Buying, Renting Out and Eventually Selling Property in New York

By Wei Min Tan

Buying

In New York, agent fees are paid by seller.  Despite this, the fiduciary responsibility of the buyer's agent is to the buyer while the fiduciary responsibility of the seller's agent is to the seller.   This will be clearly stated in the New York real estate disclosure form as required by law.  If a buyer is not represented by an agent, then the seller’s agent, whose loyalty is to the seller, keeps the entire pre-negotiated commission.  Hence, it is in the best interest of the buyer to have agent representation to help identify the right property, negotiate the best price and manage the entire purchase process.

All agents, through the real estate trade agreement of the Real Estate Board of New York, have access to the entire inventory of properties for sale.  For example, if there are 10,000 properties for sale in Manhattan, every agent will have access to the 10,000 properties.   The role of a buyer's agent is hence to identify the right property and not to merely provide access to view.  As such, the brokerage community strongly discourages the buyer from using multiple agents as this would create confusion.

We recommend that a potential client interview several agents and then decide on one.  As we will be 100% focused on helping our client identify the right property, we in turn expect client loyalty.  This expectation is consistent amongst all good brokers. 

Outlined below is the buying process we go through with clients.

  • Evaluate objective - purpose, long term plan, attributes
  • Identify and arrange properties to view
  • Perform analysis and due diligence
  • Present upsides/downsides of each property
  • Negotiate
  • Recommend financing source:  
(i) U.S. bank
(ii) International / overseas bank
(iii) Both above finance overseas buyers
  • Recommend attorney:  Closing, form company
  • Recommend accountant:  Tax structure, reporting
  • Recommend property manager for building buyers.  

If financing is used, closing costs (bank, attorney, accountant fees, mortgage tax, title insurance) are approximately  5-6% of loan amount.  Buyers need to show required down payment, usually 20 to 50 percent of property price depending on whether the property would be a primary residence, vacation home or investment property.  In addition, banks may require proof of liquidity cushion, eg 10 - 18 months of monthly payments in liquid assets. 

If the buyer pays in cash (no financing), then closing costs would be about 1-2 percent of property price.

It typically takes 3 months from property identification to closing.  At closing, all parties - buyer, seller, bank, attorneys, brokers, would come together at a table.  A lot of paperwork would be  signed and funds would be provided to the seller in exchange for the buyer getting legal title to the property.  The deal would be completed at the table and usually no future follow-ups would be necessary.



Renting to tenants

For investor clients who intend to rent out the property, the next step is to market to potential tenants.  Here are the steps we perform.  One of the risks of owning rental property is tenant delinquency.   This means special attention needs to be paid to screening potential tenants with regards to credit quality.  

  • Market property for rent
Personally show property to potential tenants/their agents
Convincing presentation of property's upsides
Internet marketing (Website, Broker system, Streeteasy, Trulia)
New York Times
Professional photography
Professional floorplan
Google marketing
Social media marketing (Facebook, Twitter)
  •  Screen potential renters / tenants (FICO credit score, references, salary, work history)
  • Process paperwork
  • Arrange for tenant move in
  • Set up automatic transactions for tenant to automatically deposit monthly rent checks into owner's account.  
  • Rental agent fee in New York is usually paid by the tenant.  But sometimes to make the rental unit more attractive to tenants, the owner may pay half of the rental agent fee.  Regardless of who pays the rental agent fees, the landlord's agent and tenant's agent still represent their respective sides.  This again will be clearly stated in the New York real estate landlord and tenant disclosure form.  
  • The system above removes the need for condo owners to pay monthly property management fees, anywhere from 3% to 9% of gross rent.  Since Manhattan, New York condo tenants are usually high income and good credit quality individuals, there is usually very little management necessary.  As the need arises where the tenant requires attention, we would be the point of contact to help resolve the issue at hand.
  • Refer building owners to property management companies.  Property management fees typically 3 to 9 percent of gross rents.



Selling

  • Price property based on market comparables  
  • Market property to domestic and international buyers 
  • Leverage media popularity to gain exposure for the property
  • Marketing Strategy:
Personally show property to potential buyers/their agents
Convincing presentation of property's upsides
Internet marketing (Website, Broker system, Streeteasy, Trulia, Zillow) 
New York Times
Professional photography
Professional floorplan
Google marketing
Social media marketing (Facebook, Twitter)
Open houses for broker previews
Open houses on Sunday catering to buyers
Media interviews at property (as opportunity permits)
Broker/potential buyer exposure events at property (as opportunity permits)

  • Refer to 1031 exchange sources for owners who wish to defer tax payments by exchanging to a like-kind investment property.  This is an effective portfolio building strategy.
  • Seller would pay broker fee to market the property.  This fee would be split 50/50 between brokers from both sides.

Always consult your CPA or attorney on tax matters as individual situations differ.


NY1: Hiring a buyer's broker
Wei Min Tan is a property broker focusing on Manhattan, New York luxury condominiums and foreign buyers.   He is often interviewed by the media including CNN, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on the subject of foreign buyers of Manhattan property.  View Wei Min's media appearances.  

Wei Min can be reached at +1.212.380.6134, tan@castle-avenue.com.

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at Rutenberg
Financially sound investment decisions            tan@castle-avenue.com        +1.212.380.6134                                                            Property Blog
Manhattan, New York residential condominium specialist focusing on investors and international buyers