How to Ace a Co-op Board Interview in NYC

Ace a co-op board interview in NYC by showing up on time, being presentable, being succinct in your answers and not asking any questions. Be especially careful not to mention any renovation plans during your co-op board interview, as it shows poor judgement to ask for approval on something when you haven’t even been approved yet as a shareholder.

A co-op board interview is the final step to board approval when buying a co-op apartment in NYC. A co-op board interview is scheduled once you’ve submitted your coop purchase application and have been conditionally approved. The board has reviewed and conditionally approved your application at this point, so the co-op board interview is a final opportunity to vet you in person.

Table of Contents:

What Should You Wear to a Co-op Board Interview?

You do not need to impress the board with your strong fashion sense at the co-op board interview. However, you do not want to give the impression that you are not taking the process seriously by dressing too casually either.

Nor should you flaunt your wealth by wearing excessive amounts of jewelry or sporting clothing items with prominent (and possibly obnoxious) logos from luxury fashion houses.

The best rule of thumb is to dress “business casual” for the co op board interview. Business casual attire allows you to be comfortable, proper but not too formal.

Keep in mind that most co op board interviews occur during weekday evenings when people are off from work. Therefore, there’s no need to dress overly formally!

Remember that co-op board members are normal people who also just finished work for the day. They’re unpaid volunteers who are as motivated as you are to finish the interview expediently and go home to eat dinner with family. They just want to make sure you’re as normal as you appear on paper and that you’re not “foaming at the mouth” and a total wreck in person. Just be yourself!

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Co-op interview tips

Be on time

  • Being late to a co-op board interview can be disastrous, especially if the board members are all on time. As you can imagine, this doesn’t look too good for you and the psychological guilt and pressure you’ll experience may traumatize you during the co-op board interview itself. It’s simply not worth it. Save yourself the hassle and arrive 15 minutes early!

Be familiar with your entire application

  • Review your application several times to ensure that you have a complete handle on everything contained within the board package you submitted. It’s particularly important to review your financials, as the board is likely to ask specific questions about your overall financial picture.

Prepare for personal questions

  • You’ll likely be asked a handful of personal questions. Handle them without being defensive!

Don’t talk too much

  • The best interviews are short and sweet. Just answer the board’s questions succinctly and leave it at that. Don’t to go out of your way to volunteer additional personal information, as this could backfire and harm you. Remember that this is not a job interview where you’re competing against dozens of other applicants. There’s no need to take risk and ‘swing for the fences’ in order to impress your interviewers.  Just remember that you’ve already been conditionally approved based on your purchase application. Nobody else is competing for your apartment. The co-op board interview is just an opportunity to vet you in person and see if there might be any reason to disqualify you!

Don’t mention renovation plans

  • It’s your right as a shareholder to renovate your apartment. However, this doesn’t mean that you should proactively alert the board about your extensive plans for a gut renovation. In fact, don’t discuss renovations at all. If asked directly about renovations, downplay the extent of the work you intend to do and perhaps mention that your primary and immediate focus is moving-in and integrating into the co-op community.

  • Remember that renovations are subject to board approval, which means it creates extra work for board members to review your proposal. Why let them imagine the additional work you’re going to create for them during the interview?

  • Moreover, one or more board members might have a personal agenda against approving a shareholder who plans on renovating. For example, what if the board member interviewing you is a neighbor? She or he will inevitably be subjected to several months of noise, dust and foot traffic if your purchase is approved and you decide to renovate. Once you’re approved and officially an owner, you can just proceed with your renovation plans then.

Coordinate with your partner

  • If you’re buying with a significant other, make sure you’ve rehearsed who will take the lead on specific questions or topics. Don’t contradict or interrupt one another.

Clean up your online profile

  • It’s scary how much information is out there about you. Consider doing an online privacy check-up before your interview (and ideally before your board application is submitted). What will the board find out about you from a simple Google search? Do you have an offensive Instagram handle? Are you tagged in any controversial posts which are publicly visible? Have you chimed in publicly on hot button political issues? The last thing you want is to create a negative impression for the board  before you’ve even gotten a chance to meet them.

What Questions Will I Be Asked During a Co-op Board Interview?

Do you plan on serving on the board?

This question may seem innocent enough, but be careful about enthusiastically revealing that you plan to run for the board. Doing so may make the board members interviewing you feel threatened. Common advice you’ll hear from experienced buyers’ agents is to simply respond that you haven’t given much thought to it, but that you’d be happy to help in any way if the building wanted you to participate.

Why are you moving to a smaller apartment?

This is a common question if you are moving from a larger apartment to a smaller one. The goal here is to simply explain your need for less space. Perhaps you are an “empty nester” and all of your kids are just off to college.

You don’t want to mention anything about affordability. Telling the board that you are downsizing because you can’t afford your previous apartment’s monthly costs is a warning signal to the board about your financial stability.

Do you like what you do for work?

This is not the time to complain about how stressful your job is. This question is also meant to gauge how secure your job is. If you’re complaining about your poor relationship with your boss, that would be a warning sign to the board about your job security.

What are your hobbies?

This is not the time to bring up anything too weird or too disruptive to your neighbors. For example, it’s not a good idea to talk about your passion for playing the guitar late at night. Remember, the board is composed of regular people just like you. They simply want to vet that you’re a normal person and won’t be doing anything too disruptive to residents’ lives.

What does your social calendar look like?

The classic advice from a good buyer’s broker would be to say that while you enjoy the occasional dinner at home with a few friends, your free time otherwise is spent socializing outside of your building. The co-op board interview is not a great time to brag about how great of a yearly birthday party you typically throw on your roof.

Additional possible interview questions include:

  • Why did you choose this building?

  • What made you choose this apartment?

  • Why do you want to live in this neighborhood?

  • How many other apartments did you consider, and how long were you searching?

  • Do you play any musical instruments?

  • Do you smoke?

  • Do you have any pets?

  • Are you going to use the apartment for any commercial activities?

  • Are you confident that you can comfortably carry the mortgage and maintenance?

  • What kind of renovations are you planning? How will you finance the renovation?

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Co-op interview questions to ask

Sometimes the board will ask at the end of the interview whether the applicant has any questions. This is a trick question! Remember that you are the one being interviewed.

This is not a time to drag the interview on by asking the board difficult questions or checking if they can pre-approve your renovation plans.

Dress business casual. Be on time. Don't mention renovation plans. Don't ask questions. Review these tips on how to ace a co-op board interview in NYC.

Simply tell them that you can’t think of anything at the moment, but you’ll be sure to check with the board on anything important you can’t figure out yourself once you’re a shareholder!

Note: There’s truly nothing that can’t wait until you’ve been board approved. Even if you want to get a head start on renovations or urgently need the board’s attention on something else, please have the courtesy to wait until you are a shareholder! It shows poor judgement to start demanding things of the board and asking them difficult questions when you haven’t even been approved yet!

Not only will that annoy the board members, but it will show that you either did zero preparation and research into how to conduct yourself during a co-op board interview, or that you are simply arrogant. Neither of which are great for your prospects of getting co-op board approval!

How long to get approval on a co-op

If the interview went smoothly, the board may tell you during the interview that you’ve been informally approved.

You’ll still need to wait for written confirmation in that case, but it’s great to know that you’ve aced the co-op board interview immediately!

It’s more common to hear about your board approval several days to a week after your co-op board interview.

Sometimes a second interview is requested for various reasons. Perhaps there were some board members absent during the first interview or perhaps they wanted to ask you some additional questions they forgot about.

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Our traditional partner brokers never openly discount which means less disruption and better execution for you.

Co-op board interview rejection

Co-op boards in New York City are free to reject applicants without having to reveal any information as to why. Therefore, even though discrimination is prohibited, co-op boards can still reject applicants for whatever reason they like in practice.

Failing a co-op board interview is tough to swallow as it means you’ve wasted time and money to execute a purchase contract and submit a board package. All of that will be for naught and you’ll have to start your search all over.

You are free to ask the listing agent for a reason for your board rejection, but in most cases you will not receive any reason at all.

It is in the board’s interest to never provide a reason for rejection so they don’t have to explain themselves in future rejection cases.

In fact, your rejection letter will come from the building’s managing agent and typically only containing one sentence informing you that your application was not approved by the board. This lack of transparency can be equally distressing for the buyer and the seller, as often times that seller won’t even be able to get a reason out of their neighbors on the board as to why their prospective buyer was rejected.

Keep in mind that coop board members are not always rational, reasonable people. They could simply be exacting petty revenge on a neighbor by not approving their sale. Other times, a coop board may simply feel that the contemplated transaction price is too low and won’t reflect well on the building. After all, a low sale price might lower the valuations of everyone else’s apartments, including the board members.

However, most prospective purchasers who have been vetted by both the listing agent and the seller usually do pass the coop board interview. Listing agents and sellers typically have a sense of what their board is like and what co-op financial requirements exist for the building.

As a result, when hopeful coop buyers are rejected it’s typically because they weren’t financially qualified enough, or were simply too borderline financially qualified for the coop board to take a chance on.

Remember, the coop board must think about the building’s best interests, and the last thing they want is to approve a new shareholder who won’t be able to pay their maintenance down the road. That would be a drag on the entire building’s finances, and a coop foreclosure will cause more fees to be charged and time to be wasted.

As a result, coop board members never have a pressing need to approve a purchaser, and they have the luxury of being able to sit back and choose to approve only the most financially qualified buyers.

Of course, co-op apartment sellers can game this system by running for the coop board before needing to sell and making sure that they get elected. Once on the coop board, they can influence events to their favor. And even though some co-op boards will ask a board member to recuse themselves from any proceedings involving their apartment, too many co-op boards don’t bother with such precautions.

Note: While rare, it is possible that a board may be open to an appeal and allow you to re-submit a new purchase application. Check with your buyer’s broker to see if that is possible before giving up!

Disclosure: Hauseit® and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. No representation, guarantee or warranty of any kind is made regarding the completeness or accuracy of information provided. Hauseit LLC is a Licensed Real Estate Broker, licensed to do business in New York under license number 10991232340. Principal Office: 148 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013.

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