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Buying an apartment in New York City involves a complex series of events which can cause aggravation and anxiety at the best of times.  We have complied the following guide to help you in preparation for buying your new home and to answer those complicated questions.




Your Real Estate Broker:

The first step in purchasing an apartment is to locate and work with an experienced real estate broker who is familiar with the area in which you want to purchase an apartment.  Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time with your broker while you view apartments for sale, therefore, it is important that you feel comfortable with your agent.


It is also very important that you have a specific outline on the type of apartment you want to purchase, for example, how many rooms you require, where you want to live, and your price range.  Remember, the more amenities you want, the more you will pay for the apartment, for example, a doorman, health club, open city views, terrace, balcony and so on.  Your broker will be able to inform you on how long a particular property has been on the market, the maintenance fees and common charges, what real estate tax or income tax deductible are, and whether the building is in good financial condition.  The broker's commission is usually paid by the seller.


Obtain pre-approval for a mortgage: 1 - 2 days.

Before you begin your actual search to buy a home, you must seek pre-approval for a mortgage otherwise you could potentially waste allot of valuable time.  Know before you go.  Condominium apartments require at least 10% down; cooperative apartments require at least a 20% down payment.


Find an apartment:  2 - 4 months.

It can take as long as 4 months or longer to actually find your dream home, depending on what you are looking for.  The average person sees 15-20 apartments before deciding on one.


The offer to purchase:  2 days - 2 weeks

Once you have located the apartment you want to buy, you will want to make a counter-offer to the asking price.  Remember, everything is negotiable.  Your counter-offer should include the price you will pay, the amount of the price you will finance and through which institution, the inclusions or exclusions of the property, and your desired closing date.  Your agent will inform you on the financial requirements for the building and prepare you in what to expect before you go before the board in co-operative buildings.


Hiring an attorney.

New York State has a complex set of real estate laws, therefore, it is very important that you hire an attorney who is experienced in New York real estate. Your lawyer should initially perform a "due diligence" review of the underlying documents for a co-op or condo to determine whether there are any problems or issues in the building in which the apartment you want to purchase is located.  In addition, the attorney should review the "corporate minutes" of the co-operative at the managing agent's office.  The review of the minutes provides insight into any current problems in the building, and major expenses to be incurred by the co-op corporation and its shareholders.


Signing the contract:  1 - 2 Weeks.

In a sales contract, a New York City real estate attorney represents each buyer and seller.  The sellers attorney draws up the contract and will then forward it to your attorney.  Your attorney will make any changes or additions to the contract which may be necessary to protect your rights.  When the contract is finalized, your attorney should meet with you to explain your rights and obligations under the contract.  You will sign three to four copies of the contract and will provide a personal check payable to the order of the seller's attorney, usually equal to 10% of the purchase price.  The contracts and down payment are then delivered to the sellers attorney who will hold the down payment in an escrow account until closing.  Shortly after, the seller signs the contract, the sellers attorney signs the contract, acknowledging receipt of the down payment, and two fully executed copies are returned to your attorney.  Your attorney will deliver one original contract to you and a copy to your lender or mortgage broker. It is very important that when contracts are signed, you promptly submit your mortgage application.


Apply for a mortgage:  5 - 9 weeks.

A mortgage application cannot be processed without an executed contract.  If an apartment is being financed, the board will require a commitment letter from a lender.  These letters are generally the last items to complete a board package/condo application.


Board approval or Condominium application:  3 - 9 weeks

The sale of a co-op is conditioned upon the co-op board approving the purchaser, unless you are purchasing from a sponsor.  However, a condo requires an information packet to be completed before a closing can take place.  Regarding the Co-op approval process, you must co-operate with the co-op board and provide any documentation required to approve your purchase.  Remember, each co-op board will establish the financial requirements of a prospective purchaser, so it is important to determine what these requirements are before you sign the contract.  Most boards will require the following documentation:


Full financial disclosure (net worth) with supporting documentation.

Employment history.

Current salary

Personal and business references.

Tax returns for the previous 3 years.

Credit history.


If a buyer cannot or does not want to provide the above documentation, he or she should purchase a condominium.  Board packages/Condo applications are given to potential purchasers to fill out after a contract has been fully executed.


Submit Board Package or Condo Application for review:  1 - 3 weeks

When the buyers real estate agent completes putting the board package together, he must submit the package to the managing agent to inspect the package before submitting it to the board.  After inspection, the agent will forward it to the board who will review the package.  They will then decide if they would like to meet the potential buyer.  Remember, if a board interview is granted, this does not assure you approval.


Board approval:  1 day - 1 week

The managing agent will alert the seller's broker whether a potential buyer has passed the board.



The closing is usually held at the managing agents office (co-op) or the lender's office (condo).  It is attended by you, your attorney, the seller, the seller's attorney, the lender's attorney, a representative from the managing agent's office (co-op) or the title company closer (condo) and the real estate agent/broker.  


From the beginning stages of your search to purchase an apartment to the time of closing takes approximately 3 - 5 months.

Forms of Residential Ownership & Buyers Closing Costs

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