Items tagged with 'home owning'

Advice for dealing with house's water line problem?

water line valveShawn emails:

First Thanksgiving in the new house and the main water shutoff in the basement started to leak. It is a slow leak at the moment and a bucket has doing the job. Wondering if any readers have had experiences in Albany with having the water shutoff at the curb box to repair the main water shutoff? I called the City and was told that I would be responsible for any repairs of the curb box shutoff if there are any issues when the water is turned off.
Old house, snow on the ground, cold temperatures . . . the price tag I'm envisioning is increasing as I write this if we run into any problems. Any experiences, thoughts, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated...

This kind of stuff can be complicated (see an earlier question about a sewer problem), expensive, and stressful.

Got advice for Shawn? Please share.

A good company/person for drywall work?

wall with hole in itSean emails:

I live in Albany and have an upcoming renovation project and would love nothing more than to pay someone else to do the drywall work. In the past, my wife and I enjoyed learning + doing it the first time, grumbled our way through it the second time... and are now loathing the prospect of having to do it a third time. Would any of your readers happen to know a person or company they could recommend that might be able to spare us from this misery and gladly take our money??? Please please please!

Sometimes the lesson of a DIY project is that you shouldn't do it yourself. And there's nothing wrong with that.

So, got a suggestion or advice for Sean and his wife? Please share!

A contractor for mold remediation?

Thumbnail image for wall with hole in itJessica emails:

We just bought a 2nd property to flip for apartments, and the basement ceiling beams are covered with multiple types of mold. We were initially going to do the clean up ourselves, but my allergies can't handle it (even when using a respirator). This is something I want to bring in a professional for. Can the AOA readers recommend any good mold remediation companies? We want someone reliable and affordable.

We wonder if there's any sort of certification or licensing for companies that do this. You know, can anyone call themselves a "mold remediator?" (Here's the state Department of Health's page on mold -- it has some basic background info.)

Got a suggestion or advice for Jessica? Please share!

A good HVAC contractor?

generic ductworkSean emails:

We just opened up a wall between our Kitchen and Dining room and the new view and copious amount of daylight is spectacular!!.. well, except for that ugly metal heating duct. So with that in mind, I was wondering if any of your readers could recommend someone who could help relocate that duct-work to somewhere much less visible. Thanks!

Having never done something like this, we're curious if you can just call a typical heating/cooling contractor for something like this, or whether it requires a company with a different set of skills.

Got advice for Sean? Please share!

Contractor for matching historical building style?

troy washington park autumn ivyOmar emails:

I'm buying a victorian-style house in Troy soon and would like to have a garage built. I would like it to match the style of the neighborhood so I'm envisioning a cinder block garage, possibly with a brick facade. Can anyone recommend a good mason or whoever does this kind of work?

We had a similar questions earlier this year, but it was focused on indoor carpentry work. As we said then, there are so much old houses in this area, there have got to be companies that can building something to fit with the style.

Got a suggestion for Omar? Please share!

Suggestions for dealing with lead abatement?

wall and baseboardSandra emails:

We just bought a house, and discovered that there is very badly chipping lead paint on a couple of radiators in our house. Could some of your readers recommend a good lead abatement specialist to come and paint this for us? We had also considered sandblasting and powder coating them, but that is looking like a lot to organize: A plumber to uninstall and reinstall, someone to move very heavy objects, the sandblaster, plus it is getting cold and we don't want to be without heat for the next month. It just got overwhelming. We have a nine-month-old baby in the house so we want to make sure that it is done well. The house is almost all wallpaper and finished wood, so lead isn't a huge concern in the house otherwise. Thanks!

There are a lot of old houses in this area, so there are certainly people who have also encountered this issue.

Got a suggestion for Sandra? Please share!

Help with kitchen renovation design?

kitchen tools in holderM. messages:

We are thinking about doing a kitchen renovation. Got the contractor, got a "look" picked out, but kind of clueless about the actual design process. Has anyone had a good experience with a designer, either through one of those kitchen renovation one stop shops, or an independent person?

We're always a little amazed by how talented designers can look at a situation and see solutions/angles/ideas non-designers might miss. And, sure, hiring one will probably be more expensive. But when you think about how much a kitchen gets used -- and how frustrating a design flaw can be over the years -- it can be worth the extra money.

So, got a suggestion for M.? Please share!

A good roofing company?

albany rowhouse roofsThis one comes from AOA Mary. We'll blockquote. Because tradition.

We're looking for someone to replace our roof. It's a flat, rubber roof on an historic home. Anyone have suggestions for roofing companies?

There are a lot of roofing companies out there. But we're curious if there are companies that specialize in non-shingle roofing.

Have a suggestion for Mary? Please share!

Recommendations for hardwood floor refinishing?

hardwood floor sectionCourtney emails:

We've recently purchased a Victorian home approaching it's 150th birthday! We'd like to have the original hardwood floors refinished and restored to the beauty underneath years of use - can readers recommend someone for the job that is knowledgeable about homes built in the 1800s or specializes in restoration?

We're curious if there's a difference between refinishing 150-year-old hardwood floors and, say, 50-year-old hardwood floors (or younger). You know, are there a lot of quirks of very old floors that make them different to work on?

Got a suggestion for Courtney? Please share! And non-redeemable bonus points for a quick line or two about why you're suggesting that company or person.

A good real estate agent for Center Square?

Google Map of 42.654297,-73.764425

Center Square Resident emails:

I am looking for suggestions about a realtor for Center Square in Albany. I am looking into possibly selling my house. There are lots of realtors, however I would like to get some suggestions from people who have had a realtor sell their house in Center Square.

CSR's question touches on a topic we've been kind of curious about: Are certain real estate agents better/worse at selling/helping to buy in specific neighborhoods? Or, to put it another way, can a real estate agent's experience with a neighborhood help you sell your house faster, or find the right house, or get a better deal there?

For a neighborhood such as Center Square -- which is is a bit unusual for the Capital Region, given the neighborhood's housing stock and density -- it seems plausible that agent experience could theoretically make a difference.

So, got a suggestion for CSR? Please share! And if you have thoughts about the specific agents/specific neighborhoods topic, we'd be interested to hear them.

Earlier on AOA: A good real estate agent for selling a house?

Recommendations for a complicated/big plumbing job?

albany sewer hole coverAshley emails with what sounds like a tough situation involving a possibly broken sewer line, an improperly installed sump pump, and a flooded basement (yikes). Her full situation/question has a bunch of details and is after the jump, but here's a clip:

[The plumbing company] was happy to tell me they would have a technician come out to take a look and that we should focus on the "pipe being broken" and nothing else. All red flags rise. Do I trust a company that happily installed a sump pump to violate the city's code and WORSEN problems for homeowners like me that are suffering with overwhelming amounts of storm water in the city sew systems? No. Do I trust a company that happily wants to dig trenches in the front yard before diagnosing the issue? No. ...
Of course, we have a lot of research to do - were repairs ever made in 2007, gather estimates, weigh our options.
Here's where I need help. This is a big job. The city's website is a shell of a site and offers NO information on who to call or where to start. We tried calling an information number but there was no answer.
What have other residents done in this situation? Who do they recommend?

As mentioned, her whole message is post jump and includes some important details.

Ashley says she's only owned her house for about a month and this sounds like a stressful situation. So suggestions or recommendations could be a big help.

Got advice? Please share!

(there's more)

Advice on renting out a house?

green monopoly house flickr woodleywonderworks ccChris emails:

We're thinking about moving out of state and renting our house in the town of Bethlehem. Can any of your readers recommend a property manager who can be trusted to select good renters and generally do a good job of managing?

Just to expand a bit on the question from Chris, we're curious if people have thoughts/advice on renting out a house in general: property management company vs. no property management company, selecting tenants yourself vs. leaving that to a manager, and so on.

Got a suggestion for Chris? Please share!

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks (CC BY 2.0)

Residential rooftop solar options?

rooftop solar panels

Mary messages:

I am thinking of going solar on my home... do you have any information on which company, or companies, offer the best deals and have proven most reliable in the Albany area?

We're very curious to hear people's thoughts and suggestions on this question. The rooftop solar industry has been booming recently thanks in large part to a steep drop in the price solar panels. And just anecdotally, we've noticed panels showing up on a bunch of local houses and businesses.

There seem to be roughly two models for getting panels on a house: buy the panels outright and have the installed -- or pay little or nothing upfront for installation, and then buy the power from the panels at a fixed rate from the installing company.

So, experiences or thoughts for Mary? Please share!

Experience with home radon mitigation?

foundation brickCarl asks via Twitter:

Hey @alloveralbany, know you just did an ask, but can you ask about [experience] with radon mitigators? #askingforafriend #justincase

Quick background: Radon is a radioactive gas that's released from rock and soil, and in some cases, it can get trapped by a house, especially the basement. Sometimes the levels are high enough that it's a health threat (radon exposure can cause lung cancer). Here's an EPA page with radon info.

There are test kits for radon, and you can get one for under $10 from New York State. In cases where radon might be collecting at dangerous levels in a house, modifications can be made to mitigate the problem. Here's a state Department of Health checklist for questions to ask contractors.

So, all that said, anyone have a suggestion or experience to share with Carl? Please share!

Renting vs. buying?

green monopoly house flickr woodleywonderworks cc

Jessica sends us a message:

I'd be curious to see what people thought of renting vs buying in Albany. Which one is cheaper, maybe a poll of how many rent vs buy?

The renting vs. buying question is complicated, in large part because each person and situation is different. And while it isn't necessarily a local question, local factors do play a big role: housing prices, rents, taxes, and so on.

There are a lot of savvy people here -- so, got some advice or ways to think about this question for Jessica? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Best Capital Region small town, village, or suburb for settling down?
+ Capital Region median home prices 2013
+ A good real estate agent for selling a house?
+ A good real estate agent?

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks (CC BY 2.0)

A landscape designer for a backyard makeover?

generic landscaped yard areaChuckD emails:

It's time we did something about the backyard. But we're not interested in some HGTV thing with all parts sourced from a Big Box DIY store. We're looking for a creative designer/contractor who will design and build a natural backyard space to include replacement of a ratty deck, a rattier wood fence, inclusion of an existing inground pool, two existing happy doggies, and most importantly, an awareness and interest in those gray areas between indoors and out and work it into our passive solar house. Can anyone recommend someone who will think outside The Box and help us realize our ideas? Cuz we're clueless.

Even on a small project there can be a big difference between what the typical person can scratch out on the back of an envelope and what a professional designer can put together. And a landscape designer might be able to lend some helpful expertise on the sort of plants and other features that will make the new backyard easier to maintain over the long run.

So, got a suggestion for Chuck? Please share!

A good contractor for installing gutters?

gutter downspoutTerence asked via Twitter:

Any chance you could post a question to your blog for recs on local residential seamless gutter installers?

Gutters are one of those things that might seem like kind of a boring thing for your house. And, you know, they're not exactly a "wow" kind of home improvement. But they can make a difference in keeping water out of your basement or away from your foundation.

So... got a suggestion for Terence? Please share!

Suzanne and Erik's North Chatham homestead

open house Chatham Farmhouse composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by David Hopper

Suzanne and Erik's home story is one of transitioning from urban to rural, from a large house to a smaller one, from a life of convenience to a life of homesteading.

A year ago, the couple and their two young boys moved from their large home near Schenectady's Central Park to a smaller home on several acres in the northern Columbia County countryside.

I had a chance to visit with the family -- as well as their 19 chickens and 4 alpacas -- and hear about what it's meant for them to live in a rural part of the Capital Region, where their land is as important to them as their home itself. The family brings a unique perspective, with Suzanne's background as a biologist and Erik's background in engineering. They take a passionate, thoughtful, and intentional approach to their home and the land surrounding it.

(there's more)

A company for installing house insulation?

spray foam insulation installationAnon emails:

I'm looking for a competent, reasonably-priced spray foam insulation contractor for my home. I need to have old cellulose insulation removed from parts of my basement, and spray foam installed throughout the basement. Thank you

Based on what we've seen on, um, HGTV and a little bit of what we've read, spray foam insulation is said to do the job very well, better than other types of insulation. It also looks like it's a whole process, with installers wearing ventilated suits and whatnot.

Got a suggestion for Anon? Please share!

photo: Flickr user dunktanktechnician (cc)

A good contractor for tile?

tile backsplashLaura emails:

I am planning on selecting and installing a custom backsplash in my kitchen this spring. Can the readers suggest a company or a contractor we should consider working with?

It's been a while since we've had a kitchen/bathroom contractor question.

So, got a company to suggest? Please share. Non-redeemable bonus points for a quick sentence about why you're suggesting that company.

(And we're guessing someone might suggest Laura try doing it herself -- which is great, but please include where/how Laura might get some help in learning how to do so.)

A good house exterior painter?

peeling house paintChuck emails:

We wonder if you could ask your readers for recommendations on a good house painter for the exterior of brownstone-type row houses. Someone who can also do minor repairs on the wooden cornices. Summer painting season will be here before long and we'd like to line up the job now.

Getting the jump on this sort of stuff now is a good idea because sometimes the schedules of contractors fill up fast during the spring and summer.

So... got a suggestion for Chuck and his house? Please share!

Contractor for a historic home?

staircase from sideJune asks via Twitter:

Hi guys at @alloveralbany. Looking to repair inside stairs in downtown Albany brick row house. Built c. 1890s. Any suggestions?
Contractors pls. Definitely more than I can do. Would prefer to repair rather than replace depending on cost. Tks!

We've had handyman and contractor questions before, but it's been a few years. And we're curious if maybe there's someone with specific experience doing repairs/renovations in older homes. Example: Maybe someone who would be better at restoring something that's true the house's original design, if that's what June is after.

There a bunch of century-old (or older) homes in this area, so we're guessing there are people with this sort of experience.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

A good real estate agent for selling a house?

Thumbnail image for real estate sign porchVal emails (emphasis added):

A couple of years ago you did an Ask AoA about real estate agents. The majority of responses were from buyers - I'd love to see Ask AoA recommendations of realtors representing sellers, preferably ones familiar with Albany.

Real estate agents are just like any other profession, and some agents have different skills or strengths compared to other agents. And we get the feeling, anecdotally, that some agents are a bit more aggressive in strategy and pricing for selling a house.

So, got an agent to suggest to Val? Please share! And non-redeemable bonus points for a quick explanation about why that agent is good for sellers.

Capital Region median home prices 2013

capital region median home sale price 2013-2005

Capital Region median home sale price 2013-2005.

The Capital Region housing market approached its pre-recession level in 2013, according to data out today from the Greater Capital Association of Realtors.

The median price for homes sold in the Capital Region was $195,000 in 2013, up more than 1.5 percent compared to the year before according to GCAR's numbers. And it's the first time the median sale price has risen above the pre-recession crest of $193,000 in 2007.*

The local market also posted 9221 closed sales in 2013, up almost 12 percent from the total in 2012. GCAR says 2013's total was the highest since 2007.

Another sign of a rising tide in the housing market: The average number of days it took to sell a house was 90 in 2013, the lowest number since 2008, according to GCAR. (That figure was 98 days in 2012, and 102 in 2011.)

(* That's not accounting for inflation. Depending on how you account for inflation, the price would have had to be around $216,000 to equal the 2007 mark.)

A more detailed look at the numbers is after the jump.

(there's more)

A good painter, especially for spaces with high ceilings?

Thumbnail image for generic used paintbrushJona asks via Twitter:

Hey @alloveralbany! know of any local painters in the Troy area?
Brownstone = high ceilings, looking for references, available in January, insured (this is all new to us).

We had a similar question last year, but things change. And maybe there are some suggestions for Troy-area painters, or painters with particular expertise in working on spaces with high ceilings.

Got a suggestion for Jona? Please share!

Be it known, this chimney has been swept

pete looker chimney sweep receipt val

Here's the receipt in large format.

Some fun follow-up on Val's question from a month ago about finding a chimney sweep. She posts on Twitter:

Thanks to my Ask @alloveralbany inquiry we had our chimney swept by Pete Looker who left this excellent receipt. [above]
I wish I was home to meet him. As the other commenters on @alloveralbany noted he did indeed wear a stovepipe hat!

And the judges award the win to Pete Looker, for execution and style!

After seeing this receipt, we were thinking we might enjoy those ridiculously long drugstore receipts if they had passages from Dickens or some sort of other Victorian literature on the back. Heck, some of them are long enough, you might be able to fit a whole chapter.

(Thanks, Val!)

Alicia's charming Schenectady home

open house upper union composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Dave Hopper

One of my favorite things about living in the Capital District is all the corners of our area to discover, even after living here most of my life.

Alicia lives in an area of Schenectady that I'd driven through in the past, but never knew much about. The Upper Union neighborhood is charming and grand -- wide boulevards lined by old trees, stately homes, and a mix of residents who have spent their lives there and younger people moving in. When I visited Alicia on a Saturday afternoon, the voice of the announcer at the Union College football game could be heard echoing off the houses.

Alicia's home reflects the history of the area -- a neighborhood built around the beginning of the 20th century, in part for General Electric executives and Union professors. Alicia has honored the home's past and at the same time created a vibrant and welcoming space.

(there's more)

A company for air duct cleaning?

heating cooling ventElisabeth asks via Twitter:

Hey @alloveralbany -- can your readers recommend a good company that cleans heating / AC ducts? Thanks!

We were kind of skeptical of these services, but then we saw ducts get cleaned on one of those home renovation shows on HGTV and... there was a lot of stuff in there, which makes sense -- why wouldn't air ducts accumulate dust and dirt. (That said, it wasn't enough to prompt us to actually pick up the phone and schedule someone to do it. Oh, inertia.)

So, got a suggestion for Elisabeth? Please share!

A company for chimney sweeping and repair?

chimneys silhouetted by Flickr jayneanddVal asks via Twitter:

Ok, so thinking ahead, I don't see an Ask AOA on chimney sweeps. I'd love a name of someone in Alb who cleans & does masonry.

This may sound like one of those jobs from 1890 or something (and, you know, it was... and it wasn't also chim chim cher-ee). But it can be important for a modern chimney that still gets used. Residue builds up over time and it can be a safety issue.

So... got a suggestion for Val? Please share.

photo: Flickr user jayneandd (cc)

A company to remove asbestos?

house mechanicals pipes ductEmily emails with follow-up -- and a question (emphasis added):

A few weeks ago, someone asked for recommendations for a reputable home inspector who specialized in old homes (they specified farmhouses). As luck would have it, a few weeks later my husband and I found ourselves needing a reputable home inspector with experience looking at old homes.
Your readers' recommendations were unbelievably spot-on. The inspector we chose (Peter Shaming of Excelsior Home Inspections if I may be specific) was incredibly thorough, knowledgable and professional. He found things that had been missed on a previous inspection and even managed to impress the two engineer team of my husband and father-in-law which is not an easy task.
Well, with all that- one of the things he found was a small amount of old asbestos wrap around some ductwork in the basement. We would like to get it professionally removed and are looking for recommendations. Your readers gave us awesome guidance the first time, does anyone have any reputable and licensed asbestos abatement contractors they would recommend?

First off, it's great to hear those earlier answers were helpful. +1 to everyone who offered a suggestion.

Now, onto Emily's question: Have a suggestion for a good company to handle this asbestos issue? Or maybe your house also had a similar asbestos situation and you found away to address it without removal? Please share.

Contractor to fix a wet basement?

house foundation brickAnonymous emails:

I'm looking for competent, reliable contractors to fix a moisture problem in our basement. I'm aware of two companies in our area: Adirondack Basement Solutions and Kinetic Basement Solutions.
Can you post a request on the web for readers to share their experiences with these companies, as well as any recommendations for others to contact?

There seem to be a lot of companies that advertise services to address this problem, but we get the sense that wet basements can be tricky. And sometimes fixing the problem goes beyond the basement itself -- to things like gutters.

So, got a suggestion for Anonymous? Please share.

KC and DW's Pine Hills modern

open house pine hills modern composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Paul Gallo

When I spoke to Paul about his home back in May, he told me that I had check out the home of his friends KC and DW and hear about their love for Pine Hills. I'm so glad that he connected us, because the charm and style of KC and DW's home made me want to move right in.

In a lot of ways, it's the kind of home you think of when you think of Albany's architecture and old houses. But KC and DW have filled their lovely old home with bright colors and modern touches that exude energy and creativity -- much like the vibrancy of the Pine Hills neighborhood.

KC and DW love their home and enjoy their neighborhood, but they also grapple with some of the same challenges that Albany faces as a city. They shared their experiences living in the Pine Hills neighborhood -- the things they love, the things they hope will change, and their favorite parts of their classic Albany house.

(there's more)

A good home inspector?

chipped foundation brickCheryl emails:

My husband and I are looking for a good home inspector: someone who walks you through everything and explains things thoroughly. Specifically if anyone has experience with old farm houses, that would be preferable.

The specific "old farm house" part might be a little hard to find, but there are certainly home inspectors in this area that have plenty of experience inspecting old (and sometimes really old) houses.

So, got a suggestion for Cheryl and her husband? Please share. You'll win our respect and admiration if you're specific about what you're recommending a certain home inspector.

Don't skip that letter about the STAR exemption

star exemption registration notice

From the boring-but-important file: If you own a home and get a Basic STAR property tax exemption (and most people do) you need to register with the state tax department by the end of this year -- or lose out on the tax break for next year. Here's the online registration link.

The registration requirement is part of legislation for the most recent state budget -- it's aimed at cutting down on people claiming inappropriate exemptions. After registering this year, it won't be necessary to register again. As the state Department of Taxation and Finance explains: "based on the information provided in the registration process, the Tax Department will monitor homeowners' eligibility in future years."

The tax department announced this week that it's sent out 320,000 letters to homeowners getting the Basic STAR exemption in northern and eastern New York, so you'll probably get a letter soon, if you haven't already. (We got ours today.) The registration requirement doesn't affect the Enhanced STAR exemption for senior citizens.

The Basic STAR exemption exempts the first $30k of the full value of a home from school taxes, so it can be worth hundreds of dollars. It's available to owner-occupied, primary residences where the resident owners' and their spouses income is less than $500,000.

Fix or replace an antique lock?

corbin antique door locksOtis emails:

Our house was built in 1880 and has a Corbin lock on the front door. The cast iron box that fits inside the door has some broken sections so it's no longer functional. Our locksmith says that there were many different Corbin locks and it's almost impossible to find a match in a working lock... but the alternative is to get rid of all our antique hardware and replace it with a modern lockset. So naturally I want to try finding a replacement.

We weren't familiar with Corbin locks, so we did a little poking around on Flickr -- and some of the examples that turned up are beauties. We can understand the desire to either fix or replace it with something similar, especially on a Victorian-style or other older home.

So, have a suggestion for where Otis can find someone to either fix this lock -- or, more likely, a place that might sell a similar replacement? Maybe someplace that specializes in working on older homes? Please share.

image via Wikipedia

Renata and Mike's Troy fixer-upper

open house renata composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

Renata and I met many years ago, when we worked at a Girl Scout camp together. Renata was the camp's arts and crafts director, and her artistic talent shines through in the Troy home she and her husband Mike are renovating.

The couple's love for their home and neighborhood is evident. The house is full of details that can only be found in historic homes: tin ceilings, detailed trim, beautiful woodwork, and perfectly-worn wood floors.

Unlike previous homes that have been featured in the "Open House" series, Renata and Mike's home is in the earlier stages of renovations, and they have some great stories about the process (just wait until you see what they found in their walls). I love how their creative vision has shaped their approach to their home, and how their artwork fills the space.

(there's more)

Good place to shop for appliances?

kitchen stove dialsAnnie asks via Facebook:

I was wondering if you guys (or your readers) could recommend the best place to find deals on kitchen appliances as well as any good contractors in the area. My fiance and I just bought our first house so we'd love a good point in the right direction!

We've had a handful of contractor questions in the past. But we don't think we've ever had a question about where to buy appliances.

A lot of people might default to one of the big box stores -- but the Capital Region also has a handful of local appliance stores. So, there's some choice.

Have a suggestion for Annie about where to shop -- or even just suggestions about what to look for? Please share!

At home in the Mansion Neighborhood

open house kirchman mansion neighborhood composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

I was connected with Laurie and Jeremy Kirchman through a friend of a friend of a friend. But when I entered their downtown Albany house it felt like I'd known them and their home for years. Laurie, Jeremy, and their two young sons live in the Mansion Neighborhood, which I'm now fully convinced is one of Albany's best kept secrets.

Their home is a historic row house, bursting with original details -- from the molding that adorns the high ceilings to the unusual wide-planked floors.

Their yard has a secret garden quality: a rambling shared space that includes hops, which were used to produce their home-brewed beer (and which they happily share with visitors - lucky me!).

The Kirchmans have found and created an Albany lifestyle that combines urban and rural, small-town and city living. I spoke to them about their home, their neighborhood, and their life as Albany residents.

(there's more)

Help with window repair?

window lock closeupChristina asks via Facebook:

i'm trying to find someone who does window repairs in Schenectady. There seem to be plenty of companies willing to replace your windows - but none that I can find that do repairs. Anyone know of any awesome handyman service or window repair specialist they are willing to recommend? We have some casement windows that need repair - leaking water (in this torrential downpour rain we've been having). Thanks.

We've had a question before about fixing really old windows -- like, almost a century old. But Christina's question is a bit different. And it'd be great to help her find a way to fix rather than replace.

Have some insight? Please share!

Companies for foundation repair?

foundation brickJason emails:

Yesterday's friendly almost-tornado helped loosen a hole in my home's foundation, which is now leaking. I wonder if you or the AOA community have any recommendations for people/companies that can do foundation repair work. Since it's work on the foundation, I'm more interested in the repairs being done correctly, rather than cheaply.

Whenever contractor-type questions come up here, Bennett often gets mentioned. But there are plenty of options out there, and we're curious if there are companies that specialize in fixing this sort of problem. (Basements/foundations seem like they could be hard problems to fix.)

So, got a suggestion for Jason? Please share.

Paul's old school condo in Albany

open house paul gallo composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

Have you ever walked or driven through a neighborhood and wondered what it's like to live there? I've always been interested in our area's neighborhoods and why people choose to live where they live.

Paul Gallo gave us a glimpse into his Albany home within a historic repurposed building. You've probably seen Paul's beautiful photography on local websites, blogs, and on display around the area. With his interest in old buildings, it's not a surprise that he's chosen to live in one of Albany's beautiful historic buildings.

(there's more)

The story of your house

Elm Street row houses in AlbanyOne of the interesting things about the Capital Region is that there's history seemingly everywhere. Maybe even in your own house.

This Saturday (June 1) at the Albany Public Librarian's main branch there's first part of a two-part workshop on researching the history of your house. The how-to session features a solid lineup of experts:

+ Tony Opalka, Albany city historian
+ Ellen Gamache, APL local history librarian
+ Cara Macri, director of preservation services at Historic Albany Foundation
+ Akum Norder, writer of the Times Union "A History of Here: Life in Albany, Past and Present" blog. (Akum has been doing extensive research about the history of her house and the Pine Hills neighborhood. She's posted a research guide online.)

The workshop is 2-4 pm in the library's large auditorium. It's free.

The second sessions -- "An Uncommon Cape: Researching the Histories and Mysteries of a Property" -- is June 8, same place and time. More details post jump.

(there's more)

How to get a garden plot tilled?

shovel in garden dirtLaura emails with a timely question:

Can anyone recommend a reliable, reasonable service for rototilling a vegetable garden plot?

If you know of a service, great. But even if you don't, maybe you have some alternate ideas that could help Laura get her garden plot in shape.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Driveway sealing/paving recommendation?

cracked driveway pavementGary emails:

Our driveway is in need of some attention this spring, can you recommend a good sealcoat/paving co. in Albany?

At some point during the summer crews starting moving through neighborhoods, knocking on doors pitching driveway fixing/re-sealing. We gotta admit we're skeptical of the "hey, we just did your neighbor's driveway" pitch (maybe unfairly). So some solid suggestions could be a help to Gary and others.

Got someone you can recommend? Please share!

Where to get top soil, mulch, gravel?

gravel and sand on tarpMike emails:

Can you ask your readers where is a good place to find good top soil in the Troy, NY area.

You can get stuff like top soil, mulch, and gravel from a garden center or one of the big hardware stores, but you're usually going to be buying it by the bag. If you have a bigger project, often the best way is to have it delivered to your house -- it can be both cheaper and easier. The truck comes to you and dumps the dirt/mulch/gravel in a a big pile.

So, we'll extend Mike's question a little bit to include mulch, gravel, sand, rock, all that sort of stuff. Suggestions for either garden centers or delivery? Please share. Bonus points if you can provide details about price or ease of setting up delivery.

Getting a basement egress/exit installed?

basement window installation flickr m.giffordZach emails:

We are looking to make the most of our house and would like to fully use the finished basement. In order to do so, we need to add an egress. Has anyone had this done recently, and if so, any recommendations on who to use?

Basically, an egress is a way to get out the basement in case of a fire. It's often a code requirement, especially if there's a bedroom.

So, have you done something like this? Is this a general contractor job, or does Zach need to find someone who specializes in doors/windows/basements? Please share.

photo: Flickr user m.gifford (cc)

A good painter?

generic used paintbrushAmy emails:

We built a house and need a lot of painting done and you were the first place I went to for painter recommendations. You had a post about general contractors, but nothing about painters. Could you post a request for good interior painters?

Know of a good paint to suggest to Amy? Please share! And please explain a little bit about why that person is good -- attention to detail, fair price, whatever.

A good snow removal service?

snow plow closeupThinking ahead, Valerie asks via Twitter:

Have you guys done a piece on snow removal services on Ask AOA? I'd love to contract someone for the winter.
I'm actually wondering if anyone does a pay-upfront service where they come as much or as little for a single, flat rate.

This is probably a good time to start getting something like this lined up. Because if you wait until it snows (which, let's face it, could be next week), it will probably be a lot harder.

So, have a snow removal service suggestion for Valerie? Please share! And please include details about the arrangement, if you can -- you know, ballpark price, flat fee, per-visit, whatever.

Bigger isn't necessarily better

elisabeths small house

Small house. Big dog.

By Elisabeth Draper

In 2008 my husband and I bought our first home: a two-bedroom, one-bath, 1929 Dutch colonial in Albany. In an age of bigger is better, we went the opposite route; our house is a mere 900 square feet.

As first time homeowners we were somewhat intimidated by the responsibility and demands of home ownership, but a small house we could handle. Many of our friends also bought homes around the same time, but those places are considerably larger. Their homes are similar in size to many of the suburban homes highlighted during AOA's Real Estate Week. To us, our friends had found their "forever homes." Most have at least four bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, master suites, two car garages... they're in it for the long haul. When we bought our house we knew it was a starter home.

But now that we've added a 90-pound dog and a new baby to the mix, we've realized something: there are benefits to small house living.

(there's more)

What $350,000 buys you in the Capital Region

real estate week 2012 350 composite

It's Real Estate Week on AOA.

Flip through real estate listings enough and you'll notice pretty quickly that the same amount of money will buy you a wide variety of homes -- for all sorts of reasons, location being among the most important. Two very similar houses can end up selling at prices tens of thousands of dollars apart.

To get a better a sense of what goes into the price of a house -- and how much house you can get for your dollar -- we talked with three local real estate agents to better understand why some recently closed house sold for the prices they did.

What are you getting for your money? And what could you get for a little bit more?

We've already looked at $175,000 and $225,000. Let's finish with a look at a handful of houses in the $350,000 range around the Capital Region...

AOACrisbroSmallV2.jpg

(there's more)

What $225,000 buys you in the Capital Region

real estate week 225 comparison composite

It's Real Estate Week on AOA.

Flip through real estate listings enough and you'll notice pretty quickly that the same amount of money will buy you a wide variety of homes -- for all sorts of reasons, location being among the most important. Two very similar houses can end up selling at prices tens of thousands of dollars apart.

To get a better a sense of what goes into the price of a house -- and how much house you can get for your dollar -- we talked with three local real estate agents to better understand why some recently closed house sold for the prices they did.

What are you getting for your money? And what could you get for a little bit more?

Let's look at a handful of houses in the $225,000 range around the Capital Region...

AOACrisbroSmallV2.jpg

(there's more)

What $175,000 buys you in the Capital Region

real estate week 2012 175 comparison composite

It's Real Estate Week on AOA.

Flip through real estate listings enough and you'll notice pretty quickly that the same amount of money will buy you a wide variety of homes -- for all sorts of reasons, location being among the most important. Two very similar houses can end up selling at prices tens of thousands of dollars apart.

To get a better a sense of what goes into the price of a house -- and how much house you can get for your dollar -- we talked with three local real estate agents to better understand why some recently closed house sold for the prices they did.

What are you getting for your money? And what could you get for a little bit more?

To start, we looked at a handful of houses in the $175,000 range around the Capital Region...

AOACrisbroSmallV2.jpg

(there's more)

A good general contractor?

hammer headValerie asks via Twitter:

I have a few projects I need help with. Removal/replacement of deck, shoring up a porch, basement windows, kitchen counters. Also maybe wood window restoration and an indoor painter who can deal with removing lots and lots of nightmarish wallpaper.
If anyone is or knows a good general contractor please share. PLEASE.

This is a question that comes up all the time. And it's definitely worth asking around for referrals and talking with people about their experiences. A lot of contractors do a good job, but there are definitely some out there to avoid.

So, anyone have suggestions for Valerie? Please share!

How to move a piano?

piano keyboardHaving successfully submitted his property tax assessment grievance with your help, Sean is back for more:

My wife and I just moved, but the one item that we couldn't manage was our piano. We're not related to any football players or bodybuilders, and there are more than one flight of stairs to contend with, so none of our moving posse felt comfortable taking on this challenge. So, that leaves us searching for an alternative solution. Do you or your readers have any tips for not only getting this thing out of our former residence, but into our new one as well?

Are there still piano moving services? Or any advice for Sean (aside from lift with your legs)?

Please share!

photo: Flickr user readephotography (Jimmy and Sasha Reade)

Tips and advice for contesting a property tax assessment?

monopoly houseSean emails:

As a new homeowner, I've been hearing rumors about a certain day / week in May where folks can go downtown and challenge their property tax amount. Would the editors or other AOA readers have any knowledge about this upcoming event, any tips for when to go (I imagine it's a zoo...) and what to come prepared with for the best possible outcome (i.e. lower taxes!)?

We're guessing the day Sean is referring to is Grievance Day, typically the fourth Tuesday of May in cities and towns in New York State (May 22 this year). You can submit the forms necessary to "grieve" the assessment of your home before that day (probably the best course). The day in question is when it's possible to make an oral argument before the board of assessment review, if you decide to do so.

OK, so let's use the city of Albany as an example. It recently posted the official notice that's it's completed its tentative assessment roll for property tax purposes. The assessment information is online -- it's as simple to look up as plugging in your address. From the city's website:

Complaint forms and a publication containing procedures for contesting an assessment are available at the Office of Assessment & Taxation Room 302 in City Hall. It is a prerequisite to review an assessment that the official complaint forms be used and that said forms be filed with the undersigned or the Board of Assessment Review on or before May 22nd, 2012.

The board of assessment review will be hearing grievances May 22 from 9 am-1 pm and 6-8 pm in city hall.

Of course, some details will vary from one municipality to another. Here's a NYS website with info on how to contest your assessment.

So... Have you ever contested an assessment? If so, got any tips or advice for Sean? Please share!

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks

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.

A good pool service?

summer2008_otto_swimming.jpgAlex emails:

I always read the ask aoa articles and just bought a home with an in ground pool. I know nothing about pools, could you recommend someone local for service? I'm in Albany if that helps.

Or, if not a pool service, maybe a place where he can get some help learning about the stuff that needs to be taken care of.

Got a suggestion of Alex? Please share!

A good landscape/hardscape company?

terraced yardJim emails:

I am looking for a hard scape company that can terrace a hill for my parents. Any good leads on people that do that?

Any suggestions for Jim and his parents? Please share!

photo: Flickr user sleepyneko

Help for fixing old windows?

window weight pulleyMaisie emails:

I am looking for someone to repair old windows (weight and pulley, 1920s type.) I know this is a good "do it yourself"-er, but I am not at all handy. Anyone out there have a recommendation?

There are a lot of houses/apartments in this area that still have these types of windows. And, speaking from experience, when they get stuck or broken, it is frustrating.

Got a suggestion for Maisie? Please share!

A good hardwood floor installer?

hardwood floor sectionDoug asks on Twitter:

I need the best hardwood floor installer in the 518.

We'll expand Doug's question a little bit to include hardwood floor refinishing -- often companies do both installation and refinishing.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

A good handyman or contractor for stuff around the house?

hammer headGretchen emails:

My husband and I are getting ready to move and need some small handyperson type jobs done around the house like fixing a small hole in the detached garage roof, putting some trim on our laminate floors (a DIY project which got waylaid), and small painting projects.

Know of a good handyperson or contractor who might be able to help Gretchen and her husband? Please share!

A good electrician?

power outletMichael asks via Twitter:

Does anyone have any reco's for a residential electrician in Albany?

Got a suggestion for Michael? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good plumber?
+ Ask AOA: Contractors for an energy audit?
+ Ask AOA: Furnace cleaning and tune-ups?

Contractors for an energy audit?

energy audit door fanMartin emails:

I'm going to schedule a home energy audit in the near future. I contacted NYSERDA and I was approved an audit award. Now I'm looking over the list of NYSRDA approved contractors. The Capital Region's list is long, and I don't want someone who's only goal is to pressure me into buying services and products I don't really need.
Does anyone out there have recommendation this area' listing?

Got a suggestion for Martin? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: Furnace cleaning and tune-ups?
+ Keep up with the Joneses? Pfft. Beat 'em.

photo: Flickr user ActiveSteve

Contractors to fix a broken or warped walkway?

sunken sidewalk

Watch your step.

Mark asks via Twitter:

I've got a sidewalk that looks like this in two places. It's my front walk, not a city sidewalk. Any suggestions on who to call to repair it?

That looks like it could be a trip-and-fall waiting to happen -- especially as things get icy.

Got a suggestion for Mark? Please share.

Furnace cleaning and tune-ups?

oil furnaceWith an eye toward the change of season, Jen asks:

How about a cheap furnace cleaner person (besides the big companies like DA Bennet) &/or who does home energy audits?

We'll tag general furnace tuneup/maintenance onto Jen's question (that reminds us, we need to get someone to do that...).

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Flickr user C Jill Reed

Keep up with the Joneses? Pfft. Beat 'em.

national grid efficiency neighbors comparison

Heheh.

We like our neighbors. A lot. They've been friendly and helpful from the moment we moved in. But we gotta admit: it gives us great pleasure to know that we're crushing them.

How do we know? National Grid told us.

(there's more)

A good yard service?

overgrown grass

Possible option: hire a flock of sheep.

In a recent comment, Leah asks:

Does anyone know a lawn service willing to tackle the insanity that is my lawn after this week of rain (that ideally won't cost an arm and a leg)? My eco friendly reel mower is just not going to cut it after all this - pun intended.

We've seen some lawns around town that are approaching a jungle-like appearance. We wouldn't look forward trying to push any sort of regular mower through that kind of growth.

So, anyone have suggestions for Leah? Please share!

Where to buy a house in Albany?

spanish-style house in AlbanyStephanie emails:

I just moved to the area for the next few years, and I am looking to buy a house. However, I do not know what the good areas are around in Albany!
I am looking for something that is equidistant from SUNY Uptown campus and downtown Albany. I would love a safe area, that is nice or up and coming. I would want to sell in a few years, so the market value would need to stay the same (or preferably!) improve. Additionally, any advice on where to begin looking for houses would be great. Can anyone help me? Please?

Have a suggestion for Stephanie? Please share!

A good tree removal service?

tree service guy in treeMiriam emails:

I'd love to find out if your readers have dealt with a tree removal service they felt did a good job for the right price. We have a half dead tree in our front lawn that's going to come down one way or another.

A few years back, we were happy with the service we got from a company out of Schenectady called TreeCo. They worked remarkably fast (while hanging from a tree, using a chain saw), cleaned up nicely, and all for what seemed like a fair price.

TreeCo doesn't appear to have a website.* Its number is 356-4177.

One thing to note: not all tree services offer stump grinding. Be sure to ask about it if you want the stump taken out, too.

We're guessing there are at least a handful of other local tree service options. Know of a good one? Please share!

* Small businesses of the Capital Region: please get a website -- even just a single page with your contact info. It will help everyone, most importantly you.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

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