If you or a friend are considering buying a house, condo or co-op, reading “The Home Buyer’s Question and Answer Book” by Bridget McCrea will build your confidence. However, as a longtime real estate book reviewer, I have mixed emotions about it.

Portions of this well-researched book are brilliant. But other sections indicate either lack of the knowledge or the author’s desire not to fully reveal what home buyers need to know.

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For example, McCrea’s explanation of the possible pitfalls for borrowers signing IRS Form 4506 allowing lenders access to your income tax returns is especially good. But in the same chapter, about mortgage loans, she completely neglects to even mention unnecessary junk or garbage fees, which some lenders often impose on vulnerable borrowers at the last minute just before the loan closing.

The question and answer format works extremely well to highlight important topics for home buyers. The 174 questions with brief answers explain virtually every topic home buyers want and need to know about. The longer answers include “tell me more” additional paragraphs with considerable details.

A very annoying tactic is for the author to use abbreviations that she presumes readers understand but are never defined. Two examples are P&S and APR. Neither is explained. I know APR means annual percentage rate, which includes up-front mortgage charges such as the lender’s loan fee. But even after asking several real estate colleagues, I still don’t know what P&S means. The book’s glossary doesn’t define P&S, which the author says is a legal document the buyer must sign at the closing.

The book jacket says the author is a former Century 21 agent who now is a real estate journalist for several realty publications. It says she won several awards for her real estate writing. She is obviously a very talented writer. But with better fact-checking, this could have been a great book instead of one with glaring deficiencies that cast doubt on the entire book.

The 174 questions cover virtually every important topic home buyers should or are likely to ask about. But the answers are often incomplete.

To illustrate, McCrea wisely recommends home buyers get pre-approved for a mortgage before shopping for a home. But she neglects to emphasize the importance of obtaining a written pre-approval letter or certificate from an actual lender, not just a mortgage broker’s opinion.

Although the author mentions a few lenders’ names, she doesn’t explain the important difference between direct mortgage lenders such as banks, mortgage bankers, and mortgage brokers. The pros and cons of each lender type would have been very valuable.

Some sections of the book are poorly edited. For example, when discussing homestead exemptions, the author says, “Also in California, property tax assessments are capped at 2 percent annually, then uncapped when a property is sold at which point the property is taxed at fair market value.”

She should have said California annual property tax valuation increases are capped at 2 percent for all properties, not just homesteads and properties are reassessed only after a sale or major renovation.

I could go on with the many editing errors, but I don’t want to bore you.

Perhaps I am too critical. This new book is filled with mostly excellent advice to home buyers. The explanation about the pros and cons of buying cooperative apartments is superb. McCrea’s emphasis on the importance of hiring a professional property inspector, and how to find a good one, is also excellent.

Chapter topics include “Common Questions About the Homebuying Process”; “Nailing Down the Finances”; “The House Hunt”; “Multifamily Housing Options”; “Make Your Offer and Negotiate Contract Terms”; ‘Put the Homebuying Gears in Motion”; “Securing the Mortgage Loan”; “The Home Buyer’s Legal Rights”; “The Closing Process”; and “Post-Sale Concerns.”

With a few revisions and improvements in the next edition, this can become one of or even the best “how to buy a home” book. Adding a few examples would break up the format. Including more details, such as explaining how to check your credit reports and FICO score at www.myfico.com, would greatly help. On my scale of one to 10, this well-intentioned book rates an eight.

“The Home Buyer’s Question and Answer Book,” by Bridget McCrea (AMACOM-American Management Association, New York), 2005, $16.95, 220 pages; Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and www.amazon.com.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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