February 2018 , 3 New Yorkers Share Their First Homebuying Experience , Jackson Heights
Judy McGuire
Co-op owner
Jackson Heights, Queens

Judy McGuire, a writer, had lived in her rent-stabilized building in Brooklyn for two decades. But over time, things changed. “The developer who bought my building did not share my warm and cozy feelings, and began torturing us,” she recalls, “so we had to leave—albeit with a chunk of change to grease the wheels. Now that I had enough for a down payment, I wasn''t going to waste my money on rent again.”

McGuire and her husband settled on the ethnically-diverse Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. Through a friend, the couple came in contact with Jackson Heights reatlor Chris Georgakopoulos, now with Nu Realty. McGuire says that having a great agent made a huge difference. “We had no idea that knowing what kind of shape a building''s financials were in was even an issue. Derp. We were like the clueless idiots on House Hunters, except with no delusions about a ''bonus room'' or granite counter-tops. Chris helped us immensely—she even walked us to the co-op board interview.”

The two settled on a co-op building circa from the 1940s that has about 97 units. “Condos were a lot more expensive,” she says. “If we had found a great condo, we would have bought that, though friends who live in condos have a lot of trouble with absentee owners Airbnb-ing their apartments. So in the end—even though it was a pain in the butt—I''m glad we picked a co-op.”
The financing aspect of buying a home was somewhat daunting to McGuire, whose previous real estate transaction involved handing an old lady a check for $500 for renting a Williamsburg apartment. She describes that process as a logistical nightmare despite her and her husband''s excellent credit and substantial down payment. “There is just so much paperwork,” she says. "I''m a freelance writer, so I was around to make copies, print stuff out, etc. But I don''t know how people with full-time jobs do it. Speaking of which—even though I had most of the down payment, only my husband''s income was part of our mortgage, because freelancers are seen as unreliable. That really chapped.”

Another jolt came in the form of the application process, due to a person in her building''s management finance department, according to McGuire. "Our broker helped us do the application, which was a huge help, since it''s the size of a phone book. We were really freaked out about our board interview, but that was, by far, the easiest part of the process. Everyone was nice and seemed to have already made up their minds. It was ours to [mess] up, and for once, we didn''t!”

For those newbies are now ready to buy a co-op or condo, McGuire recommends calming down, because, unless you''re extremely wealthy, the process will drive you crazy, “Buying a home in NYC is a nightmare for everyone," she says. "Be ready to walk away, because you are not allowed to fall in love with an apartment until you get the keys.” She adds that what also helped them was making list of wants, must-haves, and ''nopes'' to guide them along.

In the end, after previewing an endless series of apartments with their realtor, it worked out for McGuire and her husband. “He got his dishwasher, and I got my doors AND outdoor space. Oh, and we both picked space over location. I would have rather stayed in Brooklyn, but we would have wound up in a much smaller apartment (and probably divorce court). OH, and since we bought our place three years ago, it''s gone up in value by over $100k!