Buying an apartment is an exciting time. You’ve found a beautiful co-op in your dream neighborhood of New York City. You may be thinking a mortgage broker approving your loan is the last hurdle, but there’s one, potentially harder, hurdle you need to surpass: the co-op board.
Nearly 75 percent of all Manhattan housing inventory are co-ops. If you’re buying into a cooperative, know that a corporation, not you own your home. You’re buying shares of the corporation. How many shares you buy is correlated to the square footage of your apartment. The other owners of this corporation are your neighbors.
So before calling a co-op home and picking up the keys, a buyer must first pass the co-op board interview by answering the interview questions and preparing a packet of financial information for the board.
Getting Co-op Board Approved
Being approved to purchase a co-op apartment requires a sometimes challenging co-op board interview. Most people who live in co-op apartments have to grin and bear the selection process, which tends to be invasive and often grueling, depending on the board and the building’s prestigious address.
The co-op board is comprised of select residents who are elected by other residents. To become one of the bunch, you need to prepare to be grilled by a group of fellow shareholders on everything from finances to how many children you have — even the breed of your dog.
But if you prepare correctly and do your homework will set you up to be walking through the front door of your dream apartment in no time. Luckily, if you’ve made it this far, you’re in pretty good shape, but we will help you prepare to ensure you can seal the deal.
We break down some common questions you’ll be asked during a co-op board interview.
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Preparing for a Co-op Board Interview
You have finally found your dream co-op, you’ve aced the co-op application package. Now the co-op board wants to interview you.
The idea of a board interview with a panel of strangers scrutinizing your every move and mannerism can be as nerve-wracking as a job interview, if not more. With a little preparation, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Here are some questions you can expect along with tips on how to answer them:
If your interviewer asks if you have any questions for the board, the best response is something like, “Not that I can think if right now, but thank you.”
Typical Co-op Board Interview Questions
- Most of the time, the board will ask you financial questions before the interview, but, just in case, bring a copy of your financial statement with you to prepare for any questions.
- If you’re self-employed, expect to give detailed explanations of your finances. The board will be worried you won’t be able to pay your maintenance or standard common charges on a long-term basis.
- While you might expect this question to come from a bank, they’ll ask if you are confident that you can afford maintenance and the mortgage comfortably?
Feel-Good Interview Questions
- What made you choose this co-op building?
- What made you choose this apartment?
- Why do you want to live in this neighborhood?
- How many apartments did you view?
- Do you have any questions about the building?
- Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
- Do you plan to do any renovations, and how will you afford them? How long will they take?
- Will you use the co-op apartment for residential purposes only?
- Do you work from home?
- Would you consider running for the co-op board?
- Are you a musician and play any musical instruments?
- Do you entertain often?
- Do you smoke?
The best way to handle these questions is with patience and as directly as possible. It will feel like a barrage of questions, but it’s because the board wants to get to know you. With a co-op, you are doing more than just buying a place to live. You’re becoming part of a community. If you do pass and become a resident, this will be to your benefit as well to ensure you have friendly neighbors in the future.
Top Interview Questions And How To Answer Them
Why Do You Want to Move Here?
This common question could also be asked as, “What appeals to you about living here?” or “Why are you moving?“ It seems reasonably straightforward, but the answer can sometimes be tricky, depending on your circumstances.
The key to answering it is avoiding anything that makes the co-op board question your finances or stability. Don’t mention wanting to save money. You don’t want to make them think you’re having financial issues or that this move is only temporary as if you’re living here to save money and will move on when you can.
So, You’re a ____. How Do You Like It?
The board will ask you about your career and what you do for a living. While this question sounds like honest conversation, the board is again looking to find out if you are financially solvent, and if your career choice is a permanent one. Even if you hate your job, answer in an upbeat way — not the time to share war stories about your clients or sad tales about your horrible boss. They’ll also likely ask you how long you’ve been at your job. You want to project stability.
Are You Planning on Renovating?
Renovations are very disruptive to neighbors. The idea of drilling and hammering for the next six months will not excite the board. There’s no reason to disclose your plans when you are not approved.
However, don’t mislead your co-op board interviewers either. Keep the answer open-ended and say something like, “I’m taking this one step at a time. I’m just focusing on the move now and have no immediate plans for renovating.”
Do You Entertain Frequently?
No, the board is not expecting to come to your house-warming party. Instead, they’re trying to gauge how disruptive a neighbor you will be. Some boards will ask if you have a lot of family and friends in town. It may sound like a conversation, but they want to know how many out-of-towners will be couch surfing at your place.
A low-key answer is best: “I prefer occasional dinners with close friends.”
Once you move in, you probably wouldn’t want your neighbors having loud parties until 2 am either.
What are Your Hobbies?
This question also aims to see if you’re going to be a disruptive neighbor. If you play the drums or love howling at the moon, now is not the time to disclose it. Focus on quiet hobbies, such as photography, knitting, reading, etc.
Tips to Ace The Interview
While co-ops dominate more of the market than condos and are less expensive, the approval process is far more rigorous. The purpose of the interview can vary widely–some co-op boards view it merely as a formality after approving an application, but others use it as an opportunity to scrutinize candidates and their financials.
To help ensure your co-op board interview goes smoothly resulting in an approval, follow these tips.
Tidy up your online profile
If you only post shots of you partying on Instagram, now might be the time to flip your profile to private. The board members who are interviewing you will likely Google you before they even meet you.
Make Eye Contact
Making eye contact with someone while you speak is a good tip for any conversation. While you’re answering questions from the co-op board, be sure, to be honest, and make eye contact.
Try to keep your answers as neutral as you can, especially when responding to those more personal questions.
Mostly, don’t let the interview get to you. Keep your cool no matter what they ask. Occasionally, a board interview will push the parameters and table topics that are not allowed legally — like your political affiliation. Answer these, but without giving too much information. No matter how invasive, do not refuse to answer any question if you want to be sure to pass.
What to Wear to a Co-op Board Interview
You’ll want to dress appropriately for your interview. While you don’t have to dress quite as formally as a job interview, it’s a good idea to wear more than jeans and nothing with holes and stains. Also, keep it modest.
Be on Time
Keeping a co-op board waiting will not serve you well, so try to show up early. Also, understand this is a time-consuming process, so be patient with the board.
Expect Personal Questions
Be prepared to field personal questions without getting defensive. Remember that the board is merely trying to determine what kind of neighbor you’ll make. While you want to project the best image of yourself, it’s best not to lie.
Familiarize Yourself With Your Financial Statement
Going into the interview, you should know your financial statement like the back of your hand and be prepared to answer questions about it. You won’t want to deviate from the information there, as it could raise red flags and have the board members questioning what the actual truth is.
Solidarity is important
If the co-op board is interviewing you with your husband, wife, or partner, make sure you’re all on the same page, so you don’t interrupt or contradict one another. If you have a pet, they might even be invited as a way to vet your animal’s demeanor. It might be worth going to a puppy kindergarten class as a refresher before the interview.
Don’t ask questions
For the most part, the co-op building management company should have answered your questions before you sign a contract. Now is their time to ask you questions, not yours.
Don’t Mention Renovations
Unless asked, don’t talk about the renovation work you intend to do, and, even if asked, downplay your plans.
Limit the personal information you divulge to what the board asks. Don’t volunteer things that are not necessary. No one wants to know about your problems or hear 10-year-old stories.
Don’t Expect an Immediate Decision
The board usually will conduct a full review, and that takes time. You won’t get your answer the next day.
Meet Post-Interview Requests
In some cases, board approval might be contingent on you holding months of maintenance in an escrow account. Be prepared to have this cash available so you can expedite the process on your end.
Wait For An Answer
Once the board has decided, the managing agent will contact you or your agent. Typically, if approved, notification is given within one week.
Being confident and at ease during the co-op board interview will help you be approved. Genuine; likable, and well-capitalized shareholders are what co-ops prefer.