As a professional Realtor, working largely by referral and supported by a team of professionals, I'll put 20 years of experience to work for you and your family.

As an artist with considerable skill in marketing and sales promotion, I'll create compelling visuals that capture the essence of a residential property and support your efforts to buy or sell.

As your neighbor, a homeowner in this stunning region of the country, I can help you settle in, maintain and improve your home, keep up with the market, and enjoy the Hudson Valley and Westchester County to its fullest.

Buyer Basics

So you’d like to buy a house, condo or co-op. Congratulations! As a homeowner I can tell you that if it handled well, it is a thrilling experience. At this point in time, interest rates are mightily attractive and housing is more affordable than it’s been in years. Here’s most of what you need to know and do.

You will need to have money for a down payment. The rules for how much are changing almost day to day. Suffice it to say, the more the better. Your lender (or one that is recommended to you) can help you determine the price range within which you should be looking. Of course it is not only the price of the property that you will consider; carrying costs matter too. In Westchester County property tax is the big one.

The internet is a great way to get an overview of prices and services in any given area, but it is not a substitute for visiting and getting a feel for the community and researching specific properties. You can do this by attending open houses, but that will be largely unfocused and probably not all that useful unless you have a lot of time and are indifferent as to how you spend it. Working with a REALTOR with whom you already have a relationship is your best assurance that your time will be invested wisely.

You may find the near perfect house the first time you look, or you may be at it for weeks. Of course, if you find it the first time out, it will be difficult for you to believe that there is something else out there or about to come onto the market that is even more perfect. You know the adage, “He who hesitates is lost.” Sometimes your instincts will tell you that this is the right move. You should at least pay some attention to that insistent little voice! Buying a HOME is as much visceral as it is intellectual.

After identifying the “right” property (there might be more than one) you must enter into negotiation with the seller. This is one place where working with an agent who is highly respected by his/or her peers is critically important. All sides need to be working together to bring about a meeting of the minds, another point at which an agent with experience can make a big difference. Win-win situations ultimately are in everyone’s best interests.

It’s wise to come to the negotiating table with an understanding of property values. Your trusted advisor will show you evidence of sales supporting the price you’re ultimately willing to pay. Expect to be asked for a copy of a letter from a lender (pre-approval letter) attesting to your financial qualifications. The negotiations may well not be a simple back and forth. Sellers have specific needs and expectations too. There are times that a property will be priced to sell quickly and trying to get it for less will be futile; another buyer will see the value and you’ll be outbid. This can happen in any market, buyer dominated or seller dominated. Other times, seller’s expectations are unrealistic and they will need time and effective persuasion to adjust those expectations. If they can’t be swayed to see your point of view, there will probably be another property that will serve your needs every bit as well.

Supposing you come to terms, that’s agreement on price, down payment, closing date, and sales inclusions and exclusions, then what? You’ll want to do a property inspection. If you’re purchasing a one- to-four family dwelling, not a condo or co-op or an estate sale, make sure to ask for the property condition disclosure. Don’t be surprised if the seller doesn’t provide it.  NY State requires that sellers either provide the disclosure or give the buyer $500 at closing but many attorneys recommend to their seller clients that the $500 in lieu of disclosure carries less liability. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask the questions of the sellers and their agent. It is useful information to possess.
The primary purpose of the inspection is to inform you as to what challenges you face with the condition of the property. Generally sellers are expected to remedy any undisclosed safety issues either by correcting the problem or offering a credit. You’d be surprised at what people are unaware of in their homes!

Naturally, a house inspection is likely to be more extensive than that of a condo or co-op and so the focus here is on house inspections. How the inspection results are dealt with is transaction specific. There are no hard and fast rules. Inspectors in NY are licensed and it is important to choose one that is thorough and also communicates well. You do want to fully understand what you might need to address in the future. (LINK TO BUSINESS DIRECTORY) You can check inspectors out with the Dept of State. ( Understand that may not be able to answer all your questions; they cannot comment on the cost or repairs or code enforcement issues as these can vary substantially from contractor to contractor and municipality to municipality. If the property’s water supply is from a well, in Westchester County the seller must provide the results of a water test taken within the last year. House sellers in Putnam County don’t have the same requirement. Finally you will want to test any in-ground oil tanks if the seller has not already done so and provided insurance coverage that passes to the buyer. Amazingly oil tank inspectors are NOT licensed by the state or county. Sellers and buyers both MUST check into whoever is testing to be certain of their qualifications. Companies that also do remediation work may not be free of conflict of interest. (LINK TO BUSINESS DIRECTORY)

Once any issues related to the inspection are resolved, you go to contract. Hopefully you’ve already spoken with an attorney who does a great number of real estate transactions. Attorneys are not proficient in every aspect of the law and real estate transactions are NOT simple. They involve a great deal of money and a serious commitment. You want the best possible representation. (LINK TO BUSINESS DIRECTORY) While all this is going on, your buyer’s agent should be checking that the information on the listing sheet is accurate. At very least, taxes should be verified as well as the presence of all permits and certificates of occupancy on the property.

In this region the sellers’ attorney prepares the contract and presents it to the buyers’ attorney. They dicker back and forth until both parties are satisfied. You sign the contract first; the deposit check goes into the sellers’ escrow account and once the seller signs and returns the contract, you are “in contract.” This is now binding on both parties.  Most often there is a mortgage contingency in the contract so you, the buyer must set into motion a loan application. The application process can take quite a while so it’s important to be ready to go. Your loan officer will have provided you with a list of things that you need to get together for your application. (LINK TO BUSINESS DIRECTORY)

Your loan is likely to be subject to a satisfactory appraisal. This is a matter of great contention these days as the system for assigning appraisers has been changed drastically as an outcome of the loans debacle. If the property under-appraises it is back to negotiating as there is little or no recourse with the appraiser’s verdict. You may have to come up with a larger down payment, the seller may have to sell for less or you start all over again with another property. Assuming this problem does not arise, your lawyer will order title to make sure that the seller actually has the right to sell the property. If you’re purchasing a house, you will need to provide an updated survey. Hopefully, one is in possession of the seller. If not, then you it will fall to you to hire a surveyor and have one done.

Now that the property appraised, the survey is complete, there are no title issues or they have been resolved (the sellers’ responsibility) and you’re approved for your loan, that is you have a “final commitment,”  a closing date is set at a time and place satisfactory to buyer, seller, their respective attorneys and the bank’s attorney. Yup, the bank has an attorney, too.  You’ll pick up the tab for that too.

One of your final acts will be to do a walk-through. This is when you and your agent go to the property you’re purchasing and check it out. You’ll run water and make sure no leaks have developed;  You’ll turn up the heat to be certain that your heating plant is functioning; If the seller has agreed to make any repairs you’ll check to see those have been completed;  those sorts of things. This typically takes place within a day or so before the closing but sometimes it can be just a couple of hours before.

You’ll come to the closing prepared. Most often certified checks will be required for the remainder of the down payment (if there is additional down payment) and to pay for the title insurance (yours and the bank’s), tax escrow, mortgage tax and for the fuel remaining in the sellers’ oil tank (if there is an oil tank.)  Your attorney will give you a list of specific costs, typically just prior to closing. All these costs collectively are called closing costs and you must have these funds in addition to the down payment. (LINK TO CLOSING COSTS FOR BUYERS)

At the closing table, if all goes well, and in my experience, it most often does, you will get writer’s cramp and sign what feels like a thousand documents and who knows how many checks. Suddenly someone will hand you a set of keys. The brokers will thank each other and of course, their respective clients and you will be homeowners. Hurrah! Congratulations on sharing in the American Dream.