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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 others can learn. This week, Perla Cuevas shares her family’s experience of buying a one-bedroom co-op in Kensington. Cuevas, who works in event production for Etsy, says being able to convert the space into a two bedroom was a condition of their offer. Cuevas and her husband had different ideas about how and whether to raise the issue.
How did you prepare for the interview?
I read a ton of articles and talked to friends who bought before at co-ops. It was all very scary. I’ve heard horror stories, I’ve heard okay stories. I would have to say, the best story is ours.
What happened on the day of the interview?
My husband was so mad at me because I decided to wear a jumpsuit, which he didn’t think was very professional. Everyone had said, 'Wear a suit,' and I thought, 'What is the female version of a suit?' I wanted to wear this jumpsuit that I really like and I feel confident in.
[The interview] was in one of the co-op board member’s apartments, and she was completely sweet from the beginning. If we thought we were being tested—not at all! Everyone was very open and revealed more than perhaps they would normally. For example, we’d been told there are so many protocols with setting up air conditioners and things like that and they said, 'Nah, don’t worry, you can do it yourself, but you should go through the super.' We felt like friends. It felt like home and that put us at ease.
Did you raise your renovation plans at the interview?
We have two daughters who are toddlers and are moving into what is technically a one bedroom. There were two walls that were taking the sunlight away from where we wanted to have our living room so we wanted to take them out and make the very large living room our room and leave the master for the girls. My husband was saying, 'Please don’t bring up the fact that we have two kids, that we’re moving into a one bedroom,' all these things.
I was very nervous because it was actually a condition for our offer. The board can’t allow us until we are approved and by the time you’re approved you’re in escrow, but we needed to make sure it was okay and they actually brought it up. I think they were made aware that week and they actually made us feel better about it because there’s another apartment for sale that’s a technical two-bedroom apartment on another floor and they said, 'We think you’ve made the right decision because that apartment is more expensive and it’s only slightly bigger than the one that you’re getting.'
There was even one woman who was in the same line as us and she said she’d love to see what we were hoping to do. We had photos of how we were going to tear down the walls and she said, 'I might do that!'
It sounds like you had a fairly intimate experience?
It’s a 41-unit building and that was a scary thought for me because I always thought I’d live somewhere smaller or in a single family house, but I loved it.
It felt like there was a sense of community. There are people of all ages, all backgrounds. It feels very New York City, Brooklyn. When we first started looking, all of the co-ops were pretty big. We didn’t go through full interviews with the other places we put offers in on, but we heard nightmares from them. They rejected a ton of people for minor reasons. A lot of the other co-ops had much older members, some in their 80s. We are a biracial couple and it can be nerve-wracking going into that scenario dealing with 80-year-old white people and wondering how they are going to react.
We felt like this was the right choice because my husband has, of course, been looking at other apartments and co-ops to make sure we’ve made the right choice and I told him, 'Didn’t you feel as good about the positive energy, the synergy in the room?' Normally he doesn’t talk about that stuff and he said the same thing, he felt the same way.
What originally drew you to this particular co-op?
We’d been looking at a ton of places, it was the smallest place we looked at and the price reflected that. I wanted to be on the top floor, I wanted to have a lot of light. I wanted to have a renovated kitchen and bathroom already. I didn’t want to do any of that work. It had all those components. The space was smaller than we initially wanted, but it was a great way to start thinking of things we don’t need.
[Our building] is not as fancy as the other places we looked at, but the other places were going to take a lot more of our money. I felt a good vibe from everyone coming in and out of the building. As soon as we walked into the space, even though the sunlight was blocked by the wall, it felt like home. In our co-op, everyone was a pleasure to work with.
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