Phone: 212.367.7200

Fax: 917.463.0880

* Click on the Pluse to expen the answer.

1. Why are the owners selling?

The broker doesn’t have to tell you (they're getting divorced, they’re moving to Dallas, etc.), but when you uncover the reason they’re selling, it tips their cards and is the best indicator of how anxious the seller might be. This in turn lets you know how willing they might be to negotiate.

2. How long has the house been on the market?

An apartment that has been on the market for two months with three price reductions gives a whole different message than a apartment that’s been on for two months with no price reductions. The owner of the first apartment is far more negotiable.

3. Comparable sales in the area

Bank appraisers use brokers to find similar apartment sales in the neighborhood. If the broker can provide comparables, you won’t be disappointed when it comes time to get your financing.

4. What is the psf in the neighborhood?

This brings the apartment price down to a common denominator. Every apartment is assessed and square footage is listed in the tax assessor’s office, along with the land area and whatever improvements have been made.

5. Is this the most expensive house on the block?

You don’t want to be buying the most expensive apartment on the block. The middle-priced apartment always sell at the best prices.

6. Are the owners behind in their real estate taxes?

If the owners are behind in their real estate taxes, it’s often the earliest sign of a potential foreclosure. You might wait or negotiate hard. This public information can be found at the county clerk’s office and is often posted online.

7. When the real estate last dropped in the 80's, how did this community do?

Some towns weather a storm much better than others. This question will give you a historic perspective.

8. How many houses are in foreclosure in the area?

Rates vary wildly and you shouldn’t be buying in an area drenched in foreclosures.

9. Are there unknowns in the neighborhood I should know about?

These include things like garbage routes, car repair shops, empty lots, landfills, nightclubs and pending zoning changes. You rely on your realtor for local knowledge, so be sure to ask about items like this.

10. What are the SAT scores?

The more nerds who live in the area, the better the real estate values. If the broker doesn’t know the scores, he or she can refer you to the Web site or

11. What are the monthly utility bills for the apartment?

This is good to know before you sign a contract. An old, inefficient heating system could add thousands of dollars to your yearly expenditure. You may think you can afford the mortgage, but can you afford the bills?

12. What is your commission?

Don't ask if the fee is negotiable. All real estate fees are negotiable. Typically, real estate agents charge a percentage, from 1% to 4% to represent one side of a transaction: a seller or a buyer. A listing agent may charge, for example, 3.5% for herself and another 3.5% for the buyer's agent, for a total of 7%.

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