Buying real estate in the Westchester area:
This section includes information and real estate services for buying a home in the Westchester area. I recommend you use the Home Search if you are interested in searching for a home. As a REALTOR, I am privy to some of the best homes before they go on the market. Simply fill out the Property Request form and I’ll get back to you ASAP with homes that meet your specific requirements.
Buying a home can be an overwhelming and complicated process, especially if it’s your first time! The first step is to gather as much information as possible. So, to aid in your buying experience, I have collected several homebuyer reports. Please click on the links below to access this information. Make sure you request a free annual credit report and review it now.
For additional resources, please visit the Free reports section. The Area Resource page contains useful real estate information from sites that have been researched for you. There are sections devoted to Westchester relocation needs, GA schools, real estate tax information, home and garden, maps and Westchester weather.
If you are selling your home in the Westchester area, please be sure to visit the section for selling a home to obtain an online market analysis (CMA) of your home.
I hope you enjoy your visit and come back soon. I am always available for personal service by phone or email, so please contact me with questions any time!
The Home Buying Process
“Finding Your Dream Home”
Following are 14 steps to buying a home in the Westchester county area:
- Talk To A Mortgage Broker Or Bank And Get “Pre-approved” – You and your Realtor should know exactly what you can afford, what you should spend, and help you put your financial picture in perspective! PLUS WITH A PRE-APPROVAL IN HAND YOUR OFFER WILL CARRY MORE STRENGTH TO THE NEGOTIATION TABLE, particularly if being weighed against other offers. Most agents want a pre-approval, rather than a pre-qualification. The difference is that the bank will verify your income and assets and check your credit which of course carries more weight than a pre-qual which is based on a simple telephone call where the numbers are not verified. It is not necessary for you to apply for a mortgage when obtaining a preapproval; you can always shop around after you find a house and make a decision then.
- Choose A Buyer’s Broker – Finding your home is a very serious and very emotional experience. However, realize that with the help of a professional who will guide you, educate you and work for your best interests, you have the best chance of finding your dream home. It is very important to treat the buying process as a business, and choose the best person for that job. A person who first explains to you your choices as a buyer and then proceeds to work with intense focus to find the best home possible. Carolyn Schoemer has had additional special training as a “Certified Buyer Representative.”
- Choose An Attorney – Your attorney’s job is to protect you legally. Your attorney will review the contract and go over it with you and recommend changes to protect your best interests. He or she make sure that the home you choose is being delivered with all the necessary legal documentation and then work with the seller’s attorney, the bank or mortgage company, and the title company to bring forth a successful closing.
- Choose An Inspector – In this area, it is normal to do an inspection on homes and townhouses within 72 hours of the “accepted offer”. The inspector’s job is to tell you the condition of the home you’ve chosen what repairs to expect in the future. Make sure the house inspector has the “ASHI” designation, which stands for “American Society of Home Inspectors.” The house inspector will ask you if you are interested in testing for radon, lead paint, termites etc. Most banks require only a termite inspection certificate and we recommend that the termite inspection be done by a regular termite company, not a general home inspector. If the house must be treated for termites, it is generally the seller’s responsibility to handle this prior to closing.
- Start Looking For Homes – This can be fun but in a seller’s market, it can also be stressful. You may not be able to find exactly what you wanted; often however, you will realize that some compromise may be needed. Take heart! With the help of a good Realtor, you will see the best homes currently available and as you become better educated, you will see good value in the right home. It’s not easy, but it is well worth the effort!
- You’ve Found A Home – It is time to start negotiations. As your realtor, I can prepare a market analysis of the home you have chosen to show its current value. Once you have given me an offer I will present it to the seller’s agent in writing with all the terms (price, down payment, amount at contract, closing date, inclusions, inspections, etc.), and your written preapproval.
- Negotiating On A Home – When we start with a strong and complete offer, the negotiations hopefully will go quickly and smoothly. If this is not the case, we will continue to negotiate until we have an “accepted offer” or we realize that we cannot purchase this home for the price and terms that you want. In this market, it is common to have more than one buyer bidding on the same property, and the seller may not give a counter offer. The listing agent may just ask for your “highest and best” offer and that may not even be the asking price. In that situation, it will be up to you how much you are willing to pay for that property. ALSO-JUST A WORD OF CAUTION… please realize that if the seller accepts your offer, the seller may get other offers on the property and is by law allowed to accept another offer. Therefore, it is urgent that we proceed with the inspections, contract and mortgage as quickly as possible!
- You Have An “Accepted Offer” – As buyer’s agents, we have negotiated with the seller’s agent and you have an “accepted offer”. We will now write a memo of sale with all the terms set forth and notify your attorney. Usually the contract is not subject to inspections and therefore all inspections should be done within 72 hours of the “accepted offer”. This is very important since the property IS STILL AVAILABLE to be shown to other buyers. Should the inspections show problems that were not known or obvious, we may try to renegotiate (your attorney may also be a part of this). Once all issues are resolved, we now go to contract. It is customary in this area to give a 10 % downpayment check payable to the seller’s attorney escrow account. If you do NOT have 10% liquid to write a check please let me know so we can discuss other options.
- Signing The Contracts – The seller’s attorney prepares the contracts; your attorney will review them and with the agreement of the seller’s attorney make any necessary changes. You and your attorney will also go over the contract in depth to be sure that you understand all the terms. The contract is usually subject to obtaining to mortgage but may include any other unique terms to this deal. After the contracts are signed, they are delivered with the check to the seller’s attorney who will then ask the seller to sign. The seller’s attorney will then send a couple copies back to your attorney; you should keep one copy and send the contract to your bank immediately.
- Applying For A Loan – You may apply with the lender who pre-approved you or another lender. Once your application is complete and the signed contract received by the bank, the appraiser will contact me to see the home and prepare an appraisal of value. When this is complete and the bank underwriter has approved your loan, they will send you a commitment letter stated all the terms of the loan. Fax a copy of the commitment letter to your attorney. Your attorney will order a title search and possibly a survey. In the case of a condominium they will apply for the waiver of the Right of First Refusal. With a coop, you will need to send in your coop board application complete with the contract and your bank commitment and other requested documentation. Once approved, your attorney will need verification that you have been approved by the coop board. On a coop, the attorney will also have to do a UCC search which takes a few days. CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’RE READY TO CLOSE! THE QUESTION IS THE SELLER ALSO READY TO CLOSE?
- Important Phone Calls To Make Before Closing – Don’t forget to call the local utility company for gas and electric, and the oil company if the home is heated by oil. You should of course also notify the telephone company and cable, if desired. We can give you the appropriate telephone numbers if you need them.
- The Final Walk Through Of Your Home – You have your loan and the closing is set. Before the closing we will walk through your soon to be new home and make sure that everything is as it should be according to the terms of the contract. On the walk through, it is customary to check for leaks, test all appliances and plumbing and check that all items that are supposed to be included are left in the home. The home is usually supposed to be “broom clean” which does not mean scrubbed. All debris should be removed except storm windows etc. which belong to the house.
- Attending The Closing – The big day is finally here! Bring your checkbook and photo ID and any certified funds requested by your attorney. Usually present at the closing will be the seller, the bank, the title company, both attorneys and both realtors. This is the place where you give the sellers the remainder of your down payment, your loan proceeds and any adjustments back and forth (for example, taxes already paid by seller, oil in the oil tank etc.) The closing usually takes approx. 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours. CONGRATULATIONS! YOU NOW OWN A HOME!
- After The Closing – Call us with your new telephone number and let us know how things are going, or we will call you. You will receive a satisfaction survey and we would very much appreciate your taking a few minutes to fill it out and returning it to our company’s corporate headquarters. They take these surveys very seriously and want to make sure we have given our clients excellent service. Of course, if you have any questions or problems please do not hesitate to contact us. Please also keep us in mind if any of your friends or family need to buy or sell a home in this area, or other areas. We have a great network of agents across the country that can be utilized. We look forward to keeping in touch with you over the next several years. If you would be willing to give me a quote about your experience which I can post on my web site for future buyers and sellers, it would be most appreciated. Like any business, many of my clients are referred by former clients.
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Improve Your Chances of getting an “Accepted Offer”!
With alot of demand and low inventory, and multiple offers being extremely common, it is of great importance that you position yourself to have the “Best Chance” to get your offer accepted. You enhance your chance of getting the home of your choice by doing the following:
Get pre-approved by a recognizable lender for the purchase. This takes very little time and is of great value. At this time, identify the price range for which you qualify and which fits your lifestyle. One of my lenders will gladly do a preapproval with a 20 minute phone call. Have your social security numbers, income and asset information at hand. Submit a strong competitive offer as quickly as possible. Submit the offer as if there will be multiple offers.
Include substantial earnest money deposit (10% is standard):
Acceptance of an offer is sometimes determined by the amount of the deposit. A larger amount may signify a bigger commitment to the seller.
Minimize or eliminate contingencies:
The fewer contingencies, the stronger the offer.
Make a buyer profile available:
Time on the job, flexibility, reason for purchasing seller’s home, what you appreciate about their home, etc.
Be prepared to preview a new property quickly:
Homes sell sometimes in hours. Be prepared to make decisions quickly and be accessible to change the terms instantly.
Buyer and agent to have instant communication access:
Let us maintain instant access to each other via office phone, voice mail, fax, or cellular phone.
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10 Steps to Prepare for Home Ownership
- Decide how much home you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between 2 and 3 times your gross income.
- Develop a wish list of what you’d like your home to have. Then prioritize the features on your list.
- Select three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in. Consider items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.
- Determine if you have enough saved to cover your downpayment and closing costs. Closing costs, including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.
- Get your credit in order. Obtain a copy of your credit report.
- Determine how large a mortgage you can qualify for. Also explore different loans options and decide what’s best for you.
- Organize all the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan.
- Do research to determine if you qualify for any special mortgage or downpayment assistance programs.
- Calculate the costs of homeownership, including property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and association fees, if applicable.
- Find an experienced REALTOR who can help you through the process.
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How Big a Mortgage Can I Afford?
Not only does owning a home give you a haven for yourself and your family, it makes great financial sense, too.
This calculation assumes a 28 percent income tax bracket. If your bracket is higher, your savings will be too.
Multiplier: X 1.32
Because of tax deductions, you can make a mortgage payment-including taxes and insurance-that is approximately one-third larger than your current rent payment and end up with the same amount of income.
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10 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers:
- Be picky, but don’t be unrealistic. There is no perfect home.
- Do your homework before you start looking. Decide specifically what features you want in a home and which are most important to you.
- Get your finances in order. Review your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your downpayment and your closing costs.
- Don’t wait to get a loan. Talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage before you start looking.
- Don’t ask too many people for opinions. It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion.
- Decide when you could move. When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area?
- Think long-term. Are you looking for a starter house with the idea of moving up in a few years or do you hope to stay in this home longer? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as type of mortgage terms that suit you best.
- Don’t let yourself be house poor. If you max yourself out to buy the biggest home you can afford, you’ll have no money left for maintenance or decoration or to save money for other financial goals.
- Don’t be naive. Insist on a home inspection and if possible get a warranty from the seller to cover defects within one year.
- Get help. Consider hiring a REALTOR as a buyer’s representative. Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer’s representative is working only for you. And often, buyer’s reps are paid out of the seller’s commission payment.
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5 Common First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes
- They don’t ask enough questions of their lender and miss out on the best deal.
- They don’t act quickly enough to make a decision and someone else buys the house.
- They don’t find the right agent whose willing to help them through the homebuying process.
- They don’t do enough to make their offer look good to a seller.
- They don’t think about resale before they buy. The average first-time buyer only stays in a home for four years.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can’t I get a better deal by buying through the listing agent?
No! The listing agent has loyalty to the seller and not to you. Even if they get approval from both parties to be a dual agent they cannot give you advice on what to offer, nor can they give you a market analysis on the property. Of course they can advise you to make an offer and they will deal honestly and fairly with you, but they cannot advise you in the same way a buyers agent can.
If I attend an open house, and am interested in the house, who is that agent representing?
You don’t know unless you ask or they tell you. By law, the agent has to discuss agency disclosure at the “first substantive contact” with the buyer, which usually occurs if you show an interest in the house. They may be representing the seller, or may be a dual agent with both parties permission. Perhaps they are standing in for the listing agent, and they are then considering a “designated dual agent.” You really should have this discussion before it is too late and you say something you may regret later.
How much do I put down with the contract? Where does that money go?
The standard amount is 10% of the selling price i.e. $50,000 on a $500,000 house. You can write a personal check and the money is held in a non-interest bearing account by the seller’s attorney. This amount is sometimes negotiable to 5%, or less on a lower down payment deal.
Once I put down the down payment, in what situations would I get my money back?
You usually have 30 days to obtain financing, and if you are turned down by your lender and you show proof, you can work with your attorney to get your money back, but this is highly unusual as we will have you pre-approved for a loan before you go to contract.
What does the seller usually pay for if there are issues after an inspection?
The seller pays for termites and leaking underground oil tanks. Anything else would be negotiable, but if there is a leaking roof or leaky pipes, or a structural problem, they are often responsible for that as well.
Does the inspection get done before or after the contract is signed?
The inspection is done within 48-72 hours of the accepted offer, before the contact is signed.
Do I have to hire an attorney?
In this area, yes, both the seller and buyer hire attorneys to represent their best interests. The seller’s attorney will draft the contracts and overnight them or fax/email them to the buyer’s attorney, usually in 1-2 days. The attorney will negotiate the contract and represent you at the closing.
How long does it take to get a mortgage?
Anywhere from a few days up to 30 days depending on the bank and how quickly you give the bank all the documentation they require. The bank appraisal should happen right after you apply and that usually takes about a week.
Why should I use the vendors and contacts you recommend?
Not everyone is responsive and does a good job. The people I recommend do a great job and I have influence with them so the job will get done efficiently and quickly. If you hire someone I do not know and they are slow or unresponsive they probably will not respond to me either!
How often will you follow up with us?
Sometimes it will be several times a week, and sometimes just once a week. We have systems in place to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, and good followup is a primary focus of ours. Our team uses Blackberries for email and even when someone is out of the office there is always good coverage.
How many homes will I need to look at before I find the right house?
Usually no more than 8-10 houses. We will not waste your time and show you houses that don’t fit your wants and needs. That would not be a good use of your time or ours. We have considerable expertise so will zero in on the right homes and it will be easy to make a decision!
Is the closing usually on the date shown in the contract?
The closing is rarely on the exact date in the contract unfortunately. It is meant to be approximate but don’t take it literally. There is actually up to a 30 day period which is considered reasonable for both the buyer and seller to adjourn the closing. So it is Important to pay attention to when your bank commitment expires so you don’t need an extension which is costly and somewhat complicated.
What can hold up a closing?
Lots of things: the property survey, missing CO’s on the home, lawyers, banks. There are many things that can hold up a closing but our job is to keep these to a minimum so you don’t become anxious.
What are the three most important things I should do to prepare my home for sale?
Remove clutter, paint and remove wallpaper, and remove old carpet. Also, of course the home should be sparkling clean. We will introduce you to a home staging service which will more than pay for itself. If you want to get “top dollar” for your home, this is a must!
I need a first floor master bedroom, or a first floor bedroom. How would I search for this in a home?
I can do that for you! We now have the ability to search our MLS for a first floor bedroom. So just let us know and we will set up a search for you!
I have a dog. How can I find a pet friendly building?
We have a list of pet friendly buildings on Cloud9Condos but they do change regularly, so just email me if you need an accurate list, or what to know what is available. We will need to know your dog’s weight, and the breed, as some buildings are restrictive by weight and particular breeds.
I am interested in buying a bank owned foreclosure property. Aren’t they usually the best deals?
Not necessarily. Foreclosures are best suitable for sophisticated buyers who are handy and have a lot of cash. The banks as sellers can be difficult to deal with and are generally not willing to make repairs or any disclosures as to a property’s condition. The contracts are “as is” and are usually non-negotiable. You need to hire an agent and an attorney who is familiar with the process and you must be prepared to act quickly! For most buyers, I recommend they hire a buyer’s agent and go with a less risky purchase. Most foreclosure properties need a lot of fixing up and might have hidden defects, so buyer beware! We do have expertise in this area and are always willing to help buyers make the right decision.
WE WOULD LOVE TO HELP WITH ANY OTHER QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE. JUST EMAIL OR CALL US AND WE WILL GIVE YOU OUR OPINION AS HONESTLY AS WE CAN!
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