Q & A with Dottie Herman

» Featured Columnists | By Dottie Herman | March 19, 2010 9:00 AM ET

Q1 - I just saw a home online that I fell in love with- however, apparently when I called the broker they said they had an accepted offer. How can I get in to see the property? Or can I no longer get in because they have an accepted offer, no contracts have been signed.

A - Until the contract is signed the seller does not have a formal contract with the buyer. You still may have an opportunity to participate in bidding on the home. If you are using an agent, have them call the listing broker right away and schedule a showing. Express that you understand there is an accepted offer, but you would still like to see it anyway. Accepted offers do not translate automatically into signed contracts. At the very least you could be a backup buyer should this other deal not materialize. Don't give up on this home just yet; there still are avenues to pursue. And since you 'fell in love' with it, it's worth the extra effort. 

Q2 - I am looking to rent an apartment in New York City. I just received my masters and my job is now located in Manhattan and I am unsure where to begin. I didn't grow up in New York and I am unsure how I should know where I want to live.

A - Congratulations on receiving your Master's Degree! Now, after all that hard work you can enjoy a great apartment in Manhattan. There is such a diversity of neighborhoods on Manhattan it is best if you have a guide to help you. I would be happy to recommend an experienced real estate agent who can show you different neighborhoods. That agent will find listings in your price range and show you what is available at that price in different parts of the city. You may want to explore on your own as well and see which neighborhoods you naturally gravitate towards. I know that finding a rental apartment in such a large city can seem intimidating, but it can also be a fun and exhilarating process. 

Q3 -
I am looking to buy my first home. My husband and I have seen about 12 properties and we just don't love any of them. We are starting to think it is us, and we have our expectations set too high. How many homes do people generally look at before they find that perfect fit for them?

A - This is a great question. Unfortunately, there is no formula here. I have seen people literally walk into one open house and say, 'this is the one for me, and I'm buying it.' Other people take years to look at every single home on the market. Seeing 12 properties doesn't sound very high to me.  I would encourage you to keep on looking. Also, perhaps you should make a list of the things you don't about the homes you are viewing. If you find the same traits appearing over and over again, it's possible that you may need to look at a price point in order to fall in love with one. 

Q4 - In 1999 I declared bankruptcy and my family and I had to go move to a rental because we lost our home. I am back on my feet and now I would like to purchase a home. Will I be able to get a mortgage or will that foreclosure always negatively impact my credit?
A - Bankruptcy and Foreclosure are two separate items to a lender but often occur together during a time of hardship.  The common rule with both bankruptcy and foreclosure is that they stay on your credit report for 7 years. Mortgage lenders will consider lending to you again after a minimum of 3 years, only of you have reestablished credit and have stable income and savings again.

Q5 - My husband and I just bought our first home, and when we did we both had excellent credit scores. Since we purchased the house there have been a number of issues and expenses that of course were not accounted for. Now we both have high credit card balances and moved our payment plan to the flexible payment schedule. Will this negatively impact our credit scores?

A - Many factors impact a credit score.  If you have added credit card debt it will impact your credit score. If you are making all of your payments on time the impact will not be significant and will begin to increase as you pay the balance off over time.  However if you begin to pay late then you can expect it to lower your score much more.  Keep in mind that going form a credit score of 760 to 700 will not create challenges for you.

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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