Recent sales data for New York City real estate has never been easier for home hunters to access. There's quality, timely real estate data out there on the web both for free and for a price. Yes, there's even recent sales data for co-ops in New York City.
Why Real Estate Comps?
What you're really trying to discover with recent sales data is the market rate in a neighborhood. Is the house you want to buy overpriced or a great bargain?
From recent sales data, look for comps, or comparable sales data, by matching building types in the same neighborhood -- condos to condos, two-family houses to two-family houses. Try to get a sense of the going price per square foot by building type (sale price divided by the square footage of livable space). Ideally, properties with similar amenities matter, but the real name of the game is location.
Do you really need to know comps? You could trust your gut or the real estate agent, but isn't it worth it to dig up a little information? A few hours of work could save you $10,000 when you're ready to make an offer for your new home.
A better understanding of the local market could also put you off the property entirely. Or tip you off to a property that's been flipped repeatedly in a short amount of time. That's not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing but can shed light on a property's faults before it's too late.
Favorite Websites for NYC Recent Sales
Rolling Sales Update [NYC.gov - NYC Finance Department]
The mother lode of all NYC recent sales info, the city's Finance Department's public records on property sales data to 2003. The problem is the format. You can download by borough and year -- say, for example, Queens in 2006 -- and in Excel or PDF. It's a big file that takes a while even on a fast connection.
Once it's downloaded you can search in Excel or Adobe Acrobat by neighborhood, address, sale price, date of sale, square footage, year built, or building type. Some data is missing or incongruent, but you can trust most of it to be solid fact. It's great for poring over every number but takes patience and effort to cope with the large files and pull out data for further exploration.
Data released by NYC Finance runs about a month behind real time.
Pay Sites With Detailed NYC Recent Sale Info
PropertyShark is a great destination for super-detailed property info all in one spot. They give you a recent sale's location, size, and price, plus seller's name, tax, and lien status, reports on the local environment (such as toxicity), and maybe even a photo and sale information from earlier times. Most important, PropertyShark makes comparing apples to apples a lot easier.
But you got to pay. Registered users get some information for free and a ton more if you buy a subscription ($15-$20/month).
NYC Newspapers With NYC Recent Sale Info
Look in the real estate sections of The New York Times for "Residential Sales Around the Region" and the New York Post for "Just Sold! The Latest Info About Recent Sales - In Your Back Yard and Beyond," regular weekly articles listing a few recent sales for each borough.
What's neat about these is there are more details on the property's amenities and renovation history that can't be gleaned from NYC Finance report data. It's data supplied by New York City real estate brokers, not from the government. Of course, it's in the brokers' interest to put their best face forward, so don't expect much fixer-upper data in these.
Blogs With NYC Recent Sale Info
A number of local real estate blogs and sites dole out recent sale info or at least republish information they've accessed elsewhere. Try Curbed for Manhattan and any luxury building and Brownstoner for Brooklyn.
The best things these blogs can give you are the readers' comments that shed light on a property listed in recent sales (or are completely inaccurate). What you find on blogs is another piece of the puzzle, or at worst, a good diversion those days the house hunt is driving you nuts.
NYC Residential Building Types for Recent Sales Comps
New York City recognizes these eight types of residential buildings:
- One Family Homes
- Two Family Homes
- Three Family Homes
- Condos - Elevator Apartments
- Condos - Walkup Apartments
- Tax Class 1 - Condos
- Coops - Elevator Apartments
- Coops - Walkup Apartments
There are more classes for commercial, rental residential, and miscellaneous other property uses.
Recent Sales of NYC Co-ops
Co-ops are a special case. New York City is the only municipality in the U.S. where this form of ownership is at all significant. In Manhattan, it's more than half of individually owned residential apartments.
Co-op owners do not hold the deed to their properties, but instead, own a share of the corporation that owns the building. Until July 2006, co-ops owners had a nice privacy shield. Co-op recent sale info was considered a private transaction and did not appear on the public records because it wasn't "real property."
A law in 2006 opened up the curtains and let the sunshine in on the private world of co-ops. The recent sale information published by the City, however, only begins with January 2004. (Some brokers and other specialists retain private historical records on co-ops sales.)
Good luck with the hunt for your new home!