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This is the latest installment in our Rookie Buyer series, which follows one couple's quest to purchase the perfect New York City apartment, and chronicles the mistakes they made, in hopes that other first-time buyers won't have to.
We finally picked Bank of America for our mortgage, and we were working on the steps towards achieving our conditional loan approval. We had asked for a standard mortgage contingency, which meant we had 30 days to get the conditional approval.
Here's what we learned we should do while the bank's wheels were turning.
Get a home inspection done
Backtracking a little here, we decided to do a home inspection right after we had our offer accepted, while we started going out to banks for a potential mortgage. Home inspections aren’t required, and they can make sellers a little nervous. We were interested in doing one because we wanted to see if there were any major issues that we would need to have fixed before we moved in. For example: mold in the walls or cracks in the walls or windows. Also, because we would be the second owner and all the appliances were original, we wanted an assessment of what state they were in. We knew that realistically we couldn’t expect him to replace everything, but we at least wanted to know what we would have to buy in the next year or so.
The condo passed all the major tests, and the inspector said it was in great condition for being about 10 years old. It did have an old dishwasher and an air conditioning unit that would probably have to be replaced in a few years. The seller didn’t agree to replace either thing, but he did service the AC before we moved in, so that bought us some time.
Make sure your appraisal gets done
We had to collect a ton of documents, including employee verification letters and bank statements, and write letters to explain credit checks. By far the aspect that caused the biggest headache was the home appraisal, which the bank is supposed to schedule. Our bank told us the appraisal was done on a certain date, but the seller’s realtor emailed us letting us know no one had stopped by the place!
After many calls and emails, it turned out the home inspector hadn’t stopped by because of a miscommunication. We had to get an appraisal rushed, and it required an extension of our standard mortgage contingency by a week, which the seller graciously agreed to. Our lawyers told us extensions happen, and it’s not a big deal as long as the parties know you are working toward a mortgage.
Most people won’t have a missing-in-action home inspector, but it shows it’s important to check in on every step with calls and emails. Had we let the process go on, we could have been in for a much longer delay.
Negotiate a closing date
Once everything was said and done, we had to find a date that we, the seller, both parties' lawyers, and the brokers would be available. Despite our trying to close by the date listed in the contract, our seller wanted to push back the closing date by a few weeks, which, because of a work conference my husband had to attend, would give us exactly one day to vacate our old apartment and move into our new one.
Our lawyer informed us that in New York, the language “on or about” a certain date in your contract means both parties have the ability to push the closing date by up to 30 days. Make sure you build in some time at the place you’re currently living, just in case the seller decided to exercise that option or you run into snags.
Schedule a final walk-through
We got our closing date, and it was time to schedule the final walk-though! We were especially excited because we hadn’t seen the place for months, and wanted to see if it was as perfect as we imagined.
Our realtor suggested we pick a date as close to closing as possible, and, because of our scheduling issues, we picked the day of closing. People suggested we make sure everything was functioning, which meant turning on the washer and dryer, turning on all the lights, and testing to see if the AC had been serviced. Our broker also brought a phone charger so we could check that all the sockets were working. Everything passed with flying colors, so we jumped in an Uber and headed to meet everyone for the closing.
Next up: Tips and tricks to get your moving day moving.
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