Step-by-Step Guide to Buying a Home in NYC

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the plunge and buy your first home for your family!  For better for worse, you’re settling down in New York City – the craziest real estate market in the world.  Buying an apartment in New York City can be a challenge.

Don’t know where to begin or what to expect? Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.

1.  Finding the Perfect Place

While in other areas of the country, going it alone may be an option, buying real estate in New York requires intimate knowledge of the quirks of coops, condos, and the crazy board approval process.  When you’ve found an agent you’re comfortable with, have an initial meeting to discuss your needs, desires, financial situation, budget, areas of interest, and types of housing that you are interested in. Your agent should advise you based on your specific situation what is suitable for you and what to expect throughout the process. You may be lucky and find the perfect place after visiting 10 apartments, but you should be prepared to spend several Sundays visiting open houses and making trips to private appointments to see individual apartments. Once you have found what you believe is the right apartment, it is best to make a second visit to ensure this is what you want and pay attention to the nooks and crannies of the home. After that it’s game time:

2.  Submitting Your Offer

Your agent will help you decide on the offer amount as well as the down payment amount, which cannot be less than the minimum required by the building. Coops dictate how much of the purchase price may be financed or if it can be financed at all!

The bid or offer to buy is presented in writing through your real estate agent. This process includes presenting your financial qualifications, i.e. a financial statement and a pre-approval letter if you’re financing, at the minimum. Some sellers might require that you submit a credit report or your credit score along with the first 2 pages of your tax return from the prior year. If you’re buying in cash, the seller may ask to see proof of funds. Don’t be put off by this. An offer is not binding and anyone can throw a number out there. Therefore, sellers want to know they’re negotiating with an able buyer and not just wasting time.

3.  Waiting for the Seller to Accept Your Offer

The seller may accept or they may counter the offer, thus initiating a price negotiation. The conclusion of this process should result in an agreement upon price, terms and the closing date.

4.  Submitting a Loan Application

If you’re planning on financing your purchase, it is best to proceed with a loan application at the same time you make your offer. Your real estate agent can put you in touch with one or more trusted mortgage consultants.

5.  Conducting Due Diligence

Upon having an accepted offer, you will engage a capable and experienced New York City-based real estate attorney who will conduct due diligence on the property, which includes evaluating the financial condition of the building, reading the offering plan, as well as the board meeting minutes. Meanwhile, the seller’s attorney begins to prepare a contract of sale.

Upon completing the due diligence, your attorney must make three determinations: that the building’s financial condition is satisfactory, that the building’s by-laws are acceptable, and that the contract of sale is in order.

6.  Signing the Contract

With your attorney’s approval and agreement, you will sign the contract of sale and present a deposit, typically 10% of the sale price. The contract is forwarded to the seller for their signature. Your deposit is usually held in the seller’s attorney’s escrow account until the closing date. Until all parties have signed the contract and it has been delivered back to your attorney, the seller can and will most likely continue to show the property and can solicit as well as entertain and accept other offers.

7.  Submitting Your Board Application

In any other real estate market, it would be time to proceed to closing.  Not so in New York.  At this point in the process, it’s time to prepare your application to the board. A typical “board package” may include: An application, a signed financial statement, tax returns, bank statements, brokerage statements, personal and financial letters of reference, professional reference letters, contract of sale and, if financing, approved bank financing documents.

This package is prepared by you with the help of your real estate agent and must be completed in a timely manner as specified by the contract of sale. It is then submitted to the seller’s broker and the building’s managing agent for review, before they forward it to the building’s Board of Directors. The review and approval process can take anywhere from 3-8 weeks in the case of a co-op and less in the case of a condo.

8.  Interview (for Coops)

If you are purchasing a co-operative apartment, then you must wait to see if your application has received an initial approval from the Board. On occasion, additional information may be requested. Once conditionally approved, you will then be invited to be interviewed by the Board or a board-appointed committee. Condominium buyers are typically not interviewed.

9.  Closing

With the Board’s approval, the final step is the closing, which usually takes place 5 or more business days after approval has been obtained. Your real estate attorney will be the driving force in organizing with other parties to schedule the closing. A co-op can take from 60-90 days from contract to closing while a condo can close within 60 days from contract.

At the conclusion of the closing, you’ll be handed the keys to your new home. It’s time to call the movers!

About the Author

Jaylon Brigham

Jaylon Brigham is a Licensed Real Estate Associate Broker with Halstead Property, the NYC Metro area’s largest privately owned real estate firm and a member of the Leading Real Estate Companies of The World.  Jaylon has been in the real estate business for over 10 years and prides herself on being there for her clients every step of the way - whether they’re savvy investors or young families making the transition from renters to home-owners. She’s handled every type of residential property, from tiny NYC studios to multi-million dollar homes and understands that each requires a different marketing approach.

Jaylon serves on the Parent’s Association of her daughter’s pre-school in Gramercy and on the Board of Directors of her Manhattan coop where she lives with her husband and their daughter.

Jaylon is a Certified Negotiation Expert™ and a member of Real Estate Board of NY. She can be reached at

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