Tagged: real estate attorney

How Much House Can I Afford: 5 Questions You Should Answer Before Looking at Homes

As an experienced real estate attorney part of my job is to help homebuyers get information needed to make an informed buying decision.  Unfortunately many buyers who come to me after making an offer describe the process as mysterious or confusing.   This would not happen if potential buyers took a little time to acquire important information before looking at houses.  While individual preference items like neighborhood, house sizes and styles are important there are several questions you need to answer so you can be confident about HOW MUCH HOUSE YOU CAN AFFORD before starting your house search.

I always tell home buyers they need to understand the process before starting.  Figure out how much of a house you can afford, the neighborhood you want and most importantly who can help you make it happen.  Speak with an experienced attorney specializing in residential real estate before you start looking. I tell my clients to speak to me so they can find an excellent mortgage broker and an experienced realtor.  The mortgage broker will help you to determine how much mortgage you can afford and your realtor can give you an idea what neighborhood makes sense based on your budget.  Once you get the information from the mortgage broker and realtor a quick conversation with your lawyer can help you focus in on suitably priced properties before you start shopping.

Five questions you should ask before looking at homes are as follows:

  • How much will I need to put down on the house
  • How much mortgage can I afford
  • What will my mortgage payment be
  • What other monthly costs will I have to pay – Real estate taxes, insurance, PMI & flood insurance and utilities
  • Have I selected my attorney before I get started

The Most Common Mistakes Homebuyers Make when Having their Home Inspected

Purchasing a home is usually the most expensive purchase you will ever make in your life and you will not want to skimp on necessary things during your purchase process such as a home inspect or a real estate attorney. Making sure you included important precautionany steps during the home purchasing process will be key to you ultimately being happy with your new home.

One important aspect of purchasing a home is making sure that there are no hidden defects in the home’s structure or large appliances such as the hot water heater.  A home inspection report (also known as an engineers report) will reveal any problems with the house and will allow you to make an educated decision with your home purchase.  Having a home inspection done costs a few hundred dollars but if not done can potentially cost you tens of thousands in the long run.

Eventhough you have a home inspection done doesn’t mean that you are completely in the clear there are some guidelines that you will want to follow when choosing a home inspector and when the home inspection is taking place that will help ensure you get the most out of your home inspection and that you won’t get any unexpected unpleasant suprises a few months or years down the road after you move into your new home.

Some guidelines you will want to follow when having your home inspection done are as follows:

  • Make sure you get a home inspection done even if the property is newly constructed
  • Choose a home inspector based on the experience and knowledge of the person not by the cheapest price
  • Be present for the home inspection
  • Follow your home inspector’s recommendations (after all they are the expert in this field)

Following these steps will help ensure that you get the most out of your home inspection.

If you would like more information on purchasing a home you can contact us to receive a free copy of “5 Myths that Can Ruin the Purchase of Your Home“.  We are currently offering this real estate book written by Staten Island real estate lawyer Steven Decker at no cost to those purchasing a home in New York or New Jersey.


Short Sales Should Eventually Become a Shorter Process

If you are a troubled homeowner who was at risk of having their home foreclosed on you may be considering something called a short sale and you may or may not be familiar with the process of a short sale.  If you are considering the process of a short sale for your home as an alternative to foreclosure it may be the best things for you because unlike a foreclosure the debt does not stay with you and it does not go on your credit report that you have been involved in a foreclosure (foreclosures stay on your credit report for 7 years).  But one thing that short sales are known for in the past are for not being short.

Short sales usually never take under three months to close.  As a matter of a fact, short sales on average take six months or longer.  Eventhough the process is worth the wait for the seller and most of the time, as long as the sale goes though, for the buyer and bank also.  But that is not to say that the wait is not a time that many wish would go buy faster.

According to a recent announcement made the Department of Treasury has decided to step in and do something that sellers can’t do when they are involved in a short sale and that is tell the banks to make the short sale process and loan modification process go by faster.  The main thing motivating the Department of Treasury to make the short sale process faster is that currently 80% of all short sales fall through because the process is taking too long and the buyer decides they no longer want the home.

Other people than the seller and purchaser will profit from changes being made to the short sale process in the future also.  Real estate agents have been reluctant to take on short sales because a lot of times it results in the realtor’s commission being decreased in order to allow the sale to go through when the lender says that they would like the house to be sold at a higher price than what the purchaser is willing to offer.  Often times the real estate agent decreases their fee in order to allow the sale to still go through – under the new short sale rules this will no longer be able to happen so realtors may be less reluctant to accept short sale deals.

Under the new short sale rules lending institutions will be required to approve or disapprove a short sale within 10 days and will also have to excuse the individual applying for the short sale from all debt obligations once the short sale is completed.  The Department of Treasurty has advised banks and lending institutions that they have until April 5, 2010 to put the new short sale rules into effect.


The Importance of a New York Real Estate Attorney: Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer When Purchasing a Home in New York?

Purchasing a home for many people may seem like a simple task from the outside looking in but once you have experienced the process of purchasing a house you quickly find out that there is more involved to it than just picking a nice house, signing one document and then arranging for your furniture to be moved into your new house.  In fact there are many smaller processes involved within the process of buying a home.

Buying a home requires the experience and skill of someone who will be able to guide you based on their legal expertise and will be able to look out for your best interest.  Many people who are purchasing a home in New York wonder why do I need a real estate lawyer when I purchase my home?

Here are some reason to consider why hiring a real estate attorney is helpful in the home purchasing process:

  • Negotiations – Although a real estate lawyer is not necessary during the negotiation stages of a real estate purchase it can be helpful to speak to an attorney if you have any questions regarding the purchase price and tax related issues is you are concerned at all.  Presenting your concerns and questions to your real estate attorney will give them the opportunity to address a situation prior to you already being bound to a house and will be able to ease your mind if you do not have that one question hanging over your head.
  • Contract of Sale – A contract of sale is not a simple document or at least it shouldn’t be.  This is one stage that a real estate attorney is especially necessary.  A New York contract of sale contains many different specifics associated with the purchase of the house and although the sellers attorney is normally the one who prepares the contract of sale the purchasers attorney is the one who will sit down with you, the purchaser, to explain everything you will need to know about what you are signing and what it means for you.  A real estate contract of sale usually includes many important factors such as: what is included in the sale, the purchase price, the amount of the downpayment which is to be paid, if the downpayment will be held in escrow by the seller’s attorney and what the provisions of the escrow are, how many days you have to obtain a mortgage commitment and what happens in the event that you are unable to obtain a mortgage committment, what will happen if substancial damages to the house are present or termites exist in the house, the requirement of a certificate of occupancy, the requirement of a clear title in order for closing to occur and what will happen if there is an issue that can not be cleared on the title, when the closing date is scheduled to be (the “on or about” date) and how long after that you have to close, what happens if the seller is not ready to close and you are and many other important issues As you can see having an attorney to explain the details, requirements and repercussions of these different topics is very helpful.
  • Obtaining a Mortgage – Most buyers finance the majority of their home purchases though a mortgage.  Not only is it important that the correct provisions be in the contract of sale regarding you obtaining a mortgage but it is also important to have an experienced attorney’s opinion on what mortgage is best for you individually and the terms and conditions that the mortgage comes with.
  • Title – In order to close on a property it is usually necessary that there be a clear title.  A title is something that is ordered from a title insurance company and will list any violations against the seller, you (the purchaser) and the property address.  Violations against the seller and buyer may include traffic tickets, warrants and many other areas and the violations that may show up on a house are fines that have been issued due to complaints and many other things.  An attorney will review the information and will make sure everything is clear on all ends before moving forward with the purchase of the home.
  • Zoning and Survey – Knowing where your property lines are is something that is very important when purchasing a home.  You want to make sure your fence and everything that is about to be yours is in your property lines.  Your attorney will be able to order a survey for you and have it certified to you.  This will help ensure where the property lines are and will show proof of when the survey was last done.  Your attorney will be able to explain the findings of the survey and will be able to answer any questions you may have.
  • Closing – The final step that your real estate attorney will handle is the closing of title.  This is when the deed is signed over to you.  Having an attorney present at closing will ensure that your deed and the supporting documents which include information for tax purposes are executed properly and have the proper language in them.  Your real estate attorney will also handle the distribution of closing costs to the proper parties and will be able to make sure that your funds are going to the right place.

If you would like to speak with an experienced real estate attorney in Staten Island, New York and would like to speak with one regarding representing you throughout your purchasing process please contact Steven T. Decker at 718.979.4300.

Low Mortgage Rates are Enticing Potential Homebuyers

For many people who have been recently considering purchasing a home they are just one step closer to making a decision to purchase a home because of another recent drop in mortgage rates.  Low mortgage rates are driving potential homebuyers to purchase the homes that they have been considering and with the housing tax credit this may just be the thing to push a lot of people who were undecided off of the fence.

Making a decision to purchase a home is something that many people are considering with the home prices as low as they are, foreclosures and short sales as high as they are and mortgage rates as low as they are.  Currently 30 year fixed mortgages have dropped for the 5th straight week in a row to 4.71% (Freddie Mac).

The cause for the recent drop of mortgage rates is two fold.

  • The Federal Reserve has indicated their intents to extend the period of time that they will be offering short-term interest rates.
  • Strong demand for government issued funds

If you would like more information about purchasing a home or have legal questions concerning purchasing a home your best move is to contact a real estate attorney.  A real estate attorney will be able to explain the process you need to go through to purchase a home from beginning to end.  Understanding the importance of a contact of sale, getting your mortgage committment, having a clear title and closing title are all things that can be explained by an experienced real estate attorney.

If you would like to speak with a real estate attorney regarding the purchase of a home in New York or New Jersey contact Steven T. Decker Staten Island real estate lawyer.  Steven T. Decker will be able to assist you with understanding the legal side of purchasing a home and will also be able to represent you throughout the entire real estate purchasing process.  To speak with Steven Decker you can either call 718.979.4300 or 800.976.4904 or fill out our web form.

Also, if you are considering using our Staten Island real estate law firm for your real estate transaction and closing of title we recommend that you read Steven T. Decker’s book “5 Myths that Can Ruin the Purchase of Your Home“.  If you would like a copy we are currently offering this real estate book at no cost and no obligation to those considering purchasing property in New York or New Jersey.

Lower Mortgage Interest Rates: Should I Refinance or Modify my Mortgage?

If you are currently a homeowner and have a high mortgage rate that you are locked into or if you have an adjustable rate you may be interested in lowering your mortgage rate or locking into the current rate.  Recently the mortgage rates dropped down to under 5% for the first time in months.

The governments efforts to make sure new buyers and current homeowners receive low mortgage rates are not only benefiting the new buyers and homeowners seeking to purchase a new home but it is also benefiting those who are looking to modify or refinance their mortgage (although studies have shown that many people have not been choosing to modify their mortgage but rather prefer to refinance). A study which was done over the past year showed that only approximately 10,000 people modified their mortgages whereas approximately 3 million mortgages were refinanced and on average the people who refinanced their mortgages saved an average of $150 per month.

A lot of people believe that the reason mortgage modifiications are not as popular as refinancing is simply because banks have offered refinancing options to their clients for years and it is a simple process that they are used to doing.  Another reason for mortgage modifications being less popular among homeowners looking to lower their monthly payments is possibly because they are not fully aware of what modification to their mortgage is whereas, similar to the banks, they are used to the idea of refinancing.

To help you understand what mortgage modifications are and what refinancing is here is a description of both:

  • Loan Modification – The process where the terms of the mortgage is modified outside of the original terms of the mortgage agreement (contract) agreed to by the borrower and lender.  The loan may be modified to change the terms of the interest rate, loan terms, loan balances, the length of the loan or any other part of the loan agreement.
  • Loan Refinance – The process where an existing debt obligation is replaced with a new debt obligation with different terms.  You are essentially paying off an old loan with a new loan with different terms.

Refinancing or modifying your loan may be a smart thing for you to consider if you:

  • Currently have a high mortgage rate
  • Have an adjustable rate mortgage (commonly known as ARM)
  • Need extra cash
  • Want to consolidate high interst credit cards

If you would like to discuss the legal side of refinancing with a real estate attorney to make sure your best interest is being looked after contact Steven T. Decker Staten Island real estate attorney at 800.976.4904 or 718.979.4300.

Purchasing an Investment Property in a Down Economy

With the housing market still in the process of recovering and housing prices still at a low it is very easy to understand why buying a house in today’s market could be beneficial to a potential home buyer.

Those considering purchasing a home as an investment property are in a great position at this point in the economy.   If you are purchasing an investment property to flip in a few years, even though you may not be able to take part in the housing credit (see why by clicking here) you are still at an advantage when compared to a few years ago when the housing market was doing well and home prices were much higher.

A recent survey by Move.com showed that the percentage of people who purchase houses because they are interested in investing in real estate have doubled since March 2009.  Among the main reasons people are being drawn to invest in a property by buying a house are affordable houses and foreclosures.

  • Affordable Prices – Low housing prices are one of the main attracting factors when people consider buying a house as an investment property at this point and time.  Right now the economy and the housing market have began to recover but have not recovered nearly enough for sellers to raise the sale price on their homes.  Those looking to purchase a home at a low price now have the opportunity to hold onto it for the next few months or years – basically until the housing market improves enough to sell the house at a higher amount – and then sell it.  Low housing prices may not only be attributed to just being low to be sold but may also be because of many family’s choosing to sell their property as a short sale.
  • Foreclosures – In recent months foreclosures have been at an all time high.  While this is bad for the people whose houses are being foreclosed on it is beneficially to people looking to invest in a house.  Buying a home at as low as a price that one may be able to find a home that is being foreclosed can be very beneficial to the purchaser.  At times foreclosures need to be fixed up and may have underlying problems that you may not be aware of but if you are will to invest money into a house and fix it up if necessary this may be a great move for an investment house.

Regardless of if you are purchasing a home for the first time or if you are looking to purchase a home to invest in the value of an experienced real estate attorney cannot be replaced.  Hiring a real estate lawyer is key when you are purchasing a property and should not be overlooked.  Make sure that the real estate lawyer you choose is knowledgeable and experienced in the type of sale or purchase that you are considering.  Always ask the attorney you are considering questions so you will know if they are the right attorney for your real estate transaction.

NY & NJ Real Estate Transactions: Top Reasons to Buy a Home in New York or New Jersey

Deciding to purchase a home for the first time or purchasing a new home if you are an existing home owner is a big decision to make in this market.  You may be wondering if it is safe to buy a home or if it is in your best interest to buy a home with the economy not fully back to normal.  While these are all valid concerns the market may actually be the reason you should buy a home.  First, before we get into the reasons you should buy a home, I want to start by saying you should never feel pressured into purchasing a home.  Always make sure that when purchasing a home you feel comfortable with your purchase.  Keep in mind that you will be in this house probably for many years to come and you want to be happy with your house purchase.   You will also want to make sure you are able to afford a mortgage payment if you will be considering getting a loan for your home purchase and you will also want to make sure you get a home inspection.

Now that we have established some ground rules for purchasing a house here are some things to may help you decide to stop just thinking about buying a home and actually go do it within the next few months:

  • Reason #1Housing Tax Credit – If the extension of the housing tax credit is approved (which more than likely it will be approved by the end of the week) not only will the provisions of the First Time Homebuyers Tax Credit be extended until the end of April 2010 but it will also be extended in the sense that a reduced credit will now be available to certain existing homeowners.   The new tax credit would consist of a tax credit that is 10% of the house’s purchase price up to $8,000 if they have a sales agreement in hand by April 30 and close title on the house by June 30, 2010.  This credit would be available to first time home buyers of those interested in buying a house that have not owned property in the past three years.  The limit for the household income if single will be $125,000 or $250,000 for a couple.  The next credit is a new incentive to take advantage of the housing tax credit which offers a reduced tax credit of up to $6,500 to certain existing homeowners.
  • Reason #2 – Prices are Low – Because the economy is not stable enough to say it has fully recovered or come close to fully recovering yet housing prices are still low.  In fact, sellers in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan Queens, most areas of New Jersey and nationwide are faced with having to list their houses at a low price and are sometimes forced to lower that price even more to sell their house.   For buyers this is a great thing because they are able to get a house that a few years ago would have cost tens of thousands more than what they are selling for now.
  • Reason #3 – Foreclosures and Short Sales are at Record Highs – Distressed homes accounted for a significant number of houses sold this year.  Distressed homes include foreclosure’s being sold and short sales which usually sell for anywhere between 15 -20% less of market value.  Taking advantage of these types of homes can potentially benefit you as a buyer but buyers should also beware of the possible risks associated with short sales and foreclosures.
  • Reason #4 – Low Mortgage Rates – Rates for mortgages currently run around the 5% APR range for a 30-year fixed mortgage.  This is much lower than previous years and the rate of a mortgage that you are eligible for is a huge factor in deciding factor in whether or not you will purchase a house and how much you are willing to spend on it.  The lowered mortgage rates are a big incentive for many people who are deciding to purchase homes right now.
  • Reason #5 (applicable if you are purchasing a home in New York) – Mortgage Tax Credit – A mortgage tax credit is available if you are purchasing a home in New York City.  The tax credit can be used if you are a first time homebuyer and can be combined with the federal First Time Homebuyers Tax Credit.   If you do a real estate transaction in New York for a New York City home and obtain a new fixed rate mortgage through certain types of loans you will be eligible to receive up to 20% off of your mortgage tax for the entire life of the loan.
  • Reason #6 (applicable if you are purchasing a home in New Jersey) – State Housing Grants – There are many New Jersey state housing grants available to first time home buyers looking to complete a real estate transaction for a New Jersey home.  There are many different types of New Jersey housing grants and the terms to each vary.


Alternative Options to Consider if you are not Eligible for the First Time Homebuyers Tax Credit

So if you are not eligible for the first time home buyers tax credit should you still consider buying a home?  For most people the answer will probably be yes as long as you have the necessary income to make a down payment and to pay your mortgage every month while still having enough money for additional expenses.

The home buyers tax credit requirements are not able to be filled by everyone looking to purchase a home especially if you have owned a home within the last three years so where does that leave the buyer who is not eligible for the tax credit but still is looking for a break.  Here are some some reasons to buy a home now if you are not eligible for the first time homebuyer tax credit:

  • Low interest rates – For some who are considering purchasing a house they may find that their monthly mortgage payments for their house will actually end up being less expensive than renting an apartment. Mortgage rates have been at record lows over the past year and right now are still low (in the 5% apr range).
  • Special provisions for military members – There is a special provision in the first time home buyers tax credit for military and some federal members that was recently added by Congress that allows military member to not have to abide by all of the requirements for the first time homebuyers tax credit.  A military member does not have to live in their new home as their primary residence for the first three years if they receive PCS orders to depart from their unit and get restationed within that period of time.  The will be able to sell the house or rent it out to someone else and will still be eligible for the $8,000 credit.
  • Lower house prices – While home sales are up house prices are still down lower than what they were worth a few years ago.  Sellers are still not able to raise the prices of their homes if they want to sell their house quickly or, in some circumstances, at all.

If you are interested in purchasing a house in New York you will want to cover all of your grounds before signing a contract.  One of the first steps you will want to take once you have found a home you are interested in is to contact a New York real estate lawyer, such as Steven T. Decker a Staten Island real estate lawyer, and discuss your home purchase with him/her.  Your real estate attorney will go over your contract of sale with you so that you understand its terms and conditions.  To speak with a real estate attorney call 718.979.4300.

How to Find the Right Home in New York and New Jersey

Deciding to purchase a home is a big step that most people take at one point and time in their life.  It is a time in most peoples lives where they decide what area they want to live in, how big of a house they need and how much money they are willing to spend on the house.  Making sure that you get everything you want from your house is important, especially if you plan on living there for a while.  Most people wonder “How will I know which house is right for me?” you will want to make sure you figure out what you need in a house before looking for one this will help you and your realtor because you will both be on the same page and you will not find yourself purchasing a home that you are just “settiling” for.

So how do you know if you are buying the right house? There are many different things you will have to decide on as far as your house goes that you will want to decide and make your real estate agent aware of when you are looking for a house in New York or New Jersey. Here are some things you will want to decide on to help you find the right home in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens or the Bronx, New York or New Jersey these tips will help you find what you are looking for:

  • Decide on what type of neighborhood you want to live in.  Do you prefer to live in a quiet suburban area or in a urban area.  Suburban areas are often more quiet because you are further away from your neighbors most of the time and they are often slightly less expensive in price when compared with city houses.  Urban areas or “city” areas are often more populated and have less of a commute to work and school but also usually have slightly more expensive homes, are noisier and sometimes have higher crime rates.
  • Decide on what type of location you want to live in.  Once you have decided on whether you want to live in a city or in the suburbs you will want to decide if you prefer living on a busy street or on a more secluded street.  This is really just a personal preference if you are a person who likes it completely quiet all of the time you will want to avoid homes that are on busy streets or that are next to the highway because of the noise from the traffic, but if you are not bothered by the noise purchasing a home on a busier street is usually a few thousand dollars cheaper – just remember that since it can be purchased for thousands cheaper also means that when you sell it there is a chance it will probably sell cheaper.  You will also want to decide if you want to live on a corner lot or not.
  • Find an area with a good education system.  If you have children or plan on having them sometime in the future while you reside in the house you are considering purchasing you will want to make sure the area has a good education system.
  • Decide what type of home you want.  Are you interested in a single family home, multi-family home, condominium, townhome or cooperative (co-op)?  Single family and multi-family homes are usually quieter and have more appreciation but require a lot of maintainance.  Condominiums, townhomes and cooperative units usually require less maintainance but noisier and not as private because you share common walls and/or ceilings with your neighbors.  This category of homes is also usually less expensive than a single or multi-family home.
  • Determine what style of home you want.  Do you want a single story home, split level or a multi-level home? Deciding what type of style home you want is most commonly based on how much space you need, what type of layout you find more appealing, whether or not you have medical conditions that prohibit you to one floor, whether you feel safer in a one floor home or a multi-story home and if a multi-floor home is more or less convienient for your daily activities.
  • Decide what interior specificiations are important to you.  You will want to determine what specific needs you and your family have and what they need from the house for everyday living.  How many bedrooms do you need?  Will you need extra bedrooms in the future for a baby, in-law or parent?  Do you need a guest room?  Is one bathroom okay for your family or do you require 2 or only 1 1/2 bathrooms?  Determining the specific needs your family has will help you decide what qualities you need inside of your house.
  • Figure out if you want a home that is newer and will require less fixing or if you are looking for a “fix-up” home.  Regardless of whether or not you are buying a home that is apparent that it needs to be fixed up or if you are looking for a home that requires little to no repairs you will always want to make sure you have an engineers inspection (home inspection) done to make sure there are no “hidden problems” but deciding if you want to pay less for a home that needs to be fixed up or if you want to spend a little extra and purchase a home that is newer and does not require and fixing up will not only help you in the long run but will also help you map out the amount you may need to invest in the house to fix it up.
  • Try to figure out if there are any “little things” that are important.  Determining if there are any small things that will be a make or break the deal is important to figure out before hand also and sometimes are not thought about until the purchase process is already occuring. A few things to consider are does the house offer gas or electric heat, does it have central air or will you have to put a window unit in, do you want a swimming pool, if you are buying a condo or co-op are you allowed to have pets, are you willing to buy a house if it is a short sale or a foreclosure? – there are many questions that you may want to figure out the answers to before making a final decision and signing a binder for a house.