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My wife and I had been living in a rental but I had always loved the building my sister lived in for 15 years on West 57th and Sixth Avenue. When she called to tell me an apartment right downstairs from her was finally for sale, I jumped at the chance to see it.
I contacted the broker who quickly showed me the 1,100 square-foot two-bedroom and while the décor was not aesthetically pleasing and I knew we’d have to do a gut renovation, we decided to purchase it.
About a month after I finished drafting the contract I got the date for my co-op board interview. Not only did I know I had the resume and financials but I felt very confident that we’d sail through because of my sister and father’s relationship with everyone in the building, particularly the in-house managing agent. Because of my pre-relationship with many of the 300-tenants in the community-like building, I knew it’d be a snap.
The interview was held in the bowels of the building in the basement where all the mechanical rooms were. Dreary, but I knew it would be quick. Out of the seven members on the board, the president and two others were present to ask my wife and I questions. The interview lasted all of seven minutes!
We said how much we loved the building, explaining my 15-year history of visits.
We were asked what we did for a living. They already knew I was a real estate attorney because I had drafted the contract. There was tons of joking around about how great of a neighbor my sister was despite her two-year renovation project.
The only thing that unnerved me a bit is when the actual owner of the management company showed up at the end of the interview. He asked if we had children or pets (we don’t) and then I was asked if I play a musical instrument. I replied that while I didn’t, my brother is the principal trumpet at the Met. It turned out that the board president is a season ticket holder.
The last question asked was if I planned to do renovations and I responded honestly that we did. I wasn’t sure what their policies were on that except that it was all based on the board’s consent.
As we were leaving, we were told the rules of the building, so I suspected we were in. When the management company owner said, “Welcome to the building,” I knew we were victorious. The next day we got the official word we could have the apartment.
Within two years I was invited to become a member of the board and became vice president. After that the studio next to my unit was up for sale so I bought it to expand my apartment to 1900 square feet and even bought to the hallway space as part of the deal. Luckily because I was already in the building and on the board I didn’t have to go through a second interview.
Some other tips I’d offer clients in regards to preparing for their own co-op board interviews would be:
I generally, though, do not take my own advice. While I might not advise my clients to do these following things, I found they worked for me:
- Be cognizant of your financial position. Remember what you put in your application.
- Conduct yourself like you would on any other professional interview. Dress properly, show up on time, and be honest. Do not look like you are hiding something. If they ask about pets, for example, fully disclose.
- Do not expand on answers unnecessarily. If you have a pet say yes, but don’t expand unless asked. Be pointed in your answers.
- Review your co-op’s house rules
- Know the names of the board members. Look like you did homework.
- Don’t be overanxious. Most interviews aren’t nearly as bad as you can create them to be in your head.
- Have a sense of humor---do not joke but be personable. This depends on where you are applying for a place, though. If you are buying a $30 million apartment you don’t want to be jovial.
- You might want to show a bit of personality---or show you are interesting-- without being odd. I realize this is a fine line in NYC.
- Have fun with it. The interview is an important step to owning the apartment that you feel is your dream home. Feel the excitement!
Sandor D. Krauss is a New York City co-op and condo attorney.