Escape From New York: A Guide to Buying in the Hudson Valley

This is the first in a series of five blog posts about buying in the Hudson Valley. Look for a new post each day this week.

First things first, no, we don’t want you to bail on Brooklyn. For the record, we’re staying put and there’s no place we’d rather ride out this pandemic (or whatever comes next) than our borough. But we can’t deny the siren song of upstate, nor can we ignore the fact that buying a place north of, say, Chappaqua, is much more affordable than buying in the city. Then there’s the possibility of having a yard, or a washer/dryer closer than three blocks away. We get it. That’s why we want to offer some tips this week on how to buy upstate, if you plan on escaping New York.

Assemble Your Team

No matter where you buy, this part always comes first. While it’s tempting to begin your hunt by looking at listings online, it only becomes real once you have your people in place. You want to find a team that will work together, advocate for you and guide you through this process to do your due diligence to make sure you’re protected and making a sound and informed decision.

  • Attorney
  • Real estate broker (buyer’s agent)
  • Mortgage broker
  • Potentially also: contractor, architect, inspector, plenty of lead time to look for your ideal property

In an ideal situation, you’re reaching out to your mortgage broker at the same time as your buyer’s broker because you want to know what you can afford and get pre-approved for before you start looking.

In the past, members of our team have had great luck working with Berkshire Hathaway’s Baris Demirel as a buyer’s agent (if you work with Baris, please tell him we sent you—referrals help us a lot right now) and Attorney Robert Jacobsen. And since your loan officer doesn’t need to be local to the area, we always recommend CrossCountry Mortgage’s Lisa Yountchi

You’ll want to start with that pre-approval letter (not a pre-qualification, learn the difference) so you know how much you can afford. You should arrive at an understanding of how much you can afford to buy based on your own budgeting, conversations with your loan officer, and how this home fits in with your long-term plans. For instance, will this be a primary residence you’ll commute from to the city? Is this a weekend home and fixer-upper? All of these factor into knowing how much you can afford.

Later this week, we’ll go in-depth on all the financial  considerations you need to take into account when owning a place upstate so be sure to check back.

Begin Your Search

This next step might be a bit time consuming but it’s fun and can head off future heartbreak. Spend time upstate! Look in the towns and villages you think you’ll love and look in those you know nothing about. Real estate is emotional and instinctual. You may fall in love with a gorgeous home and find it’s in an area far from amenities you need or it has a vibe you just don’t like. If you spend time upstate, you’ll learn which places you love and which to skip.

Ask For Advice 

No one knows you better than your friends and no one loves to talk real estate more than your fellow New Yorkers. Who owns where? What do they like about it? What do they wish they’d done differently? Where do they think would be right for you?

City Mouse or a Country Mouse?

As New Yorkers, we’re usually not given a choice about living elbow to elbow with neighbors (and that’s fine most of the time), but you really have to be honest with yourself about your likes and dislikes. There’s a big difference between Kingston or Poughkeepsie and Margaretville or Callicoon. One friend we know longed for the tranquility of living in the middle of nowhere until the quiet at night nearly drove him crazy. Likewise, if you need solace, a place where neighbors frequently turn up on your porch to chat might not be your dream.

Be Realistic About Your Needs

When the rent on your cramped 1-bedroom  gets compared to a mortgage on a 4-bedroom Colonial with more space than you could ever need, it can be tempting to buy too much house. Remember, bigger houses mean bigger utility bills and a home on acres can rack up the taxes you pay. Also (and we hate to be a downer), COVID-19 and municipal ordinances have taught us that making up some of the mortgage by renting your place out is no longer a sure thing.  

It Takes Patience 

Just like all real estate transactions, buying takes some time. Don’t count on this as your foolproof get-out-of-the-city plan, especially if you’re trying to snap up a bargain. After all, the Hudson Valley is popular for a reason and many other New Yorkers have the same escape plan. So long as you can take the time to make the right decision, we don’t think you’ll regret it.

Join us throughout the week for an in-depth look at managing a home long-distance, what your Hudson Valley sister city is, and much more.

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