A home purchase involves making important decisions that will affect not just your finances, but your quality of life as well. With careful planning, you can help ensure that the process will be straightforward and stress-free.
Find the Right Help
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or an experienced investor, you can only benefit from the advice and guidance of the right real estate professional. It’s recommended to select an agent who has a good track record, is knowledgeable in recent as well as long-term market trends, and is highly familiar with the areas you’re interested in.
In general, the best real estate agent for you is the one that you feel comfortable with, actively listens to your concerns, and replies promptly to your inquiries. The right agent will provide you with access to the latest listings, including off-market properties; research the properties on your shortlist; and help you determine whether or not they’re worth their asking price.
Get Your Papers in Order
Sellers and lenders will need your financial information, so it’s best to start preparing as early as possible. Typically, lenders will want to see your W-2 or 1099 forms; federal tax returns; records of assets such as bank statements, property and car titles, mutual fund and brokerage statements, etc.; details of debts such as credit cards and loans; and so on.
Get a copy of your credit report and make sure that it has no errors that could bring down your credit score – remember that your score will have an impact on the type of property you can buy and at what price.
Research Financing Options
Check out the many different kinds of loan products available. The best one for you will depend not only on your financial situation, but also on your risk profile and your long-term goals. Each mortgage type will have its pros and cons and your agent can connect you with advisors who will help you choose the best mortgage for you.
Once you’ve decided, you will want to get a pre-approval letter from the lender. Proof that you can get financing lets sellers know that you’re a serious buyer.
Know What You Want
Make a list of what you really want in a home – this will help you narrow down your options, focus your search, and find the right home a lot faster.
Get to know more about the buildings or neighborhoods that you plan to live in – check their proximity to amenities that are important to you such as schools, work, shopping and dining, the subway, and so on.
Make an Offer
When you’ve found the home that you want, your agent will help you come up with a strong and attractive offer. Be prepared for counteroffers or rejections at this stage, these negotiations are part of the buying process. At this point it certainly helps to have a good agent who knows how to work out a deal. Some buyers also opt to get inspections done during this period even before the contract is signed.
Once your offer has been accepted, then you and your attorney need to review and finalize the contract for sale. Common contingencies that a contract will typically have include: mortgage contingency, attorney approval contingency, and inspection contingencies.
When you sign the contract, you’ll also need to deposit 10% of the property price into an escrow account.
For NYC Condo/Co-op Buyers: Get Board Approval
If you’re buying a condo or a co-op, then you’ll also have to get the approval of the condo or co-op board. This step can often be very involved and you need to be prepared to disclose personal and financial information.
Typically, co-ops have more stringent requirements than condos. Expect to provide details about your net worth, annual income, tax returns, liquid assets, and so on. Letters of reference are also a typical requirement, and co-op boards also often require a personal interview.
This can be a tricky process, which is why it’s extremely important that you’re working with a broker who’s experienced in putting together co-op board packages.
Go Through Escrow
The escrow process begins after the contract is signed and the initial deposit is made. It is during this time that inspections are completed, a title search is conducted, and your financing is finalized.
Your attorney will be making sure that there are no liens on the property and if you’re buying a condo or co-op, they will be checking the building’s financial documents as well. Your lender will employ an appraiser to determine the value of the property and will also review the building’s financials.
Once all the contingencies are met, then it’s time for escrow to close. Before closing day, you will go through a final walkthrough of the property to make sure everything is in order. On closing day, all the required papers are signed, all fees and additional costs are paid, and the keys to your new home are turned over to you. Congratulations!