A board interview is the final step to approval when buying a co-op unit in New York City. In this series, New Yorkers tell Brick Underground about their experience with the interview process, what worked and what didn’t—and what you can learn. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.
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This week two high school teachers share their experience buying a co-op in Forest Hills, Queens. Stephanie and Gregg Bolsaro (pseudonyms) bought a 950-square-foot one bedroom in a 100-unit co-op building without a buyer's broker. They found themselves relying heavily on the seller’s broker to guide them through the interview process, but say it was their letters of recommendation that clinched the deal.
What was it like to go into a co-op interview without a broker?
The seller’s brokers were super amazing when it came to [the interview]. Even though they were working for the seller, they were equally helpful to us during the process. They sent us information on what it would be like. We understood they were working for [the seller] but they helped us get all the paperwork together. They told us the board was much more relaxed than a lot of other boards so that eased our nerves a little bit.
What were your main concerns ahead of the interview?
When you hear about co-op board interviews, there’s a lot of negativity—that they are mean or tough, and we were nervous as we didn’t know what to expect, or what they were going to ask. We did so much work to get to that point, we just didn’t want to put all that effort and money into it for them to say, ‘Nope, sorry you’re not a good fit.’
At the very last minute, when they had received the application package, they reached out and asked for our credit card statements and that made us nervous. For one, that’s extra invasive, why do you now need our credit card statement after you already know everything about us? I thought it might be a red flag.
Did you feel vulnerable at any point not having a broker?
We didn’t set out not to use a broker but we were able to do so much work without one, it didn’t make sense to bring one in. We were very specifically looking in Forest Hills and spent a lot of time looking at listing sites. We did use a broker for a couple of viewings but we were hitting dead ends and our lease was about to end and we wanted to get the process going a little bit. Then I got a notification about an open house. I went by myself and remember thinking this feels like home and telling Gregg, 'You have to come and see this.'
How did the interview go?
The interview was so relaxed and calm we were lucky we were not grilled. What surprised us is the three board members were talking as if we were about to own it rather than asking us questions to get it. They did mention our recommendation letters and how good they were. They called them ‘Disney.’ We have to give kudos to our friends and co-workers. Gregg and I both had to give six letters, three personal and three professional and they spoke about our character more than anything. They really did take the time to write very nice and well-written letters that pretty much described Gregg and me in a good light. The [board members] mentioned it a couple of times.
So there were no difficult questions?
Gregg grew up in the area so it wasn’t like they had to inform us about the parking situation, the subway, or commute. They were asking us if we had any questions! It was ironic because one of the things you are told not to do at a board interview is to ask questions. It was almost a little awkward. Gregg came up with something about parking. I think we asked about packages because we don’t have a doorman.
What’s your advice to others now you’ve gone through the process?
Have a good lawyer. Get the apartment inspected well before you do the walkthrough. And make sure you have awesome recommendation letters.