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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

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River House entrance River House entrance
Between many co-ops and condos sitting on the market longer than they have in years and heightened economic uncertainty, it appears to be a buyers’ market for the first time in a decade. Still, even as the economy shifts to favor buyers, not sellers, getting past a New York City co-op is one challenge that appears unlikely to improve. Whatever the market, New York City co-op boards generally do their due diligence—and a bit more—when vetting potential shareholders. This article outlines the very best way to woo any co-op board to close your next deal.

Why the Opinions of Co-op Boards Matter

In most housing scenarios, if you can convince a lender to give you a mortgage, you’re already well on your way to purchasing a home. In the case of New York City co-op purchases, finding a lender is just the first step. Local co-op boards also carefully vet all future shareholders, and unlike lenders, they aren’t just looking at financials. Depending on the board, co-ops will dig deep into your financials, work history, and personal life. This means you’ll need to do more than pay off any overdue bills. You’ll also need to be ready to respond to a host of questions about all aspects of your life (and your family’s life), and your intended future uses of the unit you wish to purchase.

Key Factors

1. Have your financials in order

Buying in a co-op typically means bringing at least 20 percent and often much more to the deal. Also, most co-ops will be looking at your remaining liquid assets. Many buildings will want you to still have considerable liquid assets after closing. In other co-ops, you may be asked to put two to three years of maintenance fees in an escrow upfront. This isn’t the only thing co-op boards will be scrutinizing. They will also be looking at your current and past income and credit history. The more solid your financials, the better off you’ll be.

2. Demonstrate a stable work history

Most co-op boards aren’t just interested in your current position and salary but also your entire work history. Prospective buyers with short or erratic work histories are bound to be a disadvantage. Co-op boards regularly turn down buyers who have a history of changing jobs frequently. If you’re a foreign national, you may also run into obstacles, even if you’re a high-income earner in a professional field. A long, stable, U.S.-based job history will serve you best when you meet a co-op board.

3. Be transparent about your intended use of the unit

Although some boards are open to buyers looking for a pied-a-terre or even an investment property that will be rented, many others are not. Likewise, many boards will not take well to a buyer whose real intent is to hand over the unit to a college-age child. In most cases, the best way to woo a New York City co-op board is to demonstrate a commitment to buying the unit with the intent to live in it for an extended period.

4. Less is more in terms of family size

In New York City, it is not uncommon for families, even middle-class families, to stretch the capacity of apartments by flexing them (e.g., turning a large one-bedroom into a two-bedroom). While this is usually possible if you’re already a shareholder on good terms with the board, persuading a co-op board to let you move into a one-bedroom with your family of four will be challenging. Remember, from the perspective of the co-op board, larger families mean more wear-and-tear on the building and more use of services but for the same maintenance fees. As a result, when it comes to most co-op boards, the smaller your family unit, the better—unless, of course, you’ll actually be purchasing a combined apartment and paying double the maintenance fees.

5. Avoid relying on a guarantor

In some co-op buildings, guarantors are permissible, but many buildings do not permit guarantors and few or no buildings prefer them. This largely reflects the fact that using a guarantor will create additional work for the board since most boards will want to scrutinize both the buyer’s and guarantor’s financials and work histories. In other words, a guarantor may not kill a deal, but it rarely works to any buyer’s advantage.

6. Be pet-free

Some co-op boards love cats and dogs, but many are either pet-free or have restrictive policies (e.g., only cats, or only dogs under a certain weight). Even if you’re proposing to buy in a genuinely pet-friendly building, avoid pushing the envelope. One or two cats may be welcome, but seven or eight likely won’t. Likewise, if your dog is large or loud, don’t lie. Some co-op boards even do “pet screenings” and others ask for pet reference letters. Ultimately, even in pet-friendly co-ops, it is often better to be pet-free. After all, without a pet, you’ll be giving co-op board members one fewer reason to scrutinize your application.

7. Don’t show up looking like a rock star

It may be New York City, but in nearly all co-op buildings, showing up as a party girl or guy is a sure way to kill a potential deal. If you have any doubt, bear in mind that even Madonna was eventually forced to move out of her Upper West Side co-op and into a series of connected townhouses in the Upper East Side. You don’t need to claim total sobriety. Still, with few exceptions, co-op boards will reject any buyers who appear at risk of blasting music regularly, using their unit as a rehearsal studio, or throwing one too many parties.

Featured Co-op listings
San Remo skyline Central Park from Fifth Avenue
From the Listing: Enjoy breathtaking direct Central Park and city skyline views from almost every room of this rare and extraordinary Fifth Avenue penthouse triplex offering. Regally proportioned and beautifully appointed, this elegant home commands an unparalleled position overlooking the full expanse of Central Park and its Jackie Onassis Reservoir, as well as a spectacular entertaining terrace for lavish indoor and outdoor living. See floor plan and full details here.

860-Fifth-Avenue-1 860 Fifth Avenue via Nest Seekers
From the Listing: A massive Fifth Avenue co-op located directly on Central Park, this 3-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom home is a paragon of classic city elegance and luxury. Features of this 3,100 sq. ft. apartment include gorgeous hardwood floors, chic crown molding, coffered, domed, and beamed ceilings, oversized casement windows with quadruple exposure, several charming built-ins, a home office, a decorative fireplace, an in-home washer/dryer, an abundance of closet space, on-site parking, private storage, and 650 sq. ft. of private outdoor space spread across four terraces. See floor plan and full details here.

1-West-72nd-Street-1 The Dakota via Brown Harris Stevens
From the Listing: This magnificent renovated three-bedroom corner duplex apartment at The Dakota showcases direct Central Park views and is in perfect move-in condition.

A gracious entrance foyer with 13 ft high ceilings leads to a generously proportioned living room featuring beautifully restored plaster moldings, double mahogany doors, oak flooring and a wood-burning fireplace surrounded by an original mahogany mantle. This expansive living room is flooded with natural light due to the floor-to-ceiling windows facing Central Park. The living room flows seamlessly into the corner library which has light streaming in from its East and North exposures making it a perfect space for entertaining.
See floor plan and full details here.

995-Fifth-Avenue-1 995 Fifth Avenue via Corcoran
From the Listing: Stunning 6 bedroom Penthouse Duplex with spectacular terraces, epic NYC views and extraordinary light. Perched high atop the Stanhope, this sun-drenched residence boasts tremendous garden-like terraces laid out by the brilliant landscape designer, Madison Cox. The triple mint condition aerie boasts an amazing 72 linear ft of frontage directly on Central Park and 10ft high ceilings. There is not a room within the 7,067 sqft interiors that is not graced with lovely leafy outlooks. See floor plan and full details here.

50-Central-Park-West-1 The Prasada via Brown Harris Stevens
From the Listing: Residence 8/9A at 50 Central Park West, the Prasada, is one of those rare finds. Grand 11 foot ceilings, 90 feet facing Central Park, oversized windows, bay windows and turn of the century details- all completely renovated with multi zoned central air conditioning, new windows, a new gourmet open kitchen and 5 full and 2 half bathrooms. See floor plan and full details here.

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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.