Featuring Robert Doernberg, Julia Boland, and Nicole Hechter:
New York City has always been a magnet for young people moving for college, beginning a career in one of NYC’s many industries, or following artistic dreams. Unfortunately, it’s only gotten more expensive to live here.
That’s why it’s not unusual for adult children to get a helping hand from parents, especially when it comes to finding a place to live in NYC. Sometimes that means buying a co-op or condo for a child, but it’s not as simple as it might seem, particularly for parents from out of the city or those not familiar with the New York City real estate landscape. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about purchasing a New York City apartment for your child.
First, decide what you want
Determine the exact needs of both you and your child. Will your child be contributing to the purchase in any way? Who will pay maintenance? If it is a two bedroom, how will roommates be selected? And, for that matter, if you live outside of the city, will you be staying there when you visit?
“It’s important to be clear on expectations from the start,” says Robert Doernberg, senior managing director in Corcoran’s East Side office, who adds that having a child’s name on the deed for the apartment can be an excellent way to start developing a credit history.
You should also consider factors like location and building amenities. Doernberg says that while the degree of services desired in a building varies from family to family, parents typically request that a building have a doorman; other popular amenities include a gym and roof deck.
Co-ops versus condos
“The general rule is that condos are the easiest way to go,” says Julia Boland, an agent with Corcoran’s West Side office, who explains that a co-op may reject an applicant for any number of reasons, while a condo, although typically more expensive, only has the right of first refusal. (That is, if they won’t take your money, the board has to purchase the unit.)
In general, condos are much less restrictive regarding who they will even consider as buyers. Boland says that many co-ops will not allow foreign nationals to purchase apartments—many of whom are interested in buying a place for their children—and that it’s also common for co-ops to have restrictions on this type of sale, likely to avoid any element of financial risk.
“When buying a co-op you are becoming a co-investor, making an individual’s long-term financial stability of the utmost importance. Tony Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue co-ops absolutely will not allow parents to buy for children,” she says. “Smaller ones can be OK with it.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the preferences and peculiarities of co-ops and their boards. Some are open to parents buying for children, but require the child to be fully-employed, meaning students are out. Others do not allow roommates, a common living situation for young people. Some co-ops have a reputation for being slow to approve, or have ongoing legal disputes, making them riskier investments, or problematic if you’re on a tight schedule.
This is where working with an experienced agent can save parents a lot of time, energy, and frustration by vetting possibilities based on a particular client’s needs.
The ability "varies from building to building,” says Nicole Hechter, an agent with Corcoran’s Chelsea office. “If a co-op does look favorably on parents buying for children, we will know about that. If a child is not employed and the building will not look at a buyer, we will know. We are familiar with most situations.”
Another important distinction between condos and co-ops: Unlike co-ops, condos often do not require an in-person interview, which can be especially helpful if you do not live in the New York area or could likely have a scheduling conflict. (Co-op boards can be hard to pin down, as that involves coordinating numerous New Yorkers’ calendars.)
Obviously, you’ll need some assets, but that’s just one piece of buying a co-op or condo for a child in New York City. (And, Boland says, you may need more than you think. “A lot of parents who don’t live in New York City are surprised at how high closing costs are,” she says.)
Another important aspect of buying real estate in New York City: It will probably take longer than you think, particularly if you will require any type of financing (i.e., you’re not buying with all cash).
“Financing can have a 60-to-90-day turnaround time,” says Hechter. “You can’t just come in and buy an apartment.” If, for example, you’re hoping to have something in place for the beginning of an academic year in the fall, Boland advises beginning your search in the spring.
Assembling your application
Co-op applications are notoriously in-depth and probing, and you should expect to provide extensive documentation of assets, income, and debt in the form of several years of tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, and reference letters, for both you and your child. “First-time apartment buyers in New York City don't expect to provide the substantial amount of paperwork and documentation,” says Hechter. “It’s not just about having the funds.”
It’s also not just about having all the paperwork—you need to assemble the strongest application possible. This is another stage in the process where a broker’s insight and advice can be invaluable.
“We know how to put together a package a building will look at and accept, that’s clear and easy to understand. We know what they’re looking for,” says Hechter, who adds that she’s even been thanked by boards for the clarity of a client’s application.
“We make sure there aren’t any questions,” says Boland. “When there are questions, you are creating doubt.” (And doubt is what can sink a deal and set you back to square one in your search.)
Finally, an agent can help prep you for a co-op board interview (which, contrary to NYC real estate, is not as terrifying and high stakes as you may be led to believe).