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How to Sell

A New York City Apartment

It’s been months and your apartment still hasn’t sold. Here are some possible explanations and suggested approaches:

1. It’s overpriced. 

There is no single strategy for how to handle this. If your apartment has been on the market for 30 days without an offer, you will need to reevaluate your pricing and determine if the asking price that’s dissuading buyers. You or your broker should also be periodically checking on your competition.  If they adjust their pricing, you should be prepared to as well. This question should be asked again every few weeks if your property continues to remain on the market.

Price reductions are typically small but substantial.  You can lower it by as little as a half of percent or as much as a few percent.  Large price drops occurring all at once should not be required if the listing was properly priced to begin with.  However, if you decided to “test the market” with a high price at the outset, consider getting back on track with your first price adjustment.

2. Lot-line windows will be permanently bricked up soon due to construction next door. 

Cut the price, or take the apartment off the market until the windows, and possibly the construction, are done.

3. There is a huge construction site next door

Drop your price and/or install soundproof windows, or take your apartment off until the construction is done.

4. Your co-op has a land lease that’s about to expire or an underlying mortgage about to come due

Cut the price, or take the apartment off the market until the new lease or mortgage is in place.

5. The maintenance or common charges are too high

Reduce the price and/or consider offering to pay 6-12 months of these costs as an incentive.

6. There are pending lawsuits in your building

There’s no easy solution.  You can only control the price, which may have to be adjusted to compensate for the perceived risk. Consider disclosing these early on to a serious purchaser.  There’s no point in having it come out for the first time when contracts are out with the attorneys.

7. Many apartment owners are delinquent on their maintenance or common charge payments

Again, you will have to compensate for the perceived risk by making the purchase price all the more attractive.

8. There are too many apartments for sale in your building

You will need to really stand out.  Consider non-price options such as staging, catered open houses, etc.  However, you will need to be priced more attractively than the rest of the pack to elicit offers; see also #9 below.

9. There's nothing special about your apartment

There is one surefire way to get more buyers to at least consider your apartment: Make it stand out to their brokers. Offer to pay the buyer's broker a higher commission--say, 4% instead of the standard 3% co-broke. Add a deadline to spur even more interest.

10. Your co-op board has a reputation for turning down buyers

It will be very important that you work with a broker that has experience selling your building.  They will be the first line of defense in ensuring that unqualified purchasers are weeded out before going into contract. 

11. The board turned down your buyer because the price was too low 

This is more common than you think, as boards--whose members also own apartments in the building--engage in a possibly misguided effort to preserve property values.   Courts have ruled that boards can turn buyers down for any reason except illegal discrimination.  However, your attorney may be able to restructure your deal in a way that pleases you, your buyer, and the board.

12. It's all your broker's fault

There’s nothing like a wallflower apartment to put stress on your relationship with your agent.  If things have deteriorated, first talk to your agent.  If that doesn’t fix the problem, speak to the branch manager (often referred to as a Managing Director) at your agent’s brokerage. If there are irreconcilable differences, most brokerages will recognize there’s no point in trying to enforce a listing agreement when the seller can simply be uncooperative going forward, and will agree to terminate the agreement or switch you to another agent in the firm.