Ensuring Your Home against a Fire

Fire safety is something that you should be prepared for at all times of the year but as we get into the winter season, and some of the coldest months of the year, it’s important to be vigilant about protecting our families and our home.

Our home is filled with loved ones and personal belongings that often time carry a sentimental value so safeguarding what’s closest to us should start from the moment you move in. During the final walkthrough with your realtor, test and make sure the smoke alarms in the residence you’re about to close on are working.

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Owners of one-and two family residences must have installed in their home a working smoke detector that provides an audible alarm within each sleeping area. This sound provides an early warning to those sleeping that there is a fire and a greater chance of getting out of the home immediately. It is a requirement for every home in New York State.

Did you know that if a fire starts you have less than two minutes to get out safely? In such a short amount of time you have to be ready to spring into action and one of the ways to do so safely without wasting a moment is to already have a fire escape plan in place that has been practiced on a regular basis. Once you move into your new home, formulate that plan early on and make sure everyone is prepared in the event a fire breaks out.

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Escape Plan

  • Know two ways out of every room.
  • A closed door can stop the spread of gas, heat and smoke.
  • Have a meeting place outside your home.
  • Know how to call 9-1-1 from outside to report a fire.
  • Practice your escape plan with everyone who lives in your home at least twice a year

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While there are many different reasons why fires break out here are the top five:

  • Kitchen – Cooking is the number one cause of home fires. It takes only seconds for a pot or a pan to overheat and grease to splatter. Most kitchen fires start because people get distracted; never leave an open flame unattended.
  • Heating Equipment – Have your furnace checked annually and if your home has a fireplace, make sure to have the chimney cleaned and inspected. During the colder months many people use portable space heaters; these can be dangerous if used improperly. Keep them away from anything that can burn and never use them to dry clothes or shoes.
  • Smoking – If you must smoke, try and do it outside. Your bedroom should be off limits; how many times do you get drowsy, just lying in bed, watching TV. A lit or improperly extinguished cigarette is dangerous. And never put an ashtray on or near anything that will burn.
  • Electrical equipment – With all of the gadgets and electronics that are out there these days it’s easy to overload outlets with plugs; do not overuse extension cords. Also, be careful of do-it-yourself electrical projects. Sometimes it’s best to leave those in the hands of a professional electrician. And check to ensure your appliances do not have loose or frayed cords/plugs.
  • Candles – Who doesn’t love the smell of a scented candle! But they be dangerous if not used properly. Keep all candles on a level surface in a sturdy holder away from combustible materials and out of the reach of children and pets.

Remember… only working smoke detectors save lives.

  • TEST your smoke detectors at least once a month. Push the test button or blow smoke into the detector.
  • CLEAN your detectors at least once a year to remove dust.
  • REPLACE the battery every year. Better yet, twice a year – when you change your clocks in the spring and fall. Replace the smoke detector after 10 years.

Getting to Know Joe Baglio…..

Joe Baglio

While other young kids were dreaming of becoming superheroes when they grew up, Joe Baglio, Managing Partner of Madison Estates, was thinking real estate, even if he wasn’t quite sure at the time what that meant.  “I was drawn to the business at a very young age and intrigued by the process,” he says. “The thought of owning property was always attractive to me as well.”

A Brooklyn boy at heart, Baglio has seen the borough he’s called home since birth go through changes and believes it’s come a long way since he was a kid growing up. It’s a place where home values continue to rise, and the bottom line is, buyers are attracted to what Brooklyn has to offer.

We spent some time chatting with Baglio to learn more about what he believes makes the Brooklyn real estate market so attractive….

How do you spot an area that is on the rise before it truly explodes on the market?

Real estate is like a living, breathing organism; it has a pulse and you can just feel it. There are certain subtleties that you have to look for. I am a big fan of people watching, which will usually give an area away. And it’s a combination of the properties, architecture, and people that will indicate if an area is exploding or about to.

As the real estate market continues to prosper and we get closer to the New Year, what areas would you say in your opinion are currently in demand?

Right now I am very bullish on Prospect Lefferets Gardens; it’s an area I’ve spent a lot of time in and have witnessed its change right before my eyes. It has amazing architecture with many limestone and brownstone blocks as well as new, larger scale rental buildings that are fully amenitised which are attracting a younger, artistic demographic.

The original roots of the area are still strong which makes it even cooler. There are lots of restaurants on Franklin, Bedford, and Washington Avenue, plus you can walk to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum.   

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As homebuyers, sometimes finding the perfect place takes longer than we hope. As a seasoned broker, what advice do you have for those potential buyers who walk through Madison’s door?

To always be honest and transparent with your broker. You’re trusting them to help in finding one of the greatest investments of your life. A good broker should know what your wish list vs your needs list is.

What types of changes do you see happening in 2018 for Brooklyn?

I believe Brooklyn has far to go with many areas on the South Shore that still have not been tapped, or should I say discovered. Growing up I remember the backlash I would get when I would tell someone I was from Brooklyn; at that time it wasn’t very chic to say that’s where you were from; it’s still sounds crazy to me when I think about that.

For newcomers, what would you recommend are the “must see and do” things?

You must tour the “Gold Coast”; start in Greenpoint and follow the coast all the way to Coney Island. The diversity, architecture, cultures, and sites will blow your mind!

When you’re not on the hunt for the next great property/location, what do you enjoy doing?

I truly enjoy spending time with my family. I am blessed with a beautiful wife and two beautiful children. My kids allow me to tune out the world and shut down my engines. I get to unwind and jump onto their level which is not all that difficult for me considering I’m a child at heart!

Your greatest passions?

My family and my work.

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Tips for Making Your Home More Desirable Before You Sell

Once you’ve made the decision to sell your home there are a few things to consider before finding a realtor and putting that “For Sale” sign in the ground.

While the most important factor is to set your price for the right amount of money for the neighborhood you’re located in, the next step is setting the stage and making your home stand out to potential buyers.

Because first impressions count, especially in real estate, small changes and touches can make all the difference.

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Make a Good First Impression

Before potential buyers step foot inside, they’re going to be looking at the outside and making a mental note of its curb appeal. You want the most appealing look from the sidewalk to your front door.

  • Landscaping –Clean up both the front and backyard (if you have one) to make sure it looks spotless. Trim any bushes or shrubs so they are well manicured. If you have a deck, you might want to consider pressure washing for a clean look.
  • Dress up your front door – If your door is old and worn, touch it up with a fresh coat of paint as opposed to replacing the door completely. Consider hanging a wreath that shows some of your personal style.
  • Swap outdated fixtures – Take a look at your door knobs, house numbers, mailbox, and outdoor light fixtures to make sure they’re all in good condition.

Create a Welcoming Environment

Once a potential buyer steps inside you’re going to want them to feel like they’ve just walked into their new home. The goal here is for them to visualize themselves living in your property and with a few touches you’ll be able to pull it off. Don’t go overboard though, less is always more!

  • Plants and Flowers – Fresh or not, quality plants and flowers are attractive to the eye when scattered throughout the home. Choose ones with a fresh, clean scent, nothing too over powering. Décor magazines are a great source of inspiration to help in choosing and placing the best greenery.
  • Fresh coat of paint – By giving walls a once over you’re breathing new life back into those rooms. Experts recommend neutral colors (think grays and beiges) because they’re not distracting. Plus, they make the space appear lighter and brighter which can be a big plus for a room that does not receive a lot of natural light.
  • Clean Up – Before each showing it’s important to make sure your home, both inside and outside, is spotless. It’s a common mistake people make when selling.

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Eliminate Clutter

By decluttering, buyers are able to visualize much easier than in a home that’s filled with tons of stuff. You want to showcase the amount of potential space the new owners will have, not the other way around so take a look and see what you can let go of.

  • Closets – Empty by at least half (rent a storage unit if you have to); this will give the buyer an idea of how much storage they’ll have. On the flip side, it’s a good opportunity to go through what you don’t want; that way you won’t have to pack up and move items that you no longer have a use for.
  • Den/Office area – Any bills, mail, papers that you absolutely do not need get rid of and for the rest of the things you do need, find an out of sight spot where they won’t be seen.
  • Play area – Children’s toys shouldn’t be visible; plus it’s a good time to go through everything and donate the ones they no longer play with.

Let There Be Light

The bigger your home feels the more it will appeal to buyers. While you can’t do anything to increase the size, you can make sure it’s as bright as possible.

  • Open your curtains – This will bring in as much natural light as possible.
  • Darker rooms – For those spaces that do not receive as much natural light as others, invest in some light fixtures and strategically place them around to illuminate even the darkest of spots.

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Take Advantage of Space

Sticking with the theme of creating a space that appears larger, lightening is not the only way to achieve that feel.

  • Rearrange and remove furniture – Removing bulky pieces of furniture is another way to open up a room. Those larger pieces make a space feel smaller so if you can eliminate a few it will give off a more open feeling.

Remember, you don’t have to spend a ton amount of money when creating a warm and inviting space that perspective homeowners can envision themselves living in, you just need to make some improvements that will help showcase the beauty of your home.

To Buy or Rent….that is the question!

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

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

Thinking about buying, consider the following…

Pros

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

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

Cons:

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

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  • Higher upfront costs

Considering renting…

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

Buying

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

Recurring costs

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

Renting

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

Recurring Costs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trimming

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

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

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

Window Cleaning

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

Food Storage

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

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

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

Let’s break it down.

 

The classic layout

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

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

The “other” classics

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

Searching for six

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

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

Apartment appeal

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

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

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

Your pre-war classic six: The 2017 update

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

5 Tips for Moving in Winter

The temperature is dropping which means you might be concerned about your future move being a little tougher. Not to worry! We’ve scoured the internet to bring you the best tips to make your move go smoothly.

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Photo courtesy of Two Men and a Truck

#1 Harness the Power of Professionals 

According to Two Men and a Truck, springing for some extra help is worth the cash. Professionals are trained to deal with unpredictable cold and icy conditions. If you attempt the move on your own you’ll risk injury and damage to your possessions.

#2 Rise with the Sun

The Huffington Post suggests that you set your alarm and get a pot of coffee brewing to accommodate the decreased hours of daylight. You don’t want the added difficulty of trying to move in the dark. So, get a good night’s  sleep and get moving early!

#3 Make Sure You’re Covered

Get a cheap tarp to throw down over high traffic areas in your old and new home. imove.com has pointed out that things can get messy quickly when snow and slush is on the ground. Save yourself some clean up time by planning ahead.

#4 Bundle up Your Plants

MakeSpace advises that you protect your indoor plants from the cold by wrapping them in plastic or blankets (being sure to leave an opening at the top so they can breathe). If your plants have spent their entire lives inside, the shock of cold air can cause a lot of damage. So, while you’re piling on the layers your self don’t forget your plants!

#5 Give Your Landlord a Ring

You don’t want to show up to your new home to find there’s no heat! GoGetter urges you to call your landlord and make sure they know when you plan to move, to be sure your first night will be nice and cozy.