The Real.Est List
A real estate agent flunks her big fat board interview
I was living on Long Island and working in Manhattan as a real estate agent. I wanted to be closer to work so I started looking for an apartment to buy close to my office. I searched in my sales database at work and found a FSBO property that sounded perfect.
The 900 sq. ft. one bedroom co-op on Central Park West near 100th Street was housed in a relatively small building – comprised of 30-40 units--and priced at approximately $500k. I liked that I could walk through the park to my office on Madison Avenue. And the building was pet-friendly with no weight limit, so my big dog did not seem like an issue.
After negotiating the price a bit and making an offer that was accepted, I used a real estate attorney I was familiar with through work. He read the contract and saw no red flags. I got a mortgage easily. This seemed like the easiest deal I ever made in my life. Almost too easy…
My board interview took place three weeks later. I had counseled many clients on how to prepare for co-op board interviews, and all my friends were brokers, so everyone was delighted to give me preparation advice. My boss has a good saying, “No one ever lost a co-op by being too boring.”
So I was going to be as basic and benign as possible. Don’t speak unless spoken to. Don’t volunteer anything. Dress like I was going church.
The interview was held on a Saturday in the home of a board member. I walked in totally confident, like the performer and teacher I also am. Besides, I had great credit, had no financial issues and a clean background. What’s not to like?
The four male board members in their 30s and 40s were all my contemporaries. They wore jeans, which made me, wearing a suit and purple velvet coat, feel overdressed.
They asked about where I lived, my schooling, and my job in real estate. Then they started to focus on my big dog. My 90 pound King Doberman was seven years old at the time. They didn’t ask to see him but asked questions about whether it would be problematic living in a one-bedroom with such a big animal. I explained I had lived in an even smaller place with him and all was fine.
On the application they asked for name of dog and I should have just put “Scooby” or “Scooby Doo” but instead I put his actual name which I thought was funny, “Scooby Don’t”. They also asked for his weight. I know now from my real estate experience all dogs lie about their weight but I unfortunately told the truth.
The interview concluded as I had to run off to class, but everyone was cheerful. I had no indication there was a problem. I still thought the meeting was just a formality.
Three days later they called my boss with the results.
The board president explained I was being turned down but that while they knew they didn’t have a responsibility to disclose why, he had really liked me and wanted to extend that courtesy.
It turns out one of the interviewers lived downstairs from the unit I was applying for and he was worried he’d hear a big dog running around. He said the name “Scooby Don’t” was a big red flag for him, indicating the dog must be mischievous and unruly. The President said he and the other two members had voted to allow me to buy, but the Board’s policy was to have a unanimous vote.
I wrote them a letter and tried to tell them more details about Scooby. I explained I own property in the country--even showing them the deed--and relayed that my dog and I spend the weekends there so my potential neighbor would not hear us when he was not at work. They didn’t respond.
This made me shy away from all co-ops. I was scarred. I put out all this money for applications, mortgage originations, and for my real estate lawyer just to get turned down. I had even bought some furniture for the apartment thinking it was a done deal.
I started looking for a condo unit, but my heart wasn’t in it so I continued to live in Long Island and got a new job doing commercial brokerage in Long Island to be close to work. If I couldn’t bring my home closer to my job, I’d bring my job closer to my home.
Also, I starting dating a man in Queens who asked me not to move to Manhattan, so I could be closer to him. So it all worked out! Scooby got to stay in a big house, although sadly Scooby had a heart condition and only made it another year.
My new dog’s nickname is Lindsay Lohan because she’s really bad. If the co-op interviewers thought Scooby Don’t might be a problem, this new dog would be their worst nightmare.
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