It’s no secret that Harlem real estate is hot!  From new developments to top neighborhoods, Harlem is attracting homebuyers from across the city and beyond. As part of our “Harlem Pro” series in which we bring you tips, inside information and professional advice from some of our local pros, Morningsider caught up with real estate professional Kenneth Morrison of Lemor Realty Corp. to help shed some light on preparing for your first home purchase. Lemor Realty Corp. is a family-owned and operated real estate development, management and brokerage company operating in Harlem. www.lemorrealty.com

Tips from Kenneth Morrison:

Deciding to purchase a home is one of the most important life decisions you will make, and can be daunting and intimidating experience.  And while there is always the unexpected, preparing with these 10 steps will make the experience much easier.

  1. Pay off debt: Using cash reserves for your down payment and closing costs is paramount to purchasing your home, but lowering your consumer debt is just as important and can give a quick boost to your credit scores.
  2. Know how much you can afford to borrow:  As a rule of thumb your annual mortgage payment, taxes and insurance should not exceed 28% of your annual income.  There are several websites available to calculate your potential monthly payment.  (i.e., Bankrate.com)
  3. Get Preapproved:  The institution where you bank and your local credit union are good places to start.
  4. Know your credit score:  The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate.  Know what the credit rating agencies are reporting about you.  There may be mistakes that could affect your rating.  There are several companies available to receive a free credit report. (i.e., Annualcreditreport.com).  Lending institutions typically pull credit reports from these three reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.
  5. Have the home inspected by a certified home inspector before you close:  The cost for this service will be a few hundred dollars but it is worth every cent.  The inspector will identify current mechanical issues, assess the condition of the home’s systems (i.e., boiler, roof etc.), suggest to you the potential length of life left on the systems, and provide you with an estimate if anything is in need of repair or replacement.
  6. Research the Neighborhood/Building:  Sure it is easy to get stats online about any neighborhood, but there is nothing like visiting the neighborhood/building on various occasions. Drive or walk the neighborhood, and visit building during the evenings and weekends.  Talk to some of the residents.  Are there religious institutions in the neighborhood where double parked cars are perched during the weekends? Are there loud commercial establishments near by? Are there hardcore partiers who may live above, below or next door to you?  The idea is just to make sure you know and get a feel for your new neighborhood/building.
  7. View home listings to compare prices:  With the ubiquity of the internet and smart phone applications, information is easy to find.  Learn what homes are selling for in your neighborhood.  Ask your broker/agent to provide you with recent comps.
  8. Take your time shopping for a home:  Remember this is one of the biggest decisions you will make and probably one of the most expensive so take your time.  This is the place you will hopefully create many years of memories and also provide a sound investment for your family.
  9. Anticipate Closing Costs: This tip may give you the shivers because no one can tell you exactly how much cash you will need.  In NYC anticipate 4%-6% of your mortgage amount to be attributed to closing costs, which will include-attorneys fees, loan origination fees, title insurance, mortgage tax, pre-paid interest and taxes. Early in the process have your lender provide you with a truth in lending statement and insist that your attorney give you a list of likely closing costs so you can be prepared at your closing.
  10. 10.  Hire an attorney that specializes in real estate transactions:  Sure you may want to hire your cousin that you are proud of and who has a thriving legal practice, but an attorney that is not familiar with homebuyer contracts can cause you delays and more importantly money.