Moving Doesn’t Have to Suck (As Much) – Tips for a Smooth Move

Townhouses in Brooklyn

Moving Day! We all love it, right?


No matter how big or small your apartment may be, moving can be incredibly stressful, especially in New York City. But here are a couple of things that you can do to help make your move a LOT less stressful.

  • If at all practical, give yourself as much lead time for your move as possible. For renters – if you need to move by the first of the month, try to sign a new lease a few weeks (2 to 3 weeks) before that date. For buyers/sellers – work closely with the people on the other side of the deal to coordinate a closing and move out date. The more time you have, the more easily you can coordinate your move.
  • Try to paint your apartment BEFORE you move in. It’s far easier to paint an empty apartment than one filled with furniture. If you’re able to get extra lead time for your move, then it’s pretty easy to get this accomplished. I painted my current apartment prior to moving in and it worked out great! However, for renters, if you want to try this, be sure to coordinate it with your landlord – you don’t want to interfere with whatever the landlord needs to do to prepare the apartment for your move-in. If you cannot get into your apartment early enough, unpack as few items as possible once you move in, and then paint.
  • As soon as you find your new apartment, figure out what you will and will not need for your new digs. Establish a realistic budget for getting new items and have a plan for getting rid of old stuff (i.e. selling it on Craigslist or eBay or donating it to the Salvation Army). Watch out for budget busters – kitchen utensils and appliances, bathroom toiletries, home office items, etc. These things are small, but they add up quickly and can drain your wallet.
  • Try NOT to wait until the last minute to pack. Make it more manageable by packing up one room at a time per day. To avoid having to go through your boxes once you’ve packed up, leave out items that you’ll be using in the days leading up to your move or put them in one separate box.
  • Try using storage bins instead of cardboard boxes whenever you can. They can be reused in your new home on a regular basis for extra storage and they’re sturdier. Don’t want to keep storage bins around? You can rent them from places like JuggleBox. They will bring them to your old place and then pick them up from your new one.
  • Set up your utility services and get an appointment to have your internet and cable services installed at your new address. Don’t wait until the last minute –  during peak moving season, companies can sometimes require you to schedule an appointment anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks in advance.
  • And don’t forget to coordinate the shut off/cancellation of services at your old address – it’s quite a pain to remember at the last minute that you have to drop off a cable box!
  • Coordinate your move in with your landlord/building manager and book appropriate movers. The New York Times has a great article about how to choose a moving company and what to expect when moving into various types of buildings. Check it out HERE.

You may still have a few hiccups, even if you follow these tips, but you’ll probably have a lot less to worry about. Just be glad that New York City no longer has a city-wide Moving Day – imagine how much fun THAT would be nowadays…

Oh, and if you need help finding a new place to move to, feel free to reach out to me! 😉 Whether it’s a sale or a rental, I’m always glad to help!


Manhattan vs. Brooklyn – Q2 2015

Curious as to how the numbers stack up in Manhattan and Brooklyn? Here’s an infographic to give you a basic overview, based on Corcoran’s most recent quarterly reports for both boroughs. (Click here to view the full Manhattan Report and click here to view the full Brooklyn Report.) The infographic highlights the median price by apartment type for each type of building covered by the report, and also gives the lowdown for which areas are likely to be your best bets for affordability.

Note – I prefer to use the median rather than the average price because the median represents the middle point – so half of all the listings noted in a given area are above that price and half are below.

Manhattan Infographic Q2 2015 for Blog

Brooklyn Infographic Q2 2015 for Blog

Not surprisingly, the spring sales season saw a lot of activity – the median in Manhattan was $960,000 compared to $925,000 last year this time, and contracts signed were up 7% year over year.

Meanwhile Brooklyn continued to be a hot ticket –  the median price was $575,000 compared to $482,000 last year, a 19% year over year increase, and contracts signed were up 2% year over year.

Both boroughs saw decent increases in inventory, thanks in part to more new developments coming online, with inventory increasing by 12% in Manhattan and whopping 35% in Brooklyn.

The Takeaway

Despite increasing prices and increasing numbers, the takeaway for this quarter is pretty much the same as last quarter – if you’re looking for affordability in Manhattan, then you should consider the East Side, Midtown, Financial District/BPC and Upper Manhattan, since all of these areas have prices below the median in multiple categories of apartments. Prices in Brooklyn overall are still more affordable relative to Manhattan, especially deeper into the borough, but the competition for properties is likely to be incredibly fierce no matter where you look. Don’t be surprised if you frequently find yourself in multiple bid situations.

But, as I’ve kept saying for almost the past year, in this kind of market, no matter where you’re planning to look, you should definitely consider both condos and co-ops. Given the historically low inventory and stiff competition in both boroughs, prospective buyers would be best served by considering all options available to them. Not sure what the difference is between a condo and a co-op? Or are you uncertain as to whether or not you would qualify to buy in a co-op? Then check out my past blog posts here and here for more information.

And of course, if you have more questions about the market, a specific neighborhood or NYC real estate in general, feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to help!

Timeline for Buying


Buying a home is very exciting, but it can also be extremely intimidating since it can be difficult to see the big picture. Hopefully the timeline below will take some of the mystery out of the process.

Timeline for Buying

  • Speak with a mortgage broker, bank or financial advisor.

  • 1 to 3 weeks
    • As discussed in my previous newsletters, this has to be your first step once you’ve decided you’re serious about buying. Missed that post? You can take a look at it again over on my blog.
  • Hire a real estate lawyer.

  • 1 to 3 weeks
    • Remember – real estate is key here and they need to be well versed in residential NYC real estate transactions.
  • Hunt for an apartment.

  • 1 to 3 months
    • Although this process typically takes anywhere from 1 to 3 months for many active buyers, some people will find their homes much sooner or later than others.
  • Negotiate on the apartment.

  • 3 days to 2 weeks
    • Most apartments are sold “as is,” so be clear with your real estate agent about  current or pending assessments, fixtures, window replacements, air conditioners, rugs, floors, curtains, appliances, working fireplaces, washer/dryers, etc.
    • Appliances are usually included, whereas some fixtures, such as window treatments, etc., are usually not. Always ask, do not assume.
  • Sign your contract.

  • 3 to 10 days
    • The seller’s attorney will draw up the initial draft of the contract for review and negotiation with the buyer’s attorney over the precise terms and any conditions and contingencies. During this time, the buyer’s attorney will also conduct due diligence. This is the time when you find out if there are any issues with either the apartment or the building.
    • Once all terms are agreed to, the buyer signs the contract and returns it to the seller’s attorney along with typically a 10% deposit. Once the deposit is received, the seller executes the contract.
    • A contract is binding only after both parties have signed it and value has been rendered (e.g. escrow monies).
  • Apply for a Mortgage and Receive Your Commitment Letter from the Lender.

  • 3 to 6 weeks
    • Once you have a fully executed contract, you can begin the formal process of applying for a loan. The co-op or condo board will require a commitment letter from the lender as part of the board package.
  • Complete Your Co-op Board Package or Condo Application.

  • 10 to 20 business days
    • Concurrently with your mortgage application, you will begin the process of putting together your co-op board package or condo application. It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to gather the information for the purchase application and the requested documentation.
  • Submit Board Package for Managing Agent’s Review.

  • 1 to 4 weeks
    • Once your board package is complete, it will go to the managing agent for review. If deemed complete, it will then be forwarded to the board members for review. In a co-op, the board members will decide if they want to meet you after reviewing your application, and in a condo, the board will decide if they wish to exercise their right of first refusal or approve the purchase.
  • Co-op Board Interview & Approval.

  • 30 Minutes to 1 Hour for the Interview; 1 day to 1 week for approval
    • The managing agent will reach out to you to schedule your interview which will often occur at the board’s monthly meeting or at a special meeting. It all depends on each individual board’s procedures. It is critical to make yourself available for this interview.
  • Schedule a Closing.

  • 2 weeks after approval
    • Managing agents generally set the closing date, and buyer’s and seller’s lawyers will coordinate with the appropriate banks, title company, brokers, etc., for available dates and times.

Overall, the total amount of time from accepted offer to closing is 2 months for most condos and 3 months for most co-ops. But remember your time frame could vary from what’s noted above depending upon the circumstances surrounding your purchase.

Have more specific questions about the purchase process? Feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to help!

Nikki R. Thomas
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
The Corcoran Group

Co-Purchasing, Gifting and Guarantors – Your Guide to Purchasing with Assistance

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it can still be difficult for you to buy a home on your own. But fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone if there’s someone else in your life who can help you. Some co-ops and condos will permit you to purchase an apartment with assistance in the form of either a co-purchaser, a guarantor or with a bit of help from a gift. How do these work? Here’s a brief overview.


  • Co-purchasing is exactly what it sounds like – someone else buys the apartment with you, so you are both owners of the apartment.
  • Both of you will have to fill out the purchase application and, if it’s a co-op, you will both have to be present for the board interview.


  • In this case, you are the sole owner of the apartment, but someone else guarantees the payment of the maintenance. If you don’t keep current with payments, the co-op board or condo association can look to this person for payment.
  • The rules for each building may vary, but guarantors can expect to still have to fill out at least a part of the application or the entire application as well. However, they probably won’t be asked to attend the board interview.


  • If neither of the above options work for you, you can also be “gifted” the down payment amount. This is often a very popular option since the person giving the gift usually does not have to fill out the purchase application.
  • The person giving the gift often must present a gift letter or affidavit (also generally required by your lender, if obtaining a mortgage) and information regarding the source of funds.
  • However, many buildings will still require that you, as the purchaser, qualify on your own in order to proceed. In other words, after the down payment, your debt to income ratio and post closing liquidity must meet their financial qualifications.

Important note – every building will not permit all of the purchase options above. Some might permit one or two, some might permit all of them and some may permit none. That’s why it’s imperative for you to discuss your financial situation with your real estate agent at the very beginning of your search.

Not sure which one is right for you? Talk with your real estate agent and your mortgage broker. Together, you can figure out which solution may work best for your circumstances. Don’t have an agent yet? Then feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to help!

Nikki R. Thomas
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
The Corcoran Group – Village Office

Building Policies – Why They Matter


You’ve found a great apartment in a lovely building that’s in a perfect location. Awesome! But that’s not quite enough to move full steam ahead with making an offer. You need to learn more about the building’s policies, since all buildings – both co-ops and condos – have rules in place. These rules will not only have an impact on your day to day life. They also impact the resale value of your property since many of them will be of great significance to prospective buyers when it’s time for you to sell.

What are the particular topics you want to be on the lookout for? Although this list definitely isn’t exhaustive, here are several of the big ones:

Purchase Requirements

If you’re a prospective buyer of a co-op, it’s pretty easy to understand why this would be important – you need to know the purchase requirements so that you can figure out if you have a solid chance of getting approved by the co-op board. But purchasing requirements are also important to sellers – the more restrictive the requirements, the more limited your potential pool of buyers will be when it’s time to sell your apartment. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you really love other aspects of the building. But it’s important to keep in mind that it just may take a bit longer to find the right buyer for your apartment down the line.


This is probably one of the more obvious ones, especially if you currently have a pet. But it’s not enough to know if pets are allowed – you need to know the specific parameters. Are cats allowed, but not dogs? If dogs are allowed, are there any size or breed restrictions? Is there a restriction on the number of pets per apartment? What about other animals? Are you allowed to have a pet parakeet?


You may not think that a sublet policy is all that important to you, especially if you’re planning to stay in a place long term. But sometimes, unexpected things may happen in your life which require an immediate move, and a quick sale just may not be feasible or prudent under the circumstances (especially if it’s a difficult sales market). That’s where subletting comes in.

As discussed in a previous post, owners in a condo have greater freedom when it comes to renting out an apartment versus a co-op. But both building types will have a specific application process along with fees, and you should know about it. For co-ops in particular, it’s important to know about 1) any residency requirements and 2) how many years total that you can rent during the course of your ownership. For example, a common sublet policy is that you have to live in the apartment for 2 to 3 years, and then you are permitted to sublet for 1 to 2 years consecutively, provided that board approval is given each year.


Policies regarding installations and renovations are particularly important for re-sale value – if prospective buyers know that they can do things like installing a washer/dryer or adding a second bedroom, then that will increase the value of the apartment in their eyes. Also, be sure to have your attorney carefully review the building’s alteration agreement.

Flip Tax

Knowing the flip tax is important for both sellers and buyers (note: it’s not an actual “tax,” but rather a fee), since it will affect your bottom line when it comes time to sell your apartment.  For buyers, it’s also good to know about it because some buildings actually require the buyer to pay a portion of the flip tax. Sellers should check with their managing agent to see if any changes in the flip tax policy are pending.  You don’t want to get caught off guard at the last minute with an unexpected expense at the closing table, so find out about it in advance.

So how do you go about finding out this information? Easy – just ask your agent to find out for you! And of course, if you don’t have an agent, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to help!


Manhattan vs Brooklyn – Q3 2014 – The Numbers

Curious as to how the numbers stack up in Manhattan and Brooklyn? Here’s an infographic to give you a basic overview, based on Corcoran’s most recent quarterly reports for both boroughs. (Click here to view the full Manhattan Report and click here to view the full Brooklyn Report.)

Q3 2014 Manhattan Infographic

Q3 2014 Brooklyn Infographic

The market still appears to be relatively strong, as prices continue to increase – the median in Manhattan was $900,000 compared to $875,000 last year this time; and in Brooklyn the median price was $549,000 compared to $545,000 last year. But there’s some good news out there for buyers in Manhattan – inventory was actually up 10% versus last year.

As you can see, things have continued to cool off just a bit in both boroughs in terms of total transactions – closed sales were down 10% in Manhattan versus Q3 2013 and down 16% in Brooklyn for the same period. But it’s important to remember that the mark for comparison was an unusual one – Q3 2013 was one of the best quarters for sales in NYC since the downturn. So this aside, transactions for both boroughs were actually up versus the previous quarter (Q2 2014).

Although overall numbers can be helpful, it’s important to dive in a little deeper to get the full story. Let’s see how median sales prices for co-ops and condos stack up in various areas in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Note – I prefer to use the median rather than the average price because the median represents the middle point – so half of all the listings noted in a given area are above that price and half are below.


Neighborhood Co-op* Condo
East Side $875,000 $1,125,000
West Side $901,000 $1,446,000
Midtown $595,000 $955,000
Downtown $735,000 $1,770,000
Uptown $396,000 $650,000
FiDi/Battery Park City *** $1,070,000



Neighborhood Co-op Condo
Williamsburg/Greenpoint** *** $832,000
Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill/Dumbo/Downtown $550,000 $915,000
Park Slope/Gowanus $785,000 $945,000
Fort Greene/Clinton Hill/Prospect Heights $465,000 $732,000
Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill/Red Hook $699,000 $1,083,000

**Insufficient sales occurred for co-ops to be included in the Corcoran Report.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking to get the most for your money in Manhattan, it appears that Uptown and Midtown are probably the best places to start your search, since both feature the lowest median prices for co-ops and condos. Harlem in particular is an area to watch – price appreciation has actually outpaced the rest of Manhattan and a spate of new projects are on the horizon. Read more about it here and here.

Continuing the trend noted last quarter, some areas of Brooklyn are getting a lot closer to Manhattan in median condo prices. However, it’s important to note that much of this is being fueled by an increase in higher end sales, especially over $2 million. Purchasing a co-op is trickier than purchasing in a condo, but if you want to be in Brooklyn, it’s definitely a route worth considering. There are still some great co-op deals to be had even in some of the most popular neighborhoods (and some co-ops do actually exist in Williamsburg and Greenpoint too!). Not sure if a co-op is right for you? Then check out my recent post about co-op financial requirements to help you decide.

Have more questions about the market or NYC real estate in general? Feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to help!

Nikki R. Thomas
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
The Corcoran Group – Village Office