In this week's 'Ask an Agent' column, the experts at TripleMint--a tech-savvy brokerage that gives buyers and renters access to the same database of listings used by the city's real estate agents, and pays their agents bonuses for client satisfaction--guide first-time buyers through the often-intimidating process of not just making it through the co-op board interview process in one piece, but making your eventual approval by the building a slam dunk.
Q: I know co-ops are more budget-friendly than condos, but the interview process is intimidating. What can I expect from a board interview, and how do I prepare? Are there any hidden minefields I should know about?
“Making it to the interview stage means you have already met the board’s criteria on paper, and now it’s time to dress to impress. Think of the board interview as you would a job interview: dress appropriately, have positive answers for their questions, and tell them things they want to hear, like how excited you are to potentially live there or how stable your career is. Sometimes people talk a lot when they are nervous , but it’s important not to divulge too much and just be yourself. Only answer questions that you are asked; don't go on tangents or ask questions in return. This is a chance for them to interview you, not the other way around.
I’d say the biggest 'minefield' to look out for are the personal and obscure questions that are asked. This is completely normal and to be expected. A friend of mine recently had an interview with her board and they asked her what a typical day is like for her. Included in her response she mentioned she usually has Seamless delivered at the end of the day; the board was unfamiliar with this food delivery service and immediately got concerned. A seemingly innocent question created a red flag, so just keep your answers short and sweet.
At the end of the day, the board wants to know that you are going to be a quiet, respectful neighbor who will take pride in living in the building for a long time to come. Keep these tips in mind and you'll be successful in your co-op board interview.”- Allie Deitch, Real Estate Specialist
"If you're planning to purchase an apartment, especially if you plan on living there, please do not let the co-op board interview scare you into looking at only condos! Some of the market's best and most unique (not to mention cost-efficient) inventory is found in co-op buildings, and with a little preparation with your agent, the interview process should not be something to work yourself up over.
There are a few things to expect from your co-op board interview that can help you prepare. You will have put together a board package with your agent in advance, and each member of the board will get a copy. Similar to handing over your resume at a job interview, you should expect the members of the board to look over your package with a fine tooth comb and be prepared to answer any questions. The board members will not only be evaluating your financial stability, but also your personal and professional references. They're going to want to see that you're a responsible and stable person, capable of keeping up on your monthly payments and maintaining your responsibilities to the co-op. Beyond your financial responsibility, the board will essentially be evaluating you to see whether or not they want you to become one of their neighbors. Here are a few do's and don'ts that will help you become the master of any co-op board interview:
- Do dress professionally, as board members will directly associate your cleanliness with your ability to take care of the property.
- Don't immediately suggest your plans for how the board or the building could improve. Though you may have ideas that could be a huge help to the building, wait to bring these up until after you've closed on the apartment. If the board has any inclination that you may be difficult to please in the future, they will see it as a red flag.
- Do remain neutral on as much as possible, and don't offer up more information than is necessary. Think about how you are answering each question. If you're asked about your hobbies, try to avoid mentioning your recent affinity for learning to play the saxophone, and maybe stick to your enjoyment of hitting the ski slopes in the winter. Your social life? Yes, you have one (don't make them wonder why literally no one wants to be friends with you), but outside of the occasional small dinner party, that social life is conducted outside of your home.
- Do avoid the same type of hot button topics that you would avoid in a job interview or on a first date. Unless you absolutely have to discuss politics, religion, or your thoughts on the ugly statue ("artwork") outside of the building next door, don't. Co-op boards can deny you for any reason that they want, even if it's just based off of a bad feeling. Avoid giving them any opportunity to disagree with your opinions by not letting them know what your opinions are in the first place.
- Even if you have a huge, burning desire to serve on the co-op board one day, Don't tell them about it. You may come off as a threat to the members of the board who don't want to lose their positions. If asked if you would like to be on the board, this is a great time to tell them that if the board ever needed any help, you would consider it, but at the current time you hadn't thought about serving. (Maybe throw in that from what you have seen in the building, it seems like they are doing a great job already.)
- Unless it's absolutely necessary, don't mention your plans for renovation inside your apartment once you move in. Though most boards would assume that you'll plan on making some sort of improvements to your new home, they don't need your details in the interview. If asked, tell them you are taking this one step at a time, and have not thought about any renovations at this point. If you want to be sure the board won't block your eventual work, look over the minutes from recent meetings to see how they've handled other renovations.
- Don't ask too many questions. Unlike a job interview, when the boards ask you if you have any questions, you don't. As Allie mentioned above, they are interviewing you, not the other way around. Save any questions you may have until after you've been approved.
- Do practice with your broker beforehand. It is your broker's responsibility to know as much as possible about the board interview process, and coach you into being an expert. Every co-op board is different, and your agent should know the small intricacies of the board you are interviewing with to make sure your efforts are focused in the right areas. You're working with a market expert for a reason, so use them!” - Emily Seils, Client Experience Manager
TripleMint is a technology-enabled real estate brokerage that is the refreshingly simple way for New Yorkers to buy, sell and rent apartments.