Written by Irina Faifman, Associate at Rakita
Hello New Yorkers, and soon-to-be New
Yorkers! One of the best things about New York is definitely the excitement
that apartment hunting can bring you. You might see a beautiful pre-war
building on the Upper East Side, or some chic loft in TriBeCa- who knows, maybe
that studio in Meatpacking is perfect for you! When hunting for a place, here
are a few things you may want to know!
1. Â There's a lot more to
a neighborhood than what meets the eye
Every borough (there are five,
by the way) has some â€˜not so goodâ€™ areas, so be sure to not go by the initial
feeling of inspiration, and ask your real estate agent about what the
surrounding area is like. Make sure you Google it: what restaurants are nearby,
are there well-known landmarks, is it generally a safe area? Always read
neighborhood descriptions online, also. Online blogs can also help distinguish
a neighbourhood: maybe a certain Chelsea blogger has seen some beautiful areas,
and has written about places to stay away from.
Make sure to ask:
- How convenient is the area when it comes to subways? If you're more than a 5- or 10-minute walk from the train, is
there a bus nearby?
- What are your food options? How
far is a grocery store, which restaurants are nearby, how far is it from
Hellâ€™s Kitchen (come on, all the foodies know that that is where it is
- What are the schools like?Â If
you have kids, this is super important. Make sure you find out options
before getting the apartment: how close is the school to home, what are
graduation rates, does the curriculum meet your childâ€™s needs? Be sure to
sort all of this out before moving into an area.
- What's the nightlife like? If
you're moving to the city to party, you'll want to be in a
bar-on-every-corner type of neighborhood. In Manhattan, that includes the
East Village, Murray Hill and the Lower East Side. Maybe you like peace
and quiet: find out what sort of neighborhood it is, because maybe you
just want to sit on your rooftop and enjoy a glass of wine, not hearing
all of the excited club-goers on the street.
- What evacuation zone are you in? New York
has had two hurricane scares and all people living in Zone A had to
evacuate: does this bother you, and what areas are safe for you in case of
an emergency? Definitely something to think about.
- How safe is a neighborhood? Â Most
crime statistics are online, but you can also find out how safe residents
of an area feel by asking your agent, and talking to residents of the
area. Maybe the home sellers can also give you their honest opinion, but
remember, they want to sell, so just talk to some New Yorkers who can
guide you in the right direction.
- How easy is it to find a parking spot? If you
have a car, look at how far away the parking garage is: some buildings
have some built in, but also look at the monthly fee of it. Most garages
charge $400-$500 a month, but some charge as much as $800-$900 a month.
Living near the subway might pay off.
2. You may be able to afford
it: but will you qualify to rent it?
Renters: Most NYC
landlords require that a tenant earn 40-50 times the monthly rent. A bit high,
we know, but if you donâ€™t, theyâ€™ll require you to have a guarantor who makes
80-100 times the monthly rent who will have to pay the lease on your behalf if
you are for some reason unable to. If you or your guarantor are international,
you may be able to use a guarantor service like Insurent
instead;Â their income and employment requirements are significantly less
strict, thoughÂ you'll still need to have a clean credit record.
Buyers: So youâ€™re
ready to buy a co-op: youâ€™ll have to get past a co-op board first, and their
requirements go beyond financial ability to pay: make sure your real estate
agent can explain the details to you, and be sure that you understand every
step. Having a real estate agent is very important, because they can help you
through the seemingly confusing journey of buying a co-op. With Rakita Realty,
it couldnâ€™t be easier.
3. Brokers charge fees in New
Renters: In New York,
renters pay broker fees, but finding an apartment is worth it. Brokers usually charge
15 percent of the yearly rent as their fee, but that can sometimes be
negotiated down to around 12 percent or even one month, especially if you're
willing to move fast on an apartment. Saving time is sometimes more important
than saving a small amount of money.
Buyers: Sellers pay
a broker's fee that is typically 6 percent, divided 50-50 between the buyerâ€™s
broker and the seller's broker. The good news is that it means buyers don't pay
a fee. The bad news: those fees are probably reflected in the seller's asking
price on the apartment.Â Â
4. Buyers: Don't forget about
Buying a co-op is not like
buying a house: youâ€™re buying a certain number of shares of the cooperation and
you have to pay for the maintenance of the building each month. So in addition
to your monthly mortgage payments, you'll have a maintenance fee, and that is important to keep
in mind when budgeting. Keep in mind that maintenances typically increase a few
percentage points each year, but nothing too drastic.
fees for condos are usually called common charges. Many newer developments
received property tax abatements which keep property taxes low for a number of
years: make sure you know what you're getting and have a realistic estimate of
what taxes will become when the property tax abatement ends.
5. Not all rentals are in
Renting an apartment in a
rental building is not the same thing as renting an apartment in a co-op or
condo building. The latter will probably be a bit nicer in terms of appliances,
finishes and potentially the building itself, but there is a lot more red tape
involved (especially co-ops, where you'll have to be approved by the co-op
board too), higher application fees and, frequently, restrictions on how long
you may rent.
6. Cash is king
Renters: When you
rent an apartment, prepare to have a lot of cash handy (usually in the
form of a bank-certified check). You'll need to pay the broker fee as well as
usually one month's security deposit and first month's rent within a few days
of signing your lease.Â
IfÂ youâ€™re looking for a
rental toward the high end of your budget (and you donâ€™t quite make the
40-times-the- monthly-rent minimum), some landlords will still offer you the
apartment if you pay a few months up front in cash. Check to make sure itâ€™s
not a scam before you cough up any large amount of cash
(here are some
tips to protect yourself).
Buyers:Â Due to
strict financing requirements that have created a constant cloud of uncertainty
over whether or not a mortgage will issued, the ability to offer all cash will
put you at the front of the line when it comes to buying an apartment here.
Â Bonus: You don't have to deal with the headaches of getting a mortgage.
7. Your housing options will
be more limited if you have a dog--especially a big one
Many co-op, condo and rental
buildings in New York either prohibit pets outright or have limits on the
weight and breed of dogs permitted, so check before you sign anything.
Also note that since you won't
have outdoor space, nearby parks and dog runs can be invaluable and just like
neighborhoods are more pet-friendly than
Keep in mind your animal's personality
when looking for an apartment. Does your Yorkie freak out at the sound of
footsteps? Better forget the first-floor apartment then. Is he getting on in
years and having trouble holding it in? In that case, the first-floor might be
better than the 38th.
If you're looking to buy a
co-op, your pet will have to pass muster with the board. Sometimes that'll
include an "interview" with the pet, but usually it's a
pretty straightforward process.
8. Descriptions can be
â€œLuxuryâ€ does not always mean
that: you might end up in a building that may have been nice once, but just
needs renovations. â€œCozyâ€ might mean too small; â€œcharmingâ€ might mean has
something unique that is hard to see; â€œquietâ€ means youâ€™re stuck in between
buildings and make sure that descriptions of laundry facilities and doormen
meet the real thing: not all facilities are â€˜on siteâ€™.
So, call up a broker and get ready to go
apartment hunting. Take your dog, too. Eat at the restaurant near that gorgeous
building you dream of, look around, and see if this is the place that feels