Part cocktail hour, part mental-health exam (and a potentially egregious opportunity for violations of New York's fair housing laws) - THECO-OP BOARD INTERVIEW was designed to be a firewall against potentially troublesome new neighbors. While it may seem like an intimidating process, if you follow this guide and know what to expect, you will be set up to breeze right through.
The style of the interview can vary from casual small talk with 2 or 3 board members in an apartment, to a formal interrogation with board members lined up and you (and your dog) in the hot seat.
Here are 8 tips to know before you face the Inquisition
1. THIS IS NOT A FIRST DATE
The best interviews are usually short and cordial and don't draw undue attention and scrutiny. Boards rarely turn down applicants for being too boring.
2. ‘TIS NOT BETTER TO GIVE...
Do not volunteer information the board has not asked for, especially about plans for your renovation. Avoid talking about the building unless you are complimenting it. This is not the time to find out when the dated lobby will get a makeover, how to contact the super for repairs, or what that smell is...
3. I BEG YOUR PARDON?
Do not balk at personal questions or be annoyed by the intrusion. Go in expecting a full body cavity search and then be pleasantly surprised that you only had to take off your shoes.
Be very familiar with your board package, and prepared for them to ask you questions that are already answered in it. They may not have read it at all, or are testing you to see if you're consistent. If you are not sure how to respond to a question, assure them that you will get back to them.
5. HAPPY FACE
Your board package is first reviewed by the managing agent, and they can put you through the wringer with requests and questions before the board even sees the application. You might be feeling exhausted, violated, and somewhat homeless depending on how long the process has been drawn out. DO NOT TAKE IT OUT ON THE BOARD, they haven't necessarily been privy to your pain.
6. FASHION FAUX PAS
Dress conservatively, like you would for a meeting at work. Remember tip #1. Nothing too flashy, and be humble (especially if you are a 20 something and your parents are buying you a 4 million dollar starter apartment).
7. DON’T TAKE THE BAIT!
Occasionally a trouble-making board member will ask provocative, political, or trick questions to see how you react. While this is a ridiculous tactic to find out if you are honest and neighborly, go with the flow and don't get defensive.
8. WAITING GAME
Do not expect or request an answer at the end of the meeting. Most boards do not give their decision until a day or two later, and may request more paperwork before they do.
Dirty Little Secrets
Not only can co-ops take as long as they please to review your application and schedule your interview, they can also turn down any buyer and not disclose the reason. Officially these rejections should take place only for financial reasons, but then why do they request things like background on your family and education, and why are financially qualified candidates sometimes summarily rejected?
While high-profile lawsuits and stepped-up enforcement of fair housing laws have many boards mindful of their responsibilities especially towards protected groups (race, creed, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc.), some discriminatory bias still lurks, unfortunately.
Like a new puppy chewing up your shoes,
co-ops can be perplexing at first. But they can deliver a lot more bang for your buck than a condo, and provide for neighbors who are also owners with a similar commitment to the care and upkeep of the building to your own. Some of the most incredible buildings in the city are co-ops, so do not let the initial challenge of the approval process dissuade you from becoming a part of one.
While the Spring market has only just started, I already have a little menagerie of contracts signed on beautiful properties across the city which I will share with you here in typical real estate newsletter fashion. Corona aside, bidding wars abound and open houses across the city are as packed as Costco on Saturday. Here's what I've been working on...
43 West 12th Street - Contract Signed
4 Bed | 4 Bath | Greenwich Village Townhouse | Asking $6,250,000
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