MILLTOWN, NJ - Appearing on an episode of House Hunters was a bucket list item for Milltown resident and business owner Katty Velez. When the opportunity presented itself, Velez jumped at the change to appear on an episode along with one of her clients. The episode aired last week on HGTV and the experience was a huge thrill for the Bell & Stockton owner, her family, friends, clients and the community of Milltown.
The New Jersey native and Rutgers University graduate settled in Milltown in 2005 along with her husband Eric. The couple has three children and recently added two puppies to the family. Velez opened Bell & Stockton in 2018.
"Our name comes from the street I grew up on," Velez explained. "Bell is the street I grew up on in Orange. Stockton is the street my husband grew up on in Perth Amboy."
Velez lived in East Brunswick following her graduation from RU and often passed through the borough. It seemed like the place to settle when the couple married.
"Milltown was a town we always drove through," Velez said. "It was cute and family-oriented."
Velez got her real estate license in 2013 and decided to pursue a career in real estate primarily for the flexibility the profession offered. She could work and still be around to volunteer at her children's school and go on class trips. Velez became a fan of HGTV's House Hunters thanks to her sister who loved the network. She quickly grew to enjoy the show that follows perspective buyers on their journey to find their ideal home.
The February 5 episode showed the path a family of six took to find their first home after living in an apartment their entire lives. Before showing buyers a property, Velez makes it a point to have a sit down in her office in order to discover the type of home the client has in mind. She finds clients tend to open up about the type of home they are actually interested in. The wish list couples have regarding their dream home sometimes comes as a surprise to longtime partners.
"You always have to listen, but also observe when you are out with them to see what they really, really want," Velez said.
On the day of the episode's premiere, Velez and her husband debated having a viewing party at the Bell & Stockton office because of the late hour of the airing. In the end, the couple had about 15 to 20 people watching the 10:30 p.m. debut along with them. The incredibly exciting part for Velez apart from the actual episode turned out to be the reaction from friends, family and the Milltown community. Velez's cell phone immediately began lighting up as text and screenshots of the show starting rolling in. The couple also made it more of an event by having a Facebook viewing party that showed them watching the show. That turned out to be just as thrilling as seeing the episode for the first time.
"It wasn't just about our office," Velez said of the reaction she received from friends, neighbors and even strangers. "Everybody was like this is Milltown! This is New Jersey! It was a unifying experience."
The Milltown community embraced Velez's upcoming appearance on the popular show. The Milltown Board of Education, a homework group and countless others helped spread the news about her appearance via word of mouth and social media. Residents loved seeing the shots of familiar places in Milltown and the surrounding communities on television. Velez showed her clients three homes during the episode, making stops in New Brunswick, North Brunswick and South Brunswick. She is still receiving positive feedback from the show and positively loved how viewers got so excited about seeing New Jersey and Middlesex County in particular featured.
"That connection was awesome because everybody could relate," Velez said. "I think that was maybe the most fun that I had. It (the broadcast) was for all of us!"
Velez describes herself as goal-oriented and feels like a bloodhound when she embarks on a quest to help clients find the perfect home. The fulfillment she receives when she locates the ideal home for a client is exhilarating. She feels the same way about her clients that are selling a house, describing her listings as special Easter eggs.
"I think for me it is more meeting that goal and doing what I was hired to do," she said. "Every time I get to do that, that's exciting."
Along with the success of Bell & Stockton, Velez relishes the special relationship and camaraderie with her fellow Milltown business owners. Last fall all the Main Street businesses banded together to put on a Halloween to remember for borough trick or treaters. The fall festival was such a hit, plans are in the works for this spring in honor of Earth Day.
Velez's episode is titled 'That Ol' One-Level Feeling " and can be viewed on the HGTV website. For more information on Bell & Stockton visit Velez's website or follow her on Bell & Stockton's Facebook or Instagram pages.