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Buying Real Estate in NYC: The Process

Buying an apartment in New York City can be a complex process, especially for first-time buyers. The city’s real estate market is known for its high prices and competitive bidding, and apartments can be sold as co-ops or condos, each with their own set of rules and regulations. I’ve recently gotten really interested in the NYC real estate process and spoke to a few real estate agents working at the city to figure out what exactly my purchasing process should look like.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process.

How to Buy Real Estate in NYC

Step 1: Determine Your Budget and Financials

Before you start shopping for apartments, you need to determine your budget and financials. You should review your credit report and credit score, as well as your debt-to-income ratio. Your credit score can affect your mortgage rates and your ability to get approved for a loan. You should also consider your down payment, which is typically at least 20% of the purchase price.

In New York City, co-ups usually require a higher down payment than condos. Co-ops are uniquely New York and may the process for buying a NYC co-op can be tricky. When purchasing a condo, you may only need as low as a 10% down payment.

In addition to the down payment whether for a co-op or condo, you should also have funds set aside for closing costs, which can be as much as 5% of the purchase price.

Step 2: Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Once you’ve determined your budget and financials, you should get pre-approved for a mortgage. This will help you know how much you can afford to spend on an apartment and make your offer more attractive to sellers. Note: this is a very important step and will help set you up for success during your real estate search early on. The pre-approval tells you approximately how much you can afford.

You should shop around for the best rates and terms, and get pre-approval letters from multiple lenders. Keep in mind that co-ops may have specific mortgage requirements, such as a debt-to-income ratio limit or a certain percentage of the purchase price that must be paid in cash.

Step 3: Hire a Real Estate Agent

Next, you should hire a real estate agent who specializes in the type of apartment you want to buy. A good agent can help you find properties that meet your criteria, negotiate the price, and guide you through the closing process. They can also provide valuable insight into the local market and help you avoid common pitfalls.

Finding local expert real estate agents can be a key. In NYC, if you know you want to buy in a certain borough or market, find those agents working in those areas.

Step 4: Start Your Search

Once you’ve hired a real estate agent, you can start your search for apartments. You should provide your agent with a list of your must-haves and deal-breakers, such as location, size, amenities, and price range. They then send you listings that meet your criteria and schedule viewings for the ones you’re interested in.

Oftentimes, your real estate agent may become a close confidant and friend—they know all your financial info, your passions and interests, and so you’ve got to be able to trust them to help you find your perfect home.

Step 5: Make an Offer

When you find an apartment you want to buy, you’ll need to make an offer. Your real estate agent can help determine the appropriate price based on the local market and comparable sales (and their local expertise).

In New York City, it’s common to make an offer below the asking price and negotiate from there—but it honestly just depends on the current market conditions, location (location, location, location!) and other financial factors. Once an offer is accepted, you’ll need to provide a deposit which will be held in escrow until closing.

Step 6: Apply for Approval from the Co-Op or Condo Board

If you’re buying a co-op, you’ll need to apply for approval from the co-op board. This can be a lengthy and rigorous process, as the board will review your financials, employment history, and personal background. They may also require an interview. A good real estate agent will help you navigate the tricky co-op board process with necessary tips and insight.

Condos usually have a less stringent approval process, but you may still need to provide financial documentation. Your agent can help you prepare your application and provide guidance on how to present yourself to the board.

Step 7: Closing and Post-Close Liquidity

Once you’ve been approved by the co-op or condo board, you can proceed with the closing process. This involves signing the contract and paying any remaining closing costs and fees. You’ll also need to provide proof of insurance and arrange for utilities to be transferred into your name. The seller will transfer ownership of the apartment to you and provide keys to the property.

After the closing, you’ll need to ensure you have post-close liquidity. This means having enough money to cover any unexpected expenses that may arise after the purchase. For co-ops, you may need to provide proof of post-close liquidity, such as a certain amount of cash reserves or investments.

Step 8: Understand Maintenance and Monthly Fees

As a co-op or condo owner, you’ll be responsible for maintenance and monthly fees. In a co-op, this may include a monthly maintenance fee, which covers expenses such as property taxes, building insurance, and utilities.

In a condo, you may be responsible for common charges, which cover expenses such as building maintenance and amenities. You should review the financials of the building or association to ensure they are financially stable and able to cover ongoing expenses.

Step 9: Manage Your Mortgage

If you have a mortgage, you’ll need to manage it properly to avoid default and foreclosure. You should make your payments on time and maintain a good credit score. You should also review your mortgage regularly and consider refinancing if you can get better rates or terms.

Buying an apartment in New York City can be a complex process, but with the right guidance and preparation from a skilled real estate agent, it can be a rewarding investment. The process for buying in NYC looks complicated, but with clear organization, guidance, and a little bit of luck, you might just end up with your forever home in one of the world’s best cities.