Real Estate Week giveaway: spruce up your place -- and then relax

door open welcome mat

Welcome.

Drawing's closed! But if you'd still like to share advice, please do. (You just won't be entered in the drawing.

It's Real Estate Week here at AOA, and to celebrate we've put together a few prizes. No, it's not a new home or fancy downtown apartment -- just a few things you can enjoy whether you own or rent:

For the inside: EcoMaids
EcoMaids green cleaners will provide an initial service visit to your home. They'll clean your kitchen, living room, dining room, entry way, hall, stairs, 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom. ($199 value)

For the outside: Faddegon's
A $75 gift certificate to Faddegon's Nursery in Latham. Faddegon's has a wide selection of flowers and garden plants (or course), but they also have an great indoor plant section.

And for relaxing when the inside and outside are all done:

Capital Wine
You get to go wine shopping with a $50 gift card to Capital Wine at the corner of State and Lark in Albany. If you're wondering what is the perfect wine pairing, here's their advice.

The Book House
And a $15 gift certificate from The Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza so you can sip your wine and relax with a good read.

To enter, please post an answer to the following question in the comment section:

What's the best advice you've ever received -- or advice you'd give someone else -- about picking a place to live?

We'll draw one winner at random. The deadline to enter is Friday, July 13 at 10 am.

Important: One entry per person. You must answer the question to be eligible. You must submit your comment by 10 am on Friday July 13, 2012. You must include a working email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by 2 pm on Friday (July 13) -- and must respond by 7 pm Friday (July 13).

photo: Flickr user Joelk75 (cc)

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Comments

The best advice I've ever received about picking a place to live was that I should check the neighborhood out at different hours of the day to get a feel for the level of noise and activities occurring in the area.

Your home must be a place where you can clear your mind, relax and just be yourself!

The quality of your living space has an underrated influence on your mood and attitude even when you're not actually in it.

So...check out a bunch of places, check out the neighborhood and if it arises, go with that warm, fuzzy feeling!

"Make sure its somewhere you really want to live"

That's what my mom told me when I was looking at apartments to rent while going for my masters. It sounds common sense but sometimes its so easy to get caught up in features, amenities, pretty paint colors or any number of distracting selling points; at the end of the day make sure its somewhere you actually want to live.

You need to find a good neighborhood. You can change everything about your house but you can't change the neighborhood.

Oh my god!
I think that there's different applicable advice for each phase of your life but the advice I followed most recently was to pick a good school district.

When you're choosing a place to live, you're not just choosing a house or apartment, but also a neighborhood.

The best advice I received when house hunting:

drive through the neighborhood you are looking at on a week night and a saturday night.

You can do just about anything to a house except move it most cases. So make sure you like the location, ie schools, services, noise, environment etc...

Best advice when choosing a place to live: Beware of living right next to a stop light, because it will be very loud, especially in the summer.

Unfortunately, we didn't heed this advice, but we did manage to have the stop light changed to a stop sign (much better for noise and traffic calming).

This is more of a home-buyer thing, but definitely use a realtor. It costs you nothing, and they know more about the trickery involved in real estate than you do. Plus, they buy you presents when you move in!

Two words: water pressure.

The best advice I would give is to make sure that the cost is well within your means. Not just at the edge of affordable but below the level, especially if you are buying a house. You'll be stuck with those payments for a loooong time.

Someone once told me to make sure I have plenty of kitchen counter space wherever I moved. [I didn't listen at my last place, and I suffered for it. Prepping for cooking on 4 square feet of counter is not fun.]

What's the best advice you've ever received -- or advice you'd give someone else -- about picking a place to live?

I was once told make sure and pick a place to live you would be proud to brag about.

That's why I live in beautiful Troy!

always think about your new commute (to work or school) before chooising a place. Adding a frustrating commute to your morning and afternoon can really put a damper on your mood!

and for those of you in Albany...check out the parking situation on the street (especially for alternate side parking streets and winter time).

I just finished apartment hunting in Albany, and my advice: look at more than one or two places, but don't drag the process out so long that you can't decide! Be ready to pounce when you find what you want.

The best advice I received was to buy a house with more than one bathroom. And it was absolutely spot-on. The extra bathroom is key, especially when guests come to visit.

Pick somewhere you can live day-to-day without a car. Being able to get groceries, get to work, etc. without a car gives you a lot omore options even if you own one.

My mother in law: No streets that are numbered or have a double yellow line.

I thought it was out there, but its true. I wanted a nice quiet street without lots of traffic. This eliminates a lot!

My main issue is parking, parking, parking! Esp. in cities and if you have a car, pick a place where you have a reserved spot.

The best advice I've ever received was to make sure to stick to my budget. It's easy to look at things you can't afford and fall in love with something outside your price range. It sounds like overly practical advice, but you need to be sure you can afford something for the long-term without the daily stress of pinching pennies for rent.

Other than that, just to echo what others have said - the yard and commute are always important pieces of the puzzle.

Rent first for a year so you can get to know the neighborhood and decide if it's a place you want to live for a long time.

Since my husband and I just built a home, my piece of advice would be to question what exactly is "standard" or not - 3 years later, and we still can't believe all the additional "upgrades" we had to pay for on items that you would commonly expect in a home.

It's good to do some research...but don't over-do it. If it feels right then go with your gut. It can be real easy to get bogged down in numbers and statistics, especially when it comes to school districts.

Advice I received, just like many others, was to visit the street on weekends and evenings. I really regret not doing that but I get by with earplugs and a sleep mask made by Petra of Anchor No. 5.

Advice I would give--if you can be flexible in terms of possible areas, you should. We were so married to the idea of living in Albany and we were getting depressed because everything in our price range was in terrible shape or terrible areas. Then we thought--hey, Troy! And we are very happy with our choice.

Don't settle!

When I think about all the places we *almost* bought just because they seemed "good enough" I can't believe how close we came to never owning the beautiful house I plan on calling home for a long, long time.

In addition to not buying more house than you can afford, don't buy more house than you can take care of. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the upkeep a house takes if you've always rented.

Always spend much less than you can afford. This means you will have extra money for chicken wings and beer.

Best advice I like to give is:
Look at where the electrical outlets are in each room, & that they work.

Best received (almost 2 decades ago from my Albany-grown mom): Make sure parking isn't a problem. "Does it have a parking space?" has always been her first question, every time I've ever looked at a place.

Best I'd give: If you're lucky enough to have some play in your budget, remember that just because you can afford to spend a certain amount on a place, doesn't mean you must.

"Compare the crime rate on your street/neighborhood to other streets/neighborhoods."

I'm not sure how one goes about doing this, logistically, but it's advice I read somewhere, and something I wish I had done.

Never purchase a house downhill. Basement flooding :-/ (thanks, to my daddy-o)

If your gut says "no thank you," listen to it.

When you throw your first party, invite all the neighbors. Even if they don't come, they'll at least expect the noise.

Find out the history of the building you're living in, whether renting or buying. Old industrial buildings turned into condos are really nice and chic, until you find out it was an old chemical factory or something of the sort.

Don't get bogged down with cosmetic issues (wallpaper, paint, etc.), but on the other hand, don't get yourself in over your head with remodeling that you can't handle.

Ignore the bad paint colors and poor decorating choices and look at the potential in the "bones" of the house.

Don't rent unless you were able to check the water pressure.

Also, if it is has an outdoor space, especially a small outdoor space, make sure that the previous owner was not feeding wild animals in the space.

This was not in the capital region but my roommates and I had a year long battle with pigeons on our balcony that I would not want to repeat.

How "walkable" is the neighborhood? If you need to get behind the wheel to do anything (if you're the type of person who likes to use the car as infrequently as possible), consider the amenities of the neighborhood. Also, how pet friendly is it?

Consider your commute very carefully.

An extra ten minutes each way doesn't seem like much, but you'll lose an extra hour and a half each week, or twelve hours per year. Not to mention the extra gas money and greater probability that you'll be stuck in traffic.

The best advice that I have given is be prepared to give up one thing you think you can't. Houses aren't perfect and you should find the one that has the most things you feel you need - but don't give up one because it doesn't have ALL the things.

Walk around the closest grocery store on a Sunday.

Pay attention to who is living near you.

We are in a situation now where we have some pretty loud and lousy neighbors.

The best advice I ever received when picking a house was to think about the taxes and school district in regards to the location of the house. Sometimes the price was right but the taxes were too high.

If it seems like there might be a poltergeist, there probably is a poltergeist.

for apartment hunting: finding a place that is safe, convenient to everything (job, grocery stores, restaurants, etc), has parking, laundry, and most importantly allows cats!

The 3 L's: location, lot, and land! Pick a neighborhood you love, then make sure the lot is right for your needs, and make sure you have room! That's what helped us find out current home and we are so happy here! There are lots of projects and updates we need to do over time but the 3 L's got us here!

Have at least one toilet for each adult in the house. The person who told me this didn't tell me what to do when my new husband moved in with me two years after I bought my one bathroom house. Sharing a bathroom can lead to divorce

Location, Location, Location.

It's obvious but true!

I tend to tell my closest friends that if the place doesn't feel right, keep searching. Always go with your gut! The perfect home will speak to you and you'll just know it's the right place and time. Also, make sure it has a fierce kitchen! :)

Park outside of the house in the evening on a weeknight and weekend and spend a few hours there listening....

Two pieces of advice that were really helpful to me in my student days: a) Don't live where the party is, because you can never escape it. b) Good roommates and good friends aren't always the same thing. Someone who makes a good roommate might not end up being a good friend, or vice versa.

Now that I'm older and live in Center Square: don't worry so much about parking. It's really easy to adjust walking a couple of blocks + it really helps a person feel like there's a neighborhood out there.

Pick a place that is right for you, and don't stress too much about the Gods of Resale.

Best advice ...when buying a home always think about how easy or difficult would it be to resell in the future.

Look to the bones of the house. You'll be in it a long time, look at it's future rather than the current outer state.

As for the area, your house should be your home base. You can go anywhere, see and do anything, without living right in the middle of it.

Location! Most important thing, by far.

The best advice I ever received for my recent house-search was two-fold:

1) Make sure the house has good guts. In other words, make sure stuff like the foundation walls, the framing, the utilities and the weather protection are all in good shape. You can always change the carpet, no matter how ugly it is, but if the studs in your wall are rotted and your foundation wall is leaning... $$.

2) Be conservative with your home-renovation aspirations. No matter how large you are dreaming or how experienced you are at this kind of thing, always er on the side of being a little more conservative than what you think you can accomplish. More surprises will inevitably pop up to drain away your time, patience and bank account.

You can change everything but the location.

Be clear about your wants and your needs. Don't compromise on the needs and try to be creative about finding ways to meet the wants.

The best advice I can give is to pick a place you can afford. You don't want to be house poor.

Understand the costs. You need more than just a down payment and the monthly costs are going to be more than a mortgage calculator tells you it is.

Have the place inspected.
Doors, windows, pipes, etc... Have inspected during rain storm for any leaks..

Think big closets and enough storage.

Follow your gut...you'll know when you've found the right place. The process can be overwhelming and at times I thought we would never find a house we liked, but the first time I walked through the front door of our house I just knew it was where I was suppose to be.

Talk to the neighbors. Check out the crime rate ! Do a home inspection by your own home inspector. Don't buy a home with a flat roof, or basement in the city of Albany. Check out the taxes, closesness of the market, post office, library and , health club.

Other than being financially prepared...visit the house you are interested in at different times during the day. You'll get to see how the street and neighborhood comes alive (or doesn't), how the house looks (does it have the same curb appeal at night as it does during the day?) as well as traffic around the area and other such "little" things that may go unnoticed at first.

Test drive your commute at the regular time.

It will feel a lot different on a Sunday afternoon after an open house than at 8am on a Monday.

Don't underestimate the importance of having off-street parking, and preferably a garage. It keeps the car cool in the summer and snow-free in the winter.

Choose your neighbors wisely.

Keep in mind the total cost of ownership, including not just your mortgage, but also your property taxes and maintenance. Fixing stuff isn't cheap!

Move to where the food is!!

When I bought a house at 19 I didn't understand property taxes. Oy. People need to understand things like taxes, escrow and pmi before jumping in. It's not rocket science but it can be confusing for 1st time homebuyers. Also, I'll second that water pressure comment!

best advise -- buy a house you can afford (we bought during the bubble) in a neighborhood you love.

Don't forget to figure the tax rate into the cost of owning a home. Two houses that cost the same amount to buy up front can end up with wildly different taxes. And pay attention to the quality of the school district, even if you don't have kids. It can definitely effect the resale value.

Find out if the neighboring houses are owner occupied if that matters to you. Get scoop on the house from the neighbors before making an offer.

When you find the right house, make a strong offer. We did this and beat out three other offers that arrived the same day as ours. I don't think I would ever forgive myself if we lost the house we're going to live in for the next 20 years over $2,500.

Also, what is the deal with Ecomaids? 199 to clean a 1 bedroom house?

Location. Location. Location.

"If it turns out not to be what you thought, you can always move"

Buy below what you can afford, and pay extra each month. Our 30 year mortgage was paid off in 15 years. There is no such thing as "good" debt.

You can change everything but the location.

Buy less than the lenders tell you you can afford, and understand a house is not an investment vehicle.

No matter how much you love a home and think that you can "make it work" think about resale. At some point, that home will need to be sold, and if there is a feature (or features) that you loved, but that are odd and can't be changed, it's going to cause problems when you go to sell.

Take some time to get to know the different neighborhoods in a city before you buy if you're new to the area. Also, sometimes a neighborhood that seems ideal (or almost ideal) at one stage in life is less than ideal at another. Having children has given me a new perspective on these things, and not just because of school districts and yard sizes.

Shop protectively of your wallet, and freely with your gut.

Make sure your near public transportation as a backup.

Location, location, location! Always think about resale...would someone else want to buy this house when we're ready to move?

Look at your life a few years done the road and make sure you are picking a location you will like for some time. You might like the idea of nightlife now, but will you want that in a few years?

Location. Location. Location

The stuff outside the home matters just as much. Don't just do a drive by, listen to the sounds of the area, talk to the neighbors, and walk around a bit.

Think twice about moving to Center Square if you are very attached to using your car. But if you live and work in that same area, it's pretty great! As another person said, walking around really make the neighborhood feel like your own.

The stuff outside the home matters just as much. Don't just do a drive by, listen to the sounds of the area, talk to the neighbors, and walk around a bit.

you might consider getting the least expensive house available in the best neighborhood

make sure you get a chance to meet your future neighbors

Know traffic, all hours of the day. We moved off balltown road in niskayuna and that road drove me nuts!

make sure you can afford it and that you will still have plenty of money in savings for things that could wrong. Even if a house seems perfect things can and will go wrong.

Consider the various seasons and ask for photos of the home in all, if available. I purchased my home in February, when the massive perennial flower gardens were covered by snow. I had no idea what I was in for when the flowers bloomed! My lack of green thumb and the previous homeowner's over-planting have proven to be very costly and difficult to manage!

The best advice I've ever received is that when looking for a home keep an open mind. Paint/ accessories/ curtains etc. can all be changed easily and it's the cheapest way to "spruce" up a home. Don't walk away from a home just because you don't like the decorating, as long as it has good bones work with it!

Although intimidating, talk to the people who live around you. Ask them questions about the neighborhood and get a feel for their personalities.

Buy the least expensive house in the most expensive neighborhood you can afford. (DON'T be at the top of the curve.)

I will never again live in a neighborhood without sidewalks. Walking is built into my life, and living in a place where walking is difficult/impossible Is a huge negative.

For me it was advice given to me by a friend living in Albany when I moved here. She said to find an apartment in Center Square, and I am so glad I did. I was able to experience a lot of what Albany has to offer just by walking out my door. Many of my friends moved into cities after college and through their 20's. I would recommend others to do the same.

Take your time and get what you want, there is no rush. Wish we had paid attention!

From my brother after getting a place right on the train line he uses not realizing how loud it would be: don't sacrifice comfort for convenience.

Older homes cannot be beat for their character...and the ongoing, never ending bills! They seem wonderfully quaint and lovely until everything starts to break at once...

When viewing a prospective place for the first time, don't pay attention to the decor. Focus more on the layout and opportunities to make the space your own.

To check out the school district your kids will be in as well as noise and traffic level

Consider how living in that location may affect your willingness to commute, particularly for the future -- if you live on the fringes, a potential work place past the other side of "town" may be something you are not willing to consider because the commute is that much longer.

Consider how far you will be from shopping, medical and support systems, particularly as you get older.

My dad has always advised me to find places in walking distance of good pizza.

Check the zoning. Could a factory/gas station move in next door? How do you feel about that?

Don't be afraid to look outside your "must haves" and "don't wants." I wanted more than 1/3 of an acre and spent a lot of time looking at crappy houses. Once I switched my searching to include any size of land, I found the house I wanted. I'm really glad I didn't get a big property to maintain, too. :)

Plug a lamp into each outlet to make sure they work. Sadly, we didn't get that advice until after we bought, moved in, and realized we had a dead outlet in each room.

Do your research and get familiar with the neighborhood your thinking about moving to before looking into a specific place. Before making a final decision always walk though a second time, you might notice something you missed the first time around.

A place close to your social interests. Last thing you want to do after work, is drive 30 minutes again...

Make sure you can REALLY afford the place. Buy less than what you are qualified for. Don't forget to factor in property tax, insurance, PMI (if needed), and maintainance cost.

don't get overwhelmed. you don't have to fix everything in the first month or even the first year.

Set aside time to just get lost. Go for a walk. Explore the neighborhood. After that, you'll know if it's a good fit.

"Buy the worst house in the best neighborhood." is very sage advice I was given when I was very young. I was taught to over look cleaning / cosmetic issues when buying.

Focus on location: you can't change where you house is but you can change just about everything else.

buying house right now
considered everything above
can't wait to move in

For the past 2 years I have been renting under the guidance of not spending more on 1 month of rent than you earn in 1 week at work. Following this rule, I have never felt that I couldn't afford rent.

Also, living within biking distance of work is ideal. I have found no better way of waking up/unwinding than pedaling out a few miles on the bike to and from work!

Don't buy a house at the top of your price range. Once you move in, there will be so much you'll want to do to the house, and you'll want to furnish it, so you'll want to have a cushion so that you can afford to do some of that.

If you're buying a place alone, bring a friend along for the inspection. Its super intimidating to hear about all the potential disasters!

Courtesy of my real estate agent: a quick and dirty way to check the plumbing and water pressure- turn on the water in the sink and flush the toilet; if the water pressure in the sinks drops a lot (a little bit is okay), then buyer beware!

Don't buy a house close to a bar in Albany.

If possible, look at houses in the summer. During the snowy Albany winters, it can be difficult to tell if the roof needs repair, or if there are some external issues masked by snow (such as a rotting basement window).

When buying your first house be prepared for how emotional it becomes. Use your head, and don't let your heart take over... too much!

Pick a place with good schools even if you don't have kids.
Your resale value will be so much better

Check out your neighbors and their yard/house. If they dont care for their yard/home, they wont start because you moved in. Even if you think you have the perfect house, the habits of the neighbor could really kill your love affair with your house.

Judge the neighborhood more than the house. You can change one, not the other.

Advice from others: Don't let an ugly house scare you away. Bad cosmetics can be fixed with a little paint and elbow grease. It's the structural problems that are the most costly.

My advice: Do you own research. Don't just rely on real estate agents. Check the prices that homes sold for and what they are assessed for on the local town assessment website. Buy a house that is priced below what other homes sold for in the neighborhood. That way you already have some equity and have a little room to invest in fixing the place up.

Make sure you can really afford it! When figuring your monthly payment make sure you include taxes, of course, but also other things like contributing to a repair fund, garbage, commute, landscapers, heat costs, private school if you don't like the district.

definately location

Don't forget to figure the tax rate into the cost of owning a home. Two houses that cost the same amount to buy up front can end up with wildly different taxes. And pay attention to the quality of the school district, even if you don't have kids. It can definitely effect the resale value.

Location, Location, Location :-)

Best advice I ever got was to take a walk around the block at 10pm.. definitely helped me realize some less than friendly streets when I first went apartment hunting in Albany!

Once you buy your house enjoy it! You don't need to fix everything at once. There is no rush. Do one project at a time-don't stress...

Do not listen to advice about where to live.

In the book "MWF seeking BFF" by Rachel Bertsche there were some statistics that you are some high percentage more likely to become friends with people based on the miles they live from where you live. So I think that can be interpreted to mean that if you like the general vibe/feeling of a neighborhood that is good because you might end up friends with a lot of those people. Then, that's good because you can have block parties, or show up and ask for a cup of sugar.

Buy the least expensive house in the best neighborhood you can find.

The advice I received was buy the cheapest (I.e., "needs TLC big time!") house in the nicest neighborhood in town. That house has nowhere to go but up, value wise.

The advice I'd give is never move to a neighborhood/municipality that doesn't have a public library.

Like a lot of things in life, follow your gut (after you research the school system and do the commute, of course).

I agree with the advice above about making sure you can really afford it- not just the mortgage, but all the other necessities -- heat/electric, insurance, emergency fund, necessary repairs, etc. It adds up quickly, and buying within your means prevents a lot of financial stress!

The best advice I have about buying a house is to buy one of the cheapest houses in the neighborhood. If you buy a house that's significantly more expensive than the surrounding houses, your property value can only go down - but if you buy on the low end, you can always make improvements to bring the value up to the neighborhood average.

buy a 2 family house. Let your neighbors pay half your mortgage!

Find one of the worst houses on the street and buy that one - we did that and got a great deal on a house that is already worth much more than we paid for it with just a little fixing up

Do your research and find a house that's right for you, not just based on advise from your friends or family.

And if you're buying a house, find a good inspector.

The real price of a house is equal to the sticker price of the house plus the price of everything that has to be replaced. For instance, my $176,000 house needed a new roof, new appliances, and new toilets. So really, my $176,000 house cost me $186,000. If I had known the house would have cost me $186,000, I would not have bought it. I am happy with my house, but it cost me more than I expected.

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