When you’re invited to meet the co-op’s Board of Directors, you’re halfway home. The interview is the “look-see” part of the process. Some boards may ask you to bring your dog to make certain your pet is well mannered. Children, however, almost never participate, unless a parent is purchasing for an adult child.
Essentially, the co-op board wants to make certain that you will be caring and responsible neighbors. To that end, they have great latitude in the kind of questions they can ask. Be prepared for this, and do not avoid answers to personal questions, or be angered by this intrusion. The board already knows the details of your life and financial situation, but there may be someone in the group who is curious about something or perhaps even jealous. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t be presumptuous. Should the board ask something you’re not prepared to answer, say you’d like to think about it, and then regroup with your broker later. On one occasion, my buyers were asked to proceed without financing; they did, but we renegotiated the price down another 5% from the agreed upon contract price. In most cases, your broker should be able to anticipate particular questions.
Since you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, some interview tips are worth reviewing. 1—Be on time and be your conservative best. 2—Act and dress as if you are going to a job or school interview. 3—Don’t ask questions. All questions concerning the building should already have been answered. 4—Don’t look to make conversation. The interview is not a social visit, so don’t worry about trying to fill uncomfortable pauses. No one was ever turned down for being boring. 5—It’s best to decline a drink if it’s offered. The interview will be shorter. 6—Be cordial and friendly, but never sarcastic or playful. Answer questions honestly, but don’t volunteer any new information. Be humble, not aggressive. Unlike in a job interview, do not try to sell yourself. 7—Know your application. Be prepared to answer any specific questions concisely. 8—Couples should decide in advance who will answer which types of questions. It’s perfectly fine for one of you to carry most of the interview. 9—This is not the platform to discuss any planned structural changes or renovations. If asked, it’s ok to say you might redo a kitchen or bath, but also acknowledge that you are aware of building work rules, and that you know changes require board approval. 10—When the interview is over, do not ask when you are likely to hear a decision. The board may welcome you to the building, or they may communicate more formally by making a recommendation to the full board who then will call the managing agent who, in turn, will notify the broker. Thank the board members for their time. Usually, the interview lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. There may be another interview just before or just after you.
Board turn downs cause anguish for broker and buyer alike, as well as embarrassment and often hardship. While boards can’t discriminate on the basis of race, sexual preference, age or handicap, they have absolute power to approve or deny a prospective buyer. They are not required to give reasons when they reject an applicant. Increasingly, co-op boards are becoming stricter in their review of purchase applications, and the broker’s role in assembling the package and preparing the buyer for the interview is more important than ever.