Brooklyn News & Real Estate Trends 

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

July 25, 2020

How Much House Can I Afford?

real estate architecture

Buying a home is usually the most expensive purchase people make in their lives. It is considered to be a symbol of success which signals to others that you are getting closer to fulfilling the American dream. Knowing that buying a home is a big financial and psychological commitment, finding out how much you can afford should be your number one priority.

To start your home buying journey, you need to be mindful of the following four things:

  1. Establish your priorities

    • Make a list of your ideal home (features, location, type of property, age, square footage)

  2. Calculate how much you can afford

  3. Plan for expenses

    • Home maintenance (gardening, heating and cooling, etc.)

    • Moving costs

  4. Have an emergency fund in place

Having a plan in place can help you establish priorities. If you have additional debt like student loans, it might be best to see if you can prioritize paying those off first before purchasing a home — Keeping a list is always helpful.

Covid-19 and the Home Buying Process

With COVID-19 still very present in our daily lives, sellers and real estate agents gave started to offer target="_blank" rel="noopener" title="(opens new window)">virtual tours.

It is clear that most buyers will prefer an in-person tour before making an offer. Still, virtual tours are a great way for buyers to shop around and find their dream home. Dana Bull, realtor at Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty said “most [virtual tours] will include a contingency that allows them to walk away after a home inspection or physical walk through”.


If you are a first-time home buyer, knowing all of these four things will help with your home buying journey. You will at least have one foot ahead from those who do not have a plan at all.

Focusing on the preparation required to purchase as opposed to the excitement of it can help you stay on budget. “Try to the extent possible to separate emotion and logic,” says Keith Gumbinger, Vice President of target="_blank" rel="noopener" title="(opens new window)">, an online consumer’s mortgage resource.

Once your plan is ready, it is time to start shopping for target="_blank" rel="noopener" title="(opens new window)">mortgage lenders. Some lenders are known for being the “Best for” with various clients such as first-time home buyers, active military members and veterans.

Read the full target="_blank" rel="noopener" title="(opens new window)">article here




July 9, 2020

What is the Impact of COVID-19 on the Real Estate Market?

real estate architecture

To say that COVID-19 devastated all areas of life is an understatement. With New York hit the hardest with the pandemic, real estate transactions ground to a halt as social distancing and business closures became the norm for slowing the spread. With restrictions slowly lifted, many homebuyers and sellers are wondering what the real estate industry will be like post-COVID-19. Let’s take a look.


New York is already seeing a significant rebound in real estate activity and is expected to continue on this path, with major restrictions lifted. Those sellers who pulled their homes when the pandemic hit are slowly putting them back on the market, so expect to see an uptick in inventory and buyers. From here, several scenarios may take place in the coming months to a year.

real estate activity since march

Possible bargains

There may be bargains to be had out there, particularly with sellers who found themselves stuck with two properties when COVID-19 shut things down. After several months of paying two mortgages, sellers may simply be looking to get the added mortgage out of their hands as soon as possible. As a result, there is the possibility of negotiation and price drops to sell quickly.

house bargain

Possible exodus

While the city hasn’t announced its plan for schools in the fall, the eventual announcement could cause a shift in the real estate market. For concerned parents, opening schools may be the impetus to move from the city, and buyers should anticipate a flood of properties on the market around the time of announcement. Again, this is a possibility, not a probability. 

High-end properties to sit

The mass evacuation of the city by those with second homes will likely cause a continued lull in the high-end real estate market. As many of those buyers haven’t yet returned, and likely won’t until the end of summer, the luxury market is expected to continue on its slow trajectory. Expect this market to pick up in fall.

Differing list of must-haves

For those buyers who didn’t retreat to the suburbs when COVID-19 hit, the list of must-haves is different from pre-COVID-19 times. With many companies seeing remote and telework options as viable and productive, they’re allowing employees to continue work at home. As a result, buyers want more living area to work comfortably from home, in addition to specific amenities and perks such as in-unit washers and dryers and soundproofing. 

writting notes

Suburbs are hot

While there are many die-hard city dwellers, there will be an exodus to the suburbs as a result of COVID-19. Many New Yorkers are opting to head to the suburbs for larger living spaces and outdoor areas after experiencing remote work. While many won’t have the option to work 100 percent remotely, commuting into the city one or two days a week is much better than five.

suburb example

Home prices steady

While there is the possibility to find a bargain on the market, many homes will have prices that are equal, if not a little higher, than pre-COVID-19 rates. There will always be a demand for housing in Brooklyn, so buyers should expect to pay asking price. 

For sellers, now is the best time to sell before the recession hits, and uncertainty wreaks havoc on home prices. If you’re a seller considering selling in the next two years, this is the year to do it, when pricing is predictable, and you get fair market value for your property.




Posted in Market Updates
Jan. 7, 2020


1. Are you interested in serving on the board?

We recommend neutrality in your response if you are to ever be asked if you’re interested in serving. For example, you could say something like, ‘If the board or the building thought that I could make an important contribution, I would certainly be open to discussing it.’  You never want the board to think that you are aiming for a position.

Some application packages might ask applicants directly if they have any background or skills that may be useful to the board, in which case, it's fine to list expertise that might not be readily apparent from other parts of your board package.

2. Why are you downsizing?

This is a common but an unexpected question for applicants. You may have fewer family members living at home, or maybe you are trying to trim expenses. If it deals with expenses, keep that information to yourself.  It is better to focus on space, not money.  Co-op board members don’t want to hear you say that you want to move to save money.

3. How do you like your job?

With this question board members will most likely be trying to get a sense of your overall job security.  This is not the time to have a candid discussion about any crisis you might be experiencing at work, so no need to cause unnecessary alarm with throwaway lines.  Instead, it is recommended to be upbeat about your role and not give away too many details.

4. What are your political beliefs or with which political party are you affiliated?

While this question is completely legal, it might be unexpected and throw you off your game. We recommend that you just be honest and keep your answer simple.

5. Are you planning a renovation?

It is best to leave out any details of your proposed renovation until after closing.  It can be concerning to board members to hear about any renovation plans, you never know who may live adjacent to your apartment and might dread the disturbance of a renovation.

6. Do you have parties or entertain often?

This question is very common—and it's not a popularity test. The board wants to gauge whether your socializing will be disruptive. Your best answer might be to say you enjoy having occasional dinners with close friends and leaving it at that.

8. Why did you choose this apartment/neighborhood?

This is an opportunity for applicants to be complementary. Don’t bog down your response with a blow-by-blow description of the many apartments that you saw before this one, or that it is the only one you could afford.  This isn’t an invitation to overshare.

7. What do you do in your spare time?

Although this question seems innocent enough, this can trip buyers up.  Three easy suggestions when fielding this one: Keep it clean, keep it simple, and keep it quiet.  This means that now is not the time to tell the board about your plans for learning the clarinet or your annual Halloween party.

9. What was your last interaction with an attorney?

Of course, the best answer to this question would be something like, “My lawyer Father-in-Law just had dinner together,” however if you have something behind you it’s best to be honest.  However, temper your answer, Go with something like, 'I was unjustly sued by someone, we were able to resolve it quickly and cleanly and fortunately I've never had any legal involvement since.’  You want to give a clean, simple explanation that proves you are reasonable and weren't the source of the problem.

It’s worth doing an online search of your name before an interview to see what information comes up. Be prepared to answer questions related to the results.

10. Why are there some inconsistencies in your application?

It’s a good idea to read through the application before you go to the interview to make sure that everything looks legit and be prepared to answer any questions you think it may have elicited.  Usually, some financials questions arise, like how much money a person has, especially if their assets are a combination of several business and or a trust.

If, say, you receive $60,000 a year from a trust, be sure to explain that that trust allows you to invade the principal if that's how you're planning on paying for the apartment.

And if you don't know the answer to a question, try not to seem flustered. Just say you don't know the answer, and that you'll get back to them as soon as you've spoken to your accountant.

11.  Do you have any questions?

While in other forums it is often useful to have questions at the ready as a demonstration of your interest, you really shouldn’t raise them during a co-op interview.  It is best to be boring.  A co-op interview is not a job interview—people do not have to fall in love with you. For instance, when the board asks you if you have any questions, say, ‘None that I can think of right now, but I’ll be sure to get back to you if any should occur.’ It is never about keeping the conversation going, as it often is at a job interview.

Finally, never ask about the board’s decision at the time of your interview. Instead, say something like "We look forward to hearing from you.

Jan. 3, 2020

What Real Estate Agents Know That Makes Them Indispensable When Buying/Selling A House?

When buying or selling a home one of the most crucial decisions you’ll have to make is whether you’ll  hire a real estate agent or go it alone.  We all know that if you hire a real estate agent, you’ll have an expert on your side – someone who is aware of the latest real estate trends and knows the neighborhoods where she works better than the people who live there.  She knows which houses are available, statistics about the schools in the area, and where the closest shuls are.  She understands the nuances of staging a home and knows the prices of homes in the area that have recently been sold – all great reasons to ask her to be your agent.

However, if you’re still considering buying/selling a house on your own, you should know that there is much more to a real estate agent than meets the eye.  It takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance to become a successful real estate agent.  You can’t wake up one day, decide to open a real estate agency, and start selling homes.  There’s way more involved.  New York real estate agents must be very intelligent, because they must complete a grueling 75-hour course approved by the secretary of state and pass a qualifying exam administered by the Department of State.

During the course, agents learn about licensing laws, rules and regulations, agency disclosure agreements, estates, liens, deeds, titles, closings, contract preparation, real estate finance, land use regulations, construction issues, environmental issues, pricing, human rights, fair housing, real estate math, property insurance, taxes and assessments, types of investment properties, commercial leases, income tax issues, property management, and more.  When they finish the course, they understand very complex transactions, and they can explain them to you in a way that you understand.  In addition, they can help you find an inspector, a real estate lawyer, and they can even help you find a mortgage. 

Even after the agent passes the exam, they can’t open a business of their own.  State law requires them to work under the guidance, tutelage, and protection of a real estate broker.  A broker helps them transition from school to the field.  A good broker will be a mentor, providing proper training and support. 

Once the agent has finished school and has worked for a broker, she will be able to handle any situation that comes along. 

If you’re still considering buying/selling on your own, answer these questions: what does the zoning board of appeals do and what does the municipal engineer’s office do?  Who is usually exempt from paying property taxes?  What clause in the deed describes the property and what is a loft lease? You probably can’t, but a real estate agent can. 

Chances are you wouldn’t defend yourself in court, so why would you buy or sell a house without the expertise of a real estate agent?

Jan. 14, 2019

Brooklyn's Best Ethnic Food Markets

Anyone visiting New York, specifically Manhattan, knows you can go just about anywhere in the city to find an abundance of different culture’s cuisine. Brooklyn, on the other hand, rivals Manhattan with one of the most diverse food scenes around. With each neighborhood presenting a different culture of food, the opportunities are endless when it comes to the selection of ethnic food markets.


Sahadi's has been a Brooklyn tradition since 1948, serving up authentic and delicious selections for all of your Mediterranean cravings. Planning on crafting your own snazzy charcuterie board for a dinner party? Stop by Sahadi's for juicy Calamata olives and smoked almonds, or skip the work and order up an antipasto or falafel platter from their catering services. They also offer convenient local delivery, so all you have to do is sit back, relax, and get ready to dive into some of the best hummus you've ever tasted.


Net Cost
Net Cost offers a delectable curation of Eastern European and Russian flavors, most notably, its expansive array of meats and inexpensive dairy products. Looking for something smoky, savory, and bursting with umami flavor? This is your place to go. You'll also find a wonderful assortment of root vegetables, leafy greens, and hearty mushrooms.


La Bella Market Place

La Bella Market Place is your neighborhood go-to for gourmet Italian. In addition to your typical groceries, you'll also find a tempting array of olives, artisan cheeses, imported sausage, European sweets, and a ridiculous smorgasbord of just about any pasta you could possibly imagine. If you can't wait to get home and cook the pasta yourself, don't fret; scoop up Caprese salad and Penne Alla Vodka to-go or order catering for the whole office!



Who said you can't find fresh produce in the city? Not Jmart, that's for sure! From your typical fruit and vegetable needs to your more exotic hankerings, Jmart's extensive produce selection will have you excited to eat healthy. Jmart also offers a wide array of Asian groceries, including marinated eggs, steamed buns, chili sauces, various teas, and more.


Zion Kosher Market

New York is known for its incredible Jewish delis and restaurants. Those famous menu items begin with quality ingredients, many of which can be found at the Zion Kosher Market! While one trip through the doors will tempt senses towards vats of nuts and dried fruits (or perhaps towards the warm counter doling out servings of spiced eggplant and baba ganoush) and local will tell you: the bread selection is absolutely not to be missed!


Posted in Food and Drink
Dec. 4, 2018

Interior Design Trends in Real Estate

If you’re looking to either buy or sell a home in the new year, it’s important to be on top of the latest trends within interior design. This is essential for real estate agents to be aware of to stay ahead of the design curve in staging homes as well as hiring interior designers. With the holiday season approaching, it's time to look forward to 2019. Here are some of the most important trends you can expect to see in the coming year.

The Overturn of Trends Slowing Down
Trying to gauge when a trend has run its course can be a difficult decision to make. Trends are temporary, and at their peak, they can become outdated in as little as a season. But both housing and renovation costs are rising, and that looks like it isn't going to be changing anytime soon. As a result, interior design trends are starting to stick around a lot longer, and homeowners are looking to expand upon the pallets and decor they currently utilize within their homes.

More Modular Spaces
The increase in housing costs means that many residents are looking to do more with less. The notion of convertible dwellings might be coming back in a big way. That could include Murphy beds and movable walls that allow you to use any given room in multiple ways, but it also means maximizing your appliances and furniture with multi-use built-ins. Homeowners will be looking at design trends that add functionality to their home rather than focusing exclusively on aesthetics.

Moody Green is the New Black
Forget muted peaches, creams, and off-white in the coming year. PPG Paint has announced that the interior color of the year is a bold and dark shade of green known as Night Watch. This jade-like hue may be on the dark end of the spectrum, but interior designers see it having a diverse functionality in households. It can be used equally as well as an accent color or as a primary color that adds a sense of space and a natural vibe to increasingly artificial seeming interiors.

Houses With a Sense of Comfort
As people's work lives become more and more hectic, they're beginning to look at their homes as a sense of solace and peace. That means focusing on interior designs that stimulate all of the senses in a peaceful manner. It's one of the reasons why Night Watch green is looking to be so popular, but it can also involve the incorporation of warm colors, furniture with softer textures, and homey scents like citrus and pumpkin.

Interior design trends for the new year are incorporating homeowners and renters with living spaces of all sizes. No matter if you are looking to sell your home or just update your decor, you can follow the newest trends that are starting to stick around longer.

Nov. 8, 2018

Must See Attractions in Brooklyn

Tourists flock to New York City in droves each year. Residents know that the best Brooklyn attractions rank high among New York's must-see destinations. The next time you're in the city, make sure to add these stops to your Brooklyn itinerary.

The Brooklyn Bridge

Although it's no longer the largest suspension bridge in the world, the Brooklyn Bridge will always be an iconic landmark. Whether you’re traveling by car, foot, or bike, you'll experience stunning views of Brooklyn Heights and lower Manhattan.

Prospect Park

Prospect Park is a beautiful location for soaking up the sunshine and getting in touch with nature. You can take a guided hike to explore the ravine and wild herbs. Prospect Park also hosts free concerts all summer long.

Brooklyn Museum

This 560,000 square foot museum is the first American museum to display African artwork as objects. There are over 4,000 items to view in the Egyptian holdings, and pieces created by Monet, Degas, and Cezanne. There is also an entire section dedicated to feminist art.

Brooklyn Flea Market

This isn't your ordinary flea market, it's an elevated vintage-shopping experience. The Brooklyn Flea market has grown into one of New York's top attractions. Here you'll find collectibles, furniture, antiques, and a curated section of art, jewelry, and crafts.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

If you're interested in some quiet time, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is the place for you. Close to The Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park, it features hundreds of varieties of flora spread out over 50 acres.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

The pedestrian walkway provides picturesque views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the East River, Downtown Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty. Rollerbladers, walkers, and joggers choose this destination for its quiet atmosphere. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is lined with mansions, and grand townhomes, and is part of Brooklyn’s first Historic Preservation District.

Brooklyn Academy Of Music (BAM)

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is a multi-arts center that features emerging artists and out-of-town companies engaging both local and global communities. It has world-renowned programming in music, theater, opera, dance, and film. The Brooklyn Academy of Music is widely-known for its cutting-edge performances and broad array of aesthetic and cultural programs. There are over 200 stage performances every year and a four-screen cinema that features new movies and repertory films.


Oct. 5, 2018

Humans Aren't The Only Thing Getting Smarter: Houses Are Too

It's hard to believe, but only 10 years ago, smart light bulbs and thermostats started cropping up in homes. It was the first taste of the futuristic homes we've been waiting for since The Jetsons. It was easy to see why they caught on so quickly. While home buyers were amazed by these advances in technology, they don't hold a candle to what smart homes are capable of now. 

With all of the advances in smart technology, we aren't just working with timed programs but intuitive devices that can respond to our voices. You can now do things like lock your home, start your laundry, turn off lights, or start a vacuum cleaner all from your devices. You don't even have to be home to do it.

These smart features can even learn and adjust to your habits, allowing them to "predict" what will be helpful with your lifestyle. Imagine coming home after a busy day and having your home greet you, turn on the lights, start the coffee maker, and put on some of your favorite music. Smart homes can already do that and more. 

What distinguishes smart homes from homes with smart devices is the nature of communication; devices in a smart home—from dishwashers to entertainment systems—are capable of communicating signals and information between each other, which allows them to adapt and predict your habits.


Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat

The Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat is a prime example of the kind of communicative technology found in a smart home. Not only does the device react to its environment by using a remote sensor to gauge the temperature, but it can be connected to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, which allows it to access external information and provide the same service that those independent devices offer. This thermostat is highly rated because of its innovative technology which entails multiple sensors to assess temperature and occupancy, and it adjusts the temperature accordingly.


August Smart Lock

Another example of smart home technology is the August Smart Lock, which provides home security as its name suggests. Though this lock is not compatible with every deadbolt, it does possess the ability to connect with Siri and Apple’s HomeKit, which allows the user to interact with and control connected devices from nearly any location. This lock permits users to ensure their homes are safe and secure no matter how far away they are. It can also connect with other devices that use Xfinity Home, Nest, or Logitech Harmony, which further enhances the device’s network.


Phillips Hue Starter Kit

Other devices such as the Phillips Hue Starter Kit, which enables wireless control of light brightness and power, and the highly rated iRobot Roomba i7, one of the most recent iterations of the Roomba family which features WiFi connectivity and smartphone controls, all function in the guise of a smart home, communicating with other devices and networks in order to simplify your home life and complete tasks more efficiently.

The integration of smart homes is still a process, and though many homes make use of some smart devices, the network of communication between devices is often lacking. Smart devices have already affected how we navigate our lives. Someday, smart homes will revolutionize the way we think about technology and everyday tasks. With the steady influx of innovation and technological development, that future may be nearer than we think!

Sept. 17, 2018

The Best Food in Brooklyn Right Now


As the hottest borough in the New York City metropolitan area, Brooklyn has attracted some of the best restaurants in the city. The unique vibe of Brooklyn is the ideal launching ground for a variety of eclectic food and drink offerings.

Here are six of the best new offerings in Brooklyn:



Open your palate to fine kosher wine and genuine Italian recipes at Siena Ristorante Bar. In collaboration with award-winning Chef Mark Strausman, the menu offers whole-grilled fish, house-made pastas, pizza and more! If you’re looking for the best of Italy in little ol’ Brooklyn, this is the place to be.



Greenpoint's new taco destination is the love child of Justin Bazdarich and Chris Walton. The authentic corn tortillas hail directly from Mexico, creating the perfect conduit for all of the unique fillings such as lamb barbacoa and soft shell crab. Just when you think you cannot stomach anymore, you will catch a glimpse of the massive desserts and want to make room for more.



Located on Kings Highway, David’s offers some of Brooklyn’s best Glatt Kosher, Mid-Eastern and Israeli cuisine. Their menu consists of wide variety from appetizers and soups, to breakfast, entrees, sandwiches and more. The best part about this place? They deliver! David’s also offers incredible catering, giving you great food for your private parties.



This trendy spot masquerades as a cafe during the day but comes alive at night as a hip cocktail bar. Owner Claire Chan uses a variety of Japanese influences to create a menu featuring udon noodles and cocktails infused with miso honey and black sesame. Coffee and food offerings from local favorites Ovenly and Bien Cuit draw in the morning crowds.



A popular spot in the borough, Cafe Renaissance is a delectable Italian Kosher restaurant. Dine in at a chic table with white table cloths or place your order online. Customer’s say this place never disappoints! You can’t beat the decent prices for a business that started over 33 years ago. Pizza anyone?



Experience the bursting flavors and colorful vibe of the Caribbean in this Prospect-Lefferts Gardens restaurant and bar. Serving a variety of classic island dishes such as jerk chicken, curry goat, and Guyanese chow mein, this spot also boasts some of the most innovative frozen drinks in the city.



Nasim Alikhani brings Brooklyn a taste of Persian food in this new restaurant located in Prospect Heights. Diners begin the culinary adventure with freshly-baked bread offered with yogurt dipping sauces. Entrees include braised lamb shank and smoked eggplant, giving diners a cornucopia of unique flavors.


Posted in Food and Drink
Aug. 27, 2018

12 steps involved in buying a house

The original NBC New article can be found here:

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. And then 4 through 12. But here are - roughly - the steps you'll probably encounter.

Your brother-in-law may have different ideas about the order we've come up with. Your real estate agent or lawyer may add a few steps here or there. Through it all, keep in mind that while there are common milestones in most home sales, there’s no such thing as a “routine” real estate transaction. Each one usually has a few twists or turns – some little and some not so little. The basic steps are designed to protect buyer and seller from surprises that end up sending the deal badly off the rails.

You also need to take responsibility for keeping the process running smoothly. Even though you’re paying fees to an attorney and a mortgage broker – and the agent is getting a fee from the seller – these folks are working on multiple transactions and things sometime slip through the cracks.  As you proceed, ask how long each step should take. You (usually) don’t need to badger these players to keep things moving. But if you haven’t heard back at various stages along your timeline, call and find out how things are going.

We’re also assuming you gotten past the “nibbling” stage – reading the paper, maybe going to an open house or two - and you’re ready to get serious. So treat these as general guidelines.

Step 1: Go shopping for a mortgage. It may seem backwards to shop for a mortgage before you shop for the house, but there are several reasons for doing this. First, you’ll find our how much you can borrow, which has a lot to do with how much house you can buy. Be careful not to let the lender you push you into a monthly payment you don’t feel comfortable with. There are no “rules” here – only you know how much you can comfortably handle. (For more on this, check this week's Video Answer Desk .)

It’s okay to be a little stretched, at least at first. Most people “grow into” their mortgage payments. But it’s also very easy to get in over your head. Stay away from “alternative” loans – like interest only mortgages. If the value of the house goes down after you buy it (not unreasonable in today’s market) you’ll end up owing the bank more than the house is worth.

Shopping for a mortgage will also help if you can get “pre-approved” for the amount you’d like to borrow. This means the lender has looked over your credit and financial statement and agreed to lend you the money. Sellers like pre-approved buyers because there’s less risk the deal won’t go through.

Step 2: Find a good lawyer. Ask around. Check them out on the Web. Make sure you at least talk to them on the phone and ask them how much they charge: this should be a fixed fee. Ask as many questions as you can, but you probably away won’t get more than 5-10 minutes. Lawyers bill by the hour, so they don’t like to give time for free. You’re looking for someone who is honest, direct and takes the time to explain things.

Step 3: Find out what houses are selling for in your area – and how much you’ll have to pay for what you’re looking. Look at selling prices – not asking prices. You can get these from a real estate agent or from your local paper or town/county government. When you find a house roughly like the one you want, as for three “comparables” – recent sales of houses that are roughly your target house.

Step 4: Come up with a down payment – usually 15-20 percent of that price. (This is the hard part.) You may not have to put that much down (see step 1) – some lenders will go for 10 percent or even zero. But these loans are riskier and usually more expensive. Besides, without a down payment, you don’t own even a piece of the house. The bank owns the whole thing.

Step 5: Find an agent. You don’t have to have an agent, but the real estate industry has pretty much locked up the supply of houses in the hands of agents. Ask around. Check on the Web for your state's real estate licensing board to make sure they're registered and don't have any complaints or suspensions.

You’re trying to find someone you can trust, so the first time you catch them stretching the truth, find another one. Real estate agents speak their own language: what you or I would call a broken down shack becomes a “fixer-upper with charm.” (At all times, remember that the agent on both sides of the transaction is paid by the seller.)

Step 6: Now find your new home. (Pick up at Step 3 were you left off.) When the time comes, don’t fall in love with the house. You may not get it. Based on the other houses you’ve seen and recent sales of comparables, make a reasonable offer. You don’t have to offer asking price, but if you "lowball," the seller may tell you take a hike. Find out, if you can, what the seller’s circumstances are. If they’ve been waiting for years and are holding out for the best price, you may not have much room to negotiate. On the other hand, if they’ve already bought another house, they may be more “flexible.” Tailor your offer accordingly.

Step 7: Wait for a reply. If you’ve bid lower than the asking price, expect a “counter offer” higher than your bid. This can go a few rounds until you settle on a price.

Step 8: Once your offer is accepted (congratulations, by the way), you may be asked to put down a “binder” (a deposit of, say, one percent) until the contract is signed; some states give you a grace period of a few days to change your mind and walk away form the deal. Or you may go straight to contract. This process varies from state to state, something you want to ask your lawyer about before you get started. Before signing a contract to buy the house, go to step 9.

Step 9: Call your lawyer. The seller’s lawyer will send the contract to your lawyer for review. Read it carefully yourself. There are “standard” clauses, but there’s no such thing as a “standard” real estate contract. (You may hear many people try to tell you this.) Understand what each clause says even if you don’t follow the language in it. This is why you want an attorney who takes the time to explain things. If he can’t or won’t, that’s not a good sign.

Go over the “contingencies” very carefully. The contract is not the final sale: it says “if all goes well” you agree to buy the sellers house at the closing. The “all goes well” conditions are the contingencies. What if you don’t get a mortgage? Without a contingency, the contract says you have to buy the house anyway. (This is a common contingency.) Others: The house has to conform to local zoning laws, the seller has to have clear title, there are no “major” problems like a faulty foundation, etc. These are negotiable: you can try to put whatever you like in the contract and the seller is free to cross them out before they sign.

The contract will also set the closing date, which is also negotiable. You need time to get your mortgage approved and close up your old home, the seller needs time pack up and to move.

Step 10: If it all checks out, sign the contract and hand over a big check – usually at least 10 percent of the cost of the house, depending on the terms of the mortgage. You maybe able to find a lender who will hand you a "no money down" loan but we don't recommend it. Because this is a riskier loan, lenders usually have to charge you a higher rate to cover that risk.

You give the down payment check to your lawyer - but they don't get to keep it. Your money goes into escrow – neither you nor the seller own it until the deal closes. If something goes wrong, you may or may not get it back. If the sale is canceled because one of your contingencies wasn’t met, you should get it back. If not, be prepared to lose all or part of your down payment – even if you don’t buy the house. You may have cost the seller another buyer by signing a contract and then not following through.

Step 11: Submit your mortgage application, along with an application fee. If possible, get the lenders to “lock” your rate until the closing date. By law, lenders are required to give you an estimate of all closing costs. All in, these can run anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. Review all the fees before you sign the loan contract. Some common closing costs include: attorney fee, title insurance (in case the title proves faulty), appraisal fee (for the lender’s benefit, not yours - to make sure you’re not overpaying with their money), home inspection, partial property taxes (if you close in the middle of a month), courier fees, mortgage “points” (a percentage of the loan amount), government recording fee, transfer taxes.

After a week or so, call the mortgage company to confirm that they have all the pieces of paper they asked for in the application. If you’ve locked in a rate, you want to make sure the process isn’t delayed by some missing document; don’t expect them to call you if it’s not there.

Step 12: Show up at the closing and sign the papers. Don’t forget to bring lots of blank checks: you’ll usually have to write separate checks for each of the closing costs. If you’d like, you can also ask to hold the bank check for the purchase price before handing it over to the seller. It’s probably the biggest check you’ll hold in your life.

Congratulations! You’re now in debt beyond your wildest dreams! If after a few days or weeks you find yourself thinking you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life, don’t worry: it’s called “buyers remorse” and lots of new homeowners contract this disease. Give it time, watch your mortgage principal go down, figure out how much you're tax deduction is saving your and enjoy the freedom of not paying rent into someone else’s bank account.