Whether you're buying or selling real estate in New York City, hefty payments will be due in taxes and fees at the closing table—including some that you may expect and others that are unique to New York.
For sellers, closing costs take a bite out of the proceeds. For buyers, they can have a real impact on your buying power and may affect your decision to buy one apartment over another, so it's crucial to understand the big picture before your search.
The responsibility for some of these taxes is not set in stone and when a market is slow, or there’s lots of inventory, or an apartment is hard to sell, a seller or developer may be willing to cover some costs in order to seal a deal.
“Overall, when determining whether sellers are willing to negotiate closing costs, or price, it really depends on the type of property and the location. Some properties are so desirable that there are bidding wars. And in others, purchasers have more bargaining power,” says Adam Stone, a real estate attorney with The Stone Law Firm.
Shaun Pappas, a partner at Starr Associates, is seeing sponsors scale back concessions that affect closing costs. That’s because over the last six months, the sales market has begun to look stronger. With regard to co-ops, he says “sellers are less willing to pay or contribute towards a flip tax, which is now again being passed on to buyers.”
Read on for an overview of what you’ll pay in closing costs—the actual sum, of course, will vary widely—and some ways that you can save.
[Editor’s Note: A previous version of the article ran in January 2021. We are presenting again with updated information for January 2022.]
Buyers: Plan to pay 2 to 4 percent of the purchase price of a co-op, condo, or townhouse
A good rule of thumb is to set aside roughly 2 to 3 percent of the purchase price. Bump that to 3 to 4 percent if the apartment is over $1 million or if you're buying a condo. If you're buying a brand new condo, prepare to pay up to 5 percent of the purchase price in closing costs. Here’s a breakdown of some of these costs.
Bank fees: If you're taking out a mortgage, expect to pay $3,000 to $4,000 in bank fees, including your bank attorney’s fees and an appraisal.
Attorney fees: These start at $3,000 for a standard deal and can increase for a more complex transaction, such as purchases involving two units that you plan to combine. This is not an area to skimp on, so steer clear of attorneys who say they can do this for $1,500 or who don't specialize in New York City real estate closings.
Mansion tax: The mansion tax kicks in at 1 percent on co-ops, condos and townhouses sales of $1 million to $1.999 million—and rises incrementally to 3.9 percent on sales prices of $25 million or above. This is typically paid by the buyer, not the seller, and applies even if your so-called mansion is a 600-square-foot one bedroom.
Building fees: Most condo and co-op buildings charge move-in and move-out fees, which can range from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars each. Expect to pay a managing agent and co-op attorney fee of around $1,500, and board application fees of $500 to $700.
"When you apply, the board should send the prospective purchaser or the broker a list of what is needed, as well as fees," says Brittney Baldwin, vice president of National Cooperative Bank (a Brick Underground sponsor).
Title Insurance (condos & townhouses only): Title insurance can vary but you can estimate .45 percent of the price, so for a $1 million property it can be as much as $4,500. (For more information read: ”What is title insurance, and why do I need it?") Co-op buyers do not have to buy title insurance, or pay a mortgage recording tax, below, because rather than a transfer of real property, co-op purchases are technically the transfer of shares in a cooperative corporation.
Homeowners insurance: Lenders as well as co-op and condo boards will require you to take out appropriate homeowners insurance. Expect to pay anywhere from $350 per year for a very basic policy to around $1,500-$2,500 annually for good coverage on a $1 million two-bedroom apartment.
Mortgage recording tax (condos & townhouses only): Condo and townhouse buyers who take out a mortgage must pay a state and city mortgage tax of 1.925 percent on loans over $500,000 or 1.8 percent for loans under $500,000 (note the tax is based on the loan amount, not the purchase price). On a $1 million condo with an $800,000 mortgage, that's $15,400.
Transfer taxes (sponsor co-op and new condo buyers only): If you buy a brand-new condo or a co-op directly from the sponsor, you may also wind up paying a New York City transfer tax of 1 percent of the purchase price on purchases is $500,000 or less and 1.425 percent on purchases of $500,000 or more, plus a .4 percent transfer tax to New York State. That's $14,250 on a $1 million condo. On a new condo purchase, you might also be expected to pay for part of the super's apartment (which can amount to thousands of dollars) as well as part of the building's insurance costs for the first year.
Prior to the pandemic there was an oversupply of luxury condos which meant many developers ("sponsors") were willing to pay your transfer tax, attorneys fees and other miscellaneous fees. You shouldn’t be shy about asking for these types of sales incentives. What’s offered varies greatly from building to building.
You may be more likely to get a break where the developer has just a few units left to sell or is trying to reach a certain percentage of apartments in contract. That’s when a sponsor is more willing to make a deal.
Daniel Gershburg, an attorney with Konner Gershburg Melnick Darouvar, says the negotiability of closing costs often depends on how well sales in the building are going. For example, six months ago a new development on Amsterdam needed the building plans to be declared effective—shorthand for the official sign-off by the New York State Attorney General’s office—and in order to do that, a condo needs to reach a certain percentage of sales.
“The sponsor had to get a couple of units in contract so they gave a bunch of concessions. Now, not so much because the plans have been declared effective,” Gershburg says.
Sellers: Budget for closings costs of 8 to 10 percent of the purchase price
Sellers can expect to pay a lot more in closing costs than buyers—in large part because of their responsibility for paying the broker fee.
Broker fees: Sellers are expected to cover the broker fee, which is traditionally 6 percent, split equally between the listing and buyer’s brokers. On a $1 million apartment, a 6 percent broker fee comes to $60,000.
Transfer taxes: Sellers pay a state and city combined transfer tax of 1.825 percent if the sale price is over $500,000 or 1.4 percent for deals $500,000 or less. (That works out to $18,250 on a $1 million sale, and $7,000 on a $500,000 sale.) If your apartment or townhouse sells for $3 million or more, the tax increases by 0.25 percent.
Flip taxes: Some co-op and condo buildings have flip taxes (also known as transfer fees) ranging anywhere from 1 to 2 percent of the purchase price up to 3 to 5 percent. Some buildings charge 10 percent of the seller's profit. Flip taxes are not really taxes, but a fee paid to support building reserves and capital improvements.
In some buildings, the buyer pays, and in others the seller. In slower markets, a seller may be more willing to pay the flip tax in order to close the deal, even if it's technically the buyer's responsibility. “A knowledgeable buyer is going to try to get a transfer fee covered,” Stone says.
Attorney fees: Attorney fees start at $3,000 for a standard transaction—and can go higher.
Building fees: Most condo and co-op buildings charge move-in and move-out fees, which can range from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars each, and a managing agent and co-op attorney fee of around $1,500.
How to lower your closing costs
Save on the broker's fee
At 5 to 6 percent of the sale price, a broker’s commission is by far the largest closing cost for sellers. Aside from trying to negotiate the fee down, consider working with a brokerage that rebates part of its commission to you.
For example, NYC sellers who list their apartment with Prevu (a Brick Underground partner) pay a 1.5 percent listing agent commission upon closing, a savings of up to 3 percent of the sale price. Participants in the brokerage’s “Smart Seller” program receive a detailed home valuation and listing strategy from one of Prevu’s salaried agents. As a tech-enabled, full-service brokerage, Prevu handles showings, manages negotiations, and everything else you would expect from a traditional real estate broker. Sellers offer a commission to buyers’ brokers to entice them to bring buyers to the apartment, and if a buyer comes without a broker, sellers see additional savings, a unique feature of Prevu versus traditional brokers.
To partially or totally offset your closing costs as a buyer, you can work with a brokerage that offers a buyer’s rebate on its commission. If you do some legwork yourself by viewing properties without an agent, an agent at Prevu will handle pretty much everything else, including advising you on the right price to offer, preparing your offer, negotiating with the seller, and assembling the board package you’ll need to prove your worth to a co-op or condo board. As a participant in Prevu’s “Smart Buyer” program, you’ll pocket a rebate of two-thirds of the commission paid to the buyer’s broker at closing. On a $1 million condo with a 6 percent commission (split 50-50 between the seller’s broker and buyer’s broker—so in this example, 3 percent each), the rebate equals 2 percent of the purchase price, a cool $20,000.
Structure the deal to your advantage
If you’re buying a $2 million condo, there’s not much you can do about paying the mansion tax. But if your purchase is close to the $1 million mark, there may be a way to structure the deal to avoid the extra assessment.
Consult an attorney or tax expert on whether you can work out an agreement with the seller to and keep the purchase itself under $1 million. Keep in mind there are risks associated with this if you end up being audited. For further details, read: ”Mansion or not, you may not escape that so-called mansion tax.”
Buy new—in a building with a hefty tax abatement
Assuming the apartment fits within your set budget range—and the savings aren't canceled out by the expense of covering the developer's closing costs, as discussed above—buying into a building with a heavy tax abatement can significantly lower the cost of your monthlies for years to come. You can read: "What is a property tax abatement on a New York City condo, and why does it matter?”
Buy almost new
A newly built condo is already going to be pricier than your average co-op; you need to factor in the expense of paying the developer’s closing costs (unless you're able to convince the developer to pay them), and it can be quite a bit more than a similar apartment that’s only slightly lived in.
“A lot of people come in wanting new construction, but if they can wait for the first resale in new construction, that’s a great way to save,” says Tyler Whitman, an agent at Triplemint.
Shop around for a mortgage banker
Some loan officers will compete to get your business by offering to cover various expenses, like the credit check or UCC filing fee, which can save $50 or $100 here and there, Whitman says. (Of course, it’s still probably the smartest move to choose a mortgage based on the best interest rate.) Check out: "What's the difference between getting a mortgage for a co-op and a condo?”
Save on your mortgage recording tax
If you’re taking out a mortgage and your seller is still paying off their own mortgage, you can ask your attorney if a purchase consolidation extension and modification agreement, or "purchase CEMA" makes sense. This little-known mortgage maneuver involves combining the seller’s mortgage with the buyer’s mortgage and then legally modifying the terms to current rates.
Pappas says he’s seeing this strategy being used. “That is generally a way for a seller to provide a buyer a reduction in their closing costs without feeling it in their own pocket,” he says.
The result in New York City is a saving on your mortgage tax of as much as 1.925 percent of the seller’s or buyer’s mortgage amount, whichever is lower.
For example, if the seller has an $800,000 balance on their mortgage, and the buyer is getting a $1,000,000 mortgage, then the mortgage tax to be saved by doing a purchase CEMA is approximately $15,400. There are usually $1,000-$2,000 in extra fees to achieve those savings. For more details, read: "What is a CEMA loan, and when does it make sense to get one?”
Ask for a closing credit
Developers selling new condos may be willing to pay buyers a closing credit rather than reduce the asking price of their units. Gershburg says he’s aware of a building where the developer is offering a $500,000 concession on a cash purchase of a $4 million apartment. $200,000 is being offered to cover the closing costs and the rest is a closing credit. He says the sponsor doesn’t want to bring down the purchase price because that could impact the sales price on other units.
This presents opportunities for buyers to get a sum given back to them at closing.
It might seem like an odd thing to do, but it allows a building to keep the purchase price technically the same in order to maintain pricing on other units. In this way the sponsor is still able to say they are still getting a certain dollar amount per square foot. For more, check out: "Closing credits: Here's how much NYC sellers are paying now—and how to negotiate your own deal sweetener.”
Calculating your closing costs: Additional resources
For a detailed list of what you'll pay, Abrams Garfinkel and Douglas Elliman both have helpful breakdowns. This handy NYC Closing costs calculator from Prevu enables buyers to quickly estimate and compare closing costs for different property types, along with how much you can save with a commission rebate.
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