Archive for February, 2019

What is the Best Way to Save Money by Going Green at Home?

Thursday, February 28th, 2019
Going green at home
There are lots of things you can do when you want to go green. Choose a few from this list and start reaping the benefits of going green at home.

What comes to mind when you hear the words, “Going green” – St. Patrick’s Day, spring, being eco-friendly, money? Going green is about being good stewards of what we are given, and there’s certainly more to going green than just recycling. Let’s talk about going green at home and how we can be good stewards of what we have in and around Brooklyn.

What is a Green Home?

A green home is a structure built from recycled, sustainable, natural materials which do not emit toxins into the air inside your home. It also uses energy efficiently. But it can mean living a green lifestyle, too.

How to Be Green to Save Green

In order to achieve energy-efficiency status at home, you must:

  1. Use Energy Efficiently in your Home

  • Use energy-efficient appliances
  • Seal your home well
  • Properly insulate your home
  • Control the use of electricity, water, and fuel in your home

 

  1. Live a Green Lifestyle

  • Reduce the number of items you purchase each month
  • Reuse items for the same or different purpose
  • Recycle everything that can be or at least try to purchase items built with recycled stuff
  • Refuse excess. Start saying no and skip the need to reuse or recycle altogether.

 

Going Green at Home without Blowing Your Budget

You can save quite a bit of green by using less energy and water in your home. And over time, this adds up to huge savings. There are lots of doable suggestions, and I mean lots, for going green at home. I recommend choosing just three for starters and building from there. Here are some going green at home tips that won’t blow your budget:

 

  1. Reduce Pollution

  • Walk, bike, carpool, and use public transportation whenever you can. It will save you money, reduce pollution, keep you fit, and save energy.
  • Get your car serviced regularly. A car in need of a tune-up is a gas guzzler.
  • Drive the speed limit.
  • Run all your errands for one week in one trip.

 

  1. Use Reusable Containers and Stainless Steel Straws
  • Commit to using reusable containers and stainless steel straws instead of drinking bottled water and using plastic straws. Refilling a safe stainless steel water bottle with your own filtered tap water saves money and resources.
  • Bring your own reusable coffee mug to your favorite coffee shop.
  • When getting take out, bring your own food containers. You can even bring your own food containers to a restaurant to put your leftovers in.

 

  1. Cut Back on Water Usage

  • Take shorter showers
  • Install low-flow showerheads
  • Buy and use an energy-efficient dishwasher. They use less water than traditional dishwashing. Hallelujah! If you don’t have an energy-efficient dishwasher to use, switch up the way you wash your dishes so that the faucet runs for less time.
  • Only run your washer or dryer with a full load. And only wash truly dirty clothes.
  • If you have a lawn, ditch it. Grass demands a great deal of water and time to maintain.
  • Plant plants that are native to your soil. They require less care and water.
  • Collect rainwater. This conserves water because you can use the water from the rain barrel to water your garden, lawn, and houseplants or wash your bike or car.
  • Fix leaky toilets, faucets, and tanks. This could save up to 600 gallons of water in a month.
  • Put a bag or bottle filled with pebbles and water inside your toilet tank. Displacing the water in your toilet tank uses less water every time you flush. It saves about 5 to 10 gallons of water per day.
  • Always turn off the water in the sink when brushing your teeth or shaving. You could save up to 4 gallons of water per minute.

 

  1. Use Less Electricity

  • Don’t leave fans or lights on when you leave a room or leave home. Turn them off when not in use.
  • Always use free sunshine during the day. Don’t turn on your lights for as long as you can. Pull back the curtains or blinds and let the sun shine in.
  • If you’re going out of town, consider turning off your refrigerator.
  • Turn off all electronic gadgets at night. Many electronics consume energy even when they’re not actively “on.” This is called phantom energy because when they’re on standby mode, they are still using electricity. Always unplug chargers, microwaves, and computers, etc when not in use, or invest in “smart” surge protectors. They disable power when electronics aren’t in use.
  • Replace CFL and incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. It’s hard to beat the value offered by modern LEDs. Their prices get more affordable every day, and they last decades longer.
  • Buy properly sized appliances that fit your needs and save energy. Large appliances guzzle energy and require more space for installation.
  • Switch one appliance to an energy-efficient model. Look for the “energy star” label. If you’re buying a refrigerator, don’t buy one below 4 Energy Stars.
  • Line dry your laundry, inside or outside instead of using a dryer.
  • Consider using renewable energy sources such as a small solar power plant on your roof or a small wind turbine in your backyard.

 

  1. Responsibly Recycle E-Waste

  • Recycle your e-waste through a verified recycler. E-waste can contain all kinds of pollutants, including lead, mercury, beryllium, polyvinyl chloride, and flame-retardants. A verified recycler can break down an item into reusable or recyclable pieces. Toxic materials are appropriately handled. Look for recyclers on the EPA’s website.

 

  1. Eat Less Meat

  • Believe it or not, meat has a big impact on the environment. A study led by Gidon Eshel of Bard College suggests that meat has a bigger impact on our carbon footprint than cars do! Being a vegetarian isn’t for everyone, but you could try eating one meatless day each week. You’d save a little on your grocery bill by doing so.

 

  1. Buy Secondhand and Repurpose Items

  • Donate to and shop at thrift stores.  You’ll support your local economy, save money, and prolong the life of a perfectly usable item that may have otherwise gone to the landfill.
  • Before buying anything new, check your local Craigslist or Freecycle. Repurposing can be fun.

 

  1. Compost

  • Invest in your own backyard compost or see if Brooklyn has a compost program in your neighborhood. Many are cheap or even free to join. Composting reduces waste that is sent to landfills and transforms organic wastes into nutrient-dense soil for your garden beds.

 

  1. Streamline Your Mailbox

 

  1. Reduce Your Paper Towel Consumption

  • Use dishtowels for drying hands while cooking or washing up.
  • Consider using cloth napkins at dinnertime.
  • Use cloth instead of paper to clean your kitchen. Make rags out of old towels and t-shirts.

 

  1. Other Green Choices

  • Invest in home items like natural-fill and organic cotton bedding.
  • Cook with pans covered with lids. This saves energy and money and emits fewer gases into the air.
  • Buy non-chlorine-based bleach and detergents in your home.
  • Replace chemical cleaners, most of your bathroom cabinet, air fresheners, and even some personal care items with essential oils. Make your own household cleaners.
  • Avoid plastic bags. Instead, carry your groceries in reusable bags.
  • Reuse jars in your kitchen. Store bulk items in them. Repurpose glass jars as leftover containers and bulk storage.
  • Stop using disposable bags. Order reusable bags such as Flip & Tumble or make your own.
  • Paint with no-VOC paint. VOC paint emits harmful gases into the air and affects your health and surroundings negatively.
  • Reuse scrap paper for drawing, coloring, or calculating math.
  • Reuse toilet paper rolls to grow seedlings or stuff with dryer lint to make fire starters.
  • Plant an herb garden.
  • Eat local, organic Support your local economy and shop at your farmer’s market. Support local restaurants that use food derived less than 100 miles away. Learn more about the benefits of eating locally.
  • Research whether you can sign up for green power from your utility company.
  • Conduct a quick energy audit of your home.
  • Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.
  • Wash your laundry in cold water instead of hot.
  • Switch to cloth diapers or at least do a combination with disposables. Using one cloth diaper per day means 365 fewer disposables in the landfill each year.
  • Switch to shade-grown coffee with the “Fair Trade” label.

 

Going Green at Home Intentionally

Going green at home is just good economics. But it takes thought and effort. You must commit to being eco-wise to reap the benefits of good stewardship – saving money, energy, and passing on these important values to the next generation.

Contact Charles D’Alessandro, your Brooklyn Real Estate Agent with Fillmore Real Estate at (718) 253-9600 ext.206. Or email him at [email protected] for help with going green in Brooklyn.


 

Brooklyn Real Estate Agent

 Charles D’Alessandro

Your Brooklyn Real Estate Agent

718-253-9600 ext. 206

[email protected]

Do You Need to Challenge Your Property Tax Assessment?

Friday, February 15th, 2019
Property tax assessment
If you decide to challenge your property tax assessment, be prepared.

How high are your property taxes? Do you feel they are too high? Most homeowners pay property taxes once or twice a year. Some get their property taxes amortized into monthly mortgage payments. But before you write that check, consider challenging your property tax assessment. According to the National Taxpayers Union, a homeowner has a fifty percent chance of succeeding if they challenge their local assessor’s office about their property tax bill. So if you want to dispute your property tax assessment, here’s what you need to know.

First, How is the Amount of Your Property Tax Determined?

Your city’s tax rate is multiplied by the assessed value of your property and all of the structures on it. This determines the amount of property tax you pay. The value of the structures can change significantly if you make any improvements, like adding on a family room, for example.

Assessors determine the value of your house in one of three ways:

  • With a detailed inspection
  • By checking real estate documents to see how much you paid for your property
  • Looking at the median price paid for homes in your area and basing calculations on that information

 

Second, Why Would You Want to Challenge Your Property Tax Assessment?

Your reasons for disputing property tax assessments can vary:

  • You suspect that the assessed value of your house exceeds its true market value. (For example, if the assessed value of the house you just bought is higher than what you paid for it, producing the contract of sale could be enough to get the tax reduced without any further ado).
  • Your neighbors, who live in an identical brownstone one or two doors down, are paying less in taxes than you are
  • You’re entitled to exemptions that weren’t taken into account – homeowners renovating historic properties in some jurisdictions, for example.

 

Third, How Do You Challenge Your Property Tax Assessment?

So where do you start when you want to challenge your property tax assessment?

You don’t need a lawyer because most municipalities are more than willing to walk you through the appeals process. But since you might have only sixty days from the time the assessment arrives in your mailbox, you should call and ask about the review process of your local assessor’s office right away. And find out what the important timing points are, too.

Dispute forms are usually included with an assessment by most municipalities. Then, if you question the assessment, you can send the form back. Once you fill out that form and send it back, the process varies.

Most likely you’ll be asked to state your case at an informal hearing at your local assessor’s office. It’s possible to resolve the problem right then and there provided your argument is strong enough. (Like when you suspect that the assessed value of your house exceeds its true market value, for example)

If you’re unable to resolve the problem with a strong argument at an informal hearing, you may be asked to attend a formal hearing. At this second hearing, you must convince a review board of local assessors that their findings are inaccurate. Be prepared for this formal hearing and bring the following:

  • Detailed descriptions of properties similar to yours with comparable square footage, additions, etc. from a local real estate agent
  • Tax records which can be found by researching property rolls at the assessor’s office
  • Photos

 

In Review …

When your property tax assessment arrives in the mail:

  • Make sure all the deductions you’re entitled to were granted
  • Check the assessor’s math and the description of your property. If something looks off, investigate. Human error, like miscalculating square footage or recording an incorrect number of bedrooms, for example, happens.
  • Compare the assessments of at least five properties similar to your own
  • Make adjustments for differences between your property and the five similar to your own
  • If your assessment is too high, make an informal appeal to the assessor. File a formal appeal if the informal appeal doesn’t work.
  • Attend an appeals board hearing. (The National Taxpayers Union’s guide, How to Fight Property Taxes, is available for purchase if you’d like more information on the process and how it works).
  • Write a summary of your case and rehearse your presentation before you appear at your informal hearing

If you’re able to get the property tax assessment reduced, good job! But if you’re not able to get it reduced, you will only be out a $5 to $30 filing fee. In addition to the time spent trying to reduce your property tax assessment, the filing fee really isn’t all that costly. So it really is worth the try.

Remember, your latest property tax assessment bill does not have to be paid without question. So consider challenging it before you write your check. The deadline is March 15, 2019. If you need help disputing your assessment bill, contact Charles D’Alessandro, your Brooklyn Real Estate Agent with Fillmore Real Estate at (718) 253-9600 ext.206. Or you can email him at [email protected] He will be happy to assist you.


Brooklyn Real Estate Agent

 Charles D’Alessandro

Your Brooklyn Real Estate Agent

718-253-9600 ext. 206

[email protected]