Buying Your First Home in NYC
Buying a home in NYC is complicated, but rewarding. If you're a first-time home buyer, or even a returning buyer who needs a refresher, this guide will provide you with tips and strategies for your home-buying journey.A few of the topics covered in this guide include: how to find your dream home, how to find a buyer's agent, how to prepare for a co-op board interview (and what even is a co-op vs. a condo?), information about home inspections, home loans and mortgages, and much more! We hope these articles will help you make educated decisions and feel a little more confident as you begin this journey — whether you're a first-time home buyer or a real estate veteran. Happy home shopping!
Searching for a new home can be arduous, but there are multiple points in the process that serve to protect the buyer. One of these is the home inspection, which typically takes place between the acceptance of an offer and the contract signing. An inspection can uncover hidden problems, whose solutions can often be negotiated into the contract. Particularly bad results may even cause you to back out, thus saving you from a potential money pit.
As you may have guessed, home inspections work a little bit differently in New York City than they do in the rest of the country. Read on to learn more.
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Do You Need a Home Inspection for an NYC Condo or Co-op?
It’s complicated. Home inspections can uncover problems in apartments just as they can in houses. However, “inspections are not commonplace in our market for co-ops and condos,” says Ivana Tagliamonte, a broker with Compass. “Buyers purchasing in small buildings or brownstones will often request an inspection, though, as costs for big-ticket items, such as the roof or facade, are spread among fewer apartments. But I am seeing a marked increase as of late in NYC buyers requesting a home inspection.”
Ronald Barnhill, CEO and Principal Inspector of Belhaven Inspection Services, has seen what can go wrong. “In older buildings, a sponginess while walking around could indicate rotten floorboards or something wrong with the subflooring,” he says. Other potential issues include an outdated fuse box instead of a modern circuit breaker, which could become a fire hazard. For one buyer Barnhill worked with, the inspection revealed mold that would have required $40,000 of remediation. It was more than the buyer was willing to take on, and she walked away.
Problems can arise in new-construction developments, too — especially if the workmanship was rushed to meet a deadline. An experienced inspector can spot critical issues and make recommendations for how they can be resolved. Even if nothing egregious is found, a home inspection can highlight minor irregularities to take care of after you’ve closed.
How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?
Time frames vary depending on the property. Inspecting a brand new studio may take just 45 minutes, while a brownstone floor-through may take several hours. Normally, the buyer will want to tag along behind the inspector, or at least be present while the inspection is conducted.
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How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?
Cost is another thing that can vary greatly, depending on the size of the property and how much work is required. Other factors include the age and condition of both the apartment and the building, and whether the unit has its own HVAC system. But overall, the average cost runs about $500 for a 1-bedroom.
How to Find a Home Inspector
To find a licensed home inspector, check the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Note that the New York State Association of Home Inspectors is a political organization and does not handle referrals.
Home Inspection Checklist
These are the top items an inspector should look at:
- Plumbing: Besides turning faucets on and off to check the water pressure, an inspector will look at the pipes to check for any current or past water damage or leaks.
- Electrical, heating, and cooling: These are all critical systems that need to be expertly assessed. Any flaws could become fire hazards or lead to system-wide failure. This is not only an inconvenience but possibly a health hazard, should the heat fail during a snowstorm or the AC during a heat wave.
- Walls, ceilings, and floors: Any evidence of water damage should prompt a check for active water leaks. Even if the area is patched over, there may still be the potential for another leak — or mold.
- Appliances: Unless you plan to replace these right away, it’s good to get them checked out. One inspector discovered that, even after an hour, an old oven still couldn’t make it up to 350 degrees. This allowed the buyer to negotiate for money to replace the oven.
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What to Expect From the Inspection Report
After the inspection, you’ll receive a report detailing everything that was found — good or bad. Most reports will provide an overview of both the unit and building, as well as a list of all the issues discovered during inspection. There will be either a recommendation after each issue, or a compiled list of recommendations at the end of the report.
What If the Home Inspection Reveals Problems?
For first-time buyers, it can be difficult to know what is essential to fix and what is less critical. After reviewing the report, feel free to have a discussion with your inspector so you can make informed decisions.
If there are big-ticket items to be addressed, you have a few options. You can negotiate for a reduction on the sale price, for the repairs to be paid for by the seller, or for the funds needed to resolve the issue. Whatever is decided upon should be added into the contract. Or, you can choose to walk away from the purchase.
“It’s always helpful to learn as much as you can about maintaining your home and appliances,” Tagliamonte says. “I’ve seen home inspections where the inspector actually pointed out that the home was impeccably maintained. That can make a buyer feel great about their purchase.”
Another great resource for buyers, especially first-timers, to help you understand your home inspection is a buyer’s agent. You can find an agent in our Experts Network who’s worked with buyers similar to you, and has experience guiding them through a home inspection.