There is nothing quite like owning a piece of New York City property and only 30% of Manhattan residents ever do. The buying process is not as simple as elsewhere in the country, with several decisions to consider before even beginning the search. I am here to help you with every step of the way, but it’s important to know what to expect during the process ahead of time. I’ve put together a simplified overview of the steps involved in buying your dream NYC home. Always keep in mind that New York is one of the most competitive markets in the world, so the first rule is to always be prepared; knowledge and preparation are key in the search for the home of your dreams in New York.

Condo, Co-op, or Townhouse?

The first phase of the search involves deciding whether to buy a co-op, condo, or townhouse. The Manhattan market is made up of approximately 75-80% co-ops, 25% condos and under 3% townhouses. Most pre-war apartments are co-ops, as are those built before the 1980s. You may be open to either a co-op, condo, or townhouse, but the distinctions should be noted:

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Financing

Once you know your preferred apartment-type and neighborhood location, though neither of them have to be set in stone, it’s time to consider payment options. If you are financing, a mortgage pre approval is required in order to place an offer, and a NYC-based mortgage broker who understands the market is a must. You will also need a real estate attorney who is well versed in New York City real estate. I have a team of experts that I recommend.

The Search

Now that you have the basics ready, it’s time to search for a home. If this is your first buying experience in New York, expect to see a good number of listings before getting a grasp on the market. Be prepared to act quickly if you are serious about an apartment or townhouse. Inventory is at the lowest level in 7 years which makes it a seller’s market and means there is not a lot to choose from. There will be more inventory once spring brings its usual influx of new listings onto the market.

The Offer

Once an offer is made on an apartment, the seller may accept, counter, or reject the offer if a higher bid comes in. Negotiation will take place until a price is agreed upon. A real estate attorney will then conduct due diligence to ensure the building’s financials and the contract are up to par. The attorney will review the contract and the building’s finances and give the go-ahead if good to go. A 10% deposit is required at the time of contract signing. Now is the time to proceed with the loan and board applications. The board application will call for your financials, typically:

  • Tax returns
  • Checking and savings statements
  • 401K statements
  • Student loan statements
  • Personal references
  • Financial references
  • Professional references
  • Landlord references
  • Car loans
  • Credit check
  • Your résumé / job history

If all is approved, a board interview will be required for a co-op and may be required for a condo.

The Interview

The interview process is often a nail-biting experience for buyers because there are countless stories of nitpicky co-op boards giving interviewees a run for their money. It is important to be prepared for an interview, and there are many online articles you can read to prepare yourself. Here are some key recommendations:

  • Treat the board interview as though it’s a business meeting. Dress and act professionally and always be polite, even if the questions seem intrusive or even rude.
  • Be concise in your answers and prepare them ahead of time. Giving away too much information could come back to bite you, so keep your answers short and sweet, and always on the positive side. Questions will likely be about:
    • Who you are and what you do for a living
    • How you like your job
    • Any job changes you’ve had
    • Your goals
    • Your daily/nightly/weekly/weekend habits
    • Who will be living in the home
    • Why you like the apartment/building/neighborhood
    • The frequency with which you entertain guests.
    • Whether you play instruments
    • Whether you plan to renovate
    • Any litigation you have been involved in
    • Your interest in hobbies, volunteering, and being part of the building community
  • Know your financials. Never refer the board to your accountant for answers to any questions about your finances.
  • Know the board’s rules ahead of time so that you don’t say something you shouldn’t. For example, if they have a rule barring pieds-à-terre and you mention you might be buying as a pied-à-terre, the interview will effectively be over at that point.
  • If you are a dog owner, prepare your dog for a potential interview by reading these recommendations by Teri Karush Rogers, Founder and CEO of Brick Underground.
  • Keep in mind that you are being interviewed and that, while you may have questions for the co-op board about the building, your goal is to get them to perceive you as an easy-going, trouble-free, financially and emotionally stable and responsible neighbor who will fit in well with the building’s residents. Asking too many questions may give the board the impression that you will be high maintenance if you move in, so it’s best to leave your questions out of the interview.

The Closing

Once your financing and application are fully approved, the bank and attorneys will prepare for the closing which will be done after the final walk through. The closing typically takes a few hours and can be done with or without you present. Keep in mind that there are some final closing costs to factor into your overall budget, a list of which can be found on Town Residential’s website here.

As mentioned a few times, the key to a successful real estate search is preparedness and also flexibility. It’s normal to have ups and downs during the buying process, but they are nothing we won’t get through in finding you your perfect home. I look forward to working with you on your next purchase.

Read my article about Renting in NYC here.

Written by Lance Nguyen