What’s the Best Way to Buy My Rental Condo From the Landlord?

Q: We have been renting a two-bedroom condo in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, for almost eight years, and our landlord is considering selling it to us. We’re interested in buying it, but we don’t know how to navigate a private sale. There’s been some wear and tear since we arrived, and the landlords haven’t done any improvements beyond necessary repairs and replacing broken appliances. Should we hire an appraiser and have a lawyer draft an offer letter? What is the best way to approach this?

A: Due diligence is required, but a private sale such as this one can have advantages. There are typically no broker fees to pay, and you already know the condition of the apartment.

The first thing to do is figure out what the condo is worth today. But you don’t have to leap all the way to a formal appraisal, like those used by mortgage lenders. Instead, start by looking at recent sales in your building, and then in your neighborhood, to find comparable sales. Remember to account for variables, such as size and condition. Property transactions are public information, so you can find them on real estate websites, as well as the city’s own website, the Automated City Register Information System, or ACRIS.

You could also contact a local broker, who might be willing to offer a market report in an effort to win your business for a future sale, or the referrals of friends and family.

You can make an offer and negotiate a price without a lawyer, but it’s best to find one who has experience in condo transactions to represent you during the sale.

“You want to have an attorney available once you have an agreement,” said Ruta Behrend, a real estate lawyer and a partner with Tane Waterman & Wurtzel. Ask any lawyers about their fees and whether they’ll have the capacity to take on your sale when you need their services. Describe the research you would like them to conduct.

A lawyer will assist with reading through the condominium board minutes, finding out if the board has money available to make emergency repairs, or if a big assessment is on the horizon for capital projects, such as a roof replacement.

“I always advise my clients to get as much information as possible,” Ms. Behrend said.

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