Millburn Home Makes Record Sale in Housing Market Driven by ‘Lifestyle Shift’

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81 Mountain Avenue Record Sale Millburn New Jersey
The former home of architect Ying Li spent only a week on the market before becoming the most expensive house ever sold in Millburn. Photo courtesy of The Saritte Harel Team.

An address like 81 Mountain Avenue doesn’t spend long on the market, even in ordinary times. The seven-bedroom Millburn home is literally a designer’s dream. Architect Ying Li’s former residence flows from one understated room to another, sightlines carefully considered from city views to the deer-haunted woods of Sagamore Road.


“The house was an architect’s house so of course it has the wow factor,” said Saritte Harel, owner of Harel Real Estate based in Short Hills, who sold the property.

81 Mountain Avenue Record Sale Millburn New Jersey 2
The seven-bedroom home on Mountain Avenue is full of light and natural wood. Photo courtesy of The Saritte Harel Team.

The bidding wars lasted only a week before becoming the most expensive home ever sold in town at over $2.5 million, according to the Garden State MLS. That milestone wouldn’t have been possible without a historic housing market driving up prices.

“We’re not seeing a demographic shift,” Harel said. “It’s really a lifestyle shift and I think it’s going to last.”

Lately all people talk about in New Jersey (with some well-deserved smugness) is the wave of New Yorkers moving out to the suburbs. But realtors like Harel know there’s more than meets the eye. Most of the cross-Hudson migrants settling down in train-station towns like Millburn probably would have made the move eventually. Instead, they took advantage of remote work and low-interest rates and made the move a year or two earlier.

”Usually families with school-age kids will move out here for our schools,” Harel said. “But we’re seeing couples with babies and toddlers.”

Perhaps the real story of the current housing market might be that many prospective buyers are coming from closer places. In fact, the family that eventually got the keys to the Li’s Millburn manse came from the town next door. The social phenomenon realtors like Harel are seeing is people are now much more willing to splurge on at-home luxuries, even if that means moving a few blocks down the road.

“A lot of local families are spending more time at home,” Harel said, “and they want that home office, the pool, and a bigger yard.”

Economists, meanwhile, are still unsure how and when the market will resolve.

Navigating The Boom Bust Cycle Book
Economist Murray Sabrin’s new book comes out later this year.

”Interests could go up because inflation is accelerating,” economist Murray Sabrin told Jersey Digs. “The Federal Reserve said it’s transitory, but transitory could be several years.”

Well-known for his takedowns of the Federal Reserve for using interest rates to manage the economy, Sabrin, whose latest book “Navigating the Boom/Bust Cycle” comes out later this year, believes that the current housing market surge is happening right on schedule.

“This is the third bubble since the Dot-Com Bubble,” Sabrin said. “People are calling it the Everything Bubble where everything’s inflated from artwork to Knicks tickets.”

For prospective buyers hoping to catch a deal during the market’s downslide, Harel, whose 17-year career spans the last housing bubble, recommends still keeping a leg in the race, however daunting it can be.

“We’re hearing from buyers that they’re going to wait it out in hopes of saving money,” Harel said. “But if interest rates go back up, the money you may save when prices stabilize in a year is basically a wash.”

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