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50 West, #50A (Douglas Elliman) 50 West, #50A (Douglas Elliman)
If you're looking to buy a property this spring or summer, now is the time to prepare. From securing financing to narrowing the scope of your search to finding a representative, there is plenty to do before you enter your first open house. This article presents a list of tasks and considerations to work on first, as well as a selection of New York's most impressive listings to come on the market in the past week.

Get pre-qualified or pre-approved for lending

If you're thinking about buying this spring or summer and you haven't already started looking at your financing, it is time to start getting your paperwork together. First, you'll want to ensure that your current credit score and debt-to-income ratio will be considered credit-worthy by a competitive range of lenders. Second, if you're considering buying between March and August, you'll also want to get pre-qualified or even pre-approved for a mortgage. Doing this leg work in advance will help you set a realistic price range for your property search and also help you move from offer to closing more quickly once you seriously embark on your search.

Educate yourself by spending time on a local listing site

It was once common for people to begin a property search by visiting a local real estate office or, perhaps, picking up a real estate flier at the local supermarket. In the twenty-first century, prospective buyers nearly always begin their search by spending time on or subscribing to a real estate listing site. While surfing real estate listing sites has recently become the butt of a range of jokes (and even served as fodder for a Saturday Night Live skit), looking at property listings on sites like CityRealty is an essential part of buyer education in a digital era. Many agents even recommend that prospective buyers, including those who may not be ready to buy for another year or two, subscribe to a daily or weekly listing site. After all, becoming a close watcher of the real estate market is the best way to clarify the type of property you want, need, and can afford under current market conditions.

Define your spending limit, must-haves, and compromises

If you're buying with a partner or spouse, now is the time to define how much you're willing to spend. Committing to a spending threshold in advance will help you stay in your financial comfort zone once you go on the market and avoid any irreparable financial errors down the line.

Likewise, it is always better to get clear on the compromises you're willing to make prior to seriously starting a search. While you may have your heart set on in-unit laundry, would you consider shared laundry if it meant being able to buy a dream apartment in your price range? Would you give up access to bike storage or an on-site gym for an extra bathroom? The clearer you and your buying companion are about what features and amenities are and are not negotiable, the easier and less stressful your home search will be when it starts in earnest.
To get started, ask yourself the following questions:
  • How much are you willing to spend?
  • What is your maximum threshold for co-op or condo fees?
  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms must the property have?
  • What neighborhoods are you not willing to consider?
  • What is your maximum commute time to work?
  • Are you willing to invest in a fixer-upper or distressed property that may require a significant renovation before you can even move in?
  • What other features and amenities do you consider non-negotiable (e.g., in-unit laundry, dishwasher, number of closets, square footage, outdoor space, storage, doorman, parking, etc.), and what are you willing to give up?

Find an agent to represent you

While you might assume that most agents don’t want to hear from prospective clients until they are ready to buy, this isn’t necessarily true. Many agents are happy to connect with buyers even before they are ready to view properties. A longer lead-up time can help an agent better understand a buyer, their specific needs, and where they may or may not be willing to make compromises. Once a client is ready to view properties, this knowledge also typically speeds up the process since the agent can confidently bring a highly curated set of potential properties to the buyer and avoid wasting time viewing properties unlikely to appeal to them. But this isn't the only reason to contact an agent before you are ready to start viewing properties.

Real estate agents are trained to do much more than give buyers access to properties on the market that match their criteria for buying. Agents can also refer buyers to trusted lenders, real estate attorneys, appraisers, and everyone else needed to find and secure a property. Most importantly, any good agent is someone committed to buyer education, which means they are also there to answer any questions a buyer might have about the current market, preparing to buy, and getting the best value for their money.

155 East 93rd Street, #2F (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

Murray Hill Plaza, #11B (Sothebys International Realty)

One Carnegie Hill, #26L (Compass)

The Endicott, #416 (Compass)

Tribeca Lofts, #5D (CORE Group Marketing LLC)

24 East 93rd Street, #1G/1A (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

The Osborne, #4AA (A & I Broadway Realty Inc)

357 West 29th Street, #1B (Compass)

645 Carlton Avenue, #1 (Compass)

345 East 57th Street, #11AB (Sothebys International Realty)

50 West, #RES50A (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

One Madison, #32B (Domus Arbiter Realty Corp.)

151 Wooster Street, #6A (Sothebys International Realty)

373 Bergen Street, #TH (Keller Williams NYC)

520 West 28th Street, #21 (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)
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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.