Real Estate Market

Five crucial contacts for home buyers

(12/20/2010) - Not only has New York real estate attorney Edward A. Mermelstein been around the block a few times, he's been around the real estate world a few times.

Co-founder of international real estate law firm Rheem Bell & Mermelstein LLP, with offices in Moscow as well as New York, the legal eagle once handled 300 transactions in a two-year period.

He should know who home buyers need -- in addition to a real estate agent -- once they've found their dream home.

Here's Mermelstein's Dream Team for home buyers.

• Neighbors - Experienced eyes on the street is one of the best sources of community information, including schools, crime, police patrols, previous owners and other local insight. It's also good to get to know your neighbors for that inevitable need to borrow a cup of sugar, impromptu babysitting need, Neighborhood Watch chores and other unexpected needs only a good neighbor can fulfill.

• Financial advisor - After the housing bust and subsequent recession, contacting the local bank officer about your mortgage isn't enough to cover all your financial bases. You need a licensed, experienced financial advisor or planner who is loyal and knows your financial goals and plans. Advice from a trusted financial advisor can help you determine how to budget for your home, how much money to put down, what interest rate is fair and how to sock away enough for rainy days, after you buy a home.

General contractor — Sooner or later you'll need someone to fix up your home, especially if you've purchased a foreclosure or other distress property. Even if you buy a new home, improvements are inevitable. Find a licensed and bonded contractor - or two - who is honest. Consider the work you'll likely need - carpentry, painting, plumbing, etc. Seek referrals from family, friends, co-workers and others you trust, who've also recently enjoyed a good home improvement job or other work. Interview several or more and ask to see their work before you settle on one.

• Engineer — Most homebuyers think a contractor is enough and skimp on the engineer. Not so if you live in the path of hurricanes, on earthquake faults or some other location where natural disaster is likely. The engineer can assess your property's structural integrity. When buying, if there is something wrong with the foundation, drainage, or other structures, you need to make sure the seller compensates for the work or has it completed before you move in.

• Attorney — A real estate attorney is invaluable, especially for properties with title problems, expensive homes and distressed properties. The attorney can speed up access to information about the property including taxes, title and appraisals. An attorney can do a title search before you go into contract. Having that report during the due diligence period gives you time to litigate (if necessary) before you lose your rights to negotiate.

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