Selling an Apartment In New York City

As we (touch wood) wrap up the process of selling our apartment, I thought it might be fun for me to run through the process. Because we do it different here in Manhattan, y’all, and people are usually incredulous when I explain. Our realtor in Knoxville is fascinated. If you sell an apartment in Manhattan your experience will vary some, I’m sure.

— The first thing you want to do is find yourself a good broker. You want someone who sells a lot in your neighborhood. Ask around. A lot.

— Sign a contract with that broker — six months and six percent, which is pretty standard.

— Your broker will advertise your apartment a) on her website/in the window and b) in the New York Times. Manhattan does not participate in the MLS. Really. This is why your broker is so important. She has to have contacts and the ability to bring potential buyers in. Co-broking is also rare here, although becoming more common. That means that if I’m buying and I contact Broker A then Broker A will usually only show me apartments her office has listed. Broker A won’t even know about other apartments for sale in the same area unless she sees it in the Times or notices the open houses. This is changing in the current housing climate. It’s not nearly as bad here as the rest of the country, but the days of bidding wars on day one are mostly gone for now. That said, I think we only had three people from other offices come through our apartment. Everyone else came via our broker’s office or they saw us in the Times. Our buyers came from our broker’s office, but not our particular broker.

— You will have an open house every weekend.

— Once a buyer makes an acceptable offer, you negotiate the rough details via your individual brokers.

— When the basics are agreed up, everyone hires a lawyer.

— The lawyers then negotiate all the finer points of the agreement and write a contract.

— The lawyers argue about the contract for a while.

— Once the contract is agreed upon, the building’s management company delivers two years of building financials and one year of board meeting notes to the buyers’ lawyer. If that all looks good, the buyers will sign the contract.

— Then the sellers sign the contract. Everyone is committed as soon as the sellers’ lawyer gets a check for 10% (some buildings require 20%) of the purchase price (delivered with the signed contract) and the sellers’ lawyer delivers the signed contract back to the buyers lawyer. There is no inspection, but the sellers do have to guarantee that the appliances and electric and plumbing are working, or their lack has been documented in the contract.

— You’ve been having open houses all along, but now you stop as you are both legally committed to the sale.

— Now the buyers submit their board application to the management company. This is comprised, generally, of two years of tax returns, employment verification, letters of recommendation, credit card statements, bank account balances, and a few other things I can’t remember.

— The management company runs credit reports, gets credit scores and compiles all the financial information and then delivers it to the board. (This is where we are right now.)

— The board reviews the package. If they’re comfortable with what they see, they’ll schedule an interview with the buyers.

— The board interviews the buyers to address any concerns they have with the financials and to see if they feel they’ll be a good fit for the building. A board can reject buyers for any reason, and does not have to explain itself.

— If the board approves, you can schedule your closing! (Presuming the bank doesn’t back out just days before, which sometimes happens. Which would suck, because you’ve moved out by then. You promise in the contract to have the apartment empty and broom clean 24-48 hours before closing.)

We’re feeling pretty confident because our marvelous broker usually rakes prospective buyers over the coals financially before she lets us accept an offer. If the board dumps a buyer you’ve lost weeks of sale time (and a small fortune in legal fees), so it behooves her to make sure anyone submitted has an excellent chance of getting through. That said, there’s no way to know for sure. Maybe someone on the board will have a bad lunch or your buyers will remind him of an ex-girlfriend and then you can be toast. I really don’t think that will happen to us. We bought this place from the same broker and she looked at all our financial information before she showed us any apartments and was very clear with us about what she felt we could afford, which was a lot less than the mortgage broker thought. We appreciated her caution.

As you can see, the process is arduous and fraught. There will be celebrating (us) and booty shaking (Alden. And us.) when it’s all over.

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30 responses to this post.

  1. Good God.

    Reply

  2. Good God.

    Reply

  3. Good God.

    Reply

  4. Good God.

    Reply

  5. Good God.

    Reply

  6. Good God.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Good luck…
    Selling your place… I hope the process wraps itself up smoothly! Sounds like a lot of red tape.
    Welcome to Knoxville (soon), though 🙂

    Reply

  8. Posted by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Good luck…
    Selling your place… I hope the process wraps itself up smoothly! Sounds like a lot of red tape.
    Welcome to Knoxville (soon), though 🙂

    Reply

  9. Posted by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Good luck…
    Selling your place… I hope the process wraps itself up smoothly! Sounds like a lot of red tape.
    Welcome to Knoxville (soon), though 🙂

    Reply

  10. Posted by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Good luck…
    Selling your place… I hope the process wraps itself up smoothly! Sounds like a lot of red tape.
    Welcome to Knoxville (soon), though 🙂

    Reply

  11. Posted by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Good luck…
    Selling your place… I hope the process wraps itself up smoothly! Sounds like a lot of red tape.
    Welcome to Knoxville (soon), though 🙂

    Reply

  12. Posted by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Good luck…
    Selling your place… I hope the process wraps itself up smoothly! Sounds like a lot of red tape.
    Welcome to Knoxville (soon), though 🙂

    Reply

  13. Posted by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Re: Good luck…
    That last comment was from Barry at Inn of the Last Home (http://lasthome.blogspot.com) by the way 🙂

    Reply

  14. Posted by Anonymous on July 26, 2008 at 4:25 am

    Re: Good luck…
    Thank you! I’m happy to be moving to your fair city. If you know of any great neighborhoods (on the west side, as that’s where my office is) please let me know.

    Reply

  15. Re: Good luck…
    I’ve sent you an email reply 🙂

    Reply

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