When you see a place you like, the next step is making an offer, through your agent if you're working with one, or directly to the seller's agent if not.
Typically, the elements of an offer are pretty basic. These include price, expected closing date, the amount of the broker’s commission, the percent of the purchase price that will be financed through a mortgage, and whether you are asking for a mortgage contingency and/or a funding contingency.
Less commonly, the offer may include terms like the right to take possession before closing and pay rent to the seller. Inspection contingencies, which allow buyers to walk away from contracts with their deposits, are not common practice in NYC, but most sellers will agree to an offer that specifies “inspection prior to signing.” That basically means the seller will allow the buyer to have the apartment inspected before signing contract, leaving the buyer room to walk away without signing the contract if an insurmountable problem surfaces.
When making an offer below the asking price, make sure it’s reasonable and share with the seller the facts that your offer is based on--specific comparable sales, an issue in the building, a change in the economy, etc. This approach works psychologically by communicating that you’re serious and attempting to be fair, even if the seller does not agree with you.
Another tip: Don’t assume the seller’s broker is going to articulate your position very well. Always give them something (a well reasoned and worded email, comparables pulled from StreetEasy, etc.) that they can cut and paste into an email to help convince the seller.