lucky to get the house so you better play nice.”

Bill Burch:                    Yeah, so don’t be-

Bonnie Ramsey:            Now, the sellers are like, “We don’t want to lose this deal so we’ll give you whatever you want or a lot of what you’re wanting.” And buyers are feeling more brave, ask for more.

Bill Burch:                    And the buyers are using that as a second opportunity to negotiate.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Yes, they really are, which is a really new territory over I’d say the last six months or so.

Susie Adamson:            Yeah, it helps that we do so much business that we’re seeing a lot of that. So we know how to coach our buyers on how far they can push and when they need to pull back a little bit. And we have great attorneys that we work with and great inspectors that we work with, so we know how to guide our buyers through the entire transaction.

Bill Burch:                    That makes a world of difference.

Morgan Burch:             It does.

Susie Adamson:            Absolutely.


Bill Burch:                    So many people think that they can hire any attorney.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Please don’t hire any attorney.

Susie Adamson:            Yeah, or their lenders. Just we find that when people use the lenders that we recommend, it’s just a smoother transaction all around. And so, yeah.

Morgan Burch:             Yeah, that’s definitely true.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Because we work with sellers and buyers, we are really steeped in the process from both sides. So then that allows us to help our sellers better by saying, “well, this is what the buyers are asking for now. This is what the buyers are looking for.”

Morgan Burch:             Yes, right.

Bonnie Ramsey:            And so we can really guide them in that process. And likewise with the buyers, we can guide them because we’ve done it so many times from the seller side. We know both perspectives and we can share that and help our clients walk through it.

Morgan Burch:             It is a valuable…

Bill Burch:                    Right. Because, in the end, it’s their decision. That’s the awkward thing about doing what we do is we’re advisors, but in the end…

Bonnie Ramsey:            It’s their choice.

Bill Burch:                    … they make the decision.

Susie Adamson:            Absolutely. And that actually has come up recently. Someone was like, “So you’re advising me.” I said, “No, no. I am giving you all the information you need so that you can make a good decision.”

Bonnie Ramsey:            The best decision.


Susie Adamson:            Because we’re careful not to say this is what you should do or this is what you have to do. We are here to equip you with all the information you need to make your decision for your family. With both buyers and sellers, we tell them all the time, “This is a stressful process. There’s nothing we can do to take away all of the stress. But to the extent that we can mitigate the stress, that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to advise you so that you can price it right, market it right.” For the buyers, we want to get a lot of intel up front. We do an exhaustive buyer consultation so that we spend as little time as possible dragging you out of the city or dragging out of Hoboken and Jersey City…

Morgan Burch:             [inaudible 00:18:26].

Susie Adamson:            … with your little baby and looking at a hundred homes. We are not interested in showing you a hundred homes. We should be out here like one or two, three times. We have clients who look maybe for a year. But typically, if we really know what you’re looking for, we preview homes every week.

Bonnie Ramsey:            We preview it, yeah, and then select what’s worth bringing you out for. We don’t want to waste your time and we don’t want to waste our time. But we really take a lot of time upfront with our clients.

Morgan Burch:             [crosstalk 00:18:54].

Susie Adamson:            Our family has bought and sold seven times. So I know, when we’ve had realtors who have literally shown us a hundred homes, I’ve walked into homes and I’ve thought, “If you had paid attention to what I wanted, you wouldn’t have shown me this in the first place with my baby in tow,” while they’re… So we really try to take care to find you the right home at the right time for the right price in the least amount of time.

Bill Burch:                    Sure.

Susie Adamson:            We know everyone’s time is valuable, including our own, and we don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for homes that aren’t right for you.


Morgan Burch:             That was so helpful.

Bill Burch:                    You hit that really well. Perfect.

Morgan Burch:             Yeah, I’m sending this to people. Thank you for joining us.

Bill Burch:                    Anyways, it was great having everybody. We’re going to sign off.

Morgan Burch:             Oh, yeah.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Cheers.

Morgan Burch:             Cheers.

Bill Burch:                    [crosstalk 00:19:33]. Shake and bake.

Morgan Burch:             Shake and bake.

Bonnie Ramsey:            Happy holidays.

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