It’s good to have friends

I learned something new today. It turns out that when you have recessed lighting, the bulbs can be raised or lowered within the fixture. When the setting is low, the light is brighter and more widespread. After all the bulbs were lowered in my very large living room, the space was noticeably brighter.

I never in a million years would have figured this out on my own. And the best part of the experience? It cost less than a hundred dollars to have burned-out lights replaced and all the bulbs lowered.

When I started working for a local real estate developer, I didn’t expect much to come of it. We had one marketing project that was convenient for both sides to pursue, and I figured that would be it. But as is often the case with my clients, trust came along with it, and that expanded to include the developer’s contacts. Each of those chance relationships has been pure gold for me. The first was with the developer’s preferred cleaning crew, Dream Home Cleaning, the second with his construction and repair go-to man, Andy Denny.

I recently figured out I need a cleaning crew, not an individual cleaning person. My apartment is too big and messy for one person to tackle alone (it takes one person six hours to clean, and they always leave looking exhausted). Plus I don’t like to give out my house key, a personal preference that is easy to manage because I work from home. I provide access to the Dream Home ladies, a crew of four who come once every two weeks, and the ladies lock the door from the inside and pull it shut behind them when they are done.

The Dream Home Ladies do a wonderful job cleaning my apartment, dealing with endless clutter and food spills, with every surface scrubbed and shining within 1.5 hours. It’s high quality work for less than the $120 I used to pay an individual cleaning woman. Best of all, they are happy in their work, taking time out to fix my daughter’s hair and snack on ice cream with her. You know it’s a good thing when the kids are excited to see people, and my daughter knows all four ladies by name. The ladies go above and beyond to clean my very messy home, and I am grateful to them for their hard work.

I have a similar relationship with Andy Denny. I first hired Andy to install a mosaic kitchen backsplash and undercabinet lighting. He was endlessly patient with my ignorance, steering me away from halogen puck lights (prone to breakage and very high heat) and toward dimmable Home Depot LED lights. He referred me to Dykes Lumber right outside Hoboken, where I chose molding that was the correct wood type and size for Andy to stain to match the cabinets and hide the undercabinet lighting (some cabinets are not meant to have undercabinet lighting. Who knew?) Because he works for a developer, Andy has general construction knowledge (and is insured, key in condo renovations) and access to a readily available team of expert electricians, crown molding installers, plumbers, and pretty much every area of the industry. He has saved me enormous amounts of time and money by doing stuff like installing longer screws in my prone-to-break Frigidaire microwave and oven door handles (a replacement would have cost $150 plus labor; I checked), installing a $10 balcony door lock instead of the $140 Pella footbolt lock my neighbors have, salvaging ceiling light sconces to replace a broken one, replacing a nonworking bathtub drain, regrouting my bathtub, and tightening a screw on my bathroom sink drain so I don’t have to call a plumber to fix the leak, applying veneer to a deeply scratched armoire lip. None of this stuff was an emergency, but all I have to do when I have a question is text Andy on his cellphone (201-667-1806) and he pops over to my apartment the next time he has a free afternoon, which is usually within a few days.

Both Andy and the Dream Home ladies are incredibly kind and trustworthy. I have left them alone in the house with my kids while I pop out to vote or to pick up lights at Home Depot, that is how much I trust them. And none of them are trying to get rich off of me. If work takes less time than they expect, they charge me less than their original estimate. They fit me in around other jobs and charge me for the time they spend on my projects, which is usually a few hours spread out over a few days (they don’t charge me for a whole day on multi-day projects). Because I have relationships with them, they pick up needed materials for my projects when they are going by a supplier, saving me money by not making special trips.

Keeping my home in top-notch condition is really easy and affordable thanks to Dream Home and Andy. There were already a lot of reasons for me to stay in Hoboken, but add two more to the list!

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9/19 Update: I have been hearing back from several of my friends who have been trying to work with Andy Denny and are frustrated because he is not very responsive. Andy’s schedule is pretty tight. The way I deal with it is by keeping a notepad on my breakfast bar with a list of non-emergency repair items for him to look at when he gets a spare afternoon. This approach can be a pain at times because I’ve had a coat rack sitting next to my front door for two months waiting for Andy to hang it, but his prices and work quality make it worth the wait. And when I truly have an emergency (ie. leaking sink) then he is always there the next day and often doesn’t charge for the visit.

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Kathy Zucker

Author: Kathy Zucker

Mom of 3. Accidental entrepreneur. Fencer. New York Life Shorty Award #KeepGoodGoing winner & judge. Helping parents & kids get to work since 2010 as Metro Moms Network CEO.

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting your handyman’s info. We have been looking for a handyman like Andy who can take on small things around the home. Do you know Andy’s hourly rate? I recently hired an electrician who fixed a ceiling fan (loose at the base) with two long screws. The whole thing took him less than 10 minutes and he charged me $75! I hope Andy’s rate will be much more reasonable.

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    • Hi, Kathy C! I don’t know Andy’s hourly rate since he charges me per project, which usually takes more than one day. His day rate is about $225, so a lot of the time he’ll do stuff for a couple of hours one day and then come back the next day to finish up (ie. regrouting the bathtub, he had to let the cement dry on tiles before grouting them). If he works for half a day then the project costs $150 + materials. He often doesn’t charge me for small stuff like tightening screws because he does so much other work for me, that is why he is so awesome!

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  2. Got asked for this info via email: the owner of Dream Home Cleaning is Esther Quinteros and her cell is 201-362-9837

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  3. Thanks Kathy. I will try Andy next time we need a handyman. I will surely mention you as a source. Thanks again.

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    • @Colon, You are welcome! Andy has saved me tons of money (I basically never need to call the plumber anymore when one of my sinks leaks, and the charge is much less than plumber visits), so I am glad to share the savings.

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  4. Hi! I just wanted to see if you still use/recommend Dream Home Ladies for house cleaning. I’ve met with Andy several times and he is amazing!

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    • Kathy Zucker

      Hi, Courtney! Yes, I still use the Dream Home ladies. There are a few new ladies but otherwise they are still great!

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  5. Hello, i searched for Dream Home Cleaning today but wasn’t able to find anything. Also left a message on the Esther’s phone but didn’t seem like a business number. Are they still around? If not, any other recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks!

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  6. His part is a major role in Kathy Beale’s storyline and BBC bosses have hinted that he will know where a lot of the square’s bodies are buried.

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