Monthly Archives: September 2014

Buying Your First Home Part 3: From Contract to Close

by P. Andersen, 9/26/14


It has been a few weeks since we discussed the process of buying a home.  If you recall, part 2 left us at the contract signing.  This is the point of no return, assuming things go well with the rest of the process.  Part 3?  Part 3 takes us from Contract to Closing.

If you thought the stress ended with the contract, well – who are we kidding, you knew the stress didn’t end there!  With a house, does the stress ever really end?  Still, that contract signing was a really nice milestone in the process, as it means that everyone agrees upon the basics of the sale.  So, what happens between contract and closing?  And what is involved in the closing itself???

From Contract to Closing

A few things happen during this time.  From the buyer’s perspective, there are at least three things that you can expect.

First, the house must appraise to value – the bank will send in an appraiser to make sure the loan is not larger than the appraised value of the house.  This can take a few weeks, to get scheduled, completed, and a report to be filed.  If the house does not appraise to value?  I have heard where a request was made for another appraiser to make a report, with success.  In the end, this step is essential – the bank does not want to have a loan outstanding that exceeds the value of the property…  Read more about what they look for here.

Secondly, a title search must be done on the house to verify the title is clear.  Are there any liens on the house that went unstated?  The title search will find the problems, and the title insurance (one policy for the bank, and if you are smart, one for you) will protect you should something come up down the road.  I am no title expert, but you can read more about them here.  One last note: Due to the Coop ownership structure, title insurance is generally not taken.  Because there is no real property changing hands, only shares, title searches are not generally done.  Note that there IS title insurance called Coop Leasehold Insurance Policy.  This article is from 2006, but gives Coop buyers some insights you might otherwise overlook…

Next, you need to have homeowners insurance.  Some banks will offer to get the insurance for you, but as you might expect, I think a broker is the way to go.  The price is usually pretty reasonable, given the size of the investment, and your trusted advisor (Levitt-Fuirst???) can guide you to a company that is right for you.

Finally, you will be asked to send 4,827.5 documents to the bank to verify just about everything you have told them up to this point….  It can be exhausting, but here is my advice to you.  Collect everything ahead of time!  You need tax records, bank statements, copies of checks and deposits, statements from every fiduciary account you hold, proof of employment, and and and and and…  Be patient, be close to a scanner, be prompt and be responsive.  Don’t hold things up, get your paperwork in!

At Closing

Congratulations, you made it!  The house appraised at or above the loan value, the title came back clear, and you somehow managed to appease the bank with 4,827.5 documents proving you are a good risk with regard to this very big loan.  And here you are, the date of closing.

On the morning of the closing, you will do a walk through to make sure the house is still in good shape (the owner is required to keep the property in good shape).  Remember those things you asked the seller to do?  The concessions?  Make sure they were done.  Make sure things seem to still work, and the place is as you expect it to be.  Even the yard should be kept in the same shape as when you decided to buy.

Now, it is off to the lawyers for the signing!  And signing.  And signing…  You will generally be required to bring a bank check to pay for those large closing costs we talked about (your lawyer will give you the amount and the HUD statement of what makes up that amount), and you should bring your personal checkbook in case there are some outstanding items that got missed.  After signing and reading several hundred documents, you will be given keys, and off you go!  Whew.

On a personal note, buying a home is a very exciting thing.  When you buy a car, that excitement comes when you drive off the lot.  When you buy a home, the excitement is when you drive into your driveway for the first time.  After all this time, you finally reached your goal.  Congratulations!

Tool Shopping at

by P. Andersen, 9/17/14


We talk a lot about insuring your home and business, and how Levitt-Fuirst is your advocate when you have a claim. We talk about the coverages you need, the risks you face, and how we are your advisors in the insurance marketplace. This is all essential for you to know and trust us with your insurance business.

Today, I am flying down to Orlando to attend a conference held by Applied Systems, the software vendor that Levitt Fuirst works with to manage the accounts of our clients like you. As I sit on my flight at 40 thousand feet, I realized that the tools we employ to manage your account might interest you too, because having the right tool is essential to a job well done.

The Software

Levitt Fuirst utilizes one of the largest agent specific software packages in the industry. Yours truly worked for Applied Systems a lifetime ago (15 years now?) as a trainer, and after 5 years, moved to the agency side to make a living. The program has evolved in my time in the industry – I joined Applied 20 years ago just as the windows version was developed to replace the dos system – to the point today that that we have a robust communication and information tracking tool whose sole purpose is to make sure you have the coverage you need. The program manages every aspect of your account, from inception and quoting, to carrier communication and industry forms creation, to billing, to claims handling. It is amazing all the software does, and amazing the training and expertise your account executives need to possess to handle your account as well as they do.

Insurance is complex, and managing your account requires a great deal of skill. These tools we employ make that process faster, more efficient, more secure, and more accurate every day. For you!

The Conference

So, about the conference… Each year, Applied Systems and the agency users group that works with them put on an educational conference. This year, it is in Orlando, FL. Having worked for Applied, it is a homecoming of sorts, with old friends I was trained by and trained with many years ago, still friends 20 years later. The classes offered include a wide array of selections, from hardware to software to integrated technologies that are all designed to make Levitt Fuirst run smoother, and to make your experience better.

The classes are great, taught by Applied employees, end users, and ancillary company employees that work with Applied. A second benefit is in the relationships you build. Just last week, a good friend from a New Jersey agency helped me with some word integration problems I was having, and another friend I met at conference 5-6 years ago is an Applied expert on the newest version of their software – she is invaluable as Levitt Fuirst charts its technology course over the next 5 years.

What To Learn This Week?

So what do I plan to learn this week? I have a short list that I feel will benefit my co-workers in Westchester, and all of our clients like you. First, Levitt Fuirst utilizes CSR24, a web based program that allows our clients to print their own certificates and auto id’s. CSR24 was bought by Applied Systems, and I am looking to see what new integrations are available in the latest release, which went live last week. Do you want to print your own certs and auto id’s? Call us, we will set you up!

Applied Systems also has a new cloud based software solution. Levitt Fuirst is considering the upgrade, for a myriad of good reasons, and I plan to begin the process of planning the many steps to upgrade. Both the classes explaining the process and the old and new friends that have or are currently going through the process, add up to a wealth of valuable information.

There are classes on carrier communications (software to software), and proposal design and mobile client management – each filling a need for Levitt Fuirst, so that we can be a better partner to you.

So that is my weeks plan. Learn, reminisce, learn some more. We at Levitt Fuirst feel that you have to have the right tool for the job, and this week, I am tool shopping. All for you.

A Coop and Condo Primer

by P. Andersen, 9/10/14


Here in the region surrounding New York City, we have an abundance of both Condos and Coops.  In New York City limits, Coops account for 85% of all available apartments. The buildings look the same on the outside, but the ownership structure is very different. What do you need to know before buying an apartment in our area? Let’s take a look at the Condo and Coop situation.

Condos and Coops, Coops and Condos…

We will start simply with the condo, and go from there. A Condo is like any piece of real property you may own, such as a house. You are buying a parcel of property, and that apartment is considered property in your name. A Coop, however, is a bit different. When you buy a Coop, you are actually not buying a piece of property. Rather, you are buying stock in the corporation that owns the apartment, and leasing the apartment from the Coop.

A Condo owner is responsible for their own real estate taxes and its share of the common charges associated with the maintenance of the property. A Coop owner, on the other hand, pays monthly maintenance to the building corporation for maintenance, building operation, property taxes, and underlying building mortgages.

Here are a few more things to think about…

  • Buying a Condo is a contract between a buyer and a seller, but buying a Coop requires the board approval, and the process can be more time consuming and demanding. Horror stories abound, so be prepared with every financial document they request to make the process go smoothly.
  • A condo generally has a higher value than a comparable coop, but closing costs may be higher with regard to title insurance and other taxes. Also, monthly fees are generally higher with a Coop, due to underlying mortgage payments which are included (based on shares).
  • Coops may require a larger down payment, then a comparable condominium, often 20%, causing a barrier to entry for some home buyers.
  • Sub-letting your apartment is far more difficult in a Coop, due to board approval and financial requirements.

Insuring your Condo or Coop

Insuring your Condo OR Coop is very different than insuring your free standing home. The building itself will have a policy that covers the property’s common areas, and your insurance is generally meant to cover anything from the “walls in”. This unique situation is why a special form was developed, the HO-6. Freestanding homes utilize the HO-3 form, and renter utilize the HO-4 form – the HO-6 is designed for both Condos and Coops, and their unique requirements.

One last note regarding insurance. Take a good long look at the association documents, just to be sure you know what the association policy is covering. It is always better to go in knowing all the facts, than to be surprised when a claim happens.

So, if you are buying a Condo or a Coop, be it in New York City, Westchester, Connecticut, or anywhere else for that matter, do your due diligence beforehand with regard to your homeowners insurance policy. Give us a call, we would be happy to answer any questions.

What’s Happening in the Region

by P. Andersen

Looking for something to do this weekend?  From Greenwich to Greenwich Village, from Westport to Irvington, our area offers a Cornucopia of entertainment.  Here are a couple options if your flavor runs towards pets of all shapes or sizes.


This Sunday, September 7th, come see, and maybe buy yourself a reptile at the Westchester County Center in White Plains! Over 100 reptile breeders will be at the NY Metro Reptile Expo selling their little (and not so little) friends, along with all the accompaniments you might need to turn your home into a terrarium. This is the largest reptile event on the east coast, so if you love the little critters, this is the place to be.

NY Metro Reptile Expo, $10/adults, $5/Children – 845-526-4845

Sunday, September 7th from 10:00 to 4:00

Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave, White Plains, NY

Dog Cat

Looking for a more traditional pet? The Larchmont Pet Rescue in Harrison NY is sponsoring a Puppy/Dog Meet and Greet on Saturday, September 6th. Visit from 11:00 to 1:00, and find your family’s new best friend.

Larchmont Pet Rescue, 7 Harrison Ave, Harrison NY.

Saturday, September 6th from 11:00 to 1:00

Your New College Student: Insurance Questions and Answers

by P. Andersen, 9/13/14


Here I sit, on the tarmac in Houston, Texas, almost to my Dallas destination. I am heading to the first game of the year for my college team, the reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles. Whenever I go see a college game, I think about those college years long long ago with a mix of yearning and wonder – such an amazing time. At this moment, I am also thinking about the insurance implications of sending that 18 year old me to college – the auto insurance and health insurance questions, primarily. I thought, as I dream of a repeat national title season, that maybe explaining what you need to know would be a good idea, since many of you are watching your kids exit for college too…

Auto Insurance:


Let’s start with your auto coverage. If you are sending your child to a school located over 100 miles away, and they are not bringing a car, those years of high rates with your youthful driver may well be at an end! With your son or daughter at college, your insurance will usually be based only on the drivers living full time in your household. This is not a hard and fast rule, and each carrier is different, so call us to discuss your auto policy specifically to see if this rate drop applies to your situation.

Sending your child to school with a car, or to a school within 100 miles of your home? Well, no real news here – the car and child stay on your policy, or they will have to get their own policy. This I where good grades and defensive driver classes will help save you money.

Health Insurance:

Now, about that health insurance… First and foremost, health insurance is so very important to your college bound child. When at school, they will have all the risks they face at home and then some. Being confident that he or she is covered is essential to your emotional wellbeing, and the new health insurance rules will help you with that. One of the big benefits of the new healthcare legislation is the ability to have your children covered on your health insurance policy until they are 26, and your employer may have purchased a rider that will extend that to the age of 29. This is not dependent on your child being in college, but is for any child that would otherwise be uncovered.

For your college bound child, there are often insurance plans offered to university students at a reasonable rate, and you may be able to receive financial aid to attain it. You can weigh the costs of the college plans vs. the cost of keeping your child on your policy, giving you the potential to save some money while still being secure in the safety of your son or daughter.

So, you see, there are benefits to your son or daughter heading off to school (besides turning that disaster area of a child’s bedroom into your office/gym/evil mastermind headquarters). There is potential auto insurance savings, and the peace of mind that even far from home, your son or daughter will have the benefits of health insurance coverage.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have a football game to prepare for, a tailgate to attend, and a first step to the next national title. Jerry Jones has been kind enough to offer his stadium for the noble cause.


Well, my team won a close game against the feisty Oklahoma State Cowboys, who apparently did not get the memo that FSU is exceptional. The trip was an amazing one, however, and Dallas proved to be a truly enjoyable city. On game day, the college students were uncountable, and my hope is that your kids can experience all the amazing things college has to offer, including the camaraderie and solidarity of a school team to root for. While doing so, may the never need the health insurance you are certain to get for them, and may this life changing time be the first step in their happy, healthy, prosperous lives.