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The First-Time Buyer’s Guide to Homes for Sale in Staten Island, NY

Verrazano Bridge

Owning a home for the first time is one of the most exciting milestones in anyone’s life. If you’re thinking about New York, don’t rule out Staten Island. Staten Island has all the things you’re looking for in a great neighborhood: Acres of green space, endless outdoor fun, and a laid-back atmosphere. Although part of New York and close to all the excitement the city has to offer, it has its own charms and might be the perfect place for first time buyers looking for a home.

Here we’ll cover the most important aspects of the homebuying process, as well as providing tips to make your house buying venture a success. 

Overview of Staten Island, NY

The borough of Staten Island once belonged to New Jersey but eventually became a part of New York in 1898. Despite being in one of the most populated cities in the world, Staten Island has a relatively small population compared to New York’s other boroughs. It is home to around 495,000 residents, including families and young professionals.

The benefits of living in Staten Island are plenty. One advantage to residing here is unlimited access to its beautiful outdoor spaces. Known as the “borough of parks”, Staten Island has more than 170 parks, which includes wildlife preserves, botanical gardens, and waterfront sites. Staten Island is also a culinary hotspot where you can enjoy a variety of meals such as classic Italian, Cajun-Creole fare, authentic Sri Lankan dishes to name a few. These are just some of the reasons why Staten Island is so popular. 

Steps to buying Staten Island, NY real estate

Here’s a guideline of the most important parts of the process when buying a home for sale in Staten Island, NY:

Find a real estate agent

As a first-time home buyer, having a Realtor by your side can make all the difference to the success and overall experience of buying a home. A New York Realtor is a real estate professional who is licensed by the state and must abide by NAR’s Code of Ethics. 

Decide on which financial route to take

There are predominantly two ways to buy a home in Staten Island: By getting a mortgage or paying the whole amount outright. Each option has its own pros and cons. 

Paying the full amount outright, speeds up the buying process and saves you money on fees and interest associated with a mortgage. It may also give you an edge over other buyers. If you’re in the position as a first time buyer to pay outright, you’re in a highly advantageous position, especially if interest rates are high. 

However, most first time buyers will need a mortgage, where they can take advantage of tax benefits, boost their credit score, and gain some financial flexibility. 

Know your credit score


If you’re going the mortgage route, you’ll need a decent credit score. A credit score is a three-digit value that represents your creditworthiness. The higher the credit score, the lower the interest rate. Your credit score is based on your payment history, debt, and new credit (if any). Buyers can check their credit score and get a free credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, three of the largest credit reporting agencies in the country.

Check for first-time home buyer programs 

Home buyer programs make homeownership more affordable by providing down payment and closing cost assistance. This can mean all the difference to being able to buy a home, especially for first time buyers. 

Home buying programs are different in each state. In New York, qualified home buyers can take advantage of the HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program, which loans home buyers up to $100,000. The State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA), has two low interest rate programs: Achieving the Dream and Low Interest Rate. Both loan programs offer 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 3% down payment assistance. 

Other first-time home buyer programs include Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae’s Conventional 97 loan, FHA loans, and VA loans for veterans and service members. The Conventional 97 loan program, particularly, is ideal for first-time buyers who have a good credit history and plan to use the property as their primary residence.

Determine your home buying needs and wants

With the wide selection of homes for sale in Staten Island, NY, looking for a property can present you with a bewildering array of options. To narrow your search and save time, make a list of your home buying needs and wants. To differentiate between the two, your home buying needs are the must-haves—the features that are non-negotiable and must be present. Home buying wants, on the other hand, are the features that you are willing to compromise on. 

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between what you must have and what you can do without. If you’re already working with a Realtor, this task becomes much easier. While a Realtor would never impose upon you what your needs and wants truly are, they can act as an informed and experienced advisor who can help you put your criteria into perspective and crystalize what it is you truly need. 

Explore your Staten Island options

Staten Island, NY has a wide selection of homes for sale. While the borough’s housing stock consists mostly of single-family homes, buyers will also find townhouses, apartments, duplexes, and high-rise condominiums. Staten Island also has new developments that buyers can look forward to. These upcoming projects typically have upscale features like spacious units, top recreational amenities, and community centers. 

As for the neighborhoods, Staten Island has a variety of unique communities from which to choose. There are family-friendly neighborhoods offering proximity to excellent schools and outdoor recreational spots or tranquil areas with waterfront access. Most neighborhoods are set in an urban area that have beautiful natural surroundings. 

Craft an attractive offer

Once you’ve found the perfect property, it’s time to make a compelling offer. Your offer needs to stand out, especially if you’re buying in a competitive housing market. The home offer includes the offer price, earnest money you’re willing to put down, contingencies, and the closing date.  

Deciding on how much to offer is the first and most important step. It’s crucial to make an offer without going so far below the home’s market value, that you’ll be rejected outright and possibly not be entertained for any further offers made. To set a good offer price, start by researching the home and the local real estate market. How long has the home been on the market? What is the condition of the property? Does it need any major repairs?

Looking at real estate comps, which are recently sold properties similar to the one you plan on buying, helps you decide on how much to offer and if the seller’s asking price is fair. These properties must be comparable in terms of:

  • Location
  • Number of rooms
  • Lot size
  • Age 
  • Condition
  • Features

Although you can gather comps yourself by looking through the different real estate websites, your Realtor is the most effective resource for up-to-date information. Their access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and their knowledge and experience gives you an accurate listing price for the homes in the area. 

Negotiate for the best deal

When a seller receives an offer, they can either accept, reject, or make a counter offer. If a counter offer is put forward, you have the opportunity to enter into negotiations. 

If the seller is looking to move houses right away, you can offer a faster closing process. Show the seller that you can be flexible in terms of the closing date or with certain home buying contingencies. Another option is to negotiate with the closing costs. Instead of lowering the purchase price, sellers can contribute towards the buyer’s closing costs to keep the sale moving forward. 

Again, a Realtor will prove invaluable. Often, they’ll know about the history of the house. Add to this, Realtors are very experienced negotiators and have had years to hone their craft. They’ll find the right approach to maximize your chances of success at the best price point for you. 

Close the sale

The last few steps of the home buying process is closing and inspection. After both parties are satisfied with the terms of the offer, the closing process begins. In New York, an escrow account is typically opened by the seller’s attorney to keep the transaction secure. The chosen attorney will keep all the funds, assets, and documents of both parties until the transaction is finalized. 

Next comes the home inspection. A reputable home inspector will assess the house and check on its structure, roof, doors, windows, HVAC systems, plumbing systems, and electrical systems. If there are any major issues found with the home’s condition or functionality, don’t hesitate to renegotiate with the seller.

On closing day, the down payment and the closing costs are paid upfront. Be prepared to sign several documents like the deed, transfer tax documents, and Closing Disclosure (if you took out a mortgage for your home purchase). Once the transaction is complete, the Staten Island property is now yours!

Tips on buying homes for sale in Staten Island, NY

key with house keychain

Now that we have an idea of the process, let’s share some pitfalls and tips that first time buyers might not necessarily be aware of:

  • Shop around for a lender

    The first lender that you meet with shouldn’t be the only one. Before committing to a particular lender, try to have at least three potential candidates. To compare loan offers, request for a loan estimate. This three-page document will give an estimated monthly payment, interest rate, closings costs, and other loan terms. 

  • Take note of the hidden costs

    One of the biggest aspects of the home buying process that first-time buyers get blindsided by are the hidden costs. Aside from the down payment, earnest money deposit, and the mortgage payments, there are other costs associated with buying a home. 

    Home inspection fees, appraisal fees, and title insurance are just some of the fees that go into your closing costs. There could also be a mix of one-time and ongoing costs, these common homeownership costs include repairs, utilities, maintenance, and HOA fees.

  • Stay within your budget

    It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of buying a home for the first time. Although it’s natural to become emotionally invested in a house, it’s better to stick to your budget and avoid spending more than you can afford. 

  • Don’t skip the final walkthrough

    One of the most overlooked steps in the home buying process, the final walkthrough is crucial for buyers. This last check of the home (which usually takes place 24 hours before closing) ensures that the property is in the condition you expect it to be in. If the seller agreed to any repairs after negotiations, these repairs should be evident when you walk through the home.

Buy Staten Island real estate with Casandra Properties, Inc.

Turn your real estate dreams into reality with New York’s leading real estate team. Since 1979, Cassandra Properties, Inc. has been redefining New York real estate through its in-depth knowledge of the local market, outstanding client representation, and innovative strategies. The top-producing team is led by Casandra Zappala, industry veteran and one of the first female brokers to specialize in Staten Island commercial real estate. 

When you buy a home with Casandra Properties, Inc., you can expect excellent real estate services from the start of the home buying process all the way to closing. 

Ready to start searching for the right home for sale in Staten Island, NY? Get in touch with Casandra Properties, Inc. by calling 718.720.0126. You can also leave a message at info(at)casandra(dotted)properties

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