I can represent you in buying or selling anywhere in Westchester County, NY but my main focus is southern Westchester: Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Eastchester, Edgemont, Elmsford, Greenburgh, Hartsdale, Irvington, Scarsdale, Tarrytown, Valhalla and White Plains. Our firm also has agents that support Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess Counties if you decide to move north.

We are committed to serving your best interests and being your advocate in all aspects of the real estate experience.

Lets “MOVE” to make your selling or buying experience a seamless, stress free venture!


Real Estate Agents Cannot Answer These Questions

Advice for buyers, advice for sellers, Moving Advice, real estate thoughts, Westchester Real Estate, westchester towns

You are relocating to a new state or just moving to a neighborhood.  You have children who are school age and want a “certain type neighborhood”.  You know that a real estate agent will be critical in assisting you finding that dream home with everything you desire.

But, wait.  You need to know what a real estate agent can do for you and what they cannot say or do so that you don’t get angry when meeting them.  I have had potential new clients feel I’m not helping them when I refer them to websites or local authorities on the following questions, but its against Fair Housing Law.

What Real Estate agents can’t directly advise you on:

Schools.  You want to know is it a good or bad school district?  A real estate agent can refer to you to several sites to research to get local testimonials or state test scores.  Some of the sites include:

http://greatschools.org

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs/reportcard/2010/home.html

http://www.publicschoolreview.com/county_public_schools/stateid/NY/county/36119

http://www.westchestergov.com/planning/research/Census2000/SchoolDistProfiles/schdst.htm

Religious communities.  A real estate agent can relay a list of local religious organizations that you can call and explore, but not say things like “it is predominantly this denomination.”.

 

Crime Statistics:  Again, this is against Fair Housing because it pinpoints a certain class of people.  You can call the local police departments to get a more personalized answer, or you can visit sites like  http://www.citi-data.com   or familywatchdog.us

Household income:  A question you may be thinking of asking is “is this an upscale neighborhood?”.  Or, I was told its a bad neighborhood to look in.

Our answer most likely will be to explore the various sites like www.citi-data.com  or even to walk around the neighborhood early morning, midday and evening and see if you are comfortable with who your neighbors are.

So, what can a real estate agent do for you, you ask?

A real estate agent is critical in the whole home buying process.  They are not just “door openers”, but also really participate in your search from the very beginning until the closing.  First, to determine where you’d like to focus and if new to an area, should give you a general tour of your various towns/cities.  In Westchester there is a broad range from small towns like Dobbs Ferry all the way up to a larger city like White Plains with an active downtown area.

They should give you the tools to research the above Fair Housing questions so that when you start your search, you have basic knowledge of the area.

Real estate agents are the main liaison between your attorney, mortgage banker, and listing agent, as well as providing you sources for an inspection which they attend for you.  They also let the appraiser in when the time comes. Most importantly, they provide you with the comps of a house that you are looking at and help with negotiating on your behalf. With knowledge of their local areas, they can tell you whether a house will go quickly.   I set up all of my buyers on their own personal MLS reporting system.  This way we can both view properties that interest them and share notes.  

So, don’t shoot the messenger if they say, I’m sorry but that is not a question I can answer, and give you sources to check.  Check those sources, become knowledgeable and then your home search will be a smooth one!

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New Homeowners Move in Checklist

Advice for buyers, Moving Advice, real estate thoughts, Westchester Real Estate

New Homeowners Before and After Moving in Checklist

No matter what type key opens the door to your new home, there are numerous sites that point out what you need to do once you open that door!  I read all of them the first time I moved and just found the written copy in my drawer.

BEFORE YOU MOVE IN:

1)  You will want to have water/electric/gas/oil on when you move in. Call the local companies and make sure its turned on the day before or day of moving.  

2) Call a few locksmiths, compare costs (make sure you know how many doors and types of locks you would like to install before calling the locksmith to get accurate cost. Set up appointment for first day.

3) Register your change of address online and start date to forward your current mail.

4) Call phone company (if you still have landline).

5) Can see what cable companies service your area and cost compare. Set up appointment if need to install lines.

6) Compare insurance rates with an insurance broker or various insurance companies.  Even if not in flood zone, check to see if there has been any issues with water in the area, and whether it would be worth getting it.  We know that is worthwhile call based upon Hurricane Sandy where many homes were flooded.

AND………….

Make sure you buy a file cabinet – small or large!  This will be a critical item to have (outside your furniture and personal effects of course). First thing you will want is a bright colored file folder  to put in all of your documents for home purchase, from inspection report, to appraisals, to surveys and Closing Papers!

 

AFTER YOU MOVE IN:

1)  Change those locks, install phone and cable.

2)  Make sure you buy a first aid kit for all of those “fixing” up the house chores and keep in a handy cabinet.

3)  Make sure you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms with plenty of batteries. Keep a fire extinquisher handy, especially if you have a fireplace.

4) Make sure you know where your breaker box and water switches are located.

5) Update your drivers license and vehicle registration.

6) If entitled to a Star Deduction (School Relief tax deduction in Westchester County), go online and see when and how to apply.

7) Look up your medical insurance websites and find local doctors, dentists, eye doctors or specialists. Call and find out hours and I suggest visiting them personally before signing up. Know where the nearest emergency room and walk in doctors are.

8) If have a pet, research local veterinary clinics so that you have them ready when you need them.!

8)  If there is an alarm system in the house, or if you want to add one, cost compare some in you new neighborhood.

9) If first time homeowner and moving from apartment, some items you may want to invest on is a snow shovel for winter and yard tools if moving in spring!

AND…Back to that File Cabinet.

Most people buying homes, whether brand new or already lived in will be making updates, or installing new kitchen, repointing fireplaces, adding a powder room, upgrading electrical and the list goes on!  Its important to keep track of all major, or even minor home expenditures, including money spent on the upgrades, copies of the warranties, assembly directions and repair services. Easy access is great for troubleshooting as your appliances get older, and can provide a tax advantage when you go to sell the house. So, keep the files in a safe place. It is also nice to have the purchases and warranties handy for future home buyers.

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Merry Christmas from Around the World

CHRISTMAS TIME, Life Thoughts

A good site to visit if you would like to know how the world says “Merry Christmas” is

http://www.santas.net/howmerrychristmasissaid.htm

Although there are numerous countries where there is only 10% of the country who practice the Christian faith, its always interesting to know how things are said globally.

Here is a partial list from the above website:

  • Afrikaans: Geseënde Kersfees

  • Arabic: Milad Majid

  • Argentine: Feliz Navidad

  • Armenian: Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand

  • Brazilian: Feliz Natal

  • Bulgarian: Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo

  • Chinese: (Cantonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan’Gung Haw Sun

  • Chinese: (Mandarin) Sheng Dan Kuai Le

  • Columbia: Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo

  • Czech: Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok

  • Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! or Zalig Kerstfeast

  • English: Merry Christmas

  • French: Joyeux Noel

  • German: Fröhliche Weihnachten

  • Greek: Kala Christouyenna!

  • Haiti: (Creole) Jwaye Nowel or to Jesus Edo Bri’cho o Rish D’Shato Brichto

  • Hindi: Shub Naya Baras (good New Year not Merry Christmas)

  • Hungarian: Boldog Karácsonyt

  • Irish: Nollaig Shona Dhuit, or Nodlaig mhaith chugnat

  • Italian: Buone Feste Natalizie

  • Japanese: Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto

  • Korean: Sung Tan Chuk Ha

  • Norwegian: God Jul, or Gledelig Jul

  • Philippines: Maligayang Pasko!

  • Polish: Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia or Boze Narodzenie

  • Russian: Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom

  • Spanish: Feliz Navidad

  • Swedish: God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt År

  • Switzerland (Swiss-German): Schöni Wienachte

  • Tagalog: Maligayamg Pasko. Masaganang Bagong Taon

  • Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun

A great site to visit to find out how Christmas is celebrated with different traditions and customs is http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/languages.shtml

Here is a sample of what you will find!

France, Yule Logs made out of Cherry Wood are often burned is French homes. The log is carried into the home on Christmas Eve and is sprinkled with red wine to make the log smell nice when it is burning. There is a custom that the log and candles are left burning all night with some food and drinks left out in case Mary and the baby Jesus come past during the night.

Italy:One of the most important ways of celebrating Christmas in Italy is the Nativity crib scene Having cribs in your own home became popular in the 16th century and it’s still popular today (before that only churches and monasteries had cribs). Cribs are traditionally put out on the 8th December. But the figure of the baby Jesus isn’t put into the crib until the evening/night of December 24th!

Germany: Christmas Trees are very important in Germany. They were first used in Germany during the Middle Ages. If there are young children in the house, the trees are usually secretly decorated by the Mother of the family. The Christmas tree was traditionally brought into the house on Christmas eve, and during that evening the family would read the Bible and sing Christmas songs such as O Tannenbaum, Ihr Kinderlein Kommet and Stille Nacht (Slient Night).

Spain, Children have some presents on Christmas Day, but most are opened at Epiphany. Some children believe that the Kings bring presents to them at Epiphany. They write letters to the Kings on Boxing Day, December 26th, asking for toys and presents. And on Epiphany Eve (January 5th) they leave shoes on windowsills or balconies or under the Christmas Tree to be filled with presents

Ghana: People in Ghana celebrate Christmas from the 20th of December to first week in January with lots of different activities. Many people travel to visit their relatives and friends in other parts of the country. Over 66 languages are spoken in Ghana and all these language groups have their own traditions and customs!

Look forward to assisting you with all of your Westchester Real Estate needs in 2015!  Barbara Bartell, 914-523-5087 or barbara@jphilip.com

Wishing all who  celebrate this festive holiday the Merriest of Christmas and Happy New Year!
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WHITE PLAINS CHRISTMAS LIGHT SHOW

CHRISTMAS TIME, Westchester Activities, westchester towns

northkeniscoxmaslights

For the sixth year families on North Kenisco in White Plains are holding their annual Christmas Lighting and Music Show from 11/30/2014 through 1/2/2015.

This will be held 7 days a week (not including rain or snow days), from 5:30 pm to 11:00 pm.  Over 10,000 lights will be displayed this year accompanied by music you can access on 107.7 FM.  On every 5th song, a Santa Claus will appear in the attic window.  Great time to take the children out and take pictures.

Visit their website to see a list of all of the songs you and your family can hear on the radio in comfort of your car. A fun evening out before watching all of the holiday shows on TV!

 

Wishing all of your a Happy Holiday Season.  If looking for a new home in the New Year in the White Plains area, feel free to call/text me at 914-523-5087 for information on new listings and the marketplace.  Regards, Barbara Bartell, SRES.
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Understanding importance of Pre-Approvals

Advice for buyers, real estate thoughts, Westchester Real Estate

First a buyer needs to know the difference between being “pre-qualified” and having a pre-approval.

Being pre-qualified is not necessarily necessary. But, if a buyer wants a quick way to know the ballpark of what they can afford, it is a quick way to find out. You can usually do these online or by phone with a lender by providing some basic credit, income and debt information.

Pre-approvals are more in-depth, but also can only take a few days if you provide the necessary financial paperwork.  Most real estate agents and almost all sellers require a pre-approval letter before showing or accepting an offer.  It is an invaluable document to have before you “hunt for your dream home”.

Why?  Because it shows you how much you can afford, what the costs will be on a monthly basis, and give you an idea if you are truly ready to purchase and maintain the costs of home ownership.

What do you generally need to get pre-approved?

- Credit report – Many lenders these days require 620 or more on your score.

- Bank Statements to show have money for downpayment. Most banks require

  the downpayment be in an account for more than 60 days

- Recent W-2 (some require 2 years) to show income

- Proof of other assets – retirement as well as non-retirement accounts such as

  stocks/mutual funds.

- Recent paystubs, employment information

What do you learn during the pre-approval process?

- Different types of loans and interest rates – conventional, FHA, VA, and others

  depending on your status you qualify for.

- If not conventional 20% down, learn what is PMI insurance and how much that

   will add to your monthly costs. In cases of FHA loans, that is incurred for the

   who length of the loan, unless you refinance to non FHA down the road.

- Find out the loan amount you qualify for.

- Cost of closing costs

Your pre-approval or GFE (Good Faith Estimate) which lists what you qualify for in terms of loan, what your interest rate will be and closing costs can be used when you cost compare among lenders.

One question I get is whether this will hurt a buyer’s credit score. The answer to that according to local lenders is “No”.  The credit agencies recognize this quick lender check process and do not penalize you.

Once you have your pre-approval in hand, and also determine how much you have in a cash reserve for any upgrades, repairs, or even cosmetic changes you may want to do to a home you find that is not “in mint condition”, you are ready to work with a real estate agent in finding that home, with confidence you can afford the homes you are looking at.

Look forward to assisting with your home search in Westchester County.

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Greenburgh Nature Preserve in Scarsdale Summer Events

Local Vacation Destinations, Town Events and Meetings, Westchester Activities, westchester towns
Greenburgh Nature Center

Greenburgh Nature Center

The Greenburgh Nature Center on Central Avenue in Scarsdale is a wonderful place to take the family for an environmental educational treat.

The Nature Preserve is 33 acres consistenting of 30 acres of woodlands, trails, a pond and gardens.  It is a true wildlife habitat where all different species of birds come to rest.  You can even see a box turtle around the pond.  There are both inside and outside activities.

On Sundays at 11:30 a.m. (this month June 8th, 15th and 22nd), there is a 45 minute guide walk among the trails of the woodlands.  On June 14th (for $8 for nonmembers, free for members), you can visit the bird aviary and see the Bald Eagle among other birds that habitat the woodlands.

From June 28th – August 3rd there is the annual “walk among live butterflies”  for a nominal fee.

If you enjoy it and return with the children, you may want to consider membership, which is nominal for the experience.  It ranges from $40/year for seniors to $90 for family with children below 18 years old, and $150 for family of all ages. This entitles you to free entrance to all their presentations.

The Greenburgh Nature Center is also a great place to have birthday parties or other events for the nature lovers.

So, for those of you who ride up and down Central Avenue each day, may want to take a break from the hustle and bustle and enjoy nature!

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Villaggios in Hartsdale is Not Just Pizza

Westchester Real Estate

pizza

Villaggios Restaurant and Pizza was one the first restaurants we visited 18 years ago when we moved to Hartsdale. The owners of the house we bought suggested Villaggios and we’ve been a customer ever since.

Located at 389 N. Central Avenue, Hartsdale in the shopping center that houses Christmas Tree Shop. Epsteins Deli and the new Mrs Green Supermarket, you would think it might just be a pizza place if quickly walking by.  The restaurant is the back and features really good specials on a nightly basis.  The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10:00 pm daily. Phone 914-949-3427. Full menu on their website.

Besides thinking the pizza is the best in the area, their main courses, especially ones with tomato sauce like their chicken, veal or eggplant parmigiano are especially good. They also are a value since they include a salad and either pasta or vegetable.

Sitting in the back restaurant you can order anything from an individual pizza, to a wedge, to main course, and for those who aren’t into Italian food, they even have burgers.

Maria and her husband have owned the restaurant for 32 years. And, you can find Maria at the restaurant most days! Always wonder when she takes time off.

Besides eating at the restaurant and take out, Maria also has a catering menu displayed on her website. Great way to simplify those 8 people coming over to watch a sporting event.

 

If you looking to rent, buy or sell in  Hartsdale/Scarsdale/White Plains area and would some information on the area, I am available via email at barbara@jphilip.com or text/call on my cell at 914-523-5087.  Even if want to know where to eat. Ask!

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Hudson Grille in White Plains, NY

Westchester Real Estate

Hudson Grille is a popular restaurant on Mamaroneck Avenue in downtown White Plains.  What makes it a destination point is the special attention Executive Chef Donal O’Rourke takes to prepare a menu that appeals to all tastes.

Chef Donal O’Rourke graduated from Culinary Institute of Ireland and traveled the world to learn different cuisines, which he incorporates in his meals.

Hudson Grille offers lunch, brunch and dinner.  If you are grabbing lunch, or cocktails and quick dinner, you have a wide array of choices from burgers, to salads, to interesting sandwiches.  If you are looking to dine out, Hudson Grille has a dining room separate from the bar area where you can find a selection of “small plates”, salads, complemented by an interesting dinner menu. There is even a section for gluten free and vegetarian food if you like.  Chef Donal changes the menu 4 times a year to reflect seasonal changes. but also  He pays special attention to the presentation of the meals on the plate. Oh yes, and don’t forget to check out the in-house made dessert list.!

 

Our Executive Chef now also calls White Plains his home. I had the pleasure of working with Donal, his wife and family in closing on their new home that J. Philip Real Estate represented, just one mile from Hudson Grille!  Welcome to White Plains and we all look forward to coming to Hudson Grille in the near future.

 

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Many Options for Renting in White Plains NY

Westchester Real Estate
Main Street White Plains

Main Street White Plains

Whether you are relocating from out of town and want to rent before buying, are downsizing from a home and want to stay in the area, or have always been a renter, White Plains has a wide range of choices.

You can rent a condo, coop, house, or apartment building.  The price range is varied.  Prices vary  depending on how new the building is, how many amenities and whether it has parking.  Parking can be a challenge for many of the “train accessible non-doorman buildings”, but there are several municipal lots that tenants take advantage of. You can pay daily or get a monthly parking permit.

One bedrooms can start around $1300 for the non-doorman buildings along North Broadway, to $2200 for a one bedroom at a building like The Seasons on Martine,  and up to a whopping $5,000 a month for an apartment at The Ritz. Two bedrooms generally start around $1800 and up. Homes that are listed currently range from $1700 for a small older home up to $5,000 for a 3400 square foot more modern home.

If looking at the upscale apartment buildings like The Avalon or

Bank Street Commons you are looking at one bedrooms starting at $2300 and 2 bedrooms starting at $3,000/month. Additional cost for parking!

Whether you are renting an apartment, condo, coop or home, be prepared to furnish W-2’s, credit reports, employer information and references and in some cases bank statements with proof of funds.  In the case of renting a coop, you will also have to go before a coop board for approval.

Currently there are about 344 various rentals available in the White Plains area.

If you are considering renting in White Plains, feel free to text or call me at 914-523-5087 or email me at barbara@jphilip.com for further information.

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Hiring a Pet Sitting Service in Westchester County

Advice for buyers, advice for sellers, Uncategorized, Vendor recommendations, westchester towns

Finding the right Pet Sitting Service or Pet sitter is crucial to a happy pet when you return from vacation.P1010228

But, if you are just relocating from out of town, or even if you’ve lost your pet sitter you’ve had for years, its can be stressful

I’ve been through this several times over the last 20 years owning pure breed cats, so have had experience determining what makes a good pet sitting service and also what questions are really important to ask.

Pet sitting is a really growing field. There are numerous sites online you can go to first find your local pet sitter, but I prefer to first ask friends, second go to all of your local veterinary clinics and ask if they have any vet techs or staff that pet sit in the neighborhood.  Most of these will be just individuals who do it as extra income, and are not bonded and insured, but with enough references, finding out where they live (some may have a local phone #, but have actually moved 20 miles away!), you should be fine. You also know where you can find them!

If going the internet route, there are several sites you can use. Paid sites include Angie’s List, www.sittercity.com and  www.care.com .  I did not have any luck with care.com or sittercity.com.  I found that they they just had anyone who wanted to sign up list there. There were actually people who have never pet sit, just looking for extra income.

There is a free site that I recommend called www.petsitting.com This site is paid by their advertising and, not sure, by the petsitters who sign up for it.  Their website claims that the are not a directory, but have insured and bonded petsitters who are verifiable references. That is what you are really looking for.

Always having two pet sitters available I found has been key, in case one is on vacation. One of my cat sitters is a front desk person at a local veterinary clinic, and the other I found on www.petsitting.com.  I am using Susan Pfeiffer’s service called FetchPetCare.  She has 9 pet sitters in lower Westchester and is insured and bonded. Fetch Pet Care is a national franchise and align with good pet sitting principals. She personally comes over to meet with your pets (and has a really good petside manner) and introduces you to your pet sitter.  She has excellent follow-up when calling, texting or emailing her.

Wherever you are getting your in-home pet sitter, its important to do the following:

1) Call them, email or text them. If they don’t get back to you in a timely manner, on to the next.  If there is emergency while I’m gone, I don’t want someone who isn’t communicative.

2) Ask how long they’ve been petsitting, what hours and days they are available, and where they live.  Many have other jobs, so if you don’t want someone who comes at 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 pm.  Also, their telephone # many not reflect where they live. In a snowstorm, you want someone local.

3) Ask for references. These are key. I do them before meeting someone. I’ve had some references where person just cat sit once 3 years ago for one reference!

4) Have them meet your pet.  It is almost more important that your pet likes them than you and that they really like animals. Don’t laugh. I had two woman come over one day, and one admitted she really only liked dogs!

5) Ask how long do they spend with your pet and what do they charge? This can really vary.  In Lower Westchester the average is $17-$22 per visit.

6) Have all of your information about taking care of your home typed out.  Should include feeding, litter (if cat), mail, watering plants, lights on in different parts of house at night, music, to important things like who your vet is and where, alarm directions, where your fuse box is in case lights go out, neighbors who may have a spare key or they have emergency, to of course, where you can be reached!

For those of you who have dogs, cats, or whatever your pet preference, finding the right pet sitter should be taken seriously. You want your pet to be a happy when you return home!

If you are looking for that home in Lower Westchester County, don’t hesitate to call/text me at 914-523-5087 or email me at barbara@jphilip.com

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