How can I ace my co-op board interview?
July 15, 2012 11:15 AM   Subscribe

What are some tips for successfully handling a co-op board interview? (Brooklyn-based)

I am in the process of trying to buy a co-op apartment in Brooklyn (in a not-very-trendy corner of a moderately trendy neighborhood). I'm at the stage where the board wants to interview me, and my SO, who, as I have indicated in my paperwork, intends to live with me (though I am going to be the only owner). I would like to hear from Mefites who are on co-op boards or who are tenants in co-ops who have advice for the interview.

A bit about me: I don't really make as much money a year as I'm sure they'd like, but I have a very stable (government) job where I've been for several years, and I've just received a couple raises. I have a decent amount of savings though they'll be rather depleted by down payment/application fees. My SO currently lives in another city and is going to move up here with me; he will need to find a job here. He is going to kick in towards monthly payments, probably about 1/3 of the overall total though this will be upped when he finds work here. (I am planning for us to have a written agreement about this, so I'm not asking for advice about that right now.) Should I mention to the co-op board that he's going to contribute financially although he is not an owner?

In general both of us are quiet, neat tenants (and I think this will come across when we meet the board). I am 26 and look young for my age--I'm planning to dress professionally but I am hoping my youth won't be a strike against me.

One more note about the apartment: it this matters, it's very inexpensive but has relatively high maintenance costs (mortgage is a little more than half the maintenance). It's a one-bedroom so I am not going to have anyone live here other than my SO and me. No pets either.

posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Two comments:

1) You should ask these questions of your real estate broker and attorney, as they should be more familiar with the particulars about this co-op board than we are.

2) If you are going to own the apartment, the co-op board cares only about your ability to pay your mortgage and maintenance fees every month. Don't confuse matters by giving them unnecessary details about where you're getting the money from.

To be honest, most co-op boards have fairly hard limits as to who they'll approve; if your income is not sufficient, don't be surprised if they turn you down.

Depending on the board's perspective, a government job is either a good thing or a bad thing.
posted by dfriedman at 11:50 AM on July 15, 2012

Seconding that you should talk to your broker about this -- ours was extremely helpful when we were preparing for our own Brooklyn coop interview, giving us a good idea of how it was likely to go.

In our case, we were assured that basically no one was ever rejected by the board, and even though we had some variables that made our case unusual we still were voted in after a moderate amount of discussion.

The main issue for you will be the coop board's attitudes towards non-owner residents. Ours is extremely strict about this, which was what complicated our process, but we were up front about it and our honesty helped convince them to make an exception. If your building already knows your SO is going to be moving in with you and have no problem with that, then you're fine. You were approved for your mortgage on your own, so whether or not your SO will contribute financially shouldn't much matter to them, and I wouldn't bring it up unless they ask.

Good luck! Don't worry too much, it'll most likely go just fine.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:39 PM on July 15, 2012

Everything I have heard is that if you get to the part of the process where they interview you, you're basically in so long as you don't come off as crazy. So don't come off as crazy.
Since you've told them about the SO, I wouldn't worry too much about it, although they may want to know that you've seen a lawyer about the agreement of ownership split should you two break up.
posted by ch1x0r at 1:05 PM on July 15, 2012

It is a crap shoot. Co-ops can reject you for no particular reason. So relax, be yourself, and realize it has less to do with your worthiness than the co-op boards idiosyncratic makeup. A friend of mine was recently turned down from a co-op in the east village with great references, finances etc. Turns out that the board wanted to buy the place from the delinquent seller (owed over a year maintenance) so that they could have a rental property (income) but went through the charade to legitimize the eviction.

Good luck!
posted by snaparapans at 1:39 PM on July 15, 2012

Also, if they are decent normal people, all they are looking for is to have no trouble from you as a tenant. Financial security, stability, and compatible lifestyle are the key things that they want to have in common with fellow shareholders. Also, presenting yourself as non litigious is a biggie, should they ask. Dress nicely, be calm and friendly and smile a lot.
posted by snaparapans at 2:01 PM on July 15, 2012

Agreeing with everyone else - and don't forget - you're interviewing them as well - run from any red flags.

The only thing I have to add is that it can be a pain to get enough people on the board, so if they ask if you'd like to have a place on the board the correct answer is yes, even if you have to back out later.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:25 PM on July 15, 2012

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