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You’ve been in a long-term relationship for a while now, and after plenty of soul-searching, you’ve finally decided to make it official. We’re talking about making the (exciting and/or terrifying) decision to buy an apartment, of course. Here are ten tips to help you navigate the inscrutable world of NYC real estate. 

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Clean Up Your Credit Score
This one should be a no-brainer, but we get it, sometimes you don’t want to be reminded of past spending slip-ups. Checking your score before you apply for a loan gives you time to clear up any mistakes (or boost your number if it needs some help). 

Start Looking…Before Actually Looking
Wait, what? Ideally, you want to familiarize yourself with potential neighborhoods as much as possible. Pop into open houses, talk to people who live in the neighborhood and scope out prices—and how they’ve changed—on sites like StreetEasy and Douglas Elliman to get an idea of what to expect. (Bonus: When you do get your ducks in a row, chatting with doormen, supers and residents is a great way to hear about openings before they hit the market.)

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Save (Obviously)
Oof. The biggest hurdle for most prospective buyers. Whether you’ve spent the past decade putting money away or you’re relying on the generosity of relatives, you should expect to put down at least 20 percent—not including closing costs. (Aka $100,000 for a $500,000 apartment.)

Have a Pre-Approved Mortgage
OK, so you have a healthy sum of money ready to put down. Time to start looking, right? Nope. Your best bet is to see a mortgage broker to figure out the exact budget you’re working with. Not only will it help inform the neighborhoods and types of places to research, you’ll want to have it in your back pocket when making offers. 

Decide If You Want a Condo…
There are a few exceptions (like townhouses…sigh) but condos and co-ops are the two main types of housing you’ll likely be looking at. Condos are usually in newer buildings and are generally easy to rent out, since you buy the space outright. They also may be a better investment long-term.

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Columbia Pictures

…Or a Co-op
Co-ops, which are more common in NYC (though that ratio is quickly changing), tend to be less expensive but are also subject to a more rigorous application process (remember the George Costanza board interview?), because you’re technically buying a share in the building corporation. This also means there are usually more rules about what you can and can’t do in the unit (like have a dog or install a washer/dryer), so make sure the place lines up with your needs. 

Find an Agent and a Lawyer
Aka the people you’re going to be spending a lot of time with over the coming months. Personal referrals are always a great way to go—i.e., if your coworker had a great experience, ask her to connect you—but you can also look for agents who specialize in the neighborhoods and types of property you’re interested in. (You’re also required by law to have a real estate lawyer, but trust us, it’s worth having someone familiar with all of the city’s weird loopholes and idiosyncrasies.)

Look for Tax Abatements
Due to some outdated tax laws, condo and co-op owners can pay a lot more in relative property taxes than other types of residences. But there are a few ways to get a tax break. Some buildings—generally newer developments—have them in place, meaning your property taxes are practically nothing for a set amount of time. Alternately, owners who use their condo or co-op as their primary residence (i.e., won’t be renting it out for a profit) can apply directly through the city.

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Be Prepared for Rejection
NYC has strict anti-discrimination laws when it comes to housing, but in practice, there’s no way to really know why your co-op application gets rejected. Unfair, yes, but your best plan of attack is to come prepared with all the reasons you’ll be a reliable co-op member and a good neighbor (even on a microscopic level). 

Get Extra Help
Still totally baffled by everything? Yeah, we don’t blame you. There’s no shame in attending a workshop led by real-estate pros. After all, you only get married buy your first NYC apartment once. 

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