August 1, 2016: Want to conserve water in the drought or just save on your water bill? Water leaking from your toilet tank into the bowl when you aren't flushing is one of the top sources of wasted water. In Elmira, a slowly running toilet can easily cost you $50 or more per month. Fortunately it is usually an easy fix to stop the leak yourself.
The Elmira Water Board has dye pills so you can check for leaks - you put the dye pill in the tank, and see if the water in the bowl turns color without flushing. You could instead shut off the valve at the wall and see if your tank level drops overnight - but if you do, be gentle, elderly shut off valves do fail. (If the shut off valve fails, turn the water off at the meter, run to the hardware store and get a replacement. Yes, I have done this - and so can you!)
Often a little cleaning and/or adjusting of the flapper in the tank will solve the problem. It's easiest to fuss with the flapper with the tank empty of water - either shut off the valve at the wall (remember prior paragraph's advice), or prop the flush valve float up. A rag or paper towl can wipe off the flapper and its seat (the ring around the hole in the bottom of the tank that the flapper rests on). If the flapper's chain is getting caught and not allowing it to close, you can shorten the chain or attach a float to it. If the closed flapper is still letting water into the bowl, replacing the flapper is less than $10 do-it-yourself and usually does the trick.
Sometimes the flush valve needs adjustment (if the water is spilling over into the overflow tube you can usually adjust the float). If the flush valve needs replacement it usually runs less than $20 do-it-yourself.
To check you whole house for leaks, make sure no faucets are open and go to your water meter. Newer meters have a 'leak sensor', often a triangle that rotates to show any water flow at the meter. If it's moving when everything is turned off, you have a leak. Older meters you just have to watch a bit longer, to see if any of the usage dials move. If you have an unfinished basement, you can often see evidence of a leak (dampness or discoloration). It is even possible to have a leak that only runs when water is on - for example, a faulty line between your tub spigot and shower head may leak only when the shower is running. Some leaks are pretty tricky to find. If you have a leak that isn't obvious, it might be time to call a plumber!
May 23, 2016 - Did you know that many states, including New York, now allow you to buy your electricity and/or gas from a supplier other than your utility? Long story short, if you compare and choose wisely you can save quite a bit on your bill. "ESCO"s are the independent Energy Supply COmpanies - see New York State's Public Service Commission website 'Power to Choose' for more info.
We've done our homework and signed up with an ESCO for our accounts starting in December. We have been saving 5-7% per bill - more than the promised 1% savings in part because New York State charges taxes a bit differently when you use an ESCO, and in part because our utility (who is still the one that delivers the power and sends us our bill) has some add-on fees that don't apply once we are using an ESCO. At least one ESCO we looked at had an energy supply rate that was 3x as high as our utility (!) - that ESCO offered guaranteed savings but only for a three-year contract...buyer beware.
Other things to watch out for: many utilities charge a slightly higher rate for "balanced billing", and if you are on balanced billing and switch to an ESCO, your utility will require you to 'true up' before you switch - generally this means switching in winter could cost you money, and switching in summer could shake loose a credit. Check first! Also, if you are on HEAP it may depend which utility you use and which ESCO you choose whether or not you can continue to participate in HEAP. Finally, if you have a local cooperative utility, you may not have the option to choose an ESCO (often your rates are already lower than an ESCO can match).
If you're interested in more details on our experience, feel free to contact us.
May 12, 2016 - Did you know that even if you do not own the sidewalk in front of your home, in most areas the maintenance of that sidewalk is up to you? Some municipalities install the sidewalk, others have grants available to homeowners to add sidewalks, and some leave everything up to the homeowner.
If your sidewalk is showing signs of wear (broken or missing finished surface, gaps or bumps where one slab or surface meets the next), taking care of it sooner is a lot easier than waiting for the whole sidewalk to require replacement!
In most areas, small patches do not require a permit - your local hardware store or building supply can help you with materials. For concrete, don't skip the preparation steps of cleaning and applying a surface preparation product to help the patch bond to the existing material (otherwise you will find yourself repeating the same fix next year). If tree roots have heaved your sidewalk, you can fix the problem in a couple of ways - one would be to reroute the sidewalk in an arc around the roots, another would be to remove the affected sidewalk, trim the tree roots, and completely replace the sidewalk (either approach usually requires a permit).
May 2, 2016 - Last week we attended an insurance presentation for landlords, so now seems like a good time for Fire Safety reminders to keep your family safe! Smoke detectors and CO (carbon monoxide) detectors save lives, but only if they are installed and working! We won't go into details - click through to the Elmira City Fire Department's site for more info - but will remind you that smoke can kill before heat does, and if you don't have a smoke detector you will likely suffocate before you wake up. Working smoke detectors will wake you up in enough time to get out of the building with no or minimal injury! CO is odorless and deadly - without a CO detector, the first sign that your furnace is broken could be your death (very sad, but true).
If you are a client, just ask us for replacement batteries - we know the low-battery alert chirping is annoying, and we want you to stop the chirping by making the smoke detector happy, not disabling it and putting your family in danger! If you have a smoke detector in your kitchen, move it to your living or dining room - as long as the smoke detector is not too far from the kitchen door, you will be just as safe and it won't go off every time you cook!
April 25, 2016 - As the weather warms up, the grass starts to grow! Whether you obsess over a smooth green carpet, or consider anything green to be a victory (for you, nothing is a weed), it IS that time of year. Setting your lawnmower relatively high, watering weekly if it doesn't rain, and feeding your lawn in the fall can vastly reduce the time you have to spend maintaining your lawn. Most jurisdictions require homeowners to keep lawns trimmed neatly - over 8" or 9" and your town or city may cut it for you and add the cost to your tax bill - typically they give you just a few days after the first warning (often at 6") of the season to avoid this!.
Also during the summer, remember to keep your yard clear of debris. Outdoor furniture is a great way to relax and enjoy your yard. Local codes prohibit indoor furniture outdoors, so if your recliner feels like wandering outside, try to restrain it! Porches and yards are a lot more enjoyable when they are uncluttered - now that it's warm, spring cleaning is a great excuse to get outside and clear out any stuff that's accumulated in your yard. Most local areas (including the City of Elmira) have yard waste programs that allow you to drop off your biodegradable yard waste (no rocks, gravel etc.) to a collection point for free (registration and/or proof of residency may be required).
If you're going to be getting up close and personal with your lawn, plants and shrubs (or if you choose to escape town for a hike), don't forget to use insect repellant and/or cover up - it's a lot easier to avoid bugs than it is to treat Lyme disease and other icky conditions spread by biting insects.
April 12, 2016 - Yesterday the Chemung County Legislature approved all bids from the 2016 tax sale auction. Today we paid the balance due on the eight properties that we purchased. Buyers have until April 29th to pay the Chemung County Treasurer, soon after that the deeds should be recorded into buyers names for all properties. Check out our Available Homes for details and expected occupancy dates of our new properties.
March 30, 2016 - if all goes well and the Chemung County Legislature approves our bids, we will close on eight additional homes by the end of April. One will be move-in ready almost immediately, most will need cleaning out, carpet, paint and - well, we won't know exactly until we close. Stay tuned for more details!
March 8, 2016 - we closed on 450 Gray Street (at the northwest corner of Gray and Elm). This is a big, gracious home that was built with attention to detail but has been neglected for a while. We'll be cleaning it out, repairing the roof, double checking electric and plumbing, refinishing the second floor pine floors, adding carpet and tile as needed, painting inside and out, replacing the kitchen cupboards...you get the idea. Four bedrooms, living room, dining room, huge eat-in kitchen, 1 1/2 baths, walk-up attic, off street paved parking area.
November 24, 2015 - we closed today on our 50th property in the Southern Tier! We bought our first property in November 2010, and started slowly with just two more in the next twelve months. Once we had proved our rent-to-own concept to ourselves, things picked up speed. We bought four properties in December 2011 alone, and reached 16 properties by the end of 2012, 20 by the end of 2013, 42 by the end of 2014, and 50 by the end of 2015. Several package deals made 2014 our single most active year. We look forward to continuing to grow and help build our local communities by providing a path to home ownership for folks with solid income but who can't qualify for bank financing.
December 17, 2013 - we closed today on our 20th property in the Southern Tier!
January 17, 2012 - we closed today on our tenth property in the Southern Tier!
November 26, 2010 - we closed today on our first property in the Southern Tier!
American Capital RE, LLC
Elmira's rent-to-own specialist.
Why rent when you can buy? Low down payments, monthly rents for a wide range of budgets.
"The process has been smooth and Harriet has been here the whole way."
Our office is at the corner of Hoffman and Water - look for the striped awning