After five years of renting in Manhattan, I bought my first home.
It’s a one-bedroom co-op apartment in a New York City suburb, about 30 minutes away from Penn Station by train.
About four months after making my initial offer, safely ensconced in my new place, here’s my best advice for fellow first-time homebuyers:
Don’t take it personally.
This might seem obvious, but it’s worth keeping in mind that while buying a new home is usually extremely personal for the person who will live in it, for everyone else, it’s just another round of paperwork they do every day.
And that’s why my best advice has nothing to do with timing or inspections or any of the logistics of purchase. If you have a good team, they should be able to handle that for you. It’s up to you to provide the cash, sign the papers … and wait.
Admittedly, my circumstances were exacerbated by the fact that I was buying a co-op and subject to the approval of the co-op board on top of the bank. I had a lot of opportunities to remind myself not to take it personally as I neared the expiration of my lease with nowhere to go (ultimately, I moved in the day before my former lease was up).
At every turn, someone is questioning you. More than anything, they’re sceptical of your finances — when it comes to getting a mortgage, and a co-op board approval, you’re guilty until proven innocent.
To them, you are a potential liability. They have seen it all happen before: people trying to buy homes with money they don’t have, people unable to pay their mortgages, people neglecting to mention their weekly Saturday-night raves that last until 3 a.m. (well, maybe not that last one specifically, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility).
Your lawyer, banker, management company, co-op board, and the home’s previous owner don’t know that you’ve paid your rent in full and on time, always. They don’t know you’ve been saving for years and have a realistic idea of closing costs. They don’t know you won’t buy anything beyond groceries for the next six months, until you have an idea how your housing costs fit into your budget. You’re going to have to prove it.
For you, it’s your home. It’s personal. For them, it’s business. So mould your face into a smile, give them your cell phone number, and keep filling out the paperwork.