definitions CONDO / CO-OP

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(no condos for sale - only rentals)


side note 2009 - be wary of buying or renting lofts in newly constructed buildings with very few occupied apartments. This may be a sign that the owner is going under. Having built at the top of the market and paid too much for land and building, the owner may not be able to pay their bills. that would leave you in a very undesireable position. this is a real problem right now, buyers and even renters should be careful. renting an apartment in a failed condo conversion is kind of risky since the building may be going through some changes. if the deal is really good and you could handle the move if things don't work out, fine. otherwise, if you're looking for stability and no problems when you get home steer clear of the financial disaster which was surely preceeded by a lot of cost and corner cutting during construction.
to wit here is a new search on google for real estate defaults in williamsburg brooklyn
and greenpoint too.

if you are a teacher in the area you want to live in let HUD help you. theyare not easy to work with but you may be able to buy a foreclosed property at a low price

There's some important things to look into if you're buying a condo. Some of the newer crop of condos (after 2002) were very badly built, but many of the clues here are more commonly seen on older buildings

you must know the financial status of the company that owns the building. as a condo or coop owner you will be a part owner of that company and responsible for it's debts including those arrising from lawsuits. if you've never owned real estate you may not know that everybody likes to sue people who own real estate. A lawyer can find out what the financial health of the company is.

when buying real estate you don't have to have a broker, but you absolutely must hire a lawyer and not the one the broker suggests.

check with the attorney general in your state. because buying a place is such a big investment the attorney general gets involved whenever there is fraud. submit the building owners name and the consruction companies name to the attorney general and look for problems. in one case known to the author a builder of condos built on somebody elses land. prospective buyers would be unaware that there is a "lis pendens" or lawsuit pending on the building. as the buyer of an apartment you might also be the defendent in a lawsuit for something you didn't do and that lawsuit might say that you don't really own your apartment because it is on somebody elses land. your lawyer wouod check for leins (money owed by the company that owns the building or the person that owns the condo) but he should also check for law suits pending. a law suit pending might be about an accident that happened in the building. it could be a bogus slip and fall or it could be a legitimate injury caused by negligence. either way the person suing might win the case. you may be able to make the seller put up enough money to protect you from that lawsuit if you know in advance. it may be that the owners indsurance would cover that lawsuit but only a lawyer and an insurance agent would be able to read the fine print.

how long ago was the renovation done the more recent the better (last 20 years = good, pre-touch tone phone = bad) remember i'm talking about the age of the renovation - not the age of the building itself. also, a building which was renovated in the 70's and kept up well with a new roof and modern heating appliances is just as good as a recent renovation.

look for three prong outlets, two prong outlets throughout is bad – if you can see wires and they are covered with cloth instead of plastic – that's a bad sign and a fire hazard.

buying real estate good electrical buying real estate ok electrical buying real estate badelectrical

kitchen & bathrooms
There should be ground fault interrupting outlets in the bathroom and kitchen.

see if the wring was done well - get this cheap tool (under $10)
you plug it in and it lights up to tell you if the wiring is correct in that outlet.
if the wiring was mixed up it's sloppy work but not a disaster.

test the outlet wiring withthis simple plug tool


This is very important:
How thick are the walls? – If they are new (last 30 years) and made with drywall, find a damaged edge and look for two layers on each side. One layer ½ inch each is illegal One layer 5/8 inch is better Two layers ½ inch better Two layers 5/8 inch best. That's gonna be your best friend when you are living there. walls that are too thin can make for a nightmare existence that you will never suspect during your afternon visits to the demised premisis.
see this professional soundproofing website - their best wall is is for isolation booths.

Does the wall move a lot when you shut the door firmly? That means light structure & more noise from hall & other apts.

Is the water pressure good (better than 55 psi) at 6-7 am?

Are the stairs noisy and creeky in a walk-up – bad for sleeping.

stains - stains in the ceiling are a good indicator of problems. it can happen in a good building but they happen more in the worst ones. Flat roofs are common to apartment and loft buildings and leak regularly, requiring constant repair. pitched roofs are common to houses and go many years without leaking. you'll have a hard time finding an apartment with a itched roof so just understand that a flat roof will eventually leak more than once.

the biggest clues about a buildings condition are in the basement and on the roof. look for water damage stains or musty smell in the basement - that's bad and worse for small children even a few floors up.
leaks, stains, and humidity in the basement are a much worse sign than leaks and stains in the cieling of the top floor.
does the basement have a cement floor or a dirt floor? cement floors in the basement are called "rat slabs" in the city because the serve to keep out the rats. They also keep out humidity and mold and bugs.

pillars in the basement should made of steel or masonry(brick or cement) or cast iron - not wood.
if its a condo or coop look at the sidewalk. it should be in good repair to avoid lawsuits. The sidewalk is the responsibility of the building, not the city, so your maintnence fees will go towards the repair or the lawsuit.

really old small apartment buildings with creaky smelly stairs (like the one you live in now) were built badly and have very little structure. that can cause noise and structural problems especially if new construction is happening nearby. New construction nearby is a drag in general.
old commercial buildings are were always built robustly. Also former commercial building will have fewer rats and roaches. former commercial buildings that were once dye-works, paint factories, tanneries, thermometer factories, or metal plating factories should never be lived in under any circumstances. Even a gut renovation will not clean the mercury, heavy metal dust, and other checmical waste out of a toxic building. Old candle factories will always be a fire hazard due to wax that soked into the beams and floors and must have full sprinkler systems. don't ever live above or adjacent to a drycleaner.

textured wall treatments are used to hide defects.

Fire escapes are bad, unsafe as exit and a security hazard, fire escapes in the back of the building are worse / two sets of inside or enclosed stairs connected to the hallway are much better. one set of stairs should lead up onto the roof and one set of stairs should have a hatch to the roof with ladder.

Is it easy to get onto your roof or fire escape from another building or a dark alley?- that's bad.
does the bathroom and the kitchen have their own exhaust fans? thats good. do the hallways smell? - that means the landlord is cheaping out on the exhaust fan schedule or worse its an old building with no hallway exhaust system.
send photos of the main heating equipment send photos of the roof with close-up near the parapet wall. look for bubbling and separation of the roofing material from the parapet wall look at the HVAC (heater/central ac system) and hot water heater. there should be one set for each apartment and you should have your own thermostat and your own account with the gas and elec company. Heaters that use hot water or hot air are good / steam heaters are very old, hard to control, noisy, notoriously uneven and hard to repair. Both hot water and steam use radiators but if any of the radiators has only one pipe connected to it, they're all steam;
expect asbestos in the basement in an old building. Removing asbestos in the basement is not that expensive. removing asbestos which is inside the walls or in the plaster throughout the building is expensive and hazardous.

leak stains from the roof are bad but leak stains from the walls are worse. leaks stains just under the windows are ok, leak stains just above the windows are bad.
in a building with more than 19 apartments: is there a 24 hr super?

also, who supervises repairs?
will the super be with the repair guy while you are out at work or could the repair guy have sex with you cat cause you're at work and the super's not there.
are there emergency lights in the hallways?
is there a sprinkler system? no=bad Only in the stairs=better? All over=best?

This is a sprinkler head -
look for them when buying a condo or coop loft or apartment
this is a sprinkler head - look for them when buying a condo or coop loft or apartment

Are there two(2) clean/clear/always available ways out of the building from every halway, not including the elevator? no=deal killer
if you are above the 3rd floor, is the elevator an antique? that could be a problem.
Who owns the building? a real estate speculator that knows little about mechanical things: be very careful.
are the windows old style? they are noisy and drafty in winter. They can be made better by caulking them shut.
If you like air, are there windows on two sides of the building for x-ventilation or is it a "TB-FLAT" (a tuberculosis breeding apartment).
TB is coming back and lack of ventilation also means mold and other bad things

is there a school or street festival or bus stop or elevated train nearby? all of those are noisy and dirty and attract children, the most dangerous people in the city.
is the apartment on the top floor? if so the condition of the roof is more important. are people going on the roof to hang out? if people use the roof (look for cigarette butts & lawn chairs) and there is no deck structure that rests on the walls, that means they are walking all over your ceiling to hide their dirty little smoking habit and their calls to 1800-piss-on-me in before returning to their apartment to sip fair market, organic, rice-milk, chai, tea, have intellectual arguments about the death of post modernism, rant about the virtues of sustainability, and reproduce. That means there is going to be noise to the tenant beneath and leaks.

Here are some great tips in an article in the ny times from Dec 2009 called "The Big Mistake" it's about renting but the nightmares would only be worse for a condo buyer.

The article mentions the unfortunate situation of living in an apartment with a patio below alot of terraces. anything dropped from an apartment above is going to make an real impression and it happens more than you'd think.
The author also mentions the pitfalls of living near a church. It should be remembered that churches are gathering places for all kinds of charity programs that attract alchaholics, addicts, and those whose rage is so uncontrollable it has been noticed by the court system. .







is the apt. too close to the laundry room? how is security? cameras? good intercom? stand back from the front of the building - can you see cracks in the brick that extend more than one floor up and down- that's bad. remember as the owner of a condo or co-op, you will be financially resposible for the repairs. Have they been filled with cement? Thats good.
Did they crack more after the cement? That's bad.

And speaking of crack – can you find crack vials on that street?
And speaking of crack – can you rock the toilet? That means the bathroom floor is soft from the splashing of wet greasy fat people. That won't get better and the floor will need to be replaced. That's expensive.

Is the floor cracked where it meets the tub? Same thing. Is the floor soft near the kitchen sink? not going to get better - roaches love wet soft floors. (the bugs) a family of roaches can live for a week on a fingerprint (i don't know if thats true but its worth repeating)

Gas stoves are better and cheaper than electric. Electric heat is a deal killer, it is way too expensive.
Is your apt front door metal or wood? Metal is safer and required for gut renovations and new construction done in the last 15 years or so.

in brand new buildings there should be no cracks. no cracks outside, no cracks inside and everything should be straight. walls, floors, door frames, cabinets. they should all have only right angles. anything else is a sign of bad things to come.

many new buildings are made with a covering of stucco (looks like- not really stucco) on foam. this technique is cheap and prone to long term problems if the installation is not perfect. all exterior walls will have some moisture leaks at some point. it is important that the moisture has a way to get out at the bottom of the wall. little weep holes at the outside, bottom of the wall and above penetrations like doors and windows are a good sign. this is why wet spots above a window that linger for days after a rain are a sign of a badly made building.

stucco on foam

a pdf about the problem

another pdf about the problem

check out this great article before you sign anything

also if you just got to nyc - condos are better than co-ops.

in a condo - you own the apartment and share the cost of maintaining the building. you don't need the approval of the other owners to sell your apartment.

in a co-op you share the company that owns the building. you can't sell the rights to your share without the consent of the other part owners. thus - the dreaded co-op board that thinks you are a dirty, flakey, slacker.

do you have suggestions or corrections for the list - write me at

if you want to rent a loft. search under lofts for rent in brooklyn & try or