Look Before You Leap How to Evaluate an Apartment Before You Buy

If you've been apartment shopping, you may think you know everything there is to know about the unit you've got

your eye on. The price is right, the space is in excellent shape and there's room to spare. Generally, you get a good feeling every time you step through the door. But hold on before signing that contract, because a good feeling is not enough. There are a number of factors you should consider before committing yourself to the purchase of a co-op or condo. Buying an apartment is not the same as buying a home; rather than just a place to live, an apartment is part of a community. Everything is integrated in a co-op or condo, from the building's finances to its physical condition. Thus, the more you know about both, as well as the type of people who inhabit the building, the better off you'll be when it comes to making the right decision on which apartment to buy.

Ask the right Questions

The only way to begin the process of looking for a co-op or condo is to ask the right questions, says Chris Thomas, vice president of the Brooklyn offices of William B. May, a real estate brokerage firm. When you have the answers, you can home in on any trouble spots. Before you allow yourself to fall in love with the views or the pre-war details, take a look at the basics. If the building has a higher maintenance than the other ones you've seen, ask why, advises Thomas. Find out if any major renovations are planned; look over the financials, meet building residents and find out how they like living there.

When Stephanie Kovner, a first-time buyer, started looking at apartments, she gradually got a feel for the market and what questions she should ask. Although she didn't meet with any sellers, she did see a lot of listing agents to whom she addressed her inquiries. I would ask them what they knew about the building in terms of stability, she explains. Were they selling a lot of apartments in the building? What about renovations? Anything coming up or planned for the future? I wanted to know the philosophy of the building on a number of different things, including assessments and maintenance charges.

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