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Ask an Agent: Do I need to get a home inspection before I buy an apartment in NYC?

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In this week's 'Ask an Agent' column, the experts at TripleMint--a tech-savvy brokerage that gives buyers and renters access to the same database of listings used by the city's real estate agents, and pays their agents bonuses for client satisfaction--examines whether New York City buyers should drop the extra cash it takes to get a second opinion before signing on  the dotted line. 

Q: If I'm purchasing a condo or co-op apartment, is it necessary to hire a home inspector, like buyers outside New York usually do? 

“An inspection isn’t a necessity, but rather a way for the buyer to gain some peace of mind.  When real estate attorneys do their due diligence for the purchase of a unit, they’ll always review the offering plan, the proprietary lease, building financials and capital expenditures, board minutes for any building issues (including damage to units and pending repairs), and finally a questionnaire to the managing agent about upcoming projects and assessments.  This due diligence should give any buyer a thorough understanding of their building’s status, both physical and financial, without an inspection. If, however, you see damage or something in need of repairs while looking around the property, or if your unit is in a small building with only a handful of units, then you may want to have an inspection done--if simply to get a sense of what your responsibilities might look like as an owner.  One thing I will sometimes suggest, however, is bringing a contractor to look at your unit. They’ll often offer more realistic insights into what repairs/renovations you may find necessary prior to move in.” - Jeff Harris, Senior Real Estate Specialist

“For nearly all NYC apartments, the company managing your unit will be legally obligated to make sure your building is up to code and in working order, fixing any issues as they appear. This is particularly true of co-op buildings, where things like plumbing and electric are the responsibility of the building rather than an outside company. If, for some reason, the management has not been addressing these issues, they should come up in your real estate attorney's due diligence report. The only scenario in which I do encourage home inspections on a condo or co-op is when buying in a smaller, self-managed building, where oversight may be less diligent than a larger building. I also encourage inspections, which typically cost around $400, when a client is looking to put their mind a bit more at ease."  – Jennifer Lee, VP of Sales

“For a co-op or condo apartment in NYC, you usually won’t need to have an inspection done on the apartment that you're purchasing. If you’d feel most comfortable having someone come survey apartment, it may be more cost effective to have a contractor come in and give an estimate of any repairs needed. In my experience, the real estate attorney you’ll already be hiring will spot any issues with the apartment before you go into contract. If, however, you're buying a townhouse, then definitely consider getting an inspection!” - Devin Kogel, VP of Sales

“I get this question all the time! When you are purchasing a condo or a co-op you should be aware of any damages to the unit and building in general.  However, this doesn’t mean that you are required to have a home inspection which will add to your all-around initial costs.  A better use of your time would be to really look through the minutes of the most recent board meetings and see how on top of things they are. Pay attention to any maintenance issues that are brought up in one meeting. If they are not resolved by the next meeting that may be a red flag.  Look closely for notes about how issues were resolved, and if the contractor brought in to make repairs inspected any related areas for similar damages. If, after doing this, you still do not feel comfortable moving forward, or you feel that the board is not very attentive, then you may want to consider bringing in someone to do an independent home inspection.   The only time that I would 100% recommend having a home inspection before finalizing a purchase is in a townhouse, where there is no board responsible for necessary repairs.  - Emily Seils, Client Experience Manager


TripleMint is a technology-enabled real estate brokerage that is the refreshingly simple way for New Yorkers to buy, sell and rent apartments. 

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