A good real estate agent?

real estate sign porchIn the market for a house, Kelly emails:

My husband and I are hoping to buy a house in Albany this summer. We are looking for recommendations for a good real estate agent, particularly one who specializes in working with first-time home buyers. I'm hoping AOA's readers can help us out. Thanks for your consideration.

There are a lot of real estate agents out there. And from our experience, some are definitely better than others.

So, know of a good agent? Please share! And if you do, please include why you like that agent.


I bought my first house a year and a half ago in Albany, and used Heather Hansen with Prudential Manor Homes in Delmar. She's great at explaining things to newbies, and is super nice. I had a pretty definite set of criteria for what I wanted, and she never wasted my time showing me anything that didn't meet them. I totally recommend her!

I purchased my first home (a condo) about 3 years ago and highly recommend Teri Kraszewski with Realty USA in Clifton Park. I had actually met her just a couple months prior at a first-time home buyers seminar sponsored by SEFCU and she really helped guide me through the process. http://realtyusa.com/agent/agent-detail.asp?CEQ_AgentCode=rusa124

Community Realty! Working with first time home-buyers is their specialty.


I bought a house last year an I choose Elise Van Allen. She know the area and market extremely well. We were unsure if we even wanted to put our house on the market and look for a bit of a larger space because we loved our previous house. She spent so much time with us even before we made any decisions. She was extremely keen on us understanding every step of the process and was always available. I can't say enough about her character and professionalism. I haven't worked with other agents who are probably also very capable but since you asked I'd take the time to meet with Elise. She made the process as 'painless' as possible, and educated us as well.

Brian Sinkoff is an awesome realtor! He works with Coldwell Banker Prime Properties and is wonderful with first-home buyers! Check him out at www.sellitwithsinkoff.com!

Brian Sinkoff helped us purchase our first home and he got us the house in less than 3 days! He's a great realtor and has great communication skills - after spending nearly 20 years in media. He used to host "Sound-off with Sinkoff" on wtmm.

I am in the process of buying my first house and was totally clueless on the entire process. Luck of the draw, I was put in touch with Edward Beisler with Keller Williams Realty who is fantastic. He walks you through the entire process as many times as it takes until you feel comfortable and understand it. He has been BEYOND patient as I am pretty picky and have my handful of requirements that I am not budging on. He is thorough and attentive to my needs and didn't waste my time on houses or areas that didn't meet up to my standards
contact him, you wont be disappointed at all! ed@beislerrealty.com or phone 518-522-3432

I don't have a specific recommendation (we bought our house over 20 years ago and I'm not sure the Realtor we used is still around) but do make sure you work with a "BUYER BROKER", who will represent you as the buyer, and will not represent the seller.

My mom is in the process of buying a house in Albany, and she's been working with Jill Himmelwright at the recommendation of another friend who is buying a house right now. She's been really fantastic, not pushy at all, and willing to work within whatever parameters you're comfortable with.

I have had two great experiences with Steve Duggan at Remax. I ended up meeting him through a website cold call when I looked at my condo and loved him. He's now served as my buyer's agent twice and I hope to use him soon to sell! Great with first time homebuyers/stressed out homebuyers, of which I've been both!

Kearney Brown reality is great. They are small and local and the personal attention you get cannot be beat. Mike Brown is really patient and great at explaining every step of the process. You'll love him.

I don't know of a particular realtor I would recommend, as I have always gone it alone, but before getting serious with a realtor, you should at least talk to a bank about financing (we used our regular "bank" SEFCU). And I never recommend using a home inspector that any realtor recommends (they have a vested interest in getting you to buy the property). We recently were going to buy a house and Excelsior Home Inspection saved us from buying a money pit. Good luck. It's a nervewracking process, but worth it.

We bought our first home 8 years ago with Ellen Picotte (Prudential Manor Homes). I've suggested her to numerous friends and we've all had great experiences. Honest, knowedgable and deep roots in Albany--especially downtown.

While I cannot recommend a specific agent it is best to pick one who was in business before 2003 when the housing bubble started to form. Anyone who got into the business after that was merely following the market trend.

Brian Ward @ Coldwell Banker. My fiancee and I bought our first home last Summer and Brian was there every step of the way. We started working with him in Feb and he was very communicative and accommodating to our schedule. He emailed us market updates, sent us text message updates, and gave us access to as many resources as he had without being overbearing. But he also doesn't mess around and at one point we must have looked at 12 houses in one week! No joke.

There's a reason why he's been in the real estate business for almost 30 years and I would recommend his knowledge and time to anyone who is thinking of buying a home in Albany.


Kevin Clancy
This guy is awesome. He helped us buy our home in Slingerlands just outside of Albany. He goes the extra mile to make sure you know what you are getting into, and tries to find the right fit for you. You will not be disappointed.

Dawn McCurdy, who has owned and run her own independent real estate company for decades. I was a first time buyer and she got us a much better deal than I had imagined.

She works almost entirely on referrals, and for her to still be in business this long amongst all the conglomerates in the area means she's doing something right.

I bought a home in Albany last year as a first time home buyer. I used Amy Gyory of RealtyUSA in Delmar. She was fantastic, I had a short time period to get into a house and I started looking in January and I closed on the house by the end of March.


They're independent, locally owned, with personalized service. Their home office is in the sweet spot between Latham/Schenectady/Colonie. We worked with Barbara Walton, and she was phenomenal. She really listened to what we were looking for, was diligent about making sure the homes she showed us were up to our specifications, and didn't try to push us out of our price range.

Thank you for all of the wonderful responses! This is a great starting point. I appreciate the input.

Julia Westlake

I agree with Gretchen: get an independent house inspector, not one recommended by your real estate agent. Your realtor's agenda is to get the sale to go through -- it's how they get their percentage. I used my realtor's suggestion 6 years ago and I found in retrospect that the inspector overlooked or downplayed a lot of serious issues that a more independent, hardnosed inspector would have alerted me to. And don't have your realtor there during the inspection. I still recall my realtor trying to distract me from the "basement from hell" by chirping over how pretty the forsythia in the backyard looked.

Later when I was considering buying another house, I used Tom Corrigan who saved me from buying a disasterous moneypit. He's fantastic, especially in looking at older homes.

And remember -- if the inspector finds any serious problems that you would ultimately have to fix, you can use that inspector's report to negotiate a lower price or make the seller do the repairs.

Lastly, don't become "friends" with your realtor. It's a business relationship. Don't get sucked in by them acting like they are your BFF. Some of these realtors may actually be the salt of the earth, but their business is to sell houses. You share every little thing with them -- like how high you are willing to go on a price -- and I guarantee they won't hold out for you to get the lowest price possible. And they get a higher percentage on a higher selling price.

A Great Local Real Estate Agent
Tracey LaFleur, CBR
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Realty USA
498 Albany Shaker Rd
Loudonville NY 12211

AND! If you're buying a home that costs less than $200,000 in the City of Albany, you can get the Choose Albany home loan. It's a zero-percent interest, 5 or 10-year loan for closing costs and down payment assistance.

My husband and I bought our house in December, and we got almost $15,000 from Choose Albany. There aren't any income restrictions, and the staff that worked with us on it was incredibly nice, helpful and responsive. Good luck, future neighbors!

Kevin Clancy is awesome! He's the nicest guy ever, completely upfront and extremely knowledgeable.


Paula Rice at Coldwell Banker Prime Properties! She's been in the business for 17 years, has sold properties all over Albany and the surrounding areas, and is super easy to work with.


We bought our home from Michele Battle at Community Partners Realty Group. This is a small firm that offers everything you get from a large firm, but is much more personal. She specializes in first time home buyers and actual took us through a 10 pt personal mini seminar about all the things we need to know. This included all parts of the search, offer, what to expect out of pocket, inspection ups and downs, financing, seller's concession, she didn't miss anything. As a result we had a great experience with virtually no surprises and it wasn't all easy, just like she said. Since then we have sent several people her way and all of them have been really grateful to us. Check her out on their website, and give them a call. www.communitypartnersrealtygroup.com

Having served the Capital District for 18 years as a full time Realtor, I'd love to provide you with buyer and seller recommendations on my behalf. Being a first time buyer is exciting and stressful all at the same time. Having me as an experienced realtor at your side will ensure that you are well informed throughout the process. Call me anytime or email me. Paula Rice 518-640-4624 or paula.rice@coldwellbankerprime.com. Thanks.

I just bought my first house in August and I used Brenda Mayette with Miranda Real Estate Group. She was AMAZING. Super nice and friendly, never pushy, and even gave us part of her commission towards needed repairs that came up during the inspection that the seller would not give us. We even still keep in touch. I would recommend her to anyone.

We bought our first house in Albany a few years ago and David Phaff at Realty USA was our agent. He used to work in the construction industry, so he was able to point out good, bad, and ugly in homes we saw. There was never any pressure to go over our price range, and he helped us find a house we love.

David also lives in Albany, which can help because he knows the ins and outs of the neighborhoods.

I bought my house with Pam Wakeley of the Wakeley Group. She was wonderful! She listened to what I wanted and did not show me houses out of my price range. She took care of everything from getting an inspector to arranging for the lawyer. I was really happy. Plus she leaves a pumpkin on my doorstep every fall and sends a packet of wildflower seeds every spring :-)

If you're thinking about buying a house make sure you start by attending the highly recommended HomeBuyer 101. It's free and run by a community based nonprofit - the Affordable Housing Partnership Homeownership Center. No sales. You'll learn about the homebuying process, available incentives and more. Sign up at www.ahphome.org or 434-1730.

I just wanted to second the vote for Community Realty -- http://www.yourownhome.org/ . WendyG mentions the importance of a buyer broker, and I agree-- that's what Community Realty is. They do a superb job working with buyers.

Part of what makes them so wonderful is that they are paid on salary, as part of a non-profit, not on commission, so they don't in any way benefit from the home price being higher. So their entire business model is different than most of the rest of the industry. They are also part of 255 Orange Street, which is a building filled with non-profits that help first time buyers.

Highly recommended!

When we moved here ten years ago, our taxes were 3,000. They are now 7,200. Our town board told us they would be forty percent higher by 2017. Yes, you read that: 11,000. Don't buy. Rent if you must, move if you can.

I concur with Chrissy: Pam Wakeley is a terrific real estate agent and I recommend her wholeheartedly.

I bought my first home last year and Judy Janco, with Coldwell Banker (http://www.coldwellbankerprime.com/janco.team), was AMAZING. She was incredibly responsive to my emails and calls, totally got what I was looking for (sometimes better than I did) and she was an outstanding advocate (when I was ready to take a less-than-ideal counteroffer she knew we could do better, and she was right!) She even negotiated a new roof, and helped take care of ALL of the details, including inspections, and she put me in touch with a great and also very-responsive attorney.

When I went to the walk-through on closing day and there was a TON of junk left in the attic and basement (seriously -- it ended up filling up a huge box truck) despite clearly providing for its removal in the contract, I was ready to completely freak out... she not only negotiated payment for its removal at the closing -- she put me in touch with workers who took care of it the very next day.

She was also great for me, as an inexperienced homebuyer, in that she immediately recognized all of the things that would need work that wouldn't be worth getting involved in. I think that's especially helpful if you're looking in Albany, where there are so many older homes. I'm sure it sounds bananas, but I just can't say enough about her.

I know it's not 100% on-topic, but I also had an EXTREMELY good experience with SEFCU (my mortgage guy responded to emails -- even on Sunday nights -- and met with me multiple times to explain EVERY detail).

Two time home-buyer.

Go through a credit union for your mortgage if you don't qualify for other first time homeowner programs. Rates are much better, less hidden fees. And you can always get a person on the phone, or in person, to talk about it.

Get a fantastic home inspector. Ask your realtor who they dislike. Ask why -- and if its because they are nitpicky? Get their number. Your home inspector may save you from a lemon of a house.

Get a great lawyer. Same as above. Once you bid, you can get stuck. Don't get stuck.

Talk to your new neighbors! Especially the old ones on the block. Go over, be chatty, tell them you are thinking of moving in. They LOVE TO TALK. They will tell you about the water main breaks, the basements prone to flooding, the repair guys that appear on the doorstep every winter.

My folks were saved by a chatty teenager who was on the property during an inspection. He told me all about the seasonal water damage that the owner did not disclose. Ooops.

Don't fall in love with a house. Its a buyer's market. So many houses. The best buyer is ready to walk away at any moment. It's hard, but there's always another great property out there. And yes, you want your realtor to think you may walk away, too. If they don't believe you, they can't fairly advocate for your position.

Make sure you know what you can fix, and what you can live through fixing. Kitchens are expensive and disrupt your life when they get remodeled. But if you have a 2 bath home, you can deal with one bath being out of commission while the other one is fixed. Roofs are spendy, but they get fixed in a day or two. No major life stress. Think about what needs to be done before you move in (painting, floor refinishing, new carpet) and build time into your lease before you move into your new home. 30 days extra in your rental means contractors working in an empty house. Very low stress.

And finally.. location, location, location. You can't change the busy road, the bar on the corner, or the hoarder next door. If the house is unusually priced, figure out why!

i just closed on my purchase 3 weeks ago and i used Jessica Bedard. I had worked with her numerous times at my job prior to taking the plunge and of all the realtors that i have dealt with, she is the only one i considered working with. you can my complete review of her on yelp.

Jessica@518Realty.com by cell at 518.265.9398

Jill Gautie at RealtyUSA in Colonie (on Albany-Shaker Road)- she was great and really held my hand when purchasing my first house!

After a very horrible experience in looking for my first home, I was introduced to Mary Harwood. She came to my rescue! Mary walked me through the entire process and reminded me that there are still honest business people in todays society that stand strong on integrity. Three years later Mary is helping me purchase my fourth property ( 2 of which were for investment) and I recomend her to everyone and anyone looking to buy a home. Thanks again Mary!

The universe directed me to this post place. We're trying to sell our home in Albany County, NY. The realtors we met ..... I'm going to be nice. It should be simple - realtor make an appt to show the home, homeowner leave premises, buyers evaluate. Simple enough, I would think. Here's what's happening: a realtor didn't like the other realtor won't show it; another realtor said he wants the listing and will show it when he gets it; most recently a realtor saw a car in the driveway doesn't bother to knock on door to see if homeowner is home, scares the homeowner who thinks there is a appointment needed before showing; best realtor admission "it's my job to beat up the homeowner on price." I tried to save money not posting on FSBO sites. My bad.

I just bought and sold a house back to back using the same guy, steve lomascolo. He is with Miranda. I had no idea who he was but he was referred to me by our last real estate agent, that i originally wanted to use (nick krill @ remax) but he wasn't available. What a great referral it turned out to be. This guy is amazing, he is good with the numbers, data mining how much the houses are worth and what they will go for, was very good working with my wife. He was very fast, and aggressive - never did he drop the ball or cause a delay, it was always others that we were waiting on (the seller, the banks, lawyers etc). He would come to my work to get papers signed etc, always respecting our time but understanding the need for expediency. When we met him, we knew what we wanted, and knew we had some challenges getting what we wanted -- he cut through the crap, laid it on the line and got us where we wanted to be. He also referenced many people to help us with other home buying issues. He was very experienced, and a good guy, and made the transaction very enjoyable. He had a positive attitude and kept us happy during the whole thing. Im the kind of guy who hates all salesman, but this guy was so experienced he had a wisdom about his job that made you realize he wasn't sweating small stuff and that he valued his service and reputation enough to earn your trust. So, I highly recommend and above all, trust this guy.

We used Ryan Hoffman from The Kinderhook Group. He is a full time agent and is laid back and fun to work with, but agressive! He will be blunt and forward with you and the people involved in the transaction and get things done! I think he is starting his own firm now, it is all based on video marketing, I would check him out

When it comes to Albany real estate Fraida Varah is THE BEST. She helped us sell our house in central Albany in under a week. She had also helped us buy that house.

I would highly recommend Brian Sinkoff of Prudential Manor Homes!

Brian not only sold our house in less than 2 weeks but helped us find the house of our dreams. I used to listen to his radio show but I had no idea that he would make such a smooth transition into another field like he has.

He's the consummate professional that took our phone calls and emails immediately. He explained the entire process to us from start to finish. We weren't left in the dark about ANYTHING. Not only that, but we now consider Brian a friend.

Seriously.....you won't be making a bad choice! He truly cares about the clients and doesn't just worry about a sale.

In fact, my wife and I loved a home and when we went back for a second showing, Brian asked us if this was truly the house for us or would we grow out of it in 3 years? He knew exactly what our needs were. Turns out we didn't buy that home but instead purchased a bigger house for the same price!

Brian listened to us and OUR needs and didn't just care about himself....that's a rare find!

I would recommend Brian Sinkoff to anyone!

My wife and I sold & purchased a new home with Brian Sinkoff of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services and we'd highly recommend him to anyone.

Working with Brian is an absolute pleasure. He was extremely knowledgeable & helpful. He was very honest & had great personality.

He never put pressure on us to sell and got us more money by negotiating diligently. He told us exactly what to do to stage our home and made some improvements to the house without having us spend much money.

On the buying side, he showed us houses we were only interested in. I don't know how he did it but he found us the house of our dreams and got us a great deal!

Not only is Brian a great realtor be we now consider him a friend.

My husband and I used Adam Clark with Field Realty. Adam isn't like most real estate agents that TALK UP every property you view he actually points out the FLAW! He is also the City of Albanys building inspector so his inside knowledge on local and state codes helped us a lot! I never knew you can only cover a certain percentage of your land with a structure! He advised us on what was needed for a pool installation and how to go about doing it in a efficient cost effective way! VERY HONEST

-Karin Simpson

Check out Berkshire Hathaway agent Kyle Trimper at: https://www.518-838.com

What I like about him is his marketing expertise. Instead of just hanging out an open house sign on a Sunday, Kyle seeks out buyers with an online strategy 24/7 - rather than waiting for them to find your listing. To me, that is a more productive use of our time. The quicker a house sells the lesser the chance the listing gets cold - which will result in decreasing the asking price.

Lots of great advice---the best IMO was WendyG's advice to sign a "buyer broker" agreement. buying a house is akin to buying a car from a dealership---lots of cat/mouse games, uncertainty of price etc. Be patient finding the right house takes time. But be prepared to Act Quickly once you find a "match", it's a buyer's market and houses go quickly and often over-list price. Go to as many open houses in the target neighborhood as possible to get a sense of the market and value. Get pre-qualified by a bank for your mortgage before you start looking, and start banking cash--there are plenty of closing costs and expenses related to moving/repairing/repainting and the expenses of homeownership that may be new to you if you are living in an apartment. AND if you are moving in from out of State, the closing expenses will surprise you. I've used Michael Keefrider at Coldwell Banker---calm, experienced and a good negotiator.

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