Are you planning on buying a co-op apartment in NYC? If so, you may be aware that the typical NYC co-op board package (purchase application) will ask for several personal and professional reference letters to support your candidacy.
Even if you are buying a condo in NYC, reference letters from may still be required. In this article, we provide you with sample NYC co-op professional, personal, employer and landlord reference letters. We also offer some additional information, tips and tricks about preparing the reference letters for your NYC co-op purchase application.
Table of Contents:
How many reference letters does a typical NYC co-op board application require?
A typical co-op building in NYC will request between three to six business/personal reference letters per applicant in addition to both a landlord and employer reference letter. Like every other item in the board application, the specific requirements vary depending on the co-op building in question.
Requirements Vary by Building
While some board applications will set clear guidelines for the reference letters (i.e. no family members), other board applications are more flexible in terms of what they are looking for. When in doubt, you should always ask your buyer’s agent to clarify any specific reference letter requirements directly with the listing agent and/or managing agent.
Here are a few real examples of the co-op reference letter requirements from the board applications of various co-op buildings in New York City:
Pre-war co-op in Concourse, Bronx:
Three (3) personal reference letters
Three (3) professional reference letters
Employment verification letter from current employer, stating position, hire date, and income.
Landlord reference letter
Boutique, pre-war co-op in Chelsea, Manhattan:
Two (2) business/professional reference letters
Two (2) personal reference letters
Current landlord / managing agent reference letter
Employment & salary / income verification letter
Pre-war, boutique co-op on the Upper West Side:
Letter from employer(s) stating job function, salary and length of employment
Purchaser(s) to submit letter from present landlord or managing agent
Applicant(s) must each submit three (3) personal letters of reference and two (2) business letters of reference
Large, pre-war co-op building in Greenwich Village:
One employment reference (indicate salary, length of employment, position and business)
One current landlord reference indicating the timeliness of rent payments
Three professional/personal references from persons unrelated to you
Pre-war, walk-up co-op in Lenox Hill (Upper East Side):
One employment reference (indicate salary, length of employment, position and bonuses). If not employed within the last six months please provide a letter from your previous employer.
One current landlord reference indicating the timeliness of rent payments.
Are reference letters required for both condos and co-ops in NYC or just coops?
Although the perception is that only co-ops have board applications in NYC, many condo buildings also require buyers to complete a purchase application. The typical condo board application is less rigorous than what is requested by a comparable co-op building. However, it is possible that your condo building may also require the submission of references and/or reference letters.
If you happen to be buying a co-op apartment directly from a sponsor, it is unlikely that you will be required to submit reference letters. You should be aware of the fact that buying a sponsor unit does not necessarily guarantee that you won’t have to complete some sort of board application. Although a co-op will not reject your application for a sponsor unit, they may require the submission of an abbreviated board application for the purposes of verifying your assets and running credit and criminal background checks.
If you happen to be buying your neighbor’s apartment, your coop building will still likely require the submission of an abbreviated board application.
How long should it take to assemble my board application reference letters?
The amount of time you have to request and assemble your reference letters will depend on whether you are financing your purchase. If you are financing the purchase, you have slightly more time because you need to wait for your mortgage commitment letter before submitting your application. Receiving a commitment letter from your bank typically takes 3 to 5 weeks.
Request Reference Letters ASAP
If you are making an all cash purchase, you will be able to submit your overall board application in a much more timely manner since you do not need to wait for a mortgage commitment letter. Whether you are financing or making an all cash purchase, it’s suggested that you request your reference letters as soon as you have a fully executed contract and have received the co-op’s financial requirements. It’s also a good idea to request more than the minimum number of reference letters to avoid the risk of delays or having to be reliant on a less than stellar reference letter from one individual.
What is the suggested length of a NYC coop reference letter?
There is no specific requirement for the length of a co-op reference letter. The suggested length of a board package reference letter is anywhere between three paragraphs to a page and a half. While a reference letter shorter than three paragraphs may draw additional scrutiny, a reference letter which is too long may lose its effectiveness.
Above all, reference letters should be insightful and concise. Quality as opposed to quantity is the most important consideration when considering the length of a reference letter.
What should be included in a personal co-op reference letter?
The ultimate purpose of the co-op reference letters you submit is to help the board obtain a qualitative sense for how you are as a person and how you would interact with and contribute to the co-op community.
When considering who to ask for personal references, it’s helpful to keep in mind the sort of content which the personal references should include:
Explain how you met the candidate, how long you’ve known them, and why you became friends
Go into detail on the nature of your interactions with the candidate. What sorts of activities and events have you both attended as common interests? Examples may include theater, sports, charities, a previous workplace, professional associations, travel buddies, etc. Were you or they ever a guest in your respective homes?
Specify the defining character traits of the candidate, offering examples of why words such as “responsible, trustworthy, honest, ethical, etc.” are fitting descriptions.
Make reference to the candidate’s educational background as well as academic and other achievements, if you are privy to these aspect of the candidate’s life.
If you have experience living in a co-op and/or being involved in the board, share this information in order to enhance your credibility with the audience.
Identify the personal attributes of the candidate which would make him/her a good neighbor in the co-op.
What should be included in a professional co-op reference letter?
A typical NYC co-op purchase application will request anywhere from 1-4 professional business reference letters per applicant.
The body of a business reference letter should touch on the following points:
Describe how and why you know the candidate professionally. Provide insight into how and why you met them, for how long you’ve known each other, and the nature of your professional association.
Share the characteristics of the candidate which make them excel at work. For example, are they leaders, team players, visionaries and/or do they have a positive attitude in the workplace?
Offer insight into what achievements the candidate has accomplished at work.
If you have experience living in a co-op (in NYC or elsewhere), identify the personal attributes of the candidate which would make him/her a good neighbor in the co-op.
What is a landlord reference letter?
The purpose of a landlord reference letter is to ensure that you have previously paid your rent obligations in a timely manner. A typical landlord reference letter should include the address of the unit you are renting, the length of time you’ve lived there and the amount of your rent. It should also share whether you’ve been timely with your rent payments.
If your co-op purchase application does not specify what should be included in the landlord reference letter, we suggest that you include as much detail as possible including all of the items mentioned above.
What if my landlord is a friend or family member?
The fact that your landlord is a friend or family member should not pose an issue to your co-op board package. In the event you are renting from a friend or family member, you should request a letter from them which includes the typical content of a landlord reference letter: address of the property you are renting, the length of time you’ve lived there, how much rent you pay, and whether you pay rent in a timely.
If you are living rent-free with a friend or family member, you should request a letter from him/her which states where you live, how long you’ve lived there and explains that you are not paying any rent. This would be similar to getting a signed gift letter for a mortgage if you were getting help from a family member for your down payment.
What is an employer reference letter?
An employer reference letter is different from the ‘professional’ reference letters we discussed previously. The purpose of an employer reference letter is to verify factual data such as where you work, the dates of your employment, the amount and nature of your compensation, as well as the specifics of your current role/position.
Contact Human Resources
Because they simply offer non-qualitative data about your relationship with the company, an employer reference letter is typically provided by the Human Resources (HR) department. As such, the easiest way to request an employer reference letter is to request one from your HR contact. If you work for a small firm which does not have a standalone HR department, then you should request the employer reference letter from whoever is able to verify the nature of your employment.
How do I provide an employer reference letter I’m self-employed?
If you are self-employed, you should request your professional reference letters from whoever you work with in a professional context. It’s also important to note that if you do not have a traditional employer, a typical NYC co-op board package will also ask you for some additional financial verification items above and beyond the standard REBNY financial statement, bank statements and bank verification letters. These additional items may include a notarized letter from your accountant, profit/loss (income) statements from your business, and/or the operating agreements/formation documents from whatever legal entities you are conducting business.
What if I don’t have enough people to ask for reference letters?
As a co-op candidate in NYC, it’s very important that you follow the board application instructions and submit a comprehensive board package the first time around. Submitting less than the required number of references will only result in the managing agent rejecting your application and sending it back to your buyer’s agent for correction before the board even has a chance to review it.
Contact the Managing Agent
If you feel that you don’t have enough people to ask for references, you may want to have your buyer’s agent verify the specific reference letter requirements with the building’s managing agent. There’s always a chance that reference letters from family members are permitted, and/or the board only needs one set of reference letters for you and your significant other (as opposed to a set for each of you).
Do co-op reference letters need to have original signatures, or are copies okay?
Whether you need to submit original (ink signature) reference letters depends on the specific requirements of your building’s purchase application. If the board package instructions refer to ‘original’ reference letters, then your references will need to mail you the original, signed letters.
If the application does not specify, it’s a good idea to have your buyer’s agent verify the specific requirements with the managing agent before submitting the board package.
If you requested a NYC buyer agent commission rebate and are working with a seasoned buyer’s agent, he/she will take the initiative to collect and assemble any original documentation required from you and the seller.
If you are selling FSBO in NYC and your buyer is unrepresented, you will need to take a leading role in reviewing your buyer’s board application and coordinating the receipt of all original documents.
What are some general tips for preparing NYC co-op reference letters?
The purpose of reference letters is to shed light on your positive qualities and strengthen the allure of your overall candidacy for the co-op. However, poorly drafted reference letters can also significantly weaken your application.
When requesting your reference letters, we suggest you keep the following considerations in mind:
Always include the reference contact details on the letter: email, phone and address.
Make sure that each reference letter is correctly formatted in a similar manner to the example reference letters we’ve included below.
Watch out for fake/plagiarized letters. If you send your references a template or sample letter, please ensure that they do not copy anything word for word. Submitting similar reference letters is an immediate red flag for the board, and it’s something they will be on the lookout for.
Ensure that grammar and spelling are perfect.
Read the reference letters to check for accuracy and consistency, as you may be questioned on them during your board interview.