To Buy or Rent….that is the question!

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It’s one of those major questions you’re bound to ask yourself at some point and probably the biggest decision from a financial standpoint you’re going to make. The answer though isn’t always a simple one, there are a variety of factors to take into consideration. Ultimately, your decision will be based on what makes the most financial as well as emotional sense for your particular situation.

There is a general belief that owning a home is the ultimate goal, the key to the “American Dream.” And while there are many great reasons to support this thinking, numerous pros and cons should be weighed before signing on the dotted line. And regardless of whether you’re a first time home buyer or a repeat purchaser, be sure to ask yourself a few important questions before contacting a real estate agent to get started.

Thinking about buying, consider the following…

Pros

  • Building equity over time which creates stability and security for your family

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  • Tax benefits – great news, now you can deduct many home-related expenses
  • Potential for rental income
  • More creative freedom – you won’t need to ask anyone’s permission (well maybe your spouse) before tackling a new project
  • Unlimited pets (if you want) – there isn’t a no pet policy when you own your own home

Cons:

  • Potential for financial loss
  • Responsible for all maintenance and repairs

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  • Higher upfront costs

Considering renting…

Pros

  • You’re not responsible for maintenance and repairs
  • No real estate taxes to pay
  • No large down payment
  • Credit requirements are less strict
  • Some utilities might be included in the rental agreement
  • Relocating is easier

Cons

  • No chance to earn equity on your property
  • No tax benefits
  • Limited housing security

Regardless of whether you buy or rent these costs you just can’t escape!

Buying

  • Down payment
  • Home appraisal fee
  • Home inspection fee
  • Property tax
  • 1st years homeowners insurance
  • Any additional closing cost fees

Recurring costs

  • Mortgage loan payments
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Utilities
  • Maintenance
  • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – if you put down less than 20% of the purchase price you’ll have this added monthly payment

Renting

  • Security Deposit
  • First month’s rent
  • Moving Costs

Recurring Costs:

  • Monthly rent
  • Renter’s insurance
  • Utilities (sometimes, certain utilities are included in the rental fee)
  • Laundry (not all rentals offer washer/dryer hookups)

As you’re going down your checklist, consider the following questions

  1. How long do you plan to stay? – The longer you anticipate you’ll be there the better off you are buying. Buying and selling a home requires a good deal of time and money so take that into consideration if you plan to stay less than five years.

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  1. Would you be happy staying longer than planned? – For first time home buyers, the idea of a starter home sounds great, but what if the time comes when you’re ready to sell and it’s not a sellers’ market? Or other unforeseen circumstances arise and you are unable to move when you thought you would?
  2. How stable is your job and your life? – If things both professionally and personally are not stable you might want to reconsider locking yourself into a big financial commitment at the moment.
  3. How do the monthly costs compare? – Do the math and be realistic. Consider all of the monthly costs that go along with owning verse renting.
  4. Do you have enough money for a down payment? – Sure you can get away with putting down less than 20% but that means you’ll be paying PMI along with a higher mortgage payment. Plus, sellers might choose offers with higher down payments and less contingencies.
  5. Do you have savings to pay for repairs? – All homes require repairs at some point, regardless of whether they’re brand new or not. If you’re leaning towards purchasing make sure you have some extra cash in your account for any unforeseen occurrences.

Whatever route you choose, finding the best real estate agent will help make either process as smooth and efficient as possible.

Jumping into Spring with Tips to Get Ready for a New Season

Spring has sprung and we couldn’t be happier to start packing away the winter clothes, snow boots and basically anything winter related. It’s time to embrace this new season with an appreciation for all it promises to bring. It’s a known fact that the shorter days and colder weather can make you feel down; there’s even a name for it, season affective disorder (SAD, an appropriate acronym). As a result, we are ready to not only dust off of our state of mind but also get our home in order. Just like us, they take a beating from the cold, so it’s important to take care of things we’ve had to neglect due to the weather.  Tackling these projects now will ensure you’re ready to enjoy spring before moving into summer!

Since the exterior of our homes bear the brunt of the cold season starting outside is best:

  • Check all windows and doors – the cold weather can break down the caulking and stripping that seals your doors and windows so take a walk around your home to check for any damage. Replace any old, cracked caulk and/or stripping for proper insulation. You don’t want to let the warm air inside especially when you’re running your air conditioner this summer!
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts – During the winter leaves and other debris can accumulate inside so it’s important to clean out and ensure proper functionality. Gutters direct water away from the perimeter of the home and with rainy months ahead you don’t want clogged gutters, they’ll only cause trouble.

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  • Service your air conditioner –To ensure you’re prepared for the hot summer days that follow spring, it’s a good idea to begin servicing your air conditioners Begin by replacing the filters to ensure the efficiency of the unit. Clogged filters make it difficult for the unit to work properly. For anyone with allergies, consider replacing the filter about every 60 days or so. For the more complicated servicing consult an HVAC professional at least once a year.
  • Landscaping – Check the surrounding areas of your home, both front and back, and sweep away any old leaves, debris, and tree branches. If your yard contains any bushes or plants give them a trim; most likely they’ve gotten a bit overgrown during these last few months. And don’t forget to replace that winter ravaged door mat for a fresh new look.

Trimming

  • Trim and siding maintenance – Icy and windy winter conditions can wreak havoc on the exterior which can be fragile. Contact a professional if you spot any damage.

Once you wrap up outside, here are some inside spring cleaning tips to get your home in order:

  • Replace damaged or torn window screens – For anyone who likes to keep their windows open it’s important the screens are in perfect condition. This will allow the maximum amount of fresh air to get into your home as well as keep insects like mosquitoes and flies outside where they belong.
  • A deep clean – Give extra care to cleaning your windows; take down and launder the window treatments, dust off the blinds, and clean them with a damp sponge. Carpets and rugs take a hit during the winter months so a deep steam clean will revitalize them. You can either hire a professional service or if you have some extra time, there are places that will rent the machine to you on an hourly basis.

Window Cleaning

  • Test all emergency systems – Check all of your systems (house, smoke, carbon monoxide alarms) to make sure they’re working properly. These units should be tested regularly and spring and fall maintenance are the best times to do this.
  • Ceiling Fans – You might not realize this but the direction of the blades makes a difference. In addition to giving the fan a good cleaning, you’ll want to change the direction of the fans to blow air down to give the room a breeze and make it feel cooler.
  • Store dry goods in airtight containers – With the warmer weather insects return so it’s important to store all your dry goods in sealed containers as well as wash out your pet’s bowls after every meal.

Food Storage

  • Organize, organize, organize – File, shred, and eliminate any clutter. Clean out cabinets, toss anything old such as medicines and cosmetics, and donate or discard get rid of any unnecessary items you don’t use or need.

Celebrating St. Patty’s Day: The Brooklyn Way

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 5.18.14 PMMarch has rolled back around and people everywhere are getting ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Both a cultural and religious celebration acknowledged around the world, it’s celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. Whether you’re of Irish descent or not, and it seems like everyone is a little Irish on March 17th, it’s a day filled with fun and festivities. If you want to get in on the fun there are numerous things to do in Brooklyn, a borough once known for it’s large Irish population.

With a long history that dates back before Prohibition in the 1920’s, the neighborhood once known as “Irishtown” (roughly located between the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Manhattan bridge, portions of which are currently known as Vinegar Hill) may no longer be in existence, but neighborhoods such as Bay Ridge and the combined areas of Park Slope and Windsor Terrace still reflect some of the borough’s Irish origins.

The celebration extends past the 17th with not one but three local St. Patrick Day parades along with numerous traditional Irish bars where you can toast with a pint of guinness. Grab your family and friends and be ready for some bagpipes, kilts, lots of green, and of course a good time!

If it’s drinks you’re looking for here are some pubs to check out:

  • The Wicked Monk – 9510 3rd Avenue – Located in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, this neighborhood pub transports you back to a Gothic Irish Monastery when you walk through the door. The bar with its original wood and stained glass were shipped directly from the chapel in Greenmount Monastery (Gallows Green), Cork, Ireland, which was built in 1897, replacing a monastery, which stood on the site previously since 800 AD.

The Wicked Monk

  • The Harp – 7710 3rd Avenue – A friendly and causal Irish pub in Bay Ridge that boosts both a fireplace and a backyard beer garden for the nights you just want to be outside.
  • Farrell’s – 215 Prospect Park West – Located in Windsor Terrace Farrell’s has been a staple in the neighborhood since 1933, the year prohibition was repealed.

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  • Peggy O’Neill’s – 1904 Surf Avenue – Once located in Bay Ridge, this Coney Island establishment offers both in and outdoor seating along with live music, DJs, and of course a selection of lager.
  • Irish Haven – 5721 4th Avenue – This old school Irish bar in Sunset Park was the location where Scorsese shot the infamous “cranberry juice” scene from the movie, “The Departed.”

Irish Haven

If a parade is on the agenda here’s what’s in store this year:

  • Saturday, March 18th at 1pm, Gerritsen Beach – The 8th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will gather at the VFW Post #107 at Gerritsen Avenue and Whitney Avenue.
  • Sunday, March 19th at 1pm, Park Slope Patrick’s Day Parade – The parade runs from Prospect Park West and 15th Street, then down 15th Street to 7th Avenue to Garfield Place, then to Prospect Park West back to the starting point.
  • Sunday, March 26th at 1pm, Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day – The parade will form at Saint Patrick’s Church at the corner of 95th Street and Fifth Avenue, then head to Marina Ave at 11am, and will begin at 1pm. Marchers will travel north bound on 3rd Avenue from Marine Ave to 94th St., then proceed onto 5th Avenue traveling north bound to 67th Street.

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Let’s talk about six: What’s a classic six apartment?

Have you ever heard of a “classic six” apartment? From time-to-time in NYC you might’ve crossed this listing term and found yourself curious as to what it actually means. According to Brownstoner, a classic six apartment is “chic, desirable and great for raising a family”. But what makes this style of living just so appealing? What is it makes a “classic six” one of New York City’s most sought after apartment layouts? 

Let’s break it down.

 

The classic layout

A classic six is a prewar (“classic”) apartment with a certain number of separate rooms (you guessed it – “six”). However that’s not all, it must also include a living room, formal dining room with a window, a kitchen, two full bedrooms and a maid’s room (typically smaller than the main bedrooms and usually located off the kitchen). While a classic six can have any number of bathrooms, oftentimes you’ll find the maid’s room also boasts its own full or half-bath.

A Prospect Heights’ classic six floor plan. Image: Brownstoner
A Prospect Heights’ classic six floor plan. Image: Brownstoner

The “other” classics

You might have come across the phrases “classic five” (lacking the maid’s room), or “classic seven” (which includes an additional bedroom), however, the less common, rare surviving “classic eight” with a room for a second maid, also exists.

Searching for six

According to Brownstoner, “the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side are known for having the largest stocks of classic six units in New York, [but] even there, listings are scarce”. Many are in co-op buildings (and occasionally condo buildings) and it’s incredibly rare to find one for rent. 

A good place to start is Brooklyn – Brooklyn Heights, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights or Park Slope – places boasting large-scale pre-war apartment buildings.

Apartment appeal

In addition to the obvious, being the sheer size of a classic six, both the fact that they’re so hard to come across and the distinct layout play a big role in the appeal. More or less impossible to achieve in smaller NYC apartments, the layout of a classic six provides both privacy and a feel of openness. How? The kitchen, dining and entertaining/common areas are often separated from the main bedrooms by a distinct hallway. Because of this, these “apartments” actually have a layout more similar to a classic single family home.

The space separation of the maid’s room to the rest of the home, tucked away by the kitchen, is often a favorite of NYC youth who enjoy the privacy and the idea of occupying their own living quarters. Of course, being so close by the kitchen and that endless supply of coffee, this space also makes for a great home office or studio! If you’ve found yourself with a classic six with a maid’s room that boasts it’s own bathroom or half bath too, why not turn it into a guest bedroom?

A classic six kitchen with a maid’s room converted to a guest bedroom. Image: The Wall Street Journal
A classic six kitchen with a maid’s room converted to a guest bedroom. Image: The Wall Street Journal

Your pre-war classic six: The 2017 update

Given the original construction date on majority of these apartments, chances are, yours might be in need of a little upgrade. Or perhaps you’re ready to do a little renovating to turn that maid’s quarters into your new home office? You might like to enlist the help of someone like All Renovations – specialists in high-end Brooklyn and Manhattan brownstone renovations. Or Brooklyn-based Creative Renovations – whose past client list includes a number of Brooklyn brownstone landmarks!

Getting your deposit back – a moving out cleaning checklist

So you’re excited – you’re finally about to move into your new apartment! Of course, the last thing you want to do is clean out your current place, right? Unfortunately, if you want your deposit back, it’s something you’re just going to have to do! That’s why we’ve put together the following checklist to help you make sure you’ve covered your bases when it comes time for your moving out clean up.

#1 Everything – including the kitchen sink

  • Get rid of all old food from the cupboards and fridge. Come across some spare canned foods? Before you send them straight to the trash, why not donate them to a NYC charity for those in need? Organizations like The Bowery Mission accept donations 24/7 – plus, you’ll receive an in-kind gift receipt for your donation.
Image: Bowery Mission
Image: Bowery Mission
  •  Clean cabinets and liners
  • Clean and disinfect all countertops, including the sink and faucet
  • Clean your refrigerator inside and out
  • Scrub the oven inside and out. Handy hint: use steel wool to clean shelving, burners and drip pans
  • Clean the microwave inside and out

#2 Bathe in reassurance

  • Be sure to clear out the drawers, shelving and vanity of any personal belongings, not forgetting to remove any hair – you might need to remove liners too
  • Clean soap scum off the tiles in the tub/shower and around the sink
  • Clean the toilet
  • Wipe down and disinfect the mirror
  • Dust, sweep, vacuum and mop the floors and surrounding surfaces

Looking for the right products to clean your kitchen or bathroom? Check out Brooklyn’s Common Good – you’ll find cleaning products made of 100% natural ingredients and pure essential oils.

#3 Putting doubt to bed

  • Once you have cleared the room of all your belongings, don’t forget to dust, sweep, vacuum and mop all rooms
  • Wipe down window sills and around any window unit air conditioners

#4 Common (area) mistakes

  • Clean windows
  • Vacuum any carpeted areas. If you’ve come across any hard to remove stains or you think this particular job might be best let to the pros, enlist the help of a local carpet cleaner like Green Choice Carpet Cleaner in Williamsburg

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  • Wipe down/disinfect door knobs, doors, light switches and outlets
  • Clean all marks off the walls and kickboards
  • Dust ceiling fixtures
  • Remove anything hanging on the walls and take all fixtures out of the wall (nails, screws etc.) – you may need to putty these surfaces to cover holes
  • Ensure all rooms are empty and clean before leaving
  • Clean laundry areas
  • Dust, sweep, vacuum and mop entry way
  • Clean and dust the blinds
  • Remove all trash

#5 Thinking outside the house

  • Clean out and sweep the garage
  • Cut the grass and pull weeds (where applicable)
  • Clean and sweep patio

Now it’s time to relax, and enjoy moving to your new home!

Escaping New York noise – soundproofing your apartment

 

Whether you’re relatively new to New York City or you’ve been living here for most of your life, it’s never easy to adjust to the daily (and nightly) grind. No matter how many floors you walk up, street noise, snow shoveling, garbage collection, your neighbors, traffic horns and other noises always seem to make their way into your apartment – particularly when it comes time to sleep.

Of course, “soundproofing” per se generally refers to completely eliminating sound. And for those of you living in NYC, you’ll agree that eradicating sound 100% isn’t exactly possible. That’s why we’ve pulled together 3 handy hints for minimizing the noise getting in to your apartment and dealing with the city sounds around you.

#1 Sealing is believing

 

Yes, that gap between the bottom of your door and the floor really might not seem like much, but it allows for the entry of a great amount of noise. Try using a door seal or draft guard to fill the gap! Not only will this help block extra unwanted noise, it’s a simple and cost effective way to add a little extra insulation to your apartment, helping to trap warm air in in the winter. You can pick up a draft seal from Bed, Bath & Beyond for under $10! 

Image: Bed, Bath & Beyond
Image: Bed, Bath & Beyond

 

#2 A win-win(dow) situation

Do you own your apartment? While upgrading your windows is a step up from purchasing a door seal in terms of the price tag, it’s certainly a worthwhile investment. Did you know with the appropriate glass thickness and the right insulation, some windows can block up to 95% of external noise?

If you’re not sure upgrading your windows is worth your investment, you can check in with an acoustic consultant, or soundproofing specialist, to get their advice. You might like to check out Brooklyn Insulation and Soundproofing or City Soundproofing in Manhattan.

Image: Brooklyn Insulation
Image: Brooklyn Insulation

#3 The quick fix: White noise

How does adding more noise to the equation work? Generally speaking, it isn’t the noise itself that keeps you awake or wakes you up during the night, but rather sudden changes in the consistency of noise that jar you awake. White noise creates a masking effect, evening out sudden changes and helping you sleep more comfortably. You can find an interesting read on White Noise by Marpac here

While there are plenty of apps on the market for white noise, a simple table fan will suffice. The hum of a window-unit air conditioner also works great – and will keep you at a comfortable temperature at the same time! 

Image: Marpac
Image: Marpac

Neighborhood etiquette: 3 tips for being a good neighbor this holiday party season

The holiday party season is one of the busiest times of year – you’ve got presents to wrap, dinners to plan and family and friends to cater for. But while you’re caught up in the events happening inside your house or apartment, do you ever stop to think about your neighbors and keeping the people outside of your apartment happy too?

Try these 3 simple steps to ensure you’re a good neighbor this party season.

#1 Provide a little warning

1elehOnce you’ve gotten the word out and invited your friends through Paperless Post or other organizer-friendly apps, it’s time to warn your neighbors too. You might like to include details on the time and size of the event. Your neighbors will likely be more comfortable with the whole scenario knowing you’ve taken them into consideration too, helping resolve issues before they even arise.

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#2 Be reasonable about the noise and the hour

While this might seem like a no-brainer, it’s easy to get caught up in the festivities of the night and forget the time and just how noisy you’re being. Most co-ops have a no-noise rule after 10pm, but given it’s the holidays, your neighbors are likely to be a little more flexible.

As a general rule, try and turn things down after midnight. If you have guests moving out onto a terrace or balcony, remember that voices tend to travel quite easily outside too, so it’s not just your neighbors you’ll need to consider!

taskrabbit-logoWhile we’re on the topic of time, you might like to think about timeliness too. If you’re in need of a little extra assistance for setting up or packing down, you might like to consider enlisting a little help to make sure things run smoothly. There are plenty of options for help. For example, you could hire an assistant from Task Rabbit to help keep you on track with setting up, during the event –keeping glasses filled, getting more ice, putting food out, and packing down – emptying the rubbish, cleaning up etc.

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#3 Contain your party

If you’re throwing a party, your neighbors will be thankful if it stays exactly that – yours. Keeping everything from your decorations to your guests and their belongings inside will help to ensure you’re not blocking the hallways and stairwells or cluttering common spaces.

It can be as easy as having a coat stand and shoe rack inside by the front door for guests to leave their belongings on. While you’re at the front door, you might also like to hang a “please close the door behind you” sign for your guests, to help keep the noise inside.klean-freaks

Containing your party extends to the day after too! Don’t forget to clean up both inside and outside your apartment – checking that the hallways and common areas are left as they were prior to your party. You can always enlist the help of cleaner like Klean Freaks to make the task even easier!

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