When I last left you, dear reader, I was mostly prostrate from the prior attempt at buying an apartment. I weighed my options for a few days: renew my current lease for another year and risk the home-buying prices going even higher, or ask my landlady to extend my lease and return immediately to the hunt. In the dating scene, I’d pick option one; everyone knows that rebounds do not end well.
But in the New York buying scene, option two seemed the better choice. So I psyched myself up to call my landlady and explain the situation. She hadn’t been fully on board with helping me last time
but this time, she seemed remarkably cheerful and sympathetic. After explaining that she had been turned down by co-op boards as well—and like me, she suspected that it was because she was a single woman—she agreed to extend my current lease for a few months.
Armed with that reassurance, I returned to my Tinder-like sweeping of apartment sites: Streeteasy, Trulia, Realtor, New York Times Real Estate. Swipe left, swipe left, swipe right. Then nothing. Repeat. And repeat. I saw overpriced apartments, massive but mysteriously underpriced apartments, and accurately-priced-but-needs-the cute-contractor-from-Property-Brothers apartments.
Finally, after a week or two, I found a listing that was a few blocks from my current rental. It was further away from the train than I wanted but the walk would be same duration it is now. Also, it had the magic words—no board approval required. In the NYC market, this is called a sponsor apartment and is something of a Holy Grail. When many buildings turned co-ops (from rentals) in the 70s, the first owners were given the right to sell those apartments without board approval when the time came. That’s the kind of apartment it was.
I called for an appointment and went over to see it as quickly as possible. It was in a nondescript building almost abutting busy Northern Boulevard, but on a quiet street. The apartment itself had been updated so that the place gleamed (well, except for the cat pee stains on the hardwood floor).
I was sold as soon as I saw it–just as I had been on my current rental–but held out for some friends to have a look and give me the go-ahead. That took another week. Once we all agreed that the place seemed like a good fit, location notwithstanding, I made the offer (pitching it slightly below the list price because when it comes to sponsor sales, the buyer pays the transfers taxes).
The seller, apparently an older gentleman who only checks in once a week, took another week to counter and we eventually settled on a price (plus an agreement to split the transfer taxes). The seller’s broker required that I sign a binder (with a “good faith” fee of a $1000) plus send a check for the application fee ($350) to him before he could release the contract and something called the prospectus to my lawyer. My lawyer insisted that the binder needed amendments before I signed it, including an assurance that the fee would be refunded irrespective of whether we went to contract. The broker said his client wouldn’t budge on that because he only did things one way.
This argument went on for a few days, even though the broker insisted that it was unnecessarily nitpicky. Since I was paying for a lawyer’s advice, I was disinclined to disregard it so I mentally prepared myself to let this fish go, as it were. But in apparent alignment with dating manual suggestions, my indifference was an incentive for continued wooing, so the binder amendments were accepted and we moved to the next stage.
The lawyer received the contract for examination and I wrote out the checks for the fees. The broker came by to pick them up and give me the three enormous books—the mysterious prospectus, which are just the documents regarding the co-op’s creation and rules. We swapped these through his car window while he double-parked outside my building, for all the world as if we were doing an illicit deal in broad daylight.
Once I had these, I had to hustle to get it to the lawyer and sign the contract because the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur had already meant a long delay between the agreement we had reached with the seller and the signing of the contract. So I took myself off to the lawyer’s office, reviewed and signed the paperwork, gave her the down-payment check and settled down to wait to get the signed contract.
My lawyer was going to be away for a trip in the coming week, but she expected to get the signed contract back while she was gone and had instructed her office to email it to me. This didn’t happen. She was back from her European vacation before we heard anything from the seller. I wasn’t too worried because I had my lease till December, and without the board approval to extend the process, the duration of these stages didn’t seem that pressing.
My lawyer did send a reminder to the seller when she returned, however, and got a scanned copy of the contract in a week. It was terrible. Most of the left hand side margin area was smudged, and this made the left-hand column of the document partly illegible. We waited for the physical copy. She scanned that and emailed it to me but it was not much better. I finally sent it to my mortgage banker to ask if he found it acceptable. He did, which was surprising, but I didn’t want to look a gift-banker in the mouth. In general, that’s a good policy.
Since the bank already had many of the documents needed for the loan application, I just needed to send updated pay stubs and the latest statements of all my assets—which always sounds a tad dirty.
That done, I waited around for the banker to set up an appointment for us to sign another loan application. In the meanwhile, the bank rates seemed to drop slightly, which felt like some consolation.
After another week, I had to nudge the banker again, because there is a legal obligation for the buyer to begin the process of securing financing within a certain period of having received the signed contract.
He got back to me after a delay and I finally went back to the bank last week and signed and initialed another half a dozen documents. Some of the paperwork seemed incomplete or not updated yet, which makes me—a bank official’s daughter—really uncomfortable, but I talked myself into it for the sake of moving the process along.
And that’s where we stand now. I’ll be getting a call from the bank’s loan processor who will probably ask for a dozen other documents. The banker will send someone to meet the broker and appraise the apartment. Will matters proceed to a happy ending? I’d like to know, too.