How to dig up intel on a NYC condo developer before you commit to buying
- Check out the offering plan for important construction details
- Ask lots of questions about the quality of the finished building
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If you’re buying in a new development, an important part of your homework will be to find out as much as you can about the developer of the project. It's not unlike snooping on your last date. After all, the marketing material will make your potential purchase look slick and perfect but you don’t always know what you’re getting until the building is complete.
One of the most important considerations is the reputation of the developer. To establish this, you need to find out who the developer is and check out their past projects. Are they involved in any lawsuits? Are residents generally happy in this developer’s other buildings? Were their other projects delivered on time and on budget? Here’s how to find out.
Find out the name of the developer
Another name for the developer of a building project is the sponsor. This is the legal entity behind the condo’s construction and your first step is to find out who this is.
In some cases the developer’s name will be obvious because it’s used as a selling point for the building. It may also be in the apartment listing or on the building’s promotional website. The sponsor might also consist of a group of developers and they will typically be listed in the offering plan. Here you’ll find the names of the principals of the firm. Very often the plan will have biographies for the developers outlining how long they’ve been in the industry and what other projects they’ve been involved in over the past five years.
If the developer doesn’t have a track record, you may need to do some research to find out exactly who is behind the project. Some developers create Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) for various financial and liability reasons. This is fairly standard practice but it can also hide the names of the people involved.
NYC Department of Buildings allows you to search for building information through the Building Information Search (BIS) and with the address of the building, you will get a property profile overview. In this section, click on “Jobs/Filings” and adjust the search fields to “Hide Subsequent Filings/PAAs,” on the right, and “NB-New Building” on the left. You may have to scroll through various filings but you will see permits for the new construction and renovations as well as the name of the applicant.
Another route is to search for property information via public data on ACRIS. On the BIS site you can get information about the block and lot number of a development. Input this information on ACRIS and you can find a copy of the condo declaration. If you scroll through the document you’ll see the communication from the attorney general’s office and the all-important declaration of effectiveness and a list of the developers involved.
Check out other projects by the same sponsor
Once you have the names of the developers you’ll want to check out their other projects. It’s fairly easy to do an online search for other projects by the same developers and investment teams. You can do a similar search for news about their other projects.
It’s possible a seasoned developer may have had lawsuits filed against them during several decades of involvement in the real estate industry. That’s where your attorney can help you figure out if the purchase is the right investment for you. Likewise, if the developer doesn’t have a track record in the city, you may need help from your broker and attorney to figure out whether the construction will meet your standards.
Finding out about the construction team
Building a new development is a team effort from the design, to the construction, to the interior finishes. When you are looking at the design and layout of the apartment, don’t overlook the building-wide design components. Can the package room accommodate lots of deliveries in an organized way? If the elevator fails, is there a second one or will residents be relegated to the stairwells? These design elements will indicate how much thought—and money—has gone into the project.
Establish the name of the contractors or subcontractors used by the developers either by asking the sales team or through your own online searches—or both. Check if they are licensed to work in NYC.
Figuring out the quality of the finished product
The offering plan will have clues as to the quality of the work and finishes that’ll be used. Do some research on the brands identified, as well as the systems being installed, the hardware and other materials. Quality windows, specifically those with soundproofing, can make a huge difference to your quality of life.
You’d be surprised what you can learn from the kind of baseboards that are being installed—is it a floating baseboard, a 10-inch baseboard with molding, or a two-by-four? This can tell you how much attention to detail the developer is focused on. For more, read: “Buying a new construction condo? Ask these questions to get your money's worth."
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