Buying Your First Home? 5 Homebuyer Mistakes to Avoid

Buying your first home can be one of the most joyful — or the most stressful — moments of your life. If you think you’ve found the home of your dreams, don’t get ahead of yourself. As a first-time homebuyer, you need to prepare for the purchase of a home well before you start looking for one.

Here are 5 common first-time homebuyer mistakes, and my advice for avoiding them:

  1. Neglecting to line up your financing before you find your dream house. Your initial step as a first-time homebuyer is to educate yourself on the basics of property financing, which will help you become a viable buyer in a home seller’s eyes. Talk with a variety of lenders to determine how much house you can afford. Ask about all loan options. Are there assistance programs you qualify for? Do you know how to compare mortgage rates? It’s worth looking online at less well-known lenders who may have attractive packages for first-time homebuyers. Some may even pay a portion of your closing costs. Know your options.
  2. Shopping only online. Instagram and Zillow are terrific places to identify what you want in a home. However, aspiring homeowners should visit several homes in person before settling on the one that most closely matches their needs. Online listings and Instagram show homes in the best possible light, so it’s important to see properties in person multiple times before you make an offer. The best way to envision what it’s like to live in a home is to spend time inside it.
  3. Overestimating your appetite for renovations. Renovations almost always take longer than you plan for, especially if you are buying a fixer-upper. Be honest with yourself: how much time and effort are you willing to devote to remodeling? Location used to dictate everything in the home sale process, but some buyers today are focused on condition, condition, condition. Decide if you can sacrifice more on location if you prefer not to do any renovations.
  4. Purchasing without professional help. Some first-time homebuyers think they can handle the process themselves or use the seller’s agent. Wrong! The seller’s agent is loyal to the seller. A buyer’s agent protects your interests and has a fiduciary responsibility to do so. Experienced real estate professionals have handled a multitude of transactions. They know how to get the best price, they know how to find a home to meet your needs (often before they come on the market!) and they are there to guide you every step of the way. You may be leaving money on the table if you do not work with a buyer’s agent to find, purchase, and close on a home.
  5. Skipping the home inspection. Home inspections are not required when buying a house, but it would be a mistake to skip having one done. If the home has deficiencies, you as the homebuyer would be responsible after the purchase. So, hire an inspector to uncover any issues with a home’s structure and systems, from the roof all the way down to the foundation. The inspector will assess heating and air conditioning, sprinkler, and plumbing systems, and check for water damage, environmental issues, and electrical problems. You want to buy a home that has no major deficiencies. Any problems your inspector uncovers should be easily fixable or negotiable.

It’s best to approach buying a home as a process of discovery: learning how and where you want to live and how to make it happen. I’d be happy to help!

Call me at 914-414-5147 for a free consultation.

Looking for New Construction Homes in Westchester County?

Buying a brand-new home is an appealing prospect for many house hunters. Modern architecture, whether the style is contemporary or traditional, features a strong connection between indoors and outdoors. Many new construction homes feature open floor plans, property views, and plenty of natural light.

Today’s new homes also have higher energy efficiency standards, with “green” systems and appliances that may help save on utility bills. They’re also engineered with materials that are more cost-effective to maintain. What’s more, when purchasing a newly built home, you can move right in! No renovations needed. You can decorate freely and create the home of your dreams.

If you’re looking for a new home built in the last year or two, there’s plenty of inventory on the market in Rye, New York! There is an array of price points, even in the best neighborhoods in town. Located on the scenic shore of the Long Island Sound, Rye offers top-ranked schools, warm and welcoming neighbors, culture, entertainment and dining, waterfront recreation, shopping, and much more.

Wouldn’t you just love to move into one of these beautiful turn-key homes? Contact me to schedule a showing. For more information on any of these homes, give me a call at 914-414-5147.


1. Rye City, NY
Listed at $1.999 M









2. Rye City, NY
Listed at $2.195 M








3. Rye City, NY

Listed at $2.3 M









4. Rye City, NY
Listed at $2.395 M









5. Rye City, NY
Listed at $2.495 M








6. Rye City, NY
Listed at $2.599 M









7. Rye City, NY
Listed at $2.65 M








8. Rye City, NY
Listed at $2.695 M








9. Rye City, NY
Listed at $4.295 M









10. Rye City, NY
Listed at $6.5 M

Questions to Ask Before Buying a House

Buying a home is probably the single biggest purchase a person will make in their lifetimes. It requires a significant investment of time and money (the median price of a home in Westchester County is $622,500), and it can cause stress: two in five first-time homebuyers call it the “most stressful event in modern life,” according to a 2018 survey by Behind every successful transaction is someone with expert knowledge about the local real estate market, research, and due diligence.

So, how do you get the information you need to make an informed decision? What are the questions to ask when buying a house?

How you obtain the information depends on a few factors: If it is a For Sale by Owner, then Buyer Beware! You’ll have to do your own due diligence because there is no contract or fiduciary duty between a direct buyer and seller to protect you.

If it is a Multiple Listing Sale, that means there is a listing agent and possibly a buying agent, with each agent having a fiduciary duty to their client (to be truthful in due diligence). In this case, there is almost never an opportunity for the buyer to question the seller directly. You, the home buyer, may ask questions of your own realtor/buyer’s agent, and he/she should provide it to you.

Best Questions to Ask a Home Owner Before Making an Offer

  1. What is the history of this home? Get the basics, either from the listing or municipal records. You’ll want to find out the year in which the house was built, the number of previous owners, when and at what prices the home was traded, the number of legal bedrooms and bathrooms, lot size, and square footage. All of that information will either be in the home’s listing or found in municipal records. Also check for recent renovations, upgrades, and permits obtained.

  2. Has there been water damage? Has the home ever flooded before? What was the extent and cost? If so, you may also want to find out if the owners made an insurance claim, and what the extent and the cost of the damage was to the home. Learn about the flood mitigation, and if any steps were taken to prevent water damage in the future. In addition, find out if the home or property has drainage issues, or if extra drainage was installed on the property. Finally, ask if the home currently requires flood insurance from a lender if you are obtaining financing to buy the property. 
  3. Is there a generator? With volatile storms increasing in the region (as well as across the nation), a generator is a good way to ensure you’ll have some power when the lights go out. If there’s one on the property, ask when it was installed, what circuits it covers when the power goes out, and if there’s a backup battery. 
  4. Is there a whole house Certificate of Occupancy? (C of O) A C of O indicates that the local municipality has approved any construction on the property, and that it’s been done properly, in accordance with code and standards set by the town. If there is a finished basement, or any exterior buildings (a shed, perhaps) you may want to ask if they are included on the house C of O or if they have their own C of O.     
  5. Is there room for a pool? Did the owner ever look into putting in a pool? Is there enough room, and are there any issues preventing putting one in?

  6. Have there been any environmental issues? Mold, lead, water and air quality all affect a home’s value — and its residents’ health!  Ask about the history of environmental issues in the house, and if there were any, what was done to mitigate the problems. 
  7. Is there or has there ever been an underground oil tank on the property? If there is an underground oil tank, has the area been tested for leaks? If the tank has been sealed up or removed ask for documentation. 
  8. What home maintenance have you performed? Maintaining your home after you buy it is important. Find out where the home stands relative to upkeep: is the boiler brand new or on its last legs? How about the water heater and air conditioning systems? Any significant recent repairs or upgrades will save you money and time when you own the house. Will the homeowner share a list of the vendors and contractors they’ve worked with in the past?

You may also wonder about neighborhood nuisances or the quality of the schools. Neither the seller’s agent nor the seller is required to answer subjective questions like: “Is this a noisy street?” or “Are the neighbors nice?” or “Are the schools good?” 

Your own Buyer Agent is not permitted to “steer” you in a particular direction or influence your decisions according to his or her subjective opinion. If you are working with an agent, give all  questions to your realtor to ask. Know that she may ask for answers, but the seller agent may either choose not to answer (if the questions are not to her client’s advantage), or may direct her and her client (you, the prospective buyer) to do their own due diligence. If they do answer, they must answer truthfully.

Luxury Golf Course Homes for Sale Near PGA 2020 U.S. Open

After this year’s exciting U.S. Open finish, where Gary Woodland held off Brooks Koepka for the win, golfers in Westchester and beyond are already looking forward to next year’s tournament, which returns the iconic Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, the region’s second PGA U.S. Open in three years.

For golf fans looking for a home close to the links, now is the time to take a look at all of the luxury home listings on or near golf courses in Westchester County, New York. Imagine overlooking lush greens and endless fairways — and having the chance to sneak in an evening round of golf just steps from your own home.

From classic and custom Colonials, to English Manor Country, French Provincial, and Normandy Tudor homes, these gorgeous properties either overlook or are directly located on the grounds of one of Westchester County’s prestigious golf clubs. They all offer breathtaking views, luxurious amenities, and locations in highly desirable neighborhoods.

Wouldn’t you love to feel like you’re on vacation all year round? Contact me to look into any of these spectacular properties, where the grass just may be greener! For information on any of these homes, give me a call at 914-414-5147.

1. Purchase, NY
Listed at $8.875 M

2. Rye, NY
Listed at $7.995 M


3. Rye, NY
Listed at $6.495 M

4. Purchase, NY
Listed at $3.295 M

5. Harrison, NY
Listed at $2.975 M

6. Purchase, NY
Listed at $2.65 M

7. Rye, NY
Listed at $2.5 M

8. Rye, NY
Listed at $1.875 M

9. Rye City, NY
Listed at $1.499 M

10. Rye Brook, NY
Listed at $839K M

International Buyers Should Consider Westchester County, NY

Relocating to the U.S.? Why International Buyers Should Consider Westchester County, New York for Their Next Move

International buyers purchased residential property nationwide, but in 2018, just five states accounted for 53 percent of all foreign residential homes purchased, according to research conducted by the National Association of Realtors.

New York State is among those top five top destinations for international homebuyers, and with good reason! Job and educational opportunities, and cultural similarities are among the factors cited. New York, and specifically Westchester County, has some of the best opportunities the nation has to offer.

Why should international buyers move to Westchester County? Here are just a few reasons.

Top ranked public schools

Westchester is the perfect place for young families because it is home to some of the best public school systems in America. In fact, in beautiful Rye, located in southern Westchester on the Long Island Sound, over 45 nationalities have been represented at Rye High School over time, which is consistently top-ranked among public schools nationwide.

International schools

Not only is Westchester home to stellar public schools, if you prefer other choices, there are five international schools which offer primary and secondary school options. The EF Academy is a traditional boarding school describing its education as “Oxfordian;” The Keio Academy is affiliated with Keio University in Tokyo, Japan; The German International School New York is college prep school which confers both a New York State high School Diploma and the German International Abitur upon its graduates; The French American School is an international school offering curriculum from nursery school through grade 12; and the Lyceum Kennedy French American School is a bilingual school from nursery school through 12th grade.

Access to New York City

Commuting to NYC couldn’t be easier from Westchester. With commutes averaging 30 minutes by train from Lower Westchester, traveling to midtown Manhattan for work or play is a breeze. Access work, culture, food and shopping in NYC while enjoying the quality of life Westchester has to offer!

Expat community

Expatriates, or “expats” — foreign nationals who have relocated to the U.S. – are in abundance in Westchester County. Many expatriate social organizations and informal social networks exist to support the community. For example, Rye Expats is a group of 160+ families who moved from overseas to live in Rye and nearby towns. They offer regular meetings and events throughout the year as well as online resources — including a “Taste of Home” list for readers who want to find the nearest shop with their native country’s specialties.

Beautiful homes, fabulous lifestyle!

Westchester County offers an unparalleled quality of life and a home to suit any price point. We have classic and custom Colonials, contemporary estates, waterfront luxury villas, historic and antique houses, and brand-new construction. For international buyers wanting to try out a certain area before settling in, beautiful homes are available to rent. (See current homes on the market here). Westchester County boasts world-class cultural institutions, beautiful parks and beaches, shopping and dining to suit an array of tastes, and close-knit communities. (Even more reasons to move to Westchester here).

Fiona Dogan, expert real estate professional with global expertise

An expat herself, Fiona Dogan helps international clients find their dream homes and settle into their new communities with ease. A native of Dundee, Scotland, Dogan travels the globe with her husband, a native of Istanbul, Turkey, and she speaks German, Turkish, and French. She raised her children in Rye, joined the Rye Newcomers Club and Rye Expat Connection, and came to know many relocated families of all nationalities. In short—she, too, has been a “fish out of water” and understands the needs of international families who are relocating the area, and can help them navigate new communities, new schools, and new customs. (More on Fiona’s story here).

Selling Your Parents’ Home? Here Are the Steps to Take

Selling a loved one’s home is a task many of us will face in our lifetime. Whatever the circumstances — you may be helping your parents transition to senior living, or handling their estate after death — the responsibility may be challenging.

To start, the sale of a childhood home triggers emotions and memories that would not be true of another home. Those pencil marks on the wall show how much you grew year to year; the scratch in the hardwood floor reminds you of the time you played hockey in the dining room. Plus, you may be emotionally drained because of the circumstances, and the real estate process can add to that stress.

But help is on the way! Working with an experienced real estate professional can help bring peace of mind and ease the stress of selling your parent’s home.

Four Tips for Selling Your Parent’s Home

  1. Gather important documents. You may have already had the conversation with your parents about important papers related to their home, including insurance documents, homeowner’s policy, and bank accounts. If not, be prepared to gather everything you need and put it in one place. You may want to change mail delivery to your home to ensure you receive any important updates.
  2. Take an inventory of the home. Categorizing helps: sort things according to what you, a sibling, or a neighbor may want to keep, what you will donate, and what can be trashed. Of course, that is easier said than done when it comes to your parent’s belongings. If that is the case, consider hiring professional appraisers to help establish the value of items.
  3. Pare down or purge! You may view the home and reflect on the lovely life lived there, but buyers will just see someone else’s belongings. Buyers won’t be interested in the majority of the items in the home, so ideally, you should purge most of them. After determining the value of furniture, clothing, and jewelry, arrange for the delivery of or disposal of the home’s possessions. For hazardous materials (fertilizer, chemicals, leftover paint) check with your town or local carting facility. A real estate professional can help decide what to keep for staging the home for sale.
  4. Get the home ready for market. Now that you’ve pared down the home’s interior it’s time to get the house ready for buyers to view. If the home was purchased 30 or 40 years ago, chances are the décor (paint, wallpaper, carpet) is outdated. If your parents were infirm prior to their move or death, there may be underlying structural issues that need to be addressed. A real estate professional can assess what needs to be updated or fixed prior to putting the house up for sale.

Saying goodbye to a home you and your parents have lived in for decades is hard. But selling it doesn’t have to be. Real estate agents can help you every step of the way, from providing referrals for services and staging the home for sale, to establishing the right price and negotiating the best deal.



Let Fiona help you sell or find your dream home. Contact Fiona at 914-414-5147 or email her directly.