To add to the below, the process should be as follows:
1) Understand your savings, amount to put down, total monthly costs that you are comfortable with
2) Understand the area that you want to live in, more specific the better
3) Understand the size of the property that you want to purchase or that you believe your monthly costs can afford
4) Get a mortgage pre-approval from your bank or broker of choice. This will also help inform you of the above so your search will be focused on what you want and can do with out wasting time.
5) Find yourself a good, solid buyer's agent who will look out for your interests. They can also help you with a mortgage broker if you aren't sure where to go.
NOTE: Be aware that if you are doing less than 20% down in NYC that you will not be a better choice than your compeition that puts down 20% or more. A seller's agent may take a lower price offer for a deal with 20%+ if you are putting down less money.
At offer you will need to have some documents prepared to ensure that you are the better packaged candidate for the property.
1) Offer letter including amounts down, financing etc. This your agent should do.
2) Pre-approval letter
3) Proof of downpayment
4) Financial form - objective is to ensure the seller's agent is aware of your capability to be financed.
At offer acceptance:
Have an attorney ready. Attorneys are skilled at understanding potential problems with the building docs or any other issues (offering plan, financials, minutes, any litigation etc). They will also negotiate the contract with the seller's attorney to ensure that it doesn't only benefit the seller.
If you want an inspection, do that between acceptance and contract signing to ensure no issues and negotiate anything needed (fix electric plugs)
This will include the attorney explaining to you the legal ramifications of the contract. At this point in time you put down 10% which goes into attorney escrow. The attorney then begins the title search once the seller's sign (you sign first).
Now the mortgage process begins.
1) The mortgage company will investigate and approve the building
2) Then investigate your financial background and approve you.
3) Once the above two items happen, you will get a commitment
With in 2-3 weeks of commitment you will be able to sign on your property. With in 3 days before you should do a walk through with your agent and the sellers agent to ensure everything is as required in the contract. You do need to have the type of insurance that your bank requires prior to closing, this is called a binder. Closings seem a bit daunting in NYC as at the table there are seller, buyer and bank attorney's, title company and the agents involved. You also get to read the HUD statement with your attorney that is a flashback to accounting 101. Your attorney is there to help you through it. The show is with the attorneys and title company, and the agents are there at that point for moral support.
One of the points to indicate is that having a good agent is critical as they do a lot of the behind the scenes liaisoning with the bank and the attorneys. A good one will know when things are wrong (they instinctively know even when no one is telling them anything!) and get to the bottom of it to straighten it out because they do this all the time. For them, in effect, the deal starts at offer as there is a lot of work to ensure everyone is on the same page. Find a good one that can oversee the process and help smooth out issues as we go forward. They should help make the process relatively transparent to you or as much as possible in this current environment.
I hope that that helps understand the steps. Feel free to call if you need more detail.
Bond New York
Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn