New York City Buyer's Guide

New York City Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most important decisions many of us will make in our lives. As New York City’s #1 residential brokerage, we have created this comprehensive Buyer’s Guide to help you navigate the purchasing process in one of the world’s most exciting real estate markets.

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Buying a home is one of the most important financial—and personal—decisions many of us will make in our lives. Whether or not it’s our first time, we all begin the home-buying journey with a vision, a picture in our minds of a place that looks and feels like our idea of home.

At Douglas Elliman, we are committed to helping you turn that vision into reality. As New York City’s #1 residential real estate brokerage, we have created this overview of the purchasing process in one of the world’s most exciting and competitive real estate markets.

Step One

Partner with a Professional

The Elliman Advantage
By empowering our agents to go above and beyond for our clients, we have established a decades-long reputation as New York City’s leading brokerage. Douglas Elliman agents are not just full-service partners on the way to closing a deal— they are also ongoing resources for professional referrals, personal recommendations and knowledge of the city.

The Agent Advantage
Buying a home can be a wonderfully rewarding experience, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. It is also a complex process, with a sequence of steps that requires knowledge, patience and attention to detail. A licensed agent provides the experience and steady guidance to manage the process and enable you to focus on the journey.

Reasons to Partner with Professional

An agent will always act on your behalf.
From navigating paperwork to negotiating offers, your best interest is always the priority.

An agent will guide you with data.
You get the inside track on market trends and timely opportunities, including unlisted properties.

Step Two

Becoming a Buyer

The Ownership Advantage
While there are many benefits to renting a home in New York City, owning your home comes with powerful advantages.

Build Your Equity
When you pay a monthly mortgage, you increase your equity, or ownership stake, in your property. The greater your equity, the more you can capitalize on your home’s value as it increases over time.

Fix Your Costs
Unlike paying rent to a landlord or property manager, which can increase your rates year over year, securing a fixed-rate mortgage ensures you won’t have to worry about rising monthly housing costs.

Create Your Space
Want to retile a bathroom or open up the kitchen by removing a wall? It’s your home. As long as you abide by your building’s guidelines and NYC codes, you have the freedom to personalize your space.

The Elliman Advantage
Douglas Elliman’s expertise spans New York City’s buying, selling and rental markets. With exclusive access to data-driven insights from industry-leading sources like Douglas Elliman’s Market Report and Wealth Report, our agents can help you decide when the time is right to go from renting to owning.

Step Three

The Buyer’s Journey

Mapping Out Your Home-Buying Journey
The process of buying a home in New York City involves a series of steps in three phases:

1. The Finances

2. The Search

3. The Close

The Elliman Advantage
After sitting with you to outline the home-buying process from start to finish, your Elliman agent will guide you through every step with trusted referrals to mortgage brokers, lawyers and inspectors, as well as vital experience in getting all the documents in order.

Preparing Your Financial Profile

Clean Up Your Credit
Credit scores help banks evaluate the risk of lending to individuals. Use a reputable website to access your credit details without damaging your score and explore ways to improve it, if necessary.

Calculate Your Savings
Expect to pay as much as 20% of the sale price for a down payment, along with associated closing costs. For a complete breakdown of costs, refer to pages 33-36 and connect with your real estate attorney.

Get Pre-Qualified
To help you estimate your price range, a loan officer will inquire about your employment status, income, assets, debts and projected down payment to determine if you qualify for a loan and at what amount.

Get Pre-Approved
After getting pre-qualified, you can work with a lending institution to receive a pre-approved loan statement (typically valid for 60 days), which estimates the amount that you will be able to borrow. You will be asked to submit additional financial documents, including pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns.

Conducting Your Search

As you begin your search, your agent will help bring your vision of home into clearer focus by surveying the market landscape, setting parameters based on price, location and inventory, and establishing an initial timeline.

Co-ops, Condos and Townhouses

The housing stock in New York City primarily consists of cooperatively-owned buildings, condominium buildings and, to a lesser extent, townhouses.

Co-ops account for approximately 75% of available NYC apartments at any given time. Condos make up the bulk of the remainder, while townhouses represent around 2%.




Approval Process

The board interviews all prospective owners and has the right to approve or reject any applicant.

No interviews are required. Application is not as rigorous as the co-op board process.

No condo or co-op board involved in the purchase or sale, creating a much faster transaction from contract signing to closing.


Be prepared to put down at least 20% of the purchase price, plus closing costs.

Be prepared to put down at least 10% of the purchase price, plus closing costs.

Be prepared to put down at least 10% of the purchase price, plus closing costs, depending on the loan-to-value ratio determined by your bank.

Monthly Fees

Maintenance fees based the number of shares the tenant owns (typically dictated by apartment size and floor level).

Common charges, for services and amenities shared by residents, and property taxes.

All maintenance costs and property taxes.


Must be approved by the co-op board.

Typically permitted



Buyer must be approved by the co-op board.

Can be sold at will

Can be sold at will

From Offer to Contract

Making an offer and signing a contract are pivotal moments when leveraging your agent’s skills and knowledge is especially critical.

Negotiating the Offer
Your agent will help you determine an appropriate offer amount and terms, and will convey the offer to the seller (via the seller’s agent or directly) and prepare to negotiate the best possible price, terms and closing date.

Reviewing the Terms
Your attorney will examine the contract of sale, by-laws and financial condition of the building to conclude that everything is satisfactory before you sign.

Signing the Contract
Upon signing, the contract and deposit (typically 10% but up to 20% of the offer price) will be safeguarded in an escrow account until closing. Keep in mind that the seller can still entertain and accept other offers until the contract is fully executed.

From Contract to Close

At this stage of the buying journey, your agent will help you assemble the remaining documents and finalize the necessary approvals.

Loan Application
Once your application is complete, your financial institution will schedule a third-party appraisal to verify the value of the property.

Co-op Board Application (If Applicable)
In addition to helping you assemble your bank statements, tax returns and letters of reference (personal, professional and financial), your agent will help you navigate the nuances of winning board approval.

Scheduling the Close
Once you’ve received approval (if applicable) and the bank provides clearance to close, your agent will coordinate a final walk-through and closing date.

The Home Stretch

In this penultimate phase of the process, your agent will join you on a final visit to assess the property and compile a punch list of outstanding items to be resolved prior to the close.

Final Walk-Through Checklist


  • Turn oven and microwave on and off
  • Check vents and lighting
  • Check each gas burner on the stove for leaks and ensure igniters work
  • Check the hinges and slides on the cabinets and drawers
  • Run hot and cold water and test the garbage disposal

Doors, Windows & Exterior

  • Check that all doors open and close without obstruction
  • Check all knobs and handles
  • Check that all windows open and close smoothly and seal properly
  • Test the doorbell, intercoms, concierge phone and alarm system


  • Run hot and cold water and test water pressure
  • Flush all toilets
  • Check seals, caulking and grout for damage or mold

Electrical Outlets

  • Bring an outlet tester, phone charger or night light
  • Test all light switches
  • Check that all outlet plates are straight and secure
  • Test all light bulbs


  • Check thermostat and test heating and air conditioning in various modes

Walls & Floors

  • Check for stains, marks or damaged boards/tiles
  • Check walls and paint for dents, marks or discoloration


  • Begin cycling the appliances to run during the walk-through
  • Run dishwasher (15 minutes)
  • Run washer/dryer (5 minutes to test belts)

The Elliman Advantage
With a personal approach that puts you first, our agents are here to help you find your way home. The next move is yours

Your Vision, Your Home
The deal is closed. The keys are in hand. You are now a homeowner. Time to settle in, make your home your own and begin to love where you live.