10 Tips for a Successful Co-Op Purchase or Sale

If you are considering a co-op purchase or sale in the upcoming months, here are 10 tips to keep in mind:

1 — Almost all apartment buildings in Bronxville are co-ops, so getting approved by the Board is a necessity. The apartment owner owns shares in the building, not the actual real estate. This makes for a different transaction than one in which a condo or single family home is purchased.

2 — The necessary documents from the get-go are the fully executed contract, the Purchase Application for the co-op Board, the House Rules, the Offering Plan or Prospectus, the Minutes of Board meetings, the building’s annual financials and a mortgage commitment (unless the transaction is all cash).

3 — When you buy a co-op, set up a place to save the Offering Plan/Prospectus, Minutes and the Annual Financials. Your eventual buyer will need them to be reviewed and it can get expensive and time consuming to get copies.

4 — Be aware of other fees such as for the Co-op Questionnaire, assessments, any flip tax, and a move in or move out fee.

5 — Even though it’s what’s within the walls that the unit owner actually owns, some buyers want an inspection of the building’s systems or at least information on when the most recent upgrades of the electrical, plumbing and heating systems were made.

6 — It is often a good idea to become familiar with the building’s pet policy, especially as it relates to dogs. Some buildings state weight restrictions but when asked they are actually breed restrictions.  And these days, pets which are service animals or companion animals are often asked about.

7 — It helps to describe the differences between the Board Application and the Board interview. The former usually requests in-depth financial and background information, the latter is often more of a “meet and greet.”

8– Count on at least 90 days from the date a contract in signed in order to close. And keep in mind that until both parties have signed the contract and the initial payment, usually 10%, has changed hands, either party can change their mind without penalty.

9 – The Board sets the percentage of equity buyers must include for their purchase. However, Boards typically want the buyer to have money “in reserve” after what is spent for the purchase, so this needs to be analyzed and incorporated into whether a particular applicant is qualified. The Board may even want the applicant to have more in reserve than their lender requests.

10—Include the management company’s requirements in your communications and review the Board Application in great detail and depth before it’s submitted to make sure it is complete and thorough so that it doesn’t get kicked back and thus delayed. And keep in mind the formality of the process – Letters of recommendation should be on letterhead and in hard copy, not emails, and dress for the interview should be business clothes, not casual.

Creating Holiday Treats


Denise Leemputte Instructs her Cocktails & Canapes class for Bronxville Adult School, producing such scrumptious morsels as pesto/cream stuffed cherry tomatoes, Boursin  bits, mini grilled cheese sandwiches with chutney and White House Toasts, accompanied by holiday punch, one featuring whipped vodka.  Denise makes it looks easy and explains everything so well that the students use them for their own entertaining. Mouth watering fun! So happy I was there.


Building Permits 101

If you’re planning an upcoming home revamp, you may be wondering about the permit process. While it varies from state to state, below are a few need-to-knows about building permits.

When Do You Need One? Small cosmetic fixes—say, a new paint job or landscaping—generally do not require a permit. Structural modifications or any changes that add footage to your house, however, typically require you to pull a permit. If unsure whether or not your project requires a permit, ask a professional in your area.

Why Do You Need One? For starters, building without a permit is illegal, and if you don’t obtain one, you could be forced to take down your renovation later on. A building permit does a variety of things; it ensures your project is up to code, which keeps your contractors honest, and your project safe. A permit also makes it easier for you to sell your home later, as an unpermitted home is a serious real estate hassle.

How Do You Get One? If you’re working with a contractor, they can pull the permit for you. However, if you’re going the DIY route, you will need a detailed outline of your project, including plans and blueprints, which you will submit to your local building department. Keep in mind that it can take some time for your plans to be approved and your permit to be issued, so submit your plans well in advance of your construction start date to ensure the permitting process doesn’t slow you down.

Important Summertime Home Fixes

Summer is a great time to take care of home “to-do’s” Below are four  to consider making this summer.

Upgrade your insulation. A properly insulated home will keep your space cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If you haven’t had your insulation scoped out in a few years, hire a pro to come take a look to ensure you’re optimizing your home’s core temperature year round.

Check for leaks. A rainy spring may have sprung a few leaks in your home. Before fall rolls around, you will want to check your roof, siding and foundation for any possible damage. Scrutinize your roof flashing (a common culprit for leaks) and pop into the attic and basement to check for signs of wetness.

Upgrade your windows. Not only do they reduce your energy consumption and utility costs, but energy efficient double-pane windows also block heat to keep your home cool, reduce noise infiltration and filter out UV ways.

Service your furnace and air conditioner. Check both your furnace and AC filter to see if it’s time to swap it out.  These filters are designed to catch dust and clean the air before it’s pushed into your home, so replacing them regularly can minimize allergens and create cleaner, healthier air.

Fun and Useful Patio Upgrades

Below are some patio upgrades to add fun and freshness to your outdoor space:

Pizza oven. Make a summer tradition with Friday night pizzas, courtesy of your new outdoor pizza oven. You can purchase one ready to go, or for you weekend warriors, go the DIY route.

Fresh lighting. Nothing kills a night vibe like a poorly lit space. To brighten your patio, repurpose an old chandelier, add sconce lights along the walls and get creative with whimsical string lights wrapped around the banister or lattice.

Seating options. Create a cozy inside feel outside with ample seating options. Create a coffee nook for Sunday mornings, a space for reading that summer thriller, and an eating area for dinner parties. A story book stone table can give a fun rustic feel, while a bistro table can be chic. For lounging, consider a hammock chair or even better – a hanging sofa.

Container gardens. To add some life to your patio, consider sprinkling container gardens throughout your patio area. Not only can these be edible, but they add a color pop and offer a fun, botanical feel.

Add an easy dance floor. If your group of friends is known to get down on the dance floor, add an easy dance floor by clearing a corner of your patio. While you can find easy portable dance floor options, your natural flooring will work just as well, so long as it’s well lit and not too far from the bar. Which brings us to…

Build a Bar. A patio bar can add a lux feel to your outdoor space, and is crucial if you’re frequently entertaining a crowd. Think you don’t have a space for a full bar set? Check out this foldable DIY option. 

Add an outdoor movie screen. Want to watch flicks al fresco? Impress your friends (or entertain your kiddies) by stringing a line between deck posts or trees. When it’s movie time, simply throw a white sheet on the line, flip on the projector and bring out the popcorn.

Make more room with gravel extensions. Is your patio too small for all of your big patio ideas? You can create an easy extension by clearing a space at the end of the patio and adding a square, rectangle or circle of gravel. Arrange your picnic table, grill, or outdoor seating area on the gravel and presto – a larger patio.

Lightening Your Living Space

Below are 5 tips for a lighter living space, now.

Whiten. From walls to wood paneling and hardwood floors, two coats of white paint will turn your living space into a year-round winter wonderland.

Minimize. A cluttered room will never feel light. De-cluttering surfaces will lighten space with smooth lines. Cut clutter by adding hidden storage systems (like an ottoman with stow space), and minimize furniture to a handful of necessary pieces.

Add mirrors. Mirrors have long-since been a go-to trick for opening up a space. In addition to wall mirrors, consider adding mirrored back splashes or mirrored trays. Not into mirrors? Sparkle can do the trick, too. Consider glass-top tables and crystal candle holders.

Lighten the linens. Breezy, airy curtains and snow-white throws will make your space seem plush and comfortable.

Shade it gray. To avoid looking as if you doused your house in bleach, consider adding soft, light shades of gray or blue to your color scheme.

What Your Contractor’s Warranty Means — and Doesn’t Mean

The last thing on your mind when you’re getting ready to build or remodel may also be the most important: the contractor’s warranty.

A contractor’s warranty ensures quality workmanship and required repairs if faulty products or workmanship is discovered. While not every state requires by law that a contractor doles one out, you can always request one, and a contractor who shies from providing a warranty may be a red flag.

When your contractor confirms they do offer a warranty, ask to see a copy of the written provisions to make sure you have sufficient protection from defective work. You may want to become familiar with your state law, if applicable.

But what should you look for in your contractor’s warranty? Several things. A well written warranty document detailing specific information should be provided and incorporated as an addendum to the construction contract. Information should also be provided as to the procedure to follow for prompt warranty services, as well as what happens should a dispute arise over warranty issues.

Some contracts include allowances, which should be reviewed together.

Rather than price specific products or materials, many contractors prefer to use product allowances. A building allowance is an amount included in the contract to be used toward the purchase of these products and materials as they are selected by the consumer.

Typical categories where allowances might be used include flooring, cabinets, and lighting fixtures.  Allowances allow homeowners more time to finalize exact selections as the project progresses, and they can simplify the cost control process.  The disadvantage, however, is that the cost of final selections can easily exceed the amount of money allowed, resulting in significant extra charges to the homeowner.

Shop for each allowance category before you finalize the allowance amounts provided in the contract. This way, you can budget for additional funds or adjust allowances to better reflect the actual monies required.

Refinancing Your Mortgage: The Bottom Line

Refinancing your current mortgage may be a good idea now, particularly if you plan to stay in your home at least another 5 years.  You may be able to land a lower mortgage rate or consolidate,  debt for example.,  But how does a refinance work, and why? Below are the answers to several top refi queries.

Why refinance?
With a refinancing, you pay off an old loan on your home and take out a new one, usually at a lower mortgage interest rate. To refinance, you will generally need to have equity in your home, a good credit rating, and steady income. You can borrow a percentage of the equity to cover remodeling costs, debt consolidate, and college tuition.

However, refinancing does have several strings attached. When you refinance, you will incur all the closing costs that go along with getting a new mortgage. So unless you are doing extensive renovations and can get a mortgage interest rate at least two points below your current loan rate, you may want to select another financing option.

When should your refinance?
Many people flock to refinance while mortgage interest rates are low, particularly when rates are about two percentage points below their existing home loans.

Other factors, will depend on how long you plan to hold on to your home and whether you have to pay considerable fees to refinance. It also will depend on how far along you are in paying off your current mortgage.

If you expect to sell your home relatively soon, you are not likely to recoup the costs you incurred to refinance. And if you are more than halfway through paying your current mortgage, you probably will gain little by refinancing. However, if you are going to own your home for at least another five years, that is probably long enough to recoup any refinancing costs and realize real savings as a result of lowering your monthly payment.

In fact, if it costs you nothing to refinance, you can gain even more. Many lenders will let you roll the costs of the refinancing into the new note and still reduce the amount of the monthly payment. Plus, there are no-cost refinancing deals available.

Can you refinance more than once?
Absolutely. During the most recent refinancing boom, many homeowners refinanced their home loans two or three times within relatively short periods of time because interest rates kept treading downward, making it extremely attractive to trade in one loan for another.

Just remember that refinancing is basically like applying for a mortgage all over again. Each time you refinance, you will still have to go through the application process, get a home appraisal, and likely incur closing costs. Also, if you have a pre-payment penalty clause in your present mortgage, you will have to pay that penalty if you refinance. So be certain that it is actually worth it for you to refinance.

No matter what, contact your lender, and its competitors, before you refinance.

Refresh the Look of Your Deck

Many homeowners have  realized their deck looks tired after a long, hard winter. Below are a handful of tips for revitalizing your deck without breaking the bank.

Inspect and repair. The first step for revitalizing your deck is checking for any needed repairs. Scrutinize wood for rot, paying special attention to where wood attaches to the ground—where moisture often invades—and where it connects to the house. Examine and tighten any fasteners, check for bent or rusted hardware, and replace accordingly.

Refinish it. To get that new-deck glow back, consider stripping the finish on your deck and giving it a fresh gloss. Ideally, you should be cleaning and resealing the deck every year to battle weather-related damage and keep the decking in the best condition possible.

Replace the railings. Railings tend to show damage faster than other areas of the deck, and may need replacing. If you’re tired of dealing with annual railing maintenance, consider replacing wood with a no-maintenance option, like Fiberon, a vinyl-coated, wood-plastic composite.

Upgrade the lighting. Once your actual deck is looking tip-top, consider upgrading your lighting situation to show it off regardless of the time of day. Not only do well-placed lights look more attractive, they’re also safer. There are a variety of fixtures suited for stair risers, railings and posts, all of which are great for after-dark use.