HOW CAN I PREPARE MYSELF FOR THE BUYING PROCESS?
Purchasing a home is exciting, but there’s a lot to consider. Take time to define your search parameters like price range, location preference, type of ownership (co-op, condo, etc.), size of property and building amenities, if applicable. Prioritize your needs (i.e., space, light, views, schools, etc.) but try to be flexible. In evaluating your budget, know what you can spend on a down payment as well as monthly expenditures like maintenance or common charges, real estate taxes, monthly mortgage, utilities, parking, etc. Find the right real estate agent to help you navigate through the process, speak with a mortgage lender to obtain written pre-approval for a loan, and choose an attorney experienced in NYC real estate.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN AN AGENT?
Buying a home is not only an important financial decision but a major life decision as well. Nothing says more about who you are or how you live than where you live, so make sure that your real estate agent is someone who understands you and your needs. Begin by asking friends who’ve used agents for referrals. Choose a professional who specializes in homes in your price range and desired neighborhood(s), is available to work with your schedule, listens to your needs, asks a lot of questions about how you live, and takes the time to explain things you may not understand. Finding a new home should be an exciting and enjoyable process but it is also time-consuming. Look for someone whose company you enjoy – you will likely be spending a lot of time together.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CONDO AND CO-OP?
Co-ops are owned by a corporation. When you buy a co-op, you’re buying shares that entitle you as a shareholder to a “proprietary lease” in a particular apartment. Shareholders pay a monthly maintenance fee to cover building expenses, including real estate taxes. Approval is granted by a board of directors, and all prospective buyers must submit a “board package”. The board will also require an interview.
A condominium is real property, and a purchaser is given a deed. Besides owning the apartment, you also own a small percentage of the building’s common elements like the halls, stairwells, etc. Each individual apartment gets a separate tax bill from the city. There is also a monthly common charge for building expenses. Financing and subletting terms can be more flexible in a condo than a co-op.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT COSTS WHEN BUYING A NEW DEVELOPMENT?
Transaction costs may be higher when you buy in a new development. Terms vary by project, but sponsor sales often add around 2% to the transaction’s closing costs. The biggest chunk will be city and state property transfer taxes (usually 1.825% of the purchase price), traditionally a seller’s expense that will often be shifted to the buyer in the purchase agreement. These expenses cannot be rolled into a mortgage, so buyers will require more out-of-pocket at closing. Also, the lender will see the closing costs as a reduction in a buyer’s liquid assets after closing, which may affect how big a mortgage the buyer qualifies for. Buyers will likely have to pay these fees again when they sell. Still, many are comfortable purchasing new construction based on the timing and the value of living in a brand-new home.
SHOULD I GET PRE-APPROVED FOR A MORTGAGE?
Yes! Getting your financing in place before you look for a home will save time and help ensure a smoother transaction. Meet with a mortgage broker to ask questions about the loan process and arrive at a comfortable price range. There are two levels of endorsement during this process: pre-qualification and pre-approval. Pre-qualification means you are potentially qualified for a stated loan amount, assuming full and accurate disclosure, while pre-approval is more appealing to a seller. To get pre-approved, you must provide your mortgage broker with information for a detailed background and financial check (including tax returns, credit check and income history). You’ll then get a letter from the lender stating the amount of your loan. This commitment is usually valid for about 60 days.
HOW ARE CLOSING COSTS DETERMINED?
For many homebuyers, closing costs are a mystery. If you are purchasing, you need to be aware of these costs well in advance of the closing date. Typical closing costs associated with the purchase of a co-op, condominium or townhouse include but are not limited to: attorney fees (which vary); fees associated with your mortgage loan such as origination costs (0 – 3% value of loan), application, credit check, etc. ($500 and up), appraisal ($600 and up); move-in deposit ($500 and up, usually refundable if no damage); various taxes including mansion tax (1% of total purchase price when $1 million or more), insurances and other items, plus your remaining down payment. Condos and townhouses also require title insurance, title search and recording fees (approximately 0.5-0.8% of purchase price).
Buyers should consult their real estate attorney or financial advisor for specifics. Those buying in new development projects should pay particular attention to these numbers as you will likely be paying NY City and NY State transfer taxes (usually 1.825% of the purchase price) as well as other seller fees and expenses like the cost of the seller’s attorney.
STEP-BY-STEP TIMELINE FOR PURCHASING
Once you’ve started your search and are working with your agent to preview different properties, it’s important to be aware of the timeline of events that generally take place when you’ve found that perfect home. In most cases, once you decide to make an offer, it can take an average of 60 – 120 days to complete the closing process.
Prepare the Offer: 1 day
Negotiate the Offer & Acceptance: 2-5 days
Loan Application & Appraisal, Loan Approval and Commitment Letter, Sign
Contract/Escrow Deposit: 2-4 weeks
Co-op Board Package & Interview/Condo Application: 4-6 weeks
Bank & Attorney Prep Closing: 1-2 weeks
Final Walk Through: Day of Closing
Transaction Closing: 3 hours
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
- Determine your budget for a down payment and the amount you are able to spend monthly. Consider monthly expenditures such as your mortgage, maintenance or common charges and real estate taxes, utilities, parking, etc.
- Get pre-approved for a mortgage, look into your credit report, FICO score, type of mortgage, and shop for best rates and programs.
- Identify your timeline for moving.
- Find a real estate agent who specializes in New York City real estate.
- Determine your needs and prioritize your wants: style of home, size, location, building amenities, condo, co-op or house.
- Explore different neighborhoods to determine which ones suit your needs.
- Evaluate access to transportation and commute time to work in selected neighborhoods.
- Evaluate building amenities and house rules in terms of your needs (e.g., washer/dryer permitted, doorman, gym, pet policy, storage facilities, etc.).
- Discuss with your agent how much to offer and leave room to negotiate. Your agent will be able to advise based on how long the property has been on the market, condition of home, other offers that have been presented, and how the asking price compares to similar, recently sold properties.
- Let your agent prepare your offer and apply trained negotiating skills during the buying process. Your agent will advise you of any final negotiating factors that may benefit you in the purchase.
- Once you have chosen an apartment, have both your agent and your attorney evaluate the building’s financial statements.
- Once your offer is accepted, work closely with your agent to gather materials for your mortgage application and/or board package.
- Find a local real estate attorney to prepare the purchase contract before you sign and represent you at the closing.
- Before you move in, obtain homeowners insurance. Get quotes, compare and secure an insurance policy with appropriate coverage.
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