First Time Home Buyer September 10, 2020

Smart Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Property

in front of a house during sunset with lights on and a wet road infront of it

Daydreaming about owning your own home is one of the most intoxicating practices known to modern man, especially now that HGTV and all the house flipping shows make choosing the perfect property look like a cake walk. But when the time comes to actually put your money where your daydream is, it can be challenging for first-time buyers especially to understand how a home that doesn’t currently come anywhere close to the “dream” status but could be whipped into shape — and how a home that they think is perfect now will end up feeling like a mistake in a couple of years.

To avoid that unfortunate scenario, first-time buyers will need to think carefully and weigh all of their options. After considering all of these factors, you’ll be well-prepared to choose a house that feels like home today and for years to come.

mansion with col-de-sac driveway

Before choosing the perfect property, think about pricing

First and foremost, you need a home that you can afford. There’s no sense in deciding that you must have four bedrooms when the most you could afford in your market is two.

You don’t need to go through the entire process of getting pre-approved for a mortgage before you can start even considering what you want, but do a little bit of research around what your current housing market looks like, and then think about the down payment size and your own current finances. Check out my websites mortgage calculator to start and it’s almost always helpful to talk to a real estate professional, like a mortgage broker or a real estate agent, so you can get a realistic idea of what you might need to spend and what you can spend on your new home.

Beds, baths, and size

You know what size your household is and whether it’s likely to grow in the future. You also know how much space you’re likely to need based on your own current household’s configuration — if you work from home, then your desire for a little more space (and a room for a home office) might be non-negotiable, whereas if you’re used to commuting to an office every day, you may not need a home office at all.

So get a handle on the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need in any home you buy. If you can, try to come up with some parameters for square footage, too. And you may want to think about your overall lot size if, for example, you’re an avid gardener or you have large dogs who’ll need some space to romp in the yard.

Special features

Once you understand your basic requirements for a home, you can start thinking about additional features that you’d like it to have. Perhaps you want a garage to store your tools, or a fenced in yard for the aforementioned dogs — or a deck where you can lay out and soak up some sun on weekends.

You should also think about the ideal heating and cooling setup in any home you buy, and it’s also wise to consider the school district (because even if you don’t have kids, it’s smart to keep in mind any buyers who could purchase your home from you in the future — they might have kids).

Some of these special features might be “nice-to-haves,” and you might decide that some are absolute necessities. Spend some time talking to a general contractor or a real estate agent before you make any final decisions about necessities, though — it’s quite possible that some of the things on your “must-have” list can be easily added once you move in.

grand central terminal clock

Location matters — a lot

Smart first-time buyers will want to think beyond a school district when choosing a home. How close is your home to major highways in the area (and is that a good thing or a bad thing)? How close are you to work, and are there other job opportunities or thriving industries nearby? What’s the shopping like? Are there parks or recreation centers, and where are the best grocery stores?

You’re buying a neighborhood just as much as you’re buying a home, and unlike your home, there isn’t usually a lot you can do to change the neighborhood. So make sure you’re fully aware of what the area where you’re hoping to buy is like, both positive and negative, and understand how that’s going to affect your life while you’re in the home and any buyers who may come after you.

When choosing the perfect property focus on what you can’t change

It’s really easy to fall in love with one part of a home and allow it to cloud a truer vision of your future. Maybe that kitchen is perfect for re-imagining yourself in a scene from Julia and Julia, but if there aren’t enough bedrooms or bathrooms in the home, then you’ll regret the purchase soon after you move in.

Try to look beyond trims and finishes to focus on the aspects of the home that are fixed and unchanging, like the lot size or the location of the property. If you’re touring a potential home with an agent, give your agent your list of must-haves and ask your agent if the house could fit that list with a little bit of work.

A real estate professional can help you figure out if a house that you think is just OK today might actually be your dream home in disguise. You can change out carpeting for hardwood floors and redo a kitchen over time, but if your heart is set on waterfront property … that might take a few thousand years to manifest, and you don’t have that long.

Is that really a “bargain”?

When you are choosing the perfect property, if you’re faced with a choice between a home that seems like a bargain but requires some fixing-up and a home that’s more expensive but requires little or no work, which should you choose?

In general, you probably want to opt for paying more out-of-pocket today for a home that’s still standing solidly tomorrow. There might be a good reason why that home is listed at a “bargain” price — it might be too expensive and time-consuming for anyone to reasonably fix.

This is another area where your real estate agent can help you understand whether a home’s condition is really worth the savings. Agents have seen homes in the area of all ages and in many different conditions, and they can let you know what issues typically arise in homes and whether the place you’re considering might be at risk for exhibiting one or more of those issues.

When you know how to choose the perfect property, you’re in a good place to start your home search — even if you’ve never bought a home before. Once you’ve got your short list of what you’re seeking, talk to a real estate professional so you can take the next step toward your homeownership dream.

Relocation September 10, 2020

Moving Safely During the Pandemic


Moving safely during the pandemic highly important especially with travel restrictions and social distancing in place. Since these restrictions, although softening, are still active, many people are postponing their moving plans. Governments are assisting by suspending foreclosures and eviction processes during this time. recommends you consider these questions before planning your move:

  1. Is COVID-19 spreading in the area where you’re going?
  2. Will you or your travel companion(s) be in close contact with others during your trip?
  3. Are you or your travel companion(s) more likely to get severe illness if you get COVID-19?
  4. Do you have a plan for taking time off from work or school, in case you are told to stay home for 14 days for self-monitoring or if you get sick with COVID-19?
  5. Do you live with someone who is older or has a serious, chronic medical condition?
  6. Is COVID-19 spreading where I live when I return from travel?

man moving boxes in front of a home

If you can’t put off your move, don’t worry! You can get moving safely during the pandemic with some careful planning. Here are some steps you can take to move safely.

  1. Talk to your moving company. Moving companies are taking several precautions to protect their customers, including following social distancing guidelines, providing estimates based on photos or videos of your belongings, sanitizing trucks and equipment, and wearing masks and gloves.
  2. Use a packing calculator, like this one from so you can purchase all your supplies in one trip to the store.
  3. Do your own packing to reduce contact with moving personnel. The coronavirus can live on cardboard for 24 hours, so any recycled boxes you are using should have sat untouched for at least 24 hours before you use them.
  4. If you are moving out of or into an apartment or condominium building, notify your neighbors so they can choose to avoid elevators, stairwells, or hallways during your move.
  5. Use door stops to hold doors open to reduce toughing door handles. Have your pets secured so you don’t have to worry about the doors being left open.
  6. Pack hand soap and paper towels in a marked box so they can be last on and first off the truck.
  7. When you arrive at the new home, disinfect door handles, cabinet and drawers pulls, appliance handles, and light switches first, even if the home was professionally cleaned before you arrived.
Investing September 10, 2020

16 Tips for the Really Green Real Estate Investor

It’s not rocket science, it’s not unheard of, and it’s not some Illuminati top secret that is withheld from the masses. We all know, that many of the wealthiest people in the world became wealthy through real estate investing. Many of these real estate tycoons started with just one property that grew into an empire. So yes, you too can become a real estate investor.

But, just like with other forms of investing, real estate investing is risky. And, just like with other forms of investing, with the high risks you will also get high rewards if done properly.

Here are some beginner real estate investor tips for those who dare to venture into the property-owning world.

Are you up for it?

Seriously, you have to be in it to win it! Seeing that you are green in all this, you probably don’t have tons of funds to spare. You probably want to penny-pinch as much as possible to make things work and maintain low expenses. This would mean that you would need to be a bit of a handyman or woman. This would mean that you would need to know how to fix that leaky faucet, patch a hole or two, and do some painting. Of course, if bigger things arise you will need an expert. However, when the little things come up, you would need to know how to take care of it to keep your expenses low and have more of a profit. So roll up those sleeves and get a little dirty!

man fixing kitchen faucet

Stick close to where you live

I am assuming that, just like with the above-mentioned tip, you don’t have a lot of funds to spare. So it would make more sense to have property within a 2-hour radius from where you live, no? This way when there is an emergency, and it happens, you will be able to rush over to your rental property and get it taken care of without having to book a flight, book a hotel stay, book a train ride, or pay for a long-distance bus. As you get better at it and build your experience as well as grow your property portfolio, you will be able to venture out further away from home and even possibly hire a property manager.

Jump in without the debt

If you’re going to be a real estate investor, you must realize that you are going to have a lot of expenses to deal with when you have an investment property. Things break, bad tenants, updating, and ongoing expenses will chip away at your profits. Unless you have tons of funds set away for an emergency, you shouldn’t have any lingering debt when you start your investment journey. Clear up those student loans, personal loans, and large credit card debt before looking into an investment property.

Beware of the higher down payments

You may think that you can get an investment property with as little as 3% down. I am sorry to burst that hopeful bubble of yours but that won’t happen. Generally, at least here in New York City, you would need at least 25% down. You also don’t have the luxury of mortgage insurance for investment properties and so, you are held at a higher standard from banks to get a loan approval.

Beware of the higher interest rates

Unlike traditional mortgages for residential properties, investment property mortgages come at a higher rate. This affects your buying power and your monthly payments. Since you have to worry about expenses and having a healthy margin of safety, you will have to look for properties that are cheaper to offset the interest rate to keep your monthly payments down.

two roofers working on a roof of a home

Make yourself look good to banks

Along with paying off debt, ensure that your credit looks good too. Investment loans are more strict than using a traditional loan remember? That goes for your credit too, so getting away with a lower credit score might not cut it for investment purchases like it would for traditional residential purchases.

Margin of Safety

Just like with other forms of investments, you have to keep a healthy margin of safety with investment properties. Sure, homes can go down in value. Just like with stocks and other forms of investments, you may choose a property that loses its value suddenly due to an unsuspected change to the real estate market. I however think that more important for you to be able to keep up with your monthly payments. House values rise and fall in cycles but not the monthly payments. If you can’t keep up with it, you will end up losing the property.

Stay away from fixer-uppers

Unless you are a contractor or have the knowledge and skill to tackle such a feat, I would advise you to stay clear from this for now. Sure, you may think by buying a sweet deal on a place that needs major work would be cost-effective but it isn’t. Repair items can add up and so can the people you hire to do the repairs.

rundown room in a home with floor boards missing and paint peeling

Your expenses

When becoming a real estate investor, you will have expenses, tons of them. If you are trying to rent it on your own without using a real estate salesperson or broker, you will have to worry about marketing and advertising as well as credit and background check fees. You will also have to worry about ongoing expenses like property insurance and taxes (which may or may not be a part of your mortgage payments or in escrow), utilities, maintenance, and accounting and legal services. You will also have to keep in mind for any sudden repairs or pest control.

Location, location, location

Location means everything with real estate including investment properties. Look for areas with lower taxes that has a good school district, low crime, and growing employment. It should also be close to local amenities like shopping and dining as well as transportation and/or highways or major roads.

Start Small

Don’t go overboard with your first investment in terms of size and price. You have to be able to not only take care of expenses but walk away with a profit.

Invest with others

By buying with a partner or partners, you can make the seemly impossible dream of investing come true. That 25% down payment can be split into two or more which will make it easier to move forward with a purchase, however, choose your partners wisely. You have to be comfortable with not only the partners but the agreements that you all have on the purchase price, updates, and management of the property.

group of people meeting their fists together over a table

Consider small banks

Big banks are typically less flexible than smaller banks. Smaller banks may consider a lower down payment and not have as many hoops to jump through to obtain a mortgage. Stop by a small local bank and shop around. You could also contact a mortgage broker instead. Mortgage brokers are intermediaries who bring mortgage borrowers and mortgage lenders together and typically have access to a vast array of banks and mortgage options.

Consider seller financing

If getting a traditional loan is a bit difficult for you then requesting seller financing can be an option. These types of terms are often for a short amount of time, about a five-year term, with a balloon payment at the end which can be refinanced before the end of the term. These arrangements are risky and can backfire so use caution.

Consider buying a multifamily and living in a unit as a way into becoming a real estate investor

This strategy is the easiest way to purchase an investment property. By living in a unit and renting out the other unit(s), the property isn’t considered an investment by the banks and if it is your first home purchase, you can reap the first-time home buyer benefits. You can also take advantage of FHA loans which allows you to purchase up to a four-family (fourplex) home with a down payment of 3.5%.

Consider a REIT

Having a physical property isn’t the only way to become a real estate investor. If all of this seems way too much for you, consider a real estate investment trust. REITs are companies that can be public or private. They use investors’ money to purchase actual real estate. REITs sell on the major stock market exchanges just like any other stock, ETF, bond, or Index. To purchase REITs, just create a brokerage account with company’s such as VanguardE-Trade, or Robinhood, and buy some shares. I currently own a few of the Vanguard Real Estate ETF, (ticker: VNQ) which costs about $74.36 at the time of this writing.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to educate yourself! Jumping into the real estate investment world is an amazing adventure however, it can bring some major headaches along the way if you are not prepared.

Up here in Orange County, there are some great prospects that you can consider as your starter home into the investment world, feel free to check out some homes here or contact me.

Relocation September 10, 2020

15 Tips for Relocating to a New Town

moving box with children books in it

Moving is always hard work but relocating to a new town can be exceptionally hard, even when you are excited about your next chapter in life. As your real estate agent, I can refer you to an agent in your new town to help you find your new home, and also give you referrals for other services you will need, such as recommendations for hotels, restaurants, child care, and pet boarding while you get settled.

To help make the logistics of your relocation as smooth as possible, here are some to-do items you may not have thought about yet that will help you when relocating to a new town

1) To keep or not to keep.

As soon as you know you will be moving, start to organize your belongings, getting rid of things you don’t want to take with you. The less you take with you when relocating to a new town, the less of a headache you may have. Also, sometimes the new space may not even fit what you currently have. Always remember, you buy furniture for your apartment not buying your apartment for your furniture.

2) Have a packing stash

Collect used packing materials like boxes and bubble wrap to reduce what you will need to purchase. Boxes and packing material pricing can get up there, especially if you have a large place and a lot of items to pack and protect. Simply saving those amazon boxes or stopping at local supermarkets or warehouses can help alleviate that cost. Even posting a question on your Facebook page for friends to see would help out too. When I relocated from NYC to Chester, NY, I had asked my clients who I had just recently helped purchase a home, if they had any spare boxes that they weren’t using. I was able to get two big boxes just by asking.

3) Pack rarely used items first

Start packing items you don’t use daily, like family mementos, holiday decorations, books, and décor accessories. Doing this will help you to not get overwhelmed when it’s crunch time.

side of a wooden box that has the word "fragile" spray painted on it in white

4) Shop around for moving companies

Get an estimate from moving companies and schedule a tentative date with the one you choose, but don’t stop there. Check on Yelp, Google, Angies List, and Facebook (etc) for reviews, not all moving companies are created equal. Since you are relocating to a new town, you want to be sure that your belongings are safe while in transport and that there aren’t any delays. Ask your real estate agent, you can ask me for NYC moving companies, as well as friends, acquaintances and family.

5) Check out the neighborhood

Visit your new town, if possible, and arrange a driving tour with a real estate agent that can show you different neighborhoods, shopping centers, and the locations of hospitals, schools, churches, and recreational facilities or parks. Doing this will help you figure out if this is a good fit for you, and if applicable, your family.

an empty classroom with blank chalkboards

6) Find out more about the schools

When you know what school district your children will enroll in, visit the schools your children will attend to meet the principal and tour the grounds. There is a lot you can find out just by going there and make a list of questions that you would want to ask the principal and staff to help ease your mind on things and make you more prepared for the school transition.

7) Get familiar with Nextdoor

Once you know what neighborhood you will be living in, join Nextdoor or the neighborhood Facebook group page to keep abreast of what’s happening there. I have joined several of the local Facebook groups in my area and learned a lot of things from people there as well as gotten referrals for local tax preparer, doctors, and veterinarians.

8) Keep your files in a safe and memorable space

Locate and pack your important papers and ID’s so that you know where they are at all times.

9) Work relocation services

If your company is offering you relocation services, make sure you know all the terms. Often, they will cover items you might not think about, like the cost of shipping your car or professional organizers to help you unpack. They may also be negotiable in what they cover.

10) Save your receipts

Save all your moving expense receipts. If you are moving 50 miles or more from your old job to start a new job, your expenses may be tax-deductible.

11) Connect and disconnect services

Make a list of services you need to terminate in your old town and services you need to initiate after relocating to the new town.

12) Cancel your future appointments

If you have a doctor, dentist, veterinary, or hair appointments scheduled ahead of time, call and cancel them. Sure, you’re no longer going to be using them so who cares, right? Wrong! These are professionals who had set aside time to serve you or your loved ones, or loved animals. Let them open up their schedule so that they can serve another in your place since you no longer in need of their services, unless you’re willing to travel.

13) Transfer your subscriptions and change your address

Remember to transfer subscriptions for things like magazines, food deliveries, and mail-order prescriptions. Lots of the time, updating your address with the United States Postal Service does that for you when it comes to magazines but just in case, update it through your service directly as well. Change your delivery address on your Amazon, Target, Shipt, or other shopping accounts so you don’t accidentally ship items to your old address and change your address on all of your credit and banking account as well.

14) Update the Department of Motor Vehicles

Schedule an appointment to transfer your automobile registration and driver’s license if moving to a new state or just update it to the new address within the state. Now a days, you can do all of this online if you’re staying in the state, so that saves a trip to their office while helping you to avoid their typically long waiting times. When you update your address through them, you can also take care of your voter registration at the same time.

15) Transfer your voter’s registration

If you didn’t do this at the Department of Motor Vehicles or just want to do this separately, transfer your voter’s registration. Get this done right away, especially if your move is close to a major election registration deadline so that you can participate and vote.

If you are in need of assistance with your move out of New York, don’t hesitate to contact me. I know some great trustworthy people that can help. If you’re planning on moving to the area, I’m here for that too! I service Orange, Rockland, Westchester and Putnam Counties. Feel free to contact me.

First Time Home BuyerHome Buying September 10, 2020

7 Things You Shouldn’t Do After Applying for a Mortgage

Congratulations! You’ve found a home to buy and have applied for a mortgage, yay! I bet you are totally excited, I mean seriously, now you have the opportunity to decorate your new home, right? Hold it right there! There are things you shouldn’t do after applying for a mortgage!

woman with hand up, palms facing out signaling stop

So hold your horses! Before you make any big purchases, move any money around, or make any big-time life changes, consult your loan officer or mortgage broker first! They will be able to tell you how your decision will impact your home loan, however, as a rule of thumb, I always advise my clients to just leave their credit alone. But let me dive a little bit deeper on that.

Below is a list of 7 Things You Shouldn’t Do After Applying for a Mortgage! 

Some may seem obvious, but some may not!

1. Don’t change jobs or the way you are paid at your job! 

Your loan officer must be able to track the source and amount of your annual income. If possible, you’ll want to avoid changing from salary to commission or becoming self-employed during this time as well. Usually, if you are a salaried person, going for a job that pays more is a-okay but if you are going for a price cut, that could be a major no-no and mess up your approval.

case with money on top of a table with money spread over it

2. Don’t deposit untraceable cash into your bank accounts. 

Lenders need to source your money and cash is not really traceable. Before you deposit any amount of cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer such as if it is a gift given to you by a family member.

3. Don’t make any large purchases like a new car or new furniture for your new home.

Yes I know, you want to furnish your new pad but new debt comes with it, including new monthly obligations. New obligations create new qualifications. People with new debt have a higher debt to income ratios… higher ratios make for riskier loans… and sometimes qualified borrowers no longer qualify, so yes, it’s one of those things you shouldn’t do after applying for a mortgage.

black porshe driving in the city in the rain with break lights on

4. Don’t co-sign other loans for anyone.

And yes, I mean anyone! When you co-sign, you are obligated. You become one of the people associated with that loan, even if you aren’t the main party. As I had mentioned, with that obligation comes higher ratios as well. Even if you swear you will not be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count the payment against you.

5. Don’t change bank accounts. 

Remember, lenders need to source and track assets. That task is significantly easier when there is consistency among your accounts. Before you even transfer money between accounts, talk to your loan officer.

6. Don’t apply for new credit. 

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car. When you have your credit report run by organizations in multiple financial channels(mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), your FICO score will be affected. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and maybe even your eligibility for approval.

jeans pants with credit cards in back pocket

7. Don’t close any credit accounts. 

You wouldn’t think that this would be on the list of things you shouldn’t do after applying for a mortgage but here we are! Many clients have erroneously believed that having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. Wrong! A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both of those determinants of your score.

Bottom Line

Any blip in income, assets, or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. The best advice is to fully disclose and discuss your plans with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature. They are there to guide you through the process.

If you do have any questions at all, please feel free to leave a question in the comments or contact me directly. I can connect you with mortgage lenders that I have worked with who can assist you on making the right educated choice when it comes to your credit.  I wouldn’t want to see you lose the home you love because of a bad choice that you made with it.

women in front of brick wall with two thumbs up smiling wearing glasses



Family Fun September 10, 2020

Packing a Perfect Picnic in the COVID era

an autum picnic on a basket with fall colored leaves behind it

Summer is winding down as fall approaches but we are still having great weather! With social distancing keeping us from frequenting restaurants as often as we might normally, packing a perfect picnic is a great way to get your family outside for some meal-time adventure.

Here are some tips in packing a perfect picnic and making it extra fun for the whole family

Large coolers vs Small

Instead of packing one large cooler that might be cumbersome to transport to your picnic spot, use smaller coolers for food and drinks, and totes for supplies. Let each family member be in charge of carrying one item so mom and dad don’t bear the brunt of the work.

When packing a perfect picnic, make it fun for the kids

Pack some playthings. Kids get bored fast, so bring games, balls, bubbles, or outdoor toys to give them more to do than just eat. This way, they aren’t trying to drag you back into the house (or if they are older, go back by themselves). Don’t forget, just bringing fun items outside won’t make it fun. Kids love to have fun with their entire family, so that means you too! Sip on that iced coffee and get your energy level up so that you can keep up with them!

What about your four legged friends?

If you have dogs, bring them too as they are a part of the family! Packing a perfect picnic would demand their presence or else it wouldn’t be perfect, now would it? I know mine would stare out the window whining if he was stuck inside looking at us outside since he always wants to be near us. Be sure to have plenty of water for them and don’t forget the bowls and some tasty treats! Remember, your furbabies are going to be running around in the grass so be sure that they have their flea and tick treatments as well as check them for any hitchhikers when you get home. I personally use Seresto, but use whatever you feel is best for your pup.

Yorkshire Terrier standing on its hind legs while person behind it on a picknic

Don’t forget protection

Keep everyone comfortable with sunscreen, insect repellent, hats, and sunglasses. Remember that as you play and eat throughout the afternoon and the sun goes down, you might need to switch from sunscreen to sunshades. You won’t want the fun to be forced to an early end due to an onslaught of mosquitoes, a bad sunburn, or the sun shining in everyone’s eyes.

When packing a perfect picnic, you gotta make it comfy

Make your picnic spot more comfortable by bringing a small rake. A child-sized rake is easy to pack and will allow you to quickly clear your site of prickly pinecones, pebbles, or seashells.

A nice large picnic blanket is a great idea and makes for pretty pictures, but camp chairs and a small folding table are more comfortable and keep you away from the ants.

group of people having a picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park overlooking lower Manhattan.

It can be a learning experience

Make your outing educational. Even if you are only going to the backyard, you may be able to find some teaching moments among the trees, plants, insects, or critters that live nearby. If you are headed to a park, visit their website first and find out a little about the history of the area or the plants and animals in the area. For nighttime excursions, a location away from artificial light will make stargazing easy. Bring a strong flashlight to point out constellations.

A great picnic site in Chester, NY would be Knapp’s View! Check out some amazing photos of it here.

Got any other great ideas? Share them in the comments!

First Time Home Buyer September 9, 2020

Top First Time Home Buyer FAQ’s Answered

FAQ text that looks like wooden cutouts in front of a colorful wooden back drop with 3 little 3D stick figured people, one colored red, the other yellow and the last blue - Top First Time Home Buyer FAQ’s Answered

You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers. As I have continued to work with many first-time home buyers throughout my career as a Realtor, I often get a lot of questions regarding the process. Since I’ve been asked the same questions over and over time and time again, I have decided to compile a list. It should help those who are looking to dive deep into their first home purchase and cover the most common first time home buyer FAQ’s. Here we go!


First Time Home Buyer FAQ’s: Mortgage-Related

How do I know if it’s time to buy instead of rent?

If you know where you want to live, have a steady and secure income and are ready for the responsibilities of home ownership, then it’s a great time to invest in property.

How much do I need to save up for a down payment?

Here is one of the most frequent questions out of all of the other first time home buyer FAQ’s that I am asked. A conventional loan down payment is usually 20% of the sales price, but other types of financing require as little as 3.5% to 15%. A mortgage lender can tell you what types of loans you qualify for.

How do I know if I qualify for a loan and how much I can afford?

Contact a mortgage lender to get pre-approval for a loan. The lender will ask you some basic questions about your income and debts and can tell you what amount you can be approved for, and how much your mortgage payments will be.

What does the lender need from me to give me a loan?

Usually, you are asked to provide your last two tax returns to show proof of income. You should also provide recent bank and credit card statements and proof of your current pay rate. You will also be asked for your social security number so they can run a credit check.

What’s the difference between pre-approved and pre-qualified?

This is one of the great first time home buyer FAQ’s I have been asked since it can be a bit confusing. While often used interchangeably, these terms don’t mean the same thing. Pre-qualification is an estimate of what you may be approved for based only on the verbal information you provide. Pre-approval means the lender has verified your income and debt information and run a credit check.

How do I know which mortgage option is right for me?

Your mortgage lender is the best person to advise you on this question. Their products and qualifications change from time to time, so they would know best what products are available to meet your needs.

a man with binoculars, searching for something in a desert

First Time Home Buyer FAQ’s: Searching for a Home

What should I do when I see a house online that I like?

Call your buyer’s agent: the agent you are working with to find your home. It’s best that you work with one real estate agent throughout your search because that person learns what you like and dislike and will invest a lot of time vetting properties for you. That person also represents your best interests only. When you call the agent advertising the home, you are dealing with the seller’s agent, so, while they can assist you, they are also trying to get the best price for the seller.

Can you show me a house if it’s not your listing?

Absolutely. As a buyer’s agent, I can show you any house listed in our MLS system, and I will contact FSBO sellers on your behalf. As mentioned above, working with me as your buyer’s agent ensures that your interests are protected.

How do we write an offer?

When you find the property you want to make an offer on, I will run a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to help you determine a fair offer amount. I will also guide you through the additional terms of the contract, such as the escrow amount, closing date, and any additional terms you want to be added to the offer. I will write the offer on a contract form and submit it to the seller’s agent.

What if I want to back out of a contract?

You always have the right to back out of the purchase, but you may lose your escrow deposit. If the contract is contingent on a property inspection, you usually have the right to cancel for any reason during the inspection period. Once the inspection period has passed, you cannot back out and keep your deposit unless the seller agrees, or an additional term has not been met.

What happens if there are other offers on the house I love?

If a seller receives multiple offers on their home, usually their agent will inform the buyer’s that multiple offers have been received and the buyers have another opportunity to alter their original offer to present their “highest and best” offer. Keep in mind that many factors may influence the seller in addition to the offer price, such as the down payment amount, closing date, and inspection terms.

What happens when my offer gets accepted?

Once both parties have agreed on all terms and signed the contract, your escrow deposit must be made and you should schedule the home inspection. Your lender will receive a copy of the contract and will begin processing your mortgage application.

Do I need an inspection?

I always recommend that you have a home inspection done. In the scheme of things, paying a few hundred dollars to have peace of mind that there are no hidden dangers or problems is well worth the money.

How much are inspections?

The cost of the home inspection depends on the size of the house and additional inspections requested, such as swimming pool, septic tank, termites, insurance four-point (HVAC, plumbing, roof, and electrical,) wind mitigation, and radon. An average home inspection, without additional inspections, is typically about $300 to $400.

a person's hand signing a contract - Top First Time Home Buyer FAQ’s Answered

First Time Home Buyer FAQ’s: We’re Under Contract!

What does “under contract” mean?

Under contract means that all parties have agreed on terms, have signed the contract, and the signed contract has been delivered to both buyer and seller. The payment of the escrow deposit is expected but is not a requirement to make a binding contract.

What is escrow?

The escrow money, escrow deposit, or good faith deposit is money that is offered with an offer, or as soon as an offer is accepted, to show the seller that you are serious about moving forward with the purchase of the home. Because you forfeit this deposit if you back out of the purchase for any reason not allowed for in the contract, the larger the escrow deposit, the more seriously your offer is taken. The escrow isn’t mandatory for most purchases in New York but there are some exceptions (depending on the type of sale).

What if my loan doesn’t get approved?

If you have gone through the pre-approval process and have been forthcoming with all the information requested by your lender, it’s unlikely you will be turned down, but it does happen. Make sure you do not change jobs, purchase big-ticket items on credit, take out a car or boat loan, or open any other new credit accounts while your mortgage is being processed. If your loan does fall through, talk with your lender about changing to a different loan type.

When can I start moving?

You can start moving when you have the keys! When financing, it takes four to six weeks for your loan to be processed. Once the lender gives the all-clear, closing is scheduled. You will sign your loan documents and both parties will sign documents transferring ownership to you. Unless other arrangements have been agreed upon by both parties, the sellers should have completely vacated the home when they sign the closing papers. You can have your belongings ready to move, and a moving company scheduled before you go to closing. At closing, you will receive the documentation you need to provide utility companies with proof of your new residence.

When can I start buying things for my new home?

Wait until you have the keys! Making large purchases the day of closing, before all of the paperwork has been signed off and before you’re officially the new homeowner can cause you to lose the house! Banks have and will check your credit the day of to ensure that you’re all squared away so please, wait until after you sign the dotted line to buy that Lamborgini.

If you have any other first time home buyer FAQ’s that you seek answers for or just have general questions, please feel free to comment below, send me a message on my contact page, or reach out to me on social media!

Home Decor September 8, 2020

Fall Decorating on a Budget

Picture of basket with pumpkins in it next to sunflowers and jakolantern

There is something about decorating for fall that gives me the warm fuzzies! It may be the promise of cool, crisp evenings with brilliant sunsets, or the fact that fall decorating is all about creating a cozy atmosphere in your home. The fun thing about fall decorating is that it’s easy and inexpensive. Here are a few of my favorite ideas for fall decorating on a budget.

  • Hit your local nursery, grocery store and fabric store for fall color

    Place potted chrysanthemums, pansies, croton, purple fountain grass, or flowering kale on your front porch, in your foyer, or around your fireplace to add color. Tuck some mini pumpkins, Indian corn, or gourds around the base of the plants. Instead of spending money on pots, wrap the plant containers in fall print remnants from the fabric store. A great place to find some colors for the season would be to hit up Dollar Tree.


  • Scavenge your yard for fresh ornamental cuttings

    Go ahead and put on your gardening gloves, grab your cutting shears and a basket, and head outside for some free décor right in your backyard. Fall leaves, small branches, ivy, ornamental grasses, flower blooms, pinecones, and seed pods make great accents. Arrange cuttings on your mantel or dining table with LED flameless candles and small gourds, or place branches and blooms in a large mason jar or vintage pitcher. Dollar Tree actually sells mason jars now and you can also pick up some of their flameless candles.


  • Get creative with pumpkins

    There are lots of fun things you can do with a pumpkin besides carving a jack-o-lantern. If you want to do away with the mess, try painting some pumpkins in fall colors that coordinate with your home’s decor. Or wrap a few large pumpkins in light strands to light up your front porch. Make pumpkin topiaries by stacking three or four on top of a plantar, largest to smallest, and wrap then in garland or light strands.


  • Go antiquing for cheap accessories

    Your local antique market, Facebook Market Place, yard sales, or thrift stores can be a treasure trove for great fall finds. An old wagon, a wooden ladder, woven baskets, ceramic jugs, aluminum tubs, antique picture frames, straw hats, and vintage farm tools all have a rustic fall flavor. Finding great finds and even dressing them up with a fresh coat of fall colored spray paint can be a great option if you don’t want to keep the real vintage look.


  • More ideas for fabrics

    You don’t need a sewing machine to make use of fall fabrics. Many fabric stores stock fall prints or have remnant pieces for quilting. Fold a couple of yards of plaid fleece like a throw blanket and drape it over a chair.  Wrap your throw pillows in a yard of a fall print and secure it with craft ribbon or safety pins. Fold the raw edges under and iron to make a simple table runner. Wind strips of fabric around a grapevine wreath or use them to tie big bows around your pumpkin stems.

What are some of your fall fun ideas for fall decorating on a budget? I’d love to hear! Share in the comments down below!