Best Capital Region small town, village, or suburb for settling down?

chatham clock towerAmelia emails:

We are looking at starting the home search and wanted input from AOA. Where is the best small towns, villages and quaint and charming suburbs in the capital region to settle down and start a family? We are looking at staying approximately 20 minutes around Albany and want a more liberal town with low taxes. Is there such a thing?

Having a detailed wish list is a good idea, but the thing about picking a place to live is that you'll almost always end up having to make trade-offs. Want charming? That often means paying more. Want small? Maybe that means living farther out. And so on.

We've come to think that having a wish list is a good way of prioritizing what you want -- and what you're willing to compromise on. Because there will be compromises.

So... got a suggestion for Amelia? Please share! Non-redeemable bonus points for a short explanation for your suggestions. And even if you don't have a specific place in mind, suggestions on how to go about figuring out the right place can be helpful.

Comments

Great tool to compare taxes - I cry if I use it too much when I see how much I'm paying. Bonus that you can also put in the cost of the house you're looking at to see what taxes you would pay in Clifton Park versus Colonie, etc.

http://seethroughny.net/benchmarking-ny/#!

I don't know of a similar tool available for political leanings. :)

From personal experience... look for property in Green Island. Quiet town with holiday parades, typed monthly newsletters from the mayor, easy access to I-787 and Alternate Route 7, and those $25/month electricity bills will win you over in nothing flat.

This may exceed your 20 minute commute requirement, but Ballston Spa seems to meet many of your wishes.

In a lot of ways you can think of Albany as a small town. Each of the neighborhoods has its own feel and sense of community, but you still have all of the advantages of living in a city. While the taxes are high, our houses are cheaper than surrounding towns - you can get a lot for your money - which usually evens you out when it comes to your mortgage payment. There are passionate people in every neighborhood working to make the area better for everyone. Our town has nearly every type of house you can imagine from brownstones to colonials to ranches and capes. And while each neighborhood has similar styles of home, I can't think of anywhere that has that bland homogenized look of some of our suburbs. Albany has history, charm and convenience.

And when I mention convenience - it's on the big stuff that you do miss when you're in a small town:

Typically snow removal is done in a timely manner. When we get hit by a foot or more, we're crippled like everyone else, but for 1-11 inches, no other town is as quick as Albany is at salting and clearing the road.

CDTA, baby! Our bus system is excellent and it still runs when we have a foot of snow. Want to have a few drinks at the Speakeasy? Do it and your friendly CDTA driver will get you home safely. Want to go to a concert at the Palace and don't want to park? Take the bus!

DGS is AWESOME. Seriously, for all Albany gets wrong, it gets services RIGHT. Garbage pick up and single-source recycling - for free! Hazardous garbage? No problem, the landfill has designated drop days - for free! Need to get rid of your couch? Lawn mower? Anything huge? Call DGS, they'll pick it up - for free! (Ok, I do realize that our hefty taxes do fund this).

When the City Clerk's office sends you a license renewal notice for your dog license & you indicate your dog has passed away, the individuals in that office take it upon themselves to send you a sympathy card.

Water. Yes, water. Our water is the tastiest water in the Capital region - maybe even beyond.

Small businesses - the big box stores skirt the edge of town, leaving the main part of the city full of independent coffee shops, locally owned restaurants and all sorts of unique little places.

We're close to the airport, train station and have a nice mix of interstate options that encircle the town.

There are all kinds of people here. I love living in such a diverse community full of interesting folks.

Most people who live in Albany work here too. In the past six years my job has taken me from Glens Falls to Hudson and I've stuck it out in Albany. To me, it's the only town in the Capital Region I'd want to live.

When I think of "left leaning", "charming" and "close to Albany", I think of Delmar. Not sure of the tax situation though.

Waterford

Sorry. There is no such thing as low taxes in the state of New York.

Thank you, @valerae - You nailed it. Albany has a lot of strengths that go overlooked while it's warts continue to get played up to an unfair level (And I admit I'm partially to blame from time to time).

I'd take the New Scotland or Western Pine Hills neighborhoods over many of the nearby small towns any day of the week.

Something else to consider when comparing taxes: What services do you get in that town/county?

For example: Clifton Park doesn't have it's own police department (but it's served by the State Police).
Duanesburg has no police department and very few municipal services.
Taxes in most of the local cities include a professional fire department, police, trash collection, etc.

My small town picks are Delmar, Altamont, Voorheesville. You'll definitely make trade offs in housing prices and sizes in any of those, but they are sweet and close to Albany. I'm not sure we have quaint and small suburbs...
Some Albany and Troy neighborhoods also have small-town vibes, so that's another thing to think about.

The Village of Round Lake, if you like a tightknit community, and ornate, victorian gingerbread houses. This hidden place is painfully adorable. Google says the drive time to downtown Albany is about 28 minutes

Sounds a lot like what we were looking for. We wanted a walkable neighborhood where we wouldn't have to get into the car for every little thing, a good school district, cute and small older houses (not the 2000's mcmansion style). Our first pick would have been Delmar but the houses were out of our price range. We ended up in Old Niskayuna, which we love except for one thing - it's 30 minutes to Albany. The commute really eats into our days. Taxes are not low in Nisky (or in Delmar for that matter) but both are definitely liberal-leaning.

There are lots of adorable places a little further out - Ballston Spa was already mentioned, I'd add Altamont, Valatie - but they're too long of a commute for us to consider (esp if it's on the Northway). As for the Waterford/Cohoes/Green Island area, we considered that too but decided to prioritize the best school districts. If you're less concerned about that, those would definitely merit a close look because of the convenient access to Albany. Good luck with the search!

Thank you Valerae for having some pride for Albany! There are way too many haters out there who use and abuse this city and you have hit the nail on the head in terms of what is GREAT about it here!! Thank you again!!

Not sure I understand the hypocritical request for a "liberal" town yet wants low taxes? I think I know what you want though as my wife and I moved here some 10 years ago with similar thoughts. Pretty much travelled the ENTIRE area and were more concerned with a "little town" feel rather than LOW taxes which you will find is a complete OXYMORON in NYS. To save you ALOT of gas look a little bit at Chatham, Ballston Spa, Saratoga and maybe Altamont. Otherwise u\your best bet would be Mass for Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge, West Stockbridge, Great Barrington, or Williamstown. They are ALL more than 20 mins away. I too eventually "settled" for a street car neighborhood in Albany with HIGH taxes but convenient to some things. These people that love Albany and talk about these great areas I don't think have really ever lived elsewhere. I still laugh to myself when my wife and I drove with map in hand looking for the "Village of Colonie" and we were on Wolf Road and asked the ONLY pedestrian for 5 miles where this quaint "village" was. To our surprise he looked at us dumbfounded and waved his hands around and said "this is it" as we rolled our eyes past strip malls, gas stations and car washes. No you WILL NOT find what you are looking for here! Good luck

My wife and I are raising our two kids in Center Square along with dozens of other families. There are 12 kids on our block alone! Center Square has a low crime rate, available parking and all the services you are looking for coupled with the convenience of near by stores and restaurants. Fishing and tennis in Washington Park, ice skating on the Plaza and swimming in Lincoln Park are all benefits to living down town. Lastly, you will not find better architecture or a more closely knit community then in Center Square

Nobody has really touched upon your "starting a family" element, which equates to a possible need for good daycare and schools. Do your homework on school districts - they will be the largest part of your tax bill - and vary GREATLY from place to place.

Delmar. It's very walkable and has a bus line into Albany so one car per two adults works easily, which is a huge moneysaver. In my experience the folks who live in the older neighborhoods tend to be liberal and have moved to town for its community benefits, while those living in newer and McMansion neighborhoods are more frequently less liberal and moved here for prestige/ school district.

I went with Latham/North Colonie. It's feels like it's smack dab in the middle of the Cap Region (so Saratoga, Albany, Troy, etc. are +/- 20-ish minutes away). Lots of grocery stores, shopping, and restaurants, but not too much noise. Nothing is really all that far (Close to 87, 155, 2, 7, etc). The house prices are a touch higher than in Albany proper, but the taxes are lower than Albany (Although as Valerae points out, check what your taxes get you. In Latham garbage pick up is not included, but the snow removal has been fantastic compared to Albany & Troy).

I've heard the North Colonie School districts are some of the best in the area if you're planning on/have kids, but that only really impacted my purchase decision due to easy resale value (I like knowing that it'd be easy to get out of this house in the future, if the need should arise). I'd say that might be the only detractor for you - Latham is a very popular town for real estate now, so the majority of the properties are not on the market for very long. My own house was on the market for less than a week.

You might also do well with getting a buyer's realtor who really knows the area to give their input on areas based on your criteria and little pockets within townships.

I agree with everything Valerae said, but would add that Albany also has great schools. There are so many more choices than in the surrounding suburbs and your (future) kids can get a great education.

Hi Amelia - I live in the Niskayuna/Schenectady (upper union area) and I love the walkability. I would also mention that I'm a full time real estate agent and would love to help if you have specific questions. www.facebook/EmilyModanRealtor
Best of luck!

Howabout Menands? The village is super quaint with beauitful homes- its own police/library/town/etc. Parades, special services. Also, North Colonie Schools and the LOWEST taxes around. Can't beat it.

I grew up in Albany, off Delaware. However, I chose to move to the little village of Castleton. The village is quaint, with older houses that are very affordable. It has a Norman Rockwell feel. On Halloween there are actually children Trick or treating, and people sit on their porches in anticipation. Taxes in the village are not bad, but get worse in the outskirts as you get more land. You can walk to the library and post office (yes we still have one for now). There is a Stewarts AND a Jiffy Mart in walking distance as well, for ice cream cones or a gallon of milk. The schools are great, and there is a town day camp that is wonderful as well as affordable.

I love the all of the Capital district. I work in Troy. If you are looking for low taxes and rural, the I 88 corridor is the place. This includes Duanesburg, Princetown, Delanson, Coblesklill, Schoharie, Middleburgh, Sharon Springs and Carlisle. My commute is 1 hour (crazy) but we have peace quiet and space. We are sorely in need of liberals and anti-frackers here. If your are up to it join the renaissance!!

Valerae took the words out of my mouth (and wrote/spoke them far more eloquently than I could've). We bought a house in a charming neighborhood that is within a five mile radius of every thing we like/need/enjoy. I'm not from here originally and have lived in various Albany neighborhoods throughout the years; I can't imagine living anywhere else in the area. Sure the state/city taxes make me feel like a total chump, but since I hopelessly love New York I am stuck paying them.

Menands! I rented there and loved it. Low taxes, for sure. And great schools. Not sure about the politics, but if you're simply looking for liberal, just stay south of the Mohawk River (ie. out of Clifton Park). That solves your commute time requirement as well.

I add my vote to those who like Albany. Not a small town or village of course, but a city of neighborhoods. I've lived in villages--Ballston Spa and Round Lake--and in Saratoga. All had their charms. If not for the commute we might have stayed.

We moved to Albany many years ago. I walked to work downtown. Commuting costs: $0.

We like Albany for many other reasons besides the elimination of the commute. My Pine Hills neighborhood has a village-like feel, but there are many more amenities (library, food market, pharmacy, fast food, pubs and restaurants, art exhibits, a college, banks, church, dry cleaners, etc) within a five-minute walk than in other places we lived. Expanding to a five-minute drive, there are superb health care resources, museums, theater, and a fair amount of shopping. Traffic delays are rare. Our neighborhood is safe and stable, and our neighbors are pleasant.

The political environment is deep blue.

What's not to like?

Altamont is definitely a charming little village. We know several people who live there and rave about it...except for being at least 10 minutes away from everything. I would guess it's a 30 minute commute to downtown Albany. It's in the Guilderland school district, which we have been pretty much happy with. I cannot comment on liberal - don't pay attention and don't care. I feel like taxes are expensive for the town of Guilderland (of which Altamont is a part of, I think) but sometimes you get what you pay for. Real estate should be cheaper out in Altamont as opposed to in Guilderland...but the Altamont realtors might try to convince you otherwise. :)

I've lived in the Albany area for 38 years. I've seen the area get built up quite a bit in that time. I don't suggest living in the City of Albany. As with most cities, there are nice neighborhoods with expensive homes, however to get around you have to venture out. The police are useless and snotty, don't expect much help from them. Pot holes are a big problem and snow removal is a joke. Traffic lights are put in areas where they are not needed and most are timed so they just tend to slow down traffic instead of regulate it. Delmar can be nice if you can ignore the snooty people that live there. Saratoga is nice but is getting expensive and the Northway is hell if you are on it at the wrong time. I suggest the Guilderland area. It's not perfect and it's not cheap but a good alternative if you work in Albany or Schenectady.

Don't bother with Delmar. The taxes are horrible, and there's a new McMansion neighborhood of people with a tremendous sense of entiltlement springing up every month.

With the exception of the Jan 31 1965 fire i have lived on Madison Ave in the Pine Hills. There have been a lot of changes with the additon of student housing, and expansion of St. Rose. We used to have many beauty shops, a shoe maker, tailor, two bake shops, two ice cream parlors, two dry cleaners, and a public school on this block. V.I. was down the block,and across the street, and we lost two great deli, (Joe's was the heartbreaking one when it closed,and became a college bar Michael's)! We have the Towne Cleaners, a laundrymat, Isabel's Beauty & her wonderful son Sammy's barshop, a dentist office, Kim's Vietnamese, a Madison Wine, and liquor, an engineer's business, Duke's barber shop, and soon Bread & Honey bakery ,and cafe ( yippee, i can't wait)! Madison is right on the busline, and within walkking distance of many bars, restaurants, colleges, CVS, The Madison Theatre, Steamer 10 Playhouse, Price Chopper, banks, Cafe Madison, Juniors, The Point, St. Peter's Dental, and childrens clinic, a tatoo parlor, and thankfully division 1 police station for our safety! Recently the police just started walking a beat again , after many years! The only downsides of living here are the nights when the students do their pub crawls, and the lack of free garbage pcik up on this block , because it is commercial. We did get free garbage pick up for the homeowner apartments, but a big apartment house took advantage ,and kept putting out their trash! My home has an attached garage,and back yard so luckily parking is not the issue it is for those less fortunate. We have had many offers to sell, but thley wanted it at assessed value! Do i look like i fell off a Christmas tree ? Everythings is for sale (AT THE RIGHT PRICE) . Maybe someday we will find a nice place to move to, but right now our neighbors won't even consider the huge offer from a commercial developer to sell this block!

Amelia, check out this house, 8 Lincoln Ave in Albany: http://crmls.paragonrels.com/publink/default.aspx?GUID=f74adb4a-9aeb-474e-9852-66ceddfb1656&Report=Yes
It's Walk Score page includes a Google street view w/ mothers & their babies in strollers: http://walkscore.com/score/8-lincoln-ave-albany-ny-12206
Very close to Honest Weight Food Co-op, downtown fun & politics, NYS Museum, Washington park (free events & shows), theaters, playgrounds, colleges and other places & people for your future kids to learn from outside of the classroom. Greater proximity --> greater likelihood you'll run into and take advantage of the opportunities, plus save on gas & time and car-pollute less. Low price --> low taxes. Tell me a place of such great value is not what your family would consider a candidate for "Home!"

I'm looking to purchase a rental income home near Albany Med. Grew up in Latham, currently live in Loudonville and want to avoid this trap: https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc1/t1/p403x403/1932379_10151870207186286_271253306_n.jpg.

The Village of Kinderhook (Dutch meaning "children's corner") is drenched in early American history - and the preservation of it's proud heritage is still seen in the architecture today. The birthplace of the first American born president - Martin Van Buren; legend of Ichabod Crane and the Sleepy Hollow.

Quaint, historic, and charming. Canopy tree lined streets. Small, unique, independent businesses. Farms, orchards, lakes, and waterfalls all VERY close by.

I agree with a lot of the comments, but thought I could add this useful bit.
Keep in mind that the types of commutes vary widely. A commute up/down the northway is stop and go heavy traffic and for me is to be avoided at all costs. That would eliminate the otherwise good choices of Ballston Spa, Round lake etc. Coming from the East of Albany is probably the easiest and I have read great things about the Burden Lake area for years, though you will have some traffic on the road that goes out there at "rush hour".
Guilderland, Altamont, and the I-88 corridor will sometimes have backups on 90 where it hits the tolls, but it usually isn't too bad or too long. North of Albany (787) is pretty easy, South of Albany on the Thruway is super easy, and I am not too familiar with the South of ALbany via 9w commutes.

Again we were looking for a "quaint" town with a "liberal" feel....;think Brattelboro Vermont, Northampton MA, Burlington VT, Montpellier VT, Portland Maine, Cambrdige MA etc ....NOT LATHAM NY!!! Are people around here really that disconnected from the real world out there? I travelled to Kinderhook on similar advice 10 years ago and found a real estate agent and a gas station. Latham and Guilderland and Colonie are VAST EXTENSIVE wastelands of suburban SPRAWL! I think people are missing the question that was placed before us! Again YOU WILL NOT find what you are asking for in the Capital Region and if you do please FILL ME IN on where this place exists. Back to Albany though....there are a handful of areas that slightly meet your criteria...some of which are safe and clean. I have lived in this "blah" place for 11 years now and have come to enjoy some aspects of life here...the least of your worries will be the snow plowing, police, and garbage collection which are all excellent despite what others are saying! Delmar and Loudonville are as close to a Twilight zone suburban experience as you could ever find. These areas are talked up by the local real estate industry and not for your benefit. Please everyone go back to the original question. Clifton Park is NOT QUAINT, NOT LIBERAL, NOT WALKABLE, NOT WHAT THIS PERSON IS LOOOKING FOR!!!!!

You realize the reason why taxes are low is because of generally the republican governments in these towns? You can't have your cake and eat it too.

I would like to recommend Scotia. It is a quaint village with a Main Street that is largely still intact. It is walkable with a one-screen movie theater, a few restaurants, a grocery store and a beautiful park along the Mohawk river. When we moved to this area from the city we wanted to live somewhere we could walk to amenities, had a good school district, and had houses we could afford. We looked in Delmar, Old Niskayuna, and ultimately settled in Scotia. And now, four years later we couldn't be happier and are completely confident that we made the right decision. As for the commute to Albany, I do it everyday and it takes 25-30 minutes, but it's not too bad.

The City of Albany. Good schools, including wonderful elementary school options like a dual-language program and three magnet schools. Plus full-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

We moved here 10 years ago from NYC. I grew up in Rochester and thought we might find a quaint suburb like Pittsford or Fairport on the Erie Canal. No such thing exists here. Chatham or Ballston Spa are the closest I have found, but living in an urban environment and not driving 30+ minutes each way to work were important to us.

Albany has great neighborhoods. The Upper Madison area has everything you need in walking distance, including a grocery store, pharmacy, library, restaurants, a great coffee shop and awesome locally-owned movie theater. Honestly, I don't understand why anyone would not choose to live here. It is a wonderful, warm, and welcoming community.

I would have to echo the people who mentioned western Pine Hills in Albany. If you like quaint check out homes on S. Pine or Manning Blvd. in Albany. Another really nice area that is quaint and walkable is the Helderberg neighborhood in Albany. They have a highly ranked elementary school, new library, lots of restaurants and convenience stores that a person can walk to. If you are looking for a more upscale area, I would hands down suggest looking west of Manning Blvd. and south of Western Ave. in Albany. That's the Buckingham neighborhood. The homes there are beautiful kept immaculately and the people are friendly. There are less stores to walk to, but it's a little quieter. The taxes are high in Albany, but my gasoline expenses are $40 a month and I have a 5 minute commute (20 if I walk). Try to find a person in the suburbs who pays that little.

Well now you've piqued our interest, Amelia, it'd be great to know where you're coming from, do you have kids, a partner or housemate?
Hey I love Albany and I live here but can grudgingly accept that it's not for everyone.
If I was you I'd take a driving tour from Delmar to Voorheesville to Altamont, then come back to town via Guilderland, and see what you think. There's some cuteness on that route.
Oh and you might need to suck up the low taxes thing. I'm not sure there's anywhere with low taxes I'd want to live, but that's a very subjective thing and I'm not gonna SHOUT about it.
And if you're really looking for some amateur life coaching, I'd ask if you'd considered renting for a while first. There's no substitute for meeting people, watching the local news (and reading AOA) and getting the feel of the place. I'd avoid the big corporate rental complexes but again that's subjective, someone else doing snow removal sounds pretty good about now.
Good luck, and welcome!

Voorheesville or Ballston Spa

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