Archive for Closing

Visiting open houses, scanning the Internet sites and dreaming of where you’ll place your sofa is all well and good, but when it’s time to get serious about buying a new home, there are some basic steps that will position you to find the right place and get the best deal.

Once you’ve decided you want to buy and that your financial basics look sound, the smartest thing you can do is put together your own dedicated search team – a buyer’s broker, a real estate attorney and a bank/mortgage broker.  Choose carefully and make sure they are well-versed in real estate in New York City.  Ask them about their experience.

Buy Into a Buyer’s Broker

A buyer’s broker will help you at every step of your purchase, from helping you figuring out what kind of apartment you want at the price you can afford, to the subtleties of the co-op interview.

Make sure you like your broker – you’re likely going to be spending a lot of time together.  Be sure that he or she listens to you and really hears what you’re saying.  Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time seeing spaces you’re not interested in.  Want a big kitchen?  Lots of light?  Outdoor space?  An older, pre-war building with lots of charm or a brand new, sleek and modern place, a view of the Empire State Building?  If he or she can’t get into your head, the search process won’t be as pleasant as it should be.

Be aware that most agents in New York are seller’s brokers.  If you meet an agent at an open house, for example, you need to keep in mind that you’re speaking with the seller’s representative.  Any hints you give about how much you’re prepared to spend will be reported back to the seller – in which case, you’re likely to spend top dollar.

Why?   Because you’re chatting with a seller’s agent, whose top priority is to show the property in its most favorable light and negotiate the highest price and best terms for the seller. New York law is crystal clear on the duty of listing and selling agents – they must provide “undivided loyalty” to the seller.  So if they can figure out how much you’re prepared to spend, their job is to make sure you spend every cent.

The seller’s agent may offer to have another agent at their firm to act as your representative in making an offer and negotiating for the purchase.  That’s perfectly legal, but being asked to step in and assist the buyer at the last minute may not be the ideal scenario.  First and foremost, it doesn’t give the buyer the advantage of having a dedicated advocate for his or her needs nor can he or she negotiate as effectively as a buyer’s broker who has been working with you all through the process.

Be Prepared

The other representatives you’ll need when you want to buy a property are a banker/mortgage broker and a real estate attorney.

Finding a good banker and pre-qualifying for a mortgage will not only make you an attractive buyer to all those folks hoping to sell their homes, but it will also ensure that you’re looking in the right price range.  A loan officer should request your credit score to do a pre-approval letter, stating that you qualify for a mortgage up to a stated amount (you’ll need to pay for a credit check, usually $20 or less), and be able to explain what kind of rates and mortgages her or his company could offer you today along with what information they will need if you apply for a mortgage with the company.  You’ll know exactly what you can – and can’t afford.   You won’t fall in love with something you can’t have – and when you do find that perfect place, you’ll be in a strong position to negotiate for it.

Locating a real estate savvy attorney will also smooth the way. An attorney in addition to being expert in  New York City real estate, should be well-versed in reviewing co-op and condo financial statements (your accountant could help here), should plan to read its board meeting minutes to look for items like upcoming expenses, lawsuits pending etc. and be familiar with the latest inclusions/exclusions in NYC real estate contracts.

So, first things first.

When you decide to start looking, take time to find the right folks to ensure your search is a success– your buyer’s broker, real estate attorney, and loan officer.  You can call around, ask friends – and even ask prospective members of the team to recommend others they’ve worked with in the past.

With your team lined up, you’re ready to look, and to buy.  Now, about that sofa …