Buying property in New York City if you are a foreigner

Welcome to the Big Apple!

Here’s how to find your corner of the New York City real estate market

New York City Market Statistics (as of February 2020)

Population: NYC is the largest US city, with a population of more than 8.6 million.

Cost of Living: Average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is just shy of $4000/month. The cost of living in New York City is among the highest in the country.

Housing Price per Square Meter in city center (Median): $14,777.80 (the median price throughout the city is however $1,103, so it really depends on the neighbourhood you choose)

Rental Price for 1 bedroom apartment in city center (Median): $3,229.31

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Look around in family neighbourhoods of New York

Specific features of New York City property market

According to New York real estate agent Susan Johnson of Werba Realty, “One of the main favorable factors to having a piece of New York real estate is that you are in the best city in the world. Access to the best restaurants, museums, sporting events, concerts, medical facilities, business professionals - the list goes on.”

As with most major metropolitan areas, there are certain rules and features that are unique to real estate renting and buying in New York City.

  • Negotiation is a big part of purchasing real estate in New York. Johnson says: “Whereas in other parts of the country, a tough negotiation is considered rude, in New York everyone expects a hard-core negotiation as part of the process.”

  • One unusual type of property commonly available in New York City is a co-op, or cooperatively owned residential building. Co-ops are multi-family buildings which are held in joint ownership and supervised by a board made up of building residents. Potential owners must be approved by the board before entering into joint ownership with the rest of the building’s owners.

  • Remember that there is a difference between New York City real estate and New York State real estate. New York City includes the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Other desirable areas near NYC include The Hamptons as well as suburban Long Island and suburbs in New Jersey and Connecticut. New York State is a much larger geographic area, of which New York City is only a small part.

Find your place in students favourite areas

Navigating New York Real Estate for International Buyers

New York real estate can present challenges for anyone and it welcomes international property buyers more than other US cities, but there are things you can do to ensure that you are well taken care of throughout your purchase.

  • Work with a real estate agent who represents you By working with a qualified Buyer agent, you can ensure there is someone on your side of the negotiation who is representing your interests. In addition, in many cases, the buyer’s agent is paid from the sale of the home, so you may be able to obtain this representation at minimal cost to you. Refer to Properstar property search in order to get access to multiple agents who are used to work with international clients and they will guide you throughout the process.

  • Try to purchase with cash instead of obtaining financing. As a cash buyer, you will be able to negotiate from a stronger position, close on the contract faster, and offer more favorable terms to the seller. This can give you an advantage when you are competing with other buyers in a low inventory market.

  • Consider areas beyond Manhattan While you may feel that you are only in the “real” New York when you are near Broadway shows or on the Upper East Side, New York City’s outer boroughs have become among the most sought after areas of the city, and their growth continues to explode. In addition, if space is a consideration, you’ll get far more for your money in Park Slope than in Manhattan, along with desirable schools, green space, and other amenities.

Best neighborhoods in New York

The main thing to understand before choosing the city neighborhood is the aim of the property buying and the property price you can afford. Of course, many neighborhoods will have the right property for you, like if you are ready to pay an eye-popping price you will find a suitable variant in Manhattan neighborhoods.

Family neighborhoods In search for a family house close to schools you can look around in Hell’s Kitchen where property prices are $1M+, Tribeca (“Triangle Below Canal Street”) with average property prices more than $2 000 000 or Battery Park City which real estate prices start from $1,3M (by the way - BPC is considered as Number One family neighborhood on Niche). And of course Brooklyn is where it’s at for families, with Park Slope and Greenpoint particularly known for their family-friendly vibe. Closer in, Cobble Hill and the West Village are favorites for young families as well. Choosing these parts of the city, you will get access to parks and all the conveniences of living in city (not in suburb) especially if you are raising children.

Students neighborhoods Being a student or a parent helping your daughter or son to find the best apartment next to University you will surely have a look at the Morningside Heights (for Columbia University students). It’s not in the heart of New York city with all the tourist crowds, but that makes it an oasis away from all the city noise. Median property price is ~$800K. Another option is New York University neighborhood – Greenwich village – that fits into the tiny Manhattan space. Property prices are more than ~$1M, however it will allow you to easily commute to classes, as you are not guaranteed to be able to live in Campus (there are always more students than available spots). Many students say it’s one of the biggest problem to get to the classes and not spend a lot of time, this way if you have a housing secured, you are on the safe side.

When looking for affordability as you start your career in New York it is worth while checking the most affordable areas like the Bed-Stuy (Bedford-Stuyvesant) neighborhood, Brooklyn’s Bushwick, Astoria Queens, Crown Heights in Brooklyn and, when looking for a Manhattan address, Washington Heights.

Best for professionals If you’re in finance, you’ll want to be in the lower Manhattan Flatiron district. Murray Hill is an excellent choice for those who are looking for laid-back neighborhood vibe close to work. If you have a family, you can’t do better than Park Slope Brooklyn which offers a family-friendly atmosphere along with the opportunity to network with other Brooklyn-area young professionals.

Investors’ choice Ridgewood Queens is a popular choice with investors, and Fort Greene Brooklyn is on everyone’s list right now. East New York, at the corner of Brooklyn, and West Harlem are both big up-and-coming neighborhoods. The Bronx’s Norwood neighborhood is still affordable, as is picturesque Brighton Beach.

Highest Crime Areas While NYC is one of the safest large cities in the world, there are still areas with higher than average crime rates. Most of these tend to have a lot of tourists, accounting for their higher than normal incidents. The Garment District, The Meatpacking District, and Broadway/Times Square’s Theatre District account for many of the higher rates, as do Vinegar Hill and Downtown Brooklyn. For the most part, then, you’ll find that the more residential areas are quite safe.

Browse broadly in New York's boroughs and beyond

And finally, is it the right time to invest in New York City real estate?

Most major markets in the United States are currently undergoing contraction in the real estate markets, with low inventory driving up prices and New York City is no exception. But one of the reasons that New York real estate pros are not worried is that New York City prices are always among the highest in the country, because demand is consistently high. Everyone wants to live in NYC. And your return on investment shouldn’t be a big problem, because you will always have enough tenants be it students, tourists or expat professionals.

It seems it’s always a good time to buy a home in New York City.