Thursday, April 17, 2014

Yes, rent is very high in New York. But it's a lot higher in Los Angeles, and that's not counting the car.


More years ago than I care to admit, when I was a very young advertising copywriter in Los Angeles, I needed to borrow money to buy a used Volkswagen.
 
I had been taking the bus to work from the north end of Van Nuys, where rent was cheap, to Wilshire Boulevard, where the ad agency was cheap.                                                                                                             
It was sometimes said that this was a great agency if your parents could afford to send you there.  At the time it was considered the best in the world.  I wasn't about to seek a better salary elsewhere.

But after a year of spending three hours a day commuting, including half an hour walking to and from the bus stop on Victory Boulevard and twenty minutes waiting for a connecting bus at Hollywood and Highland, I was finally earning enough to buy a small, inexpensive car.  

The bank reluctantly gave me the loan.  They were reluctant because my rent was too high--23.5% of my salary.  

The rule then was that your rent should be no more than 20% of your salary.  They wanted me to live someplace even cheaper.

Today in Los Angeles, median rent is now a horror-inducing 47% of median income, or exactly double what the bank thought was too high for me years ago, according to a recent article in The New York Times (In Many Cities, Rent is Rising Out of Reach of Middle Class). 

And in Los Angeles, you also have to pay for a used Volkswagen, a new Maserati, or something in between.  Then, after you pay for the car, you have to pay to park it, to insure it, to put gas in it, to change its oil, rotate its tires, and on and on.  Cars are expensive.

The magic proportion for a landlord is now 30% or less (re less: fat chance for most).  That’s what a landlord wants to see when you fill out an application to rent an apartment.

The Times, citing an analysis done for the paper by a real estate website, says there are 90--90!--U.S. cities where the median rent, not including utilities, is more than 30% of median income.  Los Angeles is at the top of the list.

Presumably, people moved in when their rent was no more than 30% of their incomes, thus satisfying the landlord, but then their rent went up and their incomes didn’t.

New York ranks tenth on the list, with median rent at 39.5% of median income.  

But our position is artificially high to my way of thinking, as New York is the ONLY city on the list where you don’t have to have the added expense of a car.  (Try living in LA without one, as I did for a year. Or in San Diego, or Flagstaff, or Hattiesburg, Mississippi.)

California is over-represented in the top twenty, with nine cities.  New York state has only two, us and Ithaca.

So yes, if you’re renting in New York, you definitely have a right to complain.  But you’d have a right to complain a lot louder if you lived in LA, or any of the other eight cities where rent takes more of your income than it does here.  Not to mention the car.

E-mail or call me any time if you have any questions about real estate, or just want to discuss. cstimpson@stribling.com, 917-991-9549 

Friday, March 14, 2014

The less-than-fabulous truth about some of those fabulous condos in the sky.


The longer I stay in the real estate business, the more jaded I get.

Most people walking into a $50,000,000 apartment on a floor high enough to have a view of Montauk would say oh my god, this view is fantastic! 

I can walk into the same apartment and say oh my god, these floors are awful.

This is exactly what I did yesterday.  The floors really were awful.  They looked cheap.  They were warping and separating. 

Of course, it is true that whoever buys an apartment like this is probably going to think of it as raw space, ready for demolition and a complete redo, regardless of the floors.

But still.

Somebody planning to spend $50,000,000 on an apartment is going to notice a thing like that.

The beauty of a view of Montauk--or any other view--is significantly diminished if you’re standing on a really awful floor, especially when you’re expected to pay more than $13,000 for a single square foot of it.

Another apartment I saw recently for a mere $17,000,000 was--no kidding, seriously--the ugliest place I have ever been.  

The original space was probably lovely when the building was built, but what the current owner has done to it is obscene.  I can’t even describe it.  

Every square inch of wall in every room was covered with something hideous and jarring.

In yet a third property with a price well into eight figures, the view from the living room was very nice, but the direct, head-on view from the tub in the master bath as well as the bed in the master bedroom were of the huge black condo building across the street.

And vice versa.  

There’s nothing the owner can do about that except maybe put up some curtains (the walls of those rooms are basically all glass), but it will be interesting to see if the final selling price is anywhere near the asking price.

Another apartment, same price range, had floors of polished concrete. Polished concrete floors were popular about fifteen years ago; these had been laid circa 2012.  

Can you imagine what it cost to put those in? Can you imagine what it will cost to replace them with something friendlier?

I once showed a famous and very witty writer an apartment with polished concrete floors.  She said she wouldn't live on concrete floors unless she was sentenced to them.

The moral of my story is, don’t wish for some fabulous trillion-dollar apartment.  What you’re living in right now may very well be nicer in many respects. 

But if you ever plan to sell it, here’s some advice:

Have as much fun as you want with the furniture (you can always store it and rent something less fun but more universally appealing to stage the property when it’s time to sell), but keep the walls, floor, kitchen and bathrooms as neutral as possible.  

If there’s some major flaw, such as a window with a brick wall view, consider covering that window and hanging a picture in its place.   

And if there’s one thing you shouldn’t stint on, it’s the floor.  Get the best quality you can.   

Any questions?  E-mail or call cstimpson@stribling.com or call 917-991-9549 and we'll talk.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The co-op board interview: Think of it as a small social gathering at, say, Buckingham Palace.


Part 7 of a series

Remember, if only for those 45 minutes to an hour, the board members have a great deal of power over your future.   

They can reject you for any legal* reason they want, and they don't have to tell you what that reason is.  So be very, very respectful.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of co-op board members are decent, sane, reasonable people whose primary motive in their capacity as board members is to preserve their investments and to live in their homes in peace and quiet.  


So the best course is to smile and be pleasant, but leave your sparkling, witty side at home.  Being the life of the party may not endear you to the board members.  They are considering you as a potential co-resident of the building, not as a friend or party guest. 


And nobody has ever been rejected for being boring.


Do not bring along anyone who is not invited—definitely not your broker or attorney.  If they have asked for your children or your dog or anyone else who will live in the apartment to attend, bring them, but ONLY if they’ve been asked.

Dress in business clothes; for men, a jacket and tie, if not a suit, are a good idea.  If it’s on the weekend, wear what you would wear for casual Friday in the office.

When you walk in, wait to be invited to sit down.  If nobody remembers to invite you, pick out a spot and say, “May I sit here?”

If offered coffee or tea, accept only if others are having some.  If offered a glass of wine, smile and decline, unless everyone else in the room is drinking.  Then have one glass.  Sip it slowly.

While for some co-ops, the board interview is simply a chance to welcome the new resident to the building, tell him what days the trash is picked up, etc., for others it’s a chance to ask a lot of questions**.  

Answer them honestly, but don’t say more than you have to, and don’t answer any questions you haven’t been asked. 

In the unlikely event that a board member asks an offensive question, answer calmly, as best you can.  

If you’re asked a question you're willing to risk losing the apartment over in order not to answer, just say politely, “I’m sorry, that’s something I’d rather not discuss.”  It’s entirely possible that at least some of the other board members will also consider the question inappropriate

Under no circumstances should you take anything personally, or get defensive.  Just stay serene and pleasant, no matter what.

If you’re asked about renovations, it’s best to say you want to live in the apartment for a while before making any changes other than redoing the floors and painting, assuming this is true. (It’s an excellent idea, in any case, and I recommend it strongly.) 

On the other hand, if the apartment is currently uninhabitable, of course your architect is, or will be, working on plans which you will be submitting to the board as soon as they’re ready.  

If you ever plan to sublet your apartment, this is NOT the time to mention it.  If asked, you have no plans to do so (which should be the truth anyway, at this point, or you wouldn't be buying a co-op).


Avoid asking questions yourself. “When are you going to redo the lobby?” carries the implication that you don’t like the lobby.  If asked, the safest response is to say you don't have any questions.  

If  given the opportunity, talk about how much you love the apartment and how you have always wanted to live in the building, but do not assume you will be living there. 

At the end of the interview, you can say something like, “It’s been a real pleasure meeting you.  I hope we’ll be neighbors.”  Do not ask how soon you can move in.

What happens now?

As soon as your broker hears from the managing agent that you are approved (usually within the next day or so), your attorney and the seller’s attorney will set up a closing time, date and place with the managing agent. 

24 hours or fewer before the closing, you will walk through the apartment with your broker and the seller’s broker and make sure everything is as it’s supposed to be.  

You’ll turn on all the appliances and make sure they work, check all the closets and the refrigerator, and make sure they’re all empty.  

If anything is amiss, the seller and/or the seller’s broker must take care of it before the closing (you’d be surprised how many refrigerators I’ve had to empty out!) 

Your attorney will explain to you exactly what happens at the closing, but briefly, a lot of checks will cross the table, documents will be signed, and at the end you will be given the keys to your new home.  

Take your keys and your partner, pick up a bottle of Champagne and a couple of glasses, and go sit on the floor and celebrate.

And if I’m your broker, we will pick a date for me to take you out for a lovely celebratory dinner.

On the other hand, if somehow you have been rejected, it’s okay for the brokers to ask the managing agent if there’s any more information you could provide that might help.  It’s also okay for the seller to talk to somebody on the board and try to get a fix on the problem.  These tactics may or may not work.

If they don’t, you get your 10% of the purchase price back.  

And look at it this way: you didn’t want to live with those nasty people anyway.  You and your broker will now proceed to find something just as good, maybe better.  


And you will.  You have my word. 


Any questions?  E-mail me at cstimpson@stribling.com or call 917-991-9549 for answers or just to talk real estate.

*The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, family/marital status and occupation, among other things.  Find a complete list here: New York State Division of Human Rights Fair Housing Guide or ask your attorney. 

** An article in Brick Underground gives you an idea of the possibilities:  9 curveball co-op board interview questions and how to answer them.





Thursday, February 13, 2014

Board application packages: More fun than a root canal, but not much.


Part 6 of a series

I will not lie to you.  The application process for a co-op is painfully invasive.  And lately, the same goes for condos.

Think of your broker as a local anesthetic*.  He will make the pain go away, or at least most of it, but you will still be involved, and you will know what’s going on.

Don’t forget, everyone who lives in a co-op or condo has gone through this process.  

And because your neighbors have met the financial requirements of your co-op, they are not likely to default on their maintenance charges, leaving you and your more solvent neighbors to pick up the slack. 


It's the predominance of co-ops, with their stringent financial requirements, that has kept New York from having the huge number of foreclosures that other parts of the country have seen.  

So this whole Byzantine, complex, invasive process is definitely in your best interests as an owner.

Today, board application packages for condos are almost--often exactly--the same as those for co-ops**.  If the condo board doesn’t like your board package (condo boards don't normally interview applicants), their only recourse is to buy the condo themselves at the contract price.  They can't turn you down, but they still want the information.

The only way out is to buy in a new building (developers don't care; they just want your money) or to buy a house.  All cash.  If you want to finance, you will find that the banks are also nosy.  So are rental landlords.

Here’s what happens:

Once your offer has been accepted and a contract has been sent to your attorney, your attorney will do his due diligence on the property.  

In all likelihood the seller's broker will continue to show the property until the contract is signed, and by law, any and all offers must be presented to the seller. So move through this part of the process with all deliberate speed.

Your attorney will read the two most recent years' financial statements and the offering plan and all its amendments, which either the seller’s broker or the seller’s attorney will have sent him. 

He will also go to the office of the managing agent for the co-op and read the minutes of the meetings of the co-op board (you can go along if you want; these are almost never sent out).  

By the time he's through, he should know everything there is to know about the co-op.

At the same time, he and the seller’s attorney will be negotiating the contract—the closing date and various other provisions which he will discuss with you.

While he’s doing this, you will be having any inspections done (definitely if you’re buying a house, and a good idea if you’re buying in a small loft building or an apartment in a townhouse) and bringing your architect in if you’re planning to do work.  

Your broker will set up appointments, be present, and generally hold your hand through all of this.

When the contract is ready, you will go over it with your attorney, sign it and give your attorney a check for 10 per cent of the purchase price to be held in escrow until the closing, when it becomes part of the purchase price.

Now you’re committed, and as soon as the seller countersigns, he is also committed. The property will no longer be shown, and offers will not be considered.

Your 10% deposit will be returned to you if your contract is contingent on financing and you can’t get financing (your attorney will explain the ins and outs of this—it’s complicated) or if you’re buying a co-op and your application is rejected by the board.

Which brings us to the board application.

First, you and your broker put together the board package.

This is where you will be VERY GLAD you have a broker.  All you have to do is give him the information.  He will collect the materials from you, get them typed if necessary, assemble them in the correct order, check all the numbers and the arithmentic to make sure they’re accurate, make sure the reference letters are appropriate and will serve their purpose, make sure the package is complete, put the whole thing together with dividers labeling each section, write a cover letter and make the necessary number of copies. 

It will look beautiful, and as impressive as we can make it while staying within the boundaries of truth.  We pride ourselves on our board packages.

A typical package includes an application form to be filled out with personal information—your name and address, your attorney’s name and contact information, plus information about your employment, your supervisor’s contact information, your employment history, where you were educated, names of personal references, names of business references, bank and credit references, etc. 

Then there’s a financial statement that includes all sources of income, all projected costs, all assets and liabilities. You’ll be asked for two years’ income tax returns, personal reference letters, business reference letters, an employer reference letter and a bank reference letter, bank statements and other statements to support the financial statement, and various other items depending on the co-op.

All of this has to be done within ten days of the contract signing, or within a given time period after a co-op loan commitment letter has been issued by your lender.  (This is specified in the contract.)

When the board package is ready and the seller's broker has seen it and is happy with it, your broker will send it to the managing agent. 

Now you and your broker wait for a while.  If you're buying a condo, the next step is for the managing agent to obtain the signatures of the condo's board of managers on a waiver of the right of first refusal, after which a closing can be scheduled.

If it's a co-op....   


NEXT:  The board interview.  

Any questions?  e-mail me at cstimpson@stribling.com or call 917-991-9549.  I'll be happy to answer them.

*I was about to say novocaine, but it turns out dentists haven't actually used novocaine in more than thirty years, as per "Directions in Dentistry," a blog by Dennis Calcaterra, DDS, of Orange, CT.


** See "Condos Steal a Page (or 20) From Co-ops"


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bidding wars: The only good news is that nobody actually gets killed.


(Part 5 of a series)

Here's what's wrong with bidding wars:  

They can involve dozens of people, but only two parties win--the seller and the buyer whose bid is accepted.  

Everybody else goes away mad, buyers and brokers alike.  

The worst outcome is that, after everybody else has gone away, the buyer with the accepted offer suddenly realizes he's bid over his head and goes away too, and by that time the other buyers have either found other properties or are still so upset they no longer want this one.  

But when inventory is as limited as it is now, bidding wars are a fact of life. There are currently far more buyers than available properties, and that means heavy competition.

In a recent survey I made of co-op and co-op sales downtown over the last few months, more than half had sold at or above the last asking price.  

That means there were an awful lot of bidding wars.

Most brokers working with buyers (including me) have strategies for winning bidding wars.  Sometimes these work; sometimes they don't. 

The way a bidding war usually happens is this:  When more than one, or perhaps several, offers are made on the same property and none of them is distinctly better than the others (not just higher, but also from a buyer with better qualifications who offers better terms), the seller's broker will ask all the buyers' brokers for their buyers' best and highest offers in writing by a given time on a given day.  

Sometimes the term "best and final" is used, but as bidding wars can devolve into free-for-alls, the word "final" as applied to an offer can be meaningless.

After the deadline, the seller will review all offers and choose which to accept.  Then  a contract will be sent to the winning buyer's attorney.

You might think this is an orderly, logical and reasonable process.  Well, it should be.  Maybe sometimes it is.  But often it isn't.

During the time before the deadline, there is a lot of backing and forthing between the seller's broker and the buyers' brokers, who are trying to gain some insight as to how far their buyers have to come up in order to win while also trying to make sure the seller's broker understands how fantastically well-qualified their buyers are and how much they truly love the property.

Buyers' brokers are frantically trying to reach their clients.  Clients are trying to reach their accountants.

The seller's broker is fielding phone calls constantly, trying both not to give away information that might hurt the seller in any way, and to get the highest offer possible.

When all the offers are in, and one is accepted, you'd think we could all breathe a sigh of relief and move on to getting a contract signed. 

But no.  Not always.

One of the losers may decide he doesn't want to be a loser, and opens everything up again by raising his offer substantially.

When this happens, if I'm the seller's broker, I want to go home and crawl under the bed.  But I don't.  It's my job, and most of the time I love it.

The new offer may be so high as to be irresistible to the seller.  So the seller will accept it and tell his lawyer to send out another contract in addition to the one he's already sent.  

It then becomes my job to tell the broker for the first buyer that his accepted offer has been un-accepted, and ask if he wants to raise it, as a higher offer has come in.  

Harsh words are usually the result, and I am on the receiving end.

If a contract is signed at a higher price of course I am very pleased.  This, after all, is the point.

But too often this higher buyer (fun to say that, not always fun to deal with it) ultimately decides he has bid over his head and walks away without signing a contract. 

I am then the one who goes back to the broker for the buyer who won the original bidding war and says hey, just kidding, your buyer's offer is accepted after all.

Only by this time, that buyer may be so angry that he is either no longer interested or actually wants to lower his offer.

The can is open, and the worms are wriggling all over the place.

Even more complicated and unpleasant negotiations may ensue, but I'm getting a headache.

A broker needs a great deal of tact, patience, resilience and empathy to deal with this kind of thing. Fortunately or unfortunately, over the years I've been on both sides of many bidding wars and have grown a lot of calluses.  

There are three  very important things to remember if you, as a buyer, get involved in a bidding war:  

One, be grateful you're not alone.  You have a skilled broker who has been through this before and will make sure that in the end, everything will be all right.  (And to quote the character in the movie*, if everything is not all right, then it isn't the end yet.)

Two, decide what is the most you are willing and able to spend for this property and DO NOT GO ABOVE THAT NUMBER.

Three, if you lose, remember this:  It's okay.  There are more than 300 million people in this country not living in that apartment and not minding a bit.  

Your broker will find you another one that you will love just as much. Maybe more.

I promise.

Any questions?  E-mail  cstimpson@stribling.com or call 917-991-9549.

*"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."  Great cast, fun flick.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Essentials of the offer: how to be the perfect buyer in today's sellers' market. (It's not just about dollars.)


(Part 4 of a series) 

At last, you and your broker have found the apartment of your dreams.

You've seen it at least twice, and so has your partner.  

Your broker has pointed out any negatives as well as the positives. (She's objective.  You may not be.  And not only will this help you make sure it's the right one for you, but it will help in negotiating the price.)  

Before you make an offer:

First, your broker should let the seller's broker know that you're seriously interested, find out if there are any offers currently on the table, and, if there are none, ask to be notified if any are made.  

Your broker should also try to find out about possible negotiability and should ask for comparable sales to support the price.

Second, alert your real estate attorney.

Third, make sure you have a substantial amount of cash readily available.  When you sign a contract, you must accompany it with a check for ten per cent of the purchase price.

At the same time, your broker should be looking for comparable sales in addition to the ones the seller's broker has given her.  She should research the price as carefully as if she were pricing it for the seller.

Now for the offer.  

It's not just a number.

The strongest offers are all cash.  The next strongest are those that include financing but are not contingent on it.  The weakest are those that are contingent on financing.  

Strong qualifications are also a highly motivating factor, particularly if the property is a co-op and the buyer will have to pass the board.  

An all-cash offer from a well-qualified buyer will often trump a higher offer with a financing contingency from someone with less impressive resources.

If the property is new to the market, well priced and likely to attract several buyers, you may want to make a preemptive bid, with a time limit.

A seller who is doing business in good faith will immediately accept an all cash, full price offer (in a sellers' market like today's, circumstances might even warrant a number over the full price), to close at his convenience, from a qualified buyer.

However, there are those sellers who will have another open house to see if they can get a higher number or stimulate a bidding war.  That's why a time limit is a good idea.

If there are no other offers on the table, and the property has been on the market for more than a month, you may be able to negotiate a bit.  

But in today's market, in order to get a response from the seller, your opening offer should be at least 90% of the asking price.  Most actual sale prices are now within two or three per cent of the asking price, either over or under.

If you don't think the property is worth that much, your broker can sound out the seller's broker to see if the seller will respond to a lower offer.

The formal offer should thus include the number, the closing date, the amount to be financed (if any), the pre-approval letter from the bank, and whether or not the offer is contingent on financing.  


It should also include your net worth, liquid assets, annual income (not just salary) and source of same. 

Your broker should present your offer the INSTANT you make it, by phone, and should follow up with a formal presentation by e-mail.

If yours is the only offer on the table and it is less than the full ask, the seller has three options:  she can turn you down flat, she can accept it, or she can make a counter offer.  

The third option is the most likely.  Then there will be some backing and forthing between you and the seller, via your brokers, before you agree on a price and terms.  

Both parties may assume that they'll eventually arrive at the midpoint between the opening offer and the asking price, but this is not necessarily true.  One or the other may refuse to budge at some point.  

A broker is an experienced negotiator and can help you through an impasse.  She will do her best to make sure the seller is the one who blinks.

Once you and the seller have agreed on price and terms, the next step is getting the contract signed.  

Unless, of course...

NEXT:  How to win a bidding war.




Monday, January 6, 2014

The one essential for working with a broker as a buyer. And what you're entitled to in return.



Part 3  If you're buying:

You may be tempted to work on your own.  Don't.

This may well be the largest financial investment you will ever make.  It will affect your life for many years to come.  You won't just have to live with it; you'll live IN it.

Do you really want to do this alone?  Without professional help?

Working with a broker costs you nothing.  And a good broker will save you both time and money.*

Finding the right broker to help you buy is less crucial than finding one to help you sell.  There's no written agreement.  If it doesn't work out, it's easier to change (but don't change lightly--more below on this).

Ask your friends, go to some open houses, walk into an office.  Be sure every broker you consider is a member of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).

Once you find one you like, BE LOYAL.  Don't try to work with more than one broker at a time.  

It will hurt you.

There's nothing to be gained by working with more than one broker.  We all have access to all listings. REBNY requires that we share our "exclusives" with all other member firms within 24 hours of listing them.

If you're not happy with your broker, by all means change.  But it's in your own best interest to practice monogamy--serial monogamy if necessary, but monogamy--with a broker.

How will we know if you're working with another broker?  We are required to give our customer's name when we make an appointment to see a property.  

If the listing broker for that property tells us the customer already has an appointment to see it through another broker, or if the customer has gotten in touch with the listing broker directly, nine out of ten of us will drop the customer.

Here's why:  choosing five to seven apartments for you for an afternoon's tour, reviewing them with you, scheduling appointments with their brokers (which means a meshing of your schedule and theirs, not to mention ours) to see them in some kind of reasonable geographic sequence is extremely complicated and time-consuming.

Also, our firms do not pay for taxis or car services or lunches or snacks. All of those expenses come out of our pockets.  And we are independent contractors, on straight commission, with no salary or benefits.  If we don't sell, we don't eat.

Okay, this is not your problem.  

But we cannot afford to devote time, effort and money to anyone who may wind up buying through some other broker.

If you see something interesting on the web, pass it on to your broker and ask what she thinks.  She may know something about the listing that's not on the website--land-lease, brick wall views, whatever.  

If, in a moment of excitement about a property, you call or e-mail the listing broker directly, make it clear that you have a broker representing you.  

If you go to an open house without your broker, put her name down on the sign-in sheet.

Here's what you can expect in return:

If you don't already have a real estate attorney, your broker should provide you with the names of at least three she's worked with in the past and is comfortable recommending.  Same goes for mortgage providers, if you're planning to finance.

She should be seriously interested in finding you the perfect property and getting the best price, not just in making a quick sale.

(A smart broker knows that this is in her best interest. If she does her job well, you will come back to her when you're ready to sell whatever she helps you buy. You will also send any of your friends who have real estate needs to her.)  

She should listen carefully and TAKE NOTES when you tell her what you're looking for. 

Before she shows you properties, she should send you a list of them with pictures, floor-plans and other information.  Go over the list with her so that if there are some you're not interested in, you can explain why. 

Again, she should listen carefully and TAKE NOTES.

When you actually go out with her to look at properties, it is fair to expect her to pay cab fares and for any snacks along the way.  

If you're spending in the multimillion dollar range, it is fair to expect a car service, especially if your tour will be in the later afternoon when it's impossible to get a cab.

After the tour, stop for coffee to discuss what you've seen.  

If you didn't like something and can't come up with anything beyond "It just didn't strike me," your broker should know how to gently probe a bit, asking, for instance, if the problem was the light or lack of it, or if those white brick buildings that went up in the '60s should be ruled out altogether, or if there was something wrong with the block.

If you're looking with someone who will be sharing the space with you, ask for some time to discuss the properties privately.  But be sure to discuss them with your broker as soon as possible.

She should NEVER pressure you to make an offer unless she sees that you're interested in something, and she knows that other offers are already on the table.  

She shouldn't argue when you point out negatives, and she should point out any serious ones you miss.

If you've looked at a dozen properties and can't see yourself living in any of them, sit down with your broker and try to figure out what the problem is. 

But by this time, there should be at least one you like enough to make an offer on.

Now, more than ever, the right broker is essential. Now's the time to decide what your offer should be, and negotiate the price.

NEXT:  The offer, and beyond.

Any questions so far?  e-mail me at cstimpson@stribling.com or call 917-991-9549.  I'll be happy to answer them.

*For more on this, see previous post, "Don't jump into the pool without a lifeguard:  why buyers need brokers."