Educating Yourself

Understanding Co-ownership

Simplifying Brokerage

Legally Speaking/Closing the Deal


Click to collapse a Mastering Manhattan annotation mark with explanatory remarks to refer to or to suggested related info in all our topical primers, manuals, guides, an handbooks.

Note: Each co-ownership (co-operative, condominium, and condo) type is delineated here. Moreover, notable differences, (more than house rules and rental rules imply) are noted. The application to purchase (submitted to the board of governors) principles and interview pointers can be reviewed with the corresponding paperwork. This discussion concludes Understanding Co-owners as well as Corresponding Paperwork notations.

Related Links:

Corresponding Paperwork Notations

Glossary and Sub-glossaries

Map and Image Gallery Indexes

Table of Contents

Has making a move been in the back of your mind? What you have here is the step-by-step approach a property seller, first-time buyer, or investor, in particular, needs to go forward. Professionals all acknowledge that the place to start is by educating yourself. Residential real-estate, with as many exceptions as there are rules, and with few “experts” agreeing what the “rules” are, requires one eye on the overall marketplace, but both eyes focused on one segment of interest.

For those uncomfortable merely rolling with the punches, naturally, we assume—and hope—that you will be using our tools (the myriad available at, as well). That being so, most helpful here is familiarity with our condensed primers, manuals, handbooks and guides to refer to—whenever warranted. Our chapters simplify the key concepts of co-ownership and clarify the broker, legal and mortgaging matters. Guidelines with step-by-step shortcuts are furnished when narrowing your search parameters, calculating a property’s fair-market value, the cost to occupy a property, and an owner’s asking price range. Thereby, pinpointing opening offer stratagem and tactical options to identify alternative buyer’s negotiation coordinates, leading to achieving the best acceptable final offer. To develop a fuller perspective, and to be even wiser when addressing any real-estate decision (which is the whole idea), probable routes as well as possibilities to explore are provided.

New York State recognizes all standard forms of an exclusive legal right to possession; co-ownership, however, means that more than one individual has the same legal interest. Other than held as an individual, Manhattan residential properties are commonly owned, as the following:

  • Joint tenancy provides two parties own an undivided interest, including equal use and survivorship rights;
  • Corporate is a legal entity, which owns and conducts business matters;
  • A limited liability partnership (LLP) is a widely-recognized business entity, consisting of managing and silent partners;
  • A trust holds real property (affixed to land) for the benefit of a designated beneficiary, simply by declaring it is so;
  • A real estate investment trust, REIT, finds investors and buys (and then develops and manages) real property.


Understanding Co-ownership

Between 1910 and 1935 only a handful of Manhattan apartment houses were built as privately-held ownership. These co-ownership initiatives were conceived by wealthy businessmen who did not wish to share their financial information with a landlord. Throughout a protracted post-World-War-Two housing shortage, landlords were converting pre-war rental buildings to co-operative co-ownership.

The rental market development boom continued (with unabated abandonment) through 1973, then gradually—with aging—they, too, were sold as privately-held limited corporations to the tenants. In the mid-1960s, residential condominium construction began. Sales have grown from an insignificant percentage—as compared with co-operatives—to one-third of all residential units. Today, that market share continues to increase: Due to tax-law changes co-operative conversions and construction ceased.

Condop shareholders—the third, least-common, co-ownership type—account for three percent of the present Manhattan marketplace. So, in a nutshell:

  • Co-operative apartment houses are privately-held corporations. Shareholders occupy a specific unit according to the terms and conditions of an occupancy agreement, the proprietary lease.
  • Condominium ownership is an individually-held title to one unit; therefore, the apartment house is an amalgam of co-ownerships.
  • Condops combine both approaches within a building partitioned into mixed-use segments: residential and commercial units, parking garage, retail space, or doctor’s office, for instance. Each shareholder possesses a condominium-like deed, with a co-operative-like proprietary lease.

Key Concepts of Co-ownership

Appurtenance is defined as the bundle of rights and privileges that move with ownership. Each lease- or titleholder enjoys the right to both occupy a specified unit and use the common areas—collectively paid for by the co-owners or shareholders.

These are:

  • Ingresses and egresses;
  • Elevators;
  • Lobbies;
  • Gardens;
  • Hallways.

Amenities are services above and beyond heat, hot water, portage, and cleaning common areas. Full-service buildings are a longstanding tradition for apartment house dwellers. Originally connoting security and safety—a fireproof structure—up-to-the-minute conveniences and comforts, these services evolved with flats buildings and apartment hotels, in an attempt (by developers) to provide as high standard of living as associated with owning a home—without the bother!

The term “white-glove” is a carryover from multiple lobby attendants—round-the-clock services: by a concierge, doorman, elevator man—wearing gloves so the highfalutin tenants avoided seeing a worker’s rough hands. The wide-spread inclusion of a concierge or valet service is a relatively recent addition that indicates a high-service-oriented apartment house. In an A-location: it is an A building.

A full-service building includes amenities, as follows:

  • Attended Lobby;
  • Live-in superintendent;
  • Daytime porter;
  • Laundry room;
  • Meeting or common room;
  • Children’s playroom;
  • Exercise space, ranging from a gymnasium to spa.

Though a live-in superintendent has since replaced multiple hall porters, the attended front door (with a canopy awning) is a permanent fixture. Alongside aiding owners with parcels or transportation, a doorman’s duties are:

  • Announce visitors;
  • Supervise package deliveries;
  • Monitor service providers’ access (more and more often on a video monitor).

While the vast majority of apartment house’s elevators are automated, the doorman or concierge may control them remotely; some buildings post an attendant at the elevator bank to oversee all traffic. Still, the manned elevator (attended by a staff member) is considered the highest form of luxury and security. 

House policies and rules, whether co-operative, condominium, or condop co-ownership, are a compendium of regulations which may be amended— even reversed.  These guidelines reflect one overriding principle: each unit owner is entitled to the same quiet enjoyment as the other co-owners, regardless of the number of shares or interest owned.

While addressing the specific multiple-family-dwelling concerns, the policies also reflect a management style. Overall, a condominium is expected to be less restrictive than a co-operative. A condop’s rules, in general, mirror those of a condominium building.

These include both the shared facilities and individual unit issues, and cover:

  • Replacement of windows;
  • Conditions regarding the allowance of a washing machine;
  • Restrictions regarding household pets.


  • Whether an owner’s apartment must be their primary residence
  • Whether part-time occupancy, referred to as a pied-à-terre, is accepted;
  • The terms and conditions for an owner to sublet their unit.

In addition, every multiple-family dwelling structure, and its common areas safety, must be considered for the common good, by augmenting the general-ownership insurance policy, which entails:

  • Comprehensive Insurance adequate enough to prevent the imposition of liability onto an individual unit owner, in the case of an accident, fire, or water damage;
  • Homeowner’s-insurance policy, combining personal liability and hazard protection, covering damage caused by one owner to another owner’s apartment and its contents .

Ongoing management, in each multiple-dwelling building, requires a decision-making council, chaired by a president, with a specified number of members appointed as the owners’ representatives. Owners, generally, are allotted “votes” equivalent to their shares.

Though simply referred to as “the board,” the oversight body can have various names, such as:

  • Executive board;
  • Board of trustees;
  • Board of governors;
  • Board of directors;
  • Board of managers.

The responsibilities, and how often to meet, are set out within the house rules. Collectively the board makes decisions—business and otherwise—regarding the overall financial health, long-term and daily operations, according to the duties and responsibilities outlined in the corporate bylaws. In general, approval by a majority is necessary; however, decisions regarding important issues or policy changes must then be ratified at the shareholders’ annual meeting.

     Oversight: The board reappoints or interviews for a new managing agent—an independent contractor, usually a management company or firm, who appoints the building manager.

Their duties include:

  • The edifice upkeep;
  • Oversee daily staff activities;
  • Collect monthly fees;
  • Enforce building regulations;
  • Organize long-term maintenance, façade, mechanical, and public areas.


Money matters: Corporate financial information, disseminated to shareholders in the form of an annual financial statement, is not made public. The information is available only through the owners or their representatives. It is also true, as a private corporation, that the same lack of transparency includes board-meeting minutes, decisions, and operations. Condominiums, by contrast, are required to make financial information readily available (and are usually liberal with regard to internal information). A condop’s board may withhold certain information at their discretion, but they rarely do.

The board approves the annual operating budget paid by the owners, according to a set formula, and oversees its implementation. In addition, the board authorizes payments over and above the operating budget, due to occasional pre-planned capital improvements (to the roof, brickwork, or public spaces, among other examples), as well as unforeseen repair expenses.

Setting the reserve fund amount and managing the cash on hand are also within the board’s domain. In the event of a shortfall, the board has two choices: draw on the cash in reserve. Or an assessment to the owners—in proportion to their corporate shares or to the tax-apportionment formula—can be enacted. A reserve fund addition is rarely assessed, and rarer still is there substantial growth from conservatively invested funds. Reserve funds depend on a “flip tax”. This concept was first implemented in the mid-1960s, when landlords were converting rental buildings to co-operative ownership. The tenant in place was eligible to buy at a discount, known as the “insider’s price.” A substantial percentage of renters sold, or “flipped,” their unit immediately to a subsequent buyer, and realized a short-term gain.

Due to the necessity for capital in reserve to upgrade aging mechanicals, which the previous landlord often avoided, incoming boards devised this transfer fee to increase their buildings’ reserve fund. The flip tax payment is collected from the seller’s proceeds by the managing agent at the closing. The taxed amount is determined according to the number of shares that traded, as a percentage of the sales price and, less often, the shareholder’s profit. Buildings are still aging: the flip taxes are now permanent.

Ownership transfers: Application to purchase guidelines are proscribed in the corporate bylaws and policies. A condop board is not empowered as to who may or may not purchase shares, so approval cannot be unreasonably withheld. Similarly, a condominium board can exercise their “right of first refusal” option. If that right is not waved the unit must be purchased collectively—by all of the owners, at the contract price.

As a private corporation, each co-operative-co-ownership board exercises enormous discretion regarding the sale of shares: first, the cash portion of the purchase price, and foremost, the approval of new owners. It sets the application requirements, including what information to provide and how it is to be presented, the specific financial form to use, the supporting documents required, and the requested reference letters to submit.

Collectively, it is the “board package.” According to a standard contract to purchase clause, ten business days after the agreement is fully executed, the application “package” is required to be submitted for the managing agent’s review. The package is first vetted by the management company. If the format is correct, and it is entirely complete, the applicant’s credit rating is checked next. Of course, that is expected (think—always!) to be unblemished. The managing agent only processes the package, and passes it along; the governing board of directors then evaluates the application.

While the overall format is fairly standard, the elements rarely vary; however, an individual board’s unique guidelines vary, for example, their emphasis placed on background information, such as education, social affiliations, business connections, and the reference letters. For a full detailed discussion on the financial statement and assets, refer to our Mortgaging Primer, which is in Knowing the Marketplace: What can be assumed, though, is the financial disclosure, and supporting documentation, will be carefully scrutinized, for:

  • Assets, liquid and otherwise;
  • Debt, of every form;
  • Net Worth statement;
  • Fixed Expenses;
  • Household Income, particularly the percentage designated housing. 

Application to Purchase Pointers

There are often unwritten expectations, and any clues what they may be are best determined by reading—between the lines, too—the house rules and policies. The submission instructions, on the seemingly generic first few pages, which list the documents, back-up materials, and the reference letters required, may be telling, for instance, when (over-the-top) items are detailed. In general, though, the lower allowable financing ranges are an indication that a board will have higher expectations as to net worth and liquid assets: stocks, bonds, as well as a low disposable income to household costs ratio.

Therefore, a board that only permits “all cash” would be meticulous when reviewing an application to purchase.

What’s more, applicants are interviewed by the board (or in some situations, a small group of owners), to determine whether they “fit in.” The qualifying standard used to determine whether an applicant makes the grade to purchase—likely tied to his or her liquid assets—is not made available. A board’s deliberations, its reason (whether background, social, or financial) when accepting or rejecting an application need not be given. Federal, state, and local housing laws do prohibit profiling, however.

In principle:

  • The entire package should be typewritten, with all documents as requested.
  • The financial statement must match its supporting documentation, in order to authenticate the net worth statement.
  • Personal reference letters should leave no doubt as to the worthiness of an applicant. Letters best serve that intent when they are from Manhattan resident, and whenever possible, one written by a board member from a present residence is recommended;

whereas, a letter from the attorney representing the sale is not.

  • The financial reference letters can be from an accountant, banker, or investment adviser, and state the length of time of the association, and average account balance with their institution.
  • The landlord or management company’s reference letter should express—in plain terms—that the applicant is an owner (or tenant, as the case may be) in good standing.

Interview tips

  • It is likely an interview will be scheduled in the early evening.
  • It should be approached in a relaxed, confident manner; somewhat like a job interview, perhaps.
  • It is best to dress conservatively, to be early, and be prepared to answer personal questions—but only if requested.
  • It is not appropriate to ask questions: It is presumed that all information regarding the apartment had been investigated before the contract was signed.
  • It is unwise for partners to correct or contradict, amend or add on to one another’s comment or answer.
  • It is not recommended to suggest changes to incorporate into the building—no matter how sweetly coated; or, to criticize how the building is managed—no matter how flagrant or innocent.
  • It is not the appropriate time to address any aspect (whatsoever) regarding intended renovations—no matter how insignificant or trivial they may be.

Do not expect—it is improbable, however, entirely possible—that an on-the-spot decision will be announced then and there. The entire board may be queried first, perhaps. Occasionally, approval may be contingent upon a portion of the yearly maintenance being held in an escrow account, for example. Consistent with the process is: the managing agent notifies the seller’s representative within 48 hours (hopefully!) regarding the board’s acceptance of the application. In conclusion, any post-interview questions are addressed by the seller’s lawyer to the managing agent (for the board’s review).

Board Package Lexicon

An application to purchase is a collection of forms and supporting documents, or the board package, submitted to a co-operative or condominium management company, for a proposed transfer, to be approved by a board of directors.

An asset/liability statement is a list of investments and debts: assets minus liabilities equals an individual’s net worth.

Assets are investments or items of value; a liquid asset is one that can be readily converted to cash.

An Aztec recognition agreement acknowledges that a lender in a co-operativeownership apartment house has an interest, and permits recourse if a borrower defaults.

Board of directors’ approval is the process, and positive result, wherein a co-operative apartment house requires a buyer to submit an application to purchase. 

A board of directors’ interview is a formal meeting between a prospective buyer and a delegation of co-owners; one owner, a committee, or an entire board of directors.

Board-passable describes a qualified bidder, or one whose application to a board of directors will be approved.

A credit report reflects an individual’s credit history, and is used by co-ownership management companies and landlords in verifying an applicant’s creditworthiness.

An illiquid asset is not readily convertible into cash, such as art, jewelry, and furs; stock investments, bond holdings, money-market funds, and certificates of deposit are liquid assets.

Revolving credit or debt allows the purchasing or borrowing of funds against a pre-approved, unsecured credit line. 

Vested describes an individual’s right to withdraw funds from retirement plans, which then becomes a liquid—rather than illiquidasset.

Owner Lexicon 

Amenities are services offered to owners or tenants above and beyond heat, hot water, and portage, or garbage removal. 

An apartment house is a multi-family, residential-only building; an apartment, abbreviated as apt, is one unit.

An application to purchase is a collection of forms and supporting documents, or the board package, submitted to a co-operative or condominium management company, for a proposed transfer, to be approved by a board of directors. 

Appreciation is a property’s increase in value.

Appurtenance is the collective rights and privileges that move with ownership, specifically the propriety lease in a Manhattan co-operative-ownership apartment house. 

An asking price is the amount an owner will accept for a property. 

An assessment is a charge to owners for capital improvements, including major repairs, roof or brickwork, and the updating of public spaces.

An attended or manned elevator is operated manually by house staffs, and is considered to be a high-security amenity. 

An awning is a semi-permanent, traditionally dark-green canvas at a building’s entrance, offering residents and visitors protection against the elements to and from the curb. 

A board of directors is an elected, decision-making council governing the operation of a co-ownership apartment house. 

Board of directors’ approval is the process, and positive result, wherein a co-operative apartment house requires a buyer to submit an application to purchase. 

Brownstone, abbreviated as brnstn, is a dark-stone building block used in Manhattan row-house construction in the late 19th century. 

Capital gain is realized profit.

A capital improvement increases a property’s value, and includes an assessment for renovations or replacement cost of mechanical equipment; it is deductible from the capital gain for tax purposes; both building assessment and renovation costs are capital improvements.

Common areas are those paid for and used by all of the owners within or surrounding an apartment house.

Common charges, abbreviated as c. c., comprise the apportioned costs of operating a condominium apartment house.

A concierge acts as a clerk, accepting parcels and offering security protection by monitoring visitors, unlike a doorman.

A condominium ownership indicates that each unit’s title is privately-held, and that the apartment hous’s common areas are co-owned.

A condop combines co-operative-share ownership with a condominium management style, including allowance for subletting and no board of directors’ approval being necessary in order to transfer shares.

Conversion connotes usage change, which requires interdepartmental approval, not limited to the Attorney General’s Office and the New York City Building Department.

A co-operative apartment house is a privately-held corporation in which stockholders occupy their units according to the terms of a proprietary lease.

Co-operative ownership entails ownership of shares in a corporation controlling a multiple-dwelling residence, as well as occupancy according to a proprietary lease.

Co-ownership takes place when one property is held by two or more individuals, in accordance with a separate document, however proportionally.

Co-ownership apartment house types are co-operative, condominium, and condop.

Corporate ownership is a legal entity, which conducts any and all real-estate-related business matters.

A deductible expense is an investment property’s operating expenses that when subtracted from rental income equals net income.

A doorman, abbreviated as dm., is a Manhattan fixture at full-service-apartment- house entrances, dressed in livery, and responsible for assisting occupants and their guests to and from the curb, in hailing a taxi, and in opening the front door.

A down payment is the cash portion of the purchase price; the remainder is the amount financed, determined by both the lender and the house rules and policies.

Equity is a property’s market value less liabilities—closing costs, the mortgage satisfaction total, and taxes.

Financing allowed, abbreviated as fin., is a co-operative apartment house’s, arbitrary, but binding purchase price percentage that may be mortgaged.

A flip tax is exacted on each transfer, and is held in a reserve fund for capital improvements.

A full-service building, abbreviated as F/S, is one that employs a full-time doorman, live-in superintendent, and a daytime porter to maintain and clean and to remove garbage.

A general agent manages an owner’s property.

A guarantor is a relative who assumes responsibility for maintenance, rent, or mortgage payments.

A health club, abbreviated as HC, is an exercise facility within a residential apartment house.

House rules and policies are regulations pertaining to residing in a multiple-dwelling structure.

An improvement is a physical change that increases property value.

Joint tenancy provides two parties own an undivided interest, including equal use and survivorship rights.

A keyed elevator is used in non-doorman loft buildings for access to unshared floors.

A limited liability partnership, abbreviated as LLP, is a widely-recognized business entity, consisting of managing and silent partners. 

A loft is a living space—generally built-out in former commercial or light-manufacturing industrial structures with ceilings more than 17 feet, or approximately five meters, high—converted from one large, adaptable, open area into a multiple-room residence. 

Maintenance, abbreviated as mt, is the per-share monthly charge for the operatation of a co-operative-ownership apartment house.

A managing agent is an apartment house property overseer, independent of the board of directors and usually representing a management company or firm, contracted with the expressed duty of collecting fees, enforcing policies, organizing daily operations, and providing long-term maintenance. 

A multiple-dwelling is a structure shared by three or more residents.

No board of directors’ approval indicates that a sponsor converting from rental to co-ownership—not an individual owner—is selling a unit previously occupied by a renter.

Pets allowed denote a regulation among the house rules and policies, regarding dogs, cats, and birds as house pets.

A pied-à-terre is a dwelling which is not the owner or renter’s primary residence.

The Plat Book is a compilation of property maps, or plats, on public recorded. 

A playroom, abbreviated as plyrm, is a communal area for co-owners’ or tenants’ children and their friends.

Pointing is the mortar fill between stone masonry and bricks; re-pointing is the repairing of its gradual damage due to natural causes.

Post-war connotes apartment houses built between the late 1940s, when grand-scale housing construction began, and the early1970s when nonstop residential-housing construction stopped altogether; the slowdown resulted in the end of the 21-floor, luxury, apartment-house era, and in the rise to prominence of the 40-floor residential tower. 

Pre-war, abbreviated as PW, connotes an apartment house erected before hostilities broke out in Europe during the mid-1930s; furthermore, the pre-war designation includes a subset, from a prior boom-to-bust cycle for luxury apartment house construction between 1903 and 1917, also when hostilities broke out in Europe. 

One’s primary residence is the one in which taxes and voter registration are filed.

A proprietary lease provides the terms and conditions, attached to corporate shares, which entitle a co-operative owner to occupy a particular unit in its apartment house.

The prospectus, offering plan, and amendments is a bundle of general descriptions and an outline of specifications, prepared as required by the Attorney General’s Office in order to sell co-ownership units.

A real estate investment trust, abbreviated as REIT, finds investors and buys (and then develops and manages) real property.

Realized gain is net profit; recognized gain is taxable profit.

A reserve fund is capital held by a board of directors for unforeseen expenses; a fund grows by levied flip-tax revenues and, to a far lesser extent, the general-ownership monthly fees—because a cash shortfall requires an assessment.

R.E.T. is the abbreviation for real-estate taxes, and applies only to condominium ownership.

Right of first refusal provides that a condominium board of directors may authorize a unit to be purchased—at contract price, on behalf of the co-owners—rather than approve a specific applicant.

Risk factor is potential loss.

A row house is one among homes in an unbroken line, sharing two common walls—as opposed to a detached house without a party wall; although technically correct, the term is lackluster compared with town house and brownstone—and is rarely applied to single-family Manhattan houses.

Service refers to an apartment house’s attended positions, in particular the door, elevators, and additional appurtenances provided.

Shares are a co-operative apartment house’s allocation of co-ownership responsibility, which corresponds to a unit’s size, position in the building, and unique features, such as private outdoor space, and serve to define its expense-portion allocation.

Staging is the cosmetic preparation of a property that is to be shown for sale; a professional stager may be engaged to ensure that the property’s best features are highlighted and its flaws downplayed.

Tax abatements, or temporary tax credit, are an inducement offered to developers to encourage building activity, which is passed along to purchasers.

The tax-deductible portion of co-operative fees comprises items prepaid by the corporation, for real-estate taxes and interest on an underlying mortgage.

Tenements are the bundled ownership rights in real property; also, the dark, poorly ventilated, and shabbily constructed apartment buildings whose construction was banned in 1901. 

A town house, abbreviated as TH, is differentiated from a row house as being wider than one standard—25-foot—city lot, and by the extensive custom details to the façade and the sumptuous materials employed throughout the interior. 

A trust holds real property affixed to land for the benefit of a designated beneficiary, simply by declaring it is so.

A unit is a single apartment in a residential building.

Unsold shares remain in the conversion sponsor’s possession with two specific rights attached: subletting is allowed, and—for one time only—no board of directors’ approval is necessary for the shares to be conveyed.

Utilities included indicate that gas, electricity, and/or cable television is included within the rent, maintenance, or common charges.



Click to collapse a Mastering Manhattan annotation mark with explanatory remarks to refer to or to suggested related info in all our topical primers, manuals, guides, an handbooks.

Linked are:

Corresponding Paperwork Notations

Glossary and Sub-glossaries

Map and Image Gallery Indexes

Table of Contents

Note: In Manhattan the vast majority of property sales involve a broker.  Even few FSBO (for sale by owner) properties are transferred within a multiple-unit dwelling (with limited access to individual units) without one broker. Because one broker’s participation is probable even a cursory review of this material will prove to be helpful.

Simplifying Brokerage

Like licensed New York State stock, mortgage, and insurance brokers, a real-estate salesperson, associate broker and broker’s each and every action, statement, and intention (when speaking for a seller and/or prospective buyer) are regulated and published by the New York State Department of State. Therefore, every Manhattan real estate broker is familiar with the details outlined within Mastering Manhattan.

The keys to Manhattan real-estate brokerage involve:

  • Realizing the overall concept;
  • Identifying the relevant terms;
  • Grasping the regulations;
  • Catching the lingo used, especially the negotiation jargon;
  •  Intending to actualize the conveyance of a property.

Beginning at the end-game:  A fee is payable only when the deed (stock certificate, for co-operative co-ownership) transfers, and is only due if and when. All real-estate-related brokerage compensation—with no allowable exception—is for “services rendered.” Furthermore, every fee must be stated as a percentage based on that transaction’s contract price.

Service rendered is to assist in reaching a “meeting of the minds” (usually through negotiation) between two parties, on all the terms and conditions to purchase a property: first, by procuring a qualified buyer for a willing seller or introducing the prospective ready, willing, and able buyer to the seller’s property. Therefore, there are two sides to every real-estate transaction. While the single concept is simple, the process is anything but.

The Important Fundamentals

A “brokerage firm” is a group of real-estate salespersons (the first tier) and associate brokers (an advanced level), who work as independent contractors under the supervision of one licensed real-estate broker.  Any and all commission fees are payable only to their brokerage firm; never to an individual salesperson or broker.

An “Exclusive Right to Sell (or Rent) Agreement” is a binding contract between an owner or landlord and a brokerage firm, specifically one of its salespersons or associate brokers, giving the right to “represent” a property’s owner, and to solicit the cooperation of other brokerage firms and their associates to procure a buyer. 

The right, or “agency,” when transferred applies only to that “exclusive listing,” and assumes “fiduciary responsibility,” which is the trust that that broker’s efforts are exclusively for the property owner’s benefit.

A broker’s proscribed “Agency” guidelines, as published by the State of New York, Department of State, put simply, are:


  • A seller’s broker (their agent) works for the best interest of a property owner.
  • A buyer’s broker (their agent) works for the best interests of the purchaser.
  • An “Exclusive Right to Sell Agreement” is with the brokerage firm. In addition, it applies to each independent contractor associated with that firm as well.
  • Dual Agency connotes a single broker working for both the seller and buyer, which requires an “Informed Consent” document acknowledged by both parties.
  • An open (direct) listing, “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO), is available without broker representation. This is not a Dual Agency because the owner is representing themself.


Guidance on a Broker’s Responsibilities

As the seller’s broker:

1. To establish the asking price, in conjunction with the owner, based on comparative collected and collated data, fair-market value: an 8-12 month sales histories of similar sold properties, the current competition volume and asking prices.

2. To advise as to how the property should be presented to its best advantage by suggesting minor fixes or, for more extensive adjustments, by introducing a specialist, the stager.

3. To hire a real-estate photographer, a professional adept at capturing a property’s character and highlighting the most positive features.

4. To design a “setup sheet” which comprises photographs, a house or unit plan, and all facts pertinent to the unit, its:

  • a) Asking price, tax-deductible portion of the monthly charges—real estate taxes for a condominium—and condition;
  • b) Desirable features, such as built-ins, new windows, and recent renovations;
  • c)  The amenities, from bicycle room to spa;
  • d) The services, including a full-time doorman, concierge, and live-in superintendent;
  • e) Pet and washer/dryer house policies.

5. To market the property to the broadest possible potential buyers by preparing the online advertising campaign and posting listings on Web sites, writing copy for media classified ads, selecting appropriate magazines for display ads, exposing the property through a multiple-listing service, and updating the brokerage community at regular intervals.

6. To conduct one or two open houses for brokers, schedule general-public open houses, and then oversee the advertising and announcement placements.

7. To address inquiries from the brokerage community on behalf of their clients, encourage callers to see the property in person, and schedule and confirm all requested showing appointments.

8. To negotiate, on the behalf of the seller, to reach a “meeting of the minds” with any and all qualified buyers.

9. To write the “deal memo,” which is distributed to both attorneys (for the seller and buyer), in order to draw up an appropriate contract.  A “deal memo” includes all pertinent information:

  • a)    Names and contact information for the seller, buyer, their lawyers and brokers;
  • b)   The agreed upon price;
  • c)    All conditions, such as mortgaged amount;
  • d)   Closing date;
  • e)    The terms, which may include items to be excluded from the sale.  

10) To distribute all necessary paperwork (starting with the “deal memo”) to each party’s lawyer: Two years’ financial statements, the offering plan, prospectus, and subsequent amendments, as well as the application to purchase for the buyer to submit.

11. To answer questions and provide additional information as needed for the seller, the buyer’s broker, and each party to the transaction’s attorney.

Whereas the buyer’s broker

1. Consults with the buyer to determine a budget range, by solidifying a financial profile: Maximum cash-down portion, post-closing liquidity, (especially eligibility for co-operatives), mortgage-qualifying amount, and comfortable gross monthly cost-to-occupy total—including building charges, real-estate taxes, and mortgage service.

2. Isolates the buyer’s most important priorities, such as ample light, outdoor space, or pet eligibility.

3. Focuses the search by presenting the suitable, available properties, and as many appropriate alternatives as possible.

4. Identifies the buyer’s individual neighborhood priorities and suggests probable alternatives.

5. Coordinates the showing times with the buyer’s availability.

6. Redefines the search parameters—as necessary—based on listing availability updates as well as according to the buyer’s reaction at previously visited properties.

7. Investigates comparable recent sales for a property targeted, as “of interest.”

8. Negotiates the price, conditions, and terms—on the buyer’s behalf—for a proposed transaction.

9. Advises the buyer when it is the appropriate time to contact their real-estate lawyer, and to follow up with their mortgage broker.

10. Vets the deal memo written by the seller (or their representative), before it is distributed to the attorneys.

11. Supervises culling the application to purchase information required by the board of governors, and checking that the information on each supporting document “adds up,” so the board draws the correct conclusion, in total.

12. Briefs (coaches) the buyer for the impending interview process. 

But your broker cannot

1. Function as either an attorney or mortgage broker.

2. Engage in self-dealing activities, including nondisclosure of holding an interest in a property, share in the proceeds derived from a sale, accept a specified dollar amount in lieu of a percentage based commission, or, in any other way, function as a partner in a transaction: These instances constitute a “net listing,” which is prohibited by New York State law.

3. Make false statements, withhold or intentionally misrepresent information regarding a material fact when asked, or withhold, or omit known facts within a written statement.

Broker-speak Translated

As your adviser with one goal: a meeting of the minds, whenever reasonably confident one of two parties indicate interest, at those certain junctures a broker’s tried-and-true tool is to accomplish that goal. Therefore, they’re captured within real-estate jargon usage. As soon as detecting lingo-sprinkling into a conversation, be prepared to decipher the details held within nuances.

So within their context, the well-worn verbiage are, as follows:

  • To “throw out a number” is to make an offer, encouraging an interested buyer to begin a dialogue with a seller.
  • What a property “can achieve,” is the “fair-market value,” as defined by the broker’s investigation of comparable recent sales.
  • “Wiggle room,” is the perceived portion the seller is likely to accept, though a discount off his price.
  • “All cash” or “no financial contingency” or “ready to close A.S.A.P.” connote that the buyer is ready, willing, and able to move forward quickly.
  • “Board-passable buyer” is highly qualified and able to submit an acceptable application to purchase.
  • “Put it in writing”—ensures a response when the seller’s broker presents the offer.
  • A new owner can enjoy the “valuable considerations” or “exceptional attributes,” such as a well-protected water or park view, as a negotiating stance indicating: raise the offer.
  • To “negotiate against one’s self” is raising and offer (or reducing an ask) without a counter-offer.
  • When a counter-offer is “firm,” it means the seller will compromise no further.
  • “To make it happen” is offering whatever is required in order to establish more certainty for a deal.
  • When a buyer’s offer is “best and final,” it will not be increased.
  • An “accepted offer is on the table”—both the buyer and seller are ready, willing, and able to enter into a contract.
  • “Contract out” implies awaiting the parties’ signatures and board approval (of course).
  • Once signed, it’s an “executed contract.”
  • Once a property is “in contract,” or “spoken for,” the buyer’s application to purchase is awaiting review by the board.
  • The buyers are “board approved” or experienced a “board turndown” is the outcome of the review.
  • When a property is “back on the market” (BOM)—something went awry.


Broker Lexicon

An accepted offer is a meeting of the minds, and is the first step in the process of purchasing a property.

To achieve is the amount a property can command.

Agency is the fiduciary responsibility a broker assumes once appointed by an owner.

App. is an application to rent; the term is not applied to an application to purchase.

Best and final indicates that a buyer will not again raise the offer.

A bidding war takes place when two or more buyers make offers on the same property.

A board of directors’ interview is a formal meeting between a prospective buyer and a delegation of co-owners; one owner, a committee, or an entire board of directors.

Board-passable describes a qualified bidder, or one whose application to a board of directors will be approved.

A broker is anyone acting as an agent in bringing two parties together in order for a real-estate transaction to take place, thereby receiving a commission or fee—but only if and when such a transaction actuates.

Brokerage is the act or continuous actions that bring a buyer and seller to a meeting of the minds, especially through assistance in negotiating the terms in order to convey real property; also, the commission derived from brokerage activity.

A brokerage firm is a group of real-estate salespersons or associate real-estate brokers.

A buyer’s agent is a real-estate salesperson or broker responsible for protecting a buyer’s best interest; a buyer-brokerage agreement is the written or implied undertaking to protect a buyer.

Buyer’s remorse is the reluctance—or second thoughts—to move forward after an offer has been accepted by an owner.

client is the principal, or owner, in a real-estate transaction.

A co-broke is an agreement by a brokerage firm representing a seller or landlord to pay 50 percent of the commission due at closing or lease-signing to a brokerage firm bringing a buyer or renter to a property; a co-exclusive involves two brokerage firms.

A co-exclusive right to sell or to rent is an agreement allowing two brokerage firms to represent the same property.

Collect your own fee takes place when a landlord pays only its broker’s commission; the corresponding, or co-broker, is paid their entire commission by the renter.

A commission is the fee, as the percentage of a purchase price, received by a firm, for their services in the reaching of a meeting of the minds.

A condition to a sales contract is a stipulation restricting, limiting, or modifying a point; the condition, abbreviated as cond., of a property ranges from triple-mint— perfect in all ways—to estate—a wreck in every way—while the commonly used designations in between are more subjective: excellent, good, fair, and poor.

Contract out designates that a buyer and seller have agreed to the purchase price and terms for a property; contract signed refers to a fully executed contract.

The corresponding broker, among brokers, represents the other party.

The cost-approach method is used to estimate property value if comparables for a comparative market analysis are not available.

A counter-offer, or counter, is a buyer’s revised offer in response to a seller’s (asking) price reduction.

A deal memo, generated by a seller or their representative, is provided to the seller’s attorney, the buyer’s attorney, and the buyer’s representative, and contains information identical to an agreement to purchase.

Direct is dual agency.

The disclosure and informed consent is a written statement by a buyer and seller consenting to a dual agency relationship.

A disclosure statement is a required accounting of all financial aspects of a mortgage.

A dual agency is a salesperson or broker representing both the buyer and seller in the same transaction.

Duty of disclosure requires the revealing of all information affecting an agency relationship between a seller and their broker.

An exclusive agency agreement permits an owner to find an interested party on their own, with no obligation to pay a brokerage commission.

An exclusive right to sell or to rent is a binding contract between a landlord or owner and one salesperson or broker, giving the latter party the right to represent a property and to solicit the cooperation of other brokerage firms; referred to as an exclusive.

An executed contract has been signed by both buyer and seller; the act of signing is execution.

A fiduciary assumes the responsibility of trust for the benefit of another individual, which is then referred to as their fiduciary responsibility.

Firm indicates that a seller will not compromise further on the asking price.

Fraud refers to an intentional misstatement of material fact.

Holding hands describes a broker’s careful oversight of a buyer or seller, once an offer is accepted.

To identify a property is to have narrowed a dwelling quest and now be targeting a specific property.

In contract means that a property has a binding, fully executed agreement in place.

Informed consent is the accepting of a broker’s services in exchange for a fee by a renter or seller.

Isolating a property connotes sufficient interest to make an offer.

A listing is a property on the market for sale or available for rent.

Marketing is a brokerage firm’s promoting its exclusive listings.

An agreeable meeting of the minds is the object of all real-estate negotiations.

A misrepresentation is a false oral representation or written statement, or an intentional omission of fact.

A multiple-listing service, abbreviated as mls, is sponsored by a real-estate organization and allows property listings to be shared among brokers.

A net listing allows a broker to illegally share proceeds of a sale above a specified amount in lieu of a commission 

An offer, or promise, to another party—the offeree—is conditional upon acceptance and a promise in return (to the offeror).

Offer and acceptance indicates that two parties are ready, willing, and able to enter into a contract, and the price, closing date, and conditions have been agreed upon.

On-site brokers represent a builder or management company at a particular building.

An open house is a practical promotional tool that allows multiple interested purchasers the opportunity to inspect a property at a single time.

An open listing is a property for sale or rent without broker representation, and without written commitment from the owner—whether an individual, developer, or management company—to pay the broker’s commission for procuring the buyer or renter.

An opening offer is an initial bid.

Positive misrepresentation is the act of making a false statement.

Possession is the occupancy of a property, with the legal right to do so; in broker’s parlance, it refers to the time a purchaser or tenant may occupy a property.

Price is the amount a seller agrees to accept for solicited property.

A principal is either an individual appointing a representative, or an amount of money paid or received.

Property refers to an apartment, row house, or loft listing for sale or rent.

A real-estate broker—whether an organization, an individual broker, or a salesperson associated with a brokerage firm—acts as an agent for others who seek to sell or purchase real property.

Real-estate market is the general term for local real-property-sales activity.

Relocation, abbreviated as relo, refers to a corporate-sponsored move to Manhattan from another locale.

A rental commission is a broker’s fee for procuring a tenant for a landlord.

Representation is the equivalent of agency.

Self-dealing activity, especially disclosure of an interest in a property, is illegal.

A seller’s agent or broker holds fiduciary responsibility and works for the best interests of a property owner; a buyer’s agent or broker works for the best interests of a purchaser; dual agency connotes a single broker working for both the buyer and seller, rather than acting as a single agent working for a single party.

A setup comprises the pertinent information, photographs, and house plan of a property.

Staging is the cosmetic preparation of a property that is to be shown for sale; a professional stager may be engaged to ensure that the property’s best features are highlighted and its flaws downplayed. 

A transaction is a sale.

Triple-mint condition applies to properties whose overall conditions are excellent (X), with kitchens in excellent condition (XX), as well as their bathrooms (XXX).

Unintentional misrepresentation is an innocent false statement regarding material fact.


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Note:  New York State law requires every closing table includes an attorney representing the buyer and a second attorney representing the seller in order to approve all documents for signature, and to explain the myriad unique details involved.  As a specialty—with its own ins and outs—Manhattan real estate has developed a coterie of lawyers very familiar with contracts and procedures for multiple-dwelling co-operative and condominium transfers. 


Caveat emptor—let the buyer beware—is good advice, and for those in the Manhattan real-estate market, it is best followed by seeking out an experienced real-estate attorney. New York State law requires that real-estate transactions be settled and closed only by bar-admitted lawyers: not even licensed real-estate brokers may finalize a sale.

  • There are thousands of qualified attorneys, so one would be wise to approach his or her own lawyer for referral to a real-estate specialist.
  •  Or, a relative, friend, or associate, who owns an apartment, is also an excellent source.

The selection should begin early in the transaction’s negotiation phase, with the decision finalized before a positive outcome is at hand, in order that a written deal memo (to prepare the contract to purchase, though drafted by one’s broker) includes both the buyer and seller attorney’s contact information.

  • One very important—and often overlooked—question for the initial dialogue with a potential attorney is whether he or she will be available throughout the transaction period—not scheduled for vacation or litigation at any point during the process.

Once the offer to purchase has been finalized, and—most importantly—accepted, a deal memo, or deal sheet, is generated by the seller—or his or her representative—and addressed to his or her attorney. This document constitutes the information needed in order for ownership to be conveyed. Included are:

  • The principle—full names, addresses, and telephone numbers
  • The attorneys—firms, contact information
  • Selling price
  • Deposit amount
  • Financed portion
  • Proposed closing date
  • Exclusions
  • Stipulations
  • Conditions to the sale
  • Management company closing agent name and contact information
  • Brokers—firm and contact information
  • Brokers’ commission (both amount and percentage)

The deal memo, once finalized by the seller’s attorney, is provided to the buyer’s attorney, along with:

  • An offering plan
  • A prospectus
  • All further amendments
  • The past two years’ financial statements
  • The proprietary lease

Then the second step—the generation of the contract to purchase—begins, based on discussions between the two attorneys, and between each attorney and his or her client (two critical points of these second discussions are determining whether each client clearly understands the terms of the deal memo and explaining the remaining steps involved from this point through the closing).

As most of the clauses within the impending contract to purchase will comprise standard legal language, or boilerplate; with few exceptions, they will be agreed upon without negotiation. These discussions are primarily aimed at focusing on the unique conditions within the deal memo, such as exceptions to the sale.

Once these finer points have been ironed out—in language agreeable to both lawyers—the buyer’s attorney arranges for a transfer of funds equal to 10 percent of the purchase price as a goodwill or earnest-money deposited into an escrow account to be delivered with the signed contract to the seller’s attorney and then applied to the purchase price at closing.


Due diligence: As the contract to purchase is then drafted by the seller’s attorney, the buyer’s attorney begins the multi-faceted third step: doing due diligence on his or her client’s behalf.

This begins with a review of the building corporate material already forwarded by the seller or their broker.

The two-year financial statements determine whether the corporation is in good financial health—with a mortgage in place and reasonable out-of-the-ordinary expenses coverable by an ample reserve fund.

Subsequently, the buyer’s attorney reviews the minutes of recent board meetings by an appointment at the offices of the management company. This element of due diligence is crucial in determining whether:

  • The building’s physical structure is in good condition
  • No recent fire or security issues exist
  • Near-term repairs are unnecessary
  • A maintenance increase and/or assessment is not likely to be imminent

Once the buyer’s attorney is satisfied with all paperwork from the seller’s attorney and the management company, he or she then begins to confront issues of transferability.

This process begins with an examination of the property’s title abstract, a report of its history and current status followed by a thorough search for possible caveats, or hidden flaws. At this point, in collaboration with a title company commences, specifically establishing:

  • The seller is able to actuate a sale and transfer ownership
  • The property is not encumbered and is free from any lien or claim that can affect its transfer

One common caveat is a property’s having been used to collateralize a debt and therefore to assure its holder that that debt will be paid when the property is sold. A second is Lis Pendens—or pending lawsuit—which is evidenced by a property’s having been recorded in a public general warning—or notice of Lis Penden—declaring that the property’s title is a subject of legal action, breach-of-contract and failure-to-perform lawsuits being among the most common.

Three common judgments against a property include mortgage liens, the result of mortgages that have gone unpaid; mechanic’s lien, resulting from one or more unpaid capital expenses; and tax liens.


An important note in order:

  • Though the title company does guarantee the property’s title, and certifies that the cooperative corporation successfully received all rights to the land and to the improved “structure,” as an appurtenance from the developer when the new corporation assumed the lease, a title search cannot play into the necessary wisdom required for purchasing in a land-lease cooperative.
  • Determining whether a particular land-lease property is investment-worthy requires a careful study of its offering plan and prospectus and all related documents by an attorney knowledgeable of and experienced with this intricate process.


Closing the deal

Once the buyer’s attorney is satisfied with the results of the title search and advises his client to proceed, a meeting is scheduled in which each element of the transaction is reviewed and the contract is executed. It is at this point that the buyer and their broker accelerate their preparation of the board application, in order to meet its deadline, often specified in the contract as 10 days to two weeks following the contract’s full execution.

Meanwhile, the seller’s attorney coordinates the preparation by the banks and the management company of the remaining paperwork necessary for the monetary settlement to take place. Once board approval has been granted, it is understood that a 30-day grace period is in effect within which the seller’s attorney schedules a closing meeting between the principals and their bank representatives at the building’s management-company offices.

(Though the date on the contract is understood to be as soon as possible once board approval is received, if the meeting has yet to be scheduled as the 30-day grace period is nearing its end, a letter stating that “time is of the essence” is issued to either the buyer’s or seller’s attorney by the corresponding attorney indicating that a closing date must be agreed to and set within a reasonable time frame; if necessary, to facilitate this scheduling, one or more powers of attorney may be granted—appointing a third party to act in lieu of a principal.)

Immediately prior to this last meeting, a walk-through, or final inspection of the property, by the buyer takes place. At closing, the buyer’s attorney delivers, to the seller:

  • The balance owed, in certified checks or cash, with the 10-percent deposit having been credited
  • The Proration, or the adjustment of unused expenses prepaid for by the seller (property taxes, monthly building common charges and fees, insurance, and utilities, among others)

The seller’s attorney then pays down any existing bank loan on the property, in addition to seller’s costs:

  • Broker’s fee
  • The flip tax
  • Closing fees due the bank and/or management company

Once all moneys owed by both the buyer and seller have been settled, the proprietary lease is returned to the seller to be transferred to the buyer which is effected by the seller’s signing a new deed or stock certificate. The transference of property ownership is not official until registered—delivered to the New York City Department of Records—usually the following day.


The settlement

There are costs associated with every settlement, the exact amounts are itemized on a spread sheet for official and tax purposes, and explained by the attorneys as the checks are written and distributed. Although what follows is not a closing statement, the necessary items paid (some by certified check, others by personal check) by the seller at the closing will be:

  • Legal fees, which are approximately equal for a buyer or seller—the seller’s attorney handles the closing while the buyer’s attorney has due diligence duties
  • Management company processing and closing fee
  • Typically $500 or slightly higher, plus an additional $250 to $500 fee when a mortgage payout is applicable
  • New York City residential transfer tax, which is 1%  up to $500,000 and 1.425% over $500,000 (for deeds, not cooperative stock transfers)
  • New York State transfer fee, of $40 per $100,000,
  • A $75 equalization fee
  • Miscellaneous building charges, such as a flip tax and move-out fees
  • The broker’s commission, typically 5% to 6%, is paid by the seller from the sale proceeds.

For the buyer, the costs include:

  • Legal fees
  • Management fees to process the board’s application, with a credit report, which are between $450 and $600
  • Bank fees, including an application and processing,
  • An appraisal
  • Bank attorney fee, ranging from $1,100 to $1,500, depending on the sale price and mortgage amount
  • Title insurance at $130 per $100,000 of the mortgage amount
  • New York City mortgage tax, of 1.80% up to $500,000, and 2.80% over $500,000
  • New York County recording fee, of $500, approximately
  • New York State Mansion Tax, which is 1% of the entire purchase price on a property trading for $1,000,000 or more


An accounting is required

Finally, the closing statement, or settlement sheet, is prepared for each party to the transaction, by his or her attorney, and it accounts for and details every receivable and disbursement payment made either by the buyer or the seller at the closing table, including:

  • Title search
  • Title insurance
  • Title-transfer tax (charged by New York City on real property, but not cooperative-ownership shares)
  • Brokerage fees
  • Management-company fees (which are higher when banks are involved)
  • Lender’s fees (especially the origination fee when transacting with a new institution)
  • Deed-and-title-registration fees
  • Attorneys’ fees


Addendum Additional Helpers

It is true that the internet has altered the playing field. Nowadays, more than ever the online marketing plan directly affects time on the market, and ultimately, has everything to do with the ultimate contract price. A well-marketed property’s advantage cannot be overlooked or underestimated.

Well-marketed comes down to a proper price, calculated presentation, organized promotion, and a coordinated public relation strategy. Overseeing each element is implementing the tactics, which remain an owner’s responsibility unless assigned to a broker.

  • Pricing is pegging the property at its current market value;
  • Presentation (staging, in realtor jargon) highlights the positives and camouflages the negatives;
  • Promotion entails announcing to (and continuously reminding) the brokerage community about the listing;
  • Public relations centers on making the property available—especially at regularly scheduled open houses supported by classified and display advertising and online updates.

Marketing Pointers and Principles

Marketing real estate involves effectively applying the four elements most products require. Our marketing plan developer is a handbook to achieve its fair-market value with three key elements—presentation, promotion, public relations. In short, everything needed and available to refer to as needed.

The show sheet guidelines provide the details, descriptions, and photographs targeted to qualified buyers. A square footage calculating manual differentiates the actual from the stated, and why it matters. A house plan interpreter demonstrates how to extract pertinent information to qualify as a comp or evaluate for personal usability. Our Personal Planner is organized for sellers, by including an owner’s checklist, as well as a complete apartment house data and unit factsheet, and for buyers, by offering every conceivable possibility or the alternative options.

Judging From the Norms

There are pointers, every step along the way, which provide guidance.
Once offered, a property should remain on the market continuously until it is spoken for. Standard apartment house units (in condition to sell) come on to the market will attract an offer—when accurately priced. While almost every property does transfer, some average a longer time frame—for example, apartment hotel apartments do require longer to market because their high monthly carrying cost and minimal tax-deductible portion.

Averting the on-and-off-and-on-again syndrome depends on the owner, and their relationship with their broker to advise against it. However, extenuating circumstance may account for longer time than expected. For instance—an unsigned contract would cause a two week delay (rarely longer); a board turndown (accounts for a three-month delay); unexpected family matters may add a few weeks, perhaps. An unknown factor during these downtimes is: How many potential buyers inquired? How many asked for a second visit? The effect of a broker saying, “It’s temporarily off the market,” is that potential buyer moves on, and they will find another property. To avoid future missteps: Potential sellers can refer to the right steps when offering their property for sale. It is within the Owner Personal Planner checklist.


Market activity fluctuates throughout the year, always did, probably always will. There are two facets: more market demand supports a higher price, and a stagnant property gradually sends (the allusion) that a seller may be ready to negotiate.

Seasonality is a matter: The two heavy selling seasons, in fact, are spring to early summer, and then early fall through early winter. A relative activity surge following a lull is referred to as “pent-up demand.” Holidays must be considered as well, because they create a lull.

The breaks, which matter most, are:

  • The Christmas to New Year lull remains in place until after the Martin Luther King weekend.
  • While market activity begins to pick up, President’s Week is again another interruption. Market activity then remains steady but relatively light until tax-filing ends.
  • The spring market ends during the days after the July 4th Holiday. Market again is light throughout the summer.
  • Labor Day opens the fall market, and activity remains steady through the Thanksgiving weekend.


Staging can be tantamount to success. First impression is a very big factor. Properly preparing a property requires experience, (it’s a quick study for those in the know). The cost as well as the time involved depends on the starting point. The financial reward is worth all the effort, and that is a matter of fact. One quintessential example is telling.

Once upon a time a prime, nine-room Fifth Avenue apartment sat on the market, like a slug. The continuous comment was “Great space…but…this place needs everything!” Once cosmetically transformed, its new designation became “Move-in.” Selective staging significantly upped the buyer’s accepted offer. In fact, the staging cost was a fraction of the owner’s gain. The prospective buyer is rarely fooled completely; however, they perceive an initial savings, because major work can be put off to a later date.

Simple Marketing Principles

A basic marketing tenet is broad- and narrow-cast the message, with easily accessible data, tempting descriptions, and alluring professional photographs. As no other resource, photographs can depict a property at its best, descriptive text should depict its features, and superlatives cannot replace clarity. The information provided should highlight the possibilities with facts.

The components of a finely tuned marketing strategy include the broader and finite distribution methods, such as:

  • Extensive online exposure through the brokerage firm Web site, search engines, and related internet resources;
  • An initial direct mailing of a brochure. flier, and announcements to prospective buyers in neighboring rental buildings;
  • Advertisements (and continued mailings) to support the regularly scheduled open houses.

Show Sheet

No other tool tops the show sheet, brochure or online announcement—regardless of its format—to get across the “marketing” message, and to entice the potential buyers. The proscribed details below should be concise and precise and written within standard usages. Inferences matter and should be highlighted, however in a specific context.

The apartment house facts includes:

  1. Address
  2. Neighborhood
  3. Dwelling type
  4. Tax-deductible portion
  5. Financing percentage permitted
  6. Current Assessment amount
  7. Ownership type
  8. Services, amenities, appurtenances

The unit data provided is:

  1. Apartment number
  2. Asking Price
  3. Monthly fees as maintenance or common charge/real-estate tax
  4. Room, bedroom and bathroom counts
  5. Private outdoor space, when applicable
  6. View or exposure
  7. Condition
  8. Dining space, kitchen type, additional spaces


Why is this last? Because three simple, hard-and-fast rules apply:

Availability is the sure-fire marketing element that matters most: visiting a property—as a potential showing, re-scheduled or a second or third visit—is a vital deal-making opportunity, one not lightly denied. All but an outlandish appointment should be honored, therefore.
A second factor is pre-planning open house dates, for the brokerage community and general public, which should be set at the onset, according to holiday weekends and local events, perhaps the marathon or an upcoming community-sponsored street fair. The advertising supporting these open houses—not online announcements as much as newspaper or magazine advertisement—require lead time.

The third truism is practical promotion: Follow-up calls to the buyer brokers, seemingly for “feed-back,” in reality to encourage a second visit, work. Likewise, contacting directly each potential buyer without a broker to ignite or rekindle interest by encouraging another visit. Whether a truism or old-wife’s tale, it is said that, twenty pairs of feet have to cross the threshold to bring the first offer.

As a practical note: It is far more natural when a broker makes these calls on behalf of an owner than for the owner to seem comfortable, rather than overanxious to sell the property.

House Plan Guidelines

To effectively evaluate a property requires a house and floor plan primer. The plan can qualify a comparable sample property, or evaluate investment potential, or personal usability according to needs. It is accepted that one picture is worth a thousand words, and the images provided should speak volumes. Diagrams, on the other hand, are a quick read and useful reference material—whether of the entire floor or just the individual unit.

The apartment house plan has its advantages, such as orienting the unit to the street entrance and elevator bank. The overall floor delineates public hallways and service areas, and locates the units’ placement within the building. The house plan also isolates the street-facing from rear-view apartments. A direction indicator is normally included.

A few simple and helpful axioms are, as follows:

  • Odd numbered apartment houses, for example, Nos. 41 or 411 (east or west) is sited on the street’s north side, and therefore the front units face south;
  • Conversely, an even numbered house is on the street’s south side, and therefore has north-facing front units;
  • Corner apartment houses have one façade overlooking a street, another on the avenue—affording more prime apartments, more likely with better light;
  • Mid-block apartment houses have one primary exposure only, though the rear-facing, high-floor apartments would afford more open exposures;
  • Small dwellings, loft and town house seekers, too, should be aware “dead” spaces –with no light whatsoever—(inevitably) occur.

A floor plan holds discernible facts, which are:

  • The layout or room placement, in relation to one another;
  • Room count, overall;
  • Number of bed- and bathrooms;
  • Dining space, area or room;
  • Kitchen type, galley, eat-in or open;
  • Room proportions, widths to lengths;
  • Special Considerations, such as outdoor space.

There are other clues too: the square footage and dimensions. Room dimension accuracy is easily approximated to be accurate—no standard method exists, but a myriad have been devised.

  • Window-to-wall
  • Wall-to-wall
  • Baseboard-to-baseboard
  • Saddle (an entrance piece of wood, placed as a doorsill) to the opposite baseboard

Let Your Fingers Do The Walking

First, as you scan the layout there could be suspicious “red flags.” Discrepancies between the data and facts need to be identified, and either verified there and then by the broker or owner, or marked for further review and investigation.

Then, it is only reasonable to be skeptical eyeballing a room proportion that seems out of line; one doubtful room measurement baits whether the given dimensions jive throughout. In addition, on aged available house plans, the architect’s original measurements can be partially obliterated and replaced with crisp, clear (new) numbers. To the point, the architect’s rendering consistently had exact (to the quarter inch) dimensions, round figures throughout may be questionable.

Only a redrawn diagram is available for altered units—fused spaces into one room, and certainly, when two confluent apartments joined and a “combo” was created. And so, adjusted numbers may reflect subsequent alterations, or they may be a confabulation. The dimensions must be confirmed at a later point for a property deemed worth to pursue or as a comparison. Would a flooring contractor double-check? Nor should you?

Second, square footage is the footprint, and unit of area. Area is derived by two dimensions multiplied by one another. It is meant to be an exact number: although commonly relied upon, the stated square footage is less than exact.

Facts: A condominium units’ stated square footage total includes an apportionment for common areas. As a percentage, therefore, each apartment house varies. A co-operative conversion offering plan and prospectus never state outright square footage. (Room count, position within the building, floor, and outdoor space are the elements for the share apportioned to each unit.)

Beware: The cost per square foot total is misleading when casual (exaggerated) square footage is divided into the asking price—the greater misstated (inflated) the more deceptive the total square foot total. Worse-case scenario: a totally unscientific formula was used. For example, the major rooms’ area—in feet, from a questionable source—are squared (width times length), plus, a set add-on (say, 15 percent) to accommodate closets, niches, and (undefined) whatnots, is used.

Reading a Floor Plan

A comparison walk-through priority list involves:

  • Confirming the info provided;
  • Evaluating the stated valuable considerations;
  • An investor, in addition to confirming the data and the condition, evaluates the positive and negative features needed for the rental market

As the owner-occupant the considerations are all of the above, plus a comprehensive survey for the ordered priority list—first impressions do not always tell the tale for your particular needs.
Put on blinders: the décor is irrelevant. Look past it.
Exposures, light, view, require going to the window, opening the window treatment, and see for yourself.
Allowing your mind’s eye to focus on the general flow (both between public rooms as well as the public rooms in relation to the family bedrooms), so then your eyes can take in what you are actually seeing.

While in a room, refer back and forth to the plan in order to ameliorate a less than well-developed spatial sense. When making a dimension calculation, choose one approximation method and stick to it. Pick from among the following constants to apply:

  1. Beforehand measure your foot length, use it to walk-off your steps from wall to wall, and do the math as a reliable approximation.
  2. Eyeball the window width to guesstimate how many would fit along the exterior wall, and do the math as a somewhat reliable approximation.
  3. Choose a piece of furniture to gauge the wall length it is on: a sofa seating three is six feet long, a love seat is four feet long, and a piano is five feet long. And, do the math as a less vague approximation.

When approximating, give the benefit of the doubt as is on the show sheet or diagram. Otherwise, note the doubts and keep your thoughts to yourself.
Finally, for future reference and comparison, take notes regarding your overall impression of the condition, and then assess the kitchen and bathrooms individually. In addition, visual devises (a well-placed smoky mirror, for one) can belie the eyeball approach. Therefore, make a quick judgment for future reference, whether or not the photographs are an accurate depiction.

Getting the Gist

After the qualifying apartment facts are gathered and the questionable aspects are clarified, the purpose to study a floor plan is the unit’s relevance to you as an investor or owner- occupant.

The criteria are parallel: usefulness.

The living space desired (needed) is subjective—and relative—and so much depends on the layout’s flow, room proportions, but ultimately, their placement in relation to one another. Ingress and egress through another area, for instance, is or is not workable. Certainly noteworthy, since the space must accommodate particular individual needs.

Next are your high priority and other considerations. Go down the list, and evaluate the very most important ones—outdoor space, especially. Note the missing items that could entirely disqualify the property, such as a windowed-eat-in kitchen or formal dining room or fireplace. Note each item on your list or you may be asking yourself, where were the air conditioners?

Follow the flow: going forward from the entry orient the public rooms from the family area—the bedrooms and bathrooms. Take the room and number of bed- and bathroom count. Take in the living room proportion—noting window placement and irregularities, and the dining type—room or area, and scan the kitchen—as open, galley or eat-in.

Next, it is true that every apartment needs one good room—look first for that “good” room. Then, focus on the living and entertaining space. Among these clustered areas, check out that the rooms are clearly defined, the entry foyer leads to the living room and dining area, that separate areas or niches are functional, and that the convertible (multiple-use) rooms—a separate library, perhaps—access a nearby bathroom. Or, that the servant’s quarters could be put to practical use.

Then gauge whether the family bedrooms and bathrooms are well located in relation to the entertaining areas. Their relative bedroom sizes are judged according to one another.

  • The master bedroom should be easily differentiated: larger, more closet space, en-suite bathroom, and double-exposure are common.
  • Bathrooms matter, so note their size, and then evaluate whether each is generous, adequate, or small.
  • Also, note whether there is a window according to the layout.
  • Closet space is always a plus, so critique as adequate or not.

Personal Planners

For a seller this review is a checklist to put the important priorities upfront. Moreover, the planner includes an array of criteria to match a seller and one qualified buyer. The system will prompt you to clarify your ideas and to provide a flexible structure in which to make notes. Take your time to collect your thoughts and outline your goals. With our step-by-step plan, you can pinpoint pricing and clarify marketing decisions before listing your unit.

For a buyer the Personal Planner gives you a detailed approach to establishing the criteria and what priorities you value most in your next home. Using our Personal Planner will clarify your thoughts and outline your goals. It crystalizes the search parameters. One way to amplify the value is to save your entire original notes–especially with additions or changes to the original parameters. By doing follow these easy guidelines, you can review all the steps taken in depth, and it enables you to arrive at a successful realistic conclusion, which will be very useful as reference during future negotiations.

Here are the considerations for a seller and buyer.