1. Location Location Location
Location has been, and always will be, one of the most important factors in any real estate deal. From the time Hoboken was settled, the place to be was on the waterfront. That hasn’t changed. If you’re buying a condo in a marginal part of Hoboken, no matter how nice the particular unit, you’re still getting marginal property. In an uncertain economic environment, buying a Hoboken condo in the most desirable part of town, Hudson Street, Bloomfield Street, Garden Street, Hudson Tea or the Shipyard, is your best hedge against a potential downturn. So with all the inventory currently on the market why are you even considering Jackson or Harrison?
2. A Few Thousand Dollars Over 30 Years is Not Worth Much
Buyers get all hung up over a few thousand dollars. They will be negotiating with a seller on a half-million dollar condo and walk away from the place of their dreams because they are a few thousand dollars apart. Even for $3,000, we’re talking about less than 1% of the purchase price. Moreover, when you add that $3,000 onto a 30 year mortgage and amortize it, the difference in the monthly payment is negligible.
3. Know What You Can Afford
Many buyers start the house hunt without ever speaking with a financial advisor, bank or mortgage lender. They have no real idea of their budget, how much they will need to put down in cash, or how large a mortgage they can manage. They either look at condos that don’t meet their needs, not realizing that they could afford to spend more or they look at condos beyond their means and then are dissatisfied when they take a step down to those within their budget. Know your numbers before you start looking!
4. Be Committed
If you are really serious about buying a condo in Hoboken you need to do some homework. In addition to knowing your budget (#3), you should have a game plan and follow it. When you go looking at condos, bring a camera and a notebook. Take pictures and take notes. After a few dozen, they will all start to blur together in your head. Look in one area at a time. Start with the nicest part of town you can possibly afford (#1) and exhaust it before moving on to lesser areas. When you see a condo you like, go back to see it again during different times of day – in the morning to check out the light, during rush hour to assess traffic, after school to see where the kids hang out. Make a written list of your priorities and rank them. Compare your list with your spouse’s. Decide what’s negotiable and what’s not in advance. Don’t waste your time looking at units that don’t match your agreed-upon, prioritized needs. If you have a realtor who is taking you to see units that don’t have what you’ve made clear you want in a condo, find another realtor!
5. Beauty Isn’t Everything
As much as everyone wants a gorgeous condo, some units just don’t show well. You have to use a little imagination. You’re not buying the sellers’ furniture. Paint is cheap. I see buyers overlook great properties because they can’t visualize the potential. Often, the seller has failed to do the work needed to market his or her property. A unit that shows poorly may actually benefit a buyer. If the condo has been sitting on the market for a while, the seller may be getting desperate. He may be more willing to accept a low offer.
6. Beauty Isn’t Everything II
When you find a condo you like and are ready to make an offer, insist that the seller provide you with the financials for the condo association. So many buyers are fooled by the pretty appearance of a condo only to be surprised down the road when they learn the association is practically bankrupt and they are looking at a hefty increase in their maintenance. Not all Hoboken condo associations are well run or well funded. Many, especially in smaller buildings, have no reserve funds. So get the whole picture before you move forward.
7. Use a Hoboken Lawyer and Local Bank
Hoboken is a peculiar little city with it’s own way of doing things. Local real estate lawyers are familiar with the peculiarities of doing a real estate deal here. They also all know each other and have likely worked together before. Using your cousin from out of town is not going to save you anything in the long run. The same problem arises with large, national banks. They are used to lending according to certain standards and few Hoboken condo buildings meet those requirements. Yet the local lenders write mortgages for Hoboken condos all the time. Haven Savings or Hudson City Savings Bank are way less likely to have a problem with the condo questionnaire that shows that the building only has 3 units than a Citibank or Chase.