Home buyer's guide
(house, condominum and co-operative).

Programs to help you buy a home.

If you think you will never be able to own your own home, here are a few of the programs available to help you become part of the American Dream.   Most of the programs are for first-time home buyers and have restrictions on the price of the home and income requirements.   These programs are there to make home ownership possible for people who could not buy a home without help.

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Should I buy the home with someone else?

Quite often it will be necessary for someone such as a parent to help you buy a home or you may need to buy the home (especially a multi-family home) with someone else.   In some cases the other person will be listed on the deed and/or the mortgage.   In other cases, they may not - such as when a parent loans their child money for the down payment.

The single most important thing to do if you are buying a home with someone else is to make sure that your agreement regarding the purchase is in writing!   Because agreements involving real estate must be in writing, you might later be stopped from testifying to what you and the other person agreed to.   For your protection and piece of mind, have your lawyer prepare an agreement.   It can save you from going to court later and keep your family and friends together without hurt feelings or resentment.

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Dealing with a Real Estate Broker/Agent.

You are most likely going to find and look at houses (condos or co-ops) with a “Real Estate Broker" or "Real Estate Salesperson", also called an "Agent."   In order to list and show properties a person must be licensed as either a “Real Estate Broker or a Real Estate Salesperson.   A Broker can own their own business or practice but a Salesperson or Agent must work for and through a Broker.   They each operate the same way and must follow the same rules.

To check if a Broker or Agent is licensed go to the eAccessNY search page.   You may also see the term "Realtor."   That simply means that the Broker is a member of the Association of Realtors and is required to live up to their standards in doing business.   It is not an addition or extra license.

In almost all circumstances, brokers/agents work for Sellers – not for Buyers!   Unless you have specifically hired the Broker/Agent, he/she is working for the Seller – not for you.   Because brokers/agents try to be very friendly and helpful to buyers, it is easy to think that they are looking out for your interests.   DO NOT RELY ON THIS!   The broker/agent's main goal is to make a sale – your goal is to buy the best home you can at a fair price.   Look out for your own interests.   Take the time to review the NYS Real Estate Guide.

Abroker/agent may try to explain away your concerns.   If you have any concerns, check with persons that do not have such a large stake in your closing on the home.   While most brokers/agents will not mislead you, your home is likely to be your largest purchase and one that you will have to live with for a long time.

The broker/agents, including the listing and selling broker, normally get paid by the Seller.

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Get a mortgage pre-approval letter.

You want to be in the best bargaining position and if the Seller knows you are eager they may take a tough stance in negotiations.

How can you improve your Buyer profile? By having a pre-approval from a lender.   A pre-approval is a one page document which states that based on the information you have provided the lender you have been pre-approved for a certain dollar amount loan.   It will also state that the approval is subject to review of your income, and verification of your employment and assets.   You should also have at your fingertips your last three months bank statements and tax returns for the last two years.   The lender will ask you for these when you are ready for full approval.

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Check prices for similar homes in the area.

Before you make an offer on a home, you want to look at what homes like the one you found have sold for in the same neighborhood.   These are called "comparables" or "comps."   The broker/agent you are working with should be very willing to get you this information, but you want to double check yourself.

To check the comps yourself, go to the Trulia Real Estate Search tool.   Click on the "Recently Sold" tab on the top.   You can search for an address or a zip code.   If an address doesn't come up with enough results, try the zip code.

Look at the results to see what homes seem most like the one you want to make an offer on.   There can be a big difference in prices since the condition of the homes may be different and even a 1 block difference in location can affect price a great deal. Use these results as a guide for deciding how much you should offer.

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Make an offer:

If you are working through a broker/agent, your offer will be made to him/her.   Otherwise you will make your offer directly to the seller.   If making the offer directly to the seller, be prepared to explain why you are offering less than the asking price.