Real Estate in NYC: How to Score

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When it comes to real estate in NYC, knowledge is truly power. Going in less informed can leave you without a place to call home. Before you head out to rent or buy, the following tips can help ensure you’re firmly at the head of the pack

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When it comes to real estate in NYC, having certain key knowledge can mean the difference between scoring that one-bedroom for sale on Riverside Drive or reluctantly signing a lease for another year on the apartment you swore would be your very last rental. Understanding real estate in any city is key, but understanding real estate in NYC is non-negotiable if you want to win. Here are five tips for renters and buyers alike.

1. Make sure your financial package is in tip-top shape.

Whether you’re renting or buying, you need to make sure that you’re presenting the best financial package possible. If you’re a renter, make sure you have a good credit score (preferably above 700), a yearly income of at least 40x the monthly rent, and job security. If you’re buying, make sure that you can afford to carry not only the mortgage, but also the monthly maintenance, utilities, and taxes associated with your purchase. Walk into a purchase pre-approved by a bank so that you will be taken seriously.

2. Look at a coop’s financials before plunking down your cash.

While the coop board is looking at your financials, take a good look at its financials as well. You want to find a building that is financially sound. Keep an eye out for things like how much money is in the reserve fund; this is the money that the building will use to pay for capital expenses, so you want to make sure that there’s a healthy amount of cash there. Find out if the building’s financial statements have been audited? Audited statements will help give you peace of mind that the building’s financial data has been verified.

3. There are more coops than condos, making them generally cheaper, but

Nearly two-thirds of Manhattan residential properties are coops. The rest are condos and single-family residences. More coops mean that coops tend to be cheaper than condos. Before you break out into your happy money dance, be aware that it’s a heck of a lot harder getting into a coop than a condo. Financial requirements for coops are notoriously strict, and rules for living in them are a lot more restrictive and prohibitive than condo rules. If you’re looking for an apartment that you can rent out or sell to whomever you want, you’ll have an easier time doing so with a condo.

4. Research your neighborhoods.

Buying or renting in the wrong neighborhood for you can be a real heart (and wallet) breaker. A year can feel like an extremely long time if you end up renting in a neighborhood that doesn’t match your sensibilities. Swinging bachelors or bachelorettes stuck in strollerville may feel like they’re paying for long-forgotten sins, while a young couple with a newborn renting a space on a bar-filled street in FIDI may softly cry themselves to sleep every night. Research the areas you want to live in thoroughly, and when you find a place, take note of what’s around it. If you’re buying for investment purposes, check out the historical comps for the area so that you can get at least an idea of what to expect with the value of your own home.

5. Assume nothing.

The NYC real estate market is a mercurial mass, constantly shifting shape and form. Rules change at the drop of a hat, and consistently rising home values can suddenly ground to a halt with a financial guru’s musings or a country’s devaluing of its currency.

Image Source: Flickr/Jeffrey Zeldman

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