I love you, sweetie, but I’ve got a date with the Gov.

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I admit it. I’ve been meeting with Andrew Cuomo every day for several days now. He’s not like I thought he was. It’s one of the best hours of my day.

I’m his age. I’m not some starry-eyed kid. It’s not easy to impress me.

I knew his dad, in fact. A sharp man, and a funny one. An intellect. A kind man, too. But he had a reputation for not suffering fools gladly.

I was a young reporter back then. I’d been warned about Governor Mario Cuomo by my producer.

“Don’t ask him stupid questions. He’ll eviscerate you if you do. But don’t be scared, either. Know your stuff, ask a good question, and he’ll treat you with respect.”

That’s how it worked. And (I’m sorry, Andy) until lately, I just didn’t see that the son had as much of the father in him as he does.

But this emergency, this unprecedented health crisis at a time when there is absolutely no leadership, no skill, and no honesty in the White House, has given Andrew Cuomo an opportunity to shine like he has never shone before.

“The control freak we need right now,” one publication gushed.

“Help, I think I’m in love with Andrew Cuomo,” another writer cried.

I get it. I’m crushing on him a little myself, though it’s in a far more dignified, “Well, how refreshing” kind of way.

I am grateful to have a very part time journalism job with a small local newspaper, which is a gift while real estate is temporarily at a standstill. And, because I’ve been doing news for a long time, I’ve taken on the job of watching the governor’s daily press briefings, done live and with an aplomb that would have made his father proud, and reporting on what’s said there.

He’s been everything I could hope for in a leader.

Andrew Cuomo is organized, he’s on top of things, he’s competent. He’s not afraid to admit what he doesn’t know, and he looks to his team to answer questions he’s not sure he knows the answers to. As he speaks, a stream of comments from viewers scrolls beside the internet feed.

“He just fact checked himself in real time!” one viewer wrote.

“I never liked him before, but if I woke up tomorrow and he was president I’d be fine with it,” another wrote.

I’m not so far gone that I’m going to suddenly elevate him to some ridiculous pedestal and start calling for him to be drafted for the Democratic nomination. Let’s not tumble into hero worship. I’m not sure that would be the right move.

But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is, without a doubt, the right man at the right time in a state that is under assault. He reminds us that New Yorkers are a tough people, a hardy people, and a resilient people. He has scolded us for spreading rumors. He has called out people who refuse to follow instructions that protect their neighbors from an illness that swept through New York City like the flood waters of Hurricane Irene.

He did a good job when the state got hit by two hurricanes in a row. He’s dealt with disasters before, both as governor and as secretary of HUD. But this time, when there is absolutely no one to trust in Washington, his calm, rational, human response is more comforting than I think he can possibly comprehend.

One publication said that with two words, Cuomo became the leader we all need right now. It was when he ordered the state to basically shut down. He said, “Blame me.”

Accepting responsibility for hard choices. That’s the mark of a leader. It was a reminder of what the best of government can be. And it’s New York’s governor who’s showing the nation how it’s done. I’ve never been prouder to be a New Yorker. He’s making a bad situation much, much easier to handle.

I hope he knows it. I hope he understands that, at long last, there are a lot of people in this state who appreciate him and are counting on him to get us through.

Andrew Cuomo ends each daily press conference with the same line. He stands up and he says, “I’ve got to get to work.”

You do that, Governor. And we’ll be here, thanking our lucky stars that you’re the guy who happened to be in that mansion in Albany at this particular time.

Good job.

And if anyone’s looking for me tomorrow morning, I’ll be in front of my computer, waiting to hear what the gov’s got to tell us today.

 

 

Five Tips To Sell Your House This Year

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I’m thinking spring. No matter that today, on a late January morning, we’re having an ice storm. It will melt.

It’s time to get ready for the spring real estate rush.

Upstate New York real estate has always slowed down, at least a little, in the winter months. Sellers want to concentrate on holidays, and they’re not keen on strangers tramping through their homes with their slushy boots.  Buyers back off, too – unless you’ve got a specific reason that you must move and fast, it’s a lot more pleasant to look at houses when the mercury holds steady above forty degrees.

The red hot mid-Hudson Valley is the current exception to that rule. The area with Kingston at its epicenter has always drawn downstate buyers, but that market now resembles a feeding frenzy. Multiple offers are the norm. Buyers find themselves shut out of two or three homes before they finally win the bidding war.

Further to the west, Delaware County and Otsego County have been seeing an increase in activity as well. I sold two large properties just days before Christmas this year. And prices are going up.

So if you’re a potential seller, here are five tips to make the most of the spring market.

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1. Spruce up before you list.  You can add thousands in value and cut your marketing time in half.

Take advantage of the indoor weather to take a critical look at your house. What can you de-clutter? Be ruthless. Box up those beloved dust catchers. They’ll look great in your new house. Where could paint be freshened up? Are the rugs worn or dirty? Either clean them, or, if you have hardwood underneath, pull them up and clean the floors. There are a million how-to videos on home staging online. Watch a couple and try it.

Outside, make sure to optimize your home’s curb appeal as soon as the weather permits. Rake up the winter mess. Touch up outside paint and repair any damage. Power washing can do wonders for any home. Trim overgrown bushes. If you’re not a gardener, place some strategic potted and hanging plants, or plant some annuals.

Not sure what your home needs? Call in a professional. Any realtor worth his or her salt can give you free tips and point you in the right direction. Sellers willing to do what it takes to prepare a home for marketing are a realtor’s dream.

2.  Don’t wait for summer.

Buyers look all year long. They may get more active in March, but they’re already shopping online in January. They want to be in their new home by summer. If they have children, they’re usually hoping to move before a new school year begins. It takes time to find the right place, so they start early. Make sure your home is one they see before the late spring listing rush begins.

3. Hire a realtor.

Yes, I’m a realtor. Of course I’m biased. But I’m a realtor BECAUSE I know how essential this job is to help people buy or sell a home. What can a realtor do for you that you can’t do for yourself?  Everything.

A full time realtor is just that – a professional whose job is selling your home. We have the systems in place, the experience, the knowledge, and the time to do everything necessary to market and sell a home in today’s marketplace.

We know the community, we know what’s selling and not, and why. We have a long contact list of clients, former clients, and other agents. They will help spread the word about your house.

We understand the process of buying and selling homes, we can handle the paperwork, answer your questions, and save you hours of frustration.

We know how to negotiate. And good negotiations are essential for a good sale experience.

You want to sell it yourself? Prepare for hours online inputting data, researching websites to see if they’re worth the money they’ll charge you. You’ll pay for professional photographs or you’ll be investing in a good camera and learning how to use it to attract buyers. You’d better be a good writer, too, because your marketing information is part of what draws buyers to your listing. And if you get defensive when people are critical of your home, you’re going to hate being a For Sale By Owner. Buyers are always critical. It’s how they negotiate.

For a percentage of the sale price, you can have a professional guide you through the process and do all the work. Plus, because you’re the client, you can (and should) be clear about what you expect and be sure you get the service you were promised. If that’s not incentive enough, remember this: your realtor doesn’t make a dime unless it sells. That seems like a deal you shouldn’t refuse. Hire a good realtor.

4. Keep it tidy.

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Your house is for sale. It looks amazing. Your realtor tells you you’ll get 24 hours’ notice before a showing. Nobody tells you the ongoing struggle to keep your house showing-ready once it’s on the market. I’ll be frank – it’s a pain in the neck. But it’s completely worth it.  Live like you’re visiting a cranky relative – keep it neat. And when there’s a showing, get the animals out of the house if you can. Some folks are allergic. Some don’t like cats, dogs, whatever. And even if they’re animal lovers, you’re trying to sell your house, not Fido. Keep the focus on the house.

5. Keep an open mind.

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There’s a fair chance you’ll get an offer that you think is too low. Don’t let it bother you. That’s today’s real estate market. Buyers want a bargain. But if they want your house, and only your house, that first offer is just an opening bid. Here’s where your realtor proves why you were smart to hire one. A good realtor will work to get those buyers to a number that works for everyone. A good realtor will explain to you what benefits an offer might have (a slightly lower cash offer can be much more attractive than a higher offer with a lot of contingencies and some tricky financing) and help you understand where there may be room for movement and where everyone is standing firm. A good realtor has been through this before. A lot. And the voice of experience is a real comfort in the heat of negotiations.

A final word on the entire process of buying and selling a house. Be realistic. It’s exciting, it can be fun, but it’s also stressful. Be ready for that. But use those five tips and you’ll cut down on the stress, and be well on your way to your next chapter.

Good luck!