Purchasing real estate can be one of the most expensive and nerve-wracking experiences anyone can have. The old saying ‘buyer beware’ never rings more true than when buying property, especially in New York City. At the end of the day, developers are concerned about their bottom line, and those in the market for a home in the city need to be aware of the possibility of cheap construction. Buyers should do their research, and review this list closely to “beware” of some of the most common issues facing new developments today.
Leaks are far and away the most common complaint New Yorkers have about their new build apartments. Leaks occur in two main areas –the façade and balcony, or windows. The new developments often utilize modern and sleek walls with large windows for city vistas, but these constructions use multiple component parts. All it takes is for a few of the parts to fail or be poorly installed, and anytime it rains, you could face serious water problems.
Windows can be poorly installed, so they should be done by professional window installers. They also should be properly maintained – so even if you are purchasing a previously owned apartment, if it’s a newer build, it is worth it to investigate how recently they have been maintained. Leaks are an insidious problem – it can be difficult to identify the source, and don’t just mean annoying water or drafts. Water can lead to dangerous mold, rotting frames, and can be incredibly expensive to repair.
Plumbing is often thought of as an older building’s problem, as the pipes get slowly clogged and deteriorated. But if pipes are incorrectly installed, it can cause serious issues even in new builds. Some buildings have been prone to flooding when the construction company failed to connect the storm drainage system to the sewage system. And just imagine the havoc if plumbing pipes are improperly fitted together when your neighbors shower or do other bathroom things.
Plumbing can be difficult to assess when buying a new building, not just because the pipes are hidden behind the walls. So, be nosy. When viewing a property, if possible, turn on all the taps and flush the toilets. Ask a bunch of questions about who installed it and do some research. It sounds cliché, but Googling the contractors and developers can lead you to good information, how the public rates them, and any negative reviews.
If you view an apartment and the tile floors are cracked or scratched, this is a visual problem that is immediately noticeable. Wood floors are more tricky. Natural wood can move over time – it expands and shrinks depending on the dampness and temperature. Before installation, wood floor slats have to be acclimated to the site, and it should not be installed if it is damp or wet. Gaps can develop if wooden floors are installed incorrectly. Water seeping into flooring can make it warp and become moldy.
Bad ventilation can lead to noxious odors infiltrating apartments. New York City real estate lawyers hear complaints about smoking multiple times a month, while cooking odor complaints are less frequently made. New high-rises also experience something called the stack effect. New buildings might be well-sealed from the outside, but when the heaters are in use, the hotter air rises through the hallways and stairwells, pulling odors from one apartment to another. Sometimes, this is exacerbated by clogged ducts which were not cleared upon completion of construction. Luckily, the City is taking ventilation issues seriously, particularly as it pertains to secondhand smoke. In 2008, the court awarded $120,000.00 to a dweller who had complained about secondhand smoke infiltrating her apartment for years.
5. BAD WARRANTIES
Warranties are often sold as riders on properties – but they are often completely useless. In many cases, the warrants guarantee a sum much less than what it would feasibly cost to fix any issues (such as roofs, façade leaks, and the like). Bring whatever information you have about the warranty to an expert, like a real estate lawyer or engineer, and try to get as much information as possible about each warranty before purchasing. This information can be difficult to obtain, but be persistent. Try to speak directly with the developer and his contractors, and see if the same kinds of warranties have been offered with other buildings, and to what extent.
Living in a city like New York comes with some concession that noise is part and parcel – sirens, neighbors clomping around, and regular street noise are all to be expected. But insulation and sound proofing can be a difficult problem to identify, as no building or room is the same across the city. What one developer used for insulation in Brooklyn may be woefully inadequate for an apartment in Harlem. Again, gaps and window leaks can contribute to these problems. Very often, the best way to deal with these issues is getting to know your neighbors and having a good, communicative relationship with them. Then, if they are being extra noisy, asking them to be quiet or come together to find a sound-damping solution is ideal.
Some of these problems seem huge and expensive to address. But there are many things you can do as a buyer before you purchase an apartment with serious problems.
What buyers can do to protect themselves when buying a new development condo in NYC
First, do your due diligence. Read the offering plan. Have a qualified expert (real estate agent, NYC real attorney or engineer) read it. Ask questions about it. Sometimes, these reports will have a list of repairs. Familiarize yourself with these items. Look into how much it would cost for each to be repaired, and whether they are minor or major, or even signs of major issues. It sounds like a lot of work, but a property in New York is one of the most expensive, and best investments you can do.
Next, of course, visit the property. Take a note of things that look shoddy like cracks, water stains, items that are unfinished. Turn on the lights. Check the seals in the windows. Run the water faucets. If you see someone who lives there, ask them questions about the building.
One of the best things you can do as a prospective buyer is hire an engineer to inspect the building and apartment. Engineers can be expensive, sure. But paying $1,000.00 in engineering fees can save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run if you purchase a building with façade or plumbing issues.
Finally, as a last resort, as a buyer, you can try to delay real estate closing until certain repairs are done. It helps to force the seller to have some skin in the game to give you a property that is livable and in good shape.
You are your own best advocate. In New York, new builds are blowing up, and there is a good investment opportunity for your somewhere. Treat your purchase as an investment. It is crazy to think that sometimes, people purchase a home for millions of dollars after reviewing paperwork and seeing the place only twice. We usually do more when buying a car! Keep this list in mind when looking at properties, and be nosy. New York real estate is cutthroat – so you should be, too.