Home Buying in New York>Question Details

Linda, Home Buyer in New York, NY

Buying a condo and need advice on making an offer...

Asked by Linda, New York, NY Tue May 8, 2012

Hi Trulia community,

I am about to make an offer on a 1 bedroom condo in Harlem and am trying to figure out a suitable starting point. I've been preapproved for 15,000 above the asking price, but want to shave some off the asking on the initial offer. Unfortunately, I'm not working with a real estate agent--I found the apartment myself and decided to move on it quickly. How does one go about finding appropriate comps for the area or is there a good formula for determining "how low is too low" on an initial offer? I've looked on Trulia for similar recently-sold apartments but couldn't find much....

thanks all in advance!

Help the community by answering this question:


To me this is sort of like asking, "I want to invest in the stock market. Can you please tell me how to make 10 times my investment? Thank you."

I hear you, and certainly understand your situation, but entire books have been written on this subject. I have a credential called Certified Negotiation Expert that I earned by studying negotiation techniques, the social psychology of negotiation, and by doing negotiation role plays. Top-level lawyers also study negotiation essentially as an academic subject.

The data about recent sales are important, but only as one step in preparation. Remember that sales data are constantly evolving, virtually day by day. And it's hard to evaluate data unless you know a lot about each building and even each apartment in the data set, because property condition and seller urgency (or lack of) can really impact the sale price.

If there is an agent working for the seller, we can hope they aren't very good at negotiating, for your sake. Many agents are weak negotiators, tho they have more practice buying and selling real estate than you do. But that agent has the *obligation* to use anything you have already told them against you to get the most possible money for their client, the seller.

If you want to go it alone, here is my best nutshell advice: Immediately choose another apartment in another building that you would be willing to buy instead. Because psychologically, you need to feel like you have options and that you can walk away, no harm done. And that is absolutely the truth!

If your head is in the right place, your offer number will follow. Choose a number that is less than this apartment is worth to you, and see what the other side does. Try to keep your emotions in check, and very best luck to you! I hope it works out well for you!

Karla Harby
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson
Rutenberg Realty
New York, NY
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 9, 2012
Very nice info thanks
Flag Mon Jan 13, 2014
Thanks Karla, for that very sophisticated statement that Real Estate is, in fact, a gamble.
Flag Mon Jan 14, 2013
Hi Linda,
Congratulations Linda, Harlem is experiencing a good deal of interest from buyers because it is has great values, fantastic transportation and vibrant retail. So it will be critical for you to carefully consider what you offer for the property so that you don't lose it. Comps are important and there are many ways to approach using comps to determine a fair price. Underbid and you could lose the property to another buyer or analyzing comps in the wrong way you could cost you to overpay.

My suggestion is to retain a buyer's agent who will cost you nothing (shares the property listing agent's commission instead) and devout their fiduciary to you only without conflict. An agent with an experienced team in Manhattan Condo/Coop sales, board packages and backed by an Agency intimately familiar in Harlem market.

If you have any questions feel free to call me!
Best regards,

Georges Bleuzen
O: 646-666-2365
Bond New York Real Estate
1776 Broadway, 2nd Floor. New York, NY 10019
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed May 9, 2012
Hi Linda. I'm glad that you had a chance "...to move on it quickly." I also like the context in how you used the word "unfortunately." Have no fear as the selling agent is required to treat you honestly and fairly. Best of luck moving forward.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
If you are not working with an agent consider the idea; he/she can provide comps and any other necessary information; don't rely on online comps as some may be inaccurate, or too old..
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
As you'll soon find out EVERY AGENT is going to want you to contact them so they can represent you. And I don't blame them. You should have an agent to represent you. They will know how to negotiate this for you. It's not too late to hire an agent. My numbers are below.

Nick Rafello, SVP
Associate Broker
The Corcoran Group
646-221-8321 cell
212-444-7852 office
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Very simple...You pick a real estate agent you're comfortable with and ask him or her to work with you as a buyer's broker.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
This is the easiest route. Let a professional do the work for you.
Flag Tue May 8, 2012
Hi Linda,

In Manhattan according to Real Estate Board's (REBNY's) code of ethics, you are entitled to representation regardless of how you found the property. If the seller is represented by a licensed agent you can seek representation as well. Aside from leading you to the right price point, your agent can do appropriate due diligence on the building before taking further steps.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Hi, The only way to get the most accurate comps is through the local MLS. That of course has to come from an agent. Your only other hope is to try sights like Trulia but keep in mind it may not be the most accurate or up to date info. Once you analyze this data it comes down to what you really feel the property is worth. Also look at the overall value for the area.

1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Honestly, we have no way of knowing without having a property address! You can try searching your county's website for recent sales info.

Next time, hire a REALTOR! You'll be represented and you'll likely save money by doing so.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Good advice!
Flag Tue May 8, 2012
Hi Linda,

You should be able to access tax records online or in person, since they are public records. Type in the address and see what the assessed value of the apartment is. From there you can look at the neighbors and compare homes that are similar.

To determine a Fair Market Value- normally one doesn't go back more than 6-8 months since the market is ever changing, and be sure you are comparing "{apples to apples)" similar properties.

If the condo is in a "hot" area and they sell quickly; you may want to offer full price and ask the seller to help with closing costs, or to contribute to the HOA if there is one.

With this information and knowledge you'll be an informed buyer, and less likely to feel you're "winging it'.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 15, 2012
thanks everyone for your advice! i followed some of your suggestions, did some additional research, and used common sense to guide my initial offer. we are currently in the negotiation process and i have my real estate attorney reviewing their documents. if this sale doesn't go through, i'll look into having a qualified real estate agent to help me with my next search. it was a good experience nonetheless.


0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 15, 2012
Good for you Linda and best of luck. Let me know if it doesn't go through.

All the best,
Nick Rafello, SVP
Associate Broker
The Corcoran Group
Flag Tue May 15, 2012
you should find a good agent to help you
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 14, 2012
I would look for comparables in the neighborhood and what they recently sold for, factor in square footage, transportation access, exposures, and make the best offer to keep the deal in play.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 13, 2012
Get a real estate agent...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 10, 2012
Put a reasonable offer in and hope that the buyer accepts.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 9, 2012
You already indicated it was unfortunate you weren't working with an agent. You really should do yourself a huge favor and find an experienced buyer broker to assist you. I've attached a link below on what you should be looking for. Without one you really are at a disadvantage.

In the event that you don't take this advice you can alwasy start off at 92-93% of asking price. I don't work in the New York area but have some familiarty with it, and this is a perfectly reasonable place to start and any Seller should respond.

I wish you good luck and hope you get the deal you want.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 9, 2012
You can always look yourself at closed sales in the same building and in the area at
Of course, if you are represented by the agent, the agent can get you more insightful information about current listings and past sales, and help to analyze them correctly, as well as assist with negotiations and guide through closing, etc.. But if you have to be on your own, at least you can use this recorded sales info. Good luck and let me know if you'd like to get any assistance

Elena Ravich'
Rakita Realty
646 593 7207
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
An agent does a CMA, or comparative market analysis of recent sales in your market to price a property. If you do not use your own agent, you will end up dealing with the sellers agent, who is not representing YOU. That is not the best situation , as the sellers agent is looking out for the seller, not you. If you have your own agent, you are better off. Also, an agent can help you a great deal and make it a lot easier for you to succeed. As for me, I am primarily a rental agent, but there are many good sales agents who you can find, who have experience and knowledge that is very valuable to you.
Maybe that is what you should be using this site for, as this site is also a good place to shop for an agent!!
Best ;luck
Jerry Trudell
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
That is a shame that you are not working with an agent. It costs you nothing to have someone represent you so you don't have to go to an open forum to ask for help. I would definitely look into getting an agent to help guide you through the process. The offer is only the beginning, and there are other pitfalls that can happen that more than likely, you do not have the knowledge or the skill to circumvent.

I am a licensed and part time working appraiser as well, and my expertise goes far beyond the typical real estate agent's knowledge or "expertise".

When I advice my clients when putting in offers, I use my appraisal knowledge and education to back up the offer that we are about to place to make sure that my clients do not over pay for a property.

I would be more than happy to represent you if you have not already chosen an agent to represent you.

Bottom line is, it costs you nothing to contract a Manhattan real estate broker to protect your interests. Do your due diligence in finding the right broker for you.

Jennifer Chiongbian
SVP/ Associate Broker
Rutenberg Realty NYC
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Hi Linda,

Check out Zillow.com - for auto evaluation - but the values there are never perfect, and often are very wrong - as agents here will testify. Trends, however, are shown pretty well there...

To answer your question, there is no set "low" for making an offer.

If there are no other offers - you can try to offer the price that is within this building's sold to asking price ratio. Say, the condo you are buying is 500K (just as an example). Other similar condos sold for 90% of the asking price (450K vs. 500K). So, you'll know what to offer - 450K (again, if there are no other offers). There is, however, the marketing trend to consider...And, if there is a multiple offer situation - you got to go full out, if you really like this condo.

As realtors, we also have adjustments that we make - like which floor the condo is on (higher=better, and it is specific for each building - some can be 3K and some 10K), which view, which exposure, floors (carpet or hardwood), overall upgraded or not...Distressed sales could be priced lower, but sometimes that actually creates a bidding war.

So, as you can see - it would truly help you to have someone working with you to get your this place.

Hope this helps,

Irina Karan
Beachfront Realty, Inc.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Hello Linda -

The best advice I can give is to check different web sites with listings in that immediate vicinity of Harlem and research what the apartments are selling for in the market. Check the closed sales price because those are more realistic. Also it wouldn't hurt to only check the last 3-6 months sales because those indicate what the current market is like in sales. There are other sites as well that sales agents use where the comps can be even more accurate. The surest way to know how low is too low is by doing your research. Other factors also apply to the research such as how long as the unit been on the market, how motivated is the seller, what is the condition of the subject unit, etc. There are a lot of factors and you must be sure to address them all before making an offer. Please do not rush in making an offer.

If I can help you answer any more questions in detail feel free to reach me at the info below. I have been a resident of Harlem for quite some time and will be happy to guide you as a professional.

Shalabh Sanger
Spire Group
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Hi Linda,

Very good question. If you need someone to help you with comps in the area (as you can see from the link below), please feel free to contact me. I am quite active in the area and would be happy to help.

That said, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to your question. Recent sales in the building is a good indicator, as are similar sales in the area. But beware: Too low an initial offer and the seller may not want to make a counter-offer. Too high and you might be overpaying, and the apartment might not appraise for the agreed-upon price.

Hope that helps, and please feel free to call, e-mail or text me with specifics for assistance or representation! (It costs you nothing.)

Best regards,

Bruno J. Navarro
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson
BOND New York Properties, LLC
1776 Broadway, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10019
347.725.0944 mobile
212.804.8948 direct
270.675.9195 fax
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Your agent should of done comps for you
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Hi Linda,

My recommendation is that "it is not to late to find an agent." Get someone that can do this work for you. The seller is paying for the commission and it will most likely all go to the listing agent if you do not get yourself an agent. Do yourself a service and get someone to help you. I can do that for you if you would like, or find someone else (make sure it is a good buyer's agent) that is recommended to you. You are going to be spending a lot of money on this apartment. Make sure you get your money's worth.


609 Kappock Street
Suite 1A
Bronx, NY 10463
(718) 432-5000 (Office)
(718) 432-2091 (Fax)
(917) 974-2600 (Cell)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012

First of all, you will need a real estate agent for that kind of service.

Second of all, the service is totally free because that agent that is representing you is paid by the seller's agent or the seller.

Now probably you know a lot about real estate, reason why you didn't use an agent to help you, but i guess this is not the case because you won't be here asking for comps and advices on making an offer.

I will suggest you try searching your county's website for recent sales info.

Best of luck,

Warmest Regards,

Raoul Sodogandji
International Market Specialist
VP of Sales and Rentals at the RS Group
Licensed Salesperson

(o): 212.252.8772 (EXT.782)
(c): 347.993.8333
(e): raouls@nestseekers.com

"In the past, our growth has been by referral of current clients. We've never really done much marketing." Please refer us to your friends and family.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
Hi Linda,

We provide exclusive buyer's representation at no cost to you and exclusively represent buyers in the Manhattan area.

If you would like, before you make an offer I could provide you with a Comparable Market Analysis report (CMA) which will give you the fair market value of the property. I'll also want to ask the seller's agent specific questions that could help your negotiating position.

But it's best to have your own representation when purchasing a home. You're in a dual agency when the seller's agent works with both the buyer and seller and you give up your fiduciary rights to have undivided loyalty.

Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

Best regards,

Ben Nitti - 212-729-3018
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 8, 2012
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