Co-op letter writing help
January 16, 2008 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I need to write a friend a recommendation letter for a co-op where he is trying to buy an apartment here in NYC. I've never done this before. What kinds of things should I say in the letter besides the usual "I've known him for ten years and he's a stand up guy" sort of thing?
posted by josher71 to Human Relations (8 answers total)
Speak to what they would be concerned as a co-op about but what they might not hear from an employer...

You could comment on his ability to maintain an apartment. How he took pride in his home. How he is well liked by his neighbors.
posted by ian1977 at 7:25 AM on January 16, 2008

I needed letters of recommendation before I was allowed to purchase my place (note: condo, no co-op); the real estate agent indicated they should focus on things that were likely to matter to the condo board -- so they all said I was quiet, clean, generally well-mannered, fiscally responsible, that sort of thing.

...basically, all code-phrases for "doesn't hold parties, uses headphones for music, won't leave trash lying around, won't attract roaches or rats, and is unlikely to sell any drug you've ever heard of, or murder anyone you care about"
posted by aramaic at 7:30 AM on January 16, 2008

how reasonable and organized he is to deal with, how trustworthy, etc. give examples, or make them up. your buddy needs to be a saint in your letter. anything less makes these boards wonder...also if you are impressive at all in your own job/life, ie, you manage people, you're a VP, something.. be sure to mention that too, because the boards do pay attention to who is doing the letter writing.
posted by raconteur at 8:47 AM on January 16, 2008

If you can get them, fancy letterhead and nice envelopes don't hurt either. It's a way of demonstrating that other people trust you enough to hire you without having to be super explicit about your own achievements. It also shows that you care enough about the person you're recommending that you'll take the extra time to make the physical letter look nice instead of just cranking something out in word and emailing it to them.
posted by heresiarch at 9:12 AM on January 16, 2008

Best answer: I'm on the board of my NYC co-op and here's my advice.

To get sense of whether or not a person can afford the maintenance and mortgage payments we get tons of financial documents, so we don't need to hear about that from a recommender.

We like to know that someone is a good neighbor, quiet, clean, respectful of others, willing to behave reasonable when conflicts occur. Any specifics about stepping up to help others or be a good neighbor would probably be impressive.

Information about your relationship with the person you're recommending is good. What you do for a living, how responsible you are good.

Nice stationary is okay, but probably most of the members of the board are going to get photocopies of the letter, so that ultimately won't make a huge difference, so I would go crazy.

The best would be if you had been his landlord in the past.
posted by brookeb at 10:04 AM on January 16, 2008

Best answer: I'm on the board of a co-op here in Providence. I don't know exactly what kind of co-op it is (ours in a concensus-based housing co-op), but here are the things we look for:

*can this person take initiative? (do they look around, see things that are wrong, and fix them?)
*is this person relatively emotionally stable? (it can be a huge damper on a living community if someone is not able to handle the inevitable conflict with some degree of reasonable-ness)
*does this person have a record of cleaning up after themselves?
*is this person likely to "take over" or micromanage? do they know when to ask help when they need it, when to delegate, and how to participate in a community that shares responsibility?
*does he tend to become invested in the things around him? the house, the community, the governance, etc.? Any examples you can give of this person taking leadership would be a great thing to include in this letter.
*does this person have any conflict mediation skills? If so, huge asset. If not, don't worry about it.

I've written a lot of recommendation letters, and I've seen even more of them, and I would argue that it's fishy to receive one that seems like things are made up. No one's a saint; painting them that way is just asking for trouble, IMO. Rather, I think it can be good to really speak about the person. Like "sometimes they struggle with ___, but they always know when a situation is too much for them to handle." Or whatever. This depends on how well you know them, though, so if you actually don't have a good handle on who they are, don't worry about making it up.
posted by lunit at 12:22 PM on January 16, 2008

errr, that should read... If you don't have a handle on who they are, don't lie.
posted by lunit at 12:24 PM on January 16, 2008

I've written a couple of recommendation letters for friends vying for places at fairly competitive coops and they all followed a general outline like this:
Dear Members of the Board:
I am writing in support of [Friend]’s application to become a resident of your building. I have known [Friend] since [whenever]. [Friend] and I have maintained a friendship over the years [and we know each other professionally as well]. Our paths cross frequently at [industry events/social engagements], and we have many friends and acquaintances in common. I am sure they would attest, as I do, that [Friend] is highly-accomplished professionally and is a well-established, reliable and respected individual.

In a professional context, I have had occasion to judge the character and commitment of a large number of people in our industry, and [Friend] not only meets, but exceeds the demanding standards of our profession. As a long-time New York City resident and someone who has shared a neighborhood with [Friend], I know the value of good neighbors and considerate tenants. I can’t imagine a more appropriate person to join your building than [Friend]; [She/He] is considerate, reliable, and engaged in the community. I recommend [her/him] highly.

If I can offer any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

The key thing is to offer background on the contexts where you've known the person, or especially the contexts where you or others have relied on the person. Demonstrating how you can really count on that person makes it easy for them to do the same.
posted by anildash at 10:00 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

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