It’s no secret that spring is a popular time to begin searching for an apartment to buy. Recently, however, New Yorkers have begun to search much earlier, especially now that mortgage rates have been hitting historic lows.
But before you begin searching through apartment listings and start setting up private showings, there are a few actions prospective apartment buyers should take to prepare for their Upper West Side apartment search.
- Assess Your Financial Situation
How much money do you have in the bank, and how much do you take home each month? How much debt do you owe, and what are your monthly payments? Answering these questions will help determine your debt-to-income ratio, which will be used to determine how much you can afford to buy.
It’s also important to get familiar with your credit score, which will play a large role in your ability to secure a mortgage, and consequently an Upper West Side apartment!
- Apply for a Mortgage Pre-Approval
Once you have a handle on your financial situation, check out some mortgage lenders and apply for a mortgage pre-approval. Have financial documents on hand, including tax documents from at least the past two years, pay stubs, investment account statements, credit card statements, etc.
Different mortgage lenders may require different documents, so pull together as much as you can ahead of time. Also, shop around with different lenders to see which offer the best rates and terms. Speaking with a mortgage broker will also help determine what type of mortgage will work best for your purchase (yes, there are different types of mortgages — if you’re unfamiliar, now’s the time to become an expert!).
- Research Buyer’s Agents
While it’s always fun to browse listings online during your spare time, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a buyer’s agent.
An experienced Upper West Side real estate agent will be able to offer insights on the current market, alert you to deals, and act as your advocate throughout the home buying process. Having a trusted expert available to negotiate on your behalf and position your offers competitively can make a difference in your success as a buyer.
- Find Ways to Save When You Buy
Buying a home on the Upper West Side (or really anywhere else in NYC) is a major investment. Fortunately, there are a few ways to save on this purchase.
As you research buyer’s agents, look for a brokerage that offers buyer commission rebates. While it isn’t a common offering, it is perfectly legal for real estate agents in New York to share their commissions with home buyers. Prevu is one such brokerage that offers this cash-back option, in the form of its Smart Buyer Rebate.
Prevu buyers can receive up to two thirds of the buyer’s agent commission after closing, which works out to about 2% of the overall purchase price in most cases.
- Create a List of Must Haves
Before you think about apartment features, think about apartment functions. Do you want enough space to host the annual New York City Friendsgiving celebration? Do you need a designated office space? Do you need generous counter space to indulge your inner chef?
The above questions (and numerous others) will help determine which features are most important in your future Upper West Side apartment. Knowing ahead of time that you’ll need a spare bedroom or space for entertaining will help you avoid buyer’s remorse later on. It will also be helpful for your real estate agent to be aware of these factors as they scout properties that check all the boxes.
Other features, like hardwood floors and natural stone countertops are lower on the list of priorities, since they can always be added later. Focus on apartment size, layout, and location first.
- Look Into Real Estate Attorneys
While hiring an attorney before you find your dream home may seem like putting the cart before the horse, it can save you time and stress in the long run. Don’t feel obligated to sign any retainers just yet, but it’s a good idea to ask around for referrals and do some research online.
Once you start touring properties and submitting offers, things can move pretty quickly. By having a real estate attorney already picked out, that’s one less hurdle to get over.
Also, make sure your attorney has real estate experience! Hiring a friend or family member could backfire if they’re unfamiliar with your specific kind of transaction. Hiring a lawyer who does this every day, as opposed to someone doing you a favor, will certainly make the process go smoother.
Start Your UWS Apartment Search
Once you’ve established your budget and pulled together your team of real estate experts to help in your search, it’s time to start viewing properties! While your agent will be doing research on your behalf, it’s easier than ever to browse Upper West Side apartments online.
For example, Prevu Real Estate is a modern, NYC-based brokerage that enables home buyers to create a profile and select which neighborhoods and property features they’re looking for, as well as their budget.
The Prevu platform then serves up every apartment that meets those needs and delivers regular emails with new listings and open house information. You can upload your pre-approval(s) and financial documents to your account, and work with a designated Prevu buyer’s agent to find your home.
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