WHEN YOUR HOME SEARCH IS ALL HAYSTACK AND NO NEEDLE
With so many websites available during your home search, the amount of information can feel overwhelming. Here are some key points that may help you refine your search process and get closer to your goal:
Use reliable websites: There are a lot of listing websites out there, but unfortunately most are not updated regularly. When every agent you contact responds with, "Sorry, that listing is in contract" you know the website you're using lacks current data, or worse (think Trulia and Zillow), is scraping outdated information from other sites. The best website for the most up to date listing information NYC-wide is Compass.com. We may be biased, but the fact is, Compass is a tech-driven company with over 50 engineers devoted to our website and app providing you with hourly updates on the go. And then there is always StreetEasy when patience is a virtue.
Ask the right questions up front: Do you have a furry friend? Ask for the pet policy in writing before viewing. Is any of your down payment coming from Mom, Dad or Aunt Suzie? Inquire about the purchasing guidelines for buildings you have in mind, including gifting, co-purchasing and guarantors.
Know thy process: At the beginning of your search it may look a little daunting but don’t worry, here is your NYC Buyer’s Guide for each step of the way – from search to successful closing.
When it's time to call in the experts:
As the saying goes — May the best team win!
Buying real estate is no different. As you embark on the journey of finding a new home — competing in bidding wars, negotiating fair terms, navigating the appraisal, and so on — it's crucial to have a solid team of experts behind you. Consider this the buyer’s trifecta: mortgage banker, attorney and buyer's agent. In each of these roles, you should experience a true professional working for you.
Mortgage banker: If you aren't financing, you won’t need a mortgage banker. But, if you are, you better make sure you choose a good one. Not only should the mortgage banker be professional and knowledgeable, but he or she must also be diligent in managing the process in a timely manner. If you breach your contract by missing your commitment letter deadline, you essentially go into default and risk losing your deposit.
Attorney: An attorney is a given in a NYC home search. You cannot complete a real estate transaction without one, unless you happen to be one yourself. Transactions can be simple and smooth, but they can also become complicated and stressful. It is imperative that you use an attorney who specifically works in NYC and specializes in real estate law. These attorneys have seen it all and know the grey areas of negotiation that other NYC real estate attorneys may try to use against you.
Buyer's Agent: Last, but certainly not least is the buyer's agent. It is common to start the search on your own, browsing on the internet and popping into open houses as you find the time. Once you start to gain momentum, find a property you are interested in, or become more serious in your search for other reasons, you should consider hiring a buyer’s agent. Your buyer’s agent will be your trusted confidant and your coach through the process. The best part? Most of these agents come with a trusted network of lawyers and mortgage bankers, who will serve their customers better than anyone else.
WHEN YOU'VE GOT THE MONTHLY BLUES
If you're searching for a home, you know the listing price, but do you know the true cost of home ownership?
Co-op’s charge a monthly maintenance fee while condos charge common charges. How did they come up with this number? At first glance, condos may seem so much more affordable, but wait … aren’t you forgetting about real estate taxes? While the real estate tax is part of a co-op’s maintenance, it comes on top of the common charges for condos and unless your new home has a tax abatement in place, those taxes can add significantly to your monthly outlay.
Monthly fees and real estate taxes almost never go down and rarely stay flat, so prepare yourself for yearly increases or even assessments, and keep in mind that monthlies have a direct impact on property value.
The best way to find out how much you qualify for, the associated monthly and closing costs and what you may need to work on in anticipation of a purchase is to get pre-approved by a lender early in your search. The pre-approval letter becomes a crucial part of your home-buying toolkit — you'll need to present it when making an offer. Obtaining it now means you'll be ready when you find something. If there are multiple offers, submitting yours in a timely manner with a pre-approval could give you the edge you need to get the home of your dreams.
When you need to figure out your type
Fancy living in a beautiful prewar building with hardwood floors, original details and a fireplace? Welcome to the wonderful world of co-ops. As much as you think buying into a co-op vs a condo is a lifestyle question, the decision can be more about your financials than you might realize.
Chances are, you have heard at least one story about the mean co-op board that turned down your best friend. We won't deny that a board’s decision might come across as arbitrary, but more often than not, an application was put forward to the board that did not adhere to the co-op’s rules. Things like buying for children, gifted funds as down payments, pied-à-terre, a furry friend that needs to shed a few pounds can get a buyer denied. The answer lies in the fine print, and too many times important details get overlooked, especially if a buyer represents him or herself in a transaction.
Hopefully the building that you’ve fallen in love with has great financials, fantastic neighbors, solid construction and good maintenance and is on the approved building list of lenders if you need financing. If, after having studied the tipoffs that you may be the condo type, you still are not convinced that your neighbors should be perusing your financials as bedside reading, there is always the option of buying a townhouse.
WHEN YOU WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING (ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBORS)
Once upon a time, there was the Fair Housing Law , and yes, it still exists today. What does that mean for you in your home search? In a nutshell, it means that anyone in real estate is much better off not speaking to you about your potential new neighbors, local schools, nearby religious institutions or anything else that could make buyers feel discriminated against, whether they are members of a protected class or not.
And then there was Big Data. Now you can find out if the neighbors in your potential new building subscribe to the New York Times or have the Wall Street Journal delivered to their door step every morning. In fact, researching your future neighbors is not a new concept. After all, who better to speak to than current residents when inquiring whether they would buy in the building again?
When you need real-time in no time
Just try googling New York City real estate market reports and the sheer number of reports that pop up as search results can seem daunting. Why so many? And why do they all seem to differ? Here is the secret: In NYC, all property transactions are considered public record, and you can look up sales and mortgage information in ACRIS. If you don’t want to become an ACRIS master or study the NYC Rolling Sales Data, you will find StreetEasy or PropertyShark more user friendly. However, there is a considerable time lag between a property going into contract and finally being closed and recorded and brokerages depend on their own valuation models to overcome the recording dilemma.
The timeline to close on a property in New York ranges from approximately 45 days for a townhouse, to 60 days for a condo and 90 days for a co-op for financed transactions, and all cash deals can potentially move up the time table. In a worst case scenario, the actual meeting of the minds between a buyer and seller, in regards to purchase price, happened a full 90 days or more prior to report release.
The fact is, real-time data is a novel concept in real estate because not many brokerages have the technical capabilities to publish transactions as they occur, which explains the run on Compass Markets in the iTunes store. We publish active, in-contract and closed transactions, by neighborhood, for transactions across Brooklyn and Manhattan. And while no report or app can tell you the price a specific property is in contract for, we can.
When you realize rejection comes in many forms
In a market like NYC, it can be a challenge to find the property you want. Once you find it though, the competition is fierce, and there is always a chance that your offer may not be accepted. In addition to dollar amount, there are many reasons an offer may not have been accepted:
Terms: While a seller wants a fair market price, they may also have a timeline that they need to adhere to. Are you competing with other offers on the table that are either cash or non-contingent on financing? These deals are often considered to be a slam dunk for a seller since these transactions close without needing loan approval from a lender.
Financial qualifications: While you may have been pre-approved by a financial institution, you will still need to pass the board if you are buying a co-op. While condos don't have the same rigorous financial restrictions, most co-ops do have specific parameters for how they qualify a potential owner. This can include 18 months of mortgage and maintenance in the prospective purchaser's post-closing liquidity, as well as a 28 percent or less debt to income ratio. If you don't have or don’t properly convey these points in the financial statement you submit with your offer, then the listing agent will likely advise the seller not to take the deal.
Price: This can be the trickiest part of making an offer, and where a buyer's agent can provide real insight. How high do you need to go to "win" the deal? A buyer's agent knows from experience what prices won other comparable properties and what prices didn’t, and their pulse on the market is not something you can replicate with research alone.
When the seller is just not that into you
No, we are not dating experts, but we do know a few things about buying real estate in New York City, and yes, it can certainly feel like dating. You rush from one open house to another (Does speed dating ring a bell?) and quickly find the one home you truly love. After a sleepless night, you submit an offer only to learn that the competition is stiff. The seller calls for a best and highest. How can you make the seller love your offer the most in order to win the bidding war
Yes, rejection hurts, and it feels personal even though, time after time, some other buyer simply had (a lot) more cash on hand. Our advice? Steel your resolve (and your heart) before you go into a bidding war, and set the maximum price you are willing to spend up front. Your walkaway price is the number at which you will be excited to get the property, and if you don’t get it, you will be heartbroken for a day (well, maybe a week), but ultimately you will have no regrets. Trust us, rejection feels far less painful than regret.
When you can't wait to get the keys
As you embark on your home-buying journey, get ready for a long and bumpy ride. On average, you are looking at approximately two to four months from the time you make that first offer to when you get the keys in hand. Here is a typical timeline for each step of the purchasing process:
Making an offer (three to five days): This part will usually take a few days, depending on the timeline for offer submission and how much negotiating needs to be done.
Due diligence period and contract signing (one to two weeks): This is when your attorney will make sure the building has no red flags — physically and as an investment. He or she will also negotiate the contract with the seller’s lawyer and review the contract with you prior to signing. At the end of this phase, you sign and put your deposit down, and the seller counter-signs.
Congratulations, you are in contract! Time to put your board package together (if applicable).
Financing (Five to six weeks until board package submission): If you are financing, your banker will order an appraisal. That process alone can take two weeks to complete. If the property appraises for the price you are paying, the bank will begin underwriting the loan (another three to four weeks). Once you fulfill all application requirements you are ready to submit your board package.
No Financing (Two to three weeks until board package submission): If you are not financing, your next steps will simply be to complete the co-op or condo application. Why still two to three weeks? This can be a tedious process, especially if personal and business reference letters are required.
Board package/application review and interview (four to six weeks until approval): Most coop/condo boards have 30 days to review your application. For a coop, they will ask you to come in for an interview which typically indicates you are in the final leg of the race. Once your interview is scheduled and the board approves, you are officially on your way to the closing table.
Closing (one to two weeks): For the closing, the challenge is to coordinate the schedules of all involved parties, which can take up to one to two weeks before all come together at the closing table.
You closed! And now ... you get the keys! After all the hoops you have jumped through to get to this moment, this moment comes with a lot of happiness and much relief.
When you can't wait to pop the cork
You have an accepted offer on a new home. Congratulations! But wait … is it really time to pop the cork? Unfortunately, no. Just because you have an accepted offer, doesn't mean the deal is done.
The next phase of the process is due diligence, when your attorney will review both the contract and the building. It is important to be thorough in this process, but quickly. The listing agent is required to present all offers to the seller until there is a fully executed contract, so if another buyer makes a higher bid during your due diligence period, it could push you out of the running. Your buyer’s agent should make sure your attorney has what he or she needs to properly assess the building as quickly as possible.
Once you do sign the contract, it's time to open that champagne, right? Again, not quite. There are still a few hoops to jump through. Next up is the appraisal (if you are financing), and the board package and interview (if buying a co-op). After these next two legs of the journey, you are on your way to the closing table.
Once you meet for the closing and collect the keys, then yes, absolutely, bring out the bubbly!
When you're still looking to find "The One"
Still looking for your dream home? We believe in love at first sight. When you see your dream home, you will instantly know that this is the right one, and you will mentally start moving in. In truth, first impressions matter more than you might think. Next to financials, of course, it really matters how you feel in a space. If you have been looking for more than three months and just can't envision yourself in any of the places you have seen or did not feel the love of a seller, maybe it is time for a quick chat with us. We are more than happy to help you find and get the home of your dreams!