Buying a home is one of the many elements of achieving the quintessential American Dream. Owning a home give one a sense of liberation and the feeling that they can own something that is truly theirs. However, one also has the tendency to focus on more materialistic aspects when first buying. Some of those questions are “Does this house have a pool” or “How many cars can fit into the garage”? Instead, one should be first asking if the house is energy efficient and is environmentally friendly.
In this article, I have listed three ways to make one’s new home more energy efficient.
Perform an Energy Audit
By performing an energy audit, one will be able to know the current energy output of their respective home and find manners to improve. In addition, it is also crucial that you find an energy auditor that you trust and that knows the respective area where one bought their home. Some of the questions that one should take into consideration are if the person has any unique skills and certifications. Also, do not forget to ask the methodology of the audit.
Apart from the audit itself, it is important that one does not get scammed by auditors. According to a statical analysis done by Home Advisor, the average cost for an audit is $671 in New York State. Depending on where one lives also heavily correlates to the cost of an energy audit. It ranges from $240 to $1852. If one prefers to do the audit oneself, that is fine too. However, be sure that one is confident and has the respective knowledge to perform the tasks associated with an energy audit.
New York State offers a free energy audit, click the links below to find out more information about how you can receive this benefit.
Reduce Food Waste
Another manner to make one’s new home more energy efficient is to reduce one’s food waste. According to statistics done by theSwag USA, more than 20 lbs of food is wasted per person per month in the United States. In addition, the average American household throws away over $2,200 of food each year. By buying only what one needs and can afford will help reduce energy output and will put money back in one’s pocket. One could spend that on a trip that one has always dreamed of or could add it towards paying one’s mortgage payment. On a community service level, reducing food waste allows those who have food insecurity to have enough food to eat.
Most recently, it has been discovered that food waste can actually be used to for fuel. The use of food waste for fuels allows one to see that the United States is starting to enter a post fossil fuel era.
Use L.E.D Lightbulbs
One has probably heard and been taught that buying L.E.D(Light Emitting Diode) lightbulbs is one of the most basic actions to make one’s new home more energy efficient. However, did you know that L.E.D light bulbs also provide some huge savings too? L.E.D lightbulbs use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer…By 2027, the use of L.E.D lightbulbs could save $30 billion dollars in energy costs, according to Energy.Gov. The use of L.E.D also greatly benefits the homeowner in the long run. The Simple Dollar provides one with a cost analysis with the difference between a household using incandescent and an L.E.D bulb. According to their findings, they found over 23 years that one saves over $150 dollars by using L.E.D bulbs. By getting one’s new home started on the right foot, one will be a more financially-aware and happier homeowner.
Performing an energy audit, Reducing food waste, and using L.E.D lightbulbs are just some of the many ways that one can do to make their new home more energy efficient. By first asking “Is the house energy efficient and environmentally friendly” shows that one is both socially-conscious and more financially-aware of their respective energy outputs. If one adopts small steps today to make their new home more energy efficient, it will produce great results long term.
One of the benefits of living in the Northeastern United States is that most large cities are close to each other. This is especially true for the capital city of Albany, New York in relation to its respective location of other major Northeastern cities. In this article, I have highlighted three cities that are only a car ride away from Albany.
Just 90 minutes west of Albany lies the city of Cooperstown, New York. If you are a baseball or a sports fantatic, you may know that this city is home to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Although this sports shrine is one landmark you cannot miss while visiting the area, there are also other things to see and do.
One of the many places to explore in Cooperstown is the Farmer’s Museum. An interesting fact about the museum is that it is one of the oldest museums that depicts rural life in the United States. The open environment allows visitors to have a first-hand experience of living in rural America. Some of the available attractions are The Empire State Carousel and the Historic Village. Apart from the main attractions of the museum, the area is also home to workshops, and lecture-film series. Also, be sure to check out their daily and seasonal events too! Entrance to the museum is relatively inexpensive at $13 per person.
The next stop on your journey takes you 30 minutes east of Albany. It is the city of Schenectady, New York. An interesting fact about the city’s name is that it is derived from the Mohawk word skahnéhtati , which is translates to “beyond the pines”. In addition to being the home of Union College, the city is also home to activities that allow visitors to experience the local ambiance.
If you are interested in science, be sure to check out the Dudley Observatory. Its mission is to further peoples’ understanding of the sciences. The museum also hosts programs for all ages that allow you to expand your knowledge and understanding of science. Who knows? You may learn something new or discover something that no one knew existed.
Another place to explore when visiting Schenectady is the Mandeville Gallery. Its mission is for new artists to showcase their work and indirectly lead dialogues on various, controversial issues. One of the current exhibits that is viewable to the public is Branding the AfroFuture by Stacey Robinson. Aside from current exhibits, the gallery is also home to permanent collections, which contain art works from Asian, Ancient, and Pre-Columbian cultures.
Known as the site of the Battle of Bennington during the American Revolution, the city of Bennington, Vermont is a quick 58 minutes away from Albany. The city is home to the Bennington Battle Monument. An interesting fact about the landmark is that it is the tallest structure in the state of Vermont.
Besides being home to the largest structure in the state, the city is also home to the Bennington Museum. Similar to the Mandeville Gallery, the museum allows you to challenge your own ideas and learn something new about the society around you. Two upcoming exhibits are Cabium(Into the Woods) and Crash to Creativity: The New Deal in Vermont. Both of these exhibits examine the artists' interpretation of life from a natural and historical perspective.
If you are looking to plan a future road trip from Albany, consider driving to these respective cities. Each of these cities have many activities that both couples and families are bound to enjoy. You may appreciate the many benefits that living in Albany brings.
Located approximately 150 miles north of New York City, lies the capital city of Albany. Originally settled by Dutch colonists in 1614, the city’s population has grown to nearly 100,000 people. Most recently, the city has experienced a rebirth in various manners. One aspect is it has become a big hub for technology companies. Because of the city’s renaissance, the area has drawn interest from people who are interested in visiting and are looking for things to do in the area.
In this article, I have highlighted the top 4 sites to not miss while you enjoy your journey in Albany.
New York State Capitol
Our first stop on our journey through Albany is the New York State Capitol building. Besides being the seat of the state government , the site has various activities that are open to the public. One such site is the Corning Tower Observation Deck. Located on the 42nd floor of the state capitol building, the site offers breathtaking views of Albany and the surrounding areas. It is important to note that although hours Monday to Friday are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the hours may change with little notice. In addition, the state building also houses many public exhibits. One exhibit that is open to the public is the Harlem Hellfighters. An interesting fact about the “Harlem Hellfighters” is that they were the first African-American regiment of the New York National Guard. Their historical significance also transferred over to the Vietnam War, which was the first time that African-Americans served in integrated military units. The exhibit is open til February of 2019, which gives you plenty of time to plan that next trip to Albany.
If you are a history buff and wanted to add in some educational experiences while touring Albany, the New York State Capitol is one place that should be on your list.
New York State Museum
If you are interested in learning more about the history of New York state, then come visit the New York State Museum. One interesting fact about the museum is that it is the largest and oldest state museum in the country. This site is also a great place to explore if you or your family members have diverse interests. It houses various artifacts from various subjects, such as history, archaeology, and paleontology to name a few. Similarly to the state capitol building, the museum also houses a plentiful amount of exhibits. A current exhibit that you are able to view is the Art for the People:: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection. The display highlights an assorted group of pieces that were created across New York state.
One upcoming exhibit that you should visit is the Art of the Erie Canal. This showcase examines how the canal influenced artists through distinct art pieces.
If you are unable to take a trip to the museum, then do not worry. The museum’s website also has online exhibits that you are able to view at your own leisure.
Albany Center Gallery
Another place that I would like to highlight in Albany is the Albany Center Gallery. First opening its doors in 1977, this non-profit organization’s mission has been to promote artists and their artwork in the region. An interesting fact about the gallery is that it has displayed over 1,000 artists and their artwork.
One exhibit that is currently open at this Albany landmark is the 2018 Mohawk-Hudson Regional Invitational. Considered an prestigious honor, this event highlights the best regional artists. In addition this invitational and the entire gallery are free and are open to the public. However, donations are always encouraged.
Children’s Museum of Science and Technology
If you will be traveling to Albany with children, they may think you are the best parent ever if you take them to the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology. At this place, your kids will learn about the role of science and technology in our society through hands-on learning. A few exhibits that allows children to participate through active learning are the Magnetic Ball Wall and the Living Indoor Hudson River. Who knows? Perhaps your child(ren) may want to pursue a career in S.T.E.M? The museum has various educational programs that allow young children to develop their skills in the mathematical, technical, and scientific realms.
Given the recent renaissance of Albany, this makes it a perfect time to visit the area. If you love art, Albany has a thriving arts scene. Looking to learn more about the history of New York State? Albany has that too. Moving or considering living in Albany? Why don’t you give us a chance. Come visit. You may just call us home.
So you have been putting off that remodel job long enough…. The kitchen needs a new look, the bathroom a facelift, maybe the yard needs some curb appeal. Whatever your home improvement project might be, you have some big decisions to make. The most important of them all if you are hiring out the work is what contractor are you going to use. With so many options out there today how do you find the right one for your project, or more importantly how do you avoid the wrong one? We have some easy suggestions that will help you find a quality contractor for your next home improvement project.
Where Do I Begin?
First things first, where do I start my search for a contractor? Every quality contractor knows that their best advertisement is word of mouth. Start with people that you know such as friends, family, neighbors, coworkers. Let them all know about the upcoming project that you are planning and a magical thing starts to happen and you won’t even have to ask. They are going to give you suggestions (and you should take notes on this). They are going to tell you about their experience with their project, what they should have done but didn’t, what they wished they hadn’t done, what they liked, didn’t like, what they would or wouldn’t do again. They are going to give you great ideas and tips that will help with your project and most of all they are going to give you a recommendation of who the best person for you should be.
Another increasingly popular way to find a contractor are paid online sites such as Angie’s List and Home Advisor. These websites for a minimal fee will do much of the research for you. They will pre-screen contractors for services, and due a background check. If the contractor meets to their standards they may be listed on the site. Once you are a member all you need to do is run a search for what work you want done and plenty of qualified contractors come up. Each will be rated and have reviews from other members who have used them in the past. Many will even offer discounts for members and may also help resolve disputes between members and service providers.
Another option: Use a search engine to find a qualified contractor. It’s very easy and widely used today. Simply go to a search engine such as Google, Bing, Yahoo (just to name a few) and type in some key words for the service you need and a list of contractors will come up. A good idea is to type in your city/town as well as state (i.e.there is more than one Springfield) so you are more likely to get local contractors. Not only will you get a list of contractors but many of them will be rated and have reviews from previous customers. Don’t forget you can always dig out the phonebook, if you even have one anymore (hint: it’s on the internet now).
How Do I Decide Who To Hire?
At this point you have done your preliminary search, you have talked to friends and family, searched the web and you have come up with a list of 3 to 5 contractors to call for an estimate. First things first! Ask if they charge for an estimate. Believe it or not, some contractors still use this practice. I for one do not believe that under any circumstance that it is necessary to pay for an estimate. You can find plenty of excellent service providers that do not charge for this. But if you don’t mind paying, then at least you will be prepared. Another question you want to ask is if they are insured. If the answer is yes, ask them to bring proof of insurance when they come for the estimate. Contractors get asked this question all of the time and many will even offer it without being asked. If the answer is no, then cross them off of your list! You do not want them working on your property.
Now it’s time to schedule the appointments! Whomever the decision maker is should plan on being there for each of them. If it is a team effort, then each person should attend. I like to schedule mine all in the same day and back to back. I love it when you are just finishing with one contractor and the next one shows up. Now they know they have competition which helps to keeps them honest, and I believe you get a more competitive estimate.
Now you are on to the estimate. Remember this very important as this is an interview for the contractor and the good ones know this. Given the nature of the service industry, don’t expect a suit and tie. However... if they show up looking like a hot mess, there is a good chance that they run their business the same way so PROCEED WITH CAUTION! If you did your homework, checked reviews and received good referrals from people you know then you probably have already weeded out these individuals. As you go through the process, explain to them what you want done and the end result you are looking for. This is called a scope of work and it’s a very good idea to have it written down on paper. Have one copy for yourself for each contractor and one copy for each of them. Take notes on what is talked about, any suggestions made or ideas that you come up with. You may find that at the end of this phase your home improvement project will look much different than when you started. And you will have notes for each meeting to refer to. When you are all done you may want to touch base with each of them one more time to inform them of any changes to the plans so that they can modify their estimate. It does you little good if you are comparing one estimate for a 10x10 room and another for a 10x15, so please be sure to compare apples to apples.
As you are talking through your project takes notes on the individual as well. How do they present themselves? Were they on time, respectful, polite? Are they a good communicator? Even take notes on any personal things that might come up like if they have kids or what their favorite sports team is. Don’t fish for them (that’s creepy) but if they come up make a note of it because it will be useful information when you are managing your contractor. Ohh….. yes you will have to do this but we will be here to help you that will be the subject of an upcoming blog. Also in helping you choose if you had a hard time communicating, don’t be surprised if during the process something doesn’t come out quite the way you thought and the conversation starts out like “Don’t you remember when we talked about ……..” You also want to know if they add any valuable insight, design ideas, suggestions, and ways to save money on the project and still keep the quality you desire (that one is my favorite). If you don’t hear any of this during the interview, straight up ask them “Do you have any ideas to save money on the project”? and see what they say!
OK so now you have made your list, had your appointments, conducted your interviews, who do you go with? You know they are all quality because you have done your homework, so go with the cheapest right? Not so fast…. Remember your notes as there are other things to consider. Do they communicate well? Did they have good ideas for the project? Can they help save you money? Sometimes go with your gut!! When you know you have quality contractors to choose from (and you will know) going with your gut is as good as any reason. I’ve done it plenty of times and am happy I did. Before you act on that gut instinct, there are a couple of things you might want to look into. First, ask them for and references. This is a common question and they should be prepared for it and offer up several right away. Give them a call and ask any questions that you might have. Ask them how long they have been in business, my rating system is as follows:
1-2 years - Be cautious (Most businesses fail within the first 2 years)
3-5 years - OK
6-10 years Good
10 or more - Best (Only 30% of businesses make it this long)
Just because they haven’t been in business ten years does not mean they don’t do quality work, every great business has a start date. It’s just another factor in the vetting process for you to consider. I know people who won’t hire a contractor that hasn’t been in business for at least five years. The flip side to that coin is if you find a great contractor just starting on their own, they may be willing to give you a great price to get the job which would lead to referrals and references for them so they can grow. One thing that I would strongly recommend is to do a background check. This does not have to be difficult. You can go down to your local courthouse and check the public records if you’d like. I wouldn’t suggest taking a ton of time to do this because at this point you have been referred to them, read reviews and checked references. Nothing is definite in life but chances are good you have weeded out any seedy characters! You still need to do your due diligence. Run a google search on the individual’s name and business name see what comes up. Many times any newspaper articles, police logs, court appearances, liens or arrests may show up. It may not all be bad as well. I’ve done searches and have found good-will articles about contractors I’m looking to hire as well. If you want to try and go deeper look at sites such as beenverified.com. These are paid sites but will dig deeper into an individual’s background.
So now after you have chosen your contractor, you should schedule one final meeting before the work takes place. At this meeting you are going to do several things: sign a contract, probably pay a downpayment, and tie up any loose ends. First the contract. Make sure you have everything in writing, and I mean everything. Your scope of work that you used for the interview should be included, make sure it is up to date and specific as to what is going to be done and I mean down to the exact color of paint and style of hardware you plan on using. By the way this is for several reasons: 1) everything is stated clearly for both parties to have and 2), it can save time and money. If they have any questions they can refer to the scope of work. This will help avoid delays and keep the project moving. The more specific the better, more on this in an upcoming blog. In addition to this, make sure you have the start and end date of the project agreed upon in writing. Of course this should include the cost of the job, how much (if any) of a down payment they want, and if there is a payment schedule (that also should be in writing and agreed upon before the job starts). Depending on the size of your job this will change. If it is an emergency or simple repair you probably won’t pay a downpayment. If your building or putting on an addition expect to pay a sizable amount upfront (maybe even up to half) and then periodic payments as the job progresses. Either way it should be in writing and agreed upon between both parties so there are no surprises and no confusion. Finally, do not ever pay 100% of the bill until every aspect of the job is complete and you are happy! You generally have 30 days to pay the bill after it has been issued. I usually wait a couple of weeks just to see if anything pops up that I might of missed in my inspection or that was not completed properly. Even the best contractors have issues that come up with jobs. It’s not a big deal most of the time and you can expect issues to happen now and then. It’s only a big deal if they don’t honor their work and come back to take care of it.
Good luck to all of you with your home improvement projects, I hope this helps you find a qualified contractor. If you have any questions feel free to contact us we are on Facebook at Chris and Gina Buy Houses. Please make sure to give us a LIKE, and check us out at our website at www.chrisandginabuyhouse.com
Watch for our next blog about managing contractors and your home improvement project!
In this busy time of year there is no shortage of activities and events for you and your family to enjoy. We took some time to try and put together a list of some these events so that you can to help you plan your holiday season.
-11th Annual Schenectady festival of Trees
This event is being held at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Ave. Schenectady 12305, and the YWCA 44 Washington Ave. Schenectady 12305 from now until December 23rd. Children under 5 are Free, Children over 5 are $2, and adults are $5. Contact number is 518-374-0263.
-Price Chopper/Market 32 Holiday Lights in the Park
This event is being held in Washington Park in Albany from now until January 2nd starting everyday at 6:00pm. Cost per ticket is anywheres from $20 - $125 depending on the size of the vehicle. For more information call 518-435-0392.
-The Train to Christmas Town
Train departs from Stony Creek Ranch Resort, 456 Warrensburg Rd. Stony Creek NY 12878
Wednesday December 13 - Sunday December 17
Tuesday December 19 - Saturday December 23
Tuesday December 26 - Wednesday December 27
Call 888-797-7245 for Tickets and Pricing
-Chanuakah Bowl at the Saratoga Strike Zone
The event takes place Thursday, December 14th from 5:00pm to 7:30pm at the Saratoga Strike Zone 32 at Ballston Ave. Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Cost is $8 per person or $36 per family. Contact the Saratoga Strike Zone for more information.
-Ice Skating at Empire Plaza - Part of Winter at the Plaza
Located at the Empire State Plaza, Ice Rink in Albany NY, Admission is free. Rentals are available $3 for children 12 and under and $4 for adults. The rink is open daily from December 1 - March 11th from 11:00am to 8:00pm. Contact number is 518-474-47509.
-Disney on Ice: Frozen
At the Times Union Center, 51 South Pearl Street Albany NY 12207. Cost of Tickets vary from $23 - $78
Show Times are:
-The 12th Annual Santa Speedo Sprint
Saturday December 16th from 11:00am to 3:30 pm on Lark St. in Albany NY
For more info and to register visit: https://www.albany.com/winter/wonderlark/#1
-GE Kids in Free Saturday - Children's Museum of Science and Technology
On Saturdays, (11/18-12/30) all kids 12 and under receive free general admission to CMOST courtesy of the GE Kids in Free Days. Children's Museum of Science and Technology is located: 250 Jordan Road, Troy NY 12180
Downtown Saratoga Springs NY from 5:30 pm to 12 Midnight on December 31st.
If you attend any of these events stop back and leave a comment let us know how it went.
Enjoy the Holiday Season