I first met with Pete and Leah Katz in early October 2018, when they called me after doing their on-line research (shoutout to all my clients who write recommendations!). The Katzes were looking to purchase their first home in the Cranford/Westfield area, and when we met I could immediately see that these two were NOT afraid to take on a challenge! We had a blast looking at homes in various need of remodeling (in a very short timeframe!), and Pete and Leah never lost focus on their ultimate goal… a spacious home with great bones in an area that was convenient and offered a vibrant downtown. Lo and behold, a fantastic Cranford home built in the 1980’s became available. Read about their journey of being first time homebuyers, starting major renovation with TimberRidge Construction, and living in a few bedrooms during all of the construction! Owning your first home is never easy – but it sure is a fun ride!
Tell me a little bit about how you met and what prompted the move?
Pete: We met in graduate school at Colombia University in Manhattan. We were both in Urban Planning and started dating in 2012. We were married in 2016.
Leah: After we were married, we moved to Huntington Beach, California for work. We knew right away that California wasn’t for us. We both had family back on the East Coast and missed home. We finally took that big road trip back in 2018. We lived in Airbnbs in Jersey City while looking for a new home!
What drew you to Cranford?
Leah: We knew we were moving back so we had time to plan. Every time we visited our family, we would search different towns – the Westchester area, Northern NJ, and then the areas around Cranford. We really liked the commutability to the city and great access to the Garden State Parkway. We have family in Pennsylvania, LBI, and Albany – so that was important to us. And Cranford was so cute – I felt like it should be in a Disney movie!
Pete: I also feel it was “homey”. There were other towns that we liked – but they were a bit commercial and busy. We really liked the hometown feel of Cranford. After looking at towns for over a year – we knew it was the one!
Once you decided upon Cranford – how did you find Sharon as your realtor?
Leah: We found her through Google! We started our Google search right away and definitely wanted a realtor with local knowledge. She had great reviews online and everyone related they had wonderful experiences with her. When we met with her the first time – she was so great! She was a genuine person and so FUNNY! We knew she was the one right away!
Pete: After our first meeting we were ready to move! We loved her!
Let’s hear about the house you found!
Pete: We started the house search with Sharon in early October 2018. We saw about 15-20 homes in about 2-3 weeks.
Leah: At the end of October we definitely zoomed in on our home and put an offer in.
Pete: We had the pressure on us because we were living out of Airbnbs. We saw our home and it just resonated with us in ways that others didn’t.
Leah: We stepped foot in here and it just felt like home! It’s funny that we closed on December 17 which was our wedding anniversary!
What are your favorite features?
Leah: I don’t love open concept houses and so many are nowadays. I liked that this home still had rooms on the first floor. It was your traditional center hall colonial and I loved that! Oh – and the attached garage was a plus for us!
Pete: I also like the layout on the first floor- as well as the nice sized bedrooms. I love the backyard. I felt it was just a great spot to start a family! It was the perfect size inside and can see us growing into it and being happy for a long time.
Leah: I didn’t want to ever move again!
Did you experience any difficulties with the purchase of your home?
Leah: Definitely the drainage canal in front of our home…
Pete: The canal was an unexpected issue – we couldn’t close until a fence was put up. We found ourselves scrambling… but it all worked out in the end.
I know you have been working with TimberRidge Construction on the renovation of your home. Tell us more!
Pete: The big projects are the kitchen and the family room. We tore out the carpeting and tile floors and installed hardwood that would match the rest of the house.
Leah: Yes, we gutted the kitchen and family room and are moving the laundry room to the second floor. We are also putting an addition over the garage which will be the master suite. The outside will have new siding and all new black windows – an esthetic refresh!
Pete: We are excited to have everything finished. We have been living out of 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Two bedrooms serve as sleeping and storage while the other is our “kitchen” – a space for microwaving and a table and chairs!
Leah: We are so lucky that Pete’s parents have a place in LBI. We have been going there on the weekends to do laundry and cook meals to have back home!
A little side note from Anthony Carbone-owner and premier contractor of TimberRidge Construction on the current renovation…
Anthony: Working with Peter and Leah has been great. The project started with a site visit with Sharon before they even made on offer on the house. They had a vision of what they wanted to do with the home, and we were consulted about how and if we could make it happen. Once they were under contract, we brought in Kenneth Abrams Architect– who we highly recommend -and began the planning to make their vision a reality. As construction started and continues to progress it is great to see their initial ideas along with tweaks along the way become a reality.
Now that you have been living in Cranford for a while – what do you love about your new town? Favorite restaurants?
Leah: I like being able to walk to everything.
Pete: I like the movie theater downtown – it’s nice to have that close.
Pete: We also like going to The Thirsty Turtle…
Leah: Love their Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls!
Pete: Oh – and River and Rail!
Leah: We are slowly trying everything!
Last question…What advice do you have for first-time homebuyers?
Leah: Pick an experienced realtor who is good at communicating with you. You will feel overwhelmed and not knowing all the right questions to ask. Find a realtor who is willing to hold your hand!
Sharon always checked in with us – asking us what we needed. She was constantly preparing us for the next step.
Pete: You need someone who is experienced in the area you are looking. Sharon had so much LOCAL experience. This is necessary! She knows EVERYTHING about this town! Don’t waste your time!
Also – go out and see as many homes as you can. I didn’t know what I wanted when this started. This home was “the one” and definitely resonated with me. But we still saw everything that was out there and came back to this house in the end.
Leah: We saw so many homes and were happy with our choice. But before you make your final decision – you need to feel confident!
I had so much fun working with Pete and Leah during the process, and am so impressed with how they made their vision a reality. From their phenomenal kitchen to their cool black trimmed window, this home is now AMAZING!
If you are looking to make a move, feel free to reach out! I am happy to answer any questions you may have!