Just what do co-op boards want?
This anguished cry erupts at some point in just about every co-op apartment purchase process.
The answer is simple. No deadbeats, trouble-makers, property defilers need apply. Oh, and did I mention no deadbeats? Stopping such riff-raff at the gate is easier than kicking them out after they’ve been accepted and have moved in. Hence, the S&M tinged application process. Sometimes board members compete to see who can unearth some horrible information. Back in the day, I was so amused and repelled by this board game that I asked one applicant if he had "some gruesome ax murder" in his past. He smiled and assured us he had not. The president, who was a friend and ally of mine, glared at me. I deserved this menacing look, I'm sure. But I just wanted to cut to the chase. Most boards are less concerned with prior homicides than they are with basic economic requirements.
The Mark David & Company real estate agency recently posted some practical advice on its blog, particularly with regard to the financials. Boards, according to Mark David, have a soft spot for purchasers who have at least a years worth of expenses stashed in the bank. Liquidity good!
Purchasers cannot control the process; but they can smooth it. Present ample, prodigious, and most of all, complete documentation of all your financial data. This means providing documents that, oh, the board had not asked for. This means identifying those areas in your statement that might raise questions and having the answers included in your package. Otherwise you may receive a sudden request for documentation that you didn't know you needed and is buried in the pile of papers you've been going through to get your financials ready at one o'clock in the morning. And the phone call may come four days before your closing. The Mark David post also includes a list of the likely proofs you need to submit. Altogether the elements of your package should prove that you have the means to support the co-op in the style to which it is accustomed.
I would note there is another element that can be your favor — your knowledge that this co-op is not just a building, but a community. I feel my novel, Out of Order (shameless plug), captures that sense of community. (Okay, the story is about murders in the co-op and the weird interaction that results; but that is what communities are like, sometimes.) When you're being interviewed, make clear that this is not just a real estate deal to you — but an opportunity to be part of a neighborhood and the co-op community you really admire. They will believe you.