In the market to buy an apartment this summer? You're not alone. In fact, real estate brokers and watchers contend that the myth of the dead summer sales season is just that—a myth. That said, there are some season-specific tips you'll want to keep in mind as you embark on your buying journey.
Keep weekday evenings free for open houses. "It's very unusual to see a weekend open house after Memorial Day," says Amelia Gewirtz of Halstead. "Look for Tuesday and Wednesday open houses from 5:30 to 7 pm instead. That’s when they’re going to be."
Stay hydrated. Searching for apartments is doubly exhausting during the summer, warns Karen Talbott of Corcoran. "I always tell my buyers to bring along iced coffee, frozen water or a frozen Snickers bar. Especially if you're looking for fixer-uppers that may not have air-conditioning, it can wear on you."
Take a closer look at open houses. Since summer open houses tend to be less crowded than fall or spring open houses, take the opportunity to look closely at the apartments (open cabinets, look under rugs, behind wall hangings) and speak to the seller's broker for better intel on the sellers. Are they looking to close quickly? Would they like a bit of time to wrap things up? Have they lived in the apartment for a long time and are they looking for buyers who will take good care of the home they've grown to love? Because in that case you may want to personalize your offer.
Expect the process to take longer. Many co-op boards — which are volunteer, by the way — don't meet at all in August (see: aforementioned volunteer status). "It often takes the board longer to schedule interviews and review your board package," says Royce Berler of Citi Habitats. Practically, that means you may need to line up temporary digs (more on that below), and that you may want to start ASAP if you want to close toward the beginning of fall.
Many bank employees go away too, so if you're looking to get financing, your mortgage could take longer. "At all times of the year, I tell people to pad five months from offer to moving in. And I tell them that it can take longer at certain times of the year — like Christmas and summertime," says Gewirtz.
Be extra prepared when you start looking. Because many of the people who help you buy your apartment — brokers, lawyers, mortgage bankers, and the like — may be away during different points of the summer, you can save yourself some time by having all your paperwork ready, says Berler. This way, you're not chasing down people who are away, and not wasting time getting documents together that you could have prepared in advance.
Make sure you're pre-approved for a mortgage, and have access to all the documents you'll need for the co-op board and the bank. "Do research on what co-op boards require before you start looking," says Berler.
That said, ask everyone if they're going to be away and see if they have backups. When you call a potential lawyer, reach out to the bank, or talk to the managing agent, find out if and when the decision-makers you're dealing with plan to go away, and make sure they have someone covering for them during that time.
Plan for temporary housing. Because your purchase may take a while this time of year, and you may not have an option to stay in your current place during the delays (when a lease is up, it's usually up), make sure you've researched and budgeted for temporary housing. Gewirtz says she's seeing a lot of her clients opt for VRBO.com rentals while they wait. Read through for some of your options here.
Keep an eye out for renovation restrictions. Some high-end buildings only let owners renovate during summer months (when many of the building's well-heeled owners are away), so if you happen to be looking for a total fixer-upper in a tony building on Park Avenue, Fifth or Central Park West, keep in mind that if you close in the summer, you're not renovating for another year.