Getting Ready

What works: Real-life advice from New Yorkers who sold their apartments—quickly!

By Kelly Kreth  |
October 13, 2021 - 1:00PM

Moving into a rental did the trick for one couple. Their agent was able to show their apartment at any time.


It takes a lot of energy to sell a New York City apartment or brownstone, both emotional and physical. The physical can be obvious—but not necessarily easy: Sellers need to declutter, deep clean, make repairs, and stage their abodes to get top dollar.

The emotional side can be equally challenging: Decluttering and packing are not just about cleaning up but letting go, and that can be hard for some people. Trusting and communicating with a broker, managing stress, and knowing when to make a leap and accept an offer takes lots of emotional labor.

So how do so many New Yorkers do it? What makes a sale come together—and fast? Brick asked some sellers who recently went through the process about what they learned. Here’s their advice on making a sale happen quickly.

Break it down into baby steps

My boyfriend and I were about to get married and start a family. This meant we needed to sell our small alcove studio and upgrade to something bigger. Planning a wedding, thinking about having a child, and selling a home all in the same few months is just a disaster waiting to happen. All these major life changes coming at once, in a tiny cluttered space, made a stressful time even more so.

We enlisted an agent to help us sell but because my boyfriend owned the apartment for years before I moved in, he was far more attached to the space than I was. Getting him to pack away personal mementos and pictures was a complicated process. Our agent needed us to declutter the place quickly but that was hard to do with wedding presents arriving daily.

Also, because we were both still working from home because of the pandemic it was nearly impossible to co-ordinate with the agent for us to both be out of the house for showings. It often felt like my partner and were on different pages. We both became so overwhelmed what should have been a blissful and exciting time was torturous.

We ultimately decided to pull the place off the market until after our wedding, move into a rental and to give us time and space to sell our unit. Doing things in manageable steps ultimately is what made our sale work out for us. We didn’t feel rushed or crowded. After our wedding we took a month to pack and another to move. Once we settled into our new place we contacted our agent and she could show the newly uncluttered space whenever she wanted. It sold quickly and painlessly for all. We still want to buy a bigger more permanent place, but we learned baby steps are key. —Rona, Murray Hill

Embrace technology for a faster sale

I sold my home during the pandemic to move to Utah. I wanted open air and space, pandemic freedom, and to live closer to my parents. I completely lucked out. Who knew sales would soar during a pandemic? Double jackpot for me, as I moved outside Salt Lake City where home prices were plateauing rather than peaking.

My number one tip is to utilize technology as much as you can. During the pandemic the technology for virtual tours, floor plans, etc. took off like a shot. Using such technology even in non-pandemic days is helpful to reach a broader audience. I also suggest you start with a robust online listing and a competitive price to weed out time-wasters. You may have fewer live showings but a faster close at a better price. —Thomas, Lower East Side

Pro Tip:

To find out what actual buyers are willing to pay for your co-op, condo or brownstone, consider discreetly "pre-marketing" it.  New York City real estate brokerage The Agency has an entire data-driven pre-marketing platform that provides a way to quietly test your asking price and your marketing strategy  among real-life qualified buyers before publicly listing your home. There's no charge to participate and no obligation to enter a traditional listing agreement at the end of the pre-marketing period if your place hasn't sold. Click here for more information.

Find a real estate agent you connect with

We decided to sell because we needed a home with more bedrooms. We loved the neighborhood with its quiet streets, lots of greenery, and its proximity to transportation. However, we were eager to get a larger space. Sadly, our apartment lingered on the market and the sale became long and difficult. After our contract with our agent expired, we finally switched to a broker who understood exactly what type of communication was needed to make a sales pitch more appealing to buyers. Within two months we had a contract! 

Our number one tip is to make sure you select a real estate sales person who is very passionate about selling your property, who believes and stands by the selling price. You will be dealing with them a lot and if you don’t feel like you are in sync or that your personalities mesh, the sales process will feel that much more arduous. —J&J, Riverdale

Go for a deep clean and a professional stager

During the pandemic I had time to really think about my real estate situation and look for something better. I found a new luxury condo—my old place was a prewar two bedroom with about 860 square feet in a walkup building. I snatched up the new place and then put my own apartment on the market, selling it in just seven days and for full ask thanks to accurate pricing. In NYC if you see something you want to buy, do not hesitate because you may regret not acting quickly if someone else snags it first.

Even though the sale was quick, the prep was not: I moved everything out and had it thoroughly staged. I also had it professionally cleaned so it would smell brand new. It gave me the opportunity to get rid of old and cluttered furniture. It felt like a lot of work but the difference was tens of thousands of dollars. Pro tip: Put your stuff in storage if you can’t part with it. Paint the apartment, rip up any carpet, and fix all windows. I put in ceiling fans to maximize the breeze.  

Oh, and I have a dog—be sure to get rid of any traces of pets. —Melissa, Bay Ridge

Assemble a solid, NYC-based team

My wife and I are in contract to sell our five-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,800-square-foot Manhattan apartment. We are empty nesters and now seems like the right time to downsize. This time around I relearned that selling a home is extraordinarily stressful. I learned that sellers should require buyers who are financing to pay a premium [because] lenders and appraisers provide additional unnecessary challenges.

We are unsure of whether to buy again or rent. The idea of renting pains me because of the expenses involved, but we will probably do so after our deal closes because it will be much less stressful than to try to coordinate another sale.

The most important thing for sellers is to recognize things don’t proceed linearly or quickly. Use both an experienced real estate agent and a New York City residential real estate attorney to help avoid being blindsided and to navigate around the landmines. —Michael, Upper West Side



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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