Downsizing without giving up gardening!

PSA to those who love to garden but are weary of the costs in SOMA. Listed now for $114k. 3 bedrooms. Just north of $2k monthly fee includes stuff you pay extra for at home like property taxes, water, electricity, snow removal, summer landscaping, 24 hour door man.

AND you get to have a key role in caring for and restoring The Secret Garden @ 377! Our one acre garage roof garden. Soon to add veggie plots! 

I'm not a realtor but I am a gardener.
Best Decision I ever made, except for spouse! 

Best Regards,

Ron Carter

The Secret Garden @ 377

Come on Over!


http://www.njmls.com/listings/index.cfm?action=dsp.info&mlsnum=1840982&openhouse=true&dayssince=15&countysearch=false&fbclid=IwAR3h0065JNkbaSQmt1wBt_kNIInkScojJ5GW6G52ToLJbLzv71mx5DB3Heo


Odds are pretty high that you know someone from SOMA that has moved here!

Doctors, Musicians, Teachers, Artists.  

All Types!



is the HOA fee $2000? If so, that is insanely high!


Thats what I thought.  $1944 is too high.


way too high. That’s why the condo price is so low. Does it at least include taxes?


conandrob240 said:
way too high. That’s why the condo price is so low. Does it at least include taxes?

 It says it includes taxes and utilities, which i still think is high for a $140K condo. 


still very high but makes it a little better that it includes taxes. It’ll be tough to re-sell if need be. 


With an HOA/maintenance fee that high, you may as well just stay in your house. 


FWIW: My parents are looking at Co-ops in Ft. Lee and Hackensack, and with taxes included, a $2,000+ monthly fee seems common for a 3BR. The monthly fee appears not to change whether the Coop was recently updated or not (I think the fee is square-footage related) -- the updates seem to only impact the selling price. 


kind of describes the problem of aging in NJ. When even a downsize option to a condo costs $25k a year to maintain/taxes. 


Crazy monthly fee payment.   Even if you pay in cash you have a big monthly nut.


Folks,

All I can say is add up all those things for your typical soma house. Not Wyoming  or Hilton...

Do your hallways get vacuumed everyday?

Add it all up!

Snow, landscape, prop tax, electricity(Heat and Air conn,) water, sewer, garbage removal, fuel oil... The yearly upkeep on your boiler, chimney, gutters, resealing your driveway,Getting the squirrels out of your attic, the bees from your eves, tending your sump pump and water heater...   

Add it all up.  now add in a figure for your time setting all that up, calling the people or doing the ones you DIY.

Think about a 10 year period and add In the cost of a water heater...  What else would be common?   Maybe have to cut down a tree over your fence...

That should come close to a typical year...

Divide by 12 and tell me your comparison...

If it matters we aren't a condo.

Would be happy to see similar luxury listings in Essex County less than 30 minute train to Penn Station!

All that and this garden...

Lot's of  opinions, few facts....

When we left Maplewood in 2006 my 'level' billing for PSE&G (Just elec and gas)  was close to $400 month and there was still the fuel oil for heating...

Best Regards,

Ron Carter 

The Secret Garden @ 377

The Place To Be AND still get to garden!


conandrob240 said:
kind of describes the problem of aging in NJ. When even a downsize option to a condo costs $25k a year to maintain/taxes. 

 We are doing just fine...  

Add all that up and repeat your argument????

Best Regards,

Ron Carter


I’m glad and if you’re happy,it’s the right place for you. 


However, it sounds like a terrible financial investment. 


And $25-30k in housing expenses plus taxation of retirement income makes NJ a very poor choice for retirement. If you have family here, I get it, it’s a trade off but many older folks are forced to leave in large part because of the financial circumstances of aging in this state. It’s sad. And a condo with a $2000 monthly maintenance fee isn’t going to help most in the situation of trying to reduce monthly housing expenses.


And don't forget, East Orange has the gun shot alert system so if someone shoots you, they police respond automatically.  I don't care how much 'luxury' there is, I would rather live someplace I would feel safe walking around the neighborhood and coming and going to stores and restaurant...especially at that price

this doesn't seem so much like a gardening post, but rather a sales pitch especially with an ad.

condos and co ops are notorious for management on a power trip that is very abusive to residents and mismanages the property.  You need to have money to sue.  Even if good now, things can change...been there done that.


“condos and co ops are notorious for management on a power trip that is very abusive to residents and mismanages the property”


I think this is a bit much. I’ve owned a few co-ops and condos and found all to be rather well managed and a decent experience. If the maintenance is as high as this one is, though, it’s likely not well managed.


spend a day on you tube watching HOA videos....its just bizarre.  the one I am personally familiar with violates bylaws, town laws, state laws, even federal laws....the only way to change anything is to sue.  There are no meetings, no elections and even when there were, they were illegal-somehow even though 95% of people opening spoke out against the person running the show, she kept winning.


well, I’ll judge based on my own experience owning 2 co-ops and 2 condos in my life rather than watching YouTube. All were financially sound and well-run. My current condo has its quirks but it’s financially strong and we most certainly have transparent elections and open meetings. I’m sure there are many bad ones but co-ops and condos aren’t just automatically bad. 


no one said automatic, but it is notorious ..and youtube is a lot of news/investigative reports, not just owners ranting with no evidence to back it up.


YouTube videos, however nightmarish, have absolutely NOTHING to do with this particular building. 

I know a number of people who have moved into this building in recent years and they all LOVE it. I've never heard anything but rave reviews from people who live there.    

This building is a cooperative, not a condominium.   In a co-op you do not technically  "own" your apartment.  The building is a corporation and instead of owning individual apartments, stakeholders own stock in the corporation.  

Monthly maintenance on this building includes, taxes, regular interior and exterior maintenance, heat, water ELECTRIC and garbage.    It typically does not include capital improvements or major repairs  like a new roof, a new boiler etc.  If those are needed special assessments are usually added to the regular maintenance fee.   

In a co-op the board (made up of owners)  has a lot to say (sometimes more than one would wish) about rules, regulations and financial decisions. If you own your own home YOU are in control.  You decide what repairs are made and when, who you hire, how much you pay, and how you pay.  In a co-op or condo that is not always the case.  Most of the time it doesn't matter.  Sometimes it does.  

 I know nothing about the financial condition of this particular building but before jumping into any co-op or condo I would want detailed info about the financial stability of the complex such as the size of their reserve fund, number of apartments in arrears with maintenance payments (and how much those arrears are).  I would want to know if there is a mortgage on the property and if so, how much of the monthly maintenance goes to servicing that mortgage.   I would want to know the terms of the mortgage, if and when there is a balloon payment due and if the interest is fixed or variable.  I would want to know if there are any existing or pending special assessments and  also the condition of the infrastructure to at least be somewhat aware of assessments that could be coming up in the future.   

I expect that most people moving from SOMa would be downsizing and paying cash but be aware that usually mortgages on Co-ops have higher interest rates that on houses and in some cases where complexes do not meet FNMA guidelines, buyers must put down at least 20 or 25%.   

As far as it being a smart or a sound financial investment - who can say ? It could be the deal of the century .   When I bought my first house in Maplewood for $115,000 my mother thought we were crazy.  She actually said  " Thank god your father is dead because if he were alive this would kill him".   Now that house is worth almost $1 million - and my mom's house in Greenwich Connecticut that was worth about $300 K when ours was $115 K -  it sold recently for $1,300,000.   


with maintenance that high, it’ll never be the deal of the century. That’s why the unit itself is priced so low. That and the location.


I am all for people loving their homes and feeling comfortable in their monthly obligations so whatever works for people is great.   My mortgage  on my house is about that much, (and each payment builds equity rather than going to maintenance fees) and also includes real estate taxes.  Also, theres the price/purchase of the unit itself that factors in - that might make it harder for folks to afford another $2000 a month.  Side note  - the shared laundry in the basement might be a deal breaker for some.  

I don't need anyone vacuuming hallways unless they are doing it INSIDE my house, lol.Now if someone wants to cook, clean and do laundry for me each day, that is worth 2 grand a month to me.  For comparison,   I am a mile from the midtown direct (though Union County not Essex) in a 3 bedroom ranch and have a 35 minute commute into NYC.  My husband mows the lawn but I have had a service in the past.  

All that said, I know several people who live in this building and they love it.  I have thought about it myself, and who knows what the future holds.   3 bedrooms isn't easy to find.  The fair market value of the place is whatever people will pay for it.  So there you go.


you can't know that.  You can't change the location but the value of the location can change.   I'm not saying it will but it could.  Look at what happened to Brooklyn.  Maintenance in high rises is always high.   Considering what it includes,  maintenance here  is not that different from that in other high rises in Essex County.  It's not inconceivable that the value on this three bedroom apartment could rise from $115.000 to $175.000 in a few years.  That would be an increase of over 50%.  I'm not saying it will or won't happen but it could.  Or it could decrease in value by 50%.  The point is,  no one can really say.  


@jmitw, you're painting with a broad brush, implying that this place has the same problem as other places, but do you know anything about it? I've been there, and it feels safe. Have you been there? Coops and condos are not all perfect, but they're not all the same. What makes you think this place fits your own personal stereotype?


I'm no expert but real estate isn't necessarily about being an investment. It's a place to live. If it brings you joy and doesn't deplete your retirement, who cares. It's certainly no worse than renting after downsizing and plenty of people do that. And even freestanding homes aren't guaranteed to be good investments. Remember the mid 2000s? 



@shh raises a good point. You can hope your home appreciates in value, but it's not a totally safe bet. It should be a home first and an investment second.

We bought our Maplewood home in 2003 and sold in 2013. I think we approximately broke even. Selling price was higher, but we had invested a lot in improvements.


A few of the comments here belong on Soapbox....just saying.

The OP isn't here trying to shill a piece of real estate.  He has lived there for years, posted a great deal about the garden, and is posting IN THE GARDENING THREAD to let other gardeners know that there is a large unit available in his gardening-friendly co-op.

Not everyone likes co-ops, and sarahzm's assessment of questions to ask seems spot-on.

Living in NJ costs money, and I can't imagine finding any attractive 2-3 bedroom options that are extremely cheap.  Mortgage/purchase costs on a $115K co-op plus $2000 a month for property tax, all exterior maintenance and snow removal, utilities, and a 24 hour a day doorman sounds like it would cost a lot less than keeping my money-pit of a single family home once we are retired and child-free, even though the mortgage will be paid in full.

The Newstead, for example, has a combination of condo fees and property tax that are at least as expensive, for amenities that include some utilities, 24 hour a day(?) doorman, exterior maintenance and snow removal, and a pool rather than a garden.  Newer construction, condo, and a South Orange address, so prices for the rare 3 Br unit there would probably be at least 4 times as high.  (The 2Brs currently on the market list for about $300K)

Ron's building is a block or two across the South Orange border, so I'm guessing that many of the residents downsizing from South Orange continue to do much of their shopping and socializing in South Orange. I'd take a look at the building when it comes time to downsize, given what I know now.


I grew up in a co-op in Queens.  I  remember nasty letters under the apartment door when board elections rolled around, character assassinations in the co-op newsletter, children insulted and bullied for their parents' beliefs, and a general atmosphere of unpleasantness, where there were 750 families, each one considering itself to be an "owner."  When my mother died I couldn't get rid of the place fast enough.  The rules  were that I had to sell it back to the co-op for whatever they decided to pay--which was way below market value--and they still tried to swindle me out of several thousand dollars.

 I would never, ever live in a co-op again.  Those folks do not cooperate with each other.


Another broad brush. I live in a coop in NYC. Ours isn't like that. I grew up in one also. Sure, there are politics, but if you haven't noticed, they are everywhere.


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