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Q & A with Barbara Corcoran

BC logo image.jpg Q1 - I've been searching for my first home since I felt this would be the best time to buy, but I haven't found anything I like in my price range.  Would it be a good idea to build rather than buy my first house?

A - Don't even think about building a home because it will cost you more.  Here's what you should do:  Raise your price ceiling by 25% and start looking at higher priced homes.  You're bound to find a few homes to fall in love with.  And when you do, put in a bid 30% less than the asking price on the house and see what happens.  If you do this on three different homes, you'll make one of those houses yours at a price you can afford.

Q2 - My studio apartment has a small kitchen which is in desperate need of help.  What can I do to freshen it up without over-improving it?  I live in the East Village and most of the apartments on my block are small walk-ups.

A - For only $200 you can replace your backsplash with some new ceramic tiles.  You'll get a lot of bang for your buck because the backsplash is the smallest surface of the kitchen to cover, and with the right color you can draw the eye away from your old cabinets and floors.  Think about using glass tile because it reflects light and looks hip.

Q3 - I'm planning on buying a home about a year from now. When is the best time to start looking for a loan?

A - If you shop for a mortgage now none of the rates you find will apply a year from now so it's a waste of time.  You're better off putting your energy into looking for a good house at a bargain price.  It's not too early however to talk with a loan officer or mortgage broker and find out how much of a mortgage you qualify for so you know what price house you can buy.  When it comes time to finance, if your credit score is good, above 720, you'll have no problem finding a good mortgage and you can shop for it 60 days before you buy.

Q4 - I am in the middle of a divorce and have been house hunting. I found a house I thought I could afford but because my name will remain on my marital property until it's sold I may not be able to get financing for my new home. Also, I don't believe I will be able to afford the payments. What can I do to ensure financing and also to lower my monthly payment on the new property (short of winning the lottery)?

A - Slow down, you're jumping the gun!  Forget about buying a new place right now.  Just rent a place until your divorce is final and your old property is sold.  You'll not only be in a better position to figure out what you can really afford, but you'll be in a much better mental state to make the right decision.  There's no magic way to lower your monthly payments on a loan you can't afford in the first place.  So take a breath and find yourself a nice rental.

Q5 - I live on Park Avenue in Manhattan in a large, three-bedroom pre-war with two small maid's rooms with a bath in the back.  I want to combine the maid's rooms into one larger room for my son.  Is it a good idea?

A - Great idea, because your apartment will be worth a lot more!  Three bedrooms with two maid's rooms on Park now sell between four and five million dollars.  If you convert the two maid's rooms into a fourth bedroom you'll automatically put your apartment into a four-bedroom price category.  When it comes time to sell, you can have it appraised and advertised as a four-bedroom.  And that's worth another million dollars.

Q6 - I tried to search on the internet for information about corporate rentals, but have only found sites that are helpful if you are looking to rent, none for homeowners who want to find a corporate tenant. What is the best way to investigate this option?

A - The big website for finding a corporate tenant is corporatehousingbyowner.com.  It has more than 14,000 registered corporate users.  Another good one is tchnetwork.com.  But before you even list your home for rent, remember that people shop with their eyes, particularly online, and a good house with bad photos won't rent in today's market.  Make sure you have photos up there that make your house look bright, uncluttered and beautiful!  You can hire a professional photographer at floorplanonline.com and for about $110 you'll get 15 professional photos.  If you want to take pictures yourself, make sure you choose a sunny day and rent some professional lighting and a camera with a wide-angle lens.  That should cost you about $200. 

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