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What Should I Expect from the Board Interview?

Cue the Evil Empire Star Wars music... Most New Yorkers considering purchasing real estate probably have some opinions about the board, particularly the dreaded board interview. But how much should this really be dreaded and how much sleep should a prospective buyer lose over the interview?

First off, if you have a board interview scheduled, congratulations! You've almost made it to the promised land. Most coop boards will only schedule an interview if they have already vetted your application and determined you've meet their basic requirements. There are always exceptions, particularly with some of the very fancy buildings, but usually the board interview is just to make sure you are not a terrible neighbor/person in real life. They don't have to love you and think you are interesting and wonderful, just not awful. So if you've made it this far, relax, get a good night's sleep, and keep in mind a few of these helpful tips to get a swift board approval:

1) Being invited to the interview is a good sign. The interview is the board’s opportunity to meet you and ask specific questions about your application. The style of the interview can range from an informal gathering of board members in an apartment to a formal interview with board members lined up at a table with you in the hot seat.

2) Dress up and be prompt. In terms of dress and promptness only, see tip 6 below, a board interview should be treated no differently than a professional job interview.

3) Prepare for a lack of privacy. The board has great latitude in the kinds of questions it can ask, be prepared for this and do not avoid answers to personal questions, or be angered by this intrusion.

4) Don't get defensive. As a further point to number 3, do not get defensive to any intrusive questions or remarks that may seem off-putting. The board is made up of people with quirks, and some may not correctly remember details of your application and their questions may seem off. For example, I had a client who in the five years after completing school, had saved up enough money to pay off all of her student loans and then save for a downpayment and hefty reserves. By all accounts, it was impressive how smart she had been with her money. One board member asked her to explain how in five years of being a lawyer she had only managed to save only this much money. Rather than get defensive, a proper response is that she worked very hard to save as much money as possible and she was very excited to invest these savings in purchasing this lovely home.

5) Know your application. You should be able to quickly and concisely answer any questions asked regarding your application, preferably without having to look at your application. I'm attaching the questionnaire portion of your board application for you to take a look at.

6) Couples should decide in advance who will answer what types of questions. For example, you may agree to answer all financial questions and your spouse/parent(s) will answer all other questions. Avoid discussing answers to questions with your spouse/parent(s) in front of the board.

7) Unlike a job interview, do not try to sell yourself. Only answer questions asked and let the board run the show. Boards rarely turn down applications for being too boring.

8) Never volunteer information or engage in unsolicited conversations except for basic cordial remarks and greetings.

9) Do not ask questions. Questions can often unintentionally convey negative information to the board. For example: “Do you have any plans to renovate the lobby? ”is the kind of seemingly innocent question likely to offend the board member who was in charge of the last lobby renovation. If you have any additional questions you can direct them to me or your attorney.

10) A short interview is better than a long one. While there are no hard and fast rules, a short cordial interview with a few board questions and remarks is often the best co-op board interview.

11) Do not expect an answer at the end of the meeting. Most boards do not give their decision until a day or two after the meeting. We will take the necessary steps to determine if you have been approved.

12) Do not discuss renovations. Don't volunteer information about renovation plans. If they ask if you intend to renovate, say something short and non-committal like the unit may need some updating, but you have no concrete plans at this point. It is important to keep things as simple as possible, and not confuse the board interview for approval to purchase with board approval to do any work.

Many board interviews are a breeze, but this article is a pretty good preparation in case you are faced with some common tough questions. Remember that your real estate agent will address any specific do's and don'ts with you. And as always, please reach out to me with any questions regarding the NYC home-buying process or residential real estate market.

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