Q. My divorce was recently finalized and I'm ready to buy an apartment. I've heard that co-op boards are not very friendly to divorced buyers. What exactly does that mean? What can I do about it?
A. Discrimination based on family status is illegal, says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, so your divorce itself is not the problem.
It's your financial and employment circumstances after the divorce that may cause a problem, according to our experts.
"The board will look at the overall picture, including credit, liabilities like alimony and child support and private school tuition. It is a case by case basis. That is not to say that somewhere internally there might be a bias, but I have never really seen it," says Manhattan closing attorney Karen S. Sonn of Sonn & Associates, who has helped divorced clients with solid credit and and jobs buy a co-op.
Sonn says that "usually the professional brokers I work with have it all maped out with their clients and what, if anything, is known about the building's financial requirements. There are some rules of thumb in the business and there are some indiciations based on the building's requirements in the board package."
Where it can get sticky, says real estate broker Deanna Kory of Corcoran, is if the buyer doesn't have an income on their own and is relying on alimony and child support.
"Unless the alimony period is very long," says Kory, "most co-ops will have an issue with it. Also, co-ops may want to have a profile and information on the ex-spouse to make sure they will be capable of paying the alimony and child support. That requires a bit more information and the board application may be highly complex."
Ideally, says Kory, the former spouse will actively help the purchase.
"Sometimes, even, an ex-spouse will guarantee maintenance," she says. "This always helps and should perhaps be sought as part of a divorce settlement."
If you don't have the cooperation of your spouse, make sure to ask a broker who understands how to deal with a divorced inidvidual in a co-op setting to review your financial statement first to determine if you will qualify for the building.
"If there are too many complications and information cannot be verified," says Kory, you may be better off shopping for a condo.
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