Melissa Leifer... find out more about

Melissa has had to tell clients “You cannot buy in this building. It’s way too risky. I swear to God, I will do everything I can to find you another apartment. You can’t buy in this building.”


We wondered what would make a realtor (and the attorneys involved) advise a potential buyer not to buy a property. Because Melissa works in New York City, she works with a lot of people buying apartments, like both of these stories.

She told us about one apartment she advised a client not to buy…

This building had a land lease. It meant that the co-op didn’t own the land under the building. They were leasing it from the landowner. That’s very normal for a lot of buildings in financial districts and newer buildings. That is not necessarily a bad thing, because the lease is usually 100 years long. This one had 30 years left. and usually after a certain number of years they’ll renegotiate the lease and do all of that. This co-op didn’t have that, which was unusual. The landowners were suing the co-op and vice versa. The landowners didn’t want to renew the lease. If they don’t renew the lease that means everybody who bought gets evicted. It was like you just lit your money on fire.

It was just too risky. The lawyer was like, “There is no way. This is not safe. They’re fighting now and they don’t have much time left on the lease. If she wants to sell it in five years or 10 years she’s not going to be able to.” That was really it. She will not be able to sell this property.

And other where the red flag turned out to be a red herring…

I had somebody who was looking at an apartment. They were going to take it and the building had a rodent problem. The problem was they really hadn’t had an actual rodent problem. They had done work on a roof duct and then mice came from that, which is totally normal. That happens. They fixed it. They just talked about it in every single meeting, so it was in all of the minutes of the meeting, which were recorded. Then the attorneys see them. There were no more rodents but they kept asking for almost two years at every meeting, “Has anybody seen any rodents?” Everyone would say no. So it shows up “discussion of rodents” in every board meeting. The lawyer saw that and was like, “No, you can’t buy in this building. There’s rodents.”

I just did a little bit more digging because it’s such a nice building that it seemed really strange. I was representing the buyer and that’s what I found out from the seller. “I’ve been here for 10 years and I’ve never seen anything in my apartment. I’ve never seen a mouse, a rat, nothing.” I had spoken to some of the other lawyers that I work with about what they thought about this. I asked them all, what would you do? All of them said, “I would still buy it, get on the board, and tell them to stop talking about rodents.” 

Read our interview with Melissa and check out her reading picks!