Jersey City Realtor Diaries
Photo-Illustration: Lined; Photos: Alay
In this bi-weekly series,Realtor Logs“, hear us people in the center of a wilder market than ever. Today’s hour-by-hour insight into the working world of one of Jersey City’s top brokers, Jill Biggs.
5:13 a.m. I have a new puppy. If she’s awake, I’m awake. I immediately carry her into the garden. At home in Jersey City, I also have four adult daughters, all of whom have come home with me – occasionally – since COVID, and my husband and three other dogs and my children’s and dad’s various pets. other important people. I bought this house as an investment property a few years ago, but because it had a parking space, I decided that I wanted it for myself. A parking spot in Jersey City is a gift you never let go.
5:45 I go to the gym. I don’t pretend to like it. Training at 6 a.m. sucks, but I have a trainer, and if it’s a date, I show up! A girlfriend and I hold each other accountable for our workouts, and I don’t want to be ashamed of giving up.
6:45 am I take a look at my to-do list. Mind you, I make this list every night at 3:23 a.m. when I wake up in a cold sweat remembering all the things that need to be done. This is when I make the list, do a brain dump, purge my thoughts, and hopefully go back to sleep. My therapist says stop doing that. Well, that doesn’t happen. Anyway, I usually have around 50 offers in contract. I spend hours and hours a day fixing people’s projects and problems, so I need that damn list.
7 a.m. Every morning at 7am I have a five minute “responsibility call”, which is not about the gym but about something else. It is with three other women. We don’t buy for 90 days. I had to state this publicly so that if I broke my promise I would be embarrassed and it would be painful. Pain is much more motivating than pleasure. Our agreement is that I will have to take them all on an all-inclusive spa vacation if I go shopping. Some people eat; I buy. I made the same wish last year for 60 days and saved $100,000. It was so revealing.
7:30 a.m. I take a shower and then sit down in my hair dryer chair. I sold the house of a little old woman who had a house in Jersey City Heights. She was a hairdresser and she gave me her old-fashioned chair to dry my hair. I read my reading while my curly hair dries about 30 minutes a day. I tell you, anyone with curly hair needs one of these chairs. I am a big reader. I read business, self-help books. I have a business coach. I always try to improve myself.
8:30 am I get to work. I bring my dog, the miniature schnauzer who hates children. He behaved badly. We all bring our dogs to my office. It’s a bit of a shit show. Lots of steam cleaning. When I interview people, the first thing I ask now is “Are you allergic to dogs?” Better to cut to the chase and save everyone time.
9am I have an appointment with my daughter, who now works with me, to review some floor plans. She has these customers who bought a funeral home. It is no longer one. They are turning it into two condos. They showed us around the pre-construction. Do you know the chair where the bodies are embalmed? It’s still there. You can still smell the embalming fluid! So it was interesting. By the way, that’s a chair I won’t be taking home. But they will be beautiful condominiums. It’s in Paulus Hook, the best neighborhood in Jersey City. This is the school district that everyone wants to move into. A large property will sell for several million dollars with many offers. Oh, there’s a room with a pink shag rug and a mirror, and the couple tells us, “We think that was the crying room.
11 a.m. Team meeting in the office. We pack everyone. I am currently organizing competitions. You get points for the number of calls made, appointments made, contracts, closings, that sort of thing. It keeps them inspired. Competition is good for real estate agents. Last meet, I took the winning team to Nashville. It was like a big pub crawl. It was really good for team building.
Midday. I’ve had the same salad for four years. Grilled chicken on lettuce. I hate this salad so much I can barely look at it. I have five or six bites. My business coach told me I was wasting too much time on lunch and “it’s just fuel”. So that’s what I’m doing now. I never gain weight because very little food goes out of that damn salad. My assistant brings it to me every day. It’s still on his list.
Another thing on his list reminds me to pay the parking meter. Last year I paid $6,000 in parking tickets. You can’t show houses in Jersey City and take the time to legally park – it’s just impossible and you don’t have the time. Parking is almost as tricky as in New York. Imagine having to park for every screening if you do six in a row. Suburban realtors don’t want to come here because they’re scared of parking.
1 p.m. Hop on a call to hear about a buyer’s home inspection report. I spend a lot of time resolving inspection issues. My inspector orchestrated this three-hour inspection of a 1,200 square foot property; it shouldn’t have lasted more than an hour. Then the client also got the inspection reports from the neighbors, just to compare notes. And then he went to get the developer to fix whatever was going on. He took everything apart. The developer will never build because of this guy again. I am not joking. It was taking so long that his lawyer is Actually no longer practices real estate law! He exhausted everyone. But not me. He wasn’t mean or petty, he was just incredibly thorough.
2 p.m. I run my reminders. Most are people who have questions about potential properties. They want the scoop from me before they take the time to book screenings.
I get a ton of Brooklyn families interested in Jersey City. Today is no different. I’m talking to a mother of three who lives in Cobble Hill. She asks what she can get for $2 million in Jersey City.
I tell her that in downtown Jersey City she can get a reasonably sized brown stone. If they want a high rise, maybe we can find something for it for around 1,500 square feet, but there aren’t many options due to low inventory. Jersey City was once a bunch of undeveloped land. Now it’s a bunch of skyscrapers, but right now it’s all rentals. Rentals at full price. People will pay a rent premium to be downtown in less than ten minutes. It’s a better drive than Brooklyn, Harlem, and even the Upper East Side. Hopefully they build condominiums because we currently have nothing to buy whatsoever. But there is still plenty of room to grow.
2:15 p.m. Always chatting. She asks, “What else but brownstones?” I say another option would be a newly renovated low rise building. It depends on their lifestyle. If she or her husband wants to be near the PATH, they will want certain areas, not others. If she wants lots of activity and to be within walking distance of restaurants, she’ll want to be near Grove Street. If she wants a little more “art” there’s the skyscrapers of the Powerhouse Arts District, which looks a bit like DUMBO, but honestly not much going on there.
The most desirable area for those moving to Jersey City is Paulus Hook, likely due to its proximity to the ferry and highly ranked schools. It’s also home to the next chic funeral home-slash-condo conversion. You can buy a large brownstone there for $5 million with parking and outdoor space. Near beautiful Hamilton Park, you can find a brownstone for $3 million, or you can also buy a 5,000 square foot loft with 18 skylights and 50 foot ceilings.
Hamilton Park and Van Vorst Park are major parks with great neighborhoods and lots of kids. I conclude the call by saying, “The thing is, it’s a big city with lots of options. Everywhere is vibrant. Artsy. Serious, but in a good way. There are amazing restaurants. Music. Green markets. It’s like New York, where the culture changes from block to block. There is always a local butcher and cheese shop and moms and pops.
2:45 p.m. On another call now. This client asks me to compare Jersey City to Hoboken. I tell him that Hoboken is only a square mile, fully developed and not as economically diverse – leading to higher rents, therefore fewer food options, one of my main concerns. Jersey City has low-income housing, middle-income housing, and billionaires!
Do we have any “tightly coiled” Wall Street types? Sure, but they exist all over the New York metro area, and we love them because they buy big houses! They also like tall skyscrapers! They like to live close to all the bars, restaurants and easy transportation to New York, which is Jersey City’s main draw. They work long, grueling hours. Views matter, modern finishes matter, and they must have an elevator, doorman, parcel service, and dog walker. They also tend to like a spiral staircase. It’s a lot of this: “Does the unit have fiber optic internet lines, and can I get a spreadsheet, please?!?!?!”
4 p.m. Every day at this exact hour, after getting beat up in the trenches, it’s bourbon or chocolate. I’m really not drunk. I’m honestly quite measured.
5 p.m. Stopped at a client’s new house, which I sold to her. I haven’t seen what she’s done with it yet, but I want to get a feel for her style so I can give her the perfect housewarming gift. I think it will be a photo of the building when it was built, and of course I will have it framed. All the money is in the frame!
6:30 p.m. One of my daughters bought her first house; it’s around the corner from my house. I’m going there to help her decorate a bit and hang some artwork. Moving furniture two inches here or there is my therapy.
7 p.m. My husband cooks dinner for us. He learned to cook because I’m a busy mom and everyone else would starve. Did I mention I spent $26,000 last year on Uber Eats! This does not include DoorDash or Grubhub. Did I mention Seamless?
8:30 p.m. I go to bed early because I get up early. I no longer stress at night. Maybe the wine! Either that or I’m so stressed all the time that I don’t see the difference. People used to hurt me at work and make me cry; now I’m just a fixer and solver.
9:30 p.m. I literally don’t stop until this point. I work standing all day. I move all day. I fix, I do, I solve, I talk, I laugh and I cry, and I’m a mother of four girls, I manage a team of 60 people, and I improve all day. Every day. And then… I collapse.