Q & A with Dottie Herman

» Featured Columnists | By Dottie Herman | October 23, 2009 8:15 AM ET

Q1 - My husband and I are first-time buyers and want to buy a house on Long Island- we are not set on a specific neighborhood and we are unsure where to begin. Where do you suggest we start?

A - You have 120 miles of amazing terrain to cover in your search!  Probably best to explore Long Island from the North Shore to the South Shore and from Nassau to Suffolk County.  When it comes to specific neighborhoods, a real estate agent can share with you relevant facts about the price of homeownership, taxes, etc.  You may find it helpful to speak with colleagues, friends and family who may live on Long Island or can share their insights with you. Take your time to investigate the pros and cons of different communities.  There are many wonderful options for you, I should know, I'm grew up on Long Island myself!  

Q2 - M My wife and I are thinking of selling our home. We do not have to sell, but we are wondering how we can find out what our home would sell for in this market.

A - Given your thought process now would be a good time to call an experienced real estate agent with knowledge of your community.  That agent can take a look at your home and then do some research to find out what has recently sold in your neighborhood and what are some comparable homes currently on the market.

Q3 - My wife and I are deciding if we want to rent or buy- what are some things we should ask ourselves while we attempt to make this decision?

A - You are certainly not alone.  I know many people are asking themselves the same question right now.  Two immediate issues you will want clarity on are: Firstly, how much of a down payment can you afford and secondly, what kind of loan do you qualify for? Once you answer those questions you can compare and contrast the costs of ownership versus the price of renting. You may wish to speak with your financial advisor or accountant on the tax advantages of ownership.  A loan officer can provide you with detailed information and the rate you qualify for and what it would cost you on a monthly basis along with all of the other expenses when owning a home.  A real estate professional can give you guidance on homes in your price point for sale and also for rent.  In doing your due diligence, you should arrive at the right answer for you and your wife.

Q4 - What are a few easy things I can do to get my house ready for sale?

A - First impressions are everything. Curb appeal is extremely important as it is the first thing the potential buyer sees when they arrive at your home. Make sure your landscaping is in order and your grass is properly manicured. Your house should be clean and clear of clutter. Organize your closets to make them feel spacious.  Upgrade your lighting to make sure the home is bright. You want the potential buyer to be able to picture themselves in your home and to make it feel as inviting as possible.

Q5 - My husband and I are looking to purchase our first home. What are the steps we need to take to begin to apply for a mortgage?

A - Purchasing your first home is an extremely exciting time. There are a few important steps to take in order to ensure a smooth transaction. When you begin to shop for your mortgage, make sure that you are pre-approved and not just pre-qualified by a mortgage professional. This is a much stronger document, and in many cases, is considered a conditional commitment, subject to a contract of sale and an appraisal. Do your homework to ensure that the costs and rates are competitive with the rest of the industry. It is also very important to get organized and have your paperwork in order. Lending institution generally require your last two years W2's and tax returns, your checking and saving account statements for the last three months, your most recent statement for any investment accounts (stocks, bonds, CD's, etc), your last two pay stubs and a copy of your driver's license. You should contact your mortgage professional as soon as possible to begin this process. Good luck! 

If you have a real estate question for Dottie, please send it to;
NOTE: Due to high volume of questions, not everyone can be answered, but she'll do her best.

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