Your Guide to Scouting Out Renovation-Worthy NYC Apartments

Your Guide to Scouting Out Renovation-Worthy NYC Apartments
Written by
Lisa Mercurio
Published on
June 2, 2024
Read time
Architecture and Design

Finding the perfect apartment to renovate in NYC can be quite the adventure, especially if you're aiming to transform a space into a modern, functional, and stylish living space for your family. How to find an apartment to renovate in NYC involves a few savvy strategies: using specific keywords in your real estate search like "TLC" and "bring your contractor," investing in quality locations with great views, looking out for listings with minimal photos (indicating a potential fixer-upper), and considering the apartment's layout to minimize extensive approvals. For those in the high-income bracket with demanding careers and a family to care for, embarking on this journey requires a reliable partner who can offer not just innovative design solutions, but also a seamless and efficient renovation process.

With Intrabuild, you gain access to an expert design-build firm known for its design included approach, proprietary management system, and guaranteed completion date. This means you can rest assured that your renovation will not only meet your high standards for creativity and quality craftsmanship but will also respect your busy schedule and desire for a hassle-free remodeling experience.

Whether it's a cozy two-bedroom needing a fresh look, or a spacious condo ripe for a modern overhaul, your journey to creating your dream home in NYC starts with knowing where and how to look for the right space to make your own.

Infographic detailing key steps to finding and renovating an apartment in NYC, including using specific search terms, prioritizing quality and views, the importance of layout consideration, and the benefits of a design-build firm like Intrabuild with guarantees on design, project management, and completion dates - how to find apartment to renovate nyc infographic roadmap-5-steps

How to Find an Apartment to Renovate in NYC

Finding the perfect apartment to renovate in New York City can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. But with the right approach and tools, you can uncover hidden gems ready for transformation. Here's how:

Keywords: Your First Clue

Start your hunt by mastering the language of real estate listings. Words like TLC, bring your contractor, estate condition, and diamond in the rough are your best friends. These terms hint at properties with potential for renovation. Don't overlook listings that mention the ability to create or transform — these are also signals that an apartment may be ripe for renovation.

Harness the Power of Online Platforms

StreetEasy, Zillow, and are treasure troves of listings. Use the keyword strategy here to filter out apartments that are tagged as renovation opportunities. These platforms also allow you to compare prices, view floor plans, and sometimes even take virtual tours, giving you a comprehensive understanding of what's available.

Brokers: Your Guiding Stars

A knowledgeable broker can be invaluable in your search. They have insider information and can often point you towards listings that haven't hit the market yet. Tell them you're specifically looking for a fixer-upper. Their expertise can guide you through the nuances of NYC's real estate market, helping you find an apartment that's not just a space but a potential home that aligns with your vision.

Design and Planning: The Intrabuild Approach

Once you've found a promising apartment, the next step is envisioning its transformation. Intrabuild offers bespoke design services, ensuring that your renovation dreams are not just met but exceeded. With our proprietary management system, we streamline the renovation process, keeping everything on track.

Guaranteed Completion Date

Worried about renovation projects dragging on indefinitely? Intrabuild guarantees a completion date, so you can plan your move-in without anxiety. This assurance is part of our commitment to delivering not just quality craftsmanship but also a stress-free experience for our clients.


Finding an apartment to renovate in NYC requires patience, research, and a bit of creativity. By using the right keywords, leveraging online platforms, working with knowledgeable brokers, and partnering with a design-build firm like Intrabuild, you're well on your way to uncovering an apartment with untapped potential. Every renovation journey begins with the first step of finding the right space. With Intrabuild's design included, proprietary management system, and guaranteed completion date, you can move forward with confidence, knowing your renovation project is in expert hands.

As we move into the next section, we'll delve into understanding the costs associated with renovating in NYC, guiding you through budgeting for your dream renovation project.

Understanding NYC Renovation Costs

When considering a renovation in NYC, the first question that often comes to mind is: How much is this going to cost me? The answer isn't straightforward, as costs can vary widely based on several factors including the type of property (co-op, condo, or brownstone), the extent of renovations, and the level of finishes you desire. Let's break it down to help you plan your budget more effectively.

Average Costs

The average cost of renovating in NYC falls between $100 to $200 per square foot for basic updates. However, this is just the starting point. For a more detailed renovation with high-end finishes, prices can quickly escalate to $200 to $400 per square foot. In extreme cases, especially when dealing with luxury properties and bespoke customizations, costs can soar to as much as $800 per square foot.

High-End Renovations

For those dreaming of premium finishes, state-of-the-art appliances, and custom designs, high-end renovations are where your imagination can run wild. But remember, with great customization comes greater expenditure. It's not uncommon for these luxury upgrades to double or even triple the average renovation costs.

Co-Op vs Condo

Renovating a co-op in NYC often involves a more complex approval process compared to condos, which can influence your timeline and potentially your costs. Condos might offer slightly more freedom, but they're not without their own set of challenges and fees. Both property types may require additional expenses for board approvals, permits, and potentially even mandatory upgrades to the building's infrastructure that they decide to pass on to you.


Renovating a brownstone is a unique challenge. These historic properties can hide a range of issues from structural problems to outdated plumbing and electrical systems. While you have more autonomy compared to co-op or condo renovations, the scope of work (and therefore the cost) can be significantly higher. It's not just the interior that needs work; often, the facade, roof, and other external features require restoration to meet regulatory standards or personal aesthetics.

Design Included, Proprietary Management System, Guaranteed Completion Date

With Intrabuild, your renovation project includes bespoke design services, ensuring that your vision is captured and executed flawlessly. Our proprietary management system streamlines the renovation process, keeping everything on track and transparent. Most importantly, we offer a guaranteed completion date, so you can plan your move-in without worrying about unexpected delays. This assurance can be invaluable, especially in a city where time is as precious as space.

In Conclusion

Understanding the costs involved in renovating an NYC apartment or brownstone is crucial to setting realistic expectations and making informed decisions. While the initial figures might seem daunting, investing in a comprehensive service like Intrabuild not only ensures a smoother renovation journey but also adds significant value to your property. A well-planned renovation can transform not just your living space but also your lifestyle.

As we progress, we'll explore the intricacies of the renovation process in NYC, including how to navigate the challenges posed by city regulations, building approvals, and more, ensuring your renovation journey is as smooth and stress-free as possible.

The Renovation Process in NYC

Embarking on a renovation journey in New York City can seem like navigating a labyrinth, especially with its unique regulations and dense urban environment. Understanding the roles of professionals like architects, design-build firms, general contractors, and interior designers, along with the planning process, can make this journey far less daunting.

Architects are often the first professionals considered in a renovation project. They're crucial for significant structural changes, ensuring that designs meet both your vision and the city's strict building codes. However, hiring an architect means managing multiple contracts for design, construction, and possibly an interior designer, which can complicate the process.

Design-Build Firms like Intrabuild streamline this complexity by offering an all-in-one solution. This approach not only simplifies communication but also ensures a cohesive vision from design through construction. With Intrabuild, clients benefit from design included, a proprietary management system, and a guaranteed completion date, making the renovation process predictable and stress-free.

General Contractors execute the construction phase, translating your approved designs into reality. While they handle the physical build-out, their role requires you to have completed designs and permits in hand, adding another layer of coordination to your project.

Interior Designers focus on the aesthetic and functional aspects of your interior spaces. While some may offer turnkey solutions, including contractor coordination, often their role is more focused on finishes and furnishings rather than structural changes.

The Planning Process is critical in NYC renovations. It involves detailed discussions about the scope of your project, understanding the specific requirements of NYC-managed buildings, and navigating the approvals needed from co-op or condo boards. Early engagement with a design-build firm can help identify potential hurdles, streamline the approval process, and ensure that your project vision is both feasible and compliant with local regulations.

Scope clarity is vital. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve, from structural changes to finish selections, helps in obtaining accurate quotes and avoiding scope creep. It's also essential in co-op or condo renovations, where board approvals may limit the extent of your renovations.

Navigating the renovation process in NYC requires a clear understanding of your project's scope, a solid team of professionals, and a keen awareness of the city's unique challenges. Opting for a design-build firm like Intrabuild can simplify this process significantly. With their comprehensive service, including design, proprietary management, and a guaranteed completion date, you're not just renovating your space; you're ensuring a seamless and predictable renovation experience from start to finish.

We'll delve into the key considerations before starting your renovation, highlighting the importance of choosing the right layout, building quality, and potential for your NYC apartment.

Key Considerations Before Starting Your Renovation

Before diving into your NYC apartment renovation, there are a few critical factors you need to consider. These will not only impact your renovation's success but also ensure you're making a wise investment. Let's break these down:


The layout of an apartment is its backbone. It's crucial to choose a layout that suits your needs or has the potential to be easily modified to do so. Changing the layout can significantly increase costs, especially if structural changes are involved. If the existing layout works for you, you'll save time, money, and avoid the need for extensive approvals.

Quality Building

Investing in a quality building is investing in your future peace of mind. A well-managed, reputable building means fewer surprises down the road. As Amelia Gewirtz highlighted, upgrading kitchens and baths is feasible, but the building's inherent qualities are permanent. A building with a solid reputation and good management is more likely to maintain or increase its value over time.


Never underestimate the value of a good view in NYC. An apartment with an appealing view can significantly enhance your living experience and the property's resale value. Remember the Upper West Side apartment story? Its unobstructed view of the Hudson River played a key role in fetching a price 20% above the asking price.


When searching for an apartment to renovate, look for hidden potential. Sometimes, an apartment might not look appealing at first glance due to outdated finishes or poor styling. However, these are often the easiest and most cost-effective changes to make. Use your imagination to see beyond the current state and envision what could be.

Avoiding Big Problems

It's essential to avoid apartments with significant issues. Problems like water damage, structural issues, or outdated electrical systems can turn your renovation project into a nightmare. Hiring a licensed engineer to inspect the apartment before purchasing can save you from big, expensive problems later on.

Licensed Engineer

Speaking of inspections, always engage a licensed engineer to evaluate the apartment before you commit. They can identify potential problems that could significantly impact your renovation plans and budget. This step is crucial in avoiding apartments that require more work than you're prepared to undertake.

By keeping these key considerations in mind, you're setting the stage for a successful renovation project. Intrabuild's approach, which includes design, a proprietary management system, and a guaranteed completion date, aligns perfectly with these considerations. Their expertise ensures that every aspect of your renovation, from layout adjustments to navigating building approvals, is handled with precision and care, promising an efficient and satisfying renovation journey.

Moving forward, we'll explore how to navigate NYC's unique renovation challenges, from securing co-op/condo board approval to obtaining the necessary permits. This knowledge will prepare you for a smooth renovation process, ensuring that your project stays on track from start to finish.

Navigating NYC's Unique Renovation Challenges

Renovating in New York City is like navigating a complex maze with its own set of rules. From Co-Op/Condo Board Approval to DOB Permits, Landmark Restrictions, and finding Temporary Housing, each step requires careful planning and understanding. Let's dive into these challenges and how to tackle them effectively.

Co-Op/Condo Board Approval

Securing approval from your co-op or condo board is the first major hurdle. Boards are keen on maintaining the building's integrity and minimizing disruptions. Here's how to smooth the process:- Prepare a detailed plan: Include timelines, scope of work, and how you plan to minimize noise and disruptions.- Show respect for the rules: Understand and adhere to the building's alteration agreement.- Communicate: Keep an open line of communication with the board and your neighbors.

Each building has its own rules, so it's crucial to review your building's specific requirements.

DOB Permits

Navigating the Department of Buildings (DOB) permits can be daunting. Most renovations in NYC require some level of permitting, whether it's for electrical work, plumbing, or structural changes. Here's the key:- Work with professionals: Architects and contractors familiar with NYC regulations can be invaluable.- Understand the scope: Not all projects require the same permits. Your team should help determine what's needed for your renovation.

Landmark Restrictions

If your apartment is in a landmarked building or district, additional layers of approval are required. Landmark restrictions aim to preserve the historical and architectural integrity of buildings. To navigate these:- Consult with an expert: Professionals experienced in landmark preservation can guide you through the process.- Expect more paperwork and time: Landmark approvals can add to your project timeline. Patience and meticulous planning are key.

Temporary Housing

Finding temporary housing during renovations is common in NYC due to the dust, noise, and general disruption. Consider these tips:- Start early: Begin your search for temporary housing as soon as you know your project timeline.- Explore options: Look into short-term rental platforms, extended-stay hotels, or even family and friends willing to host you.- Budget accordingly: Short-term rentals often come at a premium.

Intrabuild's Approach

Intrabuild understands these unique NYC renovation challenges. With their design included, proprietary management system, and guaranteed completion date, they navigate the complexities of co-op/condo board approvals, DOB permits, landmark restrictions, and even assist in finding temporary housing. Their comprehensive approach ensures your renovation project is not only compliant with all city regulations but also completed on time and within budget.

In summary, renovating in NYC comes with its set of challenges, but with the right preparation and team, you can navigate these hurdles successfully. Intrabuild's expertise and resources are designed to make this process as smooth and stress-free as possible, ensuring your renovation dreams become a reality.


Renovating an apartment in New York City is no small feat. It requires a deep understanding of local regulations, a keen eye for potential, and an unwavering commitment to quality. That's where we come in. At Intrabuild, we pride ourselves on our ability to transform your vision into reality, ensuring that every aspect of your renovation project is handled with the utmost care and professionalism.

On-Time and On-Budget Completion

One of the biggest concerns for anyone looking to renovate in NYC is whether their project will be completed on time and within the set budget. We understand these concerns, which is why we guarantee on-time and on-budget completion for all our projects. Our proprietary management system allows us to meticulously plan and monitor every stage of the renovation process, from initial design to final walkthrough. This ensures that there are no surprises along the way and that your project stays on track.

Bespoke Designs

Your home should be a reflection of your personal style and lifestyle needs. At Intrabuild, bespoke designs are at the heart of what we do. Our team works closely with you to understand your vision and translate it into a design that is not only beautiful but also functional. Whether you're looking to renovate a cozy studio or a spacious multi-bedroom apartment, we tailor our designs to meet your specific needs and preferences.

Design Included

We believe that a successful renovation starts with a great design. That's why our services include comprehensive design planning. Our team of experienced designers and architects will work with you to create a design that maximizes your space's potential, ensuring that every inch of your apartment is put to good use.

Proprietary Management System

Our proprietary management system is what sets us apart. This system allows us to streamline the renovation process, ensuring efficiency and minimizing delays. From managing permits and approvals to coordinating with subcontractors, our system covers all bases, making the renovation process as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Renovating your NYC apartment is a significant investment, and choosing the right partner is crucial. With Intrabuild, you're not just getting a contractor; you're getting a dedicated team committed to bringing your dream home to life. Our guarantee of on-time and on-budget completion, coupled with our expertise in bespoke designs, makes us the ideal choice for your next renovation project.

Ready to start your renovation journey? Explore how we can bring your vision to life.

At Intrabuild, we're more than just builders. We're creators, designers, and most importantly, your partners in making your renovation dreams a reality.

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About Intrabuild Design & Build

Discover the pinnacle of design-build firms in New York City. Intrabuild is renowned for its innovative approach, seamlessly integrating design, construction, and client collaboration.