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Compelling reasons why you should join your co-op board if you can

Don't live by the rules—make them. 

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We know you’re busy. Serving on your co-op board, unless you’re naturally the type to gravitate to such commitments, is probably not high on your list of “must-dos.” But maybe it should be. Members of co-op boards can reap benefits ranging from getting a pet project realized and ensuring the building is in good shape financially, not to mention having a say in who lives with you.

We talked to real estate pros, all of whom are members of their co-op board, to find out why it may be in your best interest to join, and serve on yours.

But first: How much time are we talking about? It depends, with the frequency and nature of meetings varying by the building and the level of activity. For example, if there is a renovation underway or another big project happening, there may be an increased need to meet. Some boards meet monthly, others quarterly. Regardless, you can expect ongoing communication via email and more informal conversations in passing.

Have a say in what you can and can’t do

It sounds basic, but all co-ops have rules. Everyone in the co-op has to abide by them, but just a handful of people, the co-op board, actually makes them.

“Many items that affect your day-to-day living experience within the co-op will be put to a vote throughout the year, and most will only require majority board approval (rather than general shareholder input),” says Elizabeth Kohen, managing broker and co-owner of Garfield Realty. “Because a board’s voting members—typically just three to seven people—can create or amend the existing house rules and regulations on an ongoing basis, it’s valuable to be a part of that decision-making body.”

Get something fixed

Allison Pennell, an agent at Brown Harris Stevens, says that in her experience, most people get on co-op boards to fix something or to spearhead a pet project. “When the co-op ignored the holes in the cornice and tried to ignore the raccoons that had taken up residence inside, I got on the board to refinance, do capital improvements to install a new cornice and roof and redo our dilapidated halls,” she says. “Getting on the board was the only way to get any of that accomplished.”

Help resolve an issue

Citi Habitats associate broker David Maundrell Jr. is president of his Midwood co-op’s board and has served on it for over 10 years. He says it’s a process he enjoys, and he’s particularly interested in maintaining the quality of life for all residents of the building, respectfully. One example? Dealing with excessive noise.

“You try to address the problem sensitively and responsibly, and fix it—without being antagonistic,” he says.

Enhance your investment

Serving on your co-op board allows you to have a voice in what improvements are made in the building.

“I tend to focus on issues that I feel enhance the value of our apartments,” says Drew Glick, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens, who has served on his co-op board for 20 years and brings his knowledge of what buyers want to the experience. “I spearheaded new and expanded storage facilities and pushed for lobby and  hallway renovations for example.”

Convinced life would be so much better if a major amenity was added? “If you have a dream project for the building, such as a roof deck or playroom, being on the board offers you a much stronger opportunity to make that happen,” says Kohen.

Protect your investment

Similarly, being on a co-op board ensures you’ll be aware of, and have a say in, decisions that could affect the value of your apartment. “I also helped our board understand what is common as far as flip taxes go when we discussed increasing our flip tax and the pros and cons of doing so and how it could impact values,” says Glick.

Keep things buttoned up

It’s not uncommon for real estate listings to use the term “well-run co-op,” which means that yes, some are not, and that can have a ripple effect when it comes to buying, selling, legal matters, assessments and more. Board members can help make sure important details aren’t overlooked or ignored.

Kohen adds that being on the co-op board will make you privy to the literal nuts and bolts of the building, in addition to its health financially and legally.

“You also get an inside view of the building's structural and mechanical systems, financials, and local law 11 status.” If anything needs fixing, it’s better to know about it sooner rather than later.

Get some extra oomph

Finally, as with life in general, Kohen says that being more than just a name or an apartment number can help when it comes to getting questions or concerns addressed.

“Management also tends to be even more responsive to board members' needs, because they interact with you on a regular basis and know you as a person, not just as a resident with an issue.”