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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Choosing the Right Professional to Protect Your Investment

If you had expensive jewelry or fine diamonds that needed cleaning or repair, where would you take them? Just anywhere? Or to a jeweler who has credentials and is recognized as a reputable person/company by his or her peers? The answer choice should be obvious. The same is true when seeking out maintenance providers for your most expensive investment, your home. In the same way you would choose a jeweler or purchase a car, do your research before hiring any handyman or company for the smallest or largest of jobs. Here’s some advice to help navigate that process.

Some people use contractors they know or others in their sphere of influence. Some will find contractors through a phonebook, Angie’s List, Craig’s List or even a business card attached to a bulletin board in a business they frequent. Regardless of where you discover a service provider, the process for selecting one should remain the same. Start by interviewing the professional to find out who they are and what they have to offer. Do they have references?  Are they competent?  Licensed to do the job, if necessary?  For example:  is the plumber licensed? Roofer insured? Bonded? Do they have a portfolio, if applicable? Asking these questions will help ensure that you select the best professional for your project.

 Be sure to check their credentials and follow up with their references. You’ll want to call more than one of the names listed as references. Ask for a written estimate for the work to be done and a timeline detailing the steps of the project with a completion date.

Then, select your contractor and have peace of mind doing it.  The right person will do the best job to your satisfaction.  No one wants to be taken advantage of or scammed, but in today’s world, it does happen. Don’t let it happen to you! Protect yourself and your home, your most expensive investment.

Monday, January 30, 2017

New York State Residential Property Taxes: Help!

Is there anything I can do to see if I can lower my property taxes in New York State?  Yes, there is!

Make sure you are enrolled in the New York State Star Credit Program. Star or New York State Tax Relief Program is available to all qualified New York State Residential Property homeowners. Homeowners qualify for a Star Credit for their primary residence only.  Upon enrolling, your application will be reviewed for eligibility. Check with your local tax assessor to verify if you are enrolled in this program and if you are eligible for enhanced Star Credits.  

You may register/enroll in two ways:  Online at OR by calling (518) 457-2036 weekdays from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

What if I feel my residential property assessment value is too high, thus making my taxes too high?  Is there anything I can do?  Yes, there is!

Find out about the process of grieving your tax assessment with your local tax assessor. You must set up an appointment with your tax assessor. Prior to the appointment, your RealtyUSA Realtor can provide you with a Comparable Market Analysis to demonstrate the estimated value of your property in your local market area.  

If you are not satisfied with the results you receive from your tax assessor, you can make an appointment through your assessor to go before the local Board of Assessment Review (BAR).  The BAR usually meets once a year, generally sometime in May.  At your meeting with the BAR, you can use the Comparable Market Analysis to highlight the value at which you think your property should be assessed. Hopefully, the BAR and you will find common ground and your property tax will be reduced.

Good luck on all your property tax endeavors!

RealtyUSA and our sales associates are not responsible for determining or evaluating property taxes. There is no guarantee that these steps will provide you with your desired tax results.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How to Sell a Home that's Not a Castle

A property Brian Brosen sold in Voorheesville in 2015.Marketing a home that has unique and unusual features is easy, maybe too easy, because the advertisement for the listing just writes itself. I know that I have sold some pretty interesting and unusual homes over the years. But wait… What if your home was not hand built by an eccentric individual or originally designed to be a church and artist colony? What if your home was NOT designed by the same award-winning architect that designed HGTV’s famed Vermont Dream Home?

How do you make a standard 4 bedroom, 2 bath colonial that is 18 years old sound sexy or set it apart from the rest of the homes in your real estate market?

Know your audience

The first step is to know who you are targeting, who is most likely to buy this home. If you have a 4 bedroom colonial in a cul de sac neighborhood in a top rated school district, it is highly likely you are targeting families with school-aged children. Have a smaller 1 story or ranch home? Perhaps someone downsizing, maybe someone older, or even a young person ( or couple ) just starting out. Live on a busy road, but perhaps a convenient location? If that is the case, maybe your audience is someone who works nearby, not so concerned with quiet or yard, but for whom location is king. Understanding who is your most likely buyer is a very important starting point. Once you know who it is, you can determine how to best make sure they find your home.

Know what matters to your buyers

Is your home perfect for a first time home buyer? If so, it is important to play up some of the strengths, and things that will likely matter to them. For instance, have a newer roof, newer furnace, hot water heater, or maybe the electrical panel has been recently updated? These can be intimidating things to a buyer, especially a first-time buyer. Being able to offer any of these will go a long ways to showing value for that buyer. No need for them to worry about the roof for 15 years if it is only 5 years old. Have that 4 bedroom home in a family friendly area? Perhaps highlighting the yard (big enough for a swing set, or the quiet, dead end street that the kids can play on) would be logical things to feature. Highlighting all the storage you have in a home, especially for one targeting families, is also a great idea. It may not be sexy, but storage sells. Perhaps you will need to highlight some other, often overlooked features. Does your home have a walk up attic? I assure you, the easier to access that space, the easier it is to sell that space. It could even be the potential that the space offers, beyond storage (play room for kids, office, teen bedroom space). Does your home reside in a village, or area that has extra services not found in other parts of that town or area? Play that up - everyone loves a little something “extra” that not everyone has.

Struggling to find the strengths of your home? Step back, think back to the reasons you originally fell in love with it or what are the things you feel strongly about that sets your home apart from others. What makes it home for you? Now, take those ideas and make them relate to your target audience.

Know your homes limitations

If you live on a busy road, next to train tracks, or other forces outside of your control and your property (appraisers call this external obsolescence), you have 2 choices... You can simply ignore those items ( but be prepared to hear about them from buyers and be ready to address it ) or hit it head on. I sold a home this past year on a busy road, but the sellers made great use of the back yard space and we played up the “oasis in the backyard, far from the hustle and bustle “ If you have not addressed or fixed issues with the home, they will still be issues for the next person. No garage, but have a good sized yard? “Room for a garage, man cave, or workshop” may be a great idea - selling potential is a great idea, as long as you have priced it accordingly.

Know how to reach your audience

Online is king, but, the web is a large and vastly misunderstood place. It is easy to get lost. With so many websites and places vying for attention, targeting specific places can be a lot more effective. You need to be on all the major real estate sites, currently that means Zillow, Trulia, and large real estate company websites ( for instance, has over thousands of unique visitors each month, that is a lot of eyeballs.) Beyond that, you can target specific audiences via numerous social media advertising vehicles to specific geographical areas/income, age, etc. Facebook - you can select the audience you desire to be in front of (people interested in real estate in Clifton Park, for example). You can target advertise through Instagram, as well as predictive marketing using digital ads that follow people around online, based upon their online activity. Look around at how news/information is gathered where you live. In some slightly more rural areas, weekly publications or monthly ones, such as Penny Saver type papers, get passed around from person to person, home to home, and sit for a longer time than a daily newspaper, thus getting more eyeballs on them - these can be a great place to advertise on as well. The best plan? Have a comprehensive marketing plan that involves good exposure on various websites, has some targeted ad campaigns, is mobile ad friendly, but also is not afraid to incorporate print advertising where it may be effective and capture the right audience.

Remember - it is a lot like online dating

Today, we live in a very visual world. The majority of buyers will be getting their first impression of your home from viewing it online. Clear, well-lit pictures are important - as are clean rooms: less clutter is more space for the eyes to embrace. No matter what you are selling, go back to the strengths we talked about identifying above and clearly communicate those ideas in pictures. Like dating websites, if we find an “attractive looking home,” we are more apt to stop and look for further information about the home. So, start with the pictures, capture their attention and play up those strengths.

Great marketing is not always sexy or loud


There is a buyer for every home - that I sincerely believe. You do not need 300 people to come to your home, just that 1 buyer (sometimes 2 or 3 buyers, depending on the market). Your home does not need to be on a billboard or in every newspaper; it just needs to be in front of the buyer that will fall in love with your home. That could be from a good old fashioned yard sign or a more traditional open house. It could be from an online ad, or it could be from a phone app for one of the various home buying sites. The real key to a good marketing plan is one that covers numerous forms of media and delivers a clear message to its audience. It is important that marketing is looked at as much as pricing a home is. Speak with a real estate professional who is comfortable in delivering the message across various mediums. Otherwise, you may not get your desired results.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The New Trend in Energy


We have all seen the shiny new black solar panels popping up on roofs all around us, but what does this mean when you are considering purchasing or selling a home with solar panels on it? According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (,  solar shows to be the #1 energy source among the majority of Americans. Farmers have been harnessing the sun’s rays for years. Now, homeowners are recognizing just how beneficial solar panels are in saving their energy cost in their own home and even in their business.

Are you thinking of buying a property but noticed solar panels on it? Are you thinking of selling your home in the near future but are considering installing panels? Multiple studies have shown that homes with solar panel systems are valued and sold at prices above similar houses within their area. They also tend to sell twice as fast as the competition. Earlier studies focused on established markets: California shows that home values increased by 4% or more when equipped with solar panels owned by the homeowner. Recently Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (A research laboratory affiliated with the US Dept. of Energy) has continued to expand on that research, as rooftop solar continues to increase across the US (Selling Into the Sun).

Recently, both FHA and Fannie Mae have gotten on board with solar. Both agree that a solar panel system adds value to your home (if you own the system). Both also agree that there is no value added to your home when you lease a system. When buying a home, it is important to know whether the system is owned or if it is leased. Typically when it is owned, the seller will pay off the balance of their solar loan, and the new buyer will receive the electricity produced by solar, at no cost. When a system is leased, or a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement), it is important to understand the terms of the agreement with the lessor.  Fannie Mae Selling GuideFHA Single Family Housing Policy Handbook.


More and more solar panels are becoming the way of the housing market. To best protect your real estate goals, be sure to partner with a realtor that understands the marketplace, has experience with solar on homes, and knows what questions to ask regarding the property you are looking to sell or purchase.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Ultimate Housewarming Party Plan

So I should start off by saying I'm an over the top host: the host who makes place cards for dinner parties and believes everyone should have a holiday gift, including the dog.  So this post is for the Martha Stewart aspirers that love or want to try throwing a fantastic housewarming party on a budget and a time crunch!  Now while place cards and flowers are important, the real success of a party comes from good food and plenty of drinks. I've never heard anyone complain that my flowers weren’t perfect or that there wasn't a place card by their chair. However, I have heard party guests complain about how starving they were and how they had to go out for pizza after the party (obviously not at one of my parties)!

So here’s my fail-proof plan for hosting a successful housewarming party that will save you time and keep some money in your wallet.

Inexpensive Centerpieces

You can’t have a party without at least having some sort of centerpiece (it just adds that personal touch).  For my last party, I added a lively spirit to the cold winter months with some roses, which gave me the white and green color palette pictured below. Fortunately, you can get beautiful flowers these days at the supermarket, which means one-stop shopping for party planners. For $40,  I made all three of the centerpieces below, so for less than $20 you can make a beautiful arrangement or arrangements depending on your budget! The money saving trick is to repurpose a vase or vases from around your home, cutting the cost of your centerpiece expenses. If you’re feeling country chic, you could use mason jars from around your home.

Beverages To Go Around

When hosting a housewarming party, it’s good to have a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Before the event, take a mental note of who will typically drink what… This should help you determine how to best please your guests. Don’t forget to pair a wine with your meal.

Dining Success

Most hosts spend the majority of the party preparing the meal; however, when the party starts I am never in the kitchen. The ideal recipes to prepare for parties are the ones that require minimal effort, similar to my family’s favorite recipe below. The best part about these kinds of meals is that you can enjoy the party, which is the whole point of a housewarming! Don’t let cooking take you away from mingling with family and friends.

My recipe of choice is Chicken Riggies (a popular dish in my hometown).  It’s chicken, vegetables, and pasta; how can you go wrong? This recipe is especially ideal for large groups of individuals and a bottle of red wine. You can make pounds of Rigatoni, and it goes a long way at a housewarming. Plus, it’s not often you can prepare something in one big pot and have everyone dig into a home cooked, comfort food creation. (BTW, when I called my sister to ask if I could share this family food, she wasn’t happy, but since she’s the best sister ever she relented.)  So after much discussion here’s the final step to your housewarming party success:




  1. In a large pot melt butter and then add chicken.

  2. Cook chicken over medium heat just until they begin to turn white. (salt and pepper)

  3. Add peppers (hot and green) and onions cook until soft.

  4. Add water, bouillon, tomato sauce, and spices.

  5. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 min, stirring occasionally.

  6. Add heavy cream.

  7. If it is very runny just let it cook down a bit more. For an even thicker sauce, add a tablespoon of cornstarch to two tablespoons of water and stir until dissolved. Then add to sauce.

  8. Stir in cooked pasta and serve immediately, sprinkling each serving with grated or shredded Parmesan cheese.

As for serving, I like to use white plates with this dish. I always find that pasta looks best on white.  Red wine glasses and freshly made garlic bread complete the meal.  Also, for a great party, you don’t have to make everything yourself.  If I cook dinner then, I usually will buy something for dessert!  You don’t get extra points for slaving away all day! I hope these tips bring your housewarming party to the top!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The fireplace combustion conundrum: Gas or wood-burning?


For most homebuyers, fireplaces usually conjure cozy feelings. After all, hearths are the centerpiece of most film family gatherings. However, before you add a fireplace to your list of house-hunting must-haves, be sure to consider your options – especially when it comes to available heating methods. Wood-burning and faux, gas-operated alternatives both present unique benefits and drawbacks.

Wood-burning fireplaces
Traditional fireplaces certainly stir the most nostalgia, letting off that smoky scent that has come to define wintertime for many wood-burning adherents. Plus, these hearths often cost little to maintain and use, as firewood is readily available at low prices, according to QuickenLoans. And, if you're looking for property in wooded areas, your fireplace fuel could come free of charge.

Of course, lighting a wood-burning fireplace takes some practice and involves interfacing with open flames. Additionally, once you've got a fire going, you'll have to keep a close watch on it and be prepared to add wood should it begin to fade. 

Most homes feature one of two types of wood-burning fireplaces: prefabricated and masonry. The latter are the better option and can last for centuries with regular maintenance, according to HGTV. Conversely, the prefabricated kind only last for around 25 years. However, with both models, you must regularly clean out the adjoining chimney to prevent soot-related fires. 

Gas fireplaces
These modern alternatives are easy to use and feature fire-starting switches or remotes. Plus, gas fireplaces require little maintenance and tend to fit a wider range of architectural styles.

One of the few drawbacks to these models is the fuel cost. Though natural gas refills won't break the bank by any means, they aren't as cheap as firewood. Additionally, these fireplaces obviously don't evoke the same feelings as their wood-burning brethren.     

For more home buying tips, news and current listings, contact RealtyUSA today! Our staff can help you find the home you deserve.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tips for staging on a budget

Staging is an essential part of the home selling process. Unfortunately, it can cost a pretty penny. In fact, most sellers spend around $1,800 to prepare their properties for prospective buyers, according to Kiplinger.

Not prepared to drop this kind of cash on temporary home improvements? No problem. There are a number of low-cost staging strategies that will net you attention from potential buyers without breaking the bank.


Roll on a fresh coat
Interior paint can do amazing things if used correctly. For instance, a nice light coat of the stuff can transform a closed-off, compact den into an airy living area fit for family gatherings. Paint can do the same thing for smaller rooms such as bathrooms, creating the illusion of extra space. It can even revitalize old tile, HGTV reported. First, apply some high-adhesion primer and ceramic epoxy to your battered tile. Then, roll on a coat or two of new paint. 

The best thing about paint is its price. Most blends cost between $30 and $60 per gallon, according to Home Advisor.

Rediscover room purpose
Most rooms are constructed with a purpose. So, prior to placing your home on the market, be sure to make organizational adjustments that show prospective buyers how your interior spaces are meant to be used, U.S. News and World Report advised. Have you transformed an upstairs bedroom into a home office? Switch it back. House hunters tend to place more importance on bedrooms rather than work spaces.

Clean and declutter
Of course, take time to thoroughly clean and organize your property before inviting over potential buyers. You don't want walkthrough participants wading through knee-deep entryway clutter or encountering set in pet stains.   

For more home selling tips, news and current listings, contact RealtyUSA today! Our staff can help you find the home you deserve.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How to improve your kitchen cabinets

Though the living rooms are known for their power to unite fast-moving families, kitchens often facilitate the most bonding time and play a major role in day-to-day life. These spaces play host to family cooking sessions, holiday meals and more. As a result, most homeowners desire warm and inviting kitchens fit for constant activity. Plus, prospective buyers appreciate well-designed food preparation areas. 

Whether you're making kitchen improvements in preparation for a sale or just trying to clean up the space for your family, begin with the cabinets, as they have the most aesthetic impact. However, before start rolling on new wood stain, consider these tips: 

Strip and sort

Remove all your existing hardware, including cabinet doors, hinges and handles and label them in accordance with their location, HGTV suggested. Then, put the hardware in bags so they are easy to find when it's time to put them back. Finally, place all of the cabinet doors in a work area to stain or paint them.

Scrub and scour

If your cabinets are structurally sound, you can easily liven them up with a fresh coat of paint. Make sure to choose a bright, fresh color and stock up on wood cleaner, sandpaper, paintbrushes and some drop cloths before you begin your project. Additionally, clean your cabinets thoroughly prior to applying the new hue, Good Housekeeping advised.

"No matter how clean you think your kitchen is, you need to wipe everything down with a grease remover," Don Fahrbach, president of professional painting company PNP Craftsmen in New York, told the magazine. "Otherwise, when you add a water-based paint to an oil-covered door, the paint won't stick."

For more home selling tips, news and current listings, contact RealtyUSA today! Our staff can help you find the home you deserve.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Add a fence to increase your home value

Of all the outdoor projects you can undertake to add value to your home, adding a fence will make the most impact. These dividers can really improve the look of your property, protect your children or pets and provide precious privacy.

Costs vary depending on how large an area you plan to cordon off and what materials you want to use. But for the most part, this project can work with any budget if you're willing to compromise. As you start planning your fencing project, be sure to keep in mind a couple key planning tips. 

Find a purpose


Before you search the phone book for a contactor or haul your partner to the home improvement store, be sure you know what you want out of your new fence. Are you trying to contain an elusive animal or looking for an attention-grabbing yard accessory? No matter your reasoning, you should understand the purpose of your project, Better Homes and Gardens advised. If you just want something to contain your dog, you probably don't need to invest in an expensive wooden fence – a chain link model will do. But, if you want to blow the minds of prospective buyers, go for something decorative.



Hire a professional

With larger home improvement projects, it's always best to hire a professional rather than do it yourself, and fence installation is no different. Fence contractors understand local zoning laws and can acquire the permits needed to install a legal and structurally sound property divider, New Home Source reported.


To find a licensed fence contractor, visit the website for the American Fence Association. It hosts a database filled with qualified builders that can do the job right. Plus, you can request a quote.


For more home selling tips, news and current listings, contact RealtyUSA today! Our staff can help you find the home you deserve!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to fix your faulty roof


Before putting your home on the market, it's best to resolve any outstanding structural issues, including damaged shingles. Luckily, you've got several options when it comes to taking care of this particular roofing problem. Before you mount a ladder and start shuffling amidst your eaves, review these strategies for replacing damaged shingles: 


Start safely
Navigating a sloping roof is inherently unsafe. So, prior to starting any work, take precautions to reduce your chances of slipping and falling. First, find a sturdy extension ladder and plan on making repairs from the safety of its rungs, Popular Mechanics advised. If the damage requires you to set foot atop your roof, consider renting a roofer's ladder and safety harness setup. These advanced tools will keep you safe during more involved repair jobs.

Try a quick fix
Before you replace damaged shingles, see if you can salvage them and make repairs. If some of your shingles have curled corners, you can glue them down with some roofing sealant, This Old House reported. After you apply the sealant, weigh down the newly stuck squares with a brick and wait for 24 hours. Have cracked or torn shingles? Reunite the split ends with roofing sealant.

Swap out the old
Of course, if your damaged shingles are too far gone or a part of a roof that's more than two decades old, replacement is really the best option. To start, purchase some new shingles. You can buy them from your local home improvement store or lumber yard for $15 to $20 per square. Next, assemble the required tools. You'll need a hammer, a pry bar, a utility knife and some roofing nails.

Slide the pry bar under the bottom of the shingle that overlaps the one you mean to replace. Then, lift up the end to reveal the row of nails securing the damaged shingle. Pry the damage shingle and then remove its nails with your hammer. Remove the damaged shingle, slide in a new one and tamp it down with four new roofing nails. 

For more home selling tips, news and current listings contact RealtyUSA today! Our staff can help you find the home you deserve. 

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