New York City co-ops are much coveted and can be difficult to obtain. The process is long and vigorous and even once you’ve passed all the preliminary trials, you now have to do the board interview. Dress well and treat it just like you would a job interview. However, attire and first impressions are just the icing on the cake. Here are the most important things to remember:
As you know from the initial parts of the application you will need to have every financial document in your arsenal. This can include proof of payment of rent for the past 5 or more years, bank statements, 401k documents, savings statements, student loan details, car loans, etc. The co-op board will pick these statements apart with a fine toothed comb and proceed to ask you about fine details.
If anything shows up as late or past due you need to have a response ready immediately. The board will not take kindly to you shuffling through papers while you think up a lie to tell them. Go through the documents ahead of time and pick out the things you think will raise red flags. This will allow you to have answers already prepared.
Financials are obviously an important part of the process and it’s a common misconception that your current job and salary are the most important. They will be interested in your entire job history as this is the easiest way to prove your steadiness. They don’t want to go through this entire process again in a year if you decide to move out.
They may question why you left a company after only two years irregardless of the fact that maybe it was a decade ago. You can use jobs, apartments, and even relationships to prove that you will be a committed tenant. It’s a good idea to have a list of long-term personal and professional goals if they coincide with the idea of you staying put.
One of the easiest ways to aggravate the board members is to ask too many questions. They do not want to feel like they are on trial, as much as they are making you feel like you are. Think of this process more as joining a secret society than like buying a house. Don’t give them more ammunition by asking them questions in return. It could turn into another round of questions aimed at you. They are looking for an easy addition to the building and not someone who will stir up trouble.
The co-op board is likely to ask you a myriad of questions, many of which will be personal in nature. They want insight into what kind of neighbor you will be. The best way for them to get what they want and for you to present yourself in the best possible light is to keep the answers concise. Don’t give one word answers but don’t reveal too much too quickly either. They might ask you what you like to do on the weekends. You don’t have to lie but tell them your passion for literature and skip the part about having your 20 person book club over for cocktails every third Wednesday of the month.
5. Know The Rules
Co-ops are infamous for having more rules than they have tenants and you would do well to know them all before applying. Your broker can come in handy here. Ask him/her to do their due diligence before your meeting. The rules might state that you are welcome to work from home, but they may frown upon if your work involves clients coming in and out all day long. That would inconvenience your neighbors and it’s the kind of thing you definitely want to find out about sooner rather than later.
Another good thing to find out beforehand is if the board will allow the sale of an apartment as a pied-à-terre. Many don’t want part-time tenants. You wouldn’t want to bring these things up during the interview to find out that they are deal breakers.
You want to come across as easy going. Say how much you love the look of the building even if you think the façade needs updating. Agree that quiet hours after 10pm are a great idea when you are secretly a night owl. Not only are these people on the board, but they live in this building too and will be your neighbors. You want your relationship with them to start off on the right foot.
Most co-op boards care about one thing and one thing only: the financials. If you get to the point of being in the interview, you basically have the place. They are trying to find reasons not to give it to you, so don’t give them any. Be polite, be precise, and you might be moving in to your brand new apartment.