New York City
Northern New Jersey
Search Better With
Shop for a Broker
Open House Planner
Saved Listings & Folders
Stats and Figures
Manhattan Condo Market Index
For those of you that purchased a home in one of the boroughs of NYC, in hindsight, what are the things that you wish you had known, or wish you had researched more? Any tips for people less experienced in the the hunt for the right home?
How difficult it can be to get renovations approved in a co-op.
How important it is to have a good lawyer. I wish I had gotten better advice going in.
maly - advice on what aspects of the sale? Your lawyer didn't inform you of everything you needed to know it sounds like?
How little to actually listen to sponsor demands. They tried to restrict who come participate in the walkthrough and watched over me like hawks when I did it. I took my sweet time and told them off, but wish I had forced the issue and brought in someone else as well. May have caught some minor things I missed.
who *could*, sorry.
that "case by case basis" actually means "absolutely not"
check and rechecked for any water issues within the building.
consider that taxes can rise and result in a shortage spread to refill future escrow and that maintenance costs tend to only go higher with time. consider that bldg improvements and assessments will come and go. consider that your monthly nut, likely will have its own inflation rate.
A good lawyer is essential. There's a lot more involved than simply dotting a few I's and crossing a few T's at contract and then signing some documents at closing.
Landlease is bad!
How much the experience of living in a building can vary from a "B" to an "A" building.
Also, how strongly my satisfaction with living in a neighborhood correlates with having a good diner nearby, and not really anything else "everyone" says about the quality of the neighborhood.
DG Neary Realty
These are really great answers and gives everyone something to think about! Keep them coming.
front_porch, having a GOOD 24-hour food mart and cheap restaurant within a 1-block radius was actually quite high on my list. These things matter to those among us who live to eat. Needless to say, I really did not enjoy my time on 78th/Madison as much as some people might think.
Hmm. Apparently I did all my homework before I bought, because I can't think of a single "in retrospect" regret.
On the contrary, there have been only pleasant surprises.
I'm going to have to agree with *Remom*.. How difficult, stressful and expensive it can be to get approved for renovations in a coop. Many Brokers will say when showing an apartment. * oh, you can just put the AC thru the wall, very easy, common renovation* OR , " no big deal, washer and dryers are allowed in this building, you can add one in the kitchen".. Yeah, right.. EVERYTHING is a big deal when getting renovations approved!
not something i learned, but advice nonetheless:
you don't want to live in a co-op which doesn't want you. the interview should be as much you interviewing them as the reverse.
the agent will coach you otherwise, of course, b/c they are invested in the transaction's approval.
That renovating an apt in original condition is a lot more time consuming, financially draining and stressful than I thought. And that was without having any trouble with my coop so I could only imagine what it would be like to throw that into the mix.
1) When renovating, you need to become an expert in every facet of the renovation. Otherwise, things won't be done to your satisfaction. Anything you don't end up researching enough ends up biting you in the ass.
2) Never moved neighborhoods, really. UWS was/is good enough for me.
A. It's better to rent than to own.
alanhart - are you saying that you believe that for everyone in NYC, or do you see cases where owning is more beneficial?
Yes, the lawyer definitely phoned it on. I found stuff from the neighbors that actually were part of public records and should have been checked. Too many lawyers just make believe they earned their fees.
that it's about quality, not size. lol
People you hire such as agents, lawyers, contractors don't work for you, they work for themselves. Make sure you are always working for yourself because no one else is.
I knew *nothing* about real estate stuff when we bought our condo (early 2010, sponsor sale). Best thing we did, at the advice of a mortgage broker: Ask for a "CEMA," a mortgage assignment. Thing I wish I'd known: Don't ask them to cover "closing costs," specifically request that they cover the sponsor's attorney fees and the transfer tax. Getting the CEMA saved us about 12k; not asking specifically for transfer tax cost us about 12k. Live and learn.
1. Buses and trucks are STILL loud on the 10th floor.
2. The idea that a good building and great apartment make up for a crappy black... not true for me at least... the block kind of affects the way you feel when you come home and go out... I never thought this would have affected me.
Wish I had realized just how noisy/busy my street would be with a high school 2 blocks away. The kids are raucous. Still, I rather listen to those young people than have complete quiet which to me feels like living in a tomb.
Lessons learned from buying this unit:
1) Electric water heaters suck.
2) Don't assume that bathrooms are ventilated, as required by law. Or that just because one of your bathrooms is, that the other also is....
3) Don't assume that anyone on a small co-op board has any idea what they're doing (and I say it lovingly because I'm now that person and learning as I go along)
4) You won't notice large gaps around windows in April/May, but you'll sure notice them come December. Brrrr!
5) No matter how you try to seal around them, fireplaces cause a terrible draft the 99.9% of the time you're not using them.
Questions I asked myself after renting in a luxury high-rise that led me to buy in a walk-up:
1) How many of those amenities do you really use, and how much are you paying for them each month?
2) Would you rather have a building with a lot of amenities, or would you rather have the few amenities you actually use (outdoor space, W/D) right inside your apartment?
3) Would you rather be at the mercy of the building for socialized heat and air conditioning, or would you rather pay for it yourself and have full control over the thermostat?
Wish I'd know:
Steam radiators can make a tremendous noise when they don't work right.
Doormen can be very annoying, especially when they try to have a personality.
That south facing windows, while nice and bright, can bring a lot of heat into a room, which sucks in the summer.
That the doorman down the block has the loudest freakin whistle in all the boroughs and uses it too much. Sound proofing is no match for this moron.
Things I knew, that I am glad I did know;
The elevator will break down frequently in a pre-war and it's good to live on a low floor.
If you want to be near a certain location, be VERY near or you will be too lazy to walk there.
A clean, bright, 24 hour market is a blessing.
A basement laundry room is better than a noisy, inefficient, heat-producing in-unit washer/dryer.
needsadvice - Your comment about doormen is funny. I know so many people who want a doorman building, and I actually have never wanted it. I don't want the extra cost, I don't feel more or less safe, and most of all, I don't want someone at the door watching when I come and go or always trying to make conversation.
"That south facing windows, while nice and bright, can bring a lot of heat into a room, which sucks in the summer."
OK, yeah I didn't realize this until after I moved in.
But after I had that light-filtering film installed on the windows, it easily made a 15-degree difference.
"A basement laundry room is better than a noisy, inefficient, heat-producing in-unit washer/dryer."
No. Totally NO.
"People you hire such as agents, lawyers, contractors don't work for you, they work for themselves. Make sure you are always working for yourself because no one else is."
@JUICE: I thought this was a life rule. This applies to everything, even doctors.
@MATT: I had a washer/dryer combo that took 5 hours to dry anything. That's all I would have room for now. I'll pass.
@BERNIE" 1) Yup, I feel for you. There's a manhole cover that -if a truck hits it at the right angle- will lift up and clang back down. Usually at 2 am. 2) I'm glad I knew this. Neighborhood is 80% of picking an apt in Manhattan.
HERE"S something I STILL don't know; when we bought our place, the listing said the building had a concierge. We have a porter, a live-in super and a passle of doormen.
Which the heck one is supposed to be the CONCIERGE?
And what is he supposed to be doing?
@NYCMatt: ""A basement laundry room is better than a noisy, inefficient, heat-producing in-unit washer/dryer."
No. Totally NO."
Why? I don't mind going to our basement to use our building's very efficient W/Ds. If we had one in the apartment that didn't work, or was too small to really do what we wanted efficiently, we'd be paying more money to fix/operate/run multiple loads. So I think it depends.
In my opinion, laundy IN the building, whether communal or personal is key. I don't miss the days of carrying my laundry blocks away to the nearest self serve laundry...
"@MATT: I had a washer/dryer combo that took 5 hours to dry anything. That's all I would have room for now. I'll pass."
I lived in a building that had four washers and four dryers for 51 units. Most of the time you had to wait *hours* just to get a machine.
mc33433, I agree with you ... ANY basement laundry is preferable to NO laundry facilities whatsoever, forcing you to schlep to a laundromat.
But read my response above.
Shared machines are always a pain in the ass when YOUR window of doing laundry is the same as that of five others.
1) learned the first time I was about to buy - you don't need a buyer's broker
2) having a drug store and grocery store a block away is great
3) renovating (while stressful) is totally worth it to get the apartment how you want it - and any renovations you are even thinking of doing should all be done before you move in. Don't think about doing renovations in stages because you may never get to the later stages once you move in just because of the hassle.
@MATT: Oh, yeah, if they don't have a LOT of machines, it's a pain.
I guess we should file under "wish I had known" this tidbit;
If there's less than 8 washers and 8 dryers in the basement, it will be a pain to do your laundry.
What a great thread.
To me, I wish I had considered the overall LOSS OF CONTROL. You really don't have very many *rights* when maintenance goes up and/or assessments are issued, which is really very scary if you think about it.
On the flip side, I have gotten literally what I consider to be invaluable experience being an owner in NYC. I feel like once you have gone through the process the first time, especially here where the hoops are huge, its like a crash course in real estate that you'll remember for a lifetime.
An additional three cents:
(1) While floor to ceiling windows are seductive and could offer panoramic views, never underestimate the sun's effects on your belongings, heat, privacy, and loss of aesthetic appeal.
(2) Take the time to shop around for the best mortgage and lender. It's worth getting the best rate and feeling comfortable with your contact. You don't ever want to hear "This is Peggy. What is problem please?" when you call. Don't hesitate to ask questions for anything that requires clarification.
(3) Unless you receive exceptional service, tip conservatively (but appropriately) during the holidays the year you move in. I later found out that I tipped almost 3x what other residents paid. There's no turning back.
"To me, I wish I had considered the overall LOSS OF CONTROL. You really don't have very many *rights* when maintenance goes up and/or assessments are issued, which is really very scary if you think about it."
You absolutely have "rights".
As a shareholder, you can go to any shareholder meeting. You even choose who's on the board.
And here's the beauty of a CO-OP: It's run by your fellow OWNERS! Believe it or not, maintenance increases and assessments are just as distasteful to the board members as they are to the individual shareholders. Being shareholders themselves, there's that built-in economic disincentive to raise any rates or fees.
That's not the case for renters, where the landlord profits directly from any rent increase.
Because of this built-in disincentive for board members to raise your maintenance, you can be assured that any maintenance increase or assessment is absolutely necessary ... and would need to be paid, one way or another, by the shareholders, regardless of your "rights".
"(1) While floor to ceiling windows are seductive and could offer panoramic views, never underestimate the sun's effects on your belongings, heat, privacy, and loss of aesthetic appeal."
Agreed. The sun is death to your expensive rugs and furniture.
"(2) Take the time to shop around for the best mortgage and lender. It's worth getting the best rate and feeling comfortable with your contact. You don't ever want to hear "This is Peggy. What is problem please?" when you call. Don't hesitate to ask questions for anything that requires clarification."
Unfortunately, what your lender does with your mortgage after you sign is completely out of your control.
Generally speaking, the SMALLER the lender, the better. Credit Unions are optimal. Chase and CitiMortgage should be absolute last resorts.
"(3) Unless you receive exceptional service, tip conservatively (but appropriately) during the holidays the year you move in. I later found out that I tipped almost 3x what other residents paid. There's no turning back."
Or you can do what I did, which is get on the board, enact a strict no-tipping policy for the staff, instead granting them from the building's reserves an appropriate bonus.
>Unfortunately, what your lender does with your mortgage after you sign is completely out of your control
This is very true, in fact most of the agressive lenders the last two years where as such to resell your mortgage in the near future. Wells Fargo in particular.
Wish I had known;
How Maestro light switches worked before I called an electrician. (Felt pretty silly after thinking I had two light switches that didnt work was just the tiny surge protector switch on the bottom) :)
BTW may I ask HVACers, how frequent should filters be changed?
hvac ? - we change once a year. never use in Winter, place is like Hades, so change at start of a/c season.
Having never lived in the city, another thing I wasn't expecting was how dusty the apartment would be. Hoping it's from renovations and will lessen over time. Anyone have a suggestion for a quiet, compact air purifier?
I wish I had listened to my attorney when she said holding back $8000 in an escrow account was not enough to guarantee the developer would finish the work he promised in a timely manner.
@ChrisT - Dust is something that you just need to keep up with and regularly in my experience. I prefer dust to when I lived on a busy avenue and had black soot from the street constantly building up on my windows sills.
I should have known - first a strict no pied a terrorist policy, now a strict no tipping policy. Seems like a real cheerful place.
"@JUICE: I thought this was a life rule. This applies to everything, even doctors."
Yes, but I learned it at a young age with my first real estate transaction.
Money spent on due diligence that prevents you from buying a money pit is money well spent.
@truthskr10 - I'm sorry I laughed at your Maestro light switch experience!
There's such a disincentive to raising maintenance, though, that sometimes boards make short-sighted decisions or cut corners. That's where the lack of control bothers me. I'd rather have maintenance that's where it needs to be for the building's long-term health, not as low as it can possibly be for the moment. But I know I'm a minority.
So go to the meetings, Lad, and make your feelings known.
truthseeker10, maintenance guys have told me that for optimal HVAC life, the filters should be changed once a quarter.
You can probably get by with less if you no pets and don't smoke, but you def. want to be aiming for far more frequency than once a year.
Im glad,the intention was a chuckle at my expense.
Ive heard both once a year and once a quarter. Considering I just had my floors done I think Im changing them now regardless.
I should have signed up for the legal assistance program through work when we had our annual insurance election period.
@dwaazi: totally disagree. used one of those "legal insurance" programs for a closing only to be matched up with the laziest excuse for a lawyer ever. Read my own offering plan and easily caught about 10 things the lawyer should have noticed ... had he even bothered to read the offering plan. Not worth the savings.
It's incredible how different the neighbor experience is from one floor to another. Former floor--quiet except for neighbor's kid occasionally practising the flute (I didn't mind). Moved to another floor in same building. Have experienced cooking smells, smoke smells, slamming doors, dogs barking for 5+ hours nonstop, upstairs neighbor waking me up with high heel impact noise and making nuisance phone calls to my landline, etc., etc...I'm seriously considering buying a house!
@mh330, we'll see how the current RE lawyer performs... Lawyers in general can look at the same document on different occasions and find different things wrong with it.. I'm just saying...
I'm buying a studio and interviewed some lawyers and references prior to selecting one. Proper due dilligence is hopefully going to be my best insurance.
1. Walk the neighborhood endlessly before buying. Try and get to know it block-by-block. Particularly important if you live outside prime NYC (like in Harlem)
2. New builds are often more painful than older, established buildings. They leak. Sponsors disappear. You rarely end up with a unit without problems.
3. Most boards are run by people who have no idea what they are doing...
4. A house is a place to live, not an investment. If you think you might move in a few years, then rent, don't buy, and invest your capital in more liquid assets.
Why is Brick Underground just a site that reposts streeteasy threads?