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What I Wish I’d Known

First-time buyers share what they learned the hard way.

That down payment you think is enough? It may not be enough.
Unlike condos, many cautious co-ops now require significantly more than the typical 20 percent plus a hefty cash reserve. “It changes [your] price point,” says psychologist Rebecca Gonzalez. “I had been looking at places that were $650,000 to $700,000, and in the end, we had to find something closer to $500,000.”

Sweat the small stuff.
Hsing Wei, a digital designer who became a homeowner in 2009, focused on the basics, like the building’s location and finances. She didn’t bother with details: where the light sockets were, how a dryer needed to be vented. “These aren’t make-or-break, but they affect how much work you’ll need to do.” You may have to install more lighting, for instance, or completely replace your furniture.

Your must-haves may not be so necessary.
“I wish I wasn’t so set on the obvious neighborhoods,” says beauty editor Alex Samuel, who bought a one-bedroom last year. She wanted Williamsburg and settled on Greenpoint—and loves it. “I gained a sense of community, and because I bought in what’s up-and-coming, my apartment’s already gained $50,000 in value.” Plus a new water-taxi stop nearby, for fast trips to Manhattan.


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