February 27, 2015 by Leave a comment

If you’re planning to buy in a large city, you’re probably going to run into a unique kind of buying situation: the co-op.

If you’re fuzzy on the difference between a co-op and a regular house or apartment, here’s a quick primer: because there’s just one deed for the whole building, you’re not buying any particular apartment so much as you are buying a share in an existing corporation. That means the group holding the co-op can be as selective as they want in determining who lives in the building.

And passing that selection process isn’t easy, either. Here are the basics for getting approved.

Get your finances in order                      

This is going to be the biggest sticking point with any board you encounter—in fact it’s the reason most people get turn downed by the board. So get ready to share everything from salary and bonus to the worth of your art collection and retirement account.

If there’s any chance that you may not be able to afford the apartment (for instance, if your monthly payments would account for more than 30% of your monthly income), you’ll have a hard time getting traction. There’s a reason New York has such a low foreclosure rate—co-ops won’t let you buy if there’s any chance you won’t be able to make the payments.

Remember that appearances matter

Do yourself a favor and just pretend this whole process is the most invasive job interview you’ve ever been on. That means dressing well for any in-person interviews, and keeping your board package well organized and labeled.

Don’t forget that this goes for anything the board may see—including your social media pages. So take a quick sweep of any of your public pages, like your Facebook and Twitter accounts, before you get in front of the board. You don’t have to go the full sanitation route, but maybe keep an eye out for anything that makes you look like a bad potential neighbor.

Find people to vouch for you

References—you’re going to need them. Exactly how many and from where will depend on the requirements of the board, but a good rule of thumb is to have two to four references for your character (that is, how you would be as a neighbor), business dealings (your professionalism), and financials (your financial responsibility).

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