It’s a tale we hear time and again: a young couple moves to New York City, gets a dog, has a baby, outgrows their one bedroom apartment and moves to the suburbs. The want of more space, good schools, a yard, and a decent commute are what attracts many New Yorkers to the bucolic county of Westchester, just north of Manhattan.
Douglas Elliman’s fourth quarter 2017 market report shows that inventory in the Westchester area fell 3.6% from a year ago, but sales volume remains high. This combination of high sales volume and low inventory results in a fast-paced market. In fact, time on market fell from 90 days in fourth quarter 2016 to 82 days in the same quarter 2017.
With homes selling faster and fewer homes on the market, the climate among buyers has the potential to be competitive. So, the best thing you can do before you start your search is be prepared. We consulted with Douglas Elliman agent Satoshi Maezono, an expert in Westchester real estate, for his advice for buyers preparing for a move from New York City to Westchester.
1. Determine Your Budget
Step one in any home search is always to determine your budget. How much home can you afford and what are you comfortable paying in a monthly payment? If you need a mortgage you should start by getting pre-approved by a bank or lender. You’ll also need money upfront for a down payment which could be 10-20% of the home’s purchase price. The more money you can put towards your down payment, the stronger your offer will be to a seller. When calculating your monthly payment, be sure to factor in property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and mortgage insurance (if you put less than 20% down). Other fees associated with purchasing a home include closing costs. For a full list of closing costs, see our Buyers Guide.
2. Do Your Research
On Elliman.com you’ll find an overview of Westchester towns which is a great place to become familiar with the area. Take time to research the factors that mean the most to you. Whether you care about school district ratings, commute time, commuter parking, recreational facilities or cultural institutions, there are resources available to learn about all of them.
Often my clients are surprised to find out that the school district a home falls in doesn’t always represent its post office. If you’re looking for a specific school district(s), your search should be by school district not post office. Certain postal codes enjoy the benefits of commuter parking lots and town recreational facilities. If you need commuter parking and are a non-resident of the town, you may have to apply and pay for a permit.
3. Spend Time Exploring the Area
There’s no better way to get a feel for a neighborhood than to spend time there. You may rule out areas you thought you’d like or add areas to your target list that you hadn’t thought of before. I recommend to my clients to grab lunch or dinner at a local restaurant, walk around town, stop in the coffee shop, and check out the schools to get a feel for the neighborhood and community.
4. Be Flexible with Your Wish List
Have a few items on your wish list that you’re willing to compromise on, things that are nice to have but not must-haves, such as that extra half-bathroom or fourth bedroom. If you wait to find a house that checks every box you may miss out on a great opportunity.
5. Be Ready to Move Quickly
With low inventory and high demand, good homes go quickly. I’ve had cases where the buyer made an offer without seeing the home in person because they didn’t want to lose it. This is an extreme case, but you should be ready to make an offer when you find a home you like. Therefore, having the mortgage pre-approval letter is essential.
6. Enlist the Help of Professionals
You’re going to need eyes and ears on the ground to help you find the home of your dreams. Connecting with a real estate professional who can guide you through the process of buying a home in an area that you may not know very well is invaluable. Not only will they provide you with accurate information on the homes you’re interested in, they themselves are a great resource for all your home buying questions.
Meet the Expert:
Satoshi Maezono has lived in Westchester County for 35 years and sold real estate there for more than a decade. Working with everyone from first-time buyers to repeat buyers and sellers, his real specialty is fulfilling clients’ needs and forming lasting relationships. Satoshi comes from a traditional culture that respects core values. His honest, caring approach and precise view in each stage of the transaction process work effectively in delivering stellar service and results.