Buyer's Guide

A Step-by-Step First Time Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.



It’s important to know how much you can comfortably spend and be able to back that up with verification from a bank or lender. Condominium apartments require at least 10% down while cooperative apartments generally require at least 25% down. In addition to that, buyers must also work with a real estate attorney to assist with the contract and closing processes of a home purchase as there can be many moving parts during a negotiation. SERHANT. agents work with the most experienced attorneys and lenders in the business to ensure that our clients feel protected in their investment.


The Search

Aside from knowing the specifics of the apartment you want (i.e. how many bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.), you should create a list of the top two or three neighborhoods that you want to live in. Think about your potential commute to work, where your friends live, and neighborhood amenities like restaurants, schools, transportation, and grocery stores. Once you find the place you want and put in an offer, know that not everything will be negotiable. But for the things that are, SERHANT. agents will fight hard to get you as much as possible. With older apartments, consider inquiring about assessments, fixtures, window replacements, air conditioners, rugs, floors, curtains, appliances, working fireplaces, washer/ dryers, etc. Apartments are typically delivered empty — "swept clean" — unless negotiated otherwise.


Contract & Board

During a sales transaction, a New York City attorney representing a seller will draw up a contract for the buyer’s attorney. Then, the buyer's attorney does what’s called due diligence — reading minutes, financial statements of buildings, etc. The buyers sign the contract once due diligence is resolved and forward the contract with a 10% deposit. The sellers execute the contract. All condominium and cooperative buildings (except for New Development buildings) require the purchaser to complete a purchase application. For condos, the application is a formality — the board cannot deny you the right to purchase. For co-ops, the application is what the board will use to determine if they wish to interview you and, in conjunction with the interview, decide whether to grant you approval or not.


Mortgage & Approval

If you’re already pre-approved, this part is so much easier! Mortgage applications cannot be processed without an executed contract. If an apartment is being financed, the board requires a commitment letter from a lender. These letters are generally the last items to complete a board package/condo application. If the board reviews the board package and is satisfied with it, they will issue an approval more formally known as the First Right of Refusal. If it is a co-op, an interview will be conducted before the board decides whether or not they want to issue an approval. SERHANT. agents will help you put your package together and, if required by the board, will prepare you for the interview.


Closing & Move-In

After board approval, managing agents generally set a closing date and buyer and seller attorneys coordinate with the appropriate banks on available dates and times. After closing, you’ve officially purchased your new home. Your search has finally come to an end and it's time to celebrate!

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Condominium vs. Cooperative Guide

Cooperatives, also known as co-ops, are owned by an apartment corporation made up of tenants. Tenant-owners of co-op apartments own shares in the corporation, and this entitles them to a long-term proprietary lease. The corporation pays the total amount of the building's mortgage, real estate taxes, employee salaries, and other expenses for the upkeep of the building. The tenant-owner, in turn, pays a portion of these expenses as determined by the number of shares the tenant owns in the corporation. Some of these maintenance fees are tax-deductible. Share amounts are dictated by apartment size and floor level. Approximately 80% of available apartments for purchase in New York City are in co-op buildings.

Purchasing in a co-op requires approval by the building’s Board of Directors. The board is elected by tenant-owners of the co-op and interviews all prospective owners. Co-op boards look for people who are financially qualified and will have no issue paying both the monthly maintenance fees and the mortgage to the bank. While each board has different criteria, having a debt-to-income ratio of around 25%, 1.5 to 2 years in liquid assets to cover monthly maintenance and mortgage liquidity post-closing, and steady employment and income all help make you a favorable candidate. Your personal background in also important. Boards want to know who will be living in their building to make sure that they are a good fit.

A condominium apartment in Manhattan is real property. Buyers get a deed just as if they were buying a house. Since they are real property, there is a separate tax lot for each apartment. This means buyers pays their own real estate taxes for the property. Owners will also pay common charges on a monthly basis. Common charges are similar to maintenance fees in a cooperative. However, they will not include real estate taxes since these are paid separately, nor will they include the building's mortgage and interest given that a condominium, by law, cannot have an underlying mortgage. Financing and approval for purchasing a condominium are much more lenient and flexible than purchasing a co-op. There is also greater opportunity when it comes to sub-leasing. However, since there are fewer condominiums than cooperatives, they are generally more expensive.

Board interview guide


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