Buying a Home in New York: The People in Your Corner

Buying a Home in New York | The Amateur Everything

One thing I learned during the home buying process was that every single step involves at least two other parties. Because of this, you need to assemble a team that you can trust and like to work with. Think of this part as your Ocean’s Eleven (but not eleven, more like three). You should probably have your team assembled before you go to open houses, but if you’re like J and I and have no idea what you’re doing, then you’re probably doing everything at once — researching, submitting items for pre-approval, going to open houses, asking realtors at open houses if they would recommend getting a realtor (their answers will probably leave you more unsure), and trying to figure out how the hell you’re supposed to find a real estate attorney. Regardless, here are the folks you need to look out for:

If you went with my suggestion of getting pre-approval from 3 different banks, then you have a number of mortgage representatives to choose from. THEY WILL ALL BE DECEPTIVELY NICE AND AVAILABLE AT THIS STAGE. Of course, this is assuming you can’t just put down an all cash offer on a place. If you can, then what are you waiting for — just buy a place already! But if you’re like J and I and are getting a portion of your home financed, it’s good to be as aware as possible of your bank and mortgage representative’s strengths and shortcomings. I guess there isn’t a whole lot you can do with this information, but if the rates and costs are the same, definitely go with a rep who is easiest to get in touch with.

Next is the realtor. Like I mentioned before, get someone who knows what you are looking for and can provide insight into the neighborhood. If you’re looking in a particular neighborhood, it would probably do you good to find someone who is very familiar with that part of town. A realtor from Manhattan won’t have the same knowledge of Queens as someone who has been working in the borough for a long time. Additionally, someone from the neighborhood may have a better rapport with the seller’s agent. Also, obviously, housing markets vary widely, as does competition. It’s good to have someone in-the-know who won’t push you in the wrong direction. Of course, these are all things I wish I had in a realtor. The reality is that J and I went it alone and had to figure out all of the above ourselves. I wouldn’t say I recommend it, but *spoiler alert* we were successful so… who knows what we missed out on?

Because we didn’t have a realtor, and we had a relatively incommunicado mortgage representative, J and I relied heavily on our attorney. He was the dad of a close friend from college and had been working in real estate in Queens for a long time. Because of this, he understood the ins and outs of home buying, had seen every possible thing that could go wrong, and advised us on when we needed to push the bank for answers. He kept us abreast of general timelines for turnaround and responsive in our communications to all parties. He made an effort to be cordial and understanding, but also responsive to the sellers’ attorney. We heard nothing but glowing praise from the other parties about working with him, which was helpful when the process is dragging and you’re afraid the seller might pull out of contract because you are just taking so long at no fault of your own.

So these are, more or less, the folks you need to have queued up as you enter this process. You need to keep them all up-to-date with where you are in your search, and make sure you know what information you need to give all of them when you’re ready to move forward with making an offer.


This is part IV of a series (mostly anecdotal) about purchasing a coop in Queens. For the rest of the series, click here.

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