By Priscilla R. Toomey, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty
Jan. 17, 2018: Many people getting ready to sell or buy a home are not aware of the steps the transaction is likely to take and may thus be unprepared for them. But it’s very important to be prepared for the hurry-up/slow-down pace they will experience. And until a contract is signed by both buyer and seller and the deposit has been paid, either side can change its mind without penalty, leaving the other side sorely disappointed.
Here are some key points to know:
1. Make sure your house puts its best foot forward from the get-go. That means de-cluttering, neutralizing, and freshening up its look as needed, as well as staging.
2. Make sure all the systems in your house are in good working order. This includes (but is not limited to) a sound roof, heating and cooling systems in good working order, no pest infestation, and dry basement and the like. You should also know the age of your mechanicals and how close they are to the end of their useful lives.
3. Check to be sure you have clear and transferable title and that any certificate of occupancy for your house matches the number and types of rooms actually there.
4. Have handy any records for renovation work you’ve had done.
5. Buyers often ask for utility cost information, so it’s a good idea to have that available.
1. Be sure you have a current pre-approval. You can always update it if your search takes longer than anticipated, but not having one may result in a delay and, even if it’s just for a few days, another buyer can slip in ahead of you. To get the pre-approval, you will need two or three years of prior tax returns, a credit report, which your lender will run, and copies of statements showing your assets and liabilities. If you are paying cash, be prepared to verify that you have sufficient funds to complete the purchase.
2. Learn what you can about the local market beforehand so you have a feel for what similar houses have recently sold for. Ask your real estate professional for comparable recent sales data and get a sense whether the house you want to buy will appraise for the amount you are willing to pay for it.
3. Distinguish between things that are important (e.g., expensive to repair or replace – like the systems listed above) from those that are purely cosmetic and easier and far less expensive to replace.
4. Don’t be afraid to make a reasonable offer. Buyers often want to know what a seller will accept – and sellers often insist that buyers make an offer first before they will counter that offer and reveal to what extent they are willing to bargain.
5. No house is perfect. Think through beforehand what you are willing to change and what you can live with, at least for a while. Buyers sometimes talk themselves out of a house, thinking perfection is just around the corner. It probably isn’t – at least not for their budget. Someone once gave this sage advice: half the process is finding the home, the other half is making it yours.
Once an offer is accepted, inspections are usually done within a day or two, and in this area always before contracts are signed. Right after that, the buyer’s lawyer reviews the contract drafted by the seller’s lawyer, changes both parties can agree to are made, and the buyer signs and give a deposit, usually 10% of the purchase price. The contracts and deposit are then sent to the seller’s lawyer for the sellers to sign.
After this, there may be a lull while the buyer's lawyer has title work, etc., done and the buyers move ahead with their lender from pre-approval to mortgage commitment. Closings usually take place 60 to 90 days from the date of contract, during which time both sides get ready to move.
Knowing the steps described above will make it much easier to anticipate what happens next and to move ahead to closing the sale with greater comfort.
Pictured here: Priscilla Toomey, licensed associate real estate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty, 2 Park Place, Bronxville, NY 10708; cell, 914-559-8084; email,
Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty