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Buying a New-Construction Condo? Hah! Good Luck. Some Survival Tips

Bill Morris in Co-op/Condo Buyers on May 29, 2012

New York City, Brooklyn

May 29, 2012

"In every case, we get an engineer to give the building a physical," Bailey says. A good thing, too: Some of the buildings, it turned out, were beyond sickly. A long punch list of necessary repairs was put together.

Developers "want to make as much money as possible," he says, "and the builder knows that the consumer is not doing his job. You cannot buy into a newly constructed building without hiring an engineer first. How the hell can someone put most of their money into an investment — the biggest in their lives — and spend less time [investigating it] than they take to buy a suit of clothes?"

But John Nakrosis, an architect, says Bailey's solution has its limits. "Hiring an engineer [after the building is built] won't tell you about a faulty foundation," Nakrosis says. "The attorney general's office needs to step up and enforce these things if the building is not built to code or in accordance with the prospectus filed with the attorney general. They're the last resort. But the AG's office is overwhelmed."

Given that fact, Michele Israel, a Brooklyn condo board president, thinks people need to take matters into their own hands. "Before you move into a new building," she says, "do a little research about the builder, the architect, the construction company. Check to see if there are violations with the Department of Buildings. Then bring in an engineer or architect to inspect your apartment and the building. They can't see behind walls, but they can see what's visible — water leakage, a crooked cornice, cracks. They can also read blueprints and offering plans."The ideal strategy for a board faced with major construction problems is to first document the problems, and only then decide if it's wiser to pursue legal remedies or try to negotiate a workable settlement with the sponsor.

"Even before going to a lawyer, hire an engineer or an architect," she advises. "The thing to know if you're going to go the legal route is that the attorney general is looking for really egregious stuff. Forget the broken microwave. Check to see what's in the offering plan and what was actually built, and how it was built. If you have the money, probe it." 


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