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What you need to know about buying a home on Long Island

Many out-of-state residents don't realize how big Long

Many out-of-state residents don't realize how big Long Island is. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Natee Meepian

The process of buying a home on Long Island is different than buying one anywhere else. In addition to the difference in transactions here, the Island is a vast geographical area filled with many different communities. 

Here’s what buyers from outside of Long Island should do to prepare to buy a home here.

It's different here

Roberta Feuerstein, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in both Huntington and Syosset as well as Boca Raton, Florida, notes that outside of New York, real estate agents work on the whole transaction, preparing a standard contract immediately after an offer comes in, with title companies preparing documents and hosting the closing, which takes place on the date stipulated in the contract. 

In New York, transactions rely on attorneys who execute the contracts and closings, which may happen within 30 days of a date in the contract. 

Also in other states, sellers can only entertain one offer at a time, while in New York, a seller may entertain multiple offers, Feuerstein says. 

Out-of-state contracts also come with a 10-day review period, with the right to cancel, and the downpayment is made after the review period, Feuerstein says. In New York, if a buyer defaults, a seller can keep a buyer’s downpayment.

“What they say in New York is south of the Catskills, we’re the only region that practices real estate this way,” Feuerstein says.

Feuerstein notes that it’s important for buyers on Long Island to be quick to respond to their brokers and attorneys, and make sure to hire an experienced real estate attorney who is familiar with the Long Island market.

Figure out priorities

Many out-of-state residents don’t realize how big Long Island is. Christine Petersen, the general manager of global relocation and referrals for Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, advises buyers to have an idea of what their priorities are, including whether proximity to beaches, New York City and airports is important.

“It would be difficult for an out-of-state buyer to look all over Long Island,” Petersen says. “Each town really can be so very different.”

Daniel Gale has videos with information about the towns the firm works in, and can also arrange trips, with pick-ups from the airport, to take buyers on a tour of one or two communities they’ve settled on. Agents can also recommend mortgage brokers, attorneys and home inspectors.

The home buying process is a lot different in New York, and on Long Island, than it is in other states.

Consider renting

Jacki Pollack, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Huntington, recommends that people relocating from out of state consider renting before buying, so they can decide whether or not they want to live in a community long term.

“If you are not from Long Island and you’ve never lived here, you have no idea where you’re going to feel comfortable, where you’re going to want to settle,” Pollack says. “Even if people are moving to Florida, I usually recommend that they rent. It’s so expensive to just buy something and not know the area.”

Recent clients of Pollack’s rented for a year before they bought an early 1900s Tudor in Farmingdale, which is near a Long Island Rail Road station and a village they could walk to.

Hire someone knowledgeable

Sometimes companies pay for an employee’s relocation expenses, so it might make sense to take advantage and buy. If that’s the case, choose your agent wisely, Pollack says.

Hire a real estate agent who is familiar with the areas you’re looking in, interviewing a few before settling on one.  

“If you have an agent you trust and knows what you’re looking for, they can preview homes for you,” Pollack says.

Petersen notes winters can be a shock to people who relocate to Long Island.

“People who have never experienced a Long Island winter are always surprised when they experience the first one,” Petersen says.

Daniel Gale offers advice to new buyers on snow removal, along with recommendations for yard work companies and places to board pets, as well as who to call when the power goes out.

Buyers from out of the area are often surprised about property taxes, and how they differ from one community to another, so agents should be up front about that, Petersen says.

Use virtual tools

In the age of the internet, buyers can often take virtual tours of properties that give them the feel of walking through it, letting them open doors and “walk” up and down stairs.

“I’ve actually FaceTimed clients while walking through a home, or when one spouse is with me and other one isn’t here,” Petersen says.

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