How to navigate a buyer’s market whether you're buying or selling—Brick Underground's best advice

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By Emily Myers  |
January 16, 2020 - 9:00AM

Understanding what's happening in the NYC real estate market is the first step for both buyers and sellers. Read everything you can (we have some suggestions, of course).


You may have heard that New York City sales market favors buyers right now—that's because sales have slowed and there's lots of apartments for sale, a dynamic that's been in play for over a year. It's an important consideration to keep in mind whether you are thinking of buying or selling.  

For buyers, your ability to take advantage of favorable conditions will depend on how much you plan to spend. Sales have stalled is largely at the luxury end, where there is an oversupply of apartments, so sellers and developers are offering incentives and in some cases trimming prices in order to get you to commit to a deal.

For sellers, being in a buyer's market means you need to adjust your asking price—and your mindset. If you're focused on a target price for your apartment based on information that isn't up to date, or without understanding the forces at play in the market, your apartment may linger on the market.

Both buyers and sellers need to know the market and be prepared to negotiate. To help you with that, we've compiled Brick Underground's best advice on how to navigate a buyer's market.

Know the market

Getting your head around today's market conditions is the first step to a successful sale, says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of the real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

"Talk to multiple people and read everything you can get your hands on—be obsessed with reading about the market to be able to distill it in a way that makes sense," he says. (Of course, we have lots of suggestions for what to read—see below.)

Any broker will tell you buyers are much more informed about market conditions than sellers who are very often working with older data (like what their neighbor sold for 10 months ago rather than where the market is now). In order to get to a deal, information about the market, comps, and concessions are key. All good reasons for bookmarking Brick Underground and following us on your feeds @BrickU

For more information, read Brick Underground's 2020 real estate forecast for NYC buyers and sellers. And listen to new episodes of our podcast beginning mid-January.

Focus on pricing and staging

A seller's priority is to get the apartment seen by as many qualified buyers as possible, but realistic pricing is key. If you price the apartment too high, correct your mistake quickly. Check out: "How to price your NYC apartment in a buyer’s market"

It's also important to give your apartment the best chance of selling by making those essential upgrades and having appropriate furniture, even if it's not what you would choose. That's where staging comes in. It's not something to skimp on, especially in a buyer's market. Repainting and decluttering are just some of the tips. You can find out more in "Brick Underground's best advice for staging your NYC apartment to sell" and "10 apartment staging mistakes that can cost you a sale."

Strategies for selling depend on your apartment

Data from Corcoran on the Brooklyn market for the last quarter shows a shift towards smaller apartments as buyers choose to compromise on space instead of price. Sales of studios and one-bedroom apartments combined represented 46 percent of sales, the highest in four years. Sales of three-plus bedroom apartments shrank to its lowest in over two years.

If you're weighing up whether to have an open house or private viewings, it might come down to the size of your place. Private showings might slow up a sale but a crowded open house in a small studio can make space feel more cramped. For more advice read: "What's the best approach to selling in a buyers' market?" and "Brick Underground’s best advice for how to sell a NYC apartment".

Pro Tip:

Unsure what your apartment is worth in a buyers' market? Before you list your place publicly, test your price quietly among real-life, qualified buyers via the pre-marketing program at New York City real estate brokerage The Agency.  There's no charge to participate, nor any obligation to enter a traditional listing agreement if your place doesn't sell during the pre-marketing period. Click here for more information.

Prioritize the digital marketplace

A listing's online presence matters more today than ever. You don't need to be a real estate expert to know bad photos are a turn-off to buyers but there are other factors to consider, like pricing that corresponds to search thresholds on listings sites. And don't forget to put social media to work for you. Find out more in "Not using Instagram to sell your apartment? #youprobablyshouldbe" and "Why do people use crappy photos when they are trying to sell or rent an apartment?"

Making a low-ball offer

Many buyers will wait to see the price of an apartment come off rather than put in low-ball offers on something that's overpriced. If you do want to put in an offer well below asking, look at the apartment's pricing history—if it was just lowered by 8 percent, a seller might not welcome an offer that comes in 10 percent below that. If the offer is aggressive, make sure you can make a case to the seller's broker to explain why you've arrived at that number. Be sure to read: "How to make a successful lowball offer on an NYC apartment in today’s buyer’s market"

Use a broker

If you're buying or selling you're going to feel more empowered if you have the advice of a broker to rely on. Buyers who want a deal on closing costs will benefit from an ally who knows what can be negotiated without losing the sale. You can learn more in "What's currently negotiable when buying an apartment in NYC?"

Keep in mind, when sales are slow, comps can be unreliable. For sellers, brokers who know the market are going to be able to give you valuable intel on pricing and whether (and when) to revise that price if you're not getting offers. The timeline on sales has slowed, so you should factor this into your expectations. Get the scoop in "How to sell your New York City apartment in a buyer's market"  and "Wallflower power: 12 tips for selling a NYC apartment that's been on the market too long"

Getting the all-important neutral clean look 

Some design blogs would like you to know that bold color is is making its way into kitchen interiors after many years of the all-white look. That's fine if you're designing a kitchen for yourself to enjoy for many years. However, if you are trying to sell, going with white—a literal blank slate—will likely move your apartment quicker. To decide which pale shade, read: "What's the best shade of white to paint your NYC apartment if you're trying to sell?"

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Emily Myers

Senior Writer/Podcast Producer

Emily Myers is a senior writer, podcast host, and producer at Brick Underground. She writes about issues ranging from market analysis and tenants' rights to the intricacies of buying and selling condos and co-ops. As host of the Brick Underground podcast, she has earned four silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.