Real Estate is a hot topic in Jersey City - it’s clear that it’s moving in an upward trajectory. Real estate agents working in Jersey City support clients with different needs - people moving here, to people moving from one area in Jersey City to another, to new buildings, or to houses being restored. We will be talking with real estate agents from the area to get their perspective on the city and what we all need to know about this real estate market.
We sat down with our neighbor, Laura Skolar-Gamarello, born and raised Jersey City Heights resident and a local realtor. She is a realtor with Liberty Realty, partner in Square 1, and active in multiple neighborhood organizations.
Why did you decide to become a real estate agent and how long have you been one?
I became a licensed Real Estate Agent in 1982 (Yikes, 36 years ago!). I didn’t really make a conscious decision to work in Real Estate; I always say it was a fluke. At that time I lived at home and was looking for a job.I was a graphic designer and while interviewing for a permanent graphics job, I freelanced. One morning, while flipping through the “want ads.” my father said, “Why don’t you go talk to my friend Andy about selling Real Estate?” On that day, I spoke to my father the way many 25 year olds talk to their parents and said, “I don’t want to do Real Estate.” What was he thinking? I was an artist! I knew nothing about Real Estate nor did I care. However, being a good daughter, I pacified him and agreed to an interview that very week.
To this day, I have no idea what Andy said to me during that interview, but I enrolled in school that following Monday and immediately became a licensed Real Estate Agent. It was probably the best decision I made in my life. I truly enjoyed working with people: concentrating in the community that I knew and loved, the Jersey City Heights. I remained with Century 21 Plaza Realty Corp, first as an agent then as sales manager. In 2006, I became the owner of the company when Andy retired. This year my company was acquired by Liberty Realty, the largest independent Real Estate Company in Hudson County with offices in Hoboken and Jersey City.
You live in the heights and primarily focus on the heights for your business. Was this on purpose? Why?
When I started in the business I concentrated on my sphere of influence, which happened to be the Heights. I was born & raised in Jersey City, growing up in the Heights, so it was literally my backyard. As a rookie in the real estate field I was also taught to “farm an area,” which I did religiously building a strong referral base right here. Of course I list and sell throughout all of Jersey City & Hudson County but have a strong bond with my “hood.”
Why do you think it’s important to really know the area you are showing to your clients?
It’s the biggest investment they might ever make in their lives. An agent’s intimate knowledge of an area is so crucial to this decision making process. It’s also important to a seller. They too need a specialist that can promote not only the property’s attributes but also the benefits of living in that particular neighborhood and all that it has to offer. I think this is my strongest suit as a broker in the marketing of local properties.
You are extremely active in the community as well - can you share what you do?
I was able to purchase my first home in 1983, through a first time home buyer program offered by the Heights Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS). It was a 350 sq ft condo at 510 Palisade Ave, one of the first condominium conversions in the Jersey City Heights. After purchasing my condo, I became a member of NHS and shortly thereafter was elected to their Board consisting of residents, municipal government representatives, and local business people. This was my first experience with public private partnerships and it was wonderful. The synergism of this board, the friendships that were built, and the positive work we did in the Heights was the impetus for my community service.
I continue that service as President of the Jersey City Parks Coalition, Past President and current board member of the Pershing Field Garden Friends, and advocate for the Jersey City Reservoir. Taking ownership of our parks and open spaces, in essence, is taking ownership of a neighborhood and that dramatically impacts our quality of life and spawns revitalization. I see the positive impact of this work and am inspired every day to continue to improve our parks and the greater community
What makes Jersey City special in the real estate market?
It’s not really about the brick & mortar - It’s the people. This City is so large but the neighborhoods are like small town communities. I think that’s really the beauty of it and always was; couple that with its proximity to NYC and now the arts and culture right here…it’s amazing! So much to offer!
What advice do you have to people looking to buy or rent in Jersey City?
Do your homework.
Decide what’s important to you and focus on that.
Every neighborhood is unique so you need to know what works for you.
Do your initial search on line but get out there & explore.
Get the feel of the neighborhood.
Working with an experienced agent familiar with the City as a whole can be the most valuable resource you have.
Anything else you want to add?
Career is often defined as one’s life’s work and that has certainly been true in my case. Since beginning my career, my life has been enriched by rewarding work, whether guiding a home buyer purchasing a first home or a seller moving on to a new life chapter or an agent embarking on their own career.
As of December 28, 2017, The Skolar Group became part of Liberty Realty LLC. This is an exciting time when opportunity and achievement have come together. The acquisition by Liberty Realty provides me, my team, and my clients with expanded opportunities. Liberty Realty offers an extensive selection of commercial and residential real estate in Hudson County and numerous areas throughout New Jersey. They have a long-established presence in Hoboken and Jersey City and a special relationship with local communities, including Jersey City Heights—which my team has served since 1982, and will continue to serve as our home base.