How to Find the Right Real Estate Agent for You

handshake business people isolated over white background
Photo courtesy of coryccreamer

Buying or selling your home can be a scary prospect but with the right agent, the process can go much more smoothly. Just a few easy steps can insure that you’ll have a qualified person with your best interests at heart to guide you along your way.

Find out the word on the Street(easy)

With websites like Streeteasy, Zillow, Trulia, and , you can quickly check what others have to say about your prospective agent. People usually only take the time to write an online review if they’ve had an extraordinary experience. If the agent has more than a couple five star reviews it can be a good indication that your working relationship will be a good one.

Put them to the test

Don’t be afraid to ask your agent about how long they have been in the business, how long they have been working in this neighborhood, and info about their license. If you didn’t find enough info about them  online, go ahead and ask them for references. A good agent will have no problem answering these questions if it will put your mind at ease.

Communication is key

If you notice early on in your working relationship that it takes hours for your realtor to respond to you, you might want to consider moving on the someone else (during the day of course, we don’t recommend texting your realtor in the middle of the night!). An open line of communication will help you to feel more comfortable with the process. Also a few hours can mean the difference between closing a deal or not.

Get your figures straight

You will often be required to pay a commission to your realtor (especially if you are a seller). Be sure that you are clear about what will be expected from you so you won’t have a costly surprise when it comes time to sign the papers.

Go with your gut

Above all, trust your instincts. Ask yourself,” Do I feel like this person really wants what’s best for me?”. You can usually get a good sense of a person after working with them for a short period of time.  Listen to the answer you give yourself!

You can start the search for your next realtor by browsing our qualified agents here!

5 Tips for Moving in Winter

The temperature is dropping which means you might be concerned about your future move being a little tougher. Not to worry! We’ve scoured the internet to bring you the best tips to make your move go smoothly.

winter-moving
Photo courtesy of Two Men and a Truck

#1 Harness the Power of Professionals 

According to Two Men and a Truck, springing for some extra help is worth the cash. Professionals are trained to deal with unpredictable cold and icy conditions. If you attempt the move on your own you’ll risk injury and damage to your possessions.

#2 Rise with the Sun

The Huffington Post suggests that you set your alarm and get a pot of coffee brewing to accommodate the decreased hours of daylight. You don’t want the added difficulty of trying to move in the dark. So, get a good night’s  sleep and get moving early!

#3 Make Sure You’re Covered

Get a cheap tarp to throw down over high traffic areas in your old and new home. imove.com has pointed out that things can get messy quickly when snow and slush is on the ground. Save yourself some clean up time by planning ahead.

#4 Bundle up Your Plants

MakeSpace advises that you protect your indoor plants from the cold by wrapping them in plastic or blankets (being sure to leave an opening at the top so they can breathe). If your plants have spent their entire lives inside, the shock of cold air can cause a lot of damage. So, while you’re piling on the layers your self don’t forget your plants!

#5 Give Your Landlord a Ring

You don’t want to show up to your new home to find there’s no heat! GoGetter urges you to call your landlord and make sure they know when you plan to move, to be sure your first night will be nice and cozy.

Brooklyn Comfort Foods

Sometimes when the temperature drops, your spirits do too. While you might want to stay inside and hibernate all winter, we’ve found some delicious foods throughout Brooklyn that will entice you to leave your apartment and warm you right up.

 

peter-sHearty Home-Cooking
You could’ve fooled us, we think Peter has been doing chicken way before 1969, if not before the egg. Peter’s Since 1969 is back to basics, comfort food in a casual, family style setting. Named after the former Williamsburg tenant, Peter Kuper of B & B Meat Market, who ran the neighborhood butcher shop with his wife Lucy since 1969, the new Rotisserie Chicken concept was born in the location in 2007. The herb-marinated chicken roasts and self-bastes over an open flame, resulting in the perfect crispness on the outside and soft, juicy tenderness within. Humble, filing sides like mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, stewed okra and green beans are served out of Le Creuset cast iron pots. Chicken and two sides will set you back between $10-$15.
168 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg.

 

Soothing Slicesdifarapizza_t700
We have to be honest, there won’t be anything comforting about the wait, but the reward will certainly be worth it. For over 50 years, Di Fara has been plating up perfect pies in Midwood. With a no-frills reputation, Anthony Bourdain once proclaimed this spot to be “the best of the best”, which is why you can expect to be waiting in line a while for your iconic, thin-crust slice. For almost five decades owner Dom DeMarco insisted on making every single legendary and delicious pie by himself, slowly, but methodically. He now shares the responsibility with his sons. At $5 a slice, you can bet that this pizza, made from scratch with the best, imported ingredients will be exceptional.
424 Avenue J, Midwood.

 

starMeat an Unbeatable Burger
When a pizza place is known for having a burger on the menu, you know it is going to be something special. Emily in Clinton Hill is an intimate pizza restaurant serving up an overwhelming selection of creative pies, however, the real standout is the critically-acclaimed Emmy Burger. The Emmy Burger features a dry-aged patty which is quickly seared in clarified butter then showered in black pepper before being topped with rich melted Vermont cheddar, sweet caramelized onions and a house-made aioli sauce inside of a sturdy pretzel bun. A limited amount of burgers are served every night so head here on a Sunday for lunch when the burgers are plentiful and unforgettable.
919 Fulton Street, Clinton Hill.

 

Superstar Startermac
Mac and cheese might just be the ultimate comfort food. Creamy, crunchy and carbolicious. The Brooklyn Star serves New American cuisine with a nod to the traditions and style of the South and Southwest. Quintessential to a Southern-style menu is of course, mac and cheese. An all-time favorite at the Star, served in a cozy cast iron skillet, this mac is superior to many macs, with its game-changing ingredient, bacon. This mac and cheese is meaty from the bacon bits, rich from the generous cheese and crispy from the buttery breadcrumbs. Served at brunch or dinner for $9, you will be thinking about the taste and texture of this meal long after the weather is warm again.
593 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg.

Be Sure to Insure

There are so many things to organize when purchasing a new home, that home insurance probably isn’t the first thing you’ll think of. Your mortgage lender however, will probably require you to have homeowners insurance. Especially for first time buyers, you should take the time to research and be sure that you’re choosing a policy that will give you peace of mind and protect your investment. Here are some things to consider.

 

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You worked hard to find the perfect home, now you have to work hard to find the right insurance. Each provider has a different algorithm for determining customer premiums so the price of home insurance varies widely from carrier to carrier. It pays to shop around, compare and contrast rates. A U.S. consumer financial services company recently conducted a survey of home insurance costs from four companies. The survey, based on addresses in 15 cities nationwide, revealed home insurance rates ranged by as much as 188 percent depending on the location. Contact several companies to compare coverage but shop for value, not necessarily the cheapest price. Since you’ll mainly deal with insurance companies during times of disaster, be sure to find a company that is financially stable and has a high customer satisfaction rating and reviews.

 

More is More
Of course you’re looking to save money on insurance and don’t want to pay more than you need, however you need to be sure that you’re getting enough coverage. Standard home insurance policies offer protection from a variety of potential risks, ranging from liability to damage from weather-related perils. However, you may want to adjust or add coverage depending on your needs. Pay close attention to the part of your policy that protects the structure of your home – you should have enough dwelling coverage to rebuild completely in case the house is destroyed. That amount, however, is often different from the purchase price. Many homeowners buy only enough insurance to cover the amount of their mortgage, which may only be 80 or 90 percent of the value of the house, depending on the original down payment. Some homeowners insure an amount equal to the current value of their home but this figure may be less than the actual cost of rebuilding (including labor and supplies, which may rise sharply after a storm when there’s big demand and short supply). Be sure to notify your insurance agent whenever you make significant improvements to your property, which will affect your home’s replacement cost. To avoid calculating your home’s value every year, ask your insurer about an automatic inflation provision.

 

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It is so important that you read the fine print of your policy and fully understand it, so that there are no surprises later and you’re home free. Understand the terminology, like deductibles, liability, premium, sub-limits and riders. Study the exclusions section of the policy and know what isn’t covered so that you can purchase additional coverage. For example, flood insurance is not part of a standard homeowners contract, and if you live near a river, the ocean, or area affected by hurricanes, you may need to buy additional flood protection. Consider additional living expenses if ever forced from the dwelling. If a house becomes uninhabitable due to a flood, fire or other disaster, you will need to pay for living accommodations and may need additional money for food and transportation, etc. This coverage is “additional living expenses” (ALE) and is a benefit that is usually worth about 20 percent of the home’s replacement value. Be aware of the benefits, limitations and exclusion. A mistake homeowners often make is believing they are covered for mold or sewage backup – many policies don’t offer this protection or have claim limits. Another is thinking that they have one, flat deductible – ask your agent if your policy has different deductibles depending on the cause of damage.

 

Where Credit is Due
Give yourself credit! You know that it matters when getting a favorable interest rate on your mortgage, but it also matters for home insurance. Providers use your credit report as part of the formula for assessing the risk you pose as a policyholder. Their models show that consumers with good credit are much less likely to file claims. Studies have found that people with poor credit may pay at least twice as much as people with excellent credit when it comes to homeowners insurance. So before you get too far into the buying process, assess your credit and take steps to improve your score. At the very least, make sure to correct any errors. There are many simple ways to improve your credit score, including paying your bills on time and keeping low balances on your credit cards. Improving your credit score can result in big savings on your mortgage and your home insurance premiums.

 

houseBundle and Benefit
Bundling your policies and sticking with one insurance company can help you save on your home insurance costs. Some providers offer discounts that commonly range between 5 to 15 percent off your premium of you obtain your home and auto insurance for them. You may save even more if you purchase multiple policies from them, for example if you have multiple vehicles or a boat. See if you can bundle all items with one carrier to save money. Some insurance companies also offer special discounts for long-term policyholders. You may be able to lower your home insurance premium by up to 10 percent if you stay with certain providers for six years or more.

PumpKings County

It’s the time of the year when pumpkin is king, and you will find loads of pumpkin foods, drinks, products and events sprouting all over Brooklyn. Here are some of the ripest pumpkin picks in the borough!

 

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Coney Crop
You can get your pick of the patch for the next few weekends at Luna Park’s Halloween Harvest. From 12pm-6pm this family-friendly event offers activities and entertainment, like spooky crafts, dance contests, a dog costume parade plus all of Luna Park’s rides and games. Entry to The Pumpkin Patch is $5, which pays for you to pick the perfect pumpkin and then paint it! Visit Jack, the festival’s resident giant pumpkin and guess his weight, for a chance to win prizes worth over $1,000. The Harvest comes to an end on October 30.
Luna Park, 1000 Surf Avenue, Coney Island

 

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You’ll find plenty of festive cheer in this beer! Post Road Pumpkin Ale made by our fave local brewery, The Brooklyn Brewery, is described as “colonial style”. Early American colonists, seeking natural ingredients for brewing ales, turned to pumpkins, which were plentiful, flavorful and nutritious. Blended with barley malt, this versatile vegetable became a commonly used beer ingredient. The tasty tradition lives on, with hundreds of pounds of pumpkins blended into the mash of each batch, creating a beer with an orange amber color, warm pumpkin aroma, biscuity malt center, and crisp finish. Perfectly paired with Holiday dishes such as roasted ham and turkey, root vegetables, macaroni and cheese, mascarpone and Thanksgiving dinner. Available from August to November. The Brewery is open daily.
The Brooklyn Brewery, 79 North 11th Street, Williamsburg

 

mg_7116Fall Fires
It’s the sweet smell of Fall and Thanksgiving, brought to you by Brooklyn Candle Studio. The Pumpkin Harvest candle is full of pumpkin, spice and everything nice, and infused with natural cinnamon, clove and ginger essential oils. Choose from an Amber Glass or Mason Jar candle and carve out a spot for your wonderful wax pumpkin pot on your mantle. Hand-poured and made in Brooklyn, these 100% soy candles are derived from American-grown soybeans for an eco-friendly, clean burn. The cotton wick is lead-free and primed with vegetable-based wax and premium grade fragrance oil. No added dyes or chemicals. From $14 to $34.
Brooklyn Candle Studio, 67 35th St, Greenwood

 

PIEce de Resistancebrown_butter_pumpkin
Oh my gourd, get ready for some game-changing pie. Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Gowanus have cooked up a pumpkin pie to squash all others. Sisters Melissa and Emily Elsen founded the bakery in 2009. They learned to appreciate the art of pie-making from their Grandma Liz and created a local Brooklyn enterprising boasting scrumptious, old-fashioned, butter-crust pies. Their Fall pie menu includes the Brown Butter Pumpkin pie, approximately 10 inches in size, serving 8-10 people and available for $40. The sisters have kindly shared the pie recipe here, for expierienced chefs! The pie shop is open Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-8pm and Sunday 10am-7pm.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds, 439 3rd Avenue, Gowanus

 

Brooklyn Hikes to Fall For

Time to take a hike! It’s a new season, and the perfect temperature to get out and about. There are some wonderfall places to hike and leaf-peep, right in your very own Brooklyn backyard! Here are some hikes you’re sure to like.

 

57e43ecc90fb2Marsh March
Fantastic fauna features in Marine Park’s Salt Marsh Nature Trail, also known as the Gerritsen Creek Nature Trail. Considered an easy to moderate hike, the path is about a mile long and follows the shore of Gerritsen Creek, which empties into Jamaica Bay. The trail takes hikers through a prairie of tall grass and a restoration project was recently completed in the area, clearing it of invasive plant species, and allowing native flora to flourish. The boardwalk trail with viewing platform is a great spot to spy on fish and crabs, and is a haven for bird-watchers with egrets, herons, ducks and geese often frequenting the landscape. NYC’s Urban Park Rangers run free, guided hikes of the marsh throughout the year, with one coming up on Sunday, November 20.
Avenue U and East 33rd Street, Marine Park.

 

57e554d400b2eA Pleasurable Prospect
Boasting lovely lawns and a sixty acre lake, hiking in Prospect Park is so much more than a walk in the park. Numerous hiking trails wind throughout the park, including Prospect Park Trail which is an easy 3.25 mile hike that takes about 2 hours to complete, and is dog friendly (be sure to take your pup to the dog beach before it gets too chilly!). NYC Parks run several free organized hikes throughout the park, such as the Fall Foliage Walk on Saturday, October 22 . On this hike, Urban Park Ranger naturalists explain why leaves change colors, and introduce hikers to the diversity of trees found in our urban Brooklyn forests. On Black Friday, November 25, hikers of The Midwood Trail will be taken on a journey back in time, with a 30-minute walk through Brooklyn’s oldest remaining forest, filled with birds and other animals. Home to some of Prospect Park’s largest trees, The Midwood is a relic of Brooklyn’s history and was preserved and incorporated into the park during its original construction. Also worth checking out are the Lullwater, Peninsula and Waterfall trails.
101 East Drive, Prospect Park.

 

newtown_creek_nature_walk_4220-8l50pz3dtxwc4o0k0wg0wkk8s-c4xtg9uu3r404wggo4ss0ss8s-thTalk a Walk on the Waste Side
You’re not likely to see beautiful birds or wondrous woods on this walk, but it is closer to what one might imagine when they think of a New York City hike. Newtown Creek Nature Walk is a quarter-mile long public walkway along Newtown Creek in Greenpoint. Designed by environmental sculpture artist George Trakas and completed in 2007, the walk offers a taste of nature and beauty, next door to a sewage treatment plant, and amongst what some might describe as an industrial wasteland with a heavily polluted waterway. The trail affords visitors a truly unique view of Brooklyn’s settling tanks and digesters and educates them on wastewater treatment, the harbor’s water quality and the history of New York City. Open from dawn to dusk, the trail is a secret point of relaxation in the far north of Brooklyn, and features young trees, shrubbery, flowers and a Scavenger Hunt. Dotted with stone resting areas, tiled patios and drinking fountains, it is an unexpected place of beauty, tranquility and learning, amidst a history of environmental damage.
Paidge Ave & Provost St, Greenpoint.

 

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A kaleidoscope of colors will greet Brooklyn Botanical Garden-goers this fall. Begin your exploration at the Native Flora Garden, a small forest of some of the oldest plants in the Garden, such as the 100-foot-tall, century-old sweet gum tree with deep crimson foliage. Be sure to visit the meadow in this Garden, and observe the colorful grasses, wildflowers and butterfly milkweed. Next, head to the Cranford Rose Garden and catch the second and final flush of blooms, which last into October and often, early November. Also in the Rose Garden keep an eye out for squirrels and mockingbirds – these little guys drop by to snack on the rose hips. Following this, walk over to the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, which offers sweeping views of a landscape filled with maple trees in stunning shades of orange, red, yellow, and purple. The gorgeous Garden is open in October from 8am-6pm on Tuesday to Friday, and 10am-6pm on weekends. Kids under 12 get in for free and entry for adults is $12.
1000 Washington Avenue, Prospect Park.

The Perfect Productive Home Office

When you work from home it is easy to become distracted and lose focus. It is worth spending the time to create a home office that encourages productivity, comfort and concentration so you can work hard for the money. Here are a few tips for crafting a stylish and functional work-space.

 

dp_caicedo-living-room_4x3-jpg-rend-hgtvcom-616-462Light Bulb Moment
Let there be light in your home office! Draw back the curtains and draw inspiration from natural light. Don’t put your desk in the darkest corner of the room. Hit the bright spot and move your desk close to windows but parallel to the panes. Give yourself a view and try to position the desk where you can stare at something more interesting than a blank wall when you look up from the computer. A window’s natural light is ideal, and when you let the light in, it will cut down on eyestrain and headaches and improve mood, energy, alertness and productivity. Position your monitor so there’s no glare from windows or overhead lights – the object is to create balanced lighting. Even with great natural light you’ll still need additional lighting for darker hours. Put a small lamp with a nice soft glow on your desk for task lighting or a floor lamp that can give concentrated lighting to your specific work area.

 

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You don’t get to choose the perfect desk height and chair at an office, but you do have this option at home! You spend hours parked in your office chair every day, so don’t hurt yourself by sitting in a non-ergonomic position every time you work at your desk. Your comfort is worth every dime, so spend the money and invest in your health and a stylish, supportive, comfortable chair with an adjustable seat and backrest height. Ensure that the top of your computer screen is at eye level or a little below. As you scan down the screen, your eyelids will naturally close a bit and moisten, which reduces eye fatigue. Position your keyboard so your forearms are parallel to the floor. Adjust your chair so that your feet rest firmly on something. Even if you sit perfectly however, you shouldn’t do it all day long. Move regularly – set regular breaks or take a stroll around the block.

 

adcbe033aa7ad05e656df4fff60f5eeaa5b9af65Dream Design
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in this space, you want it to be a space you enjoy. Don’t hold back – create your dream office and add personality to its aesthetic. Paint the walls a color you love and one that creates the right mood – perhaps a cheery orange or a calming shade of sea foam blue. Get a great rug. Personalize thoughtfully and inspire yourself with a piece of framed art, a scent that makes you happy, a special photo, or a few cherished knickknacks. Add greenery to bring what’s outside your window into your space. Get creative with storage – if filing cabinets don’t tickle your fancy, consider organizing vertically and horizontally. Hang floating shelves and use vertical file folders on the desk to keep important papers within arm’s reach. Consider magazine type racks, bookshelves or wooden cube storage. Choose accessories that enhance a comfy feeling in your home office and decorate in a style that energizes your space.


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You need the right tools to get the job done and being successful in a home office requires creating an office space that promotes efficiency in a non-traditional work environment. Master your technology and invest in the right equipment – a phone, a good desk with plenty of space, an ergonomic chair, computer with efficient memory and performance, a fast internet connection, a clock, and any specialized equipment, tools or software that are key for performance in your area of expertise. Take the time to organize your equipment properly – hide unsightly cords by running a power strip behind your desk and plugging everything into that. Tame the cord jungle on the floor with cord winders, tubing or an organizer that’s attached to the desk and lifts cords off the floor. Keep all your office supplies handy and stocked, so you don’t need to dart out of the office every few minutes.