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How To Buy An Apartment In NYC

Buying an apartment, condominium or co-op in New York City can be a daunting prospect, but Citi Habitats is here to ensure that your experience is a positive one. As a current or future Manhattanite, begin by familiarizing yourself with the "rules" of buying in order to make your experience as smooth and pleasant as possible.

Like many regions of the country, New York real estate has its share of quirks and idiosyncrasies. The first thing you need to familiarize yourself with is the type of residences available to you. Manhattan is comprised of, for the most part, cooperative and condominium apartments, and to a lesser degree, private residences commonly referred to as townhouses or brownstones.


Purchasing a co-op is a very common and popular option for ownership of Manhattan real estate. In New York, nearly 80% of available residences are in cooperative buildings, so the selection is vast. This greater selection of co-ops often results in lower prices compared to condos, which can present a more cost- effective residential solution.

Cooperatives are owned by a coalition that sells "shares" of the residence which entitle the "owners" to a long-term proprietary lease. The corporation itself pays the total building mortgage, real estate taxes, internal employee salaries and building maintenance. The owner/shareholder then pays a percentage of these expenses based upon the value of the shares owned. These shares are commonly dictated by the size and floor position of the apartment.

When you purchase a co-op apartment you are subject to the building's Board of Directors, which reserves the right to approve or reject a prospective buyer's ownership. In turn, the Board is responsible for protecting the interests of all the shareholders, as well as maintenance of the building's upkeep, service and security.

Upon purchasing a co-op apartment, you may be able to take advantage of numerous tax deductions, so request comprehensive material from the Board relative to the building's tax structure.

Rules and regulations of co-op ownership can vary greatly. Remember to ask for a comprehensive "rule book" for each potential residence that will answer any questions you may have about your rights as a future tenant.

Be aware as you begin your search that although financing is an option, co-op purchasers are commonly asked for a downpayment between 20-50% of the full purchase price of the apartment, and may be expected to pay as much as 100% in some cases.


In contrast to co-op "ownership", when you purchase a condominium apartment in Manhattan, it is bona fide property, complete with a deed of ownership. This being the case, there is a separate tax lot for each individual unit, for which the owner is solely responsible. An owner may also be liable for common maintenance charges or additional building fees.

Purchasing a condominium is an attractive option for many buyers for several reasons. The financing options are far greater than co-op ownership (a buyer can typically finance up to 90% of the purchase price), and ownership approval is far less rigorous than the average cooperative. There is also greater flexibility for sublease potential, which makes a condo a much better choice as investment property.

Since there are far fewer available condominiums in Manhattan, the asking prices are typically higher than co-ops. However, routine common charges and maintenance charges can be less than a co-op apartment.


Once you have decided upon a suitable residence and have secured an appropriate financial strategy, you may expect to take these steps in order to finalize your purchase.

  1. Your offer for purchase is to be made orally and then formally in writing, in the form of a bid. This will be placed through your Citi Habitats agent on your behalf.
  2. The seller may then present you with a counter offer. This will begin a series of negotiations after which you will agree upon final terms for purchase.
  3. A real estate attorney is required. If you do not have an attorney familiar with Manhattan real estate, Citi Habitats can assist you in selecting one. The attorney will then review the financial condition of the building, as well as coordinate the transaction with the seller's attorney.
  4. If all aspects of the arrangement are satisfactory, your attorney will then advise you to sign the contract. You will usually be required to satisfy a deposit of 10% of the purchase price. The contract and deposit will then be presented to the seller for signature. The transaction is not final until all parties have signed the agreement.
  5. If you choose to finance a portion of the purchase price, you should move forward with securing your loan from a qualified mortgage broker to whom Citi Habitats can refer you.
  6. Your Citi Habitats agent will then provide you with the necessary application materials, which you will need to complete. These may include: the application, a financial statement signed by a CPA, all requisite support for your financial documentation, three years of tax returns, letters of professional and/or personal reference, the final contract of sale, and applicable bank documents indicating that your loan has been secured, should you opt to finance.
  7. Once everything is in order, your Citi Habitats agent will then present your "package" to the managing agent for submission to the Board of Directors.

If you are purchasing a cooperative, and your application is satisfactory, you will be invited to be interviewed by the Board committee. Assuming approval, you should then prepare for your final closing!

In the case of a condominium, there is not typically a formal review, so you can expect an approximate 60-day span from contract to closing. A co-op takes slightly longer, and 90-days is not unusual.

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