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How to tell if a co-op will let you do a "wet over dry" renovation

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Even if you have the money, the time, and the willpower to gut-renovate the co-op apartment you’re thinking of buying, you may be thwarted by a renovation-hostile co-op board.  But how do you tell before you buy?

Over on StreetEasy.com, a prospective buyer wants to move the kitchens and bathrooms—a so-called “wet-over-dry” configuration frowned upon by many boards--and doesn’t trust the assurances of the seller’s broker, who has told “one blatant lie” already.

Read on for what some commenters suggest. (Note: Before acting on any of these suggestions, be sure to read the whole discussion.)

  • Ask the board in writing and via email.
  • Ask the managing agent.
  • Look up other renovation filings on the Department of Building’s website.
  • “I would insist on being put in touch with whoever in building most recently renovated and the last people to move kitchen and/or bath. Then ask them about their experiences. That's a start. You are looking at very unusual type of renovation and would want solid assurances they are possible if not being able to move the wet areas is a deal buster for you. If no one has moved wet areas in last years, for all you know the policy has changed and past projects cannot be relied upon as evidence that yours will be approved. “
  • “ Ask the [seller’s] agent if he'd mind putting his commission in an escrow account which would be paid out only upon your board approved renovations and that any initial board rejection would allow you to keep the money. If the agent doesn't think the renovations are a problem, he shouldn't have a problem with that set-up.”
  • “Most decent buildings have renovation policies--inquire as to what those are and make clear that when you meet with the board you will further inquire--seller wont risk the waste of time getting all the way to the board, then having deal fall through based on renovation issue lies.”
  • “If it is possible you should try to find out who the engineer of the building is. You should be able to get that from the super. The board usually gets their info from the engineer and what he says normally goes. He also would know what other projects in the building have been approved.”
  • “Be completely upfront with the board. If they know you want to undergo a reno they have no intention of allowing, they aren't going to want to expose themselves to any litigation or headaches by approving you and then denying you--at least most rational boards would feel this way.. Do your due diligence and be up front with everyone about your plans...PRIOR to signing, and after.”
  • Or not: “As an applicant, you have no recourse from a rejection - game over. I think it's much easier to get something done once you have your foot in the door. I've known some renovation proposals containing unorthodox elements that were actually outside of the rules of co-op boards that were ultimately resolved without too much pain, so I don't see why something within the rules would be terribly problematic. Once you have closed.”
  • “ A friend of mine once got the seller to agree to submitting his plans to the managing agent prior to closing. The plans were approved and survived the sale, and my friend was able to start renovating immediately post-close.”

(StreetEasy.com)

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